Jump to content

Turtle Tank Tips


Recommended Posts

Hi @Sol. I'm glad you saw the turtle signal in the sky. I saw your latest tube update; best wishes. 😞

The Librarian is the primary keeper, and she maintains the water level so that Sam can sun and stretch dry.

I am trying to help with the filtration. I tried to clean the Eheim today, and still lost siphon and flow when restarting. I think the outflow will need to be submerged too, or I will give up on canister filters for low-water tanks. Do you have a favorite filter for tall tanks?

I added two more MF10s, so now Sam has two with foam, and two with carbon.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thank you.

Good to hear! Frankly, since my tanks are filled all the way up, I don't have issues with canisters. But internals are always a decent option if you have less water. Or something run by air...like the ziss bubble filters (although that's definitely more for biological filtration, which it sounds like you have a good amount of already?

The other tactic to keep the water clean is by feeding outside the tank. Not sure if that's a possibility but it makes a world of difference.

  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...
  • 1 month later...
  • 5 months later...
On 9/11/2021 at 1:32 PM, Streetwise said:

I have several spare Aquarium Co-Op Sponge Filter units that would fit the new Aquarium Co-Op Power Head.

How would this turtle react to sponge filters?

Turtles have been known to munch on sponge filters.  Especially if they have anything caught on them.  Some turtles will do fine with sponge filters.

  • Thanks 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The school I work at also has a RES. His name is Jimmy. He was initially living in a small rectangular plastic tub with no lighting, heat, or ability to swim. The school also had a 65 gallon with a single fish and no filtration, so I got permission to move the fish out and move the turtle in. 


Jimmy currently has a GEX canister filter rated for a 120-150 centimeter tank (his is a 120, but it's only about half full). I built him a basking platform with PVC and a plastic shelf from the dollar store, and topped it with some fake turf to make it look a little more natural. He has a UV light and a heat lamp.

In the tank there is sand, a few rocks, and a piece of wood. I tried plants, but he eats them all. We have waterweed growing in other fish tanks, and when it gets to be too much I thin it out and give it to Jimmy to snack on. He has a water heater because the tank is in a hallway and Japanese schools don't have heating or cooling outside of the classrooms, so in winter the water temp got down to below 15°C. 

  • Like 2
  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 9/11/2021 at 12:32 PM, Streetwise said:

I have several spare Aquarium Co-Op Sponge Filter units that would fit the new Aquarium Co-Op Power Head.

How would this turtle react to sponge filters?

@Streetwise I would wrap a plastic mesh canvas around the sponge filter to prevent munching.

Turtles are incredibly messy, *and* if you get their tanks / swimming areas set up properly to begin with, long term maintenance is much easier. 16314759747077589004836351106164.jpg.79e424b6cd61237884200878c0726e4b.jpg


And the dirted side16314760662172632091858980246478.jpg.ca862de8edaff45c19449dcbc074cd21.jpg


Pictures are not ideal, because I don't have a huge amount of space around my rack system. 

The pond side is 14 gallons at high water mark, and drops as low as 9 gallons between maintenance. 

It has a UG filter with a customized uplift tube hidden in rocks (otherwise Karma destroys it). I have a Tetra reptile filter (top right corner of top right picture) that I retrofitted the insides with plastic canvas mesh where the Tetra carbon filters were supposed to go, and filled the empty/hollow areas with a mix of hygro balls and bio balls.

I use the tetra provided pump, and elevated the repto filter on rocks so that the max and minimum water lines matched the exterior 'tank'.

There's a piece of cork that wraps over the edge of the pond for the turtle to climb up and into the pond.

Dirt houses worms, springtails, and other bugs to promote hunting instincts.

Pieces of slate keep nails and beak trimmed. UVB & UVA lights are on the same timer as my fishtank lights.

