Painted Turtle Tank Setup (Requirements, Risks, & Fun Ideas)

Painted turtles are beautiful reptiles native to North America. They are very popular pets in the US and in other parts of the world.

But what is the ideal setup for your turtle’s tank?

In this article, we are going to discuss everything you must know about setting up a turtle tank. Let’s jump right into the details.

Key Takeaway:

Your turtle’s tank must be 4 times the turtle’s size and 1.5 times its length. Keep the temperature of the water between 75 and 80°F. The basking temperature must be between 90 and 95°F. It is best to house two females together or keep the painted turtle on its own.

painted turtle tank setup

What are the sizing requirements for your tank, and what are some ways of making yours look fun? Up next in this article, we are going to unleash some of our most creative painted turtle tank ideas.

Painted Turtle Tank Setup

You want to make the most comfortable painted turtle tank ever.

In this article, we will discuss the best tank for a painted turtle tank and how you must kit out yours.

Let’s dive to it.

Painted Turtle Tank Size

You want your painted turtle to feel at home as soon as you put it in its new tank. It needs plenty of room to swim about in and adequate space for a basking spot too.

So, with that in mind…

How big of a tank do painted turtles need?

Your painted turtle’s tank must be 4 times the turtle’s size and 1.5 times its length. A good size is 42 inches wide and 12 inches deep.

If you have a large painted turtle, your tank will need to be even bigger. If you are housing more than one turtle or fish, you will need to measure up accordingly.

Bigger is better, so, if you have room for a wider tank, get it. Ponds are also ideal for these reptiles, as long as you keep the water temperature optimum. (More about that in a mo.)

Water Volume In Your Painted Turtle’s Habitat

Your painted turtle enclosure must include plenty of room for swimming but also for a basking spot.

How much water should be in your turtle’s tank?

The average painted turtle needs 20 gallons of water in its tank. If you have multiple turtles, you will need to add an extra 10 gallons of water for each additional turtle.

For an additional baby-painted turtle, you will an extra 5 gallons of water.

Painted Turtle Tank Temperature

Painted turtles must live in the right environment that mimics the water temperatures they are used to in their natural habitat. If the water is just a fraction too hot or too cold, they will struggle.

Remember, turtles are cold-blooded animals, so they must be in the right environment that will suit their needs.

What is the ideal water temperature for a painted turtle tank?

The water temperature must stay between 75 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. This will help the turtle cool off in the water before it returns to its basking area.

You will need a water heater to warm the water inside the enclosure. You will find heaters that you can completely submerge from large pet stores.

To ensure the water temperature stays ideal, you must set up a thermometer on the side of the tank.

The temperature of the water is just one of the painted turtle temperatures that you must monitor. Another is the ambient air temperature.

Your painted turtle habitat must have a large gap between the water and the roof of the enclosure. This will give the turtle as much space as it needs to bask.

The temperature of the air (not around the basking dock) must be between 88 and 94 degrees Fahrenheit. You must use a thermometer to monitor the temperature of your heat lamp and the air in your tank.

Painted Turtle Habitat Basking Area Temperature

The painted turtle is a cold-blooded reptile and it needs a basking area to help regulate its body temperature after swimming around in the water. Although this species loves water, it also needs time on land.

painted turtle tank setup basking area

How hot should a basking area be?

The temperature in the basking area must be between 90 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit at all times. These temperatures mimic the ones the turtle would find in its natural habitat.

Giving the very best painted turtle care means ensuring that your turtle is always warm enough. You will need a UVB light with a bulb to mimic the natural light your turtle would be exposed to in the wild.

Attach a thermostat to the basking area and change your UVB light bulbs every 6 months.

Painted Turtle Basking Platform

Both an adult and a baby-painted turtle will bask on a basking platform at various times throughout the day. In the wild, it will do this first thing in the morning, around lunchtime, and again in the early afternoon.

You must set up a painted turtle basking platform in the tank too.

What can you use as a basking platform?

Large rocks partially submerged in the water make good basking areas for a painted turtle habitat. The rocks must be large enough for the turtle to sit on and be completely dry.

Set up the large rocks directly under the UV light.

A good alternative to the rocks is a basking platform from a pet store. Station and fix the platform under the basking light in the enclosure.

Painted Turtle Tank Mates

You want your aquatic turtle to feel as comfortable as it can in its new home.

But does it need company to feel good?

Your painted turtle is a rather solitary animal and will do better on its own than it will in company. If you want to have multiple painted turtles, you must not put two males together.

You must not put a male and a female together unless you want them to mate. Two females get along best.

Painted Turtle Tank Ideas

Ok, so you’ve now got your painted turtle tank setup and ready to go. It’s functional, but there’s nothing in it yet that will help your turtle enjoy life.

turtle tank ideas

What do painted turtles need in their tank?

Up next, we are going to go through some of our favorite ideas that will help you create a cozy and inviting living space for your awesome painted turtle.

Aquatic Plants

Part of setting up a painted turtle tank is making sure there are enough plants for the painted turtle to feel comfortable. These plants should be edible so the reptile can feed on them and also turtle-friendly so it can hide behind them.

Which are the best plants for a painted turtle habitat?

Here are some general favorites.

  • Water lily
  • Duckweed
  • Water hyacinth

Midland painted turtles are rather fond of both vascular and non-vascular plants. So you do well to plant moss, yellow pond lilies, and waterweed in their tanks.

Fake plants are also ideal for your turtle habitat. Fake plants also add ambiance to the reptile tank.

