Eastern Box Turtle Care: A Beginners Guide

Eastern Box Turtle Care: A Beginners Guide

The Eastern box turtle makes a great pet. They’re cute, interesting and live for so long you can make a really strong bond with them.Eastern Box Turtle

Compared to cats and dogs, the box turtle is a little more specialist in its care needs. The great news is, this guide has a ton of information to help you care for your new shelled pet really well.

Here’s a complete guide to owning a healthy, happy Eastern box turtle:

 

An Introduction To The Eastern Box Turtle

The Eastern box turtle is the most common species of box turtle found in captivity and comes from the North American terrapene genus. They are a type of pond turtle you can find in all kinds of environments, from meadows to shady forests and slow moving streams – they are really adaptable animals.

It is a beautiful species of turtle which commonly has a domed black shell and black skin, complete with yellow markings. They can also range in colour, with all different brown, orange and yellow shades making each individual stand out. These gorgeous shelled cuties also usually have amber or red eyes.

One of the reasons the Eastern Box Turtle is such a popular pet is because it tends to only grow to about six inches in adulthood. This means that you don’t need to accommodate it with a super-large enclosure as it ages. That being said, it does also age to up to 50 years, so it is a big time commitment and isn’t a pet purchase to take lightly.

 

What Are Box Turtles Like As Pets?

As we mentioned above, the Eastern Box Turtle only gets up to around six inches in adulthood. This makes them really easy to handle by the shell, although they don’t commonly like to be handled and are more of a ‘watch but don’t touch’ pet. If they need moving into transport for a vet visit, or examining it does help to know they aren’t too tricky to handle if necessary.

Unlike some turtles which can be very sassy and standoffish, Eastern box turtles are known to be truly individual in their personality and it is possible to have a true bond with them. This is helped, in part, by their 50 year lifespan. Most of us would have a bond with somebody who we saw everyday, especially if they bought us tasty food!

Compared to other turtles the box turtle is not a good turtle for beginners. Their needs are quite specialist and there are turtles that are much better for the beginner reptile owner.

Pros:

  • Small
  • Beautiful
  • Unique personality
  • Can develop a bond with owner
  • Easy to handle if necessary due to their size
  • Hardy

Cons:

  • Special care requirements
  • Prefer not to be handled
  • Lifespan is a big commitment

Of course for many people, the cons of the box turtle could be considered pros, depending on your outlook.

 

Getting An Eastern Box Turtle

Getting an Eastern box turtle is usually done by sourcing a great breeder who has been breeding these reptiles for a while. They should be happy to show you the conditions of their turtles, to be able to show you multiple turtles of different ages, and vet certification showing proof of checks. They should also be willing to answer your questions about the turtle, and ask you questions to check you’re a suitable turtle owner too.

As an alternative to purchasing from a breeder, you could source your turtle from a rescue centre or similar outfit. Many people sadly need to move their turtle on because they can no longer care for it. Whilst this is sad, it is more responsible for them to give it to a vet or a rescue centre (or rehome to a suitable new home) than it is to release them into the wild, which is bad for the pet and the local environment.

Regardless of where you get your Eastern box turtle from, always check the turtle over for:

  • Any signs of infection like pus, crusts, blood or swellingEastern Box Turtle
  • Any soft or crusty patches on the shell
  • Dipping between the shell and the body of the turtle
  • Lethargy
  • A light feeling when you pick it up
  • No fight or reaction when you pick it up
  • Problems walking
  • Coughing, wheezing or mouth breathing

You may also want to have the turtle checked at a veterinarian with turtle experience before purchasing if you want to be extra careful and sure of the transaction.

 

How To Care For An Eastern Box Turtle

Enclosure

Tank

Because box turtles are so little some people do offer them a 20 gallon tank when they are babies. This is the minimum for a pet like an Eastern box turtle, but realistically you should work towards 10 gallons in size for every inch of carapace. So a five inch turtle needs a 50 gallon tank at least.

You can’t really offer them too much space, but too little and they will feel stressed and unhappy.

Enrichment

The Eastern box turtle loves to investigate and forage around, so you need to provide it with lots of enrichment to act out these behaviours.

Turtle logs are a great option, as well as non-toxic plants, dead leaves, twigs and even some turtle suitable substrate that is too big for them to eat. Do make sure the items have not been treated with anything toxic like pesticides, and that they are not sharp, or likely to fall and trap the turtle. The items should also enable the turtle to get inside and out again without trapping them.

Soaking

For hydration, Eastern box turtles like to soak themselves in shallow water. You can enable them to do so with a shallow water bowl. The bowl needs to be shallow enough for them not to get stuck in it (they can drown easily) but heavy enough for them not to tip it when using it.

Lighting & Heating

The Eastern Box Turtle needs 12 hours of light and 12 hours of dark in their tank. The only exception is with baby box turtles who need 14 hours of light, in addition to unwell turtles.

You can use a 75-100 watt bulb for the tanks overall lighting, which should be like daylight and then some shaded areas provided by the enrichment mentioned above.

You will also need to ensure that the tank has 60% humidity and has an ambient temperature of 70-75 degrees Fahrenheit in the day and 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit at night. Whilst under-tank heating can help with this, in general it is better to provide heating from above so that the turtle can escape the heat if they want to.

Basking

As well as the general warmth of the tank the turtle needs concentrated light and heat for something called basking. Basking is something that Eastern box turtles need to do to be healthy and happy. UVA helps to warm the turtle and get it going, letting its internal processes know that it is time to eat and move. UVB is the type of light a turtle needs to create vitamin D, which in turn helps them to absorb calcium from their diet. If the UVB is lacking the turtle will suffer from issues with their shell.

Some people like to put their Eastern box turtle outside in summer to help it get the right heat and light levels. It is safe to do this if you live in areas native to the Eastern box turtle. Even so, supplementary basking light as below needs to be provided just to make sure they are getting their needs met. Most people simply keep their turtle in their enclosure all the time with the basking lamp on 12 hours of the day.

You can purchase basking lamps which provide heat, UVA and UVB and the manufacturer will let you know how far the bulb needs to be from the basking surface in order to provide the right amounts of light for the turtle. There are various thermometer and measuring tools you can use to check these levels, as well as always replacing the bulbs regularly so they never produce lower UVB, heat and UVA levels.

 

How To Feed An Eastern Box Turtle

Eastern box turtles have a healthy appetite, which is omnivorous and can be made up of all kinds of goodies in the wild. Fungi, crustaceans, snails (and shell), insects and roots are all common foods eaten by these shelled cuties.

This turtle type likes to eat at dawn and dusk naturally so you should try to replicate this as much as possible at home for them. They should also have their heating lamp put on by a timer a little while before feeding to stimulate their appetite.

