Since this community has helped me so much, I wanted to give you something back, so here is my summary, to housing the Red Eared Slider.
Now, lets start with the guideline for turtle tank size:
10 US Gallons (40 liters) for every Inch of turtle
This is not only to allow adequate swimming space. Remember that turtles produce a lot more waste than fish, and they have to drink the water they go to the toilet in. 10G per inch will allow the waste to be safely diluted until the water is changed.
As a side note, although the 10G per inch rule would mean two adult Sliders could be kept in a 240G tank, it is not advised to house turtles together. Unlike some species of Cooters, Sliders are not social. There are no benefits of housing Sliders together, but there are many disadvantages:
-Aggression. Yeah, you are prepared or it, set up another tank, and what have you. But are you prepared to fork out a lot of money in vets bills, or have 'Twurtle' die because his 'Buddy' took a chunk out of him?
-RES are solitary. At most, a Slider will tolerate another turtle, but he will never be ‘friends’ with it. The tank is your Slider's territory, and he may allow another turtle to occupy it, but it will increase stress and territorial behaviour.
-Feeding. Sure you can feed the turtles in a separate container, but it takes time and effort, and even the time period around feeding time could cause hype and feeding aggression between Sliders.
-Growth. If one Slider grows faster than the other, you're going to have trouble. Sliders are opportunistic feeders, and will see smaller turtles as prey.
-Tank size. Twice the turtles, twice the tank volume, and also twice the equipment. You could potentially require a filter for a 600G tank, which will be no where near cheap.
Choosing a tank
As a general tip when choosing a tank, bear in mind that RES (Red Eared Sliders) grow to 12" long if female, and although males grow slightly smaller, a tank of 100 Gallons (400 litres) is recommended for a single adult. It is best to purchase a tank larger than you will need to allow for room to grow, unless you want to be buying a new enclosure every year.
Remember that the footprint of the tank (length and width) is more important than the height, so when choosing a tank, it is better to buy a ‘long’ tank rather than a ‘high’ tank.
Just for the record, the tank in my photos is a 50 gallon (100x40x50cm) but my RES is only 4.5". You may notice that I still have some water in my tank. This is because of the biological cycle in aquariums. Although turtles are not as sensitive to ammonia, nitrite and nitrate levels as fish, I had fish in the tank at the time also. To read about biological cycling, and why it is important in aquariums, click this link:
Basic Tank Cycling
So, you've got an appropriately sized tank
Sliders need to be kept in heated water. A water temp. of 24-29 degrees Celsius is recommended. Some lucky people live in zones where no equipment is needed to sustain such a temperature, but as I'm from sunny 'ole England, I need one of these:
This is an aquarium heater. Choose one with a wattage recommended for the size of the tank you have. It would be 50W for every 10G. Mine is a 250W. The temperature can be changed by adjusting the thermostat. The heating element should be kept protected from the turtles as they can cause nasty burns or the turtle can break them. They can even cause electric shocks if damaged. Pet stores usually sell heater guards made from plastic coated wire which are not too expensive, but you can make your own from PVC tubing, with one end capped off, and several holes drilled in to allow water flow. My tank has an inbuilt box to hide the filter and the heater, so it is already protected. Heaters cost from about $10-$30.
Now, your turtle's water is going to get dirty real quick if you don't have a filter. The general rule for filters is to get one recommended for at least a tank twice the size of the one you haveeven more is recommended, as turtles are extremely messy. Filters are made up of 2 parts, the powerhead, and the media.
This is my filter with a detachable powerhead, but some are moulded to the filter case. Water is drawn in from underneath by propeller, and is passed out to form a current at the top. This can be used to make a nice waterfall effect. Filters can cost between $15 and $100+ depending on the size and the quality. Mine costs about $60
There are several types of filter available, but not all work well with turtles.
Internal Filters – These are good for tanks up to 50G. Mine is an internal. They are placed inside the tank and have a chamber that holds the media. The downside of these filters is that they take up a fair amount of room inside the tank, and also can’t hold as much media as other filters, but they are easy to clean.
External Filters – These work on the same idea as Internals. They consist of a powerhead, and filter media, but the main difference is that they can hold more media, as they are placed outside the tank. The only things that are in the tank are the intake/outtake hoses. This type of filter is much better for larger tanks.
Under-Gravel Filter Systems – These are made for use with fish tanks, and do not work at all with turtle tanks. They try to colonise good bacteria under the filter plate to break down the waste, but turtles make far too much waste for this to be effective.
