What Do Turtles Like to Play with?

Many of us don’t know this: your turtles can get bored! Providing them with the bare necessary items don’t necessarily mean that they will be happy. Yes, they can lead a good life but not a happy one. To keep your turtle happy, you need to provide them with scopes to get entertained. In this article, I’ll talk about what do turtles like to play with, how to make a happy environment for your turtles and lastly, how to play with your turtle safely.

So, let’s get started.

What Do Turtles Like to Play with?

It is better to let your turtles play with toys than playing with them. Turtles don’t like to be handled that much. Providing your turtles some exciting toys doesn’t mean you need to literally buy them. You can even make something on your own! Here are some ideas of toys for your turtles to play with:

  • Turtles love to play with an empty shell. These shells can slide across the floor and they like to chase them. Also, you can place small rafts on the tank. Your turtles will get crazy over them. They’ll just push the raft along the water for fun.
  • You can make an obstacle maze for your turtle. it doesn’t need to be a professional type maze. You can make it with daily items like plants, sticks, stones, pits etc. after making the maze, place your turtle’s favorite treat at the end of it. Now, to get the treat, your turtle will try to figure out how to go through the maze. It is amazing to watch!
  • Another safe and fun game is “Find The Treat”. All you need to do is take your turtle’s favorite treat and hide it inside his habitat. Your turtle will get crazy to find the treat and if he does, then he will get awarded with a delicious treat. This kind of exercises also helps to sharpen your turtle’s brain.
  • As turtles love to dig, if you provide them with a textured gravel substrate, they’ll get crazy! Foraging is a natural instinct of turtles and they are very happy when they can do it.
  • You can have other live inhabitants in the tank to spice up your turtle’s life. Make sure the other inhabitants are not your prized pets as your turtle can easily devour them. Some ideal turtle mates are shrimp, snail, live feeder fish, insects, tadpole etc. Your turtle will love to chase after them, and even these can be a healthy snack for your turtle.
  • Sometimes it is better to change the decoration around your turtle’s habitat. It’ll make things more interesting for your turtles. you don’t have to do it every month, just change things up a little seasonally.
  • Once in a while, you can take your turtle to the yard and let him forage through the ground, enjoy the sunlight. Your turtles will absolutely love it. However, it can be very dangerous so you need to keep a constant eye on your turtles.
  • If you have a big kiddy pool, then why not sometimes let your turtles swim in it? It will excite them to swim in a larger place than the aquarium once in a while.

So, these are some of the ways you can keep your turtles entertained. However, do remember that turtles are not like cats or dogs. They require time to learn a trick. So, you’ll have to be patient with them. Also, the harder tricks you want your turtle to do, the more stressed out it can be. So, I’ll recommend not to play with your turtles on a daily routine.

How to play with your turtles?

Here are some ways to play with your turtle:


First let me say that turtles don’t like to be handled like cats or dogs. They prefer much of a “watch me from a distance” approach. Don’t get me wrong, you can play with them, but it is better to keep handling at a minimum level.

  • If you want to pick up your turtle for any reason, be sure to do it with love and passion. As I have said earlier turtles don’t like to be handled, so picking them up roughly can scare them even more.
  • Never ever try to do the following things: putting your turtle on its back, trying to pull the tail of your turtle, and forcing your turtle to come out from the shell.
  • Each turtle has different personalities. Some turtles can even try to bite you when you handle them, on the other hand, some enjoy a handling to an extent. If your turtle doesn’t mind an occasional petting, then pet him on the head, chin, and shell.

Taking them outside:

Even if you get the largest aquarium for your turtle, sometimes, it still won’t be enough. Turtles love to scavenge and forage. In the wild, they often have to forage for miles to find foods. So, releasing your turtle occasionally on the floor or in the backyard will make them very excited. However, in doing so, you need to keep a constant eye on them as turtles are an amazing escape artist and they can get lost very easily.

Interaction outside the tank

If your turtle doesn’t like being handled, don’t be discouraged. You can interact with them even without touching them. Wiggle your finger in front of the aquarium. Your turtle will get crazy to get a hold of your finger. It may also chase your finger which is very funny!

Turtle race

Have you heard of the turtle race? They are very funny and exciting to watch. It is nothing but organizing a healthy race competition between 2 or more turtles. Just ask your friend to come over with his turtle. Now make a runaway for the turtles. you can make it with sticks, stones etc. whatever you like. Just make sure your turtle can’t get out of the runaway.

Now, place a delicious treat at the end of the runaway. Place both of the turtles at the start and boom! The race has started! Turtle races are very unpredictable and at the same time, highly amusing!

How to make a happy environment for your turtle?