In captivity you need to feed your box turtle friend either 25% turtle pellets, 25% fruit and veg and 50% protein, or 50% protein (some of which can be made up of protein based turtle pellets), 30% veggies and 20% fruit.

Their protein should be varied, as should their fruit and vegetable intake. This will help to keep their nutrients varied. Any insects, fruits, veggies and other food should be carefully vetted to make sure it is bacteria and chemical free.

Here are some suggestions for each category of food:

Protein: Hard boiled eggs, insects (bred for feeding), shrimp, worms, snails

Fruits: Watermelon, bananas, blueberries

Veggies: Dandelion leaves, squash, tomatoes

For extra enrichment it is a good idea to give your turtle live insects to catch for food. They love the movement and will find it interesting to have this kind of live food in their enclosure.

 

Eastern Box Turtle Ownership – You’re Nearly There!

With our guide above you are one step closer to caring for your very own Eastern box turtle. Remember to do your research, be vigilant about creating the right environment and sourcing from a reputable breeder or rescue and always consult your vet if you’re unsure. Soon enough your Eastern box turtle is going to be enjoying their life with you for many happy and healthy years to come!

Be sure to check out My Turtle Shop Here for the essentials you need to help you set up.

The Ultimate Painted Turtle Care Guide

The Ultimate Painted Turtle Care Guide

The painted turtle is a popular pet choice for reptile lovers, but it does take some specialist care to ensure it is happy and healthy.Painted Turtle

If you’re thinking about getting one of these beautiful shelled friends, there’s a lot to learn. From what they eat, to the kind of lighting they need – there are lots of aspects to their care that need to be right for them to thrive as a captive animal.

The great news is, we’re here to help. We have collected all the information you need to understand more about looking after the painted turtle. By the end of this guide you’ll feel totally clued up on sourcing, and looking after these specialist pets:

 

An Introduction To The Painted Turtle

The painted turtle lives up to 30 years on average, can grow up to 25 centimetres and weighs up to 500 grams. It is one of the most common turtles in North America and has been around for millions of years.

The Southern painted turtle is the smallest of all painted turtles and tends to also be the most attractive species, which is why it is such a popular pet. Males are smaller than males in adulthood, with thicker and longer tails at the base.

This painted turtle type originates from Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Missouri and Illanois.

These attractive replies have smooth shells with grooves where the plates overlap with each other. Colours vary greatly, with some animals showcasing blacks, yellows and greens, reds and everything in between. The skin of the painted turtle is black with yellow and red stripes with the feet being webbed to allow for swimming.

In the wild you find the painted turtle in fresh water with a muddy or sandy bottom. Creeks, marshes, rivers and lake shores are common homes for this gorgeous creature. Here they will live in groups of 50 turtles or more socialising together. These groups of painted turtles are known as bales, nests, turns, doles or creeps.

 

Sourcing A Southern Painted Turtle

The Southern painted turtle is known as a great beginner turtle which requires very low maintenance. By sourcing a healthy animal you’ll have no extra worries on top of getting their care needs right, so it’s important to be selective about the animal you source.

These popular pets can be found for sale easily, but it is still important to be selective about who you purchase your pet from. Some people steal these animals from the wild, which is not ethical and should not be encouraged.

Instead you could get your turtle from a reputable rescue, where there is an abundance of unwanted turtles.

Alternatively you can get your turtle from a breeder who specialises in these kinds of pets. A good breeder will be eager to answer all your questions, show certification and proof of veterinary checks and pet history/ breeding. They will also want to ask you questions about your suitability as a painted turtle owner.

Painted Turtles

Caring For A Southern Painted Turtle

Tank

The male Southern painted turtle minimum tank size is 40 gallons, but 50 gallons or more is better. For the females, 55 gallons is the minimum size but 75 gallons or more is better. For additional animals you need to add an extra 20 gallons per male, or an extra 40 gallons per female.

The tank can be bare but adding substrate can be more interesting for the turtle, or you, to look at. Gravel and sand is not recommended because they can be eaten by the turtle and make it unwell. A substrate that is either too large to be eaten, or too small to block the turtle’s digestive tract is ideal.

The substrate should be treated and cleaned to be used safely in a vivarium. Most people choose to add turtle-safe floating and weighted plants, and large (safe) hiding places in the water, as well as smooth rocks and pebbles that double as basking surfaces.

Floating basking planks are also a great idea to provide multiple basking options for your turtle.

Water

Your painted turtle will need water to be happy because they are aquatic reptiles. About 10-12 inches is a good start when it comes to the necessary water depth (minimum double the length of the turtle’s shell), but deeper is fine, if not better.

The water should be around 70-75 degrees Fahrenheit in temperature, so you will need a water heater and of course a filter to keep the water nice and clean.

These beautiful turtles are happy to swim around, so they will enjoy lots of water if you want to provide them with a larger swimming area. The water, however, will need to be treated before being placed in the tank so it doesn’t contain any harmful chemicals that could hurt your turtle.

Lighting & Heating

In the enclosure itself the ambient temperature should be around 80-85 degrees.

You will also need to heat a special part of the painted turtle enclosure – the basking area.

Even with a good diet the painted turtle should be given a basking area with a heat and light source. A heating light as well as UVB/ UVA light (you can get a lamp that emits all three) is essential for the basking area, which should be between 80 and 85 degrees fahrenheit.

UVA keeps your turtle happy and healthy, heat keeps your turtle healthy and active and UVB is essential for helping your turtle create vitamin D, which they need to properly absorb calcium from their food. The light needs to be on for 12 hours a day, after which the turtle needs darkness to replicate natural changes in their environment.

The lamp manufacturer will state the distance the lamp needs to be from the basking surface for the animal to get the benefits from it. The lamp should not be too close or too far away.

 

Keeping Your Painted Turtle Outside

Some people who live in areas native to the Southern painted turtle choose to keep their pets in an outside enclosure. This is thought to be a great choice for painted turtles because it replicates their natural environment the most. It can also help to minimise the risk of salmonella to smaller children in the household.

If you want to house your turtle outside you will want to provide a natural or prefabricated pond of at least 50 gallons or more, ideally concrete lined if possible. The water in the pond needs to be filtered to keep it clean. You could even add a safe waterfall to help oxygenate the water and to give the turtle more of a natural environment to live in. Don’t forget to add ramps so the turtle can get in and out of the water easily.

In the enclosure you will also need to provide a basking spot (or multiple basking spots) as well as natural turtle-safe vegetation, safe hiding/ burrowing spots and a walking space. Many people also choose to place fencing and wire over the enclosure to protect the turtles from predators. This fencing needs to be at least six inches below the ground, and two feet above it.

