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Discussion Starter #1
Any recommendations for a grass or moss or something of that sort for a turtle basking area?

I have a 75 gallon tank that I installed a glass divider at one end to make a basking area for my African Sideneck/Helmeted turtle. There is some gravel at the bottom and it is filled with organic miracle grow soil. My original thought was to grow regular grass there for a mini lawn. The grass did grow, but I likely didn't water it as much as I could have. The humidity is usually around 90%, so the grass didn't so much dry out, but it didn't grow great roots either. It's also kind of tough to "mow". I'm looking for something that is relatively flat, can with stand the light from my Fluval 3.0 plant LED aquarium light (although it is not directly over the area), and 12 hours/day of the heat/UVB Hg vapor bulb. I'd like to have it planted to keep the turtle from burrowing into the dirt and to not have him drag dirt/sand/gravel back into the water part of the tank.



 

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I won't discourage you, but you should have a plan B, and the ingredients necessary if your predictions dont keep, in light of the inadvertantly destructive activities of what is a pretty strong knockabout species, that will dig just for the heck of it. Just because they smell dirt.

I use cork, flat rock and slate with turtles and moss grows really good on waterlogged cork shard. Under the heat lamps it stays bare, though it's free to grow there.

Friends I have known have tried to grow grass and it was like you said
 

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I can't think of any specific appropriate plants offhand but I had a couple other comments (and to help keep your post on the current page;) )

It's probably going to be difficult to establish any plant in a location where an animal is already burrowing on a regular basis, or do you have another tank to house him while you let things grow?

If he's burrowing though it probably serves some environmental or psychological need for the turtle. Maybe someone with turtle experience can weigh in.
 

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I hate to say it, but you might be biting off more than a 75 gallon can chew while still appropriately providing space for the turtle. If you're looking for a more natural enclosure, you might have to look into a custom turtle enclosure. An aquarium with a 48x18 floor print isn't going to provide you with the space to do what you're after. Check out some of the pond liner builds people do, basically it's a wooden frame box that's built around a preformed pond liner. Outside of the liner are ground areas that are setup to sustain vegetation and dry areas for turtles to bask or eat.

In order to build what you're talking about in an aquarium you'd have to make sure that the aquarium water cannot leak and saturate the terrestrial portion. Not only would that take away from dry land, but that saturated earth and turtle waste would turn vile. To do this in an aquarium, you'd basically have to silicon a piece of glass in to create that dry area, but with only 48" of length you would be taking a significant chunk of swimming space away. Not only that, turtles claws after a while can and will carve up the silicon and there will be a leak at some point. I've yet to hear of a turtle have a permanent aquarium home.

Just food for thought. Depending where you live and your climate, you might be able to set this enclosure up outside and have it fenced in. Otherwise you're looking at something that's around 6-7' x 4-5' x 3-4' taking up a room and making sure if it's not on a ground level that the floors can support the weight.
 

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I hate to say it, but you might be biting off more than a 75 gallon can chew while still appropriately providing space for the turtle. If you're looking for a more natural enclosure, you might have to look into a custom turtle enclosure. An aquarium with a 48x18 floor print isn't going to provide you with the space to do what you're after. Check out some of the pond liner builds people do, basically it's a wooden frame box that's built around a preformed pond liner. Outside of the liner are ground areas that are setup to sustain vegetation and dry areas for turtles to bask or eat.

In order to build what you're talking about in an aquarium you'd have to make sure that the aquarium water cannot leak and saturate the terrestrial portion. Not only would that take away from dry land, but that saturated earth and turtle waste would turn vile. To do this in an aquarium, you'd basically have to silicon a piece of glass in to create that dry area, but with only 48" of length you would be taking a significant chunk of swimming space away. Not only that, turtles claws after a while can and will carve up the silicon and there will be a leak at some point. I've yet to hear of a turtle have a permanent aquarium home.

Just food for thought. Depending where you live and your climate, you might be able to set this enclosure up outside and have it fenced in. Otherwise you're looking at something that's around 6-7' x 4-5' x 3-4' taking up a room and making sure if it's not on a ground level that the floors can support the weight.
This ^ ^ very much this.
 

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This ^ ^ very much this.
+1

something that's around 6-7' x 4-5' x 3-4
That sounds about right except I bet you could cheat the depth a little. In grad school I had an acquaintance who was a serious turtle guy. Some tortoises, but mostly semi-aquatic Emydids / Geoemydids. Maybe the odd fully aquatic Chelid or whatever. He owned his own house and had a fairly unfinished basement (insulated, rough-plumbed & -wired yes - walls, doors, fixtures, flooring etc no) that was nothing but turtle ponds. It looked like "backstage" at an AZA facility - he was in the veterinary program so was super into top-shelf husbandry. Nothing to look at, but a pleasure to behold for its functionality and also how automated & relatively low-maintenance he had made it.

