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Tator's Setups

Last Updated: 2/5/24

Plastic Tub
20 Gallon Tank
40 Gallon Tank
120 Gallon Tank

This page is not complete yet. It is under construction.

Tator has had four setups so far. The first was a storage tub, then a 20 gallon tank, then a 40 gallon tank, and finally a 120 gallon tank.

Photos of some of the tanks can be seen on Tator's photo page.

Plastic Tub

Tator's first setup was very similar to that of Snappy. You can read about Snappy and hatchling care on my hatchling page.

The setup consisted of the following:

20 Gallon Tank

On 3/4/06, I moved Tator to a 20 gallon glass aquarium. This gave him about 40% more surface area and eventually when the tank was half full, three times the volume of the Sterilite tub. The 20 gallon was 30" x 12". I moved a shelf and table around so that the tank was now up out of the basement and up a level in the house which meant I could use the Python hoses to drain and refill it as I did with my sailfin lizard and four fish aquariums. This also meant I only had to drain Tator's tank once a week without pain instead of breaking my back three times a week to haul it up. I started the water depth at 3" deep but increased it as he grew. I could not make it more than a few inches in the basement, or I could not lift the tub to haul it up for cleaning. In the new setup, all the same supplies were used as mentioned above. I took the aquarium filter bag off the Duetto but the rest was identical. I put in a few small Malaysian trumpet snails. Tator could eat some, or they could help with algae control. They vanished soon after.

By Fall of 2006, the 20 gallon tank was half full of water. I could not add more, or Tator would be too close to the heat lamp. Tator was quickly outgrowing this tank. I planned to buy a 65 gallon for my plecostomus and goldfish and give Tator their 40 gallon tank soon (3/07). If Tator outlived my geriatric sailfin lizard, then he would get her 120 gallon tank (as he eventually did).

40 Gallon Tank

On 4/7/07, I moved Tator to the 40 gallon tank. For details, see the tank redo page. I have not had time yet to put up an inventory and details about his new setup but there are photos on that page.

Regarding his "new" 40 gallon breeder tank, I will add more on the tank inventory and details later (especially about my filter). For now, I will say that the tank setup includes the 40 gallon tank; backdrop; metal mesh lid; ESU combo light with 36" fluorescent Reptisun light, two incandescent daylights, and one incandescent nightlight; 100 W Visi-therm Stealth heater; air thermometer; 350 gph Mag-Drive pump with fountain head aimed across the tank; homemade filter made from filter boxes from work for pipette tips, held together with plastic cable ties; Zilla basking platform; large turtle dock; a few small rocks; and a few things from his old tank like the old baby turtle basking platform and the thing I was using to cover over his heater. The filter has five chambers containing from first to get the water to last - pond filter material, a different kind of pond filter material, carbon in a mesh bag, ceramic beads in a mesh bag, and some bioballs. The pump intake is epoxied (not tightly with pond epoxy) to a hole in the last box. The epoxy soon fell off so the fit was loose and sometimes came off.

120 Gallon Tank

On 3/8/08, I moved Tator to the 120 gallon tank that my lizard Einstein had lived in (she died the month before). I could not find any stable large turtle land areas so I custom made a land area, an underwater shelf, and a ramp between the two. They are made of thick plexiglass with traction tape on it. Some of the tape I got from the people who make turtle ramps while the white pieces are sold for bathtubs. Also, the site http://www.safewaytraction.com sells traction tape but I did not order from them. The legs are 1" PVC. I filled them with aquarium gravel so they do not float. The bottom of the legs have a PVC end cap glued on. The tops are detachable. My father screwed the top PVC end caps in to drilled holes in the plexiglass. The largest land area which is totally out of the water is about 21.5" by 21.5". Since it is a few inches above the water level (which varies depending on where I fill it and how much evaporates), Tator can swim under the land area and breathe. The underwater plexiglass area is 12" by 7". Tator can rest on that with his head out and still be in the water. The ramp is about 16" long by 7" wide. It is attached to the other two plexiglass pieces through drilled holes tied with plastic cable ties. Every two weeks, I cut the top cable ties in order to take out the lower land area and ramp so I can move the large land area and clean the right side of the tank. Otherwise, I cannot reach over there.

The dimensions of the 120 gallon tank are:

The same filter was used as he had in the 40 gallon tank as well as some of his things. I had to aim the filter across the bottom of the tank again as straight up, even under the land area created too much water everywhere. He has a 200 W Visitherm Stealth heater now (now being 2008; it was removed 11/8/12). You can see photos of the setup on the photo page. Each night, I put Tator back in the 40 gallon tank for an hour or two to eat and then back to the 120 gallon tank (I stopped doing that in late April of 2012 partly because Tator was too difficult to catch and move). Then, I net out the uneaten food. The 40 gallon tank was bare except for the Duetto filter and the large turtle dock. Despite being fed in the 40 gallon tank, I would some come to find that Tator produces copious wastes so that the 120 gallon never seems clean. I do weekly 50% water changes and a 100% change every two months. The tank then looks clean until he defecates once again.

