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Red Eared Slider Tank Setup

March 5 2021

Red eared slider turtle tank setup

Photo by Brittney Weng on Unsplash

Red-eared sliders make great pets, but you have to provide them with the right habitat. This article explains what red-eared sliders need in their tank, a list of recommended supplies, and more.

Tank Size

Red-eared sliders need a large tank. The rule for turtle tank size is 10 gallons per one inch of the carapace (upper part of the shell). You can get a pond or glass aquarium, but glass aquariums are usually better because they take up less room. Baby red-eared sliders can live in 20 to 40-gallon tanks, but adult red-eared sliders will need a 65 gallon or more tank setup. Make sure that the turtle can completely turn around in the tank. Standard 55 and 65-gallon tanks are not wide enough for a turtle. A 75-gallon tank is best for most red-eared sliders. A good tank is the Marineland Majesty 75 gallon tank. It is big and comes with a sturdy stand. Tanks with stands are great because you can store a ton of supplies and a canister filter in them. Getting the right tank for your turtle is extremely important.


Turtles are probably the most messy reptiles. They make a ton of waste, which is why you need to get a good filter. There are nine main types of filters; box filters, canister filters, Diatomic Filters, Fluidized Bed Filters, Power Filters, Sponge Filters, Trickle Filters, HOB filters, and Under Gravel Filter. Not all of these filters are good for red-eared sliders. The best types for turtles are; canister filters, HOB filters, and sponge filters. Canister filters are the strongest filters, so they are recommended for red-eared sliders. A durable and powerful canister filter is the Fluval canister filter. There are different models of it, so look at each one to see which one is good for your red-eared slider tank setup. You want to pick a filter that is meant for tanks twice the size as yours because it will clean up the tank more effectively. If you do not want a canister filter, read the article "The Best Filters For Turtles” for more filter options.

Heater and Thermometer

Heater for red eared slider tank

A heater is an important part of a red-eared slider tank setup. It keeps the water warm so the turtle does not get sick. There are two types of heaters for red-eared sliders; inline and submersible. Submersible heaters are better for turtles because they are adjustable and more affordable than inline heaters. The best heater is the Aqueon Pro Adjustable Heater 100w. It is completely smooth, so your turtle can not bite it. Get the right wattage for the tank. Look at the chart below to see what wattage heater to get. Set the heater between 75 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Any fish tank thermometer will work, but a good one is the Top Fin Digital Aquarium Thermometer. Never get a glass thermometer because your turtle could smash it and get hurt.


Red-eared sliders need UVB lights to survive. Since red-eared sliders are semi-aquatic, they need waterproof lights. A good waterproof UVB light is the Zoo Med Aquatic Turtle UVB Heat Lighting Kit. Make sure to replace the lights every 10 months. You should set reminders on your phone to change it. Zoo Med has a helpful tool that emails you when you need to change your UVB lights (Here is the link).


You should get a mesh lid for your red-eared slider tank. Glass lids will not work because the UVB and heat from the lights can not travel through glass. You can get any mesh lid, but just make sure it is sturdy. Zilla screen lids and Fluker’s screen lids are good because they are made out of strong metal. You might have to cut the lid so the tubing from the canister filter can go into the tank.

Basking Platform

Basking area in red eared slider tank

Red-eared sliders need a basking platform to go on so they won't get shell rot or pneumonia. There are different types of basking platforms, but for the tank setup in this article, a floating basking platform is the best. Floating basking platforms are foam platforms that attach to the glass of a turtle tank using suction cups. A good floating basking platform is the Zoo Med Turtle Dock. For bigger turtles, you might have to make some modifications to it so it won't sink. One way to make it not sink is to build a shelf or support post out of PVC pipes. If you do not want a floating basking platform, read the article “The Best Basking Platform for Turtles” for more basking platform options.

Water Care

Just like other aquatic animals, red-eared sliders need their water dechlorinated. To do this you will need a water dechlorinator. Water dechlorinator removes unsafe chlorine from tap water to make it safe for your turtle. Turtles can survive without it, but it should be used so your turtle does not get mineral deposits. A good water dechlorinator is API TAP Water Conditioner. This should be added after every water change. If you want, you can also use a waste remover. Waste removers help break down turtle waste, making your filter run more smoothly. There are many waste removers, but Fluker’s Eco Clean works the best. Good water is a major part of a red-eared slider tank setup

List of Supplies

Here is a list of the supplies mentioned in this article. These are only the supplies for the tank.

Tank - Marineland Majesty 75 gallon tank $499.99 (Petsmart)

Filter - Fluval 307 Performance Canister Filter $179.99 (Petsmart)

Lighting - Zoo Med Aquatic Turtle UVB Heat Lighting Kit $36.59 (Amazon)

Heater - Aqueon Pro Adjustable Heater 100w $39.99 (Amazon)

Screen lid - Fluker Labs Metal Screen Cover, 18 by 48-Inch $49.96 (Amazon)

Thermometer - Top Fin Digital Aquarium Thermometer $14.99 (Petsmart)

Suction cups - Pawfly 12 Pcs Aquarium Heater Suction Cups $6.99 (Amazon)

Water conditioner - API TAP Water Conditioner $19.99 (Amazon)

Waste remover - Fluker’s Eco Clean $14.99 (Amazon)

Basking platform - Zoo Med Turtle Dock $39.99 (Petco)

How to Setup a Red-Eared Slider Tank

Once you have gotten all the supplies, you need to set up the tank. Place the tank in an area that you are frequently in, so the turtle can get lots of attention. You should fill the tank up with water, and the water level should be as tall as your turtle’s carapace. Place the basking platform in the right position (towards the back of the tank if it is a turtle dock, on top of the tank if it is an above-tank basking platform, or place it anywhere you want if it is rocks/driftwood). Follow the directions on your filter and install it properly. Canister filters work best when they are below the water level. If you have a canister filter, you can put it under the stand to make it look nicer. Put the heater in the tank and let it sit for twenty minutes before plugging it in. Once you plug it in, turn the knob to 77 degrees Fahrenheit (25 degrees Celsius). Place the thermometer in the tank (you can use electrical tape to secure it if the suction cup is not working). Put the screen lid on top of the tank (you can use screen clips to hold it in place if it keeps coming off). Screw-in the UVB bulbs into the fixture and put it on the lid, (or above-tank basking platform) above the basking platform. Add the right amount of water conditioner to the tank. Let the tank cycle for a week before getting the turtle.

It is very important to get the right supplies for your red-eared slider turtle tank setup. You will need a tank, filter, heater, UVB light, screen lid, basking platform, and water care supplies.

red eared slider turtle tank setup infographic

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