Turtles are generally low-maintenance reptiles. However, they require special care and environment if you decide to keep them as pets. They stay with you for years, unlike other pets in your homes.
Their natural habitat is the ocean basin around the world, nesting on tropical and sub-tropical beaches. Despite this, they are quite adaptive and can adjust anywhere if provided with proper care, diet, and environment.
Most people confuse turtles with tortoise. However, being closely related, there is a vast difference between both of them.
Turtles are water dwellers. Their shells are light and more streamlined. They have webbed feet and long claws, which enables them to swim properly. They are omnivores, they eat both leaves as well as meat. They have a shorter life span than that of a tortoise with an average of 20-40 to 86 years.
Tortoise are land dwellers. Their shells are round, bumpier, and heavier. Their feet are small and sturdy. They are usually herbivores. However, some eat meat as well. Their life span is quite long and they can survive for up to 188 years.
Both of them can be kept as pets, but there be a hindrance and difficulty in caring for them considering their long life span. Most people prefer to keep turtles at home.
When you bring a turtle into your home (you can have one from Backwaterreptiles), you need to do a lot of research beforehand since some breeds of turtles are critically endangered. So you need to be extra careful about it and make sure that you leave their care to the wildlife experts.
Another thing to note here is that the sale of small turtles is illegal whose shells are less than 4 inches long due to the spread of salmonella – a foodborne disease that most turtles carry. We will get into it further.
Though there are about 270 types of turtles available, each requires their shelter and unique environment. The best kinds of beginner pet parents are as follows:
They are water turtles, and they grow up to 11 inches long. They are the most popular type around the world to be kept as pets.
They are very colorful and gorgeous to look at. They are omnivores and can grow up to 7 inches long. They are the most widely found and kept breeds throughout the United States.
They are also known as the ornate wood turtle. They are mostly herbivores but can eat worms too. They grow as long as 9 inches.
They are semi-aquatic and omnivores. They require both lands as well as sea and can grow up to 9 inches.
They are omnivores and have an unusual "folding neck." They are mostly aquatic and can grow up to 8 inches. They need an occasional sunbathe from time to time.
Once you have established the kind of turtle you have or the kind you want, let's talk about the main topic of this article : how to take care of your turtle. The following are some of the things that you need to take care of when keeping a pet turtle.
Firstly, you need to ensure that you are providing a safe and healthy environment for your turtle to live and grow. They need to be adequately fed, have a clean aquarium, maintain clean drinking water, and the right temperature to live. Failure to do so might result in them developing diseases like salmonella, which can be transmitted to humans as well.
These animals need water and land with ample space to roam and move around and explore—the bigger the area, the better.
Turtles can live in a pond or a tank, preferably in groups. They can also live with large fish. They tend to eat small fishes, so its best to avoid it.
Since they are strong swimmers, their water should at least be 55 gallons in volume with a lid and a proper filtration system.
There should be a dry patch of land as well so that your pet turtle can have the best of both. The wet and the dry.
Their water needs to be cleaned regularly. A secure water filtration system needs to be kept in place to ensure that this takes place. Cleaning the water quite often prevents infections and rid the growth of bacteria. Furthermore, it is recommended to clean the water once or twice a week. Clean water is the key to keeping your turtle happy, healthy, and lively.
Having a thermometer for both, the water as well as the air is quite crucial in maintaining an environment from where your pet turtle originally came from. This needs to thoroughly researched before adopting your pet depending on its breed and matching the exact temperature that they require to survive.
You cannot play on instincts here as a slight temperature change might cause health problems like respiratory failure or loss of appetite.
If your turtles are living inside a tank, then you need to hang a heat bulb over the dry side of the habitat. It's best to get a night specific heat bulb as the temperature tends to fall at night.
Since turtles are most active during the day, they need proper light for about 12 hours a day. So, if you cannot expose them to direct sunlight, then a UVA or UVB bulb can do the same trick.
Other than this, an underwater heater is recommended to maintain the water temperature.
The best temperature ranges for turtles are:
If you are not equipped yet with a thermometer, try our LCD Waterproof Aquarium Thermometer
It is also recommended that you give proper sunlight to your turtle. It helps develop their shells properly. Without it, they might get metabolic bone diseases, shell infections, parasites, and abscesses. Waterproof Aquarium Lightning Lamp will imitate the sunlight and help your turtle to develop its shell properly.
Whenever you are lifting your turtle, you need to make sure that you are not hurting it in any way. The best possible way to handle a turtle is by lifting it at the midsection and not by the legs.
Never expose them unattended in the open air or outdoors as it might fall prey to other wild animals or birds.
Always wash your hands with warm soapy water before and after holding your pet turtle to avoid the spread of germs and transmitted diseases.
