A lot of people don’t recommend having gravel in a turtle’s habitat. I learned first-hand why today.

Gravel is very dirty and hides and keeps tons of dirt in it. When I went to change the water in the turtle tank today, the gravel was filthy. Very filthy. So me and AG cleaned it out and now the turtles have a clean tank bottom. The turtles don’t seem to mind and I’m sure they appreciate having much cleaner water to swim in.

pet turtle hatchling in a small turtle tank
That’s Rex climbing up on the water heater.

small aquarium for small pet turtles
Rex on the steps on the right and Cinderella on the left under the small filter. An empty bottom looks a lot cleaner.

pet red ear slider turtle swimming in a tank
Rex trying to swim through the glass.

So far this is what the turtle set-up is:

– 5 Gallon aquarium. Space is an issue in the apartment so I got a 5 gallon aquarium. The turtles are going to outgrow it, but for the time being it works very well. Eventually, a new tank will be needed.

– Dive Clean Mini Filter. The first filter that I bought. It’s a really small submersible filter that I bought together with the aquarium. This was before I knew anything about filters. It’s a sponge filter (mechanical) which obviously isn’t enough to clean the waste of two turtles. The turtles like hiding underneath it and hanging onto and standing on it, which is why I still keep it there.

– Zoo Med 501 Turtle Filter. After doing some research I settled on getting this canister filter. It works great! I won’t be buying the Zoo Med carbon filter packs since they’re too expensive and aren’t that great from what I’ve read. Same about the sponge. I bought some activated carbon and will be getting a filter media bag soon. When the sponge needs to be replaced, I also won’t get the Zoo Med replacement – I’ve read that there are some other better and cheaper materials you can use instead of a sponge. I know the filter won’t be enough for when the turtles get bigger and we get a larger aquarium, so I’ll be getting a bigger canister filter when that time comes.

– a glass water heater with a plastic guard. Forgot the brands, but they’re good. Should the heater break for any reason in the future, I’ll get an inline heater as a replacement. This will give the turtles a little bit more room and also keeps the electric wires out of the tank. I get worried that they might bite into it and fry themselves, even though I haven’t read of this happening to anyone’s turtles yet.

– Zilla Basking Platform Small Corner Ramp. I had originally picked up some rocks from the neighborhood. After a good cleaning I stacked them up in the tank. They had some rough edges and also weren’t very stable so I got the Zilla platform instead. The turtles like it.

– Thermometer. Thermometers on a strip are a waste and are inaccurate. I know, I got one. It didn’t work too well and didn’t have much range (went up to 85 only). So I got a real aquarium thermometer instead.

– lamp and full spectrum heat/UVB light bulb. Turtles need to bask and they need heat. In the summer though it gets too hot that the water temp even reaches above 90 degrees, which means that the air temperature in there has got to reach 100 degrees or more!! I’ll be getting a ceramic heating element, a proportional thermostat to control it, and a UVB UVA fluorescent bulb. I think it’ll be the best way to make sure it doesn’t get too hot for the turtles in the warm weather and still have them get all the “sunlight” they need.


  1. $15 for both on the same street as the two “original” Philly Cheesesteak places…sorry, can’t remember the street or the Cheesesteak place…it’s a few blocks away toward Market Street

    I don’t know if you know much about turtles, if you don’t please do some research about how to care for them properly i.e, UVB light, basking area, # of gallons per inch of shell, etc…

  2. researching, can’t find out how much waterto put in tank, I have a 10 fgallon and George is about the size of a 50cent piece; do have dry land and log for basking

    1. sounds like a good start for your pet turtle George… First you need to know what kind of turtle you have, different species have different needs