18 Must-Have Accessories for Your Turtle’s Tank: From Basking Platforms to Filters

Turtle tank setup

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

Thanks to being the most popular reptile pet in the United States, hundreds of turtle-keeping accessories are in the market. Not sure about you, but I was extremely confused looking at all the fancy tools fellow turtle keepers were using. 

A spacious turtle habitat and a sturdy basking dock are the non-negotiable things in turtle-keeping. You will also need heat lamps, regular lamps, and tank cleaning tools.

This article will be about all the hit accessories I think are useful. It covers every relevant accessory you will ever need for any aspect of turtle-keeping. So, what are we waiting for?

Key Takeaways

  • UV-A UV-B lamps help heat the basking area (90 to 102 degrees Fahrenheit).
  • Semi-aquatic turtles spend a hefty amount of time basking.
  • Your turtle’s size and weight determine whether you should get a cheap or customized baking dock.
  • Siphon pipe is a must-have essential regardless of which aquatic pet you own.

All The Must-have Accessories For Your Turtle Tank

I have decided to categorize the accessories into 5 distinct groups. The categories are tank set-up, tank clean-up, water filtering, cleaning the turtle & feeding process. I am sure anything you want to buy for your turtle falls into these categories.

Hopefully, navigating the accessory list according to your turtle tank needs will be easy.

7 Accessories For An Ideal Tank Set-Up

You need a turtle tank or some kind of habitat. That’s a given. Now, the larger your tank, the more comfortable it is for your pet turtle. The rule of thumb is to increase at least 10 gallons for each inch of shell.

That means if you have a 4-inch turtle, the minimum tank size is 40 gallons.

If you plan to have a group of turtles, I suggest investing in a backyard or front yard pond. Once you have fulfilled this necessity, let’s complete the turtle home with some much-needed items.

1. Dry Basking Platform

You must provide a basking area after a safe habitat (be it a tank, bucket, or pond). I guess any turtle lover already knows why it is considered a must-have accessory in every turtle habitat.

If you even look into the wild, you will find turtles coming out of the water and resting on a wooden log.

According to researchers, turtles need some dry time under the sun daily. It helps them synthesize vitamin D3 and kill any harmful parasite living on their top shell.

There’s a high chance you have already been offered a basking dock while shopping for a turtle tank. If not, don’t worry. Floating basking docks are highly popular on Amazon and also come at a cheap price.

It is made of synthetic foam that can stay afloat 24/7. The only downside of this item is that it doesn’t have a strong support to lift heavy turtles.

So, once your turtle gets big, I don’t think these foamy basking docks can carry them safely. That kind of ruins the entire purpose of having a basking dock. If you have the same concern as me, try getting an above-tank-basking-house. It is way more durable and safer.

2. Substrate Padding

Adding a layer of substrates to cover up the tank’s bottom is a good idea. The sole purpose is to create an environment that resembles the turtle’s natural habitat. You owe your pet this much.

Gravels, sand, or pebbles are some popular options for substrate padding. I love using gravel a lot.

They are tiny, look awesome, and don’t get caught in the siphon pipes. But the only issue is that your turtle might swallow several of them. This can lead to blockage in the intestine and cause bleeding.

Considering how inquisitive turtles are, some people use pebbles. Pebbles are way bigger. So, turtles can’t eat these.

However, you have to be extra careful while putting pebbles inside the tank. The edges have to be smooth. One sharp rock is enough to damage your turtle’s plastron forever. 

The safest of all the options is sand padding. Even if your turtle eats some of those sand, it won’t cause any severe health issues.

The only problem is that sands are lightweight and can easily get stuck in siphon pipes.

As long as you are willing to deal with it, I think you should give your turtle a playground full of sand.

3. Plants & Rocks For Decoration

After the bottom layer, you need some decor items. Yes, even the tiniest turtle tank needs to be entertaining.

Plants are perhaps the cheapest and most beautiful decoration item ever. However, do some research beforehand. Don’t get a plant just because it’s pretty.

