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How To Make The Perfect Painted Turtle Tank: Complete Guide

By Kerry
Updated on

How often do you see turtles living in tanks that don’t look natural or realistic? Turtles are susceptible animals, and they thrive in environments where their natural habitat is recreated.

Painted turtle swimming

If you want to create the perfect setting for your pet, you should consider buying a tank that looks like its natural home.

Turtles are reptiles that live in freshwater habitats. They are found worldwide, except in Antarctica.

An excellent way to recreate the natural habitat of these animals is to build a tank that resembles their native environment. This will allow them to feel comfortable and safe in their new surroundings.

There are several things you can do to make this happen:

  1. Use natural plants as nesting material. Plants provide an essential part of a turtle’s diet, so it is necessary to use appropriate ones. In particular, plant leaves should be used because they are rich in nitrogen and phosphorus. These elements are essential for the development of young turtles’ shells. It is also best to choose plants that won’t dry out quickly because dried-out plants aren’t suitable for nesting.
  2. Keep the water temperature at 68 °F (20 °C). Since turtles need warm temperatures to keep themselves healthy, it is vital to maintain this ideal temperature level. You can buy aquarium heaters or even put on a heating lamp. A better solution would be to install a thermostat that automatically adjusts the tank heater when the water gets below a specific temperature.
  3. Build a substrate made from pebbles and sand. Sand provides a protective coating against predators, while stones give your animals something to dig into. Both types of materials help with hydration and digestion. Avoid using gravels because they can cause problems by clogging up drainage holes. You may use crushed seashells instead if you want.
  4. Add oxygenation to your tank. Although turtles breathe through gills, they still require air. This means that you should place a small airstone near the top of the tank. Alternatively, you can use mini air pumps.
  5. Create a natural landscape. Adding vegetation to the tank will improve the appearance of your setup and increase the amount of available space.
  6. Give your pet plenty of food. You can feed your pet crickets, frogs, or small fish. However, you cannot use commercial diets; you must opt for homemade meals.
  7. Monitor your pet regularly. Provide regular checkups and make sure the tank is clean and properly ventilated.
  8. Be patient. Your turtle needs time to adapt to its new surroundings, so you shouldn’t expect immediate results. Remember that you can never force nature, and you shouldn’t try to replicate everything precisely as it happens in nature.
  9. Check periodically to see whether your animal has any injuries or illnesses. These could indicate that you’re dealing with a sick turtle. If your pet becomes ill, take the turtle to a veterinarian immediately.
  10. Enjoy your pets! Turtles are fascinating creatures that deserve the attention of every owner who takes care of them.

How To Paint Your Turtle Tank

First, to paint your turtle tank, remove all the furniture using a power tool such as a cordless drill.

Paint your tanks using these steps:

  1. First, spray the surface using acrylic colors. Apply light coats until the entire tank wall is covered. Let each coat dry before applying another one. Let the whole thing dry completely for about 24 hours when you finish painting.
  2. After the paint dries, apply two more coats of paint. The final layer might need to remain overnight.
  3. Before adding decorations to your tank, let the paint dry completely again. Then, try mixing white paint with other colors or decorating your tank with stickers.

Don’t forget to add plants to your tank. They provide your pet with essential nutrients as well as exciting hiding spots. You can find them online, in stores, or even at home improvement centers. In addition, the plants also beautify your tank.

Turtle Care Tips

2 painted turtles swimming together in a tank

Aquariums provide instructions detailing how to care for the animals housed inside them. But what if you don’t know how to read the manual? Here are some tips on how to take good care of your pets.

1. Cleaning

First of all, remember that cleaning an aquarium isn’t quite like cleaning the bathroom sink. You can use natural-based cleaners when cleaning your tank. Also, keep in mind that you may need to replace filters or sand regularly.

2. Feeding

Feed your pets once per day. Some people prefer feeding their turtles twice daily, while others simply give them a snack once per week. It’s up to you.

When choosing what type of food to feed your pet, opt for a diet specifically for reptiles. Commercial diets aren’t recommended because they contain too many additives, harming your turtle.

3. Water Quality

Never mix tap water with drinking water from your aquarium.

4. Temperature

You could maintain a constant temperature of 76 °F (24 °C) in your tank. However, suppose you live in an area where temperatures fluctuate significantly throughout the year. In that case, you may want to increase or decrease the temperature accordingly.

5. Lighting

For your pets to grow properly, you must provide them with adequate lighting. In general, most reptile owners recommend that you install fluorescent bulbs instead of incandescent ones. Besides, natural sunlight helps keep your pets healthy by providing necessary vitamin D.

