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Snapping Turtle Enclosure Setup: 5 Important Things To Note

Snapping turtles are very fascinating to keep as pets. But the task of setting up an enclosure for them could be quite demanding. This is because of their rapid growth and eventual huge size.

For them to stay healthy and happy, you need to ensure that you provide them an appropriate enclosure that simulates their natural environment. 

There are basic things you need to know when you are considering setting up an enclosure for your snapping turtle.

In this article, you will learn all you need to know about setting up a snapping turtle enclosure, why you should enclose your snapping turtle, the size of the enclosure as well as some basic enclosure configurations.

Keep reading!

Why Do Snapping Turtles Need To Be Enclosed?

Snapping turtles are not like other pet animals that you can just allow to walk around your home. For one important reason, they are special pets with a unique habitat that may be lacking in your house, and because of that, they need to be confined. 

Besides that, there are lots of other reasons why people should enclose Snapping turtles. The following are some of the reasons:

To Provide An Appropriate Habitat

Reptile animals don’t share the same habitat (environment) as humans. That is why you need to take out a section of your home to make your pet its home, such that it’ll replicate its natural habitat. 

Since they depend on their environment to regulate their body and carry out important activities, ensure you install the necessary accessories in your pet’s enclosure.

For Safety Reasons

For your safety and that of your pet, your snapping turtle should be enclosed. Keeping it enclosed will ensure that it doesn’t stray away and get eaten by another animal or get lost. 

Confining your snapping turtle in a terrarium will also ensure your safety from being bitten by the animal. Snapping turtles snap (bite) at anything they perceive as threats, hence, you may get bitten if you accidentally step on it.

For Privacy

Snapping turtles are solitary animals and would always want to be alone. In the wild, only a single snapping turtle or a few of them occupy a single body of water. 

This is to further explain the fact that they are not usually comfortable being in the company of others or in an open place where they will be seen often. Therefore you have to provide them with a habitat where they can feel secure. 

To Prevent Infection

It is believed that pet animals have a longer lifespan than their counterparts in the wild because in captivity they’re well taken care of. This is true for pet animals that are properly housed under the right conditions. 

But for some animals, it is not always the case because most of the health issues observed in captivity are a result of poor habitat and poor husbandry. A snapping turtle not properly housed is predisposed to infectious diseases and may die. 

On the flip side, snapping turtles are known to be carriers of a bacterial infection known as “salmonella”. This bacterial infection can result in typhoid fever, diarrhea, abdominal cramps as well as food poisoning and can be very threatening to life.

Therefore you have to enclose your snapping turtle to prevent people from touching it carelessly. 

Note: it is very important to wear gloves while handling a snapping turtle, and make sure you wash your hands after taking care of it

To Give Them Easy And Healthy Life

As stated earlier, this involves providing an enclosure that will make them feel they are in their natural habitat. If you must enclose a snapping turtle, then you need to do it right, making sure that the enclosure has all the necessary things it should have.

To Prevent Escape

No matter how nice you have been to your snapper, it will always look for a way to escape. Being a wild animal, your snapping turtle would not want to be kept at one spot.

That is why you should make sure that the top of the enclosure is securely covered with wires strongly knitted together to avoid escape.

a snapping turtle in a pond
A snapping turtle in the wild

How Big Should A Snapping Turtle’s Enclosure Be?

A snapping turtle’s enclosure should be big enough to allow it to swim around, rest and bask on the surface of the water. Also, the size of your turtle would determine the size of the enclosure. 

A baby snapping turtle will need a 10 to 20-gallon tank but as it keeps growing in size up to 7 inches, the tank size should be increased to a 55-gallon tank, while an adult snapping turtle should be provided with a tank size not less than 130 gallons.

The enclosure must have enough freshwater that covers its shell and must be changed regularly. Small rocks and woods for hiding, a UVB light bulb of 60 watts, a heating lamp for ambient air temperature, and an under-tank heater. 

Basic Enclosure Configuration For Snapping Turtles

Building an enclosure for your snapping turtle requires adequate knowledge. You need to know the right size of gallon tank to be used for the size of your turtle. 