Now for the media. Filter media comes in several types. I use a selection of media in my filter.
Filter Media Picture
I added brief descriptions of the filter media in the picture. It is important to wash the media off in dechlorinated water otherwise you will kill of the good bacteria. I wash my sponges every week or so during a water change to remove the waste.
In place of my Bio Sponge, you can try other mediums, such as Lava Rock or Bio Rings to help colonize good bacteria.
Cleaning the tank is a weekly occurrence. Doing a 30-50% water change once a week is a good idea, but it’s even easier if you have one of these:
This is a siphon. They are found at pet stores, and try to get one with an automatic pump. This piece of equipment allows you to suck dirt from in between tank decor easily. I bought this for $6.
For a heat source, you can use a normal household bulb, but measure the temperature after half an hour of installation to try and get it around 88 Fahrenheit. If it isn't right, move the light around.
A 40W household spotlight. Cost about $1 but heats the basking area up nicely.
RES need a UVB (Ultraviolet lamp to absorb calcium. A recommended UVB level of 5% is sufficient. The lamp must have UVB, not just UVA. I use an arcadia compact lamp made for reptiles. The bulb in the picture isn't UVB, but the basking area was just set up. UVA rays are also important, but UVB lamps will contain them by default. They cost about $25+.
Tank decoration is up to the owner really, but here are some things to avoid:
Small substrates (gravel, sand, anything that can fit in the turtles mouth)
This is because Turtles are known to eat things like this. Gravel and sand can get stuck in the digestive tract, causing impaction and death. This happened to my turtle, and she only survived after costly vet treatment.
Decor up the side of the tank
Turtles are excellent climbers. If it tempts them, they'll climb it. Don't take the risk only to find your turtle dehydrated or dead
Enough said really - don't put anything in the tank that will cut or damage the turtles
Nothing wrong with water plants really, as long as you’re sure they're non-toxic, except that the turtle will likely rip them to shreds (and probably not even eat them)
I’ve tried a variety, including Duckweed, but that was all eaten within 3 days.
Here is some examples of the decor in my tank:
Driftwood. Get it from the pet store, the stuff used in aquariums, not the stuff for reptiles which may have chemicals on it. Collecting locally is not recommended as parasite and toxins could be in it. The downsides of this stuff are:
a. Its expensive.
b. It makes the water turn brown. This is not harmful, it’s just a substance called tannin which discolours the water. Using a carbon sponge in your filter can help reduce this.
Driftwood in Tank Picture
Slate Rock Picture
Slate chunks. This stuff is also quite expensive, and has a rough texture, but I file down any sharp bits before putting it in the tank to avoid any injury. Looks very ornamental, just make sure that all rock is firmly in place as turtles are stronger than they look. You can use aquarium silicone to stick rocks to each other.
This is a heavily debated topic in turtle keeping. Some people keep their turtles on a bare bottom tank, which is easier to maintain. Others use large pebbles, or river rock, which is too large for the turtle to eat.
I use a half and half method:
River Rock Picture
this is River rock. It’s available at DIY stores and Home Depot. Usually comes polished, just make sure you wash it before putting it in the tank.
Single River Rock Picture
A close up of a single rock. They come in their natural colours, such as brown, black and white
There are also a lot of post around here about what can survive a RES. The answer is simply not much
However, I have had luck with a few things:
Zebra Danios, very fast and cheap fish to get. However, one will disappear occasionally.
Apple Snails. They survived in my tank for 3 weeks, until my RES realised they weren’t rocks and ate them
I have also tried Tiger Barbs, which lasted over a month, but were eventually picked off.
This is a very important part of a turtle tank. A RES needs an area where they can get completely out of the water under a heat source and a ultra-violet lamp. I made an over-tank basking area once, and my RES appreciates it a lot.
Basking Area Picture
A shot of the basking area itself, showing how it was made. The base was plywood, and the walls are cork placemats from Wal-Mart. Just make sure any silicone you use is 100% silicone, not mould or mildew resistant. The ramp into the water is made of an under gravel filter plate I had spare. Fancier basking areas and ramps can be made from Plexiglas and river rock siliconed on, but I was on a budget
I also tried Corkbark, which I must say proved brilliantly successful. Here is a picture of my basking area with corkbark:
Okay, I hope that was educational! Here's a final shot of the tank, and a very happy turtle
Edited by paul112, 03 April 2007 - 11:21 AM.