If you get winters below 40 degrees you will need to think about moving your turtle into an indoor enclosure during this time, or offering them the right conditions to hibernate. In the wild they hibernate in the water and stop breathing, but it is challenging to replicate these conditions in captivity safely.

Some people choose not to hibernate their painted turtle at all because of the risk. It is a personal choice and overall it is best to speak to your veterinarian about this topic so they can advise you on whether or not to do it, and if so, how to do it.

 

What To Feed Your Southern Painted Turtle

A painted turtle is omnivorous so they have a hugely varied diet in the wild. They eat all kinds of plants, animals and insects, with quite the taste for meat in their youth, and more of a taste for veggies in later life.

To keep your captive turtle healthy and happy it is important to keep the protein levels down, which can make them sick. Instead, they should have a diet based mainly on veggies as their staples, with protein every 2-3 times a week.

Protein Sources – Some people choose to use turtle pellets for their painted turtles diet when it comes to the protein they need. You can provide the pellets as a protein source and still supplement that with live crickets (bred for food) and mealworms. Alternatively they also like chicken, frog meat, lizards, snails, worms, fish and insects as their main source of protein.

Veggies – Leafy greens like romaine lettuce, duckweed, dandelion greens and are great choices for your painted turtle. Just make sure the veggies are not treated with pesticides and they are clean before serving them up.

General feeding tips:

  • Try to offer at least some food for your turtle that floats in the water, where they would naturally eat. If it does not float, you can buy clips that attach to the enclosure enabling you to position the food in the water for the turtle.
  • Any food offered to the turtle should be free from pesticides. Any insects or meat should be non-processed and bred for the purpose of eating.
  • Consider feeding your turtle a reptile multivitamin recommended by your exotic pet veterinarian.
  • Read up on food you need to avoid giving turtles – such as rhubarb or spinach – so that you avoid making your turtle sick accidentally. There is a long list of recommended foods to avoid for these kinds of animals.
  • Feed your adult painted turtle every other day or less often depending on its weight. An exotic pet veterinarian can advise on a specific plan based on your turtle’s needs.

 

My Painted Turtle Is Not Eating, What Should I Do?

You should consult your veterinarian or if you trust your breeder they will usually help advise you on what to do next. There are common reasons painted turtles stop eating including:

  • Incorrect light and temperature in their enclosure.
  • Sneezing, breathing issues and other respiratory issues.
  • Vitamin A deficiency, showing with patchy white shell markings as well as breathing issues.
  • Eye issues like discharge or watery eyes.
  • Constipation.
  • Boredom/ depression.
  • Injury or sickness.

Sometimes turtles do not eat because of illness, or they may get additional symptoms because they are not eating so it is important to consult an expert to check out your turtle’s health when you notice something is wrong.

 

Next Step: Painted Turtle Ownership!

Now you have read this guide you are so much closer to owning a beautiful Southern painted turtle. With our guide, and information from your vet or breeder too, you’ll be ready to provide the healthiest, happiest environment for your new painted turtle pal!

Be sure to check out My Turtle Shop Here for the essentials you need to help you set up.

Sulcata Tortoise: The Ultimate Care Guide

Sulcata Tortoise: The Ultimate Care Guide

Of all the different turtles and tortoises in the world, the Sulcata tortoise (or African spurred tortoise) is the most popular. They are known for havingSulcata Tortoise bundles of personality and make a fantastic alternative to a furbaby like a dog or a cat.

If you’re considering a Sulcata tortoise as a pet, it’s not quite as straightforward as getting a dog. There are specific care needs that come with owning such a beautiful and unusual animal.

To help you get started in your journey to getting a stunning shelled Sulcata friend we’ve collected loads of handy information on keeping them as pets. From how to feed them, to sourcing a healthy and happy Sulcata, we’ve got it all covered.

Here’s a complete care guide for the Sulcata tortoise:

 

A Sulcata Tortoise Introduction

The Sulcata tortoise is one of the biggest tortoise species in the world, topped only by the Aldabra giant tortoise and Galapagos. Adults are between 24 and 36 inches in length and can weigh up to 200 pounds! They can live up to 150 years old if they are healthy and kept well.

The gorgeous Sulcata tortoise originates from the Sub-Saharan part of Africa which is known to be extremely dry. Despite this being their natural habitat they do need to be able to access water. They need to avoid becoming dehydrated, which is why they dig deep, long and cool tunnels where the sand is moist.

These tunnels can often hold multiple tortoises, which is a survival behaviour, not a social behaviour. At dusk or dawn the tortoise will also maintain their hydration with fat juicy prickly pears and similarly water packed natural plants.

 

The Sulcata Tortoise As A Pet

Sulcata tortoises are so popular because they are so sociable and they each have their own individual personality. They develop true bonds with their owners and they are also very relaxed in general, so with respect they make a good family pet.

The two main considerations for prospective Sulcata owners is time and size. The fact that these tortoises live so long means when you take one on, you don’t only commit to them during your own lifetime. You need to be ready to rehome them when the time is right so that they can live on and receive the right care.

In addition, they get absolutely huge as adults and cannot be kept in a tank or similar container. Instead, they need a nice big (safe) garden to roam in, so they won’t work well as pets for people who live in flats or homes with a small backyard.

It is also worth recognising that if you are garden proud this kind of turtle does dig naturally and may well damage your yard. This species is very active and they will break down fencing, barriers and even brickwork so you have to be ready to reinforce those areas of your yard (and don’t get too attached to what you do have!).

 

The Look Of The SulcataAfrican Spurred Tortoise

This beautiful shelled friend has the classic turtle look. It has a charming knobbly, wrinkled head, legs and tail. It’s skin is a yellowy colour with darker patches in places and the carapace is a gorgeous mixture of ivory and light and dark browns.

The reason the African spurred tortoise is named that way is because there are spurs on their legs. The reason for the spurs isn’t properly known but it is thought they help protect the turtle’s head when it tucks inside its shell.

Once the tortoises get to fifteen pounds or more the males and females can be sexed through sight.

Females – The bottom of their shells are flat, they have shorter tails and their scutes are U shaped

Males – The bottom of their shells are curved inwards, they have longer tails and their scutes are V shaped

 

Sulcata Tortoise Temperament

Although the Sulcata tortoise is generally docile, it is important to avoid housing more than one male because they can become aggressive trying to flip other males over through ramming. When they reach maturity they may also go through a period of trying to mate with other turtles and show aggressive behaviours because of that new sexual drive.

Even with their gentle nature, it is also important to know that Sulcata tortoises can be attracted to bright colours and if they see something they like, they will mow down everything between them and the object of their affection to get to it, which can be quite scary when the turtle is of adult size!

