River Cooter Turtle Tanks: Best Tanks, Setup Ideas, Filters, Cleaning & More

River Cooter Turtle Tanks Best Tanks Setup Ideas Filters Cleaning More 1 scaled
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River cooters, one of the commonly bought pet turtles, are very famous for a quality of theirs,  that is they can breathe underwater through a sac called the cloaca bursae, which is dependent on their tail, makes River cooters a particularly unusual species. They may stay underwater for extended periods because of this, which makes it more difficult to research their behavior. 

The river cooters live in rivers and lakes hence, their natural habitat is aquatic, and they need water to survive. You may find river cooters on rocks basking. The river cooters also pile up on top of each other while basking, the river cooters can also be dormant during winters for approximately two months, during this time they dig up into the mud under rivers and remain in it. River cooters often tend to live in warmer areas because their body does not generate heat on its own, this is also why the river cooters bask in the sun.

River cooters are aquatic turtles, hence they need a proper turtle tank and a setup if you want to adopt them as pets. The river cooters also excrete all their waste in the water that they swim in, so you will need a proper cleaning system along with good filters.

With the proper knowledge about their setup and tanks, you will be able to achieve the ideal enclosure for your turtle.

Let us dive into the details of turtle tanks, setup ideas, filters, and cleaning.

Turtle Tanks

Turtle tanks
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Now that you have an idea about the habitat of the river cooters, you will understand their tank setup more clearly.

While choosing a tank we prefer you get an aquarium rather than investing in a vivarium or terrarium, as vivariums and terrariums are usually a lot more open and do not have a lid on top.

This may cause the dust particles to fall into the water of the enclosure, and open tanks make it easier for your river cooter to escape.

When getting an aquarium make sure that its shape is rectangular as the river cooters like to swim in their enclosures, also get glass or ceramic aquariums, they are less prone to leakage and are durable as well.

In comparison with ceramic aquariums, glass aquariums are a lot better, as they are stronger and also cheaper.

A good turtle tank must possess these qualities.

  • Waterproof.
  • Sufficient depth for your turtle to swim and submerge.
  • Capable of supporting 55 gallons of water.
  • Be an enclosure with a top opening to prevent water leakage.
  • Durable.

The average size of the aquarium should be approximately 48 x 24 x 12 inches.

Minimum dimensions are 3–4 times the length of the turtle, 2–4 times its breadth, and 1.5–2 times its length, plus 8–12 inches above the highest point it can reach in the tank.

A gallon of 20 to 30 gallons is good for River cooters.

A large enclosure must be bought as river cooters grow to a large size.

One turtle is the only one for whom the 10 gallons per inch of shell rule applies. Increase the tank’s surface size by at least another square foot for every additional turtle housed within.

 One 7-inch spotted turtle, for instance, may survive in a 40.5″ x 32″ x 24″ aquarium. At least a 52.5″ x 44″ x 24″ space should be reserved for two. Larger is often preferable.

They will cheerfully occupy all of the available space.

Smaller aquariums have restrictions on the variety of natural activities that your pet can exhibit. They also get dirty more quickly, increasing the likelihood of stress and 

Some people also use kiddy pools for keeping the river cooters, this is not yet advised as the river cooters can escape from it.

Best Turtle Tanks

Three major types of tanks have been proven best for your turtle, these are stated below.

SC Aquariums 150-Gallon Turtle Tank

River Cooter Turtle Tanks:
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For river cooters, this type of tank is great, it is big as the requirement for the river cooters tank is. The tank is also strong and does not break easily.

If you are planning to keep two river cooters together, you can easily due to the size of this tank.

The size of this tank is 150 gallons big.

This tank is great for river cooters as it is very spacious, the walls of this tank are 12 centimeters thick, so it’s very unlikely for them to break, although these walls are quite thick, this doesn’t mean that they don’t give a clear view of the inside.

These tanks also have a built-in overflow box in which you can set up a filtration system for your turtle.

