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Turtle Supply List

Last Updated: 2/25/10

Basic Setup for Adult Turtles
Basic Setup for Baby Turtles

Someone asked me in early 2006 to provide a detailed list of what they would need to set up a turtle tank. Here I have provided that list as well as a link to where I personally buy that product. I use two main pet stores and call in catalog orders myself. There is no guarantee that the links to products will still be functional by the time you visit as they keep moving web sites around. Since I went through the trouble of finding specific products, they most likely will move them! I have chosen That Pet Place as the store to show examples but you can certainly buy something similar from other places. It is too bad for me that they do not give me a commission for promoting their products! In 2007, Drs. Foster and Smith did start an affiliate program. For those turtle products that they sell, I have added photo links to their site below under the That Pet Place links.

Drs. Foster & Smith deleted their affiliate program so those links will no longer work. I am leaving up the pictures which are still working for now. In order to buy those products, you have to go to this site and do a search.


Basic Setup for Adult Turtles

1. Cage or tank:
The size tank that you need depends on the size of the turtle(s) and how many you have. For one or two turtles under 6", a 40 gallon breeder tank is the best size to start. For a few turtles up to a foot long, a 120 gallon tank is good. Those two glass tanks have a larger surface area than most aquariums. Some alternatives to glass tanks include: plastic storage containers, kiddie pools, custom indoor lined pool, etc.

2. Lid:
A lid is needed to support lighting and to keep out people and other pets. If there are no other pets, lights can alternatively be suspended from a support or ceiling. The lid should be a mesh screen, typically hardware cloth, fit to the aquarium. Plastic lids will melt with lighting. Lids without ventilation will overheat the tank.

3. Light fixture:
Light fixtures should be made to hold both incandescent and fluorescent lights (or more than one fixture can be used). They should be built to withstand the enormous heat produced by heat lamps. There are many fixtures available but here is a link to my favorite kind:
Reptile Combo Lights

These three light systems are 30, 36, and 48 inches long respectively.

4. Heat lamps:
Heat lamps or incandescent lights are used to provide heat for the turtle. There are many brands and types out there. I suggest a 100 W bulb for daylight and a 75 W for nightlight. A 120 gallon tank would need two of each. Here is a link to the specific bulbs that I use for my turtle and lizard (who has a 120 gallon tank):
100 W ESU Daylight
75 W ESU Nightlight

5. Fluorescent lamps:
The fluorescent lamps should mimic sunlight for the well being of your turtle. They also let the turtle create Vitamin D. The lamp has to fit your fixture so the length varies with whatever size that you have. Here is an example of the brand I usually use; this one is 24" long so you will have to change the size:
Repti-Sun UVB Fluorescent Bulb

This is not the exact brand I get but an example of one kind of this light.

6. Heater:
Depending on the temperature of the room and which species that you have, you may or may not need a heater. Also, if the room gets cold in the winter, temperate species may try to hibernate without heated water. The heater needs to be kept away from the turtle so he/she does not lay on it and get burned. They now make heaters that are not made of glass so at least they are not so easy to break. Here is a link to one of those. The size needed varies with the amount of water (not total tank size) in the tank.:
50 W Visi-Therm Stealth Heater

7. Thermometer:
In order to monitor the temperature in the setup, you should have a thermometer. Place it on the wall near where the turtle will bask. An additional thermometer in a cooler area is a good idea as well. While it would be nice to monitor the water temperature, I have found that turtles try to break or eat most water thermometers. They can be used temporarily when setting up a new tank to check the temperature. Here is a link a thermometer I might use.
Reptile Thermometer

8. Land area:
Land areas can be created with any non-toxic rocks, plastic things, etc. Be sure the turtle cannot eat whatever you use and that it is stable. Here is a commercial land area that can stick onto an aquarium:
Large Turtle Dock

Turtle docks - small, medium, and large respectively.

9. Filter:
Turtles make a mess. A good filter is essential. For adult turtles, finding a filter that is strong enough, easy to clean, and reasonable in price is not easy. I have yet to find such a filter that I really like. When I moved my turtle to a larger setup, I modified a pond pump and made my own filter system. Here are some commercial filters that may work for turtles who are not yet so large as to clog the filter quickly. I used Duetto filters with my lizard and small turtle. Some turtle keepers recommend aquarium canister filters. Here is a link to one and also to a turtle filter that while it seems it would work for larger messes, actually has less gph (gallons per hour) than the Duetto.
Duetto 100
Turtle Canister Filter

Note that the photo below is NOT of a Duetto 100 but the link might/should go there. They have the wrong photos for a lot of their products. I picked Duetto 100, and this photo comes up.

