Baby Painted Turtle Habitat: How To Set Up Your Tank

Baby Painted Turtle Habitat

Painted turtles are one of the most popular turtles kept as pets. They are very colorful, popular animals. Still, they’re not easy animals to care for. They need a lot of hands-on care and a specific tank set-up. If you’re considering purchasing a painted turtle, don’t get discouraged. How to care for baby painted turtles may be difficult, but the experience is very rewarding. Keep reading to find out just how to provide baby painted turtle care.

Baby Painted Turtle Habitat

What Are Painted Turtles?

Painted turtles are semi-aquatic turtles. In the wild, they’re the most widely found turtle in the United States. Their popularity as pets is owed to their bright colorations. They can grow between 4-12 inches in length, but females will usually grow larger than the males. In the wild and in captivity, painted turtles can live for more than 50 years. To learn more about how to care for a baby painted turtle, check out our article here.

How Do Baby Painted Turtles Live In The Wild?

A painted turtle natural habitat generally includes ponds and small lakes. They like hanging out on the surface of logs to bask during the day. Their favorite time to bask is in the morning, and they will do it with groups of other turtles.

What Is The Perfect Baby Painted Turtle Habitat At Home?

The most important thing to keep in mind when purchasing a painted turtle is that they’re not easy to care for. These aren’t good pets for beginners If you’re new to the turtle world, consider choosing another kind of turtle.

But, if you’re prepared for the challenge, it’ll be rewarding. Painted turtles make great pets. If you care for them properly, they can be with you for more than 50 years.

Before you get your new friend, you’ll want to know how to set up a baby painted turtle habitat.

What Type Of Tank And Size Do You Need?

A painted turtle indoor habitat is going to be different than their natural habitat. Still, you’ll want to closely resemble their natural habitat.

When purchasing a tank for your painted turtle, you’ll want to ensure that it is large enough. Although the turtles are small when they’re babies, they will grow up to 12 inches. They’ll need plenty of space to roam both on land and in water.


Water should be twice as tall as the turtle’s body. The pool of water should also be at least three times as long and wide as your turtle’s body.


Besides water, your turtle will also need land to bask in your painted turtle habitat setup. They prefer a combination of soil and gravel. You should also provide some plants for your turtle to roam around in.

To meet all these requirements, you’ll need at least 15-30 gallons. This may be enough to start, but keep in mind that you’ll need to upgrade as your turtle grows.


Baby painted turtles can grow more than an inch a year. You’ll likely save yourself the hassle and money if you invest in a larger tank at the start for your pet painted turtle habitat.

At the very least, get an aquarium 20 gallons larger than what your turtle needs now. This way, the turtle can grow into the tank for a few years before you need to upgrade.

Really, it’s important to follow the “10 gallons per inch of shell” rule. Basically, you’ll want 10 gallons of tank space for every inch of length your turtle has. If your turtle grows to a full 10 inches, you should be prepared to get it a large, 100 gallon tank.

Watch this video: Baby Painted Turtle Habitat How To Set Up Your Tank

Do You Need Lighting?

Lighting from a UVB is important for your turtle’s health. It helps their shells stay hard and healthy. Without UVB, your turtle’s shell will begin to degrade.

As a rule of thumb, bulbs should have at least 5% of UVB radiation.

Besides a UVB bulb, you’ll want to get a bulb that emits heat. Some of these will be light bulbs. Others have no light, but simply emit heat.

Where To Place The Lamp

The best place to keep the light source is where your turtle likes to bask. Both the light and heat source should be placed over their favorite spot so they can get plenty of heat and light.

Your turtle’s basking spot needs to be placed over the soil, not in the water. It should be kept at a temperature of 85-100 degrees. Of course, you’ll also need a thermometer to monitor the temperature.

Even though your turtle needs a heat and light lamp, you don’t want to place it too close to your turtle. If it’s too close, it can burn your turtle. Even if the turtle can’t physically touch the lamp, heat that is too close can still become too hot.

Your best bet is to place the lamp at least 4 inches above where your turtle will be basking. The distance will depend on the bulb wattage and how much heat you want, though.

For example, a 50 watt bulb will create a temperature of 104 at a distance of 4 inches. The temperature will drop to 81 degrees at 8 inches, and 73 degrees at 12 inches. This isn’t hard to figure out though as every bulb will have a chart explaining this.

Additionally, never place the lamp inside the tank. It should always be kept outside the tank. Most people place them on a screen cover, or hang them on a lamp stand.

What Else Do You Need In the Perfect Baby Painted Turtle Tank Setup?


Turtles also need their water heated. Turtles are cold blooded and so prefer warmer waters. This helps them regulate their temperature.

Underwater aquarium heaters can be purchased at your pet store. They will come in different sizes depending on how many gallons of water you have in your tank. You’ll want to keep the water heated to temperatures between 75 and 80 degrees.

Many smaller heaters aren’t adjustable. I personally try to avoid these. Not being able to adjust the temperature can be annoying as the seasons change.

You’ll also want to invest in a heater guard. These will protect the heater from any thrashing and abuse your turtle may throw at it.

How To Clean Your New Habitat

Your turtle’s tank is going to become dirty, so you’ll need to clean it regularly. You’ll need to clean the water and remove any waste. The easiest way to do this is to purchase a gravel vacuum from your pet store.

Changing The Water

You’ll want to do a major water change every 1 to 3 weeks. At this time, you’ll want to remove most of the water from the tank and replace it with new. Keep in mind that you’ll need to use a reptile safe dechlorinator. Add it to the water before refilling the tank to make the water is safe for your turtle.

In between water changes, your turtle’s water will still become dirty. Some turtles will poop in their water. Even if they don’t, they may drag soil or food pieces into the water. Water should be spot cleaned a few times a week to remove any dirt and waste. Replace any water you remove.


Of course, keeping a filter in your tank is also a necessity. Not only will it provide water flow, but it will help keep the water clean.

Most filters are designed for fish use and can’t handle the waste a turtle produces. An easy way to fix this is to buy a larger filter.

For example, most fish hobbyists that own a 20 gallon tank will get a filter made for 20 gallon tanks. However, if you own a turtle, you’ll want to size up. If your tank is 20 gallons, you’ll want to get a filter designed for 40 gallons of water.

We recommend sticking to an internal or external canister filter. Undergravel filters aren’t good because they’ll just trap waste at the bottom of the tank. From there, ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates will build up and harm your turtle.

Final Tips

Keeping your painted turtle’s home perfect requires lots of hands-on maintenance. Unfortunately, turtles can carry diseases like salmonella. It’s best to handle your turtle with gloves, if possible. At the very least, wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling your turtle.

Never allow children to handle the turtle unsupervised. Take care that they don’t put their fingers in their mouth.

How To Introduce Your Baby Painted Turtle To Its New Home

Entering their new home can be very stressful for a turtle. This should be done slowly and gently. Adding them to the tank too quickly can stress them out.

To begin, slowly lift it from its temporary enclosure and place it in the water. Do not release the turtle once it’s in the water, but hold it by its sides. Give them a chance to get used to their surroundings and calm down. Once they look like they’re ready to swim, you can release them.


Painted turtles are one of the most popular turtles kept as pets. Still, they can be quite difficult to care for. If you know what to do, it makes the initial process much easier.

Painted turtles grow fairly large and need adequate space. They also need space to bask and swim. Not only that, but they need a warm tank temperature to keep them healthy.

Provide all these things for your turtle, and you will have a great companion for years to come.

Click here to find all our guides to painted turtles. You can learn what baby painted turtles eat here or click here to learn what painted turtles need to survive.

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