The Aquarium and Pond Active Online Publication

General Care for
Freshwater Aquatic Turtles

Aquatic Turtles

Left to right, Soft Shell Turtle, Western Painted Turtle, and Red Ear Slider Turtle.

By Tony Griffitts

What are Aquatic Turtles?

Turtles that spend their life in and around water are considered aquatic.  Aquatic turtles can be grouped into two categories, fully aquatic and semi aquatic. 

List of Turtles that are commonly sold:

Red Ear Slider, Painted Turtle, Map Turtle, and Soft Shell Turtle.


32 to 85F   


6.0 to 8.3

Habitat/Proper Aquarium/Pond Set up:

The Red Ear, Painted, and Map turtles are semi aquatic, meaning they need a way to climb out of the water and bask them selves either under a light or natural sunlight.  The Soft Shell turtle is fully aquatic, and spends most of its life in the water.  Most turtles get very large (Red Ear females to 14 inches on the shell and Soft Shells 18 inches on the shell) and create a lot of waste, therefore you should provide a large aquarium (100 gallons plus) or pond with high volume filtration.  If kept outdoors the pond should be at least two feet deep so the turtles can escape potential predators like raccoons.  Make sure the yard is securely fenced so the turtles will not walk away.  Provide the turtle some type of structure so they can climb out of the water and bask under the sun.  Turtles will hibernate during winter in the pond.  In the aquarium provide the turtles with a platform they can use to climb out of the water and bask under a light.


Most turtles by nature are scavengers.  In the wild they eat snails, aquatic bugs, dead fish and birds, tadpoles, and in some cases plants.  In the aquarium you can feed Krill, Beef Heart, Silversides, Mealworms, Crickets, Romaine lettuce, fresh fish and shrimp from the supermarket, and dry pellet foods.  Small young turtles should be fed meaty foods and introduced to dry foods and vegetables as a supplement once the have developed a good apatite.

Special Note:

In the USA the FDA prohibits the sale of turtles fewer than four inches on the shell, unless it is for educational use.

Published - 2005

Aquaworld Sponsor