Evolution of Turtle’s Dock

Hello everyone! Sorry I did not post yesterday. I did not feel well at all and just turned into one big recluse from the world. Today however, I feel much better and ready to share that turtle story I mentioned on Monday.

Ten years ago, I obtained a pet turtle. My college had this forum where people would post events or things they were looking to give away things. Mostly seniors who were graduating and didn’t want to take all their stuff with them. I was browsing the forum one day when I saw an ad a girl posted talking about she obtained a turtle and didn’t have time to take care of it so she wanted to give it and everything she bought for it away to someone who could care for it. I had brought a snake with me to college from high school but it ended up dying so I got excited about adopting a new pet. I contacted the girl with my interest and we met and she gave me everything; a tank, filter, all that cool stuff. When she told me she took the turtle from a pond, I was kind of upset about that.. so in a sense I felt I was rescuing it. I guess he had started in a fishbowl and then she upgraded to a tank but the turtle just wasn’t thriving as much as she had hoped.

So for the first year I had Turtle, he was in a long tank. I bought calcium tablets and some better food than what she was feeding, as well as a UVB light and he started thriving pretty well. Very active turtle. I began to realize that maybe the setup wasn’t enough because he seemed to really want to swim and I didn’t keep him in enough water to really swim plus his dock was just this fancy looking rock:

The above was his setup for years. When I graduated and started working at Petsmart, I came across an awesome deal for a tank and a stand. So I decided to buy it for turtle. This aquarium was more vertical than horizontal and gave him more room to deep dive and swim around. The tank I bought was also a bowfront tank. This made creating a dock a little challenging. I guess I should mention, turtles breathe air. A lot of people think they breathe water, but they don’t. They can just hold their breath for very long periods of time. If you have a pet aquatic turtle, it needs a way to get out of the water and bask in the your simulated sunshine set up for two big reasons. The first reason is, turtles can drown. They need to take a breather from being in the water so long and just being able to swim up top and take a breath is not sufficient enough. Also, they are prone to getting shell rot disease. They need the sun or some type of heat source to shine on their shells to keep them nice and strong and hard. Shell rot makes squishy shells and squishy shells lead to dead turtles because their spines line the inside of their shell.

I ended up doing a little research and came across cork bark as a dock. People buy these huge pieces and cut it just enough that it can be wedged into the tank and the turtle can climb out and bask on it. That worked well for a while but even with a canister filter, the cork bark dirtied the water too much for me to keep up with so I had to come up with something else:

I ended up buying a turtle topper with a plastic ramp underneath. The turtle topper was made to sit on top of rectangular tanks with ease; not bowfronts. So it worked… sort of. I had to keep the tank full at all times and I watched Turtle struggle a few times so I knew that wouldn’t last very long. I went back to ye ole Google and found these tutorials of people making docks out of egg crate that they use for lighting. Egg crate is pretty cheap so I decided to try that avenue. It took a bit of jerry rigging but it ended up working out pretty good for a bit:

Well over this past weekend, the ramp broke. I was pretty much fed up at this point. I figured, you know what, I have a perfectly good turtle topper. I just need a rectangle tank. So I put my clothes on and went to PetSmart and bought a rectangular aquarium for turtle. Ten years later and this is my final, forever, result:

As you can see, he has two main underwater places he can rest on and then when he’s ready, he can climb completely out of the water and into his topper where it’s nice and dry. There are two lamps up there. One is heat only and stays on 24/7. The other one, that’s shining brightly, is  his UVB light which simulates the sun and is turned on in the morning and turned off when the sun goes down. I took this picture shortly after I transferred him into this tank but they’ve dissipated now.

Now I need to decide what I’m going to do with this bowfront tank. Anyone need a fish tank??


13 thoughts on “Evolution of Turtle’s Dock

  1. Amazing job Nel! Although I wonder, the place where u kept the tank isn’t well lighted up by natural sunlight. Is there a reason behind not exposing the tank to natural sun? Or u clicked the pic at night (this would make me a doofus)? Because as far as I know, turtles like basking and tanning in the sun. Please tell me if I’m wrong?


    1. Haha, yes most of the pictures were taken at night. But you are right, turtles like natural sunlight but that’s why I have the UVB lamp. It’s simulated natural sun. It’s like trying to grow plants indoors, you need a light source and they make that in lightbulbs. I used to keep the tank by the window but algae bloom is a huge problem and a pain to clean.


  2. I have to congratulate you for keeping a water turtle so well. I caught a red eared slider once that was crossing a busy road but took it to a pond and released it. We have a restaurant at our boat dock and when you come out on the dock there are always red eared sliders that want someone to throw them a snack. I noticed lots of people throw them french fries so they are probably the only turtles in the world with high cholesterol.
    I have had several different box turtles or land terrapins over the years and have kept them for varying amounts of time. I always released them back during the spring so they would have time to re acclimate before cold weather. The last one we caught and kept from one spring to the next and my husband painted Leave Me Alone on his shell. My husband is weird like that sometimes.
    Again kudos for making such a wonderful forever home for a water turtle. That has been much more of a challenge than simple land turtles and you are the queen for caring so much for him.


    1. Aww thank you! I thought about releasing him back in the river a few years ago but he’s so acclimated to being fed by a human that I just couldn’t. It took me 7 months to get him to eat live fish so that alone convinced me that he probably wouldn’t have survived very well if I put him back in nature. He’s a cutie pie and I definitely care about him a lot. The things you do for you pets eh??


  3. What a dedicated turtle mom you are! Turtle is very lucky to have you. A few years ago I caught a small snapping turtle. I was going to keep him a couple of days and then release him back in the pond. Our camp neighbors were teachers and one of them asked me if I would do a presentation for a “Science for Girls” class she was teaching. That meant that I had to keep Snappy for two months before the presentation. He was really fun to watch and his food of choice was scallops. I often wondered if he felt he was deprived when he was released back to the wild. 🙂


  4. Aww I think it’s amazing that you rescued turtle (I see you as rescuing the turtle too). And this looks like an absolutely brilliant setup for turtle!! 😀 This was also super informative by the way. You know so much about animals- it’s amazing!! Also, he’s really cute!!

    Sorry to hear you weren’t well yesterday- but glad to hear you’re feeling better!


  5. I love that you gave Turtle a better life. It’s so comforting. Taking living things from their natural habitat is a pet peeve of mine, but I know some people can’t help themselves. What an awesome set up! I’m still trying to figure out how Turtle gets up the ramp at the top to the next level? It looks like Turtle would need to have acrobatic skills! 🤣💖


    1. Oh yes! Agreed. I was definitely upset that she took it from the river but I just had this feeling I could give it a better life so I took the chance. Its hard not to rescue animals for me, haha.
      I’ll have to video it for you one of these days! It’s as easy as him just walking up cause the ramp is pretty sturdy especially with all that water force underneath it. Next time I catch him going up it, I’ll send you the video 🙂


      1. I think it’s so amazing that you took it in! Such a warm thing to do. I can tell you really love animals, etc. It looks like the ramp is up really high and I was just looking at it trying to figure it out, lol! I think I just missed something. ❤


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