Anyway mostly his ponds / tanks were on one level, but he also had some doubled-up in height. If one is on the ground, and one is above it up about belly height, it's doable. Especially if the higher one is a little smaller, and doesn't need high opaque sides. The structure to hold the upper tank can hold the lighting for the lower tank, and any plumbing runs for either height.

This guy Cord mostly had livestock water tanks, but also some plastic tubs and a few wood-framed, pond-linered rigs. Some cages were a higher-sided, lined plywood box, with a lower-sided water tank set (like this https://www.tractorsupply.com/tsc/product/behlen-country-round-end-sheep-stock-tank-50-gal) inside it, with a diggable "soil mix" in the plywood box filled up to almost level with the water tank rim. He had zero fish tanks. Zero. His plumbing was AMAZING. Basement full of damp turtles - got stink? ha ha. He did not. Amazing.

Anyway - sorry man. Lose the fish tank, I'd say - at least, as a turlte pen. They just get too big and are too active. But treating them right opens the door to fabulous adventures in crafting and animal husbandry!
 

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I dont have time to frame it in a quote, but leaning toward the function and format of hygiene husbandry really has to be at the forefront of enclosure design.

Luckily basking, swimming and walking are uncomplicated activities to build for.

The Tear/Claw At/Spit Out/ Then Eat, and do it all over again makes for greater putridity in the water due to fragmented and released fluid food matter, than the excrement, so a feeding tub will actually keep the water quality cleaner, no matter how filtered to an extent I cant exaggerate.

As a tie to deficiencies, shell infections and skin ulcers are the the most frequent vet visit occurances with turtles.
 

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+1
That sounds about right except I bet you could cheat the depth a little.
Don't forget you need sides. Turtles are smart and if they have the opportunity to get out, they will damn well try. Might not be to flee from their home, but because they want to explore.

The Tear/Claw At/Spit Out/ Then Eat, and do it all over again makes for greater putridity in the water due to fragmented and released fluid food matter, than the excrement, so a feeding tub will actually keep the water quality cleaner, no matter how filtered to an extent I cant exaggerate.

As a tie to deficiencies, shell infections and skin ulcers are the the most frequent vet visit occurances with turtles.
Something setup like this can easily be setup and plumbed to a drain in a home. To keep up with water conditions a constant (albeit slow) feed of fresh water (if you're not on city water with chlorine) would do wonders for the overall condition of the animal. Not only would you have to go through less overall large water changes, but you can keep the organic content in the water diluted so it it doesn't smell. Only time I had turtles was when I was a kid and my dad brought them home. Fun animals to keep, but if the water isn't kept up it can get nasty in not too long of a time.
 

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Discussion Starter #9 (Edited)
I appreciate all the cautions and warnings etc. My turtle, Sheldon, was found in a back yard in Minneapolis last September, and was not going to survive the winter, so our journey began.

About Sheldon: I have no idea how old he is. He is about 6 inches in shell length. His species usually does not grow more than 8 inches in length, though the longest recorded was 12.8 inches. He is mostly carnivorous and is currently spoiled and refuses anything but live nightcrawlers.
He does have access to anacharis and water lettuce which he has eaten in the past, but none for months now. He doesn't mess with the plants in his tank, (Anubias, java fern, anacharis), which does mean he doesn't make as much of a mess as he could.
He is more of a bottom walker than a full column water swimmer and the recommended water depth for him I am told is 1.5-2x shell length. He doesn't like to work hard to get to the surface to breath and doesn't do a ton of swimming.
He has a vet who is an exotic specialist. She diagnosed him with hookworm and flukes and he has since been cured. He has a heat lamp and a UVB lamp. He gets outside time when it is warm.

He is in a 55 g bow front at the moment and has been for most of the time I've had him. I know he needs more room, thus the 75 g which I've been working on making great for him. , so not much clawing at the silicone, no leaks. Recommended water depth for his 6 inch shell length is 9-12 inches. I have a canister filter on his tank and do partial water changes roughly weekly. He is almost exclusively carnivorous, so doesn't shred the plants in his tank which would lead to a bigger mess. I turkey baster out the poo when I can do make thing last a little longer between water changes.

I DID get a custom cut piece of tempered glass that is siliconed in at one end of the tank (not sure why my pictures didn't show up in the original post), at an angle to maximize land surface area and bottom of tank surface area. It has been installed, with some gravel on the bottom and the rest filled with organic MiracleGro soil, with no leaks for at least 6 months.

I have a glass lid over most of the tank with a small area free of glass for the UVB to shine through. This helps keep it warm enough and contain the humidity a bit so that not all of my windows are covered with moisture in the winter.

I'd love to have an outdoor pond for him at some point, but not practical for 6 months of the year here in Minnesota. I did have him out in a kiddie pool several times this summer with lots of water lettuce and water hyacinths for him to hide under. As far as indoor, I don't have that kind of space right now. 75g is the size that was recommended to me.

In the 75 g tank, I have a Fluval FX4 running on it with the water a little over half full, so am over filtering to make sure it can keep up with the level of waste produced by Sheldon.

