Turtle-keepers have a great many options when designing their pets’ homes…plastic bins, filtered aquariums, outdoor ponds, and many others all have their place. In this article I’ll cover everything you’ll need to create an inexpensive habitat for most semi-aquatic and aquatic turtles, including Red-Eared Sliders, Painted and Map Turtles, Cooters, Reeve’s Turtles and others. I’ll also mention money-saving alternatives to certain products, along with non-essential “extras” that can be added if you wish. Please see Part 1 for information on enclosures, basking sites and shelters.
Ultra-violet “B” Light
Turtles that bask in the sun (heliothermic species) need a UVB source in captivity. Most commonly-kept species, such as Sliders, Cooters, Painted and Map Turtles, fall into this category. Musk, Snapping, Soft-shelled and other largely aquatic species seem to do fine without, but many keepers provide UVB as “insurance”.
Low Cost Alternative
Unfiltered sunlight is the best possible UVB source for turtles (and it’s free!). Window glass and plastic filters-out UVB, so you’ll need direct sun; 1-3 hours daily will suffice for most species; a UVB bulb should be used during the winter, especially for growing turtles.
Be sure to write in for recommendations as to proper water, air and basking temperatures, as each varies by species.
The Exo-Terra Submersible Turtle Heater is designed to withstand the havoc that active turtles can unleash on “lesser” heaters.
Turtle Tough Halogen Bulbs provide UVA and heat for basking sites, and can stand up to the splashing that turtles are likely to produce.
Low Cost Alternatives
Enclosing tropical fish aquarium heaters in a sleeve of perforated PVC pipe will render them “turtle-proof”.
Low Cost Alternatives
Housing your turtle in a plastic bin that is easily emptied and rinsed is a great option (please see “Enclosures” in Part 1 of this article).
Siphon-based Gravel Washers are very useful for making partial water changes, especially right after feeding.
You can also cut costs by not feeding your turtle in its aquarium (please see article below). In this way, you can use a smaller filter, or perhaps dispense with filtration altogether.
A Night-Viewing Bulb will help you to observe your pet’s nocturnal activities and is useful for cold nights.
If your aquarium is large enough, consider adding artificial stumps, roots and hollow logs. The Pure Aquatic Line is very impressive.
There are infinite variations on the above theme…please write in with your own habitat ideas and questions.
The Ganges Soft-shelled Turtle: great photos and info on this rare turtle, illustrating that some aquatic species do bask
Chitra indica image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Krishna Kumar Mishra
Baby Malayan Box Turtles image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by M Noth