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Home Page / Habitat Directory / Indoor Enclosures (Pt. 1)

Indoor Enclosure Overview

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For a new turtle owner, providing an adequate tank or pond is the first step in establishing a habitat. Many new owners are uninformed when they begin to realize that turtle care is more complicated than they realized or were led to believe. The wrong equipment may be bought while under the guidance of equally uninformed pet store employees. Though this unfortunately happens too often, the owner should not be reluctant to purchase the correct supplies because setting up a correct habitat is key in preventing future illness and disease.

Complete Setup Many of the basic requirements to consider when setting up a tank are self-evident. There are clear benefits for a larger tank and acquiring the largest tank you can afford now will reduce the number of times you will have to upgrade the tank, basking area and filter in the future. A stand and hood will need upgrades as well - though many keepers choose to omit them since it is not necessary to have a traditional aquarium-style hood for your turtle (along with the added expense). However, appropriate support is absolutely necessary however you chose to do it. Water weighs approximately 8.3 lbs per gallon and a 120 gallon tank filled to the top would weigh over 1,000 lbs or half a ton. Never attempt to move a tank that has water or anything else in it, even if it is only partially filled. This is a serious risk of injury to the handler(s).

A larger tank would allow your RES to be more physically active and offer you more possibilities to configure it. A RES kept in a small enclosure will not remain small. It is a common deception or misunderstanding that is used to hide the responsibilities of proper RES care. A tank that is too small will require more frequent water changes and cleaning. It will pose greater risks of poor mental health, disease and physical injury. A young RES that does not grow is being improperly kept and malnourished.

Complete Setup Tanks should provide enough water depth to prevent drowning. Keeping the water level higher than your turtle's shell length would be a safe minimum, though water levels should be as has high as your tank can safely hold provided that your turtle cannot climb out or come into contact of any lighting element you may be using. RES can be determined climbers whose ability to get out of an unsecured enclosure should not be underestimated.

Finally, carefully decide where to place your turtle’s new home. It should be in a low-traffic area that is also calm and dark at night. Do not keep a tank near a window where direct sunlight breaks through because any sort of glass, acrylic, plastic tank or container will experience wild temperature gradients in excessively warm ranges. A tank without a hood should also be kept away from cool drafts. Again, an open window can be dangerous as well an air conditioner, both of which can bring on a respiratory infection.
Note: Whether indoors or outdoors, or alone or not, mature females need access to a nesting area to lay eggs. Please read more detailed information in Basic Care > Nesting
There are many options available when choosing an enclosure. Those options vary with cost, customizability, material and size. To describe the dimensions of a tank, we will refer to the length (L), the longest dimension, the width (W) which is less than the length and the lateral distance, and the height (H), the vertical distance. To estimate the size of a tank, multiply the length, width and height in inches. Take that result and divide by 231 and you will have your estimate in gallons. (L x W x H) / 231 or click here for a calculator.

Indoor Pros and Cons

Here are some of the positive and negative aspects of having an indoor habitat for your turtle.

  • Better protection from predators
  • More frequent interaction with your turtle
  • Better regulation of basking and water temperatures
  • Better opportunities to view or observe your turtle
  • Better chance of finding an escaped turtle
  • Easier to maintain feeding schedules
  • Generally more expensive equipment required
  • Takes up space in residence
  • Accidents more difficult to deal with
  • Turtle in a more restrictive environment
  • Possibly more stressful for turtle
  • Turtle may sustain greater injuries in an escape
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This page updated: 2011/01/28 Copyright © 2005-2011 Red Ear Slider. All rights reserved.