6. Health Problems

Your pets may develop health issues due to several factors. For instance, your pets may not be getting enough exercise or may be exposed to harmful substances such as toxic chemicals.

Also, overfeeding could lead to obesity. As a result, your pet may suffer from various diseases, including diabetes, arthritis, gout, and heart disease if this happens.

7. Exercise

Your pet needs to get plenty of exercises. Most turtles enjoy swimming, climbing rocks, digging holes, and basking in the sun.

8. Stress

Stress can cause a wide range of health problems ranging from depression to skin infections. Ensure that you handle your pets gently and avoid overloading them.

9. Socialization

Socializing with your pets will help improve their temperament and, consequently, their overall happiness.

Unfortunately, many people think that it’s unnecessary to socialize their pets. However, it is essential because reptiles are living creatures. As such, they require human companionship. Calmly petting your pet is a great way to do so.

10. Diet

Turtles love eating small insects. Also, they need calcium-rich foods such as oyster shells, kelp, and cooked spinach leaves.

11. Repotting

If you own multiple tanks, then repotting one of those into a larger container may benefit your pet. This enables its growth and prevents algae buildup.

12. Sexing

The gender of your turtle is crucial because it determines whether it will produce eggs. As in all reptiles, male turtles fertilize the eggs, whereas females lay these eggs.

13. Mating

Turtles mate during springtime when they become sexually aroused. During mating season, males fight over territory, and females mate with the strongest one. Afterward, she lays her eggs on the ground.

14. Egg Care

Once your pet has laid an egg, you’re responsible for caring for them until adulthood. Therefore, you shouldn’t leave eggs unattended for a long period of time.

15. Hatchling Care

After hatching, hatchlings must be fed every two hours. Also, they need to stay warm overnight.

16. Breeding

Turtles breed when they reach sexual maturity. They usually begin doing so at around three years old.

17. Age

Generally, older turtles are more likely to die due to health complications compared to younger ones. They will also suffer from more illnesses and become weaker.

18. Food

Turtle food comes in different types: commercial, homemade, and freeze-dried. Commercial feed is typically raw ingredients like chicken liver powder, cornmeal, or fish oil.

Before giving your pet any type of food, the first thing you should consider is whether it contains artificial colors, preservatives, or additives.

19. Water Quality

When choosing water for your turtle, ensure that it’s free of chlorine and other chemical contaminants. Also, make sure that the water is clean and fresh.

20. Substrate

Substrates are essential for growing your pet. You should use wood chips, pebbles, moss balls, and sand.

21. Feeding Frequency

Most pets like to eat once per day. However, if your pet eats twice, you should gradually increase the amount of food given.

22. Nutritional Supplements

Some animals are prone to vitamin deficiencies. Therefore, you should supplement their diet with vitamins B1, D3, E, and C.

23. Cage Size

A large cage is better suited for more notable species. On the other hand, smaller cages are ideal for smaller species. In addition, some pets prefer to have lots of room to explore.

24. Lighting

Most tanks come with natural lighting. However, if your tank doesn’t include this feature, you should install artificial lights.

25. Temperature

Make sure your tank temperature stays between 70 °F (21 °C) and 80 °F (27 °C). If necessary, add heat lamps.

26. Humidity

You should keep humidity levels below 30%. Moreover, if you live in a humid environment, you should reduce humidity by using dehumidifier fans.

27. Plants

Plants should be placed in the tank. It provides your pet with additional shade, but it also adds oxygen to the atmosphere.

28. Toys

Your pet may enjoy playing with toys. Some include plastic containers, rocks, logs, ropes, or even food items.

Adding Plants To Your Turtle Tank

Red eared turtle in an aquarium

There are many species of plants that can grow well in turtle habitats. Generally, aquatic plants grow best in a completely enclosed environment due to their high requirements for moisture.

1. Aquatic Plants

Aquatic plants help filter water through their leaves. This removes impurities from the water while adding oxygen to the air.

2. Floating Plants

Floating plants are ideal for decorating your tank. These include stalks of grasses, ferns, reeds, or water lilies.

3. Vegetables

Vegetables such as lettuce, kale, or cabbage are excellent for feeding your pet.

4. Moss Balls

Moss balls are inexpensive and easy to maintain. They’re also great for hiding places.

5. Rocks

Rocks add stability to a terrarium. Place them around the perimeter of the tank to create an enclosure.

6. Logs

Logs are often used to hide nesting materials. You can also place them next to the aquarium to give your pet something to climb on.

7. Fertilizer

You must fertilize your plant roots regularly, so they continue to grow. Many manufacturers offer fertilizer mixes.

