Turtles have reached most biotopes: whether sea, land, swamp or freshwater ones. The way you set up their terrarium design must comply with that. When buying juveniles people often forget the size the animals will reach when fully grown and which terrarium size then is necessary. They also tend to forget the great ages they can reach!

Turtles - the most popular terrarium animals of all!

It's fascinating how these rather slow shell carriers have become so popular with children, even in the form of Ninja Turtles! This is most certainly also due to the turtles’ peaceful nature, and tortoises at least can develop a very close relationship to their carers. Because they can live so long, they have decades to form an attachment to their carers, are known by name and become part of the family. Caring for most turtle species is not complicated.

Only very few species grow too large (giant tortoises) or are extremely snappy (snapping turtles). But these species are practically never offered in the trade.

Turtle enthusiasts and children in particular should not be fooled by small, cute turtles when buying them: they grow slowly but steadily and can sometimes reach enormous sizes, which is something you need to consider beforehand. Their final size should determine the size of their terrarium! And don’t forget how old turtles can become. A tortoise will not only accompany the child until the 13th grade, it will most likely outlive the child and then be passed on to the grandchildren!

On the following pages we provide you with all the important information on sizes, terrariums and care conditions. We hope you (continue to) have lots of fun with your fascinating turtles!

Turtle species

There are around 360 living turtle species, 60% of which are endangered. Trade is therefore only permitted in species that have been bred in large numbers or are not endangered.

It is not easy to make generalised statements about turtles. Sometimes even related species differ in their care requirements.

We roughly divide all turtles into water, pond and land turtles according to the conditions in which they are kept. In the case of land turtles (tortoises), a further distinction is made between desert, steppe and forest dwellers. This categorisation gives rise to the first considerations regarding the type of terrarium. Once you have decided on a group of tortoises, the selected species determines the exact requirements for the terrarium.

Due to their size, some species are out of the question. Who has an aquarium the size of a swimming pool or a garden that is completely designed for turtles? Some species are extremely aggressive and are therefore not suitable. Protected, very rare species and species that are extremely difficult to care for are also out. But don't worry: there are still plenty of species that make excellent pets or garden pets and are a real joy to keep.

Caution: Some species are very rare and may only be traded with CITES papers. Before buying, always enquire whether the selected species is legally protected and whether it can be traded!

Gender differences

The sexes of turtles can and should be recognised at the time of purchase. Fortunately, males and females are easy to tell apart: The shape and length of the tail clearly indicates the sex. The males have a larger, often thicker and longer tail than the females, although this can only be recognised at the age of 5-8 years.

Larger male tortoises often have a concave (curved inwards) belly-plate (plastron) so that they do not slip off the female's shell when mating.

In some species, the males are significantly smaller than the females (at the same age).


Tortoises are the most common terrarium animals ever.

They are especially popular with children. Most species can be kept as a couple or as a group. A male with several females is ideal. The gender distinction can be very easily be determined by the tail‘s shape and its length. Unfortunately, tortoises are often kept in too small terrariums. Although a Hermann's tortoise (Testudo hermanni) only grows to a size of 20 cm (length of shell), it needs a terrarium with a surface area of 4-5 square metres for their well-being. The side walls need to be 60 cm high and a cover is recommended too. As a substrate sand-clay mixtures ( JBL TerraSand & clay) or sand-soil mixtures ( JBL TerraSand with JBL TerraBasis ) are suitable. Stones and cork are well suited as decorations and hideouts. Stones need to be firmly glued together to prevent slipping ( JBL PROHARU UNIVERSAL ). It is a good idea to lay out part of the floor with red sandstone. There, the claws of the tortoises get naturally scuffed. A drinking and bathing bowl ( JBL ReptilBar SAND ) in a suitable size is very welcome. The shell care can be done with JBL přípravek pro lesklý želví krunýř . Since tortoises are true sun worshipers, heat and UV-emitting lighting is absolutely vital. Metal halide lamps are ideal ( JBL ReptilDesert L-U-W Light alu (Speciální lampa pro použití v chovu plazů! Nevhodné pro jiné účely! Energetický štítek není nutný. Výjimka podle (EU) 2019/2015 příloha IV 3. c) UV záření > 2mW/klm) ) or UV spotlights ( JBL UV-Spot plus (Speciální lampa pro použití v chovu plazů! Nevhodné pro jiné účely! Energetický štítek není nutný. Výjimka podle (EU) 2019/2015 příloha IV 3. c) UV záření > 2mW/klm) ). Be sure to observe the recommended distance between the lamp and the animal. For the diet of tortoises JBL Herbil has been developed as a staple food. For a change you can feed them with JBL Agivert which you can supplement with hay, fresh herbs, grasses and vegetables. Tomatoes, bananas, cabbage, citrus fruits and meat are not suitable!

Terárium pro suchozemské želvy

Our friend the tortoise needs a suitable terrarium. What is special about a tortoise terrarium?

Socialisation of tortoises

As strange as it may sound, tortoises (forest, desert and steppe species) love solitude. This is especially true for males. Females can be kept in pairs or in a group. But for males, a second male ALWAYS means enormous stress if females are present. Two males WITHOUT females are often fine. A male with several females is ideal, whereas a male with only one female does not work.