There is black construction tape taped to the bottom of the 120 gallon tank (also the 40 gallon tank). This gives the illusion of a solid floor without substrate to clean. I put an air stone on the right of the 120 gallon setup to reduce stagnation as the filter does not seem to be enough.

Tator's Homemade Filter:

1 PondMaster Mag-Drive 350 gph pond pump. Replaced with a Supreme Classic 500 gph pump at some point and another one of those on 1/14/12 after the previous one rattled too much (so does the new one!). I replaced the same pump yet again on 4/10/13 as it rattled and stopped pumping half of the time. I replaced the pump again on 1/3/15 as it was dead.
5 Fisher Brand Pipette Tip Plastic Box Inserts (thrown away at my job).
1 Fisher Brand Pipette Tip Plastic Box Bottom (also thrown away).
Plastic cable ties.
Filter materials.

The five box inserts (plastic box bottoms with grids in them which were holes for the pipette tips) each have a different filter material. The first box has filter material from Aqua-Mart that is sold for ponds. The second box has various filter materials (mostly for ponds). The third box has a mesh filter bag with activated carbon changed every two weeks. The fourth box has bioballs in a mesh bag. The fifth box has ceramic filter media in a mesh bag. At the bottom of those is a box bottom (wherein the inserts sit). The five boxes and box bottom are held together by two loops of plastic cable ties. The box bottom has a hole drilled in it. The intake of the Mag-Drive pump fits in to the hole. The fountain attachment from the pump squirts water parallel to the bottom of the tank from the left to the right.

I tried to find some photos of the pipette boxes I used but could not. Here are some similar ones. I do not know if non-scientists can buy them anywhere (they are not cheap since you are paying for the pipette tips and not the lovely turtle filter boxes!).
Pipette tips in box
Pipette tip boxes

I added a 9 W JBJ Submariner UV sterilizer on 6/12/10 since suspended algae was taking over. I could not even see Tator. I added it after a 100% water change.

The heater began to make a sound like electrical sparking. I unplugged it on 11/3/12. On 11/8/12, I did a complete cleaning of the tank, which I do every two months. I removed the Submariner filter and the heater. Tator does not need the heater. The Submariner UV was a submersible UV, and it always leaked so that the bulbs died every few months instead of yearly. It was too much money and trouble to go through. I finally bought a super expensive alternative even though I have no income at this time. I installed a Coralife Turbo Twist 9W UV. It is powered by an Azoo 600 little pump. I put a filter bag around the pump to keep larger debris out. Tubing runs the water from the pump to the UV and back out the UV. I am afraid of leaks so the UV is mounted inside the tank, at the top, way above the water line. It is held in place by inadequate suction cups and metal wire that I strung out the tank and through the cardboard insulation on the outside of the tank. I did not know when I got it but this UV also has a huge ballast which I tried to mount on the outside cabinet. I had to enlarge the cord hole to allow the ballast in and out so I can remove the lid weekly with tank cleanings. I seem to have replaced one pain for another but at least the UV lamps will not burn out so often. It took me 2.5 hours to do this renovation and cleaning. When I moved Tator to a bucket while cleaning, he was too slippery to hold with one hand from the back of his shell so I put one hand on the front shell, and Tator bit me for the first time. It hurt, and he broke skin. There has to be a better way to move huge, slimy turtles!

When I was cleaning Tator's tank on 11/16/19, I dropped his smaller plexiglass area that sits under the water, and the plexiglass broke at all four legs. Two legs were also broken on the large land area. I had to figure out what to do. Nobody was going to help me unless I paid them a ton of money, and then they would do it their way and not mine so I bought and ordered new plexiglass, 1" PVC, PVC glue, screws, special acrylic drill bits, a PVC cutter, anti-slip decals, 1" PVC end caps, gravel, etc. On Thanksgiving, 11/28/19, while the poor turkey cooked and basted, I spent about three hours putting Tator's new plexiglass stand, ramp, and land area together. The next morning, I spent two hours cleaning his tank 100% and setting up his new plexiglass. I put him up there a few times but, as of 12/2/19, I have yet to see him go up under the heat lamp nor have I found him there. Come on Tator! He has fungus growing on his back because he could not bask from 11/16/19 until 11/29/19. He would eventually go up to bask on occasion but he is not a big basker.

I replaced the 9 W JBJ Submariner UV sterilizer on 1/16/21 for the second time in 10 years as it no longer worked. On 11/4/23, I looked at the pump, and it is a Marineland MJ900 120 VAC pump. It keeps quitting during the week so I guess I need another one. I put in a new one on 1/20/24 so it took me over a month to move on that!

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