You should be sure to provide a hiding place for it. While doing this, you have to take into consideration the water level in the tank for that particular size of your turtle and of course, furnish the enclosure with accessories that would make life similar to its natural habitat.

The following includes the basic enclosure configuration for snapping turtles:

Snapping Turtle Enclosure Size

The size of a snapping turtle’s enclosure should be spacious according to the size of the turtle. A hatchling of 3-4 inches would need an aquarium not less than a 10-gallon tank that should be enough for swimming and some dry space for resting and basking. 

At 5 years of age, your snapping turtle will be 8 inches longer so you need to get a 55 to 60-gallon tank and also expand the dry area where they can come out and have a walk around.

Furthermore, you need to monitor your pet closely and observe when it is beginning to outgrow the initial size of the enclosure provided and start making plans to increase the size of the tank as well as extending the enclosure space.

For an adult snapping turtle of 10 to 18 inches, get an aquarium of about 130 gallons.

The kind of aquarium you want to keep your pet in depends on you. You can choose to go for a large glass vivarium or plastic bathtub. Then create a dry space for an island where Your turtle can rest and bask.

Fencing the enclosure round and securing the top with a wiring harness is a sure way to make sure that your snapping turtle doesn’t escape. It is advisable to use a smooth material for fencing so that your turtle would not be able to climb.


The bottom of snapping turtle tank should be spread with rocks that are bigger in size so that your snapping turtle will not swallow them. Sand can also be used but this usually makes cleaning difficult.

Substrates are not very necessary for your enclosure as snapping turtles can survive without them. However, you can add them to make the aquarium look all-natural. 

In that case, the bottom of the tank should be spread with rocks that must be bigger in size so that your snapping turtle will not swallow them. It will try to pick up and maybe swallow anything it comes across, and this might be very hazardous to your pet’s health.

Most importantly, substrates should be taken out, washed, and sanitized during filtration to keep the water clean and fresh.

Alternatively, sand can also save as substrate to lay at the bottom of the tank, but you will find some difficulty keeping the water clean and also during filtration.


The water in the aquarium should be free from chlorine. You should use freshwater mixed with seawater to achieve the natural brackish water in their natural habitat. 

Although snapping turtles can cope with both cold and warm temperatures in the wild, it is best to keep the enclosure at a temperature of 75o to 78o  F for an adult snapping turtle. While the young snapping turtle should be provided with a temperature of about 78o to 80o F. 

The temperature in the water can be derived from an under-tank heater, while the light bulbs or heating lamp above the water would regulate the ambient air temperature. 

However, placing a thermometer by the side of the tank would help you to know when to reduce or increase the temperature. 

Also, you need to drain out water from the tank regularly at least after every 3 to 4 months to keep it clean and healthy. 

When doing that, make sure that all the substrates and other accessories are taken out, washed thoroughly, and disinfected before putting them back.

While setting up the water area, ensure to use elevated rocks or planks to provide a place where you snapper can rest slightly above the water if it wants to. Your snapper can use this rock to bask as well.

Enclosure Accessories

Sometimes your snapping turtle would want to hide from view or seek some privacy when they feel insecure, especially in an enclosure where there is another turtle.

In that case, you should provide them with hideouts under the water with things such as water plants, a container that is opened at the opposite end, or a broken flower vase.

Your Snapping turtle would love to stay on the water surface and sometimes outside the water completely to get warm, so you should also provide a log of wood or a big rock where it can rest and bask. 

Wrapping Up

Snapping turtles like other pet animals needs to be provided with a habitat that is similar to their natural environment. There are certain things you shouldn’t ignore while setting up an enclosure for your snapping turtle. 

The way you set up your snapping turtle’s enclosure would determine its health status. A comfortable enclosure will produce a happy and healthy snapping turtle, and of course with the right care.

After setting up the enclosure and you are not quite sure if you have done it correctly, you can involve the supervision of an experienced herpetologist or a vet.

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