Plywood Aquarium for Southern Painted Turtles

Paschendale52

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Hello everyone!

Over the last couple of months I've been working on building a plywood aquarium to house southern painted turtles. I don't know if this belongs here or in enclosures since I don't have the turtles yet, but I thought I'd go ahead and start a thread.

DSC_2063.JPG

It began with the wood, 3/4" birch plywood, cut up at Home Depot.

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I assembled it with wood glue and self-drilling screws spaced about 2" apart. You can see the fit isn't perfect, I blame the Home Depot cutting (only because I can't bring myself to blame me : D). The dimensions of the assembled box are 30" x 30" x 24" high, so this has an internal volume of 84 gallons. I only plan on filling it to about 16", which will be 56 gallons of water.

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Here it is sealed with the glass windows in place. The sealant is Pond Shield epoxy, which is an aquarium safe sealant used in a lot of home built aquariums. The windows are roughly 18" x 27" with rounded edges, bought from a local glassworks for $20 bucks each. The seams and windows are all sealed with silicon. DSC_2118.JPG

No leaks on the first try! This is filled to the final depth of ~16" deep. I bought a CF400-UV canister filter to keep up with the turtles, and a 200W tank heater to keep them warm enough. I will certainly be adding a lot more decorations and live plants (even if they get eaten). I plan on making a basking dock out of large rocks secured to a PVC base with a ramp, as well as elevating the driftwood pieces above the water line so they can dry off on those if they would like.

DSC_2119.JPG

Last picture : ). Just a lower angle so you can see the windows and bracing on the back side to prevent bowing.

Still to do:

fit an acrylic lid to and cut holes in it for a basking lamp. I was thinking a 100W MVB about 12" up, or however high it takes to get a 92-95F basking spot on the rock. A 22" shop light to provide extra light so I can see them, and they can see around in the water. Both lights will be on a timer, probably set to 12 hour cycles.

Obviously its not going to sit in the middle of the floor. I already constructed an aquarium stand out of 4x4's and plywood in the corner of the living room, so I'll need to drain the water and move it to the stand and refill it. Speaking of draining, I still need to drill port holes for easy filling and an inlet/outlet for the filter.

I was thinking of using a bedding or large pond rocks, too big for the turtles to eat, mostly because I've never been a fan of sand, although I'm open to leaving the bottom bare if people recommend that.

I'm sure I'm forgetting something else in the to do list, but I can't think of what right now.

I was planning on getting two hatchling/yearling southern painted turtles from either turtlesandtortoises.com or turtlesupply.com, but if anyone has a compelling reason to only get 1 I am certainly open to that.

Thanks for reading, let me know what you think. : )
 

Yvonne G

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I would never have thought to make an aquarium from wood. I'm certainly interested in knowing how this progresses.

I think two hatchling water turtles would be ok together.
 

mike taylor

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Look on YouTube Yvonne . They show you how step by step . I would like to know the cost of just the tank build . Not lights and filter cost .
 

Paschendale52

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Look on YouTube Yvonne . They show you how step by step . I would like to know the cost of just the tank build . Not lights and filter cost .

I've saved all my home depot receipts from the build, so I can double check when I get home. I had to buy a lot of tools for this, since it was was one my first larger carpentry projects since graduate school started and I don't have access to my grandparents any longer.

In short:

$50 for 4x8" plywood sheet, with relatively little drop
$70 for the pond shield
$10 for the sealant
$40 total for the two windows
$8 for the stain and finish
~$30 for glue and screws

$208 for the aquarium

I already had the plywood for the aquarium stand, but it would be cheaper wood
~$25 for the plywood
~$15 for the 4x4's

rough total: $248 in all.
 

Paschendale52

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Adding in the tools I had to buy, the filters, and what not it is a lot more. But the build itself ended up pretty cheap and easy.

According to customaquariums.com a 30" x 30" x 24" glass aquarium would have been about $550, so I'm doing alright.
I think a large water trough would have been cheaper, but I like the way this looks much better being in the living room.
 

Markw84

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Great build. Congrats on taking on a challenging project.

With turtle I prefer no substrate on the bottom as it keeps the tank much cleaner without the debris getting caught in the gravel / sand / rocks. The filter will work much more efficiently. Because it is more of a show tank, I then will sometimes want substrate for looks - and I go with the small rocks - 1/2 to 1" size. At that size they can still dig and move around the rocks going after food bits settling into the substrate.

I have personal found turtles do much better in small groups. They prefer to stimulate each other to bask and feed. I the wild you will always see backing turtles in groups. Two or three would be good in your tank. Your choice of Southern Painted is excellent - they are amongst the smallest of backing turtles - maxing out a 4 - 6" as adults and pretty easy to keep.

