I have 2 aquatic turtles that have lived together for 4 years now. Both were gotten as pets well before their legal size

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Customer: I have 2 aquatic turtles that have lived together for 4 years now. Both were gotten as pets well before their legal size of sale. 1 is a red eared slider. It is 10 years old w/a shell size of about 7" front to back, 5" side to side, and around 3 & 1/2" top to bottom at it's thickest.

The other is what I assume to be a painted turtle. It looks much like the red ear, but with yellow ear markings and red highlights on the under fringes of the shell. It is just recenly reached the legal size for sale.

Right now they live in a hundred gallon tank that is about 2/3rds filled with water and there is a large island area on one side. I am about to build a land mass that goes around 3 sides of the tank so that I can fill the tank space with a full hundred gallons of water. Here are my questions:

1.) What types of plants can I place into the water and on the land, that will be suitable, and pose NO danger to the pets ? Looks being secondary to the health of the turtles.

2.) With the long term history of these turtle having been completely peaceful, can I expect more of the same as the smaller one grows to adulthood, or are there surprises in store for me ? (the larger older one is female and has laid an infertile egg once around 4 moths ago - smaller turtle remains, as of yet, unsexed)

3.) Is there any reliable means of sexing the smaller turtle in it's present stage ?

4.) Is it feasible to house inside the water a fish from among the larger freshwater varieties witout overdue fear of it being considered supper ?

5.) Would it be a bad choice to house Anoles with turtles ? What about other non-aggressive reptilians ? If so, any suggestions ?

I guess that will do for now. Thanx in advance for any replies, advice, or admonishments that may be forthcoming.

Rob the Turtle God
(well, at least to 2 turtles anyway) :-)
Answered by Anna in 51 mins 10 years ago
30+ years of experience

17,036 satisfied customers

Specialities include: Reptile Veterinary, Herp Veterinary, Exotic Animal Medicine, Amphibian Veterinary


I'll take your questions one at a time.

1) It's actually best not to have plants in a turtle tank for a couple of reasons. Any decorations or plants make it that much harder to clean the tank. It's more difficult for the filters to keep things clean, and harder for you to clean the substrate. The turtles will quickly devour any plants that taste good - the plants cannot grow fast enough to prevent that. Others will be uprooted. It's usually recommended not to have gravel or any other substrate on the tank floor. Turtles can accidentally ingest bits of gravel or sand, leading to impaction or even choking. Plants on the land will also be eaten or destroyed. If you want to have something to decorate the land area, you can sue plastic aquarium plants. Turtles will probably also uproot these, but you can try.

2) Your turtles may remain peaceful, but you can't count on it. Many turtles do become aggressive to each other as they get older. There simply is no way to predict. The fact that you have them in a large tank may help.

3) It's easier to determine sex in painted turtles than it is for most types of turtles. There are several different species of painted turtle, and sexing is a bit different for each one. The easiest way for you to sex your turtle will be to have photos that show exactly what you are looking for. This link has photos and descriptions to help sex all of the painted turtle species:


4) You don't want a fish in the tank. Not only would the turtles nip at it if it's large, and eat it if it's small, but also, fish carry diseases that don't affect them, but can make turtles sick.

5) Sorry, but no anoles either. The two species have very different needs in terms of habitat. There si also danger of cross-contamination because different species of reptiles carry diseases that can affect other species. It's never a good idea to mix species.

While you didn't ask about it, I'm very concerned about your female turtle. Turtles do not lay one egg at a time. our turtle almost certainly has more eggs inside her. She will probably retain them as long as possible while she seeks an appropriate nesting site. This retention can cause infection, organ damage, and even death. Symptoms of a problem may include not laying eggs, laying only a few eggs, lethargy, pacing, lack of appetite, prolapse, digging motions, and kicking of the back legs.

You'll need to provide her with a nesting site. For a slider, that would be a 50/50 mix of sand and organic compost, about 12 inches deep. The bigger the area you can give her, the better. You may have to move her to a preformed pond or a child's wading pool in your basement to make room for everything she needs. Be sure that you continue to provide UVB light and a basking light no matter where you put her. This site has very detailed instructions for making nesting sites, including photos:


At this one, you can read more about egg-laying and egg retention:


I'm also going to send along my slider care sheet. You probably know much of what's in it, but you can use it as a checklist to make sure everything is all right. Painted turtles actually do better with slightly different temperatures and diet than what sliders do best with, but the difference isn't huge. If you have more questions, let me know by clicking on REPLY.


(If you find my answer helpful, please click on the green ACCEPT button. Thank you.)


Well-cared for sliders can live 30 years or more.

The Tank

It's recommended that a baby slider have at least a 15 gallon tank. By the time the turtle is 3-4 years old, it will need a 60 gallon tank, so it's best to get the biggest you can in the beginning. You can also use a large RubberMaid tote. That's not as pretty as a tank, but costs a lot less. Set up the tank so there's a land area and a water area. Put the basking light at one end so the whole tank doesn’t get too hot. You want the water to be about twice as deep as the turtle is long. If the turtle is two inches long, you'll want four inches of water.

Temperatures and Basking Area

Turtles need certain types of lighting and need to be warm. Air and water that are not warm enough can lead to fungal and respiratory infections and unhealthy shells. Turtles must have a basking area where they can get out of the water, dry off, and bask in very warm light. The ambient air temperature in the tank should be around 75 *F (24*C) , with the basking area warmer still. Over the basking area there should be some sort of lamp that will take a 40-60 watt incandescent bulb (or you can buy a ceramic light fixture made just for reptiles). If you live in an area that has farm stores, you can buy a metal light fixture made to keep baby chicks warm for just a few dollars. Don't buy the accompanying bulb, however. You need an ordinary incandescent bulb in the basking light. Hardware stores sell similar fixtures as work lights. The basking area should be kept at 85-90*F (29 to 32*C). Use a digital probe thermometer to be sure. You can adjust the temperature by raising or lowering the light fixture.The lights that come with the covers on aquariums are not suitable for turtles. You'll also need a submersible aquarium heater that will keep the water 78-82*F (26 to 28*C).

UVB Light

It's extremely important that you buy an additional light that produces UVB rays. A Reptisun 10.0 is a good brand that does. If you choose another brand be absolutely certain it provides UVB rays. Don't take the word of pet store personnel, but read it for yourself. Full-spectrum, DayGlo, sunGlo, UV, or UVA are not the same thing. I'm putting a lot of emphasis on this because it's crucial to your turtle's health. Without this light, Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD) will develop because your turtle won't be able to produce vitamin D. Vitamin supplements are not a good replacement for the proper lighting. MBD causes a very slow and painful death.UVB bulbs must be replaced every six months as they lose their effectiveness after that, even though they may still look fine. Light that comes through a window isn't sufficient because the glass filters out most of the rays turtles need to stay healthy. To prevent MBD, turtles also need calcium. The easiest way to provide it is to place a cuttlebone in the tank. Cuttlebones are sold in bird departments of pet stores.


Turtles are very sensitive to water quality. Even if you change the water every day, it can still contain harmful chemicals. A good filtration system is essential. Water changes are also needed even with a filter. If the tank is too small, no filter can keep up with the amount of waste that turtles produce.


Feeding is an area where pet stores often give out bad information. Commercial food should make up only 1/4 of the diet. Animal products (cooked meat, earthworms, canned cat food) should make up another 1/4. The remaining half should be plant foods (dark lettuce like romaine, bits of strawberry or melon, etc.). Hatchlings should be fed every day. Older turtles should be fed 3 times per week. Overfeeding can lead to gout and kidney failure.

For Further Reading

This is among the most reputable sites on turtles.



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