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Turtle Tank Tips


Streetwise
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I have been trying to help out with a turtle tank in one of our libraries. Yesterday, I donated a hang-on-back filter that came with a recent aquarium, and raised the water level to allow it to work, as well as the height of the sunning station. I built up the rock pile so the turtle could still rest out of water.

This morning, I got a panicked voicemail from the librarian that the turtle was missing. He was later found in the next door maker space, and is back in the tank. I feel terrible, but relieved that he is ok. I don't have any plans to keep turtles myself, but I would appreciate any advice for how I could help out with this tank. Here are some photos from before this recent drama.

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Sam has one of those large Fluval internal filters, which I also cleaned yesterday, and I am thinking of donating my Eheim Classic 150 to this tank to help with filtering. I have been bringing in Duckweed, and will probably also bring in some Salvinia.

Thanks

(The thumbnail is a plastic turtle that I was pranked with by a colleague after telling the story.)

Edited by Streetwise
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I went home for lunch, and saw a nice brown box from the Co-Op, which means the sponge filters for my 16 bow have arrived. I broke down the Eheim Classic 150 from the bowfront, and brought it and my canister safety tote to the library. I disassembled the rock pile and built a sturdier version on the other side of the tank. I setup the canister, and then did a bunch of cleaning with just a net, since we couldn't find the gravel vac.

I spotted a cherry shrimp that must have come in as a baby on one of my Duckweed deliveries. I'm not sure it was moving, though. I'll have to go look again.

There was a lot of mess hidden in the old rock pile, so the tank is still pretty cloudy; more work needs to be done. I knew anecdotally that turtles are dirty, but now I know firsthand. It was like breaking down an under-gravel tank.

I would still appreciate any tips people have about turtle-keeping. Are there any plants that work well with turtles? Should we consider any tank-mates? It is fun being a newbie again!

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Edited by Streetwise
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If I were you I would see if they are sold on having that tank all together turtles in my experience really do well with space so what I would do is get a stock tank that they can have a look down pond that way you can have a nice island made of rocks and you can make it a little clearer water. You could have some marginal plants  and turn that aquarium into a nice community tank so it looks a little nicer. This is my snapping turtle 300 gallon with a 150 above tank "sump" mine isn't super good looking but it can be done pretty. Like this last pic which is not mine but I have made one like it

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I have 4 turtles right now and I think it is much easier to care for them when you have ether a lot of water or a filter that is about 5 times the actual water volume. Also dose he have a uvb light as well as a basking light? That is a red ear slider my recommendation for care for that species is a 90 gallon of space minimum. But the 55 that he is in should work if he is a male, females get larger. Here is a link on red ear slider care

https://www.reptilesmagazine.com/red-eared-slider-care-sheet/

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Thanks for that information.

As far as I know Sam is male. I'll check the light. I will also be bringing in another container of Duckweed, a handful of Salvinia, and some spare heaters that should be rugged-enough.

Would you recommend any substrate for this particular tank?

Do you have a lighting schedule recommendation?

Should I add an activated carbon layer to the canister I installed? It currently has foam, bioballs, foam.

Edited by Streetwise
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Carbon will help with the smell of the tank and the obvious ting of the water. 

I definantly think without upgrading I think he may need a lot more water changes to keep that water in good conditions turtles are messy animals as adorable as they are. 

Generally you want the maximum water height with a land platform fully out of the water to bask under and to dry out which is needed. Doesn't have to be massive but they actually do like a little room to roam sometimes. Don't forget it may need a lid if his tank water level gets higher. Remember a 3rd filled 55 gallon ain't 55 gallons. 

More filtration will help but I would second 2 other bits of advice. 1. They do need UVB and even if they have a globe it needs replacing every 6-9 months or else it doesn't have any UVB. 2. Live plants, maybe not aquatic but emergent plants like papyrus peace Lilly swamp Lilly pothos etc there is a tone of plants you can use that will help keep the water clean. Even growing them out the hang on back as a means of nutrient export. The floating stuff is a great idea but Sam may also munch on it haha.

Upgrading would be the best but if you can't I'd make sure his lighting is adequate and that you can improve his filtration and water condition. 

Oh and for the timer I'd say run around a min of 10-12 hours. Basically like a daily cycle. 

Even a DIY top filter (run along the top of the tank acting like an exposed trickle tower just pump water in one side and it'll drain out holes on the other.) This will make a easy to clean filter and also fill it a tone with media and emergent plants to act as a wetlands filter. The plants would easily grow from room lights

I know this all adds work but I've done the same as you many times for many animals just to improve there lives and help where I can. Awesome work man even for what you've done now.

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I would skip the substrate all together and if you can do 100% water changes as frequently as possible. I say this because they produce so much wast and in a small water volume it adds up fast. As long as you temp match and use dechlorinator. Also I wouldn't go to much into plants red ears have a tendency to eat them lol duck weed is good for them but some of those other plants have toxins. You can use house plants around the tank and water them with tank water but I would avoid having plants in the tank with him. Other then some floaters and maybe guppy grass. However I agree with most everything that @KoolFish97 said 

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I can say I have kept many Turtles (not red ears sliders as they are illegal here in Australia) and I have used a tonne of different emergent and aquarium plants to no I'll effect. 

My idea was less in the tank (to provide more space and less mess) more grow them from the filter 

I do believe no substrate would be far easier but if you can have a better filter to pick up debris and work is put in properly for them it can work. I have kept turtles both way and though no substrate is easier I just find they miss out on core behaviours like digging and the reflection off the glass I believe can annoy them many baby turtles seemed to avoid areas where the glass reflected until I either painted or tiled the bottom or put substrate in. 

If you want a middle ground I'd say you could always get a stone look tile and cut it to cover the bottom it won't allow digging but will be more pretty and remove reflection.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Thanks again for all this info. I really appreciate it!

I delivered more live plants today and finally installed a different uplift tube to go deeper into the tank. I also removed the spraybar so that the water just spills in.

I still need to bring in a heater, and re-do the rock pile, but I'll wait until his keeper is around.

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Edited by Streetwise
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@josh world, I won't be doing much with that multi-tank system, besides donating some floating plants and shrimp. The science teacher has been running it successfully for for years. Periodically he activates a return pump in the goldfish hex, and pumps that water to the very top tank, where it gradually makes it through every tank, and back to the hex. It reminds me a bit of how @Daniel moves water between his tanks and pond.

For the turtle tank, Sam's keeper has adjusted the rock pile and water level so Sam can get fully out of the water. I found a timer when I was organizing spare parts, so I will bring that in for the light.

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I find it really relaxing to help with these tanks, since I am not as invested in the design, as I am in the function. Does anyone else feel that way about helping others with their aquariums?

Edited by Streetwise
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@Nick, thanks;¬†I set the timer to 07:00 - 16:00. I put in an Aqueon 25W heater preset to 78¬į F, and I can add another if necessary. So far, I am just using extra gear I have. There are some good threads on heater choices. I use Fluval heaters for two of my home tanks, and a little Top Fin preset heater for my Betta, but my other tanks are unheated.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I delivered more Dwarf Water Lettuce today. I went to take some photos and he was doing this leg stretch, tail stand thing.

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I was wondering how well the heater would do in this tank. Apparently, not so well when Sam decides to rearrange his rock pile:

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No more glass heaters! I knew better, but thought I could place it right.

Edited by Streetwise
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