Setting up a turtle aquarium
Turtle aquariums are a little different from the ordinary fish aquariums that are commonly kept in homes. For one, the turtles grow much bigger than they seem. Most new pet-owners mistakenly believe that the small sized baby turtle they see at the pet shop is not going to get much larger. A glass aquarium of 25-50 gallons or more is most suitable for turtle. One of the most important elements of turtle keeping is the selection of an appropriately sized tank. Long or "breeder" tanks are usually the best for turtles. The depth of the water should be more than the length of the turtle. In case the turtle needs to flip over, it will not get stuck in shallow water.
The water in the turtle aquarium should have a good and powerful filter. Turtles tend to be messy eaters and they also defecate directly into the water. It is necessary to keep changing the water quite often. This should be taken into consideration when putting up a turtle aquarium.
The turtle tank should have a lid and a full spectrum fluorescent light. The lighting can be adjusted using a timer to reflect the lengthening hours of the day. A good heater system is a must in a turtle tank. The substrate should be at varying levels so that the turtle can have a place where it can sit in water with its head sticking out of the water. The land area is ideally created with slate and rocks. There should be no sharp edges. This will make it easy for the turtle to climb on to the dry area. There should also be no place at the bottom of the tank where the turtle gets wedged. If it gets stuck, it will not able to surface for breath.
You will need an area that is fully dry and out of the water where the turtle can haul out and dry itself. Simulating the sun by positioning a spotlight over this area will encourage the turtle to bask. Putting the aquarium in direct sunlight is dangerous in case the turtle is not able to get into the water. There is another reason why a totally dry land area is a must in your turtle aquarium. The female turtle that is carrying its eggs will look for a dry area to bury her eggs. In the absence of a dry area, the female turtle will try to retain her eggs as long as possible. Then she will drop the eggs into the water itself. If the female turtle retains her eggs for too long, she may become sick. Fertilization within the body may also occur, and this will lead to massive infection. Larger turtles will need a bigger land area.
A turtle aquarium needs a bit of ingenuity when you set out to decorate it. Your turtle aquarium will not sustain flimsy plants for long, because the turtles will devour this quickly. The plants that go into a turtle tank needs to be stout and small. They should be able to withstand the heavy and constant activity of the turtle. Actually, a turtle tank does not need plants, gravel or sand. These will add to the difficulty in cleaning the tank. Most turtles thrive when there are minimum decorations within the tank.
It is best to investigate the natural habitat of your turtle before you bring it home. Most turtles prefer a higher temperature than the existing room temperature. Using underwater heaters is a good idea. However if your turtle is too active, it is better to "wall off" the heater a bit. After setting up the turtle aquarium, it should be run for a few days before you introduce the turtles. This will help to identify any problems in filtering, lighting etc. It is worth buying a thermometer also.
While choosing a turtle, go for the young ones only after you see the adults. Many turtles seem very small and tiny while they are young. But they soon out grow their tanks if they are fed well. In such a case, you will have to get yourself a new tank.
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