This aquarium has a simple black background this is made of vinyl sheets and can be switched to some other color if you want.

It is possible to hang lights in the aquarium, as it has an open top which makes it easier to install lights.

The aquarium is very heavy, so you may need a helping hand when bringing it inside your house, also consider buying a strong table on which you are going to place this tank.

Tera 55-gallon aquarium kit.

River Cooter Turtle Tanks
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If you plan on owning a single river cooter only, then this tank is a good option, it has everything you may be looking for in a turtle tank.

Another reason why this tank proves to be one of the best tanks for your turtle is that it comes with a heater. It also has a thermometer, water conditioner, and a pump.

This tank is secure and weighty. although, it is not as clear as the SC aquariums, they provide a good enough view.

These tanks are scratch-resistant and, Its double-hinged top is one of the nicest features. This eliminates the need to open or remove the top in order to clean, access your turtle, or refill food and water. To reduce evaporation, you may also keep the opposite side of the tank closed while the lighting system can be maintained on the other side.

Another amazing fact about this tank is that it is double-hinged, so you do not have to make the effort of opening the whole to feed your turtle.

To reduce evaporation, you may also keep the opposite side of the tank closed while lighting one side.

As compared to acrylic tanks, these tanks are heavier.

Runner-Up: Landen Rimless 60-Gallon Turtle Tank

This tank is very elegant and sleek, regardless of their elegance, they are very durable and strong, adding to this the turtle tank is sixty gallons big this is a good enough size for river cooters.

The enclosure is 35.4″ x 19.7″ x 19.7″, but because of the absence of seams, it seems considerably larger. The corners properly align with one another and highlight the aquarium’s decor. This tank’s depth offers plenty of space for substrate and plants.

This Landen Rimless 60-Gallon Turtle Tank has four walls made of transparent, 10-millimeter glass and a seamless design.

The glass resists gouges and nicks effectively and can withstand a turtle’s scratching. Out of all the tanks we looked at, the glass clarity is the greatest.

Some individuals might not like the simplicity of this tank because you have to put up all the equipment yourself. But we discovered that it gives you a strong foundation from which to innovate.

This tank does not come with any equipment, so you will have to invest in buying them separately.

Other Essentials for Your Tank

Substrate and Mud

The river cooters must have some sort of substrate of, sand, silt, and mud in their enclosures in which they can dig and remain for some months in their dormant stage.

The area of the substrate should occupy roughly 25% of the tank’s surface.

To keep your turtle from fleeing, the top of the tank should be 10 to 12 inches above the ground.

Give your turtle access to a land area where it may emerge entirely from the water. This can be a floating turtle dock, a log, or a rock. Make sure it is large enough and has a slope so your turtle can climb out of the water onto it.

Plants and Decorations 

Add aquatic plants and pebbles to decorate the enclosure such that it mimics the natural habitat of the river cooters.

If there are intentions to breed river cooters, decorations like driftwood should be kept to a minimum because breeding calls for additional open areas.

Although plants are not necessary, However, some people believe that giving your young turtle a more natural setting would reduce stress. Additionally, by absorbing contaminants and fighting with algae for carbon dioxide, aquatic plants will keep your aquarium clean. Just make sure the plants you choose match the species of your turtle.

Anacharis – grows effectively in low light conditions and prevents the formation of algae. Suitable for mud and musk turtles, It will be destroyed by aquatic turtles that eat plants, such as sliders, cooters, and painted turtles.

Turtles often avoid eating the stiff leaves of the Java Fern, a resilient plant with minimal light requirements.

Turtles often avoid eating the resilient, low-light moss known as java moss.

Hornwort is a branching plant with thin leaves that forms floating carpets. They will consume part of it, but it can handle low light and develops swiftly enough to coexist with sliders, cooters, and painted turtles.

Red Ludwigia – A hardy plant that turtles may uproot from the substrate where it is planted, but they won’t consume, requires more lighting (2 watts per gallon). Excellent for little turtles like painted, mud, and musk.