Turtles can get sick (painfully swell) in contact with oxalate-rich plants.

Some other aquarium plants containing harmful toxins are anthurium, peace lilies, monstera, amaryllis, asparagus fern, begonia, and Carolina jessamin. 

I remember already saying that turtles are curious creatures. They will definitely bite off the leafy plants. So, it’s better to plant something non-toxic.

After installing plants, you should get some large rocks or wooden logs. These are easily available in any aquarium store.

But if you are not willing to pay so much, you can collect some yourself. Such rocks and aesthetic logs are easily available near beach areas.

If you are planning to visit such a place soon, bring some decoration items with you. 

The purpose of these pieces is to break the monotony of eye-sight. Turtles are not fish. They need something to rest on, move around, hide behind, etc (regular playfulness). 

4. Heater

The next essential thing is a heater, of course. Any aquatic pet would require one. Because it is pretty daunting to imitate the temperature of their natural habitat inside a tank. It’s even harder if you live in a state where it’s snowing most of the time.

A heater will help you maintain the ideal 72 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit temperature regardless of the season outside.

But picking the right heater is not as easy as you might think. They come in various capacities to suit different tank sizes. It can all be quite confusing.

Just remember, you need 5W per 1 gallon of water.

So, if you have a 30-gallon tank, the heater capacity should be 150W. Pretty straightforward, right?

However, I also recommend people to get heaters instead of 1. Heaters are electrical devices and can malfunction (like everything else). In such a case, you don’t want the turtle to freeze.

So, if your tank needs a 200W heater, get 2 heaters. Each of them should have 100W capacity. That way, even if one of the heaters stops working, you have a backup. 

Now, what exact features should you look at? I believe that apart from being powerful, a heater should also be adjustable and safe. It should come with a case preventing the turtle from touching dangerous electrical parts.

5. Heat Lamp

We talked about a basking area. But the turtles require sunlight to bask, right? If you are keeping your pet turtle indoors, you have to find an alternative to the sun’s essential UV rays. And that’s a heat lamp. It’s pretty common and easily available online. 

Some of these light bulbs only emit UV-A or UV-B. UV-A rays give the sunlight effect and heat up the basking area.

As we all know, turtles opt to bask when their bodies get too cold. They are dependent on basking to warm up their bodies.

Plus, UV-B rays penetrate the skin and activate the abortion of vitamin D3. It eventually helps to grow strong bones. 

So, ensure the bulb you purchase has both UV-A and UV-B. 160W is usually enough for a large tank. The temperature of the basking area should be slightly above the water temperature.

You can get a temperature gun (optional) to randomly check how hot or cold the baking dock is. It should be around 90 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. 

6. Regular Aquarium Light

Another light! I know it’s too much. However, the UV lamp should solely focus on the dry area outside the water. You don’t want the water to get too hot due to the UV heat lamps. Turtles like the water to be slightly cool.

This new light should be nothing fancy. A regular aquarium light would do the trick. You can choose either an LED or fluorescent one according to your aesthetic preference.

The purpose is to make your turtle see clearly while they are swimming. All your decorations would be of no use if the pet can’t see, right? 

7. LED Light Controller

This particular accessory will make your life super easy. It’s like a remote controller for the aquarium light. As you know, turtles are diurnal creatures. That means they are active during the day and like to sleep at night.

It’s only logical to have the lights turned on during the day and vice versa. But it can be a chore if your tank is far from your bedroom.

Before you get frustrated with turning the lights on & off daily, I recommend getting a controller. Some of the newer models even allow you to control the light through mobile apps.

That means you can be away on a vacation and still monitor your turtle tank. I find it really useful, to be honest.

3 Accessories To keep The Tank Clean

1. Gravel Vacuum 

Those gravels you used for decorations also get dirty over time. Apart from sand, any other substrate you use will need vacuuming every now and then. The bigger the substrate, like pebbles, the more frequently you have to check for debris.