 

Selecting A Sulcata Tortoise

You can buy Sulcata tortoises from breeders, however, please do consider taking on an older tortoise. Many African spurred tortoises are discarded once they get too big for owners to cope with so there is a real worldwide excess of these tortoises, especially elderly pals who really need a good home.

If you can find it in your heart to rescue one of these older, mature Sulcatas it’s a really great thing to do.

If you do want to select a Sulcata tortoise hatchling from a breeder do check the breeders reputation and certification. The best breeders are more than willing to not only answer all your questions, but to vet your suitability as a buyer.

 

Sulcata Health

The Sulcata is incredibly hardy in its natural environment but in capacity, they face a few potential health challenges which include:

  • Shell abnormalities from a lack of calcium or vitamin D in the diet, or a lack of UVB light
  • Bladder issues like stones and infections
  • Issues with egg binding
  • Infections on the skin with white patches and a nasty odour (usually associated with unclean/ wet substrate)
  • Dehydration
  • Scute pyramiding from too much protein in the diet, or low moisture levels in the air
  • Respiratory infections

More often than not you can tell that a Sulcata tortoise has a health issue because they lose weight, or they move less. They may also droop their head, have a change in stool consistency, have discharge from the eyes, nose or mouth, or just not seem themselves. These are strong signs the tortoise isn’t well and needs attention from an exotic pet experienced veterinarian.

 

Housing A Sulcata Tortoise

If you do buy a baby Sulcata tortoise then it can be kept in a 50 gallon vivarium with 14 hours of daylight (using a UVB light), 60% humidity and a basking platform that gets to about 100 degrees Fahrenheit in temperature. The ambient temperature of the vivarium overall should be about 80-95 degrees Fahrenheit.

Your hatchling will also need vivarium soil and sand of at least 6 inches for burrowing, with the lighting of the vivarium providing sunny and shaded spots. The vivarium should have uneaten food and poop removed daily, have substrate changes weekly, and it should be scrubbed with water and soap thoroughly every month.

By the time the Sulcata gets to about a year old it will outgrow this kind of enclosure.

Housing an adult Sulcata tortoise is very different to housing a baby Sulcata. The best option is an outdoor pen of at least 100 square feet only used when it is warmest in your region. Many people choose to allow the turtle to have the whole garden to roam in.

The most important aspect of the tortoise’s housing is a shelter that needs to be warm and heated. A raised dog house with a gradual ramp is a great choice, but it can be any similar tortoise home. It just needs to be sturdy, dry and warm. Ideally they will also have a shelter they can use to stay cool, which is buried into the ground slightly. This only has to be a plank held up by rocks and covered with sand. As long as the tortoise fits underneath it will work.

When it comes to their pen or your garden, the walls have to be 24 inches in height as a minimum with foundations that go to around the same depth as their height underground, and they should be brick or wooden panelling. A turtle that can see through the walls of its enclosure will be forever trying to escape.

Inside your garden – or the tortoises enclosure – there should be lots of clean and safe logs, rocks and other interesting features for them to climb and explore (which they love to do). The only thing to be sure of is that the features aren’t so high or unstable they could cause your turtle to fall on its back, or get injured from sharp edges or crushing.

Non-toxic plants and grass are also welcome, as well as burying soil. Some people choose to reinforce underneath their lawn or the turtle’s enclosure to make sure the tortoise doesn’t literally bury itself out into the wild!

As well as the nesting box and the climbing items your Sulcata tortoise will enjoy a shallow soaking dish to boost their hydration. It must be shallow so that it can be climbed out of easily because Sulcatas can’t swim.

If that is not suitable, you can soak the turtle in shallow water a couple of times a week yourself (which isn’t always practical when they get to a large size). Soaking this way is recommended over misting.

Adult Sulcata Tortoise

Keeping A Sulcata Tortoise Over Winter

If the temperature drops to 40 degrees or less in winter you should bring your Sulcata inside. An indoor holding pen with heating and UVB is important. It is also important to check that when they are spending time outside that the cooler weather doesn’t make them sleepy. It can cause them to fall asleep outside and may not get to their heated indoor enclosure, which is really dangerous for them.

 

Lighting & Heating

Any indoor enclosures require a UVB light source as well as a heating lamp (or both combined). However most Sulcatas are homed outdoors in climates where the daytime temperature reaches about 85-95 degrees, with a basking spot that reaches 100 degrees. The humidity needs to be around 50% in your local area too.

When it comes to nighttime temperatures, the Sulcata tortoise needs to be inside its nesting box for safety and warmth where the temperature should not get below 70 degrees Fahrenheit. A heat lamp is a good idea if this is the case and you can also consider extra insulation that helps keep the heat in for the tortoise. Tortoise bedding or beech wood chips are a good choice for your tortoises house as they won’t increase the humidity.

A good extra tip is to use a pond liner hung down and cut into strips across the entrance to your tortoises indoor section. This will help to keep the heat in without compromising the ability of your tortoise to get in and out of the den.

 

Cleaning & Hygiene

The tortoise pen or garden, and your tortoises sleeping house should be cleaned regularly to avoid moisture, bacteria and a buildup of faeces to occur. Sulcatas eat a ton and so they produce lots of poop that needs cleaning, as well as remnants of food they haven’t eaten.

 

Feeding Your Sulcata Tortoise

The Sulcata tortoise is a herbivore and they eat a lot, which is why they produce so much waste. Interestingly, we may accidentally make our tortoise unhealthy through feeding them with a nutritionally dense diet.

In their natural habitat what they eat is plain, poor in nutritional value and so, too much rich, nutritionally dense food will actually make your tortoise unwell. Shell malformation, diarrhea and other issues may present if a Sulcata has a diet too rich in nutrients.

Mostly, these gentle giants should be on grass hay or a similar product for general feeding. Dark leafy greens like endives, dandelions and romaine lettuce are good for about 20% of your tortoises diet.

Spinach, kale and broccoli can also be offered but they have calcium binding properties so they shouldn’t be offered much. Some people actually don’t offer them at all because of this. There are also issues with kale and mustard greens which contain goitrogens, which cause issues with the thyroid if offered in high amounts. Again, you should limit or avoid these veggies in your tortoises diet for this reason.

Fruits like apples, bananas and prickly pear pads can be given as treats to your Sulcata tortoise. Hibiscus flowers are also highly prized by Sulcatas who love the flavour and bright colour of these plants.

Lastly, do make sure your Sulcata tortoise has a calcium supplement given on a regular, scheduled basis as well as a general multivitamin. Your vet can advise you on which brands to choose and how often to give these supplements. Your vet can also test our tortoise faeces regularly to check for infection and other issues.