Turtles won’t consume the tough, low-light Anubias species of plants.

Cryptocoryne species – These robust, low-light-tolerant plants must be placed in substrate since uprooting them causes them to suffer. They do best in big cages with smaller turtles.

Aponogeton Ulvaeus is a tough plant that can withstand low life and won’t be eaten by turtles. 

Basking Spots and UVB Light

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River cooters bask in the sun, this is almost like sunbathing that humans do. Cooter turtles spend the majority of their time basking on warm stones, basking is very important for these turtles hence, you must provide them with a basking spot within their enclosures. 

A basking spot can be a log or some big stone on which the turtle can climb, also note that the basking spot must get direct sunlight from outside, so you can keep the aquarium near the window, or an alternative to this is to install UVB lams within your turtle tank.

The turtles need UVB light to obtain vitamin D from it, if they can not get natural sunlight from the sun. Vitamin D protects the turtle from metabolic bone disease as well, another advantage of the UV lights is that they radiate heat which helps in keeping the temperature warm for the turtle.

In order to mimic the natural day cycle for the turtles, you must turn the lights on for at least 12 hours during the day and turn the lights off for 12 hours at night.

Temperature Requirement and Heaters.

 The optimal temperature for these turtles, native to warmer climates, is 80 degrees Fahrenheit. No more than 90 degrees Fahrenheit is permitted.

By maintaining a thermometer inside the cooters’ tank, you can monitor the temperature,

Remember that the water should be 75 degrees and the sunbathing area should be 80 degrees. To keep this temperature, you can keep heat lights.

While buying a turtle tank, you must keep in mind that your tank should be able to retain the optimum temperature for the survival of the turtle.

Since turtles can’t control their body temperature, you’ll need to install a water heater to maintain their water at the right temperature for them.

River cooter turtles will require water between 78° and 82° F.

In order to prevent turtles from breaking the heating cover, make sure it is made of metal or plastic.

To heat the water more evenly and in case one break, think about using two heaters.


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The river cooter turtles are a little messy when it comes to the water in which they swim and eat, the river cooters discharge their waste in the water they swim and eat in,, so you need to have a proper filtration system.

Without the filter, the water becomes very filthy and can also cause many health problems to your River cooter.

A filtration system keeps the water clear and free of hazardous pollutants, and a lighting system encourages the development of living plants.

A good filter doesn’t cost you a lot either.

Even with a filter, you’ll still need to replace all the water every 10–14 days and change some of it every 2–5 days.  There are specific fish tank filters designed for turtle tanks, but you may also use one as long as you pick one that is rated for 3–4 times the volume of your tank. It won’t be able to keep up with your turtle’s mess if it doesn’t.

There are four major types of filter that you can choose from, they are: 

Internal Aquarium Filters:

These are too tiny to serve, as the main filter for aquariums more significant than 20 gallons. They typically connect to the side of the tank using suction cups. To assist the water flow, you may use them in bigger tanks.

Canister Filters:

The finest filters for turtle tanks are canister filters, which often attach beneath the tank and offer excellent filtration while frequently employing a UV light sterilizer to kill germs and algae. Once more, you should choose one with a 3–4 times tank volume rating.

Hang on Back Filters:

Filters that hang on the back (HOB) are made to be placed near the water in a fish tank. For these filters to work correctly in a turtle tank, which has water that is lower than a fish tank, you will require a filter cutout or a spot where the glass is cut lower than the rest of the top of the tank. You’ll need one that is rated for 3–4 times the volume of your tank once again.

Under Gravel Filters (UGFs):

Backward flow The bacteria in the gravel can assist filter the water when it is pumped up through the tank’s gravel by UGFs. They should be utilized with a gravel substrate of 2 inches of rounded pea gravel for best results. Large food particles must be netted out frequently since they cannot be filtered, and since they are buried under gravel, cleaning them is more challenging.


While setting up for your River cooter, take these mandatory steps.

