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You are here: myPetSmart.com > Pet Care Library > Articles > Semi Aquatic Set Up

Semi-Aquatic Set Up


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The basics

Semi-aquatic reptiles and amphibians such as water turtles, firebelly toads, newts and salamanders need an environment that has water deep enough for swimming and full-body soaking, as well as dry land areas for basking.

Body heat
Reptiles can't create their own body heat, so their homes must provide a source of heat for basking, with cooler areas available to help them regulate their body temperature (this is called thermoregulation).

Feels like home
For your pet's comfort and security, you'll want to make his home as much like his natural habitat as possible.

Things to remember

In addition to the initial cost of setting up the home, remember that there will be ongoing costs for your pet's food, veterinary care, electricity and other needs.

Adult size
Choose a home that will accommodate your pet's full adult size.

Be sure your pet's home is secure with a tight-fitting lid. Allowing your pet to escape could cause serious injury.

Safety & cleanliness
Please remember that all pets may bite or scratch, and may transmit disease to humans. Keep your pet's home clean and wash your hands before and after handling your pet or cleaning his home. Infants, young children, pregnant women, people with compromised immune systems, and the infirm or elderly are at greater risk of infections and should use caution when in contact with the pet or its habitat. Consult your doctor for more information.

Lighting & heating

Daytime lighting
Use a daytime UVA/UVB light up to 12 hours a day to help your pet process calcium.

Daytime Heating

  • Aquatic turtles use a basking spot lamp to create a basking area at the opposite end of the home from the water area. Leave on for up to 12 hours each day.
  • Amphibians - they don't bask, but they do require appropriate habitat temperatures

Nighttime lighting*
If the temperature outside the habitat is less than 60° F (16° C), use a specially-designed nighttime heat lamp to provide heat without visible light.

Water & temperatures

Your semi-aquatic pet needs a water area large enough for swimming and full-body soaking. Depending on the pet's size, it can be as simple as a large water dish; change the water daily or as needed to keep it clean. A larger pet requires a deeper, more extensive water area; use an underwater filter to keep the water clean.

While requirements vary by species, general temperature guidelines for semi-aquatic reptiles and amphibians are:

  • Water - 65-75° F (18-24° C)
  • Night - 60-70° F (16-21° C)
  • Basking - 80-95° F (27-35° C) (for reptiles)
  • Use an aquarium thermometer to monitor water temperature
  • Place additional thermometers at each end of the home to monitor air temperatures

Be sure the home is well-ventilated to help your pet with thermoregulation. Use a screen top lid on the home to encourage proper air exchange.

* Requirements vary by species. Please see your pet's custom Care Guide for specific details.

Furnishing the home

Use an appropriate size glass or plastic terrarium.

Your semi-aquatic pet needs a home with land and water areas. You can create this environment by:

  • Furnishing the terrarium with a water dish large enough for full-body soaking
  • Creating a divided terrarium with a water side and a land side. Be sure to create a gradual incline that allows your pet to get in and out of the water easily. Use small underwater filter to help keep the water clean, and a submersible heater (if needed), to keep the water at the right temperature.

Line the land area of the home with smooth aquarium gravel.

Basking areas
Use smooth, flat rocks or natural or artificial logs to create basking areas for reptiles. These should bring your reptile closer to the basking lamp for warmth.

Artificial or appropriate live plants provide shade, shelter and add a natural look to the home. Consult a reptile book for a list of non-toxic plants to use.

* Requirements vary by species. Please see your pet's custom Care Guide for specific details.

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