8. Seaweed

Seaweed is another option for plants. It proliferates in warm waters.

9. Sand

Sand provides traction and makes cleaning easier. However, you should never use gravel because it tends to become dirty.

Choosing The Right Turtles For You

There are several factors that you should consider when choosing the right type of turtle for you:

  1. Look at the size of the turtle. Choose one that will fit comfortably inside your tank.
  2. Take into account its age. Choose a turtle that is old enough to breed.
  3. Look at the type of shell coloration.

If you want a unique-looking pet, you should select a turtle with a striped shell. However, look for non-striped shells too.

1. Shell Color

When choosing a turtle, make sure you buy one with a coloration that matches your home decor.

2. Breed

If possible, choose a specific breed of a turtle. There are many rare breeds available. Most importantly, you should choose a species that has been bred specifically to live in captivity.

3. Behavior

You should avoid buying a pet that bites others. This goes for dogs and cats mainly. Similarly, you should avoid purchasing a turtle that chases prey in your tank.

4. Size

Turtles come in various sizes. Therefore, pick one that you are comfortable caring for.

5. Diet

Look for a diet that suits your pet’s dietary preferences. Make sure that the diet is balanced and nutritious. Also, look for diets with calcium added. This helps prevent bone problems.

6. Water Quality

Choose a product that contains no chemicals. Additionally, ensure that your water is clean before placing your turtle in it.

7. Temperature

Always check the temperature of your tank first. If it isn’t suitable, then try adjusting the thermostat accordingly.

8. Lighting

You should watch for lighting that illuminates your space while providing adequate light. When selecting a lamp, opt for natural daylight or fluorescent lamps.

9. Feeding

Ensure that you feed your turtle properly. A healthy diet consists of vitamin supplements along with protein. Ensure that you follow this carefully.

10. Stressors

Make sure that any turtles that you purchase are not stressed. Keep your turtle safe.

11. Shelter

Place a shelter inside your tank and keep it covered. Your turtle may enjoy exploring the outdoors, however.

Where To Put Your Turtle Tank

Painted turtle swimming in an aquarium

To position your turtle tank, you need to find a location that is easy to access and free from noise. In addition, you need to figure out where you will place your other aquarium accessories.


The ideal places to house a tank are indoors or near a window.


Noise can cause stress in turtles. However, if you have children, you might prefer keeping your turtle on an elevated shelf.


Remember that the tank should be accessible when needed.


A ventilated area will help regulate temperatures and provide fresh air.


Cage your pet in a separate room and keep it away from other pets.


Keep your turtle away from heaters, radiators, and fans.


Never leave your pet unattended for a long period of time.


Ensure that you clean your tank regularly. This keeps the aquatic environment clean and allows your turtle to stay hydrated. Use biodegradable cleaning products. Never use bleach as it can harm your pet.


Check your tank frequently and clean it as required.


Select a saltwater supplement that includes electrolytes. Make sure that the food bowl also contains these salts.


Buy a wide array of necessary supplies such as sand, substrate, and decorations.

Why Getting Turtles Is Beneficial

There are many benefits to owning turtles. Some include the following:


If your child wants to learn about reptiles, then consider getting them a turtle. This makes learning enjoyable, providing good bonding time between parent and child.


Get your child involved in caring for their turtle. They’ll understand how important it is to take care of something living.


If you want relaxation without going on vacation, then getting a turtle can help. It provides peace of mind and tranquility.


Incorporating education into your child’s life is beneficial. For example, children who learn about reptiles and amphibians often become more responsible in later years.


Turtles are fun to watch. Even though they’re small, they create fascinating habitats and behaviors. Kids will love watching them move around.


Many people tend to suffer from depression. If you know someone who has problems dealing with depression, getting them a turtle can help with therapy.


Some kids like to collect things. You could get them a turtle so that they can start collecting live specimens.


In today’s world, there aren’t enough pets. Many people don’t own pets because they feel there isn’t enough space or money to buy one. If this sounds like you, then you should consider purchasing a turtle.


If you’re looking for a great way to spend time together while giving your child a chance to bond with nature, then get your child a turtle. In turn, you’ll both experience some great benefits.

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About the author


Kerry White is an avid dog lover and writer, knowing all there is to know about our furry friends. Kerry has been writing for PetDT for three years now, wanting to use her knowledge for good and share everything she can with new dog owners.Kerry has two dogs herself - a German shepherd called Banjo and a chocolate labrador called Buttons. Kerry knows more than anyone how adjusting to new life with a puppy can turn your life upside down, and she wants to ease some of the burdens through her articles.