Habitat Construction: Aquatic Terrarium

Half the fun of reptile and amphibian keeping is building their environments to be as natural as possible*—so let’s get building!

Materials you’ll need:

  • Aquarium and stand
  • Non-toxic silicone aquarium sealant—to affix rocks or “furniture” in place
  • Substrate materials (large rocks, gravel is optional)
  • Filters and air pumps
  • Heater
  • Glass partition if needed
  • Plants (optional)
  • Tank “furniture”
  • Water conditioner
  • Top screen
  • Lighting
  • Adhesive thermometer

Building, step by step:
  1. If you have a very large aquarium, make sure your selected floor space can bear the load and is located in an area with access to water, as turtles need frequent large water changes. Then, place the aquarium on the stand.
  2. Wash everything—the inside of the tank, all substrate, rocks, driftwood, “furniture,” and gravel/river rock (if building a turtle habitat, a mostly bare bottom tank is easiest to keep clean). Be sure all dust and dirt has been removed. Use plain water without any soaps or cleaners, as they will adversely affect your pets.
  3. Using a non-toxic aquarium sealant, secure rocks and other “furniture.” Allow 24 hours for sealant to dry.
  4. After the sealant has set, place the clean substrate in the tank.
  5. If you’re using a partition to separate a land area from water, put it in place and anchor it with clips (available at aquarium stores). Seal the bottom and sides of the partition with silicone.
  6. Half fill the aquarium with dechlorinated water. Use a high quality product like Tetrafauna AquaSafe® for Reptiles to neutralize harmful tap water chemicals.
  7. Push non-anchored driftwood or other accessories into the gravel.
  8. Add plants (optional, as turtles tend to destroy live plants).
  9. Fill the tank the rest of the way, pouring slowly into a cup or a cupped hand to avoid disturbing the gravel or the plants. Dechlorinate using Tetrafauna AquaSafe® for Reptiles.
  10. Arrange heaters and filters.
  11. Add floating plants. Add terraces or floating platforms for your critters to rest and bask upon.
  12. Add the top screen, making sure it fits securely. Arrange any heaters or lights on the screen.

In addition to Aquatic Terrariums, the most common types of environments for reptiles and amphibians include Semi-Aquatic, Woodland, and Desert. To learn more, or to see step-by-step instructions, just click on the links.

*As always, we encourage you to do as much research as you can before you purchase your reptile or amphibian. Especially regarding temperature, feeding, and lighting requirements—each living creature has its own specific needs.

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