The thing is, turtle poop or food waste can easily get stuck under those pebbles. You don’t want that junk to pollute the entire tank.

Let me clarify one thing, though. A gravel vacuum might look the same as a regular siphon pipe. But the former comes with a suction tube, which is missing in regular siphon pipes. You can skip having another siphon pipe just to drain all the tank water.

Having a gravel vacuum will do both. You press the tube end against the gravel. Gravels, along with the dirt, will be sucked inside the tube. If you don’t want to collect gravel, just pinch the hose. The gravels will go back on their own. You are left with dirty brown water. 

algae on turtle shell

2. Algae Scraper

You must have adopted a turtle because you love overseeing them. But what’s the use of a beautiful tank set-up if you can’t see because of algae? Well, it’s not uncommon. Both fish and turtle tanks can have algae growth.

I recommend using magnetized algae scrapers. These are quite modern tools, to be honest.

So, the scraper has 2 parts. You separate them and place them on the tank’s glass directly opposite each other. Due to the magnetic force, both parts will stick to the glass even after you let go.

Now, you just move the outer part, and the inner one follows. That’s how you can get rid of all the algae inside the tank without getting your hands dirty.  

Even though it’s really cool, the tool can be expensive. If you want an alternative, get a manual glass scraper. 

3. Vinegar & Brush 

At the last stage of tank cleaning, you need to pour white vinegar. Only do it once every month after a thorough clean-up.

When the tank is empty and free from algae and other dirt, pour some vinegar. It will dissolve any remaining minerals or bacteria that can harm your turtle.

It works especially well if you give your turtles calcium powder or other supplements. Slowly, the tank will have build-ups due to the leftover minerals. 

I don’t suggest using anything other than white vinegar. There are incidents where people fail to clean up the detergent residue properly. And a small amount of these cleaning agents is enough to affect your turtle’s health.

Pour vinegar at the stage of tank cleaning. Then, rub it gently across every corner of your tank. A soft brush should be enough.

4 Accessories To Keep The Water Clean

1. Canister Filter

Turtles are messier than most fish, producing a significant amount of waste. Canister filters are powerful and capable of handling the high bioload of turtle tanks. They typically offer mechanical, chemical, and biological filtration, ensuring that the water stays clean and safe for the turtles.

Canister filters are designed to work with larger volumes of water, which is often necessary for turtle tanks as turtles require more water than fish (relative to their size).

Due to their efficiency and large media capacity, canister filters require less frequent cleaning compared to other types of filters. This is beneficial for turtle tanks where water quality can deteriorate rapidly if not properly maintained.

Canister filters allow for customization of filter media, meaning you can tailor the filtration to the specific needs of your turtle tank. For example, you can use media that targets ammonia and nitrate levels, which are often high in turtle tanks.

Canister filters can help in circulating water and providing adequate oxygenation, which is vital for the health of the turtles. Good water circulation also helps in evenly distributing heat within the tank.

2. Siphon Pipe

Siphone pipes are the most useful thing when it comes to water change. It is just a simple hose with a suction tube on one end. You can use it to drain all the water from your turtle tank. No need to manually scoop out water.

You can pick random debris swimming in the tank besides draining water. There is always junk like shredded leaves, uneaten veggies, turtle waste, etc. You don’t have to initiate a full water change to eliminate them. Just learn how to collect particular dirt using the siphon pipes. 

a corner of aquarium with water filter and electric heater
a corner of aquarium with water filter and electric heater

3. Water Conditioner

The majority of turtle keepers don’t consider water conditioners as an essential item. But their pets have to pay the price for their misconception. Yes, we shouldn’t treat water conditioners as chemicals. It neutralizes the chemicals already existing in the water.

If the water you put inside the turtle tank is untreated, you don’t need to condition the water. But I highly doubt that’s possible if you live in a metropolitan city. As long as you use regular tap water to fill the turtle tank, the water has harmful chemicals like chlorine, bromine, & ammonia. 

