How Much Space Does an Aquatic Turtle Need

Turtles vary from breed to breed, and even aquatic turtles will vary in size as they grow. It is important that you know the estimated full adult size of your turtle so that you can estimate the living space required for your pet. Keep in mind that you may need to upgrade the space for certain types of water turtles as it grows as no two turtles are alike.

 Dry and wet places

Aquatic turtles require both wet and dry space. The space of each is determined by the size of the turtle. Turtles will need to have enough space to turn themselves over and/or around touching no obstacles. This means that a small tank of 20 to 30 may be sufficient for a baby turtle while you may require a 100 gallon or larger tank for an adult turtle.

 How deep should the water be?

 When thinking about the space for an aquatic turtle, specific consideration needs to be given to the water. Aquatic turtles spend most of their time in the water and so having the proper depth is crucial to their health and well-being. As a general rule, you will need to have the water depth twice as deep as the turtle is long. This means that if you have a 4in turtle, the depth of the water will need to be at least 8in.

Painted and slider turtles have a more streamlined shell which allows for a bit of fluctuation in the water depth. Turtles that have higher backed shells, such as musk or mud turtles, spend a great deal of time on the bottom of the surface. They are not as strong of a swimmer as the painted or slider turtle and so considerations should be given. Again, keep at least twice the depth of the length of the turtle, but adjust accordingly.

 Mimic their environment

The space requirements of an aquatic turtle will depend upon the species of the turtle. Mimicking the natural environment is the safest way to ensure that the turtle thrives. For example, when looking at the Reeves turtle, you see it needs to have deeper water because of its domed shell. It grows larger, so the dry space will need to reflect this. While they only get about 6in in length, you will want to have plenty of vegetation, as they like to bounce between the land and the shore.

 How much space does an aquatic turtle need

Aquatic turtles need enough space to grow and to thrive without feeling constricted. The space needs to allow them to swim, to rest, and if needed, to lay eggs for their young. Just as humans require different spaces to feel comfortable, so do turtles. The main thing to remember is to balance the dry and the wet. There needs to be at least 1/3 of the space focused on the dry environment. Within the wet environment, you should have logs, rock, and other items which simulate the turtle’s natural environment.


Think about the turtle breed you want to get, its behavior and know how big it can get. You certainly don’t want a snapping turtle bite because they don’t make for good pets. Stick to getting your turtles from reputable vendors to avoid getting a misidentified turtle species.

Turtles without shells are a rare occurrence, as the shell is an integral part of a turtle’s anatomy. However, certain species such as the softshell turtle have a pliable shell, allowing them to be more flexible and agile in water.