Really, the last thing that needs to be done to be able to move him is to have the land area set up. I don't really know how hard he'll try to dig if there is much resistance. He has dug himself into mud in my neighbor's back yard, bu it was cool out and his species does aestivate during the dry season in Africa.

Currently the bottom of both tanks is lined with slate tile so it is "bare bottom" but more attractive, and give his claws a little something to grip onto when he decides he needs to move his custom built basking platform around. Apparently, turtles can eat gravel and get impacted, so that's a no-no as a substrate, Sand is used by some, but discouraged by others.

In the big tank I have a couple of pieces of Malasian drift wood that I have turned into "planters" and have Amazon sword, Crypt wendetti, and anubias growing to give him some privacy screen. I have a couple types of Java fern glued to a piece of fake driftwood, and a good bunch of Ludwigia repens, some attached, some floating, in addition to water lettuce, water hyacinth (which I believe was used by my golden wonder killifish as a spawning mop), duck weed, and java moss.

I have a christmas cactus and a spider plant growing in the land area, and a couple air plants resting on ledges of the background. Determining what land plants are turtle safe and the right size for the space has been a bit of a challenge.

If he does end up digging through whatever I plant, I can deal and I'll have to switch to something else. I just wanted to try and give him a nice land area and I figured it would be best to have the plants established before moving him over.

Current tank:


Future tank:

Sheldon:
 

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I will close input with this, to do with, as you will..

Clean water. With the proper siphon gear to make large capacity replacements.

A Cavern in the aquatic portion. More than one, even better. He should be able to enter and turn around easily. It should be in keeper awareness per size as turtles ( and other reptiles) have been known to get stuck in hides that they have habituated to using for months, or even years, as they continue to grow. A snake getting 2nd quadrant stuck in a fake rock hole, means a towel, a pair of pliers, and a hammer. With a turtle underwater it means a drowned turtle. There can be freak accidents of marginals getting caught just so.

Land areas should have clearance for the turtle to comfortably position, change position and find its spot in thermoregulatory variety.

The best "Plants" for a turtle is that which create overhanging cover - for the turtle. Even if they are fake. A fake overhanging shrub is more valuable to a turtle than a live plant that takes up a temp or light gradient spot, that the turtle wants to use.
 

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Ah, so you already have the tank... If you didn't I was going to at least recommend something like this for you:



That would give you plenty of space to setup for Sheldon to bask as well as to have an actual land area to do whatever with. I've seen some turtle displays with those style turtle habitats where the keepers planted Strawberries and Lettuce so that if the turtle wanted to munch on something green it was there for them to do so.
 

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I like your use of flat rock on the floor, and the pebbles are perfectly sized.

It shows a good sense of where Sheldon spends most of his time, in Warmer water than our temperate species. and though rock bits can be inadvertently ingested by turtles without problems, it is not always the case. In a closed system there can be nutrient seeking behaviors and they can either "over do it" or swallow the wrong rock..

I think you have a good sense of what he needs, and have also a love of plants.

Of every thing said so far, by me who loves to engage with The Engaged, I hope you consider providing a cavern. A Big cavern that you allow to get quite lush and wavy with green at the entrance. This will be the most meaningful artifact for him, next to his occasional haul outside under his lamp.

Thank you for rescuing him. On behalf of every turtle that has ever been dropped off in a bucket or box, with an odyssey similiar to Sheldon. Hopefully as fortunate.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Whatever you do with the plantings, I hope you separate that 110vac fixture from water using a barrier that you trust your life to.
Thus the reason I've been preparing the 75 gallon tank for him. It is not easy to combine UVB, heat, and a lid. The original mercury vapor bulb I had for him was not providing adequate UVB per my Vet's measurements and she recommended the old T8 style UVB bulbs as being the best, but then I had to add heat to the same area.

Now if only I could figure out if there were any grasses, mosses, sedges, or such that would grow well in his basking area....
 

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Now if only I could figure out if there were any grasses, mosses, sedges, or such that would grow well in his basking area....
How about a small area of faux turf? It would be more functional than anything live. You could get two or three pieces and rotate them out for cleaning.

I would think that folks on a turtle forum would have this all figured out. Have you asked turtle people?
 
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I am a turtle person.
I didn't mean to imply otherwise.

A dedicated forum, on whatever topic, doesn't just happen to have one or two people knowledgeable on other subjects; a dedicated forum has a critical mass of people who can check and balance each other, and has a collective knowledge of members X years of experience to draw on.

The current thread is relevant enough given that DBers know a lot about viv plants generally, but since this thread has seemingly come up a bit short of what the OP wanted, the suggestion to look to a more relevant source is appropriate.
 

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I've kept them, bred them, healed them and instructed others on their care professionally since 1981.

Just because a person is on a particular forum means little really.

There are more amateurs gone wild on turtle forums than practically any other reptile genre.

Just sayin.
 

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I answer only to not have some points I feel very pertinent diluted by informational chaos. That is all, honest.
 
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