How to Take Care of a Turtle

There are many different kinds of turtles that people keep as pets. Some turtles are land dwellers, some are aquatic, and some spend time in both places. Whether you have or are considering getting a sulcatta tortoise, box turtle, painted turtle, red eared slider, side-neck turtle, or other kind of turtle you need to make sure you can provide for all of their needs properly. All turtles require special lighting and heat, food, a place to hide, and an enclosure that keeps them safe. Find out how...MORE to take care of your specific kind of pet turtle right here!

  • 01 of 07
    Mack is a red eared slider. Red eared sliders are one of the most popular kinds of pet turtles. Photo © Michelle Broadworth

     Turtles are reptiles just like lizards and snakes and all reptiles require supplemental heat to regulate their body temperature. They also need invisible UVB rays that the sun emits to help metabolize important things like calcium. Special heat lights, under tank heaters, water heaters, ceramic heat emitters, and UVB emitting bulbs may be needed for your specific kind of turtle to help keep them healthy if they live in an indoor environment.

  • 02 of 07

    Aquatic Turtle Care

    Red eared slider head
    Red eared slider head. Photo © Lianne McLeod

    Water turtles, also referred to as aquatic turtles, are turtles that spend the majority, if not all, of their time in water. These turtles live like fish do most of the time and therefore have special water requirements in addition to the other needs of a turtle. Red eared sliders, African side-neck turtles, yellow bellied sliders, painted turtles, mud turtles, diamondback terrapins, softshell turtles, map turtles, Asian leaf turtles, and even Palawan forest turtles are all discussed here.

  • 03 of 07
    Aquatic turtle
    Aquatic turtle. Sue

    Some people are able to house their aquatic turtles in a very natural setting like an outdoor pond. Care requirements are simplified in regards to heat and lighting in the warm and sunny months of the year for outdoor turtles. Find out what you still need to provide for your outdoor aquatic turtle here.

  • 04 of 07

    Box Turtle Care

    Russell the Eastern Box Turtle. Photo ©'s user James Franks

    Many turtles that live on land are called box turtles. These turtles are all smaller sized turtles and have similar care requirements to each other but are very different from that of an aquatic turtle. Eastern box turtles, Gulf coast box turtles, ornate box turtles, three toed box turtles, and Asian box turtles are all discussed here.

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  • 05 of 07
    Edgar - Eastern Three-toed Box Turtle
    Edgar - Eastern Three-toed Box Turtle. Photo © Rebecca Speakes

    Box turtles can be housed outside if you provide them with a safe and secure enclosure. Certain needs must be met though so that predators cannot get to them and they can get out of the sunlight if need be. Fencing that is sunk into the ground, a cover on the top of the enclosure, a watering hole, and a place to hide must all be considered.

  • 06 of 07

    Tortoise Care


    Tortoises are known to live a long time compared to many of their shelled cousins. These long lived pets require special care since many of them may outlive their owners. Dietary requirements, clean up of these large tortoises, and enclosures must all be considered before committing to getting a tortoise as a pet. Find out how to care for leopard tortoises, Hermann's tortoises, Russian tortoises, red-footed tortoises, sulcata tortoises, Greek tortoises, hingeback tortoises, star tortoises,...MORE radiated tortoises, and more here.

  • 07 of 07
    Bell's Hinge-back Tortoise. Photo © James Gerholdt

    If you can't house your tortoise outside (check out the link above for an outdoor pen for box turtles to get an idea of what is involved) than you'll need an indoor enclosure. Large tortoises will most likely need a custom built enclosure or an entire room dedicated to them. Some tortoise owners even have both an indoor and an outdoor enclosure for different seasons of the year.