Here are some tips to make a happy environment for your turtles:

Offer enough space:

This is the single most important thing of a turtle habitat. Get a tank that is properly sized for your turtles. buying an undersized tank is the most common mistake I see beginners make. A good rule of thumb is, provide 10 gallons of swimming space for 1-inch shell length of the turtle. Another way to approach this is, get the biggest tank your budget offers. The bigger the tank is, the happier your turtle will be.

Here on my Recommendations Page, I’ve talked about all the turtle products that I love and stand by! So, if you are looking for the best products for your turtle, have a look at my Recommendations page.

Land part:

Make sure that the turtle habitat has a land part inside it. Turtles love to bask and it is extremely important for the healthy growth of a turtle. Most of us provide our turtles with a solid basking dock, which is absolutely fine. But to take things to the next level, in place of solid basking docks, you can make a land portion aka “beach” inside the habitat. Your turtles will go crazy over it. They will dig on the sand, forage for food and bask on it for hours.

Make sure the land portion is easily accessible for your turtle. you can buy a ramp or slope the land into the water. Also, provide proper UVB light and heat lamp over the land area.

Clean tank:

Turtles are in general very messy animals. So, turtle tanks require high maintenance to keep them clean. However, if you approach it with a smartly, you can have a clean turtle tank with minimum maintenance work.

  • The first thing you need to have is a powerful canister filter. Filters are the most basic requirement for a healthy turtle tank. As I have said earlier turtles are messy animals, you need to buy a much powerful filter to cope up with the dirt. My favorite filter for turtle tank is Aquatop CF500UV canister filter.
  • Change at least 15% to 25% of the water weekly. It will help to maintain balance in the water.
  • Don’t overfeed your turtle. overfeeding is one of the most common reasons for the dirty and unhealthy turtle tank.

Balanced diet:

A proper diet is very important for turtles. Turtles can eat both plants and protein. They are omnivorous. Like humans, they also prefer a variety in their diet. Only the store bought commercial pellets won’t cut it out. You need to provide them with a balanced diet that is both exciting to eat and nutritious.

  • When your turtles are younger, they’ll prefer protein more than the vegetables. As they grow older, they shift to vegetables more. So, adjust the diet according to the turtle’s age.
  • The diet should contain a balanced portion of everything. It should have green leafy vegetables, a protein of your choice (cooked chicken, fish, insects etc.), calcium, minerals, and vitamins. However, the major portion of the diet should consist of a reliable commercial turtle pellet.
  • Some foods are delicious for us, but poison for turtles such as dairy goods. Never try to feed your turtle dairy items as their stomachs are lactose intolerant. Furthermore, do not provide them with processed foods that are for humans.
  • Live foods are a great way to excite your turtle’s pellet. Some awesome live foods for turtles are live insects, feeder fish, crickets, shrimp, snails, different types of worms (ex. Mealworm, wax worm etc.)
  • Turtles are very well-known for begging. Do not feed your turtle every time they beg. Even for adult turtles, it is okay to feed them every other day. Begging is a natural instinct of turtles. in the wild, they often have to go months without eating anything. So, when they find food, they try to devour it as much as they can even if they are full. As a result, if your turtle associates you as the person who gives him food, it will beg for food every time it sees you. It is just a natural behavior, it doesn’t mean the turtle is hungry. A turtle can go for months without eating anything. To get the exact approximation, check out my article on how long can a pet turtle live without food.
  • The feeding frequency will depend on the age of your turtle. Young turtles require daily feeding as they are growing. However, adult turtles should be fed only 3-4 times a week. Also, to prevent overfeeding your turtles, remove all the food bits after about 5 minutes.

So, this is my detailed guide on how to keep your turtles happy. “Living” and “living happily” isn’t the same thing. Try to make sure your turtles are living happily under your care and love.

My Top 3 Turtle Products To Make Your Life Easier (And Your Turtles Happier)

1. Fluval FX6 Canister Filter

Turtles are quite messy creatures. And you need a powerful weapon to cope up with the mess. Fluval FX6 is a giant beast equipped with multi-stage filtration system. Fluval FX6 is my #1 recommendation to keep your turtle tank cleaner & healthier.

2. Penn Plax Turtle Topper

If you are keeping a turtle, you’ll need a basking place. The good thing about Penn Plax Turtle Topper is, it won’t use any space inside the tank, so your turtle can enjoy the full swimming space. The design and functionality make this basking dock my top recommendation!

3. Zoo Med UVB & Heat Lighting Kit

This one kit will solve all your lighting needs for the turtle. You’ll get everything you’ll need including Polished aluminum dome, dual ceramic sockets and two lights: ReptiSun UVB Light (for UVB) & Repti Tuff Halogen Lamp (for Heat). Zoo Med UVB & Heat Lighting Kit will slash half of your burden!  

Muntaseer Rahman

I have been keeping turtles as a pet for many years now. I’ve fallen in love with these cute pets from the moment I saw them. That’s why I am writing articles to share my turtle keeping knowledge with you.

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