 

You’re On Your Way To Giving A Sulcata A Great Home

The dog-like Sulcata is a charming pet, but only if it gets the care it needs. Think very carefully about whether you can truly offer this animal what it needs and if you can, use our guide, your breeder/ rescue contact and your vet’s advice to ensure you know how to help your Sulcata tortoise thrive and live a happy, long life with you.

Be sure to check out My Turtle Shop Here for the essentials you need to help you set up.

Midland Painted Turtles: A Complete Care Guide

Midland Painted Turtles: A Complete Care Guide

The Midland painted turtle is a beautiful and interesting pet, but it will require plenty of special care and attention to keep it healthy and happy inMidland Painted Turtle captivity.

To help you understand these cute critters ad how to look after them a little bit more, here’s our complete guide to the Midland painted turtle:

 

The Midland Painted Turtle – An Introduction

The Midland painted turtle (Chrysemys Picta Marginata) is an attractive subspecies of the painted turtle that comes from the Emydidae family of pond turtles. Other types are the Western painted, Southern painted and Eastern painted turtle. They are found in the Western Hemisphere, most notably in America and the Great Lakes.

They can get to around 9 or 10 inches in size (females), so they aren’t the smallest turtle type you can adopt, but some do only grow to 5 inches (males).

In captivity they can live to about 30 or 40 years, so they aren’t a small time commitment. Some people really love that fact, though, because it gives you the chance to make a really strong bond with them.

Unfortunately, the life length and specialist care they need often results in an excess of turtles requiring rehoming. However, it is better to move the animal on to a rescue or a new home than it is to let it loose in the wild, which would be terrible for both the turtle and the local ecosystems.

The Midland painted turtle is the hardest to identify because there is no particular distinguishing feature. As with their other painted pals, though, they are very beautiful with a black, brown or green body and shell and bright stripes, splodges and bars across it.

In the wild you will find the Midland painted turtle in gentle bodies of water with soft muddy or sandy bottoms, lots of plant life, basking sites and freshwater.

 

The Midland Painted Turtle As A Pet

The Midland painted turtle can cohabit with other painted types, like the Western painted, as well as similar breeds like red sliders. As long as they have lots of space they won’t show aggression towards each other and should cohabit peacefully.

When it comes to handling a Midland painted turtle, you should minimise contact. They are very shy and can carry salmonella, which is why turtles are commonly not recommended as pets for families with very young children.

Instead, because the turtles won’t run away when you approach to watch them, you can enjoy observing their day to day activities. They are a lot of fun to watch as they swim about and explore.

If you do need to handle them for tank cleaning or to take them to the vet, they can be easily picked up with one hand (for smaller turtles) by the shell, or if they are larger, with one hand on the front of the shell and one at the back. Be careful to watch their mouths as they can bite.

Chrysemys Picta Marginata

Choosing A Midland Painted

Buy a Midland painted turtle from a reputable source like a verified breeder or a rescue facility. They should have a full history for the turtle, be willing to show you the turtle, its habitat and veterinary certification for parasite checks etc.

As a good visual guide, you can also keep an eye out for:

  • Bright eyes
  • Clear eyes with no discharge
  • Strong legs and arms (they should react when they are picked up but not panic)
  • An active disposition (no lethargy)
  • No cracks, pits or obvious wounds
  • No sagging between their body and the shell
  • No excessive basking
  • No swelling anywhere
  • No fear of getting in the water
  • Any signs of vitamin A deficiency or parasites (misshapen shell, white patches on the shell, nasty poop)

If you can, get the turtle to an exotic animal vet for a check before paying for it (accompany the breeder) or ask for a check from a vet of your choice. This may be difficult as the turtles are not very expensive, but if the breeder is good, they will do this for you. They should also ask you lots of questions to check that you are a suitable owner.

 

Midland Painted Turtle Care

Your Midland painted turtle will need a very specific environment to live in that replicates its natural environment as much as possible. Below, we’re going to look at the main aspects of their enclosure size, lighting and other factors to make sure your turtle feels happy in their new home:

Tank

The Midland painted turtle loves to swim, which means they cannot really thrive in a small tank.

Instead, a large tank at least 10 gallons per inch of shell is advised. It should be a minimum of 60 gallons and even bigger if you want lots of turtles.

If you buy a hatchling or juvenile Midland painted, you will only need a smaller tank of 20-40 gallons taking special care to only add 10 gallons of water to it. Once the turtle gets more confident and water proficient you can add more water and eventually move them to a bigger tank overall.

The tank itself will need to be at an ambient temperature of about 80-85 degrees Fahrenheit, with the water kept at about 70-75 degrees Fahrenheit. As well as your general tank lighting, depending on where you live you will need a water heater to keep the water at the right temperature. This heater should be turtle tank suitable, have a visible thermometer and work automatically if the water temperature starts to drop.

If there is a lot of water in the tank you may need two heaters to heat the water. You will also need an excellent filter. Try to buy one with double the filtration power you would buy for fish. So if it filters 60 gallons consider that to filter 30 gallons of turtle water. This is because turtles are much messier than fish and they poop a lot more!

Lastly, do change at least a third of the water every week. You will need to treat the water to remove chemicals from it before adding it to the tank.

 

Substrate & Enrichment

You don’t need to add anything to the tank in the way of decorations and substrate, but this will be boring for the turtle and for you.

Instead, try to add things like large smooth aquarium rocks, slate stones and other non-edible items in the water itself. In areas above water you could add turtle logs and even plants and other items for the turtle to hide or forage in. These are important to manage the Midland painted turtles stress as they need to be able to hide to feel secure. Just make sure the items are smooth, non-toxic and easily cleaned.

Other Midland painted turtle owners like to add floating and weighted plastic and real plants in the water, and even add extra basking stations too, just to give the turtle a more interesting environment.

 

Basking

All turtles need to be able to bask so that they can thermoregulate, which they do by going in and out of the water (and onto the basking station). The basking temperature needs to be about 88 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit, provided by a ceramic heat lamp or tube lamp. This lamp should be off at night to remove the UVA light source and allow your turtle to rest.

You also need to include a UVB light in this section which is incredibly important to a turtle’s health. It enables them to make Vitamin D3, something they need for strong bones and a strong shell. Without it, they can become deformed and very sick.

When you choose a light you will be able to see how far from the basking station you need to place it so that it provides the right amount of UVB. You also need to change the bulb regularly to avoid it decreasing in the UVB it puts out.

Many manufacturers sell basking lights that combine normal UVA lighting, UVB and heat together. Whatever you do choose, you should buy thermometers and other measuring equipment so you know exactly what your basking station is putting out for your turtle. This is an essential aspect of Midland painted turtle care and worth investing more money in overall.

 

Feeding Your Midland Painted Turtle

The Midland painted turtle loves meat as a baby and juvenile. As they get older they lean more towards veggies.