When Karma was smaller, she had a sponge filter wrapped inside the plastic canvas mesh, I will see if I have any pictures on social media that I can import here. She bit a chunk out, and thought it was delicious 🙄


This image is from before I figured out how to retrofit the reptofilter. You can see the provided tetra carbon filter (it comes with 2) and I literally had to replace 1 of the 2 every single week. Now, I do a major maintenance once each quarter, I top off every week, and I do a partial water change and add more plants every time nitrates top 60ppm.


I never have ammonia or nitrites in this tank, now that I retrofit the insides of the filter... and turtles are notoriously messy eaters.

There are also guppies in this tank. I take close to a hundred to my lfs every tank maintenance. 


The guppies learned to dive bomb the turtle to discourage hunting behavior, so I no longer have a natural control mechanism. 

Turtles lungs don't do well with dechlorinators, so I top off with distilled water, and water changes are very limited because aging water / using a water remediation pond with phytoremediation plants takes a lot of preplanning and extra work beyond turning on the tap and adding dechlorinator.


Needless to say, these are exceptionally hardy guppies!

(Water bottle in the back corner was used to protect the airline tubing for the sponge filter. It worked for about a year)

  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 months later...
On 11/24/2020 at 6:05 PM, Streetwise said:

@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.



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?

I definitely find that to be true! (Easier to enjoy when I am not as directly invested)

RES are smart turtles, and get bored easily. They are also messy, as multiple people have pointed out, and are prone to eat unsafe things in captivity 

The tortoise feeding guide/list that I gave someone else the link to is fantastic for helping to identify toxic plants. It's important to click on the "more info" as foods that are safe for tortoises are not always safe for turtles, and plenty of plants listed as unsafe (red) for tortoises are yellow (feed in moderation) or green (safe) for turtles. Pothos is very high in oxalates, and will cause kidney damage in turtles. I don't recommend it being anywhere that a turtle can snack on it. Duckweed, wolfia, hornwort and anachris (sp?) are great with turtles. So is frogbit

I always use a UGF with turtles, and top it with round river stones at least 2x - 3x the size of the turtle's head. 

1. Turtles like to move the stones around and will chew on the stones, which keep the beak and nails trimmed without generating a potential impaction hazard

2. Being able to move the stones reduces boredom, and keeps the habitat mentally stimulsting while building turtle muscle

3. Increased area for beneficial bacteria 

4. UGF can be hooked up to HOB to improve water quality, or can be hooked up to the intake of a canister filter.

Turtle lungs do not like chemical dechlorinators. I prefer to run water through 2 carbon filters. This is so effective, the endlers are thriving in the turtle pond.🥰


RES are indigenous to the states. In the wild, they will brumate for winter. Domesticated, indoor RES (and most indoor turtles) are safer and will live longer *not* brumating, *AND* their health benefits from having seasons. Karma is the only one who does not have a Walstad Siesta. Her lights come on based on our local sunrise, and go off with the sunset. She gets a new UVA/B bulb beginning of March, and another at the beginning of July to most closely mimic our environment. 

I also use a waterfall filter filled with the ceramic biobeads (where I can't reach), last month I added 2 pieces of 1" thick 20 ppi foam [to replace the carbon filters], and the Marine plastic bioballs have been in the center area with the pump for a year.

Ammonia and nitrites have been at 0 for years on this 10 gallon turtle pond with close to 100 endlers.

Within 3 days of almost covering the top with the floating plants, nitrates will drop.to between 20 to 40 ppm.

As Karma eats the plants, I have to increase water changes until the Walstad grows enough to cover the pond again, lol

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 12/1/2021 at 3:11 PM, Torrey said:

1. Turtles like to move the stones around and will chew on the stones, which keep the beak and nails trimmed without generating a potential impaction hazard

2. Being able to move the stones reduces boredom, and keeps the habitat mentally stimulating while building turtle muscle

One of my coworkers said she saw Jimmy ”throwing" stones at the nerite snails the other day. 😂 Harassing them is one of his favorite things to do. 

  • Haha 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Create New...