Paludarium for Turtles | Real Aquatics

Setting up an Aquatic Terrarium - or Paludarium - for Turtles

If you are interested in keeping aquatic turtles, such as musk turtles or reeves turtles, you will need to setup a suitable habitat. This is known as an aquatic terrarium, or "paludarium".

Aquatic turtles cannot be added to normal aquariums, because they have their own specific needs in terms of basking areas and lighting for survival and healthy shell growth.

An aquatic terrarium or paludarium (from the Latin "Palus", meaning swamp) is basically a rainforest terrarium combined with an aquarium.

Paludarium | Real Aquatics


You will need an aquarium with a large floor surface. The aquarium can be quite a low-height, as the water level is going to be fairly shallow. Most turtles will grow to quite a healthy size in the right conditions, so ensure it is large enough to accommodate turtle growth.

When building the habitat, you are advised to split it into two areas - an aquatic area, and a terrestrial section.

Terrestrial Area

Using rocks, gravel and substrate, build a ramp on one half of the aquarium floor gradually increasing in size that is easy for your turtles to climb up, to provide an area outside of the water for your turtles to bask. Position a heat lamp above this area, for basking. This is your terrestrial area.

Aquatic Area

At the foot of your terrestrial area, fill the aquarium with water to around the same depth as the length of your turtles shell. Add a heater (set to around 25℃) and treat the water with a suitable additive, such as a tap safe of water freshener. You can add a small internal filter too if desired, to help the water clean and clear and add some water flow.

You can add some aquatic plants, suited to a swampy environment - but be advised that turtles will nibble leaves. A hardy plant like anubias is suitable, but it may be tricky to keep submerged in such a shallow aquaria. Surface weed, or duckweed, is very much loved by turtles, and adds the appearance of a swamp.

So, in principle, treat your aquaria for aquatic turtles like a mixture of an aquarium and a forest terrarium. Ensure the water is heated, and that a suitable area to bask is provided. Make sure your turtles are fed regularly, and that the environment is kept clean by regular weekly water changes of around 30-50%.

Photo credit(s): Getty Images / Canva Pro Licence


Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published