In your care, regardless of the animal’s age it should have a very well-rounded diet to make sure it gets all the necessary vitamins and minerals.

Here are some suggestions for their food:

Turtle Pellets – some people only feed turtle pellets to their turtles. However, many keepers recommend pellets only make up some of their diet, with fresh foods making up the rest for interest and nutritional quality.

Seafood – Feeder fish are great for Midland painted turtles because they offer the animal some interest and encourage it to move to catch its food. Ghost shrimp are also great for this.

Veggies – There is a vast amount of veggies your Midland painted turtle can eat including; pondweed, red leaf lettuce, endives, romaine lettuce, dandelions, water lilies and water fern. You should include a mixture of floating plants and chopped prepared plants for variety.

Insects – Mealworms, blood worms and crickets are turtle favourites, especially if offered alive to trigger the turtle’s response to fast movement.

Some keepers will also give their Midland painted turtles supplements which is something you should discuss with your veterinarian who can advise you accordingly. They can also discuss a diet plan with you based on your turtle’s age, weight and health needs. Most adult turtles need feeding three times a week, and younger turtles – everyday.

 

You’re Well On Your Way To Owning A Midland Painted Turtle!

The Midland painted turtle is very cute, and very easy to care for once you get to understand the basic reptile husbandry needed to help it thrive.

With our guide above, and a really good veterinarian who can offer specific advice, you’ll be well on your way to keeping your very own Midland painted turtle healthy and thriving for a very happy long life under your care.

Be sure to check out My Turtle Shop Here for the essentials you need to help you set up.

 

*Photo credit https://www.flickr.com/photos/fujidude/27730831161/

The Map Turtle: A Complete Care Guide

The Map Turtle: A Complete Care Guide

The map turtle is a popular turtle type to keep as a pet, showcasing interesting behaviours and a really cool reptilian aesthetic.Map Turtle

Keeping a map turtle happy and healthy involves a lot of effort, so some research is needed before you can get started on this new and exciting pet adventure.

To help you, we have gathered all the information you need to know about caring for this cute little species including details on feeding, habitat and handling.

Read on to find out all about keeping map turtles as pets:

 

An Introduction To The Map Turtle

The map turtle comes from a larger group of 14 different species and five of those are broad headed. All map turtles are part of a genus called Graptemys.

Our focus today is on the Mississippi map turtle which is sometimes labelled a ‘false map turtle’ which still falls under the category of map turtle. Overall, the care of map turtles is specific to map turtles as a group so you can apply the same rules to different types of map turtles in a general sense.

When it comes to the look of a map turtle, it is quite varied. It’s carapace is keeled and serrated, it’s frontal limbs are broad and its feet at the back flattened and specially designed for dynamic movement in the water. Many map turtle’s carapaces are plain blacks, greys and browns, but some have orange, tan, green, yellow or white accents across the shell. They also have a stripy head, neck, legs and tail.

The map turtle’s native habitat is the Mississippi River and across other wet habitats within North America. It is a really interesting turtle type because it has such unique and specific evolutionary features and adaptations. This makes the map turtle very specific in the care it needs to receive to fully thrive in captivity. For that reason, if you’re a beginner turtle owner or you’re buying for a child, this probably isn’t the turtle for you.

 

Choosing A Map Turtle

It is always better to buy a map turtle that was born in captivity because they are already adapted to captive conditions. This makes it much easier to keep them happy, but most importantly, healthy because they will be much less likely to have diseases and parasites than wild animals.

When selecting your turtle it is important to ensure that the animal is as healthy as possible, which is more likely with a recommended breeder. A good map turtle breeder will:

  • Be open and honest about the turtle’s history
  • Check that you are a suitable owner for the turtle
  • Offer support and advice long after you have purchased the turtle
  • Offer certification of vet checks and other health checks
  • Be able to show you more than the one turtle in their care
  • Offer live on arrival or suitable dead on arrival procedures if sending the animal through the post

It is important that if you purchase the turtle from a previous owner or from a rescue facility that you are certain the animal is in great condition. A healthy turtle should be:Graptemys geographica

  • Clear eyed
  • Heavy when being picked up
  • Reactive when picked up
  • Have no fresh shell damage
  • Have no injuries on it’s tail, head or limbs
  • Show no sagging between the shell and the body
  • Show no signs of discharge from the nose, eyes or mouth

If you’re unsure, look elsewhere. Not only do you not want to purchase an unhealthy turtle but you don’t want to encourage unscrupulous breeders or sellers to get away with abusing turtle’s and making money from it.

 

Mississippi Map Turtle Behaviour

Mississippi map turtles live to about 15-25 years in great conditions and in the wild they are at home in the water. Even when they aren’t in the water, they generally won’t stray far from it.

In their natural habitat they can be found in groups where the females are the ones ‘in charge’ because they are usually bigger than the males. For this reason, it is never recommended to have more females than males as disputes can occur.

When you own a map turtle the chances are you won’t be able to handle it too much. They are naturally shy, even when raised in captivity and they feel safest in the water, not in your hands. If you do need to pick them up you can pick small turtles up by the sides of the shell, and larger pets by the front and back of the shell. Do keep their mouth well away from your fingers though as they do have a nasty bite.

 

Mississippi Map Turtle Housing

 

Water

Just like other aquatic turtles, the Mississippi map turtle loves an enclosure that is filled with water. You’ll need to ensure that you have a good filter in place to keep that water nice and clear unless you opt for an outdoor pond enclosure. Turtles are pretty enthusiastic eaters and will leave a mess so investing in a really strong filter is important.

A way to drain the water easily is also handy because you will need to give the whole enclosure a good clean about four times a year.

The water you do use has to be treated before being put in the enclosure as it contains chemicals that will make your turtle sick. The treatment removes those harmful chemicals.

Interestingly, because these turtles are often found in rivers you will also need some sort of current running through the water for it to feel as natural as possible. This current should be paired with heated water which can be warmed with a water heater. The water needs to be about 75 degrees Fahrenheit and about 1w of power warms about a litre of water, so in larger enclosures two heaters will be needed.

Tank/ Enclosure Size

When it comes to choosing the size of a tank, males and females require different sizes.

Females grow to about 6-10 inches long will need at least a 125 gallon tank of around 72 inches, but as males are smaller at an average of 6-10 inches long, they will need a minimum of a 75 gallon tank (90 gallons is better) that is about four foot at least.

As the animals require a lot of water the minimum height needs to allow the turtle to be submerged from feet to head if it stands feet up from the bottom. A minimum of 300mm is usually a good guide for adult map turtles.

