Habitat - Indoor :: Fast and Affordable Tank Set-Up for New Unexpected Owners

Turtle tank setups and other indoor configurations.

Post Posted: Fri Jun 24, 2016 1:11 am   Fast and Affordable Tank Set-Up for New Unexpected Owners

Hello Everyone, my name is Austin and this is my first post. First a little background on why I decided to make this guide.

I work in the pool business and about 6 months ago, I found a baby red eared slider (slightly larger than a quarter) trapped in a pool skimmer. I decided to keep him but I had never owned a water turtle or was I prepared with the right equipment so it was a complete surprise and I was learning on the fly. So I started doing tons of research. and I found a lot of my info from this site so I thought I would create a guide for those of you in my situation.

This is basically the bare minimum for a baby to juvenile size turtle. A bigger turtle would require larger equipment.

So here are the links to the pics of my setup and then I will explain all the info for everything:


1st is the Tank
It is just a basic 56 quart plastic Sterilite Storage Box. Which is basically a 15 gallon tank. They are only $5 at Target. But anything in the 15 - 20 gallon range will be fine.
*Eventually you will have to get a bigger bin but this equipment is sufficient for this size so lets go with this.

2nd is Lights
I know when you search about lights for turtles you get all kinds fixtures, bulbs, etc. that cost ridiculous prices. But you can use a regular CFL bulb for temporary UV lighting. You might want to eventually get a fluorescent bulb that emits UVB from the pet store, but I am not completely sold on the difference between the two. The basking bulbs the pet supply places sell are just halogen bulbs because of the heat they put out, but you can buy halogen bulbs at any hardware store or supermarket for half the cost.

But 1st lets talk about the light fixtures. Mine are the basic 6" clamp lights you can get at Walmart or Home Depot for about $7 each. They usually hold 60 watt bulbs. You need 1 for the CFL bulb and 1 for the basking bulb.
Now for the bulbs:
UVA/UVB bulb: I am using a 14 watt (60 watt equivalent) CFL bulb. You can get 4 packs of these for about $6. Eventually I will be getting a 23 watt (100 watt equivalent) bulb which is better for when your RES gets bigger.
Basking Bulbs: I use a GE Crystal Clear 53 watt (75 watt equivalent) Halogen Bulb. I got a pack of 2 for about $4 at Target. at 5- 6" away from the basking area it keeps the temps perfect.

3rd is the Filter
My filter is the Tetra ReptoFilter 90GPH for up to 20gal. tanks. This is about $15-$20 depending on where you get it. I got most of my tank equipment on Amazon because the prices are usually the best and 2-day shipping with Prime.

4th is the Heater
A heater is needed to keep the water at the right temperature for turtles which is around 80 degrees. I use the Tetra Aquatic Reptile Heater which keeps the temps at 78 degrees. This is also about $15-$20 depending on where you buy.

5th is the Basking Platform
I am using a piece of the Zoo Med Cork Flats that is cut to fit and wedge on the sides of the tank. it floats and can be easily cut to fit. Just cut it a little at a time and test it as you go to make sure you get a nice tight wedged fit. The good thing about using this is that you can easily raise it as you raise the water, and you have an instant above tank basking area. Although many things can be used for basking. At first I stacked bricks up but it takes up way to much space. I found these Cork bark pieces are the best and easiest thing to use. I recommend going to the pet store and picking one out yourself that will fit your tank. I know Pet Supermarket has them that is where I got mine for about $11.

The rest of the stuff is a fake plant and some river rocks to hold it up. Also a moss ball which is really good to help keep the tank cleaner. A ReptoGuard water conditioner block is good to have to. I had one but he already ate it up. I also recommend getting an aquarium thermometer that has the wand so you can check the temps of the water and basking area.

I just started owning a red eared slider about 6 months ago with no preparation or planning. He was only about 1" when I found him and now he is 3". and very active and healthy so this set-up does work. So I hope this helps anyone who is just jumping into this situation like i did.
Last edited by austinw11 on Fri Jun 24, 2016 4:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Post Posted: Fri Jun 24, 2016 3:06 am   Re: Fast and Affordable Tank Set-Up for New Unexpected Owner

Great & resourceful guide and welcome to the forum! I always suggest going for the storage box too. I think it being translucent might help the turtle adjust. I would not go over $10 however... there's probably one in everybody's closet. A typical CFL bulb does not produce UVB. Those use special phosphors to emit UVB radiation within a specific wavelength. Clamp lamps are great, just make sure it's rated for that wattage. I also use halogens for basking. Filters almost always need to be replaced when the tank is upgraded... do not spend too much on one if you are planning and upgrade. The heater you listed is a bit expensive but fine. Once you move to larger tanks, get some thing like an Aqueon Pro and it comes with a lifetime warranty. Cork bark is great, probably my favorite addition to a turtle setup. Don't forget to get a good thermometer too!
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Post Posted: Fri Jun 24, 2016 2:26 pm   Re: Fast and Affordable Tank Set-Up for New Unexpected Owner

Thanks for the advice on the heater. I got the heater and the filter for $6 each so $12 total on Amazon. They were always meant to be temporary. They have both gone up in price since then. I will look into the Aqueon when I upgrade.
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