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Turtle Aquariums - Setting up and Feeding Turtles

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Brief Description

Turtles are fast becoming a very popular pet and they are being kept indoors in their own turtle aquarium where the outside climate isn’t suitable for them. Due to the fact that they are a relatively new pet to be housed by many people, knowledge of keeping them in the best condition can be limited and there are only a few keepers that have had any length of experience with them so hopefully this article will help to answer any questions that may arise when deciding whether or not to keep these beautiful pets or how to house them properly in a well set up turtle aquarium.

As mentioned above it is possible to house turtles outdoors in warmer climates but for the purpose of this article we will concentrate on setting up a turtle aquarium indoors and offer tips on feeding.

Setting up your turtle aquarium

It is crucial to purchase a suitably sized aquarium for your turtles, they are often sold as young specimens in the aquatic stores but as the mature they do grow in size so be aware of this when selecting your aquarium. To help you understand which aquarium is required it is important to have a bit of knowledge about the turtles needs. They need a stretch of dry land or somewhere to climb out of the water so the length of the aquarium is crucial, they will also need an area of deep water and an area of shallow water where the turtle will rest with its head sticking out. The minimum aquarium size should be capable of holding 40 gallons but when set up it will only ever have 50% of that added to it. You will need to create an area of dry land where the turtle can bask, this can be achieved by securing some sloping terracing and filling this with a solid substrate or you can add some cork or a commercially made island to the turtle aquarium where the turtle can escape from the water, make sure that this is balanced and can take the weight of the turtle without it tipping over when the turtle climbs onto it. The deep end of the water will mainly be used for feeding times, this should be at least as deep as the turtle is wide, if it is any shallower then the turtle my have problems manoeuvring in the water.

The water quality

The water quality in your turtle aquarium has to be high, regular water changes will help with this but you will need to add some form of filtration system. The most popular method that I have seen is by using an internal filter that is laid on its side. The modern internal filters are designed to allow you to use them like this so there will be no problems of the filter not working properly. Make sure that the water flow is at a steady rate, it does not need to be swirling around the aquarium. Keeping the deep end bare bottomed will also help as cleaning uneaten food out of the aquarium will be much easier, if you do require some décor at the deep end, add a few small rocks or pebbles but make sure that they are rounded, sharp edges will injure the turtle. The water will need to be heated so a thermostatically controlled heater should be added to the water, this needs to be set at approximately 80 deg F to keep the turtles happy, always buy the best heater that you can afford, some of the cheaper models are not as reliable.

Turtles love to leave the water and bask, in their natural habitat they would do this in sunlight and absorb the heat from the sun, in the aquarium sunlight is bad news as it will promote algal growth so the sunlight can be replicated by using an ultraviolet light that produces heat as well. This should be placed at the top of the turtle aquarium facing downwards. This light is important as the ultraviolet rays will ensure that the turtle maximise the use of calcium and vitamin D present. This will aid in recovery of any scratches or minor ailments. Do not run this light 24/7 but use a timer to so that natural day is replicated, 12 hours per day should ensure this.

It may also be necessary to add calcium to the aquarium water, this will promote strong and healthy growth of the shell, the turtles only defence.

Feeding your turtles

The dietary needs of turtles will change as they develop from youngsters into mature adults. Juvenile turtles will require a diet of meaty foods such as chicken, tuna or squid. The meat should be cooked and all food offered should be placed in the water, the food should never be offered on there area of dry land. Commercial foods such as Tetra Reptomin and the occasional treat of brine shrimp will be welcomed but this should not be the bulk of the diet. They will also accept small feeder fish but this is one practice I stay away from, I much prefer to offer them pieces of filleted fish that has been chopped down to a reasonable size. As the turtles mature their diet will change to a vegetable based diet, at this time fruit should also be offered with the vegetables. Bananas strawberries, romaine lettuce, peas or green beans are ideal. These contain a high level of vitamins and calcium in them.

As youngsters they will probably require feeding two small meals per day, once in the morning and once in the evening, make sure that you only offer them the amount that they can consume or your water quality will suffer. They will always beg for food when you approach the aquarium, this is normal it doesn’t mean that they are necessarily hungry. Mature turtles do not feeding everyday, every other day is fine and it will also ensure that any food that has been consumed will be digested properly.

The handling of turtles should be kept to a minimum, it it is required then always wash your hands straight after as some specimens can be carriers of certain diseases.

Additional info from

Thanks to Mick and a local pet store owner in Kosice, Slovakia who has helped us too!

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