Terrarium For Turtles: Is It Species-appropriate?

When is a terrarium suitable for turtles and when does not? How big should a terrarium be and what equipment is needed?

What are the requirements for lamp and lighting and what else must be considered? You can find everything about this topic here.

When Is A Terrarium Suitable For Turtles?

Schildkröten Terrarium

During bad weather periods and the cold seasons, it happens that tortoises are kept in a terrarium for the transition.

Also, newly hatched tortoises or sick animals can be kept temporarily in a terrarium.

At this point, I would like to point out that the exclusive keeping of European tortoises in a terrarium is not species-appropriate.

For example, for the Greek tortoise, only a sufficiently large outdoor enclosure comes permanently into question.

Other animals, such as the slatted tortoise, can also be recommended permanently for a terrarium.

Turtle Terrarium – How Big Should It Be?

How big should such a turtle terrarium actually be? For one, adult European tortoise, the terrarium should have at least the following dimensions – 1.50 m length, 75 cm width, and 30 cm height.

The larger the terrarium of the tortoise, the better.

Terrarium Turtle – What Else To Consider Besides The Size?

The terrarium should also be open at the top. Glass is not optimal for a turtle terrarium, as the animals often do not visually recognize the boundary.

However, it is possible to line the inside of the terrarium with a thin pond liner.

The Terrarium – The Equipment

In the following article, we explain to you, what should belong to your turtle’s terrarium with to the equipment. Most important are:

  • Light and lighting (UV lamps, heat lamps)
  • Temperature and humidity sensors
  • Hiding places
  • Climbing possibilities
  • Soil substrate
  • Planting
  • Water bowl
  • Feeding place

Turtle Terrarium – UV Lamps And Lighting

The light and also the right temperature is vital for turtles. In addition to light intensity, light quality and quantity are also critical.

The light should be as bright as possible because turtles associate bright (day) light with warmth. UV-B rays produce vitamin D3 in turtles, which is needed for the storage of calcium in the bone and shell tissue.

Metal halide lamps (HQI) can be recommended as basic lighting for the terrarium, these are most likely to provide the necessary daylight because the light is very bright.

A second option is high-pressure mercury vapor lamps (HQL), but they produce a rather unnatural light and therefore should be used only as an additive. It can be recommended to place the spotlight over a stone plate.

The temperature in the terrarium should be 40°C due to the irradiation. If this is not the case, then another spot radiator must be installed.

The following lamps are not suitable for a turtle terrarium:

  • Normal incandescent lamps
  • Fluorescent tubes
  • Energy saving lamps
  • Heating mats and stones
  • Dark radiators

Light and heat should also be adapted to the season. Even in their natural habitat, turtles follow the seasons, i.e. day and night.

At night the temperature should be lower than during the day. The lighting or irradiation can be regulated by a simple timer.

Different Zones Within The Terrarium

Turtles prefer to stay in areas with different temperatures. Sometimes they prefer a hot spot for sunbathing at a temperature of 40°C, in other cases, they like to retreat to a cooler place.

That’s why I recommend you divide the terrarium into two zones: a dry and warm zone (with heat or spot radiator) with a corresponding dry substrate and a cooler, more humid zone.

In the more humid zone turtles prefer to cool down and also to sleep. Therefore, the hiding places should be placed in this zone.

The Terrarium For A Turtle – Hiding And Climbing Possibilities

Also, tortoises would like to be alone sometimes and withdraw. Small trunks of cork bark are well suited for this, these can also be used for climbing.

Under the cork bark tube should be a moist substrate, because tortoises prefer a cool place to rest. The hiding place could be covered with moss, for example. A cork tube can also be found here under terrarium decoration.

Stones can also be suitable. But you should be sure that the turtles do not chafe their shells. Stones, roots, or logs laid crosswise also provide excellent opportunities for climbing.

The Substrate For A Turtle Terrarium

In principle, the substrate in the terrarium should always be kept slightly moist. Therefore, when choosing it should be ensured that it does not mold at a certain humidity.

Furthermore, the substrate should be tread-resistant, not dusty, and have a neutral smell. Most importantly, it should not be harmful to the turtles’ health when they eat it, as could be the case, for example, with beechwood shavings if swallowed.

The following substrates are suitable for a terrarium:

  • Coconut fiber humus
  • Bark humus
  • Growing/seeding soil
  • Humus garden soil
  • Floragard turtle substrate

It is recommended to combine two substrates. In some places, flat stones are also suitable as substrate, for example at the heat spots.

The following substrates are not suitable for a turtle terrarium: Cat litter, beechwood chips, pet litter, pure sand, hay, straw, clay granules, peat, potting soil, and newspaper (only in case of illness). The substrate should be replaced every 6 months.

Water Bowl And Feeding Place

A glazed clay bowl, for example, is suitable as a water bowl. This bowl should be cleaned daily and filled with fresh water. Turtles like fresh water and sometimes they bathe themselves.

A tile or even a flat stone can be used as a feeder. In any case, if possible, the food should not mix with the substrate.

The food can also be placed in several places in the terrarium. Even in the wild, turtles must forage for food.

Planting The Terrarium

Plants increase the humidity inside the terrarium, plus they are part of a turtle’s natural habitat anyway. Of course, a terrarium also looks visually nicer with some plants. Suitable plants are aloe vera, indoor hibiscus, green lily, golliwog, bubicottle, and digging tussock.

Build Or Buy A Tortoise Terrarium?

You can of course buy the terrarium on Amazon or eBay or just build it yourself. Before buying a terrarium, find out in detail about the options.

Tortoise Terrarium – The Costs

First of all, a tortoise terrarium is not necessarily cheap, but the cost is unique.

Aisles terrariums cost in the trade about 100-200 EUR. In addition, the lighting (100-200 EUR), hiding places (15-30 EUR), the bottom substrate (10-30 EUR), possibly a heat spot (100 EUR), and some plants.

So the costs can quickly add up to several hundred euros. In addition, there are the costs for the monthly lighting (10-20 EUR) and the costs for the renewal of the bottom substrate.

What Should Be Considered When Keeping Turtles In A Terrarium?

  • Lighting should be intense and bright, but: no lamp replaces sunlight.
  • Turtles need a varied diet.
  • The water bowl should be cleaned daily and refilled with fresh water.
  • Temperatures must be regulated according to the time of day and season.
  • The substrate should be kept moist and renewed every 6 months.
  • Feces and urine should be removed daily.

Turtle Terrarium – Conclusion

In a suitable terrarium for turtles, there are many things to consider. This concerns the size, the substrate, the lighting, and of course the equipment. After all, it should be possible to keep a turtle species-appropriate.

Furthermore, a terrarium for European tortoises is only recommended as a temporary solution, because they are wild animals. As a permanent solution, only an outdoor enclosure is suitable.

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