Fill the tank to a depth that allows diving with tap water. In general, this should be twice as deep as the shell’s length.

After filling, filter tap water to eliminate chlorine and chloramines with a fish-friendly dechlorinator.

Include the necessary tools, such as the heater for the aquarium, the pump, and the filter.

The next stage is to cycle the tank following the start-up of the pump and heater.

Install the lights and the bulb for the sunlamp while the water is circulating.

Keep an eye on the water and air temps to make sure they continuously stay within the desired range.

Add your turtle once the tank has cycled.

For the first few days, keep a close eye on them to check for any health concerns.

Now you may wonder what tank cycling is, here is a short explanation of what tank cycling is.

Tank Cycling 

Cycling is the process by which microorganisms transform the poisonous ammonia in turtle excrement. This ammonia is transformed into the far less harmful compounds nitrite and nitrate.

Add a tiny quantity of turtle food to the water to get the cycle going. An aquarium testing kit must be used to check the ammonia, nitrate, and nitrite levels in the tank once every day.

You should observe a significant increase in ammonia levels, followed by an increase in nitrates, within a few days to two weeks. This indicates that the waste is starting to be broken down by the bacteria as they start to multiply in the filter. The amounts of ammonia and nitrate should fall to zero after many weeks.

Following a cycle, your tank should maintain the following levels for five days:

Ammonia concentration should be 0 ppm.

Nitrites that are less than 0.5 ppm.

Nitrates that are less than 40 ppm.

Although it takes time and effort, cycling a sizable cage is essential for your reptile’s wellbeing.


Now that you have a concept of tank cycling and how to set up your tank, you will be able to learn how to maintain its cleanliness easily.

Cleaning after river cooters is very important, you may think that the river cooters don’t require any grooming, so they don’t require a lot of cleaning either, well no, the river cooters tank must be cleaned very often even after installing filters.

A filthy tank is indicated by cloudy water. Infected germs can be introduced to your turtle in dirty aquariums. This is detrimental to their health and raises the possibility that you and your pet might contract salmonella from each other.

A turtle’s water may be kept clear by doing regular water changes, eliminating uneaten food, and employing a strong pump.

Cleaning your turtle’s tank is simple if you get into the habit of doing it. 

Remove any uneaten food, empty and replenish any water bowls, if any, and scoop out any obvious waste each day.

 Replace 25% of your aquatic turtle’s water each week with tap water that has been treated with a water conditioner.

 Testing the water’s ammonia and nitrite levels is also a good idea at this time. Deep clean your turtle’s tank once a month.

Cleaning the aquarium’s contents from top to bottom and changing the pump filter is part of this longer and more complicated operation.

Never use fresh water or soap to rinse the filter media since doing so will eliminate the good bacteria. Only every three to four months should the filter need to be completely replaced, if you have a powerful enough pump.

Remove any pebbles and ornaments and wash them with white vinegar or a 1:10 bleach/water solution.

A thorough water change and tank cleaning are required if there is a strong odor or a change in the color of the water.

The pH of the water, which gauges its acidity and alkalinity, should range from 5.5 to 7. To ensure you are keeping the right pH levels, purchase a pH testing kit from your local pet store and test your water every 4 days for the first month or two.

You should prepare your cleaning products in advance, and do so away from places used for food preparation. Use a disinfectant made specifically for turtles from your local pet store, or create your own at home by combining 12 cups of bleach with 1 gallon of water.

 Other items are :

  1. Sponges Scrapers (like a putty knife)
  2. bowls for both rinse water and dishwashing water
  3. Towels or tissues
  4. garbage bags
  5. a bowl of rinsing water and a spray bottle or bowl of disinfection solution.
  6. a sizable container for soaking pebbles, fake plants, and your turtle’s habitat

Here is a detail of how to clean your turtle tank :

 You will first need to remove your turtle and place him in a separate area. A bucket with enough water from his tank to cover him will work fine. You will then need to clean the tank, land area, substrate, and any other surfaces (i.e. the water heater). Use a tub or bathroom sink, not your kitchen sink, to avoid contamination

Remove and unplug all electrical equipment, including the water heater, filter, lamp, etc.