Of course, the more space the better and most turtles do best with a large enclosure with plenty of space for exploring and living out natural behaviours. Many people may start with a small setup for a younger turtle and expand as the turtle grows but as the turtle will not be harmed by living in a larger enclosure than it needs, it is better to start with a full sized enclosure.

Heating

The ambient tank temperature for the map turtle needs to be about 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

The map turtle will need to be able to bask in its enclosure. This ensures that they can get dry, warm and take in the UVB which is vital to various health functions they need to do to be in great shape.

You will need the basking area to be around 80 degrees Fahrenheit which can be provided by a heat lamp. The manufacturer will list the distance from the lamp to the surface needed to heat it up adequately. You can test that temperature periodically to ensure it is as warm as your turtle needs.

The basking area itself has to be big enough for the turtle to be able to fully fit on it, and be able to turn. It should also include a ramp for easy access to and from the water. The platform itself could be a smooth wooden platform, driftwood or other interesting surfaces. As long as the items are treated and are turtle safe you can be quite creative with this aspect of the tank.

Some people like to use floating platforms in addition to the basking area so that the turtle has multiple options to gain access to dry land if they want it.

Lighting

You can add a lot of lighting to a turtle tank to replicate daylight, but it is the heating bulb (above) and the UVB absolutely essential for your turtle to be healthy. The UVB is needed so that your turtle gets vitamin D which enables them to process calcium in the body which is essential for bone growth and health.

You can use a special UVB lamp or tube for the UVB needed. Alternatively there are combo heat and UVB lighting lamps that sit in a ceramic lamp holder and they tend to need to be about 11-12 inches away from the basking surface to be effective. The manufacturer should provide instructions to let you know the distance requirements of the bulb. Whichever option you choose, the UVB has to be on 12 hours of the day and the bulb has to be replaced every 6 months. You can use a timer for this to ensure the turtle has properly replicated day to night conditions.

Enrichment

For a turtle to be happy the tank has to contain enrichment. Artificial plants are a great example of this as they are easily maintained, can provide colour and interest to the tank and give the turtle a place to hide. A mixture of submerged and floating decorations will ensure the turtle can move and hide as they wish, providing that all important security for them.

Using fresh plants in combination with artificial plants is a good idea to create a diverse and layered environment. As long as the turtle has lots of yummy veggies in their diet they shouldn’t spend too much time noshing their enclosure plants.

It is also a good idea to use clean substrate like large smooth pebbles to line the bottom of the enclosure. This imitates the natural debris and stones the turtle would interact with in their natural habitat.

 

What To Feed Your Mississippi Map Turtle

There are plenty of foods that the map turtle loves to eat with turtle pellets making up about 25% of their diet, and then protein and veggies making up the rest.

Common Map Turtle

Dead food-grade chicks and mice are great treats for the turtle. Crickets, locusts, shrimp, salmon and cockroaches are also great sources of protein. Putting some live insects in the enclosure can provide a great source of stimulation and interest for your turtle too. Do make sure that the insects are bred for this purpose though so you can be sure there is no disease present that could spread to your turtle. It is also important to avoid any processed foods.

When it comes to veggies – dandelion leaves and romaine lettuce are great choices. The key is to mix and match what you’re giving every day so that the turtle gets a good mix of nutrients.

 

You’re One Step Closer To Caring For A Map Turtle

The guide above is a great essential introduction to caring for a Mississippi map turtle. They do have specific needs but it is worth putting the effort in to make sure that they thrive. These little guys might not be the best pets for cuddling, but map turtles they are fantastic to observe, especially if they truly are happy in the enclosure you give them.

Be sure to check out My Turtle Shop Here for the essentials you need to help you set up.

The Musk Turtle: A Beginners Care Guide

The Musk Turtle: A Beginners Care Guide

The musk turtle is a popular choice for reptile lovers hoping to adopt a more unusual pet. They are cute and interesting to observe, and with theirMusk Turtle interesting behaviours they make a great species of turtle to take on.

Reptile husbandry takes a little bit of learning and practise, and the musk turtle requires some specialist care for it to be happy and healthy.

The good news is that we have collected loads of useful information about caring for musk turtles to help you get closer to owning your dream pet. From what to feed them, to musk turtle tank guidance, we’ve made a handy guide to help you out with all things common musk turtle.

Read on to learn all about the musk turtle and how to keep it healthy and happy in your care:

 

An Introduction To The Musk Turtle

Musk turtles (Sternotherus odoratus) are also known as stinkpot turtles because they release a nasty odour from special musk glands if they feel threatened. The idea is that the smell puts predators off attacking them/ eating them in the wild. In captivity, they don’t tend to do this.

The turtle comes from a wide range of areas including South Central America, South Eastern Canada and beyond. In native areas you will find the musk turtle in ponds, gentle meandering streams and other shallow, gentle watery habitats. Interestingly, unlike other aquatic turtle species you won’t see the musk turtle basking very often.

The musk turtle reaches an adult length of about 3-5 inches in general, with males being a little bigger, with a slightly bigger tail than the female. Both sexes of the turtle have shells that range from brown to black, with some more charcoal colours mixed in. The species also has a distinctive green or yellow stripe running from their nose to neck.

 

The Musk Turtle As A Pet

Musk turtles are a ‘pet you watch’ not a pet you handle. They tend to have a lot of sass and get up to all sorts of fun in the tank. You will see them swimming around, exploring their surroundings and generally being cute little active turtles.

This type of turtle is very small and can be handled by lifting the shell, but it does have a nasty bite if you aren’t careful. Its jaw is very strong and designed to crush crustaceans and snail shells so you really don’t want to experience that power on your fingers!

For this reason, these turtle types aren’t recommended as beginner turtles.

 

Choosing A Musk Turtle

The musk turtle lives about 30-50 years so it is a big commitment, but also a great opportunity to truly make a bond with your new pet. Of course, sourcing a healthy animal is important to make sure you do have them with you for as long as possible.

It is advised you only have a lone musk turtle as they are not sociable. If you really need to have multiple turtles you should avoid having multiple males as they can fight and compete.

There are two routes to getting a stinkpot turtle responsibly. One way is to purchase from a breeder who should:

  • Offer vet certification to show the turtle has been checked over
  • Willingly answer any question you have about the animal
  • Be willing to show you other animals as well as your chosen turtle
  • Want to ask you questions to check your suitability for turtle ownership

Don’t be afraid to thoroughly look into the breeder to check their reputation and authenticity. They should only breed turtles in captivity and never get them from the wild, even if they claim they have somehow done so ethically.

You can also get a musk turtle that is an unwanted pet. As they live so long, circumstances can change and responsible owners hand them in to rescue centres and don’t release them back into the wild. Although sad, this is the right thing to do if you can no longer care for a turtle because releasing a captive turtle into the wild is bad for the turtle and the ecosystem.

