This is an aquatic species, so the enclosure needs to be mostly water. Your turtle will need a place to get out of the water and bask, such as a well-positioned rock or pile of rocks, or a turtle dock found at your local pet store. Use sand or gravel to cover the bottom of the tank and decorate under the water with aquatic plants or driftwood to keep your turtle feeling secure. The minimum tank size recommended for one of these turtles is a 20 gallon long. Bigger is ALWAYS better.
Other containers can be used, such as large Rubbermaid bins, as long as the container is able to safely hold about 20 gallons or more of water. Fill the tank at least half way. Water conditioner or dechlorinator is not necessary unless you are using extremely hard water (like State College tap water J), in which case a water conditioner made specially for turtles should be used. Lighting/Temperature: This is a diurnal species, meaning it is active during the daytime when the sun is out. The UV in natural sunlight is used by the turtle’s body to make Vitamin D3 from the Calcium in its diet Turtle Caring.
Fluorescent bulbs made especially for reptiles are available at pet stores to keep your turtle healthy. Although usually passed off as a waste of money to make “the fanatics” happy, this light is extremely important, and if you don’t provide it (along with enough calcium), it will seriously affect your turtle’s health and quality of life. A basking lamp is also needed. Position the light above the rocks or land area in your tank to create a warm basking spot. Use the appropriate wattage heat bulb and position the light to create a basking temperature around 90-95 degrees F.
Many thermometers are available to measure the temperature inside the enclosure, but just remember that all of the stick-on and dial-type thermometers, although still helpful to have, measure only the ambient temperature (temperature of the air) and will not give you an accurate reading of the basking spot. For basking temp, you should pick up a digital probe thermometer (available at most hardware and garden supply stores, and not as expensive as you think!). The digital probe measures the surface temp, the temperature the basking rock is actually heating up to and providing the proper belly heat for good digestion. An aquarium heater is a good idea.
These guys do best in warm water and should be kept in water temperatures in the 80s F. A submersible heater is the only way to go, since the tank will not be filled to the top. These turtles are notorious for breaking their heaters, so we recommend you look into a Titanium or “unbreakable” glass heater to prevent problems. Filtration and Maintenance: Aquatic turtles are very messy, so a good reliable filter is important. There are a lot of different types of filters out there, though none is particularly better than the others. It’s a matter of personal preference really, whether you want to go with a submersible filter like the Fluval, under-gravel, powerhead or Hydrosponge, or you want an external type like the hang-on-side waterfall type or canister filter. Whichever manner of filtration you choose, just remember to have LOTS of it and clean it often! Regular tank maintenance is a must with aquatic turtles.
The water gets dirty fast, and consistently dirty water can have a really negative effect on turtle health. How often to change the water or clean the filter depends on how many turtles you have relative to the size of the tank, and also how much filtration you have and how much or how often you feed them. Cleaning the tank isn’t much different than cleaning a fish tank. A good aquarium siphon will be a tremendous help and is the easiest way to remove all the waste and debris from the tank bottom.
Drain as much water as you need to get the tank clean. Turtles are not sensitive to the by-products of the nitrogen cycle like fish are, so you don’t have to worry about cycling or being careful with the filter, and this gives you a lot of freedom as far as cleaning the tank. Just remember never to use soap! There are spray cleaners available through your local pet store that are safe to use around reptiles, and if you’re really worried about the tank being dirty a little bit of bleach should do the trick. Just be careful to rinse it thoroughly and not put your turtle back in the tank until the bleach smell is gone.
Like most pond turtles, these guys are omnivores. This means they will eat both meat and vegetable matter. Variety is the key to a healthy diet. There are lots of pre-packaged turtle foods on the market. Some are better than others, depending on the amounts of certain ingredients like protein and phosphorus.