How Much Does A Turtle Tank Cost?

There are over 100 different species or types of turtles. Some of them make excellent pets, while others do not. Depending on the species of the turtle you want as a pet, you will either need to purchase a terrarium or an aquarium. A terrarium is for the turtles that do not naturally live in water. If you want a turtle that lives in water then you are going to need an aquarium (similar to a fish aquarium).

How much does a turtle tank cost? Typically you will want to expect to pay between $100 and $200 for the tank. This will all depend on the species of turtle that you choose. Then you will need to factor in what you need for the terrarium/aquarium. Lighting, a ramp, filter system, heater, basking platform, and substrate. In the end, you are going to spend about $350 to $400 for the optimum set-up.

Today I will go through the important aspects of having a turtle as a pet. I will discuss the difference between the terrarium and the aquarium, what you need to have for each habitat, the turtles you can keep in each one, and more.

Turtles are very popular pets and they can live a very long time. Therefore you must be committed to taking great care of them for 20+ years. Let’s begin with the knowledge of a terrarium.

Can Tortoises Live in A Terrarium?

A terrarium is mainly for tortoises. They naturally live on the land and do not need much water. It is highly suggested that you DO NOT put a tortoise in an actual aquarium. 

Most of them are too large to be healthy or happy in an aquarium. You can purchase a tortoise house or other enclosed habitats for your land animal. Better yet, build your own. Terrariums are normally made of wood with short walls, which can easily be a do-it-yourself project.

You should, ideally, house a tortoise outside because they get bigger than other species of turtle. But, if you want to keep him in the house then you need his environment to mimic how he would live in nature. You are also going to need a lot of floor space, so you should try to designate a whole room for your tortoise, if possible. 

When housing a tortoise, no matter what species, you need to know that they prefer their environment not to be transparent. They like their privacy, so the wooden habitat is the best. These give your land tortoise the best environment to be happy.

They also allow them to have the room that they need and the walls need to be tall enough that the tortoise can not climb out. But they do not need to be too tall.

For your terrarium, you will still need a lighting and heating source. It is recommended that you use UVA/UVB lighting and heat lamps that can hang above the terrarium. You also want to include rocks, plants, and hiding places for your tortoise.

You want the tortoise house/box to mimic nature as close as possible. You only need to have the lighting on for 10-12 hours. Just as with fish, turtles need their nighttime.

You also want to put 2-4 inches of bedding or topsoil in the house because they like to burrow. You can include edible plants such as; yucca, aloe, kale, mulberry, and grapes just to name a few. 

Because there is so much information on terrariums and tortoises we are going to go ahead and move on to the turtles who need an actual aquarium set-up. You will need similar equipment for your aquarium that you purchase for fish, depending on the species of turtle.

Can Turtles Life In An Aquarium?

There are turtles who live in water only, or they live in water but also like their land space to bask in the sun. For those turtles, you will need an aquarium set-up. 

Similar to what you would use if you were housing fish. The difference is, you will need the ‘dry’ area, for some species of turtle. Because of this, your aquarium will not be filled with water. Below you will find the basics of a turtle aquarium set-up.

You are going to need an aquarium that can provide 10-15 gallons of water, per inch of turtle. So if you have a turtle that is 5 inches long you are going to need a 50 to 75-gallon tank.

Your turtle will need a UV light that aids in keeping him healthy. It is highly recommended that you get UVA/UVB lighting. Set your lights on a timer so that they automatically turn off at 12-14 hour intervals. Whatever you do, do not put your turtle aquarium in the path of direct sunlight.

When having a pet turtle you should consider a tank heater. This will hold the water at a specific temperature for your pet turtle. Before you purchase the heater, make sure your species of turtle needs a heater. Some turtles are happy with room temperature water. In which case you would not need a heater. 

As with fish aquariums, your turtle tank needs a good filtration system. Turtles produce more waste than fish, so you are going to need a large filter system. Canister filters work the best but are also a little bit more expensive. If you prefer an internal filtration system you then need to purchase the largest one that you can afford or you can have 2 in 1 tank. 

You will also need a substrate, but only if you are going to place live plants in the aquarium. If you are going to use substrate then choose fine sand, fluorite, or gravel.

The gravel will need to be ½ inches or bigger, otherwise, the turtle will eat it. Turtles who live in water still need land or a ‘dry’ area. They like to lay on rocks to dry off or bask. You have a large variety of ways to accomplish this. Just do some looking around and research to find what you want for your turtle.

