Can Turtles Live in a 10 Gallon Tank? [ANSWERED]

A 10 gallon tank is not big enough for any turtle, no matter how small it is. You should get ten gallons of water for every inch of shell. You should also add at least five more gallons to that for room to grow.

In the long run, I wouldn’t put a turtle in anything smaller than a 55-gallon tank. It’s going to need a pool the size of a kiddy one in about three or four years.

I think the 10 gallon per inch rule is a good general rule of thumb in many cases. However, I’d like to point out that in my own experience, it doesn’t always work that way. The turtle and its tank don’t grow at the same rate.

However, If you ALWAYS follow this rule, your turtle might not have enough room.

When my common snappers hatched, both of them were between 1 and 1.5 inches long. Let’s say 1.5 inches. As long as I follow “the rule,” I’d need 15 gallons of water to do this. Which I don’t believe, because I can put that turtle in a ten gallon tank and only fill it a few inches high, which is about 2 gallons of water.

I can clearly see that that’s enough space for that turtle. “The rule” says that when that turtle is 12 inches long, it will need 120 gallons of water.

Well, my older snapper has a body length of about 12″ and lives in a 300-350 gallon pond outside. In addition, the size of her enclosure doesn’t seem to be getting bigger as the turtle grows.

A 1.5-inch hatchling in a 2-gallon tank had a lot more room to move than a 12-inch turtle in a 350-gallon pond (well above “the rule”).

Those are snapping turtles, which spend most of their time on the bottom and don’t use a lot of space above them. A turtle that swims a lot and needs a lot of vertical space breaks the rule even more.

It would be a good idea to follow “the rule.” A 20-inch snapping turtle only needs a 200-gallon tank. And even though that may be “enough,” it looks very small for a turtle that big.

“The rule” breaks down as the turtle gets bigger. When you follow “the rule,” the size of the tank just doesn’t grow quickly enough to keep up with the turtle.

There is, of course, a sweet spot between “hatchling” and “really big turtle” where the rule is true. As long as turtles don’t get too big when they just lay down, that’s fine. The rule should say something like, “This rule only applies to turtles that are below this size.” 1″ red-eared sliders are fine to keep in a 10 gallon aquarium, but a 12″ red-eared slider needs a lot more space than that.

You’ll have to scale up the aquarium a lot to give it the same amount of space as it needs to be comfortable. Following “the rule” isn’t going to make the turtle’s enclosure bigger as it gets bigger. It will just make it more cramped.

I think that for bigger turtles, you should follow the rule and then double it when the turtle starts to get bigger.

10 gallon per inch: If your turtle in a 20 gallon tank doubles in length, then you need to double the size of the tank. If you want to double a 20-gallon tank, you can double the width while keeping the length and height the same.

One way to look at it is that if your turtle doubles in length, your tank will double in size on that axis too. Turtles don’t just grow in one direction.

In this case, if the turtle has the same length/width/height ratios as before, then a doubling of the turtle’s length is also a doubling of the turtle’s width and height.

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So, the turtle got 8 times bigger (2x2x2), but the tank only got 2 times bigger. The turtle is growing faster than the tank is growing, even if you keep adding 10 gallons of water for every inch that the tank grows. In time, the rule starts to fall apart.

Or my math isn’t right. The answer could be either one, really.

Edit: My math is correct. My findings and conclusions are correct. The length grows linearly. However, growth (size) is volume, which is a cubed increase. A 4″ turtle is not twice the size of a 2″ turtle; it is 8 times the size (volume). A 2″ turtle is 64 times the size of an 8″ turtle.

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can turtles live in a 10 gallon tank

Permit me to suggest that perhaps the tank’s dimensions are more important than its actual gallonage.

1) As in, plan for the turtle’s maximum realistic size. While I am aware that males become smaller as they age, if you are unsure of the turtle’s gender, plan for a female. How large is it likely that a female of this species will grow?

Additionally, plan for a larger-than-average female in case she turns out to be a hefty lady.

2) Conduct a search for tanks that adhere to the 10 gallon per inch rule. As in, if you determined in step one that there is a very real possibility that you will end up with a 12 inch SCL turtle, then begin looking for 120 gallon tanks.

Now consider the tank’s physical dimensions: width/length/height (and, if applicable, weight).

3) Using masking tape, outline the dimensions on your floor. Now, using a sheet of cardboard or newspaper, cut out a fake turtle that is approximately the same width and height as the LARGEST turtle that you are likely to encounter. Within the masking tape, encase the paper turtle.

If that were a REAL turtle, would it have sufficient space to live comfortably within those confines? If this is the case, excellent. If not, I believe you should begin considering larger tanks. Bear in mind the requirements of your particular turtle species, as well as the vertical dimension.

If your turtle’s species does not require as much vertical space, you can scrimp on that. If your turtle species is relatively sedentary in comparison to its size, you can probably economize on horizontal space as well.

However, the critical point here is to consider the unique requirements of the species you have and then VISUALIZE how much space is required.

4) Use the 10 gallon per inch rule as a guideline for determining the FINAL tank size for your turtle. However, you will ultimately have to use your judgment, as the 10 inch rule begins to break down as the turtle grows larger.

If the physical dimensions meet the 10 gallon rule but do not appear to be sufficient to provide a comfortable permanent enclosure for that species of turtle, disregard the rule and go larger. Unless we’re talking about the tiniest turtle species, you should NEVER go LOWER than 10 gallons per inch, except as a temporary measure.

The permanent adult enclosure should NEVER be less than 10 gallons per inch in volume, unless you are dealing with an incredibly small turtle. If the tank appears to be insufficient after meeting the 10 gallon per inch requirement (with a particular emphasis on the needs of that particular species and the physical dimensions of the tank), then the tank is insufficient.

Either start looking at larger tanks or start looking at tanks with more appropriate dimensions for the gallonage.

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5) If you are unable to locate a tank that meets your requirements (in terms of cost, size, weight, and so on), you should begin looking for a backup plan in case you are forced to surrender your turtle.

Sure, you might get lucky and end up with a male who is smaller than average, but don’t bank on it. I’m not saying you should get rid of your turtle if you can’t properly care for it at its MAXIMUM SIZE, but if you realize you can’t properly care for it at its MAXIMUM SIZE, you should probably start considering backup options in case the worst happens.


That is not to say that the ten gallons per inch rule is meaningless. For turtles that reach their maximum size at a relatively small size, it’s probably fine to simply follow the rule and not think about it any further.

However, the rule begins to break down as turtles grow larger, and I suspect that by the time a turtle reaches 12″ SCL, the rule is BROKEN. I strongly advise considering the physical dimensions required by medium-to-large turtles and prioritizing width/length/height over pure gallon capacity.

If you lack the funds or space to say “who cares how big a tank it needs, I’ll provide it,” you’ll want to choose the tank that best meets your turtles’ needs. After all, the ten gallons per inch rule does not take into account the distribution of those gallons within three dimensions.

Certain turtles require greater water depth, while others require less water depth and more horizontal space. Consider the turtle’s physical profile within the tank and try to find a tank that meets your turtle’s needs most efficiently (for example, there is no reason to spend money on a thin and tall tank for a bottom dweller; you would be better off with a shorter breeder tank with a larger horizontal profile).

Ultimately, it will come down to your personal judgment. If you believe your turtle requires additional space, then it does.

Also, is it possible to have too MUCH space in your tank? Or is this pretty much impossible?

Yes, theoretically, it is possible. Again, this is entirely dependent on your turtle’s unique requirements.

However, if there is such a thing as “too much space,” I believe it would be limited to the tank’s height (or water depth). Again, using snapping turtles as an example of primarily bottom dwellers. True, they can swim well, and they ARE found in deep water in the wild.

However, this is because in the wild, they are free to roam and can easily find shallow water whenever they want. That is not true in captivity. Thus, you should absolutely NOT place a hatchling snapping turtle in a ten gallon tank that is already overflowing.

However, even there, the issue is not one of tank size. The issue is that the turtle must swim ten times the length of its body in order to take a breath. The simple solution is to maintain a partially full tank.

Fill it halfway. I suppose it isn’t a matter of there being too much space; rather, it is a matter of space being “wasted.”

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The same holds true for the horizontal dimensions. Theoretically, it is possible to have a tank that is so long and wide that your turtle (even as an adult) will never venture to one end. However, this has no detrimental effect. If your turtle does not wish to go over there, he is not obligated to do so.

However, it may be a “waste of space” in the sense that you paid for unutilized space.

However, larger is always preferable (for the turtle). It may not be better for THE OWNER if doing so results in the provision of unused space that could be better utilized for something else. However, in terms of the turtle’s health and safety, I believe that “too big” applies only if the water is too deep for the turtle to breathe comfortably or if the enclosure is too large to allow for finding the turtle in the event of an emergency.

These animals are accustomed to living in areas devoid of walls. They are commonly found in large ponds and lakes, where they can come and go as they please. In that regard, it is impossible to go too large. No aquarium will ever compare to the lakes and ponds where these turtles live in their natural habitat.

Thus, you can never go “too big” in that sense. Someone who owns a lakefront home may release a turtle into the lake and refer to it as “his pet.” And he might not see that turtle ever again. Not because the lake was too large for the turtle, but because the turtle now has the freedom to avoid encountering that guy in the future.

The short answer is no. You cannot go overboard. If you go too large, the turtle will never use the space. Which does not harm the turtle in the slightest; he will be perfectly fine if he does not fully utilize the space you provided.

can a red eared slider live in a 10 gallon tank

Can a Musk Turtle Live in a 10 Gallon Tank?

Adult turtles need a lot of space. An ideal turtle home would be about 5 feet wide and 3 feet high, so it can’t get out. As far as I know, at least most of them. People who want to keep alligator snappers would have to give them more space and taller tanks.

According to me, there isn’t any turtle in the world at all! If you don’t have at least a 60-gallon tank, I don’t think you should get a turtle. It also doesn’t seem like 60 gallons is enough for me. Getting an electric blue lobster, or “crayfish,” would be better. They’re so cool!

Can a Spotted Turtle Live in a 10 Gallon Tank?

No spotted turtle can live for life in a 10 gallon tank. As far as I’d go, I’d go with a 40-gallon breeder to keep my mud or musk turtle. Even that size is small. The more space, the better.

Can a Painted Turtle Live in a 10 Gallon Tank?

I wouldn’t recommend it.

The turtle will need a dry platform, so the aquarium should be about 1/2 full. That makes the water volume very small in a ten gallon tank. A long 50 gallon tank would accommodate a group of turtles.

Can a Box Turtle Live in a 10 Gallon Tank?

No box turtle can live for life in a 10-gallon tank. As far as I’d go, I’d go with a 40-gallon breeder to keep my mud or musk turtle. Even that size is small. The more space, the better.

Can a Baby Turtle Live in a 10 Gallon Tank?

Yes, but soon enough they have to be in a 30 gallon.

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