~225 Gallon mixed plan/questions

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Aquarium Advice Apprentice
Mar 19, 2011
Carrabelle, Florida
Okay, First and foremost, I have just begun research into the aquarium world. This build will be built at the soonest, in 4 years.. most likely more. I have a bit of experience (about 6 years) keeping reptiles, so I know quite a bit about them and requirements. I have read and cared for a ton of rescued turtles as well, but I figured I would find out what would work together before I even begin the planning of the built so as to build accordingly. I am in the construction trade (still new at that too) so, I have access to tools and supplies for cheap or free.

That being said!! To begin the plan!

I am planning a very nice display quality mixed turtle/fish/underwater creature tank. I plan on building the tank with 3/4' plywood, sealing the inside with lots and lots of layers of fiberglass. The dimensions (roughly) are to be 5 or 6 feet long by 3 feet wide by a water depth of 2 feet and a tank/paludarium hight total of 3-5 feet. This equates to roughly 225 gallons, but for the sake of discussion, I will use 250 gallons as the size of the tank.

I would like to do a few species of turtle, mixed with fish and crustaceans. I plan on making a fake rock background and possibly sides as well and into it, I will make sure there are numerous hiding places where turtles and larger fish cannot reach and where smaller things can hide.

I will have multiple bulbs mounted to the ceiling of the tank, and have multiple basking sites for the turtles so there is less competition for them.

My original thought was to have a snapping turtle and the first bit of research into that made me change my mind. I knew they got big so I thought they would look lovely in a huge display. But their power made tank furnishing difficult and their appetite made a community tank unlikely.

So I did some more research and I knew I wanted a few razorback musk turtles, possibly a pair or trio right away. I have kept them before and absolutely love them. The other species I have been looking at are diamondback terrapins, easter painteds, and sawback maps. My questions are would it even be possible for them all to live together or would I have to limit it to the musks and only one or two others? Based on what I've read they all seem to do well in a community as long as there is ample space and basking sites. Keep in mind I would only keep one of each species and then a few musks. I would be perfectly happy with just two species and multiple turtles of each species. I just want whats best for the turtles.

As far as crustaceans and things like that, I will get snails, shrimp, and crayfish and hopefully they can breed in the tank adding a fun chase for the turtles as well as helpful cleanup.

With fish, I have no clue. I have only read a few things and based on them, only fish that are fast or huge without long flowing fins can be kept with turtles. I was thinking
tetras, barbs, sharks, plecos, chinese algae eaters, and only a couple large oscars. What are some opinions on this?

The tank itself will be a substrate of medium smooth river rocks with larger course ones dotted here and there. It will hopefully be heavily planted to allow good hiding for the smaller or shyer guys. I plan on building or ust buying and weighting down larger pieces of wood to give more hiding and areas to explore for the turtles. At least some of the wood will stick up out of the water so they can rest and bask.

There seems to be almost too much information on filtration out there. I read a couple of truly helpful articles by DIY-ers and Austins Turtle Page. Combined, I have decided I need filtration strong enough for roughly a 1000 gallon tank. If this is different please let me know so I can plan/build accordingly. My plan is to do a mix of various types of filtration. I will buy the pump (looking at the lifeguard quiet one rated for 1000 GPH). Now the indecisive part. I simply cannot decide on the best option for the filtration itself. I am also looking at upkeep and costs. One choice so far is the pump mentioned above connected to a Magnum 350 Pro followed by 2 600 Lifeguard fluidized bed filters. Another option because I love the fluidized bed filters would be connect the pump to multiple home made filters. I would build my own fluidized bed filter and make it bigger, and also connect another home made fluidized bed filter or a home made canister filter. My thought on the design of the canister is to get a 5 gallon bucket with a watertight lid, drill 2 holes in the lid and fill the bucket with media of choice. Then run the lines in through the holes. Would this be a viable option? I can also do a combination of all of the above. I just know there is no such thing as too much filtration and I aim to go for that :)

And just some plants I have looked at and liked:
java fern
java moss
anubias species
amazon sword plant
aponogeton ulvaceous
aponogeton crispus
cryptocoryne wendtii red version
red ludwiga

Any comments, suggestions, anything would be lovely! I have been writing down and saving every new bit of info I find that I plan on incorporating.

Thanks for reading!!
This sounds awesome, I'd like to hear everybodys comments.
I dont know much about turtles(or honestly fish for that matter) but I Dont think you are going to see many live fish if you have an oscar in a community tank.
I also am not sure about having fish in with the turtles. I have seen people do it but don't have any experience. I actually think that oscars would do better with turtles as long as the turtles and oscars aren't too far off in size of each other.

I do have a tank with an African side neck plus a musk turtle and they get along fine. I did research before putting them together and it seems that it was OK from what I read so I would support mixing breeds, just make sure your specific breeds do OK together.
I completely understand the points made. I read something about how someone did an experiment and when fish were kept in the turtle tanks all their lives, they were less likely to go after them. I would try something like this. The turtles will be raised together from hatchlings, so that they get used to each other. They will have plenty of room from the get go in a smaller tank and will always have fish with them..

Thanks for the quick responses!! Keep em coming!!!
hi mr fly. yes turts and fish can go hand in hand but you need to do some good planing we had turts and fish together for 7+years whith no problems .but the turtles will need another setup so that from time to time thay can dryout and you can give them a cheek over health wise .the one bigg thing whith turtlels that we found was that size for size over fish thay will make more waste .look's like you have a cracking plan tho fella so good luck ;)
Thank you! I thought I had said that I will be incorporating quite a few separate basking sights and wet asking sites but I may have missed that. I of course will have at least one empty tank to set up in case something goes wrong though. As for waste, I think I will have enough filtration for a 1000 gallon tank at the very least, possibly 2K. I really think that a pump rated for triple the size of the tank size GPH will be best. But what do you think?
Oscars are a very aggressive fish, not suitable for a community tank at all. Putting them with peaceful fish like tetras could be a disaster...
It wouldn't work even with plenty of hiding places for the other fish?

About filtration (The main thing I am researching now because I am truly baffled on what to do:crazyeyes:), I have decided on a only one thing for sure. I want to make them myself. I want to try these designs only modified for my requirements:

Fluidized Bed Filter 1

Fluidized Bed Filter 2

Bucket Canister/Trickle Filter

My questions are:

What size pump?

What is there to stop crud from clogging the pump if it takes water right from tank to filter before filtration?

Which filter is better or is a combo of both designs better?

What size should the filter be and how many? I planned on whatever I do to make at least 2 filters so that if one fails I'm not screwed. I think a better way to determine size might be how much media should I have?

A possibility I thought would work would be to have 2 separate filter "strings" in this order: pump>DIY canister>FBF

Would 2 of those work or should there be more strings or more on each string?
As far as the Oscars go, it's not just about whether your fish are safe, it's about whether they're happy too. Even if the peaceful fish have places to hide, they'll be chased around all day and shoved into corners where they feel stressed...
What would you suggest then? I'm just trying to figure out the best possible combo. Would smaller faster fish without oscars be better with the turtles or would it be better to have less, larger fish?
Most turtle tanks that I've seen with fish have smaller fish with the turtles. You just have to realize there is always a good chance the turtle will grab them for food if they have the chance.
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