Hi! I have turtles in a 40 gallon tank and I feel like it’s, boring. They have river rocks, tear up all the plants I put in there, 2 filters, a basking platform, heat and uvb lamps, but really not much else. I want the tank to be more, enriched (?), but I don’t know how in a way that they won’t destroy (one of them is blind but will bite most of what he feels when he’s hungry). Is there anything I can do?


Hmmm. Well it partially depends on what kind of turtles you have. I’m going to assume you have basking turtles (which includes sliders, painteds, maps, cooters, etc) since those are the most common pet turtle.

The best enrichment you can ever give a turtle (and yourself in terms of heaving more fun watching them) is more space or deeper water. The general rule is that a turtle should have 10 gallons of swimming space for every inch of shell length, and even if your tank is already that big turtles are very active animals and will use as much space as you give them.

Of course a larger enclosure is not something everyone can do due to cost and space issues, so here are some other options. Plastic plants can be a great alternative if your turtles rip up real plants. I like to pull plastic plants out of their weighted bases and let them float at the top so the turtle has a thicket of floating plants to hide/rest in. If the main concern is that your turtles dig live plants out of the substrate you could try live plants that float like anacharis, water sprite, or duckweed.

Sand can be a really enriching substrate, though it can be somewhat messy to add to an already full tank. My turtles love digging in their sand and kicking it up onto their shells and then rubbing underneath driftwood to get itch themselves. Speaking of driftwood, adding more tank furniture (I especially love natural textures like driftwood) can be a great way to make a tank look more interesting. Many types of driftwood will leach tannins into your water, which will give it a tea-tinted look (which can actually be good for your turtles’ health).

Unfortunately turtles are pretty destructive tank inhabitants and some of them will find a way to re-do any decorations you put in their tank. Sometimes you’ve just got to try different things and see what your turtle will tolerate.

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