I believe 100 watts it too big for a covered tank. I only use 50 - 75 watts for backing. Probably won't find MVB in less than 75 but that takes care of UVB so would be a good choice.
 

Paschendale52

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Hello everyone!

I've more or less finished the build and am currently just waiting for southern painted turtles to become available from a breeder than you guys as a whole have recommended (turtlesource/turtlesandtortoises). In the mean time here are the complete pictures. : )

DSC_2346.JPG

The water is a little murky due to the wood and rocks, but its clearing up nicely. You can see the stand that I built to match the aquarium with a cabinet for the canister filter, food, aquarium supplies etc.. The fluorescent light is a set of 2 22" T5 14W fluorescent bulbs, while the backing bulb will be a 100W MVB (coming in the mail, it was 2x as much at my local pet store). The lights are hanging from 1.5" PVC bolted the aquarium and spray painted black. There are 2 java ferns that hopefully will be well established by the time the turtles are introduced.

DSC_2345.JPG

Just a slightly closer look, you can see the 3 caves made from clay pots.

DSC_2347.JPG

The substrate consists of large river rocks, the rocks range from 1/2" - 3" or so in size. I'm hoping this will be big enough to mess with without injesting.

DSC_2349.JPG

This is the basking spot, the large piece of bark that is in the previous pictures will be fitted to it to provide a ramp up onto it, as does the piece of driftwood. I can easily adjust the lamp height to maintain a surface temp around 95F at the center. I ended up not going with an acrylic lid because I wanted to be able to see in easily. This means I'll probably have to add ~3 gallons a week to keep the water level where I want it.

To help get the biocycle going in the aquarium I did go ahead and put about 20 white cloud minnows in the tank along with an african clawed frog. The frog will probably not get along with a turtle, but my pet store said they would be happy to take him back in a couple of months when painteds become available again, till then he is just some activity to enjoy.

Thanks for reading, let me know what you guys think. : )
 

hingeback

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Nice work! This is the first wooden enclosure for turtles I have ever seen:D. Did you use normal wood glue or waterproof wood glue?
 

Moozillion

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Hello everyone!

I've more or less finished the build and am currently just waiting for southern painted turtles to become available from a breeder than you guys as a whole have recommended (turtlesource/turtlesandtortoises). In the mean time here are the complete pictures. : )

View attachment 161217

The water is a little murky due to the wood and rocks, but its clearing up nicely. You can see the stand that I built to match the aquarium with a cabinet for the canister filter, food, aquarium supplies etc.. The fluorescent light is a set of 2 22" T5 14W fluorescent bulbs, while the backing bulb will be a 100W MVB (coming in the mail, it was 2x as much at my local pet store). The lights are hanging from 1.5" PVC bolted the aquarium and spray painted black. There are 2 java ferns that hopefully will be well established by the time the turtles are introduced.

View attachment 161218

Just a slightly closer look, you can see the 3 caves made from clay pots.

View attachment 161219

The substrate consists of large river rocks, the rocks range from 1/2" - 3" or so in size. I'm hoping this will be big enough to mess with without injesting.

View attachment 161220

This is the basking spot, the large piece of bark that is in the previous pictures will be fitted to it to provide a ramp up onto it, as does the piece of driftwood. I can easily adjust the lamp height to maintain a surface temp around 95F at the center. I ended up not going with an acrylic lid because I wanted to be able to see in easily. This means I'll probably have to add ~3 gallons a week to keep the water level where I want it.

To help get the biocycle going in the aquarium I did go ahead and put about 20 white cloud minnows in the tank along with an african clawed frog. The frog will probably not get along with a turtle, but my pet store said they would be happy to take him back in a couple of months when painteds become available again, till then he is just some activity to enjoy.

Thanks for reading, let me know what you guys think. : )

AMAZING!!!! :):):)

It must be such FUN to be a able to build stuff like that!!!!
 

Paschendale52

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Nice work! This is the first wooden enclosure for turtles I have ever seen:D. Did you use normal wood glue or waterproof wood glue?

Just regular wood glue. I figured if the water was getting to where the glue and screws were, I'd already screwed up. So far the pond sealant and silicone have kept the water just where I want it. : )
 

ZEROPILOT

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How do you like that Aquatop CF400 filter?
I recently purchased six of them for my fish tanks and got a bulk deal.
I think that for the money, they're pretty great. And those have a Ultraviolet sterilizer. (I don't have mine turned on)
 

Paschendale52

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How do you like that Aquatop CF400 filter?
I recently purchased six of them for my fish tanks and got a bulk deal.
I think that for the money, they're pretty great. And those have a Ultraviolet sterilizer. (I don't have mine turned on)

Well I've only had it running for about 4 days at this point. It seems to work just fine. I'm just using the filter components that came with it, but will use purigen in addition to the carbon filter. Since I'm still starting up the aquarium and had my output well below the water line (no surface agitation) I developed a pretty thick biofilm. After I moved the output above the surface to splash down and disrupt the surface it was gone in a couple hours.