Use soapy water and a disinfectant spray to clean the surfaces of any electrical equipment used underwater. 

Thoroughly Rinse.

Get rid of the land feature. It should be washed with soap and water and given a 10-minute soak in a disinfectant. After that, thoroughly rinse.

Take the substrate out. It should be cleaned with soapy water and given a 10-minute soak in a disinfectant. After that, thoroughly rinse.

Use a sponge and soapy water to clean the tank. 1 part bleach to 9 parts water is the recommended disinfection ratio. Let it settle for 10 minutes. Completely rinse after you are done draining all of the gunky water out.

Refill the tank with everything new. Before putting your turtle back in his tank, check to make sure the water is at the right temperature.

You prevent catching illnesses like salmonella, make sure to use gloves or wash your hands completely after.

Problems You May Come Across and Their Solutions.

Some problems faced by owners of turtle tanks are 

  • Not cleaning as often.
  • Not using an efficient filter 
  • Small tanks
  • Using vivarium or terrariums 

You may overcome the cleaning problem by cleaning at least once a week and doing spot cleaning.

Sometimes the owners do install a filter but it’s not effective enough, so make sure to get the right filter for your turtle tank.

A major problem faced by turtle owners that becomes a root of other problems is not having a big enough tank for your turtle. When your tank is small the water becomes dirtier more easily due to the capacity of water the tank hold being less.

Get a big tank of at least sixty gallons.

If you are vivariums or terrariums for your turtles you must instantly switch to an aquarium, vivarium and terrariums are not meant to be used for river cooter turtles. The river cooters need a lot of water in their enclosure, vivariums and terrariums can not hold a lot of water in them.


River cooters make amazing pets, these magnificent creatures come with a few responsibilities that are easy to tackle. 

River cooters are one of the most often bought aquatic pets, there is a variety of aquariums that you can choose from according to your taste and desire. It is advised to buy a big tank as this turtle grows to quite big sizes. The bigger the tank the better.

 These turtles also need filters in order to survive, you get four options in this too, they are internal filters, under gravel filters, canister filters, and hang-on filters.

These pets are really fun to take care of, you must clean their tanks as often as you can. 

River cooters also require heaters if you live in colder countries, and a basking spot with a UVB light or direct sunlight is very important for the proper growth of river cooters.


Can you keep two river cooters in a 150 gallons tank?

Yes, you can keep a river cooter in a 15-gallon big tank, these tanks are big enough to provide your River cooters enough place to swim and move around, so it is very unlikely that they fight.

We recommend that you get an SC 150-gallon turtle tank, as they are very strong and durable as well.

Are turtle tanks safe for a house that has toddlers?

Yes, these tanks are safe and strongly built, just make sure to place them somewhere high so that your toddler does not hit the tank.

How often do I change the UVB lam for my turtles?

Ideally, you should change the bulb at least once every six months, in case one fuse before six months then you should buy a new one.

Can I leave uneaten food in the river cooters tank?

No, do not leave the uneaten food in the tank thinking that the filters will keep the enclosure clean. Remove uneaten food right after your river cooter is done eating as old food causes the growth of harmful bacteria and your turtle may consume this food when it rots, which can lead to health issues.

Should I install a water heater in my turtle tank?

You should install a water heater in your tank so that you can maintain their ideal enclosure temperature at all times however, if your enclosure maintains the ideal temperature without the heater, then you can skip this part.

Does my filter need to be cleaned?

Yes, your filter must be cleaned regularly, regular cleaning makes the filter work for a lot longer. If you do not clean the filter, it likely stores a lot of gunk in it and is working.

Do I need to buy a new tank as my turtle grows?

Yes, you will have to get a bigger aquarium as your turtle grows, you should make a one-time investment and buy a big tank when you get a river cooter, so you do not need to switch to a bigger one over and over again.

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