Eastern Snake-necked Turtle – enclosure

Spatial requirements

Outdoor enclosures are typically larger than indoor enclosures and can be more suitable for multiple turtles. Both outdoor and indoor enclosures must provide the minimum spatial requirements for turtles. These minimum requirements are based on the maximum length of the shell of the largest specimen in the enclosure and written as L.

For an enclosure containing up to two specimens the following formula should be used:

  • Minimum floor for aquatic components of enclosures: 12.5L2 (5L x 2.5L) with no dimension being less than 1.5L
  • Minimum average water depth: 1.5L

The enclosure must allow all turtles to submerge themselves at the same time.

The enclosure land area must be large enough to allow all animals within the enclosure to simultaneously lie fully stretched, out of the water without any physical obstructions.

It is very important to consider the spatial requirements of turtles when setting up an enclosure. While it is recommended to provide a larger space than the minimum spatial requirements if possible it is also important that the enclosure is not too large for the current size of the animal. This is extremely important for young turtles that have not reached adult size as they need to feel secure in their surroundings.

The general recommended aquarium size for indoor enclosures is 4ft for an adult turtle, and 2ft for baby turtles however the minimum spatial requirements should always be referred to.

Enclosures must also provide enough space out of the water for all animals to lay without any physical obstructions and include a basking area. The basking area or dock must be bigger than the turtle or turtles in the enclosure and be large enough for all turtles within the enclosure to simultaneously bask.

The water area of the enclosure must be big enough for all turtles within the enclosure to be submerged simultaneously.


Outdoor enclosures

Outdoor enclosures must have a solid base and walls to prevent turtles from escaping, provide a water holding area and prevent entry by predators. A suitable base for an enclosure is concrete with solid walls. The swimming area can be created using concrete, a fibreglass shell or a pond liner. The enclosure must be fenced and secure to prevent unauthorised entry, theft and attacks from predators.

Suitable substrates for the floor of the enclosure include soil, aquarium gravel, sand/soil mix, coco peat and leaf litter. Substrates that can cause abrasion or become lodged in the turtles shell such as wood chips, should be avoided. A suitable floor for the swimming area is concrete or rock. The floor from the swimming area to the land area must be sloping to allow the turtles to easily enter and exit the water. A material that reduces slipping may need to be placed on the sloping surface from the water such as astroturf or thin rubber matting.

Indoor enclosures

Appropriately sized glass aquariums are the most suitable indoor enclosures for turtles. The floor of the swimming area should be glass and the floor of the land area can be aquarium gravel, sand/soil mix, or coco peat/soil mix. Leaf litter can also be added to provide a more natural setting. The floor from the swimming area to the land area must be sloping to allow easy entry and exit to the water. A non slip surface will need to be provided on the ramp, e.g. astro turf, rubber matting.


Furniture within enclosures is used to replicate the turtles’ natural environment, provide hiding places, environmental enrichment and to make the animal feel secure. Turtles have reasonably basic furniture needs, requiring a dock or basking area and a hiding place.

The dock or basking area is placed under the heat lamp in the aquarium and must be bigger than the turtle or an area large enough to fit all of the turtles that are kept in the enclosure simultaneously. The dock should be a log/rock or other flat surface raised from the ground and suitable for the turtle to lay on. Specially made docks can also be purchased from stores. The dock/basking area should also be positioned and of an appropriate size to allow turtles to move away from the direct heat source to cool down

The hiding place can be made of a box turned upside down with an entry hole, or hollow log or turtle house purchased from a shop. Hiding places can be easily incorporated into an outdoor enclosure using rocks, logs and other natural features. It is essential however that any objects designed for the turtle to go underneath, are placed on the base of the aquarium or enclosure rather than on top of the substrate to prevent turtles from digging and causing a collapse.


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