Adult supervision is required at all times if the children tend to play with them as turtles are quite delicate and fragile.
It is always advisable to observe your pet turtle for a few days whenever you bring it home. Let them adjust and settle into their new surroundings and always keep a lookout for symptoms, which can be alarming in some cases. Take your pet turtle to the vet if you see these behaviors in them:
Regular visits to your pet veterinarians experienced in dealing with turtles are quite essential in maintaining the health of your turtle. They can check potential diseases and infections. Thus, treating them quickly.
It is always an excellent initiative to train your pets. It helps them adapt quickly and develop a level of trust in you. The same is the case with turtles. If you teach them and care for them well, they can also be your best friend. Here are a few tips you can follow:
All of the above depends on your preference and situation at home.
Special consideration must be given to the diet of the turtles. Not all turtles are omnivores, neither all are herbivores. Hence, depending on the type of turtle you have, you can feed them accordingly.
General food for turtles includes insects, fish like comet goldfish – smaller than a regular goldfish, dark and leafy greens. They can also be fed canned or pelleted turtle foods, including frozen mealworms, learn more on What do Turtles eat
Turtles don't need to feed daily, unlike other home pets. They can be supplied for up to 4-5 times a week, and they will be fine. In the case of young turtles, they should be fed daily.
Adding calcium to your turtle's diet is essential. Many supplements are readily available in the market, and you can add them to their foods twice a year.
If you find yourself in a situation where your pet turtle has laid eggs or is going to lay eggs, and you don't know what to do, then you need to relax first, take a deep breath and not panic. There can be two types of situations that you need to look out for and take necessary steps:
When a turtle is about to lay eggs, you will notice it exploring the land and finding the right spot to lay eggs on. They might dig holes in different places to test that.
Their walking pattern will be different than average.
After finding the perfect spot, they will start digging a much more full hole using their front claws at first then hind legs later. The hole will be as deep as the length of their body.
After laying eggs, they won’t come back for it and let nature take its course.
There are two things that you can do when you find turtle eggs. First is to let nature take over, and the second is to place these eggs in an incubator.
The problem with the first option is that often times, nature can be cruel too. Hatchlings don't make it out of the whole, and the eggs don't hatch. Many factors may ruin the turtle eggs, such as unusual weather, sudden changes in temperature, too much rain, or cold weather.
Option 2 needs to be undertaken only if you can keep these eggs in an incubator for two months and are ready to take responsibility for an entire clutch.
If you are going to take responsibility, then you need to make sure that the turtle eggs are safe and sound. For this, you need to find a bad of vermiculite and a plastic box and drill holes for ventilation on the lid.
Take the same amount (by measuring it) of vermiculite and water and mix them in the box to ensure there is enough moisture for the eggs to lay in. This step is crucial, and you must get it right. Otherwise, the eggs won't hatch. Leave some space at the top and ensure that when pressure is put in the mixture, the water doesn't seep out.
Once you lay the eggs inside the box, you cannot change its orientation because the embryo starts to develop. You need to match the orientation of eggs the same way you found them. If the eggs are rolled in any direction, there is a high chance that the embryo will die. Make sure that you make an impression with your finger on the vermiculite and leave some portion of the eggs open.
This step is effortless. It is best to keep the box for long summers where it will not be disturbed by humans or animals.
You need to keep the lid tightly closed and not open it at all. The better the incubation is, the better chances there are of successful hatchlings.
The temperature needs to be constant throughout the entire process.
Most turtle eggs take about 60 days to 90 days to hatch, depending on their breed and temperature requirements.
When babies come out of their shells, try your very best to resist the temptation of lifting them up or even touching them. No matter how cute they may look.
It is because the newly hatched babies have an egg sac attached to their belly, and since that sac is very sensitive, there is a high chance that the sac may get torn and can cause the babies to develop infections and die.
Once they are fully out of their shells, it is then safe to pick them up and admire their cuteness and move them to a new container that has paper towels with enough moisture. They don't require any feed because their egg sac will provide the necessary nutrients for then to survive. While they are in the new box, they will be absorbing the egg sack and gaining their shape.
You need to make sure that the baby's tank is about 86F, and it has access to both land and water.
The water shouldn't be too deep because the baby turtle has just started learning how to swim. Hence, it should be about an inch deeper than the width of its shell.
The water content should be no more than 28 gallons, no shorter than 4 feet long, 18 inches wide and tall.
The tank should be well filtered, and water needs to be changed daily. The babies need to be fed daily 2-3 times a day.
Always be alert for physical signs of illness, which include swollen eyes, discoloring of the shell, and loss of appetite. If any of these symptoms are present, then immediately seek the veterinarian.
Turtles require a lifetime of specialized care. They need proper care as well as love. They are generally low maintenance species and can be the best of pets just like any other animals out there.
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