So far so good.
 

ZEROPILOT

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Well I've only had it running for about 4 days at this point. It seems to work just fine. I'm just using the filter components that came with it, but will use purigen in addition to the carbon filter. Since I'm still starting up the aquarium and had my output well below the water line (no surface agitation) I developed a pretty thick biofilm. After I moved the output above the surface to splash down and disrupt the surface it was gone in a couple hours.

So far so good.
I like the sound of the water and it helps oxygenate the whole tank.
 

Markw84

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Great build. I love it - looks fantastic!

Some thoughts...

Don't worry about the turtles ingesting any of the small rocks - not an issue

You may want to put in an aquarium heater. I like to keep the water temps 75-77. Indoor turtles seem to do much better at that than the 68 - 70 I keep my house. I use the heaters that are encased in a protective case over the glass.

With the Mercury Vapor, you really don't need the uv type tubes on your fluorescent. LOve the mercury vapor bulb and bright light. You will probably need to raise it to 15" or so with a 100 watt on a tank. When you need to replace you fluorescent tubes - you can go with cheaper tubes from home depot, but probably want to go with the ones that are more daylight color which are bit more than the cheapest. These are the ones in the 5000K - 6000K range. The standard, cheap bulbs (soft white) are normally in the 2700K - 3000k range. But definitely much cheaper than the UV type fluorescent from pet shops.

With the Mercury Vapor and UV will come algae growing on most things in the water anywhere near it. You might want to put in a small plecostomus to help a little and the turtles will leave him alone. Just will have to trade him in at the pet store every few years as they will grow large. Never had a problem with one with any of my baby and juvenile turtles and the do help on the algae. Could easily go with 2 in your tank.

Painted turtles will eat most any live plants you try to establish in your tank.

Depending upon the wood, the driftwood may tint your water a tea color over time.
 

Paschendale52

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I like the sound of the water and it helps oxygenate the whole tank.

I enjoy the sound as long as it isn't drowning out a movie i'm trying to watch. My fiancee however, isn't a big fan of the noise. : )
 

Paschendale52

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Great build. I love it - looks fantastic!

Some thoughts...

Don't worry about the turtles ingesting any of the small rocks - not an issue

You may want to put in an aquarium heater. I like to keep the water temps 75-77. Indoor turtles seem to do much better at that than the 68 - 70 I keep my house. I use the heaters that are encased in a protective case over the glass.

With the Mercury Vapor, you really don't need the uv type tubes on your fluorescent. LOve the mercury vapor bulb and bright light. You will probably need to raise it to 15" or so with a 100 watt on a tank. When you need to replace you fluorescent tubes - you can go with cheaper tubes from home depot, but probably want to go with the ones that are more daylight color which are bit more than the cheapest. These are the ones in the 5000K - 6000K range. The standard, cheap bulbs (soft white) are normally in the 2700K - 3000k range. But definitely much cheaper than the UV type fluorescent from pet shops.

With the Mercury Vapor and UV will come algae growing on most things in the water anywhere near it. You might want to put in a small plecostomus to help a little and the turtles will leave him alone. Just will have to trade him in at the pet store every few years as they will grow large. Never had a problem with one with any of my baby and juvenile turtles and the do help on the algae. Could easily go with 2 in your tank.

Painted turtles will eat most any live plants you try to establish in your tank.

Depending upon the wood, the driftwood may tint your water a tea color over time.



I have a water heater in there keeping the water to 78 or so. Good call on the algae eater, I didn't think about it growing. The UV400 filter has a UV bulb that is supposed to kill it off, but I've read that it doesn't work with large water volumes and I don't have it turned on either way. The fluorescent bulbs that are in there are the cheap, non-UV ones from home depot. I think the fixture with bulbs cost under $20.
 

Markw84

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The UV filters will only kill algae that is the free floating (green water). They work great for that. Will not stop algae growing on surfaces at all. I also like the UV filters as a sterilizer - killing a lot of bacteria that may get in somehow that spreads as a free floating. BUt you will still have to deal with algae on the surface of things.
 

Paschendale52

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The UV filters will only kill algae that is the free floating (green water). They work great for that. Will not stop algae growing on surfaces at all. I also like the UV filters as a sterilizer - killing a lot of bacteria that may get in somehow that spreads as a free floating. BUt you will still have to deal with algae on the surface of things.

Oh that makes sense. The UV bulb in the filter can't exactly treat the surfaces in the tank. I will pick up an algae eater ASAP.
 
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