If you don’t mind getting a turtle that is a little older it is worth rescuing one from a reputable rescue centre. They need a home and you may also get them at more of a ‘bargain price’. This Youtube video is a great example of a musk turtle success story, with Maria the turtle getting a great new owner dedicated to her rehabilitation. The rescue centre will also support you in keeping your turtle healthy and happy if you need some follow up advice.

 

Common Musk Turtle Health Issues

There are potential health issues that can happen to the musk turtle. Being aware of these issues is helpful so you can keep an eye out for them. You should also make sure you have a great exotic pet veterinarian within your locale so that you can seek advice and treatment whenever you need it.

Here are some of the most common musk turtle health issues:

  • Shell rot – presents with a white look to the shell and a soft feeling to the shell
  • Parasites – presents with fatigue, runny stools and weight loss
  • Vitamin A deficiency -presents with appetite loss, swollen eyes with discharge, kidney issues
  • Abscesses – hard swelling anywhere on the animal that may push out a thick pus

As a general rule, you should observe your musk turtle every day to get used to how it behaves normally. This will help you to quickly identify it isn’t as it usually is and get it to the vet for assessment.

Stinkpot Turtle

How To Care For A Musk Turtle

Enclosure

Tank

Because these cute little guys are so active it is important to give them as much room as you possibly can in a musk turtle tank with an ambient temperature of about 75-80 degrees.

A good general rule is a minimum of 10 gallons per inch of shell. The turtle is also going to grow so it is a good idea to have an extra 20 gallons more than the size your turtle needs now to allow for that growth and to give you time to get a bigger setup arranged.

The tank must be reinforced and designed to hold water because that is what it will mostly be filled with. These turtles will spend most of their time swimming around.

Water

Your turtle should have a shallow end of around 10 inches of water, and 24 inches in the deep end (minimum). Some people, however, choose to have one depth of water with various areas the turtle can get out easily, which is OK too. The trick is to allow the turtle plenty of water to swim and enjoy safely.

Most musk turtles will enjoy a gentle current in the water, which can be made naturally with the filters (mentioned below) or with water jetting aquarium devices.

The water you give to any turtle has to be treated so that it has no nasty chemicals in it that could harm your turtle. The water also needs to be heated to about 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit which can be achieved with an underwater heater suitable for use in aquariums with turtles (hardier than fish aquarium heaters).

The heater should have an adjustment setting so that you can change the temperature to the different times of the year, replicating the turtle’s natural environment. It is also handy for the heater to have a visible thermometer in it so you can keep checking if the water is at the right temperature.

As well as a water heater you will need a water filter to keep your musk turtle tank nice and clean.

Check the filter you want is able to filter the amount of water in your tank at least and then some. This is because water filters for turtles need to filter more mess than if they are in a tank with fish.

Turtles produce a lot more waste than fish so the filter should be designed for more water than it is filtering, so it is able to handle the mess. Lastly, the filter should be clog-proof and quiet so as not to disturb your turtle.

 

Basking Area

Although these turtles do not bask as much as other turtle types, they do need to do it for their health. It helps keep them physically and mentally active and healthy, and enables them to make vitamin D so they can absorb calcium from their diets.

A musk turtle basking area does not have to be huge or special. It just needs to be big enough to fit them on it with some space for them to turn around. It should also be stable so they can stay still on it and so you can control the temperature and light on it at any one time.

On the platform you will need to get the temperatures at between 85 and 95 degrees, ideally with a basking lamp that puts out heat, UVB and UVA. UVB is essential for maintaining your turtles health so it is important not to accidentally get a bulb that does not provide this light.

The manufacturers usually state the distance from the platform you need to place the bulb to get the required temperatures. However, it is still worth using thermometers and other measuring devices to ensure you keep an eye on the temperatures of the platform. The bulb should not be too close or too far away, and it needs to be replaced regularly to avoid it decreasing in the levels it puts out.

You can also get tube lights that do the same thing which cost more but tend to be overall more safe and effective at delivering the heat and rays to the turtle.

 

Tank Accessories

This type of turtle really enjoy lots of tank furniture and enrichment to enjoy. Some great ideas for musk turtle tank accessories are:

  • Smooth, large, stable rocks
  • Clean and smooth driftwood
  • Weighted and floating artificial and real plants, plus some decent sized floating plants that will hold the weight of your turtle
  • Many people also like to line the bottom of the aquarium with turtle pebbles that are designed for turtle tanks. Just make sure none are small enough for the turtle to get in its mouth
  • Turtle logs – halved logs designed for turtles to crawl underneath

Whichever features you choose do be careful your turtle cannot get wedged underneath any of the features in the tank. As long as they can get in any hiding spaces, move around and get out again, they will be fine.

 

What To Feed Your Musk Turtle

In the wild a musk turtle will eat snails (and their shells), small crustaceans, aquatic insects, tadpoles and duckweed and other pond plants.

When keeping a musk turtle in captivity you will need to vary what they eat regularly so they get a good selection of vitamins and minerals. They will happily eat pelleted turtle foods as well as shrimp, crickets, bloodworms, earthworms and snails. Any live or dead protein given to the turtle should be bred for food so that it is free from disease and bacteria. Duckweed, water hyacinth or similar pond species non-toxic to turtles are also consumed by them and make good additions to their tank for foraging.

 

You’re One Step Closer To Owning A Musk Turtle!

Musk turtles are interesting, cute reptiles that require specialist care to keep them happy and healthy. With our guide, and plenty of advice from a breeder and a good vet, you’re well on your way to being a stinkpot turtle owner! Soon enough you’ll be helping your new shelled musk turtle pal thrive in your care.

Be sure to check out My Turtle Shop Here for the essentials you need to help you set up.

The Essential Guide To Caring For The Box Turtle

The Essential Guide To Caring For The Box Turtle

Thinking of getting a box turtle? They are very cute, but they also require specialist care to make sure they can be happy and healthy living inBox Turtle captivity.

In this guide we have collected lots of information about caring for Eastern box turtles so that they thrive in your care.

Here’s your essential guide to Eastern box turtle care:

 

Eastern Box Turtle Introduction

The Eastern box turtle has a shell that graduates up to a high dome and they usually have mixed markings of red, orange, brown, yellow and black. They also have bright orange eyes and black and yellow markings on their head as well as orange and black limbs.

The turtles can get to about 5 or six inches in size as adults and can live to around 50 years old if looked after well.

The box turtle is a reptile that comes from the terrapene genus and descends from Northern America. They look like tortoises but form part of the American pond turtle family.

They are commonly seen in the wild (although numbers are dwindling), but many are kept as pets with the Eastern box turtle – a subspecies of the box turtle – