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Turtle Care

Just the Basics. We didn't write a book...


Turtle Species

There are many, many species of turtles, but not all of them make great pets. 

There are also laws regarding which species may be kept as pets. Turtles native to Virginia, for example, may not be kept or sold as pets in Virginia.

Most of the species we offer are selected for their ease of care, and maximum size in captivity. We try to stay with "small" species as a rule, though they can still get about 10 inches long . Baby turtles are babies. They will grow if cared for properly.

Female turtles usually grow larger than males, though as babies it is not easy to tell which is which.


Proper Housing

Most turtles will require a medium to large aquarium or enclosure in the long term. We do not recommend anything smaller than a 20 gallon long aquarium to start with. Once you get the basic necessities to care for them, the tank size makes sense. Plus if you care for them properly, they will be growing fairly quickly.



Not common, but it is a concern! All reptiles can carry salmonella, though turtles are more likely than others. If their enclosure is not kept clean, it is much more likely to occur.

For your safety, we strongly urge anyone handling turtles or cleaning turtle tanks to thoroughly  wash your hands when you are done. Especially small children, as they are more likely to put their hands in their mouths.

There are not many cases reported in the US from turtles every year, but don't be that person...

Care in Captivity

Please keep in mind there are many, many ways to keep your pet We encourage you to research and learn more all the time.​ Please feel free to look at how we keep our turtles in the shop and ask questions. 

Turtles are not difficult to care for, but do have some basic requirements to stay healthy and safe.

Most turtle species don't live in the water full time. They require a dry basking spot to dry out, and bask under the lights to stay warm and absorb UVB light. A floating dock works very well, as it moves up and down with the water level, and does not trap debris like a pile of rocks, Typically you will keep their aquarium about half full.


Turtles require TWO types of light to stay healthy. A heat lamp, to stay warm (duh). And a UVB lamp for .. well several reasons. The UVB lamp allows them to metabolize calcium. This allows their shell to stay hard, and grow properly. And their nerves to form and function properly. AND more things too.. Please feel free to research UVB lights for reptiles on any one of dozens of websites that talk about it. We recommend Zoo Med Bulbs or Arcadia. It's a big deal. It's not a sale pitch. Anyone anywhere keeping and raising turtles will say the same. The only ones who won't are generally just trying to make a quick sale.

Zoo Med's  Rethinking Reptile Lighting

Arcadia Reptiles 

Reptile Magazine :  Article on UVB


Carefully hang the lights over aquarium, and secure them so they don't fall in. A 50 watt heat bulb is almost always all you need. "Turtle Bulbs" are generally heavier duty construction, and designed not to pop if a drop of water hits them. You can raise or lower the water level to change the distance to the bulb from the floating dock, to increase or decrease the temperature in the hot zone they bask in.

Filters are pretty much a must have as well. Turtles are messy. Plain and simple. If you don't purchase a filter, you ARE the filter, and that is messy... There are lots of options, but most fish tank filters won't work well. They are designed for full tanks, and turtle tanks are generally only half full. An internal submersible option is most common, or and external canister filter is even better, but more expensive.

Feeding. Turtles like to eat. A lot. Once they are settled in, they will eat as often as you feed them, though a couple times a day is generally enough. Newly acquired turtles may be shy about eating for a short while. Be more careful on how much you feed than how often. Once they fill up they stop eating, and they don't do left overs. Left overs start to spoil, start to smell... and make you clean more.

We offer many brands, types and sizes of prepared pellets, and dried foods. The more variety the better. Fresh foods are also good in moderation (They get messy). Fresh shrimp, worms and freshwater fish are good. Some species also like fresh veggies. We can tell you which species in the shop are eating what.

Tank decor. There are many many options. You should balance decor to  provide an enriched environment for them, but try not to clutter the tank too much, as that is more to clean.  Plastic or resin decor is easier to clean or sanitize if required. Gravel or sand on the bottom works well, though gravel is easier to keep clean. 

Friends. Turtles are generally social by nature and enjoy having a few friends. Turtles about the same size will generally live together peacefully, and species can be mixed. Live fish in the aquarium can work, but can be eaten. Most turtles tend to ignore the hard to catch food, and prefer the easier provided pellets, etc. But sometimes they get a taste of fresh meat and like it. Live plants are also good, though will be eaten by some species and torn apart by larger turtles.

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