10. Salt:
Salt (sodium chloride) naturally deters bacteria and fungus which are two groups of life that will love to grow in a turtle tank no matter how clean and sometimes on the turtle. Adding aquarium salt will deter those problems and help with keeping a turtle healthy. Use a tablespoon per 5 gallons for healthy turtles and a tablespoon per 2 gallons or so to treat turtles with fungal or bacterial infections. Here is a link to the aquarium salt that I use in my turtle tank.
Aquarium Salt

11. Foods:
It is important to have a variety of foods including live animals, plants, vegetables, and commercial foods. The commercial foods are usually eaten by larger turtles but some turtles may not ever want them. The pellets provide vitamins and minerals that may be lacking if enough variety of natural foods are not provided. See my turtle feeding page for more information on turtle feeding. It is a good idea if your turtle does eat pellets to get a variety of types. Here are some that my turtle gets:
Hikari turtle sticks
Wardley Reptile Sticks
Repto-Min
Nutrafin Turtle Gammarus Pellets (Gammarus are scuds which are like shrimp)

12. Cuttlebone:
It is a good idea to add cuttlebone to a turtle tank. Not only do the turtles trim their beaks by gnawing on it, they get added calcium while doing so. Here is a link to cuttlebone which is sold with the bird supplies. After that is a link to a "turtle bone" which is just a cuttlebone sold for more money as it says it is for turtles.:
Cuttlebone - note, remove the metal holder before putting it into the water (also rinse it off) or buy a pack at your local pet store that does not have any metal (I get a bag of half a dozen just plain cuttlebones).
Turtle Bone - just cuttlebone.

13. Dechlorinator:
If you have city water and do not treat it before you add it to the turtle tank, you should add declorinator to deactivate the chlorine in the water. Here is a link to the brand I would use (luckily, I have well water and only use it after soaking things in bleach that I am disinfecting):
Tap Water Conditioner

14. Good bacteria:
Good bacteria are necessary for healthy fish aquariums but not a necessity for turtles. Nonetheless, I thought I would mention this product that is sold for turtle tanks. It has bacteria that help decompose all that copious turtle waste.
Turtle Clean

15. Medications:
There are very few medications that you can find to order from catalogs and web sites. Most require a veterinarian. You should find a vet for your turtle should you need one. Two products that you can buy are Dr. Turtle and Vitamin A eye drops (sold at a different store). I suggest having them on hand just in case since they do not cost much and are available. There is also a sulfa dip which is sulfa drugs that you can add to some water to dip a turtle in that definitely has issues with bacterial or fungal infections (not for prevention).
Dr. Turtle
Sulfa Dip
Vitamin A drops for turtle eyes - Eye Drops 2.25 oz

16. Water:
I bet you forgot about that one! If you are using city water, be sure to add dechlorinator. It is a good idea to know what is in the water you are using. Any toxins in there can affect the turtle. I have a page on the various kinds of water here. The page was written with fish in mind but a lot of it is relevant for other uses of water such as for turtles.

See the turtle tank page for more information on turtle setups.


Basic Setup for Baby Turtles

The supplies for baby turtles are very similar with some changes.

See the baby turtle cage page for details on a setup for baby turtles.

1. Cage or tank:
The size tank that you need depends on the size of the turtle(s) and how many you have. Baby turtles, being smaller, are best started off in a tank around 20 gallons or a plastic storage container.

2. Lid:
Same as with adult turtles above.

3. Light fixture:
Same as with adult turtles above.

4. Heat lamps:
Same as with adult turtles above.

5. Fluorescent lamps:
Same as with adult turtles above.

6. Heater:
Hatchling turtles will eat better and grow faster if kept in heated water, around 75-80 degrees F for temperate species. The heater needs to be kept away from the turtle so he/she does not lay on it and get burned. Babies are very apt to do this. They now make heaters that are not made of glass so at least they are not so easy to break. Here is a link to one of those. The size needed varies with the amount of water (not total tank size) in the tank.:
50 W Visi-Therm Stealth Heater

7. Thermometer:
Same as with adult turtles above.

8. Land area:
Land areas can be created with any non-toxic rocks, plastic things, etc. Be sure the turtle cannot eat whatever you use and that it is stable. Here is a commercial land area that can stick onto an aquarium. This is the small:
Small Turtle Dock

9. Filter:
Turtles make a mess, even babies. A good filter is essential once a baby turtle is eating. Hatchling turtles may not be able to tolerate a filter at first. You can break up the output of the filter by putting rocks and things in front of the output. I use Duetto filters with my lizard and small turtle. Here is a link to one.
Duetto 100

This link should go to the Duetto 100 but the photo is of the smaller Duetto I think.

10. Salt:
Same as with adult turtles above.

11. Foods:
It is important to have a variety of foods including live animals, plants, vegetables, and commercial foods. Most babies only want to eat small, live animals. Blackworms are best to start. If you cannot find them at your local aquarium store, see this site. See my section on feeding baby turtles for more details. Baby turtles should be exposed to some commercial pelleted foods, and, eventually, they normally will eat those. There are not that many kinds of pellets made for babies but here is one.
Baby ReptoMin

12. Cuttlebone:
Same as with adult turtles above.

13. Dechlorinator:
Same as with adult turtles above.

14. Good bacteria:
Same as with adult turtles above.

15. Medications:
Same as with adult turtles above.

16. Water:
Same as with adult turtles above.


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