Canister Filters

When deciding what to put in a painted turtle tank, you must consider a water filter.

Why is a filter so important?

Here are some of the benefits.

  • Removing debris. The filter will clear the water and remove large bits of debris that would dirty the tank and disrupt the water flow.
  • Preventing discoloration. The filter will stop the water from going yellow quickly.
  • Odor and ammonia reduction. It will also prevent the water from smelling.

A filter will improve the water quality in the tank and is great for your turtle’s health. But you must note that this will not clean the water completely.

Even with a water filter and a water conditioner, you will still need to do partial water changes every week and full cleanouts every month.

Large Gravel

When decorating your tank on the inside, you’ll want to consider what to put in the swimming area.

How can you make your homemade painted turtle tank look more special?

Terrarium gravel sits on the floor of the enclosure and makes it look more interesting.

Gravel also makes it easier for you to keep your real and fake plants upright. The gravel weighs them down and keeps them in the right place.

Your gravel pieces must resemble stones in size. (More about that in a mo).

Hiding Cave

Your aquatic turtle will love its tank if you kit it out with everything it needs.

Which accessory do both an adult and a baby-painted turtle need?

These turtles need hiding caves to duck for cover whenever they want to.

Painted turtles also like to rest on ledges and sturdy underwater items when they sleep. A hiding cave, when big enough, will create the perfect hardy structure for your turtle to fall asleep on.

Calcium Block

Your aquatic turtles must get enough calcium. It is possible to increase their calcium intake by sprinkling calcium powder on their meals.

How else can you increase their calcium?

Another way is to put a calcium block in the water. This block will slowly erode over time, and your turtle will absorb the calcium.

The calcium block will also help to condition the warm water your turtle swims in.

Painted Turtle Habitat Setup FAQs

A painted turtle needs to live in an environment that mimics its habitat in the wild.

What should a painted turtles tank look like?

Find out more about the ideal setup with the help of the FAQs below.

How Can a Turtle Habitat Prevent MBD?

MBD is a metabolic bone disease. This disease affects a turtle’s shell and bone structure, softening and deforming them.

The way you set up a painted turtle tank can help to prevent these diseases from developing in a turtle.

Your tank must have a basking light that mimics the direct sunlight a turtle would feel in the wild. You must equip the basking lamp with a UV bulb.

To mimic their natural behaviors in the wild, painted turtles in captivity must bask. They bask under the UV lamp several times a day.

The temperature in the basking area must be between 90 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit. You must change your UVB bulb every 6 months to ensure it is still working to its full potential.

What Is the Best Tank Size for Hatchlings?

When choosing a tank, you must remember that baby-painted turtles grow very quickly. Juveniles, however, grow much slower.

A tank sized specifically for a baby-painted turtle may soon be too small for it to use. So it is best to size up where possible and get a tank that is already big enough for an adult or a juvenile painted turtle.

When choosing your tank by measurement, remember that you need 10 gallons per inch of shell. Most hatchlings have about a 1-inch shell, so 10 gallons of water is enough for them.

You must get a tank that holds a lot more than the water levels you require, as your turtle needs room for basking.

What Are the Parameters for a Painted Turtle Tank?

Painted turtles need ample room for swimming as well as basking.

The ideal tank will measure 4 times the turtle’s size and 1.5 times its length. The average size of a tank is 42 inches wide and 12 inches in length.

The average painted turtle needs 20 gallons of water to swim in. If you are going to buy an additional turtle to accompany the first turtle, you will need another 10 gallons.

Painted Turtle Tank Risks

Painted turtles are sensitive animals that soon suffer when their environment is not quite right. Up next, we are going to discuss some of the common mistakes that people make when housing these reptiles and what you must do to avoid them.

Inappropriate Water Levels

As we mentioned in this article, the water level in your turtle’s tank must not exceed 12 inches deep. This is because turtles can drown when the water level is too high.

Not having enough water is also an issue. When the water level is lower than 12 inches, turtles can injure themselves when they dive into the water.

You must measure the water level in the enclosure every time you refill the tank.

Swallowing Substrate

There is nothing wrong with putting down an interesting substrate material like large gravel or stones for your turtle. But you must ensure that its substrate is too big for it to swallow.

If the substrate is small, the turtle might think it is food and try to swallow it.

Lamp Position

Your turtle must have access to a basking area with UVB light. But you must not place your lamp in such a way that it shines through the glass or plastic walls of the enclosure, as these may block the UV rays.

Position the lamp in such a way that the turtle gets the full benefit from the UV.

Temperature Issues

Your turtle will begin to suffer if it is in an environment that is too hot or too cold.

Your standard thermometers are great for you to take a quick glance at the temperatures in the tank. But if the temperatures rise or fall suddenly, you will not know.

This is why it is best that you get a thermometer with an alarm that will alert you when the temperatures in your turtle’s enclosure are not ideal.

The Best Tank for Painted Turtles

In conclusion, painted turtles need a number of things in their tanks to keep them happy and healthy. Kitting out your tank with everything your reptile requires is often challenging, but thanks to the help in this article, we have seen how to set up a painted turtle tank.

To begin, you must get a tank that measures 42 inches wide by 12 inches deep. Your enclosure must have a basking area at 90 to 95°F and a water temperature between 75 and 80°F.

Did you find this article interesting?

At Oddly Cute Pets, we always strive to provide you with the best articles about painted turtles and their enclosures. For more information on southern painted turtles, eastern painted turtles, and their specific dietary needs, check out our website.

Thanks for reading!

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