Semi-aquatic and aquatic turtles generally do not need many landscaping items in their aquarium, but such items can be used to make them feel safe when they are on land and to make the environment more natural. You can use logs and terrestrial plants to provide them with a sense of security. Aquatic plants can also be used in the water areas to provide hiding places and improve or sustain the quality of the water. Worn driftwood or smooth flat rocks can be placed in the basking area. You can also place a wooden enclosure in the basking area if it is large enough to provide your turtle with a hide spot.
The substrate you use in the basking area will contribute to the humidity levels. Turtles that require less humidity should have drier substrate such as sand and dry mulch in their habitats. Turtles that need more humidity can use moister substrates such as damp mulch, soil, sphagnum moss, or peat moss.
Substrate such as gravel or sand can be used in the water area, but it is not recommended as it will make it more difficult to clean the enclosure and maintain cleanliness. If you wish to use a substrate, select a substrate that won't be easily ingested by your turtle. Gravel, glass, tree bark and wood chips can be consumed by your turtle and become contaminated or cause choking. You can use gravel if the individual pieces are at least two times the size of your turtle’s head.
INDOOR HABITATS (Continued)
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Semi-aquatic and aquatic turtles need full spectrum light, so you must use both UVA and UVB bulbs in the tank. UVA light encourages proper activity levels, appetite, and breeding. UVB light contributes to Vitamin D3 production and simulates their natural environment, decreasing stress. UVB heat lamps should provide the main lighting, and basking heat lamps should be used in the basking area. We recommend the use of a timer to achieve natural light cycles. Most semi-aquatic and aquatic turtles need a natural light cycle of 12 to 14 hours of light followed by 10 to 12 hours of darkness. The length of the light period should be longer in the summer and shorter in the winter.
It is important to note that many turtles will eat plants, so we recommend that you use a combination of real and artificial plants to cut down on excess waste. Using only real plants works best if you have a very large habitat for your turtles. Using only artificial plants or a combination of real and artificial is better for smaller habitats. If you see that your turtles are frequently nibbling on the artificial plants, remove them from the habitat and replace them with real plants. When using real plants, choose carefully - by researching the plant or consulting a veterinarian - as some plants can be toxic to turtles.
There are two temperatures that are important in a semi-aquatic or aquatic turtle's habitat: the temperature of the water and the temperature of the basking area. The water temperature should be approximately 78°F, though it can vary slightly by species. You can maintain this temperature by using submersible aquarium heaters. The temperature of the basking area should be approximately 80° to 85°F. This can be achieved with the use of overhead basking lamps with heat bulbs.
Use a thermometer to monitor temperatures to avoid over- or under-heating your turtle's habitat.