Overview of Turtles

Turtles and tortoises can make wonderful and fun pets. Some breeds are friendly and love attention. But you do have to take into consideration the care they need and their very long life-span. You also have to realize that even the smaller species need large living spaces.

A turtle is not going to be happy or healthy in a 20-gallon tank. It is a huge no-no to put a tortoise in an aquarium because they get too big to fit and survive comfortably. You need to be extremely informed before you choose a turtle or a tortoise for a pet.

Gather all of the information that you can on the specific species you want and how to take care of them.

Turtle vs Tortoise – Main Differences

The number 1 difference between a turtle and a tortoise is their habitat. Turtles live in water, with access to a land source and a tortoise lives mainly on land. They need the UV light from the sun to stay healthy.

Another difference is the shape of their shell. A tortoise carries a large domed shell. A turtle will have a flatter shell. Of course, a tortoiseshell is going to be heavier because they are so much bigger. 

Their limbs are another big difference. Since turtles live in water they have webbed claws that help them swim. A tortoise has short legs that bend at an angle. 

Their diets are similar because they both like to eat vegetation. But turtles also enjoy and need insects and small fish. 

The lifespan between the 2 is another huge difference. Some tortoises can live to be 70-80 years old (sometimes 100). Turtles will live between 20-40 years. This all depends on the species and how well they are taken care of.

Best Turtles As Pets

The following are the best turtles to have as a pet and a short overview of habitat, food, and life-span.

The water temperature needs to be set at 75-85 degrees. They will also need their land area and it will need to be approximately 90 degrees. 

They will need a basking site, high humidity, and substrate to burrow in. If you keep them inside you need to mist them and soak them several times a week

Razor Backed Musk Turtle

You need a 30+ gallon tank for 1 adult. Their basking site needs to be 90 degrees. 

You need a UV light with a basking area set at 85-95 degrees. 75-80 degrees for their water temperature. They only issue with the painted turtle; they are not domesticated and should not be handled very often. 

The Russian Tortoise is the most popular tortoise to have as a pet because it is smaller than some of the other breeds. Besides the Russian tortoise, you can have a Greek tortoise, a Red-footed tortoise, or a Yellow-footed tortoise as a pet.

The Russian tortoise will reach 8-10 inches in length and live to be about 40 years old. Their diet is hay, kale, collards, turnips, and dark lettuces. 1 Russian tortoise can live in a 50+ gallon aquarium, but an outdoor house is recommended. Because they need UV lighting and sun rays.

You will need to place UV heat bulbs in the aquarium. The temperature will need to be 90-95 degrees. 

Best Aquariums and Terrariums

Before picking an aquarium, or a turtle/tortoise for that matter, you need to know that there are over 100 species of turtle. Most of them will fit in 1 of 2 categories; aquatic and semi-aquatic.

Aquatic:These are turtles that spend most of their time in the water. Only poking their head out, underneath their basking light.
Semi-Aquatic:These are turtles who like to spend part of their time swimming and part of their time basking on a rock.

Depending on the breed you choose, you may need to purchase a pond with both land and water options or a terrarium. Then you have the out of water habitat, strictly for tortoises, as they are land animals.

For an actual turtle aquarium you will need:

  • Water filter and heater
  • Heat lamps and lighting
  • Basking dock
  • Substrate

There are a wide variety of ways to set-up your turtle habitat. Do your research or set it up in your unique way. Just remember the ramp and basking area for your semi-aquatic turtle. Remember, a tortoise needs very little water. Out in nature, they live on land. So you will need a turtle box or house, which has lots of floor space, low sides, and sand. 

There are many options for aquariums and tortoise houses that can be purchased online. The one plus side to having a tortoise is that you can DIY their habitat. As long as you don’t get too extravagant, this option will be cheaper than buying a premade one. This gives you the option to have a very unique turtle habitat. 


If you want to have a turtle or a tortoise as a pet, do your research. These perfect pets can live anywhere from 20-100 years old, depending on the species and the level of care they receive. So you need to make sure you are ready for the long-term commitment and care.

Depending on the species and the accessories that you need to set-up their habitat, you are looking at spending around $350. Heater, filter, lighting, UV lamp, decorations, ramps, and basking area. Most turtles and tortoises eat vegetation and some also enjoy insects and small fish.

Your tortoise house will be a little cheaper to purchase depending on the size you buy and the accessories you add to it. I have seen tortoise houses that start at $120. 

Choose your turtle or tortoise carefully and make sure you research all the specifics about the species, the habitat, their diet, and their life-span. Make sure that you and your family are ready for the extremely long commitment.


I'm passionate about fish pets and love sharing everything I learn about them.

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