Turtle Aquariums - A Turtle Tank Setup Differs From a Fish Tank

turtle by a pond
Photo by Vlad Chețan from Pexels

Though the fundamentals of setting up a tank for both turtle and fish are almost the same, there are a few differences between the two. Both require water but at different levels. Do you know why? Well, if you have pet turtles, you already know. But for a novice, you need to know that a tank for a turtle should not be filled completely because you have to place a pile of stones to allow your turtle to bask when it needs to.

Not only that, the decoration elements in the aquarium for turtles and fishes are also different. A turtle tank filter is not suitable for your fish tank. In the same way, you don’t need to create a surface on top of the water of the tank for a fish tank because fishes do not need to bask! However, in this article, I am just going to share some essential things you need to know if you are a novice or expert to make a happy setup for your turtles. Keeping turtles is an exciting hobby many people pursue. Before you bring your favorite turtle to your home, you have to make sure that you have made a suitable living place for it. The living area may be outdoor or indoor. Some hobbyist raises their turtles in their backyard pond while others prefer an indoor tank.

Size of the Tank Differs

When turtles grow into adults, they become three to even four times their infant length. So, when it comes to purchasing a tank for your pet turtles, make sure you have bought a larger one to accommodate them. On the other hand, fishes often require smaller tanks in comparison to turtles. Not only that, turtles tend to climb out of the tank frequently. To avoid this problem, you also need a larger tank for turtles.

Moreover, it would be best if you placed some rocks, even a pile of stones, to make a place for your turtles to bask when they need warmth. You already know that turtles do not spend all of their time in the water. Sometimes they come to the shore and bask in the sun. So, you have to make a similar arrangement for your pet turtles.

Water Level Differs

With a fish tank, you typically fill the tank completely, but for turtles you need to fill only part of the tank. So, it would help if you had a large aquarium to accommodate your turtles.

If your tank is small and you fill it halfway, chances are your pet turtle still can climb out of the tank.

An Elevated Place for Basking

In the aquarium, if you have turtles to raise, you have to make a high place where the turtle may bask as per its demand. You can create a high area using a rocks pile or aquarium gravel. Make sure you have used smooth rocks inside the tank. Sharp-edge rocks can do potential harm to your turtles. If you don’t find smooth stones, you can smooth them yourself. You can even use floating cork or styrofoam to improve their basking in the tank.

On the other hand, if you have fish in the tank, you don’t need to create an elevated area for their basking because fishes do not bask. Instead, it would be an inconvenience for them. Stones are not required inside a fish tank.


Depending on your tank size, you need to choose a filter that is large enough for the tank. Turtles tend to produce more waste in the water than most fish. So, you require a quality filter to remove the debris from the tank. Otherwise, the water in the tank will become filthy, and your pet turtle may become sick as well.

Lighting and Heating Lamps

Why do turtles come to the seashore to bask in the sun? Because they need heat from the sunlight, as well as UV rays. In the same way, you have to arrange lighting and heating lamps for your turtles so that they can get enough heat and light. Not only that, but they also need lighting and temperature for several purposes.

If you are a turtle-lover, you may know that turtles are coldblooded reptiles meaning that they are unable to produce heat for themselves. Thus they need a heating lamp to provide needed heat for their basking.

They need light to encourage them to feed and breed. Also, they need light to elevate their mood. Your pet turtles need to make their shell and bone healthy. Sufficient light ensures their growth as well. Make sure your heating lamps create both UVA and UVB light.

Final Touches

Raising turtles at home in the tank or aquarium can be an excellent pastime for you only if you can ensure their safe-living place. Otherwise, you may end up just harming the reptiles, your favorite pet turtles. Setting up a tank for turtles is different from setting up a tank for fishes. If you can determine a few things in mind mentioned earlier, you can make a suitable living place for your turtle.