Help. I’ve bought a turtle. What do I need?

Firstly, congratulations on your Reptilian relative! You have purchased a tough, hardy little creature that can be handled, and survive just as well in water as on your hand!


You will need a house for your shelled friend to live in. This tank should be of sufficient size for them to grow into – though you can upgrade the tank through different stages of their development. With an adult turtle, they can grow above 30cm in shell diameter so will need a good size! That would probably involve a tank that is over 400L. Outdoor ponds are often a popular choice for large adult turtles.

You may wish to put some sort of gravel at the bottom of the tank as a substrate. Driftwood or other rocks can add cover and be more aesthetically pleasing.


Fill your lovely new tank half full of water. This will provide the main part of their habitat. Add a turtle water conditioner to remove harmful chemicals from the tap water, like chlorines and chloramines. This water will need to be regularly changed – particularly when it gets quite messy. Change at least 30% every 1-2 weeks.

Make sure you have a heater in the tank, keeping your turtle’s water between 22-26°C. This may vary between species.

A filter is needed in your water, particularly to keep it clear. Turtles are notoriously messy and so this will save you a lot of time and cleaning by having a filter. With larger tanks you may want to consider an external canister filter rather than an internal filter, as these will be more heavy duty.

Dry Land

As opposed to the more watery component of your tank, adding a dry area, such as a turtle dock, or some sort of platform, enables them to bask. Ideally, have an infra-red globe to provide the heat source for basking.

UV Light

The UV light (UVB 10.0 or above) is important for Vit D3 synthesis, as well as calcium utilization and other metabolism. In other words, the UV is important for the turtle’s development. If they do not have UV, you might start to see changes in the turtle’s shell. Without sufficient calcium, from insufficient ingestion and utilisation, the shell can get soft. Adding a turtle calcium block is a great way of making sure your turtle has enough calcium.

The placement of the UV light is important. Turtle tanks often come with the UV light attached beneath the lid, but if you are re-purposing a fish tank, make the UV light is not blocked by a plastic or glass lid. This would filter out the UV and render it purposeless.


The great thing about your turtle is that you can feed a variety of food. They will eat live food, such as feeder fish, plants, pellets, insects, and different defrosted frozen blocks.

The Fish Tukka brand has both a Turtle Plus block with added calcium, which includes some vegetables, but also the more veggie rich Turtle Veg block!

Other Tips

  • Feed your turtle out of the tank in a separate shallow dish/bucket with water in. This is especially useful if you are feeding frozen food, such as Fish Tukka Turtle plus, beefheart, or bloodworms.
  • Research your species of turtle to see if they have any specific needs of their own
  • When your turtle becomes an adult (can be a number of years), it is best to separate it from any other turtle tank mates, as they can become aggressive and territorial
  • Keeping fish with your turtle should be approached with caution – it could be an expensive way to feed your pet

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