Terrapin and turtle information and care sheets


Electrical safety

First and foremost, before even positioning your tank, you will need to ensure that there are sufficient, safe electrical outlets available for all of the equipment that you'll need. At the very least, you'll need two sockets, one for the filter and another for a MVB. If you start adding extras to the tank though such as separate UVB and heat lamps, air pumps, heaters, and additional lighting, then you will need more sockets and we suggest that you purchase a surge protected power strip. Any live electrics which are around water should always be protected by a RCD (residual current device), also called a GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) in the US and Canada.

This will trip at a much safer 30mA if there are any faults in the circuit (such as it getting wet) rather than needing the fuse, or main circuit breaker(s) to trip. While modern consumer units will have a built in RCD, it is always best to have a separate one for the tank itself so that not all of the sockets are turned off if there is a fault. You can purchase plug-in versions, or ideally you can also purchase complete replacement wall sockets for the job which are more convenient, and even safer if installed by a competent electrician.

In addition to an RCD, it is also advisable to mount the power strip (if used) to the stand, either onto a shelf (if it has them) or an upright, making sure that the cable drops before coming back up to be plugged into the power strip, creating a "drip loop" in the cable. This way any water that does run down the cable will drip from the lowest point rather than running down into the plug, making the installation even safer.

Tank and stand safety

Before you decide on a good place to position the tank, you consider not only whether the floor is going to be strong enough to take the weight (not usually a problem for small to medium tanks), but also whether the floor is level, and whether the stand you are going to be using is up to the job. While it is perfectly possible to build your own stand, or use an existing piece of furniture, it is important to make sure the base is stable, and also that the weight of the water (one litre weighs one kilogram) is fully realised. A large tank can also weigh in excess of 100kg when empty, so that pushes a 700L tank to over a tonne in weight once full, and if the floor or stand isn't up to the job, then you could end up with a very wet floor!

If you are planning on building your own stand, then the type of tank should be considered as US tanks (such as Rena and Fluval) only need the edge of the bottom to be supported, whereas European style tanks need the entire bottom of the tank supporting, and should have a piece of polystyrene between the tank and stand for safety. Weight has already been mentioned, but it is also important to have the weight evenly distributed with adequate supporting uprights, but also lateral braces to prevent "picture framing".

Lighting safety

In addition to electrical safety, you must also consider the safety of the lighting installation, especially when mounting heat lamps, and even more so with MVBs due to the heat and UV levels which they produce. While working on the tank (such as cleaning), UVB lights should ideally be turned off, especially if you are working in very close proximity to them as they can potentially cause "sunburn" as if you were sitting outside on a hot summer's day, especially so with MVBs. When mounting any heat lamp, you should ensure not only use a correctly rated socket (ceramic for MVBs), but equally the correctly rated cable. You must also mount them securely, as if they were to fall, they could cause injuries to your terrapin, or potentially cause a fire.

General safety

In addition to specifics, general care is needed when setting up the tank, not only to ensure that it is safe for you and your turtle, but also escape-proof. This is especially important when considering how far to fill the tank, and you may also have to consider making it "predator" proof if you have other pets such as overly-inquisitive cats or dogs. If you decide on an outdoor pond, then you will have to be even more careful to ensure it is escape proof due to them being non-native species, and also make sure that the pond is safe from predators such as cats, badgers, and for small terrapins, herons. You might be surprised just how good terrapins are at climbing, especially shallow water species like muds and musks, so always go for "better safe than sorry" as a high fall could cause some serious injuries!