Young animals can be kept in groups. This increases their food intake, because food envy is not only found among humans at the buffet!

It is generally possible to socialise different species with the same care requirements. However, there are some pathogens (e.g. mycoplasma) that are unproblematic for some tortoises (Greek tortoise), but really dangerous for others such as Hermann's tortoises. In such cases cross-species socialisation is to be avoided.

Socialising with other animals is certainly possible, but is not recommended

Breeding tortoises

Fortunately, many land species can be bred and are therefore not taken from the wild. Breeding is also vital for conservation projects for endangered species, such as at Turtle Island in Graz/Austria!

It is important to keep the sexes separately or to keep one male with several females in a harem. In this case, however, the males may lose interest in the females as they are constantly crawling around under their noses. The temperature of the eggs determines the sex of the newborn. Around 29 °C would be the right ambient temperature for most eggs. If the temperature is higher, there will be more females. At lower temperature, there will be more males. As more females are needed in the trade due to the higher tolerance of females, it’s best to take this into account when setting the incubation temperature.

Water and pond turtles

The small, active young animals actually delight everyone who sees them.

Most aquatic turtles are not difficult to care for, but they can grow to a size of 30 cm! The aqua-terrarium must then be at least 120 x 50 x 50 cm in size. The water level in the water section ought to be as high as the turtle's shell is long. Good filtering with a large-volume external filter ( JBL CRISTALPROFI e702 greenline ) is helpful to keep the water section clean without having to constantly clean it, but without a strong current. The water temperature needs to be around 25 °C. However, the animals can also tolerate lower and higher temperatures. Unfortunately, aquatic turtles are often released into the wild, where they can survive. However, they lead to massive bastardisation of fauna and can displace the native species! Any substrate that is not sharp-edged is suitable as a substrate for the water section ( JBL Manado , JBL Sansibar River ). It’s fine to let the temperatures drop at night, as most of the species kept do not come from the tropics! In addition to the water section, a piece of land is very important. Many people use a large piece of cork ( JBL Cork Bark ) on which the animals can go to bask. However, it is better to provide a land section with sand, which can also be used for egg deposition. A heat- and UV-emitting lamp is recommended for lighting. Ideal are metal halide lamps such as the JBL ReptilDesert L-U-W Light alu (Speciální lampa pro použití v chovu plazů! Nevhodné pro jiné účely! Energetický štítek není nutný. Výjimka podle (EU) 2019/2015 příloha IV 3. c) UV záření > 2mW/klm) . Even if the animals do not live in the desert, "desert lighting" is useful, so that the full sunlight can reach the turtles on the river bank, which is better than a subdued jungle light. They are uncomplicated eaters and there is a large selection of food available: JBL Turtle Food as the main food, supplemented with JBL Agil food sticks, JBL Gammarus with gammarus, JBL Energil (dried fish), JBL Calcil with healthy calcium and JBL ProBaby , as well as JBL Rugil for young turtles.

Aquatic Turtles like to eat plants! So you’re fighting a losing battle if you want to keep plants in their terrarium. Please feed your water turtles regularly with aquatic plants, dandelion and duckweed. Adult water turtles need more plant food than younger animals. It’s no problem to keep water turtles in small groups. A male with several females is ideal. The gender distinction can very easily be determined by the tail‘s shape and its length.

Terárium pro vodní a bahenní želvy

Swamp turtles you will find in pet shops include: three-keeled pond turtle, Chinese stripe-necked turtle, box turtle (more terrestrial), European pond turtle

Socialisation of water and pond turtles

As with tortoises, female water and pond turtles can be socialised without any problems, as can several males. Keeping a harem with one male and several females also works. Only one male with one female is considered problematic. And young animals can be kept in a group regardless of their sex.

Different species can also be kept together in an aqua-terrarium. Painted turtle and map turtles in particular are easy to socialise.

Turtles may be kept together with fish. Although the turtles would certainly eat the fish, they can’t usually catch them. When keeping suckermouth catfish, it should be noted that they can damage the turtles' shells with their rasping teeth. If the aqua-aquarium is large and high, other land dwellers may also be kept with them.

Breeding water and pond turtles

Water and pond turtles lay their eggs in a sand or sand-soil mixture. This needs to be 26-33 °C warm. With soil, please bear in mind that the animals will drag any soil sticking to them into the water section and contaminate it. Sand is less of a problem. As the turtles always lay their eggs well above the water line due to rising water levels, the sand area should also be well backfilled. The eggs can then be incubated in the incubator.

JBL has JBL PROTERRA BABY, a food specially for young turtles. Supplemented with frozen and live food, a varied diet adapted to the needs of the growing animals is easy to achieve.

The following species of pond turtles can be found on sale: three-keeled pond turtle, Chinese stripe-necked turtle, box turtle (more terrestrial), European pond turtle

Aquatic turtles that are often available in the trade: Trachemys species (banned in some European countries), river cooters, musk turtles, soft-shelled turtles, map turtles, snake-necked turtles

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