Drop a small amount of water conditioner after every clean-up to ensure the turtles have a chemical-free stay inside the tank. It deactivates the chemicals we just mentioned. 

4. Filter Brush

It’s okay if you have never heard of a filter brush before. Because it’s just a regular toothbrush, you clean your filter with it. Yes, the turtle tank and the filter must be thoroughly cleaned.

Otherwise, it can be filled with dirt and stop filtering. That would mean your pets live in the dirt even though you have spent money on a filter.

I suggest you take the filter out every 2-3 weeks. Get the sponges out and give them a good rinse. That’s all you can do with them. Then, use a brush to remove any debris stuck in the filter’s housing.

A clean filter is the key to a clean tank. 

Best Automatic Turtle Feeder

4 Accessories To Maintain Your Turtle’s Health

1. Automatic Feeder

This is the only accessory in this list that I wouldn’t recommend to everybody. If you work from home and can manage to feed your turtle according to the set schedule, it will be a waste of money. 

However, I know turtle owners who feel guilty about planning long vacations. They don’t have adults at home who can give portioned meals to the poor pet. Providing a big portion of the meal means the tank will be dirtier.

Since you are away, your turtle has no choice but to survive in polluted water. Some people go one step further and choose to leave their turtles with no food at all. Their logic is that turtles can live without food for months. That’s true for wild turtles and tortoises.

Their bodies naturally start brumation when the weather is harsh. But without those external triggers, your turtle will still feel hungry in your tank.

That’s why spending $50 on an automatic feeder is way easier than managing a babysitter every time you leave the house.

So, what does it do? Well, it’s a simple dispenser that drops food into the tank. There are usually various setting options. So, you can adjust the feeding schedule according to the turtle’s habits.

Apart from the schedule, you can also set a portion for each meal. So your turtle doesn’t end up with too much or too little food. No more guilt trips.

2. Soft Brush For Shells

You should have a spare brush for your turtle, like a filter brush. It will come in handy when you bathe your turtle. 

You should clean your turtle at least once every month. It ensures the animal does not carry harmful parasites in its shells.

Cleaning a turtle is pretty easy, unlike its tank. You just gently brush its shell to get rid of unsmooth parts. Those are dirt build-ups. You can bathe the pet wearing gloves if your turtle produces too much salmonella. Please remember to use room temperature still water.

Soapy water is a big NO.

3. Separate Feeding Tub

A clean turtle is a happy turtle. But what if I tell you they can create a mess again in 10 minutes? If you have ever given food to them in their tank, you already know. The tank will be filled with shredded veggie leaves, half-eaten shrimp pieces, etc. 

Having a feeding tub is wise to avoid such mishaps after every feeding. So, it’s a completely separate plastic tub.

You don’t have to buy it. Any leftover and large enough bucket in your home will suffice. 

Fill it up with water and let your turtle enjoy its meal. After 20 to 30 minutes, the turtle should be done.

So, transfer it back to the original tank. It’s the secret very few turtle keepers disclose. Otherwise, having a clear tank with turtles in it would be a nightmare. Do you agree?

4. Clippers

The last thing I suggest is having some clippers. It can be the ones you currently have at home. Yes, the big ones you use on clothes in fine too.

It is a very good tool to ensure your turtle has 24/7 access to treats. It can be fresh lettuce or any other leafy vegetable your turtle loves.

Just clip it to the edge of its tank. You don’t have to worry about your turtle going hungry. 

Before You Go!

You are only one step closer to being the best caretaker of your turtle. Complete the last step by learning the nutrition supply turtles require in their bodies to thrive. So you can prepare the best meal for your lovely pets. After all, a healthy pet is a happy pet, right?

Article link: Nutrition secrets for a healthy pet turtle!

About Author

Muntaseer Rahman started keeping pet turtles back in 2013. He also owns the largest Turtle & Tortoise Facebook community in Bangladesh. These days he is mostly active on Facebook.

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