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Home > Turtles > 14 Essential Turtle Supplies to Get You Started: Vet-Reviewed 2024 Guide

14 Essential Turtle Supplies to Get You Started: Vet-Reviewed 2024 Guide

Turtle under a heat lamp in cage

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Dr. Luqman Javed

Veterinarian, DVM

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Turtles are fascinating aquatic pets known for their quirky behaviors and long lifespans. If you have decided to get a pet turtle and find yourself researching which supplies they need, you might be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information out there. This can make it difficult to determine which supplies are essential for pet turtles, and which ones are optional.

With this in mind, we have created this article to guide you through the most essential supplies you need for a pet turtle.

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The 14 Essential Turtle Supplies

Please Note

The information in this article is written for freshwater aquatic turtles, not tortoises.

Food and Feeding Supplies

1. Turtle Food

Mazuri Aquatic Turtle Food 

The nutritional requirements of pet turtles is very complex, and your pet’s requirements will vary depending on their species, their age, their metabolic status, health condition, environment, and reproductive status. There is no one product out in the market that can meet an aquatic turtle’s nutritional needs and therefore, your pet’s diet is something you should thoroughly discuss with your veterinarian. Please keep in mind that overfeeding a pet turtle is just as detrimental to their health as underfeeding.

However, it’s still worth having something to feed your pet when you first bring them home, and it’s always a good idea to have food that can meet most of their needs at any given time without adversely affecting them.

The Mazuri Aquatic Turtle Food is a good option for this purpose, and definitely something we would recommend keeping at hand for your turtles. You might find that your turtle seems disinterested in pellet food, and therefore, you might also want to consider a gel based option  as an alternative.


2. Dietary Supplements

Zoo Med Repti Calcium with D3 Reptile Supplement

Turtles should get most of their vitamins and minerals from a healthy and balanced diet. However, it can be beneficial to supplement their diet. You can offer turtles live foods like earthworms, mealworms, and brine shrimp that are sold as pet food. Turtles also enjoy a mixture of plant-based foods like duckweed, squash, and spinach offered a few times a week.

Most turtles should be getting their daily source of vitamins and minerals from a balanced diet. However, dietary supplements like the Zoo Med Repti Calcium Powder with Vitamin D3 are recommended for turtles that are fed animal proteins or live prey. This dietary supplement is made with bioavailable vitamin D3 with high absorption. It contains no lead or phosphorus and can be dusted onto their food as recommended by your vet. Vitamin D3 is essential for turtles as it aids in calcium absorption and proper bone and shell development.


3. Food Bowl

FLUKER'S Corner Reptile Bowl

A food bowl is going to make feeding your turtle a whole lot easier. It provides a sanitary space for your turtle to eat their veggies, pellets, and live foods without it mixing with the water or feces. The food bowl should be placed in the dry section of your turtle’s habitat and not submerged in water.

Most medium to large reptile bowls like the one sold by Fluker’s are recommended for turtles. The sides of the bowl are deep enough to keep food from spilling out but easy for your turtle to reach in and eat from.

Please note that some species of turtles may refuse to eat from a bowl, and are more likely to eat only from water. Consult your veterinarian if you aren’t sure about your pet turtle’s feeding requirements or preferences.

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Habitat and Setup Supplies

4. Habitat

Lifegard Aquatics Crystal Aquarium

The most essential supply for your pet turtle will be their habitat. Turtles need to be housed in a spacious and secure habitat, usually a terrarium, glass tank, or pond. The type and size of the habitat will vary depending on your turtle’s age and species. Most turtles around 3 to 5 inches long can be housed in a 40 to 55-gallon fish tank. The size of their habitat will need to be upgraded as your turtle grows, and some species need to be kept in tanks or ponds over 100 gallons in size.

A high-quality glass fish tank that we recommend for young turtles is the Lifegard Aquatics 40-gallon crystal aquarium. It is constructed from low iron glass, which is very clear and offers uninterrupted viewing. This fish tank is rimless and held together by invisible glue joints. Most long fish tanks over 40 gallons in size can work for smaller turtles, and there are various affordable and lavish options to choose from.

Though your turtle may eventually require an upgrade, this product should nonetheless be a very reasonable choice for a starting point. Please note that all turtles need to eventually surface to breathe, and therefore, their enclosure shouldn’t be entirely full of water and needs a dry, landed area that’s very for your pet to access.


5. Accessories

ZOO MED Floating Aquarium Log Fish Hideout

Turtles benefit from having various accessories in their habitat to allow them to explore and hide. You do not need to keep their habitat cluttered, but a few live or fake plants, floating logs, and hideouts can be beneficial. We recommend the Zoo Med floating aquarium log hideout for turtles, which is available in three size options—small, medium, and large. Most accessories that are labeled as safe for turtles can be used in their habitat.

Be sure to pay close attention to the materials and size of the product. Certain accessories may rot over time if they are submerged in water, while others might be too small for your turtle to use.


6. Filter

Tetrafauna ReptoFilter 90 to 125 GPH

A filter is an essential supply for a turtle’s habitat, and it is incredibly beneficial. Turtles are messy animals that constantly eat and defecate in the water. Filters not only help to remove and process those waste products but also prevent the water from becoming stagnant.

Clean water is crucial for a turtle’s health, and dirty water is a breeding ground for illnesses. You ideally want to choose a filter that processes the same or more gallons of water per hour (GPH) in your turtle’s habitat. A weak filter will easily get clogged and not filter your turtle’s water correctly, which can interfere with how your turtle’s waste products are processed.

There are various filters to choose from, but the Tetrafauna ReptoFilter comes highly recommended for habitats up to 90-125 gallons. This filter is silent and offers all three stages of filtration (mechanical, biological, and chemical) which helps keep your turtle’s water fresh.


7. Basking Platform

Penn-Plax Turtle Topper Above Tank Basking Platform

Most turtles need a dry platform where they can dry off and absorb essential UV rays and heat. Turtles will naturally bask in the wild as they are cold-blooded and need external heat for warmth. The sun also offers turtles vital UV rays that help them synthesize vitamin D3. Turtles will climb out of the water and lay on a rock or log to bask in the wild, usually for around 2 to 8 hours per day.

There are many different shapes, sizes, and types of basking platforms available for turtles. The Penn-Plax turtle topper is a favorite amongst turtles’ owners, as it provides a dry and secure area for turtles to bask. The platform is fully enclosed aside from an entrance and barred section for a light fixture. It easily mounts on top of aquariums without limiting your turtles’ swimming space.

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Lighting and Heating Supplies

8. Aquarium Heater

AQUEON Pro Aquarium Heater, 200 watt

Turtles rely on having warm aquarium water with few temperature fluctuations to stay healthy. Many species of turtle thrive at temperatures between 72 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit (approximately 22 to 27 °C). The heater should be fully submerged in the water, and ideally placed near the filter to prevent hot spots in the water. Aquarium heaters need to run 24/7 in your turtle’s habitat and do not need to be switched off at night as their lighting does.

The Aqueon Pro aquarium heater is suitable for turtles, and is available at different wattages, from 50 watts to 300 watts. You should pick a heater that’s rated at a wattage for your aquarium’s size. For example, a 200 watt heater is considered sufficient for a 55-75 gallon aquarium. You will need to keep a thermometer in the habitat and run the heater with a thermostat to control the temperature.


9. Heating and Lighting

Zoo Med Aquatic Turtle UVB & Heat Lighting Kit

Artificial heating and lighting are absolutely essential for all indoor turtles. As we already discussed above, turtles are ectotherms that seek out warmth and UV rays from the sun. However, this is difficult for them to do in captivity, and they rely on an artificial source of heating and lighting. The heating bulb will provide your turtle with warmth, whereas a reptile light bulb will light up their habitat and offer them UVB rays.

Since it can be tricky and more expensive to purchase the different bulbs and lighting fixtures separately, the Zoo Med aquatic turtle UVB and heat lighting kit makes it easier. The kit includes two deep dome fixtures, a halogen bulb that produces light and heat, and a UVB bulb. The bulbs are connected to a switch that manually needs to be turned on or off. The kit is splash-proof and designed in a way to protect your turtle from burns.

You will need to place the lighting kit above their basking area and keep it on for 10 to 12 hours per day.


10. Thermometer

HDE LCD Digital Aquarium Thermometer

Turtles rely on having the correct temperature in their habitat for vital bodily functions. The temperature affects how they digest food, their activity levels, growth, and resistance to diseases. Even the highest-quality aquarium heaters or basking bulbs can stop working at some point. It is essential to keep a thermometer in their habitat so that you can monitor and adjust the water temperature as necessary.

We have picked the HDE LCD digital aquarium thermometer for the job. It is a reliable way to keep track of your turtle’s water temperature and suction outside of the tank. The probe should get submerged in the water and can be moved around to give an accurate reading of the temperature.

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Cleaning Supplies

11. Cleaning Spray

Hepper Advanced Bio-Enzyme Pet Stain & Odor Eliminator

Cleaning your turtle’s habitat can be difficult, especially during a deep clean where you’ll need to remove and clean all the accessories like hideouts and filters. For this job, we highly recommend a cleaning solution of some kind, and our favorite is the Hepper Advanced Bio-Enzyme Spray.

It’s safe to use on fabrics, carpets, and floors, and the unique formula destroys odors and messes with ease. It also has a neutral scent, and doesn’t require any mixing or diluting—simply spray it directly from the bottle. Please note that this product shouldn’t be sprayed onto your pet!

At Pet Keen, we’ve admired Hepper for many years and decided to take a controlling ownership interest so that we could benefit from the outstanding designs of this cool cat company!


12. Bucket

Tetra Maintenance Freshwater Aquarium Bucket

Doing frequent water changes to your turtle’s habitat helps keep the water clean and dilutes pollutants. However, you will need a bucket to do water changes as they allow you to remove the old water and refill the habitat again.

Tetra has created a 4-gallon bucket with volume markers that is safe for aquarium use. The bucket is sturdy and easy to carry around. Otherwise, you can use most new buckets that are not used elsewhere around the house.


13. Siphon/Gravel Vacuum

AQUEON Aquarium Siphon Vacuum Aquarium Gravel Cleaner, 5-in

Using a siphon or gravel vacuum to remove your turtles’ water makes cleaning their habitat much easier. The siphon not only removes water but suctions out dirt and debris that gets trapped at the bottom of your turtle’s habitat. It can also be used to suction gunk from the substrate that a bucket would miss. The highly recommended Aqueon aquarium siphon includes a self-priming pipe and a 6-inch-long tube to quickly suction water. The end of the tubing has a hose clip that can be attached to a bucket.divider-turtle

Water Treatments

14. Dechlorinator/Water Conditioner

Zoo Med Reptisafe Reptile Water Conditioner

Tap water contains various invisible components like chlorine and chloramines. There are varying opinions on whether or not a turtle’s water should be dechlorinated. Turtles naturally harbor pathogens like Salmonella, and depending on where you stay, public health regulations might advise against dechlorinating their water (as this keeps bacterial levels lower). Therefore, this is a topic you should discuss with your veterinarian. If your veterinarian advises a dechlorinator, you’d definitely want to invest in one.

There are many turtle-safe de-chlorinators out there, but we recommend the Zoo Med Reptisafe water conditioner. This dechlorinator not only rapidly removes chlorine and chloramines, but also helps detoxify ammonia and nitrites found in new setups.

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Conclusion

Once you have purchased the essential supplies for your turtle, it is going to be fun to set everything up. Once everything is set up,  you can add your turtle to their habitat and enjoy watching them explore and use all their new supplies. Remember to always follow your veterinarian’s lead on specific care tips for your pet.


Featured Image Credit: kai4107, Shutterstock

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