Can I Keep a Turtle in a 10-Gallon Tank?

Many first-time pet owners decide to go with turtles as they’re relatively affordable, low-maintenance creatures.

As turtles are relatively small, many first-time turtle parents are also under the impression that they’ll only need a small 10-gallon tank for their habitat.

However, we’re here to tell you that you’ll almost certainly need to go with a larger tank for your turtle. 

Now, if you’ve just purchased a hatchling turtle, then a 10-gallon tank should be fine.

However, once they start to grow into adulthood, you’ll need to purchase a larger tank for them to ensure that they’re comfortable, happy, and healthy. 

In today’s post, we’re going to take a look at some of the most commonly asked questions regarding turtles and what size tanks they need.

We’ll also show you how to set up your turtle tank to make sure that your turtle is as happy as possible. Let’s dive in! 

What Size/Gallon Of Tank Do You Need For A Turtle? 

Many people mistakenly believe that a small tank is all you need for a small turtle.

However, if you want your turtle to be happy and healthy, it’s important that you give them plenty of space to swim around and get exercise. 

Ultimately, you want to try to mimic the environment they’re used to in their natural habitat. 

In the wild, freshwater turtles are used to having lots of space in a pond, river, or lake.

When they’re not sunbathing on the banks, they spend most of their days swimming around and looking for food.

Some turtles are more carnivorous (especially the young ones) and like to hunt small fish.

Other turtles (particularly the older ones) like to take it easy and search out aquatic plants.

Either way, though, they’re used to swimming and getting plenty of exercise. 

Turtles are used to having a lot more space than most home aquariums can offer.

For this reason, captive turtles will almost always be a little bit smaller than wild turtles.

However, as a pet owner, it’s your responsibility to make sure that your turtle is as happy as it can be in captivity. 

When trying to figure out what size tank is best for your turtle, the easiest way is to follow this rule of thumb:

Turtles should have 10 gallons of space for every 1 inch they grow. 

With that in mind, let’s take a look at what size tank you need, depending on the size of your turtle:

  • 1 to 2-inch hatchling: 10-gallon tank.
  • 3-inch young turtle: 30-gallon tank.
  • 4-inch young turtle: 40-gallon tank
  • 5 to 6-inch adult turtle: 50 or 55-gallon tank
  • 7 to 8-inch adult turtle: 75 or 80-gallon tank
  • 9 to 10-inch adult turtle: 100-gallon tank
  • 11 to 12-inch adult turtle: 120-gallon tank

Obviously, the larger the tank is, the more it’s going to cost.

For this reason, many people start off with a small 10 or 20-gallon tank for their hatchling turtle.

This size of tank typically costs less than $30 or $40, so they’re fairly affordable. 

If you have the money upfront, though, you may find it easier to go ahead and purchase a larger tank.

That way, you don’t have to worry about setting up a whole new habitat.

The larger of a tank you purchase in the beginning, the less work you’ll have to worry about doing later.

Then again, setting up a habitat can be really fun, so some turtle parents prefer to slowly upgrade to a larger tank every couple of years. 

How Much Do Turtles Grow Every Year? 

Since we’re on the topic, you’re probably wondering,

How much can I expect my turtle to grow each year?” 

Turtles actually grow quite slow, so you may not have to upgrade to a larger tank as soon as you’d think.

They tend to grow at a quicker rate while they’re young, with their growth slowing substantially once they pass age 10. Here’s what to expect:

  • Hatchling to age 5: 1 centimeter per year.
  • Age 5 to 10: 0.8 centimeters per year.
  • Age 10+: 0.2 centimeters per year. 

There are 2.54 centimeters in an inch, which means that you’ll typically only need to add an extra 10-gallons to your habitat size every 2-3 years. Once your turtle is past age 10, they will grow very slowly, so you won’t have to worry about upgrading your tank as often. 

Is A 10-Gallon Tank Big Enough For A Turtle?

As we mentioned above, a 10-gallon tank is big enough for a small hatchling. As long as they’re under 2-inches long, this should give them enough space to swim around and stay active.

(Also Read -> Do Box Turtle Swim)

However, after about 1.5 to 2 years (when your turtle surpasses the hatchling phase), you’ll want to upgrade to a 20 or 30-gallon tank. Keeping a turtle confined to a habitat that’s too small for them will result in them becoming depressed and lethargic.

This, in turn, can weaken their immune system and make them more susceptible to reptilian disease and sickness. 

How Do You Set Up A 10-Gallon Turtle Tank?

So, you’ve just purchased your first 10-gallon tank for your hatchling turtle!

The next step is to set it up and give your new pet the best habitat possible. Here are some tips for how to set up the best habitat possible:

  • Place some crushed-up gravel or coral on the floor of your aquarium. 
  • You can also put a bit of sand on top of the gravel to give them different textures. 
  • Placing some sticks, aquarium caves, or rocks in the tank will give them some obstacles to swim around and a quiet place to sleep. 
  • Only use special pH-balanced water designed for turtles. 


Turtles are reptiles and thus are unable to self-regulate their body temperature. In order to warm themselves up, they need to be able to get out of the water and warm themselves. In nature, they do this in the sunlight.

In captivity, you’ll need to give them a special area of the tank to mimic that action. 

Make sure you create a “basking” area for your turtle. You can usually buy attachments that clip onto the side of your tank that provide a raised area outside of the water for them.

Additionally, you’ll also want to provide a warm heat lamp and a good source of light around the basking area. 

Turtles And Tank Sizes: F.A.Q.s

Here are a couple of other frequently asked questions that we’ve seen and a few answers to them! 

Can A 5-Inch Turtle Live In A 20-Gallon Tank? 

A 20-gallon tank is way too small for a 5-inch turtle. At that size, they should have at least a 50-gallon tank. 

Is A 40-Gallon Tank Big Enough For Two Turtles? 

For keeping two turtles in a tank, the rule of thumb is to provide 10 gallons for every 1.5-inches of combined length.

So, this means that a 40-gallon tank would be enough for two 3-inch turtles. Once the turtles grow any larger, though, you’ll want to upgrade to at least a 50 or 60-gallon tank. 

Can You Keep A Turtle In A 30-Gallon Tank?

Yes! In fact, if you have a hatchling or a very young turtle, a 30-gallon tank is one of the most common starting sizes.

A 30-gallon tank is good for hatching size to 3-inch turtles. 

What Other Animals Can Live In A 10-Gallon Tank? 

If you recently had to upgrade your 10-gallon tank, you may be wondering what to do with it now that you’ve moved your turtles to a larger habitat.

There are a number of small animals that can live in a 10-gallon tank, including:

  • Hermit crabs. 
  • Small fish. 
  • Small lizards.
  • Small snakes. 
  • Small frogs. 
  • More baby turtles. 

Do some research and find out which creature suits you best, thoroughly clean your old 10-gallon tank, and repurpose it! 


The main rules to take away from this article are:

  • If you have one turtle, provide 10 gallons for every 1-inch the turtle grows. 
  • If you have more than one turtle, provide 10 gallons for every 1.5 inches of combined turtle length. 

If you’re in doubt, always go for the larger tank.

It’s very important to make sure that your turtle has enough space to get the exercise they need.

In limited space, they can become sad, depressed, lethargic, refuse to eat, and even become ill.

The best way to make sure they’re happy and healthy is to give them plenty of space! 

Keep reading

Can You Put Moss Ball In A Turtle Tank?

Best Turtle Tank Dividers

How To Fix Cloudy Turtle Tank Water (What Causes a Cloudy Turtle Tank)

Can I Put My Turtle Tank by the Window?

Can Your Turtle Tank Be Too Deep?



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