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Setting up a terrapin tank

Updated on May 26, 2010

our terrapins

If you don't have much knowledge about terrapins then I shall briefly explain a little about these reptiles. They are semi aquatic and so require both a swimming area and a basking area. They are carnivours and therefore any fish kept with them are likely to be eaten esspecially as the terrapins grow into adults. When they are juvenilles they are roughly the size of a 50 pence piece. This is obviously a generalisation as there are many different types of terrapin and therefore they will all differ in size. Some terrapins grow to be several inches long whilst others will grow to be the size of a dinner plate.

So setting up a I said above you need a basking area. So the best place to start is a fish tank although please research how big your terrapins will grow because otherwise you could find yourself having to buy new bigger tanks repeatedly over the life of your terrapins. If you invest in a bigger tank to begin with then you won't have to keep changing them in future. Some people don't like using snad or gravel in the bottom of the tank as the terrapins can eat this. In my experience they just pass any gravel they eat and it doesn't seem to bother them at all. Plus in my opinion it looks better in the tank to have something covering the bottom and it means that the tank doesn't look so dirty so quickly...mimising the amount of water changes you have to carry out. You will also need a filter as terrapins are very messy creatures and they poo a lot more than fish so an investment in a good filter will be a lifesaver later on. A heater is recommended to keep the water temperature constant and keep the terrapins active during winter as otherwise they may try to hibernate. Don't entirely fill the tank as you will need to put something in to allow the terrapins to climb out of the water. You must also have a good UV bulb as this is essential for your terrapins growth and general health.

In my experience to begin with a floating platform from the pet shop will be perfect for your terrapins to climb out on and they are easy to install using only suckers on the glass. However if you keep more than one terrapin then they will most likely want to climb out together and as they grow they will sink the platform. I have friends who have kept the water level quite low and had a pile of rocks or bricks coming out of the water for the terrapins to climb on. I have used an upside down plant pot, bricks and slate and made a pvc platform by bending it into a table shape. I like to keep the water level deeper as its nice to watch them swimming and also i feel it gives them more space. I have seen picutres of other peoples tanks where they have filled the tank and made a ramp leading to a basking area outside of the tank. This is an excellent idea if you have the space and if you are intending to breed as the female will need a sand pit to lay her eggs which is near impossible in a tank. However you do it you must ensure that the area out of the water is big enough to have every terrapin in the tank fully out of the water at the same time.

Now your tank is set up leave it to adjust for a few days before introducing your terrapins. When feeding I used to hand feed however now they are bigger and my boyfriend has taught them to jump out for food I just leave it on the platform....rather keep my fingers in tact than risk the terrapins misjudging the distance! The terrapins will eat in the water and they will probably fight over the food so try to feed them the same amount at a distance from each other if you are hand feeding. That's about it for setting up your terrapins tank...any other suggestions or advice then post as a comment! Also if you are looking for a terrapin then there are always many that need rehoming because their owner can no longer care for them so please consider rescuing a terrapin especially as these are usually free and come with the set up saving you lots of money! Thanks for reading xx

My boyfriend runs this site which tells you many other things about terrapins, how to care for them and even rehoming them:

If you would like to purchase the above photo or any other terrapin photos and photo related products then check out my page


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    • profile image

      Joan Taylor 3 years ago

      Me again so sorry forgot to put this in my other message.

      My son got his Terrapin off this lady.

      Could the Terrapin be missing her.

      Its just a thought, our could it be that its all new to the Terrapin.

      Thank You so much for listening.

      All the best Joan Taylor.

    • profile image

      Joan Taylor 3 years ago

      My son has just had a Terrapin given to him,

      And hes had it about 5 days now & its not eating hes tried everything.

      And you put their food into the water.

      Yours faithfully.

      Joan Taylor

    • profile image

      Doreen 3 years ago

      Hi we have just got two terripins please can you tell us dose the light have to stay on all the time .

    • profile image

      brian 3 years ago

      Hello.. I have just been given a yellow belly slider which was an unwanted gift because the person who gave it 2 me knows I try my best 2 look after animals of any kind.. At the moment this YBS is approx 9-12 months old! When I was given this YBS It was in a small fish tank with no lights or anything! I have just bought a basking lamp for it and when I can I put it in direct sunlight for a few hours with a shaded area! I plan on buying a 4ft tank 2 keep it in! I would very much appreciate any help and advice on what I can do 2 help me plz!!

    • profile image

      Ebby 3 years ago

      My terrapin is of a hugh adult size - dinner plate size - maximum I would think it can grow. circumference about that of a soccer ball. I'm concern over getting the ideal kind of habitat for it. Currently (in fact for the past 10 years), she's been living in a plastic tub with water filled to her legs. So I'm not certain if she can swim - she doesn't seem keen anyway. Daily, I'll take her out to a dry enclosed area so she can roam freely. However that's only about 2 hours each day and she's back to the tub.That said, I'm mindful that we should look to increase her living space. Hence what is the best possible tub-type I should get for her?

    • profile image

      leopard24 4 years ago

      iv just had a baby terrapin but confused on lighting iv been told i need uvb light and also been told i don't but also looked it up and its good for there health but confused on % uvb and uva should be

    • profile image

      charlotte 4 years ago

      what is the smallest comment you can keep as a pet ???

    • profile image

      mfdf 4 years ago

      fbef cemn c

    • profile image

      5 years ago

      The water is suggested to be double the depth of the width of the larger terrapin, so if the width of the terrpain shell is 6cm, the water depth should be 12cm

    • profile image

      paul 6 years ago

      Hi can i use my currant aquairum tank with heater, filter, light to house terrapins.

    • profile image

      jess 6 years ago

      what type of water do u need for a terrapins?

    • profile image

      jess 6 years ago

      what water do a terrapin need?

    • profile image

      Zoe Dziedziela 6 years ago

      Hi my name is Zoe,

      We have two terrapins one female and one male terrapin. I'm e-mailing to see weather or not you would now the answer to my question.

      We change their water every two weeks maybe every week depending on the state of the water but there water still smells really bad. I have downloaded some stuff off the internet to try and keep it clean. If this does not happen is their any advice you can give to me regarding this please. If there is any chance you could e-mail me back an answer on this following e-mail address.

      We would be very greatful.

      Thanks ever so much

      Zoe Dziedziela

    • profile image

      cheryl 6 years ago

      can u contact me on

    • profile image

      cheryl 6 years ago

      hi i'm wanting 2 terapins do u know anyone in nottingham giving any away i have a tant and every thing i need

    • profile image

      Simone 6 years ago

      How warm does the water have to be? is the temperature that delicate in their general health?

    • profile image

      Phoebe 6 years ago

      It would be very helpful if you could tell me how much I need to feed them (and what they eat)?

    • profile image

      murray 6 years ago

      what do they actually eat

    • madeline emma profile image

      madeline emma 6 years ago from london

      You will need a tank large enough to house your terrapin, a heater, a good filter, a UV light or lamp, a basking area (either floating or tall enough to come out of the water), water and food.

    • profile image

      charlotte 7 years ago

      can you write a list of things i need to make a terrapin tank?

    • profile image

      Sandal Soft 7 years ago

      Yeah, otherwise they'd dehydrate and die

    • profile image

      azwan 7 years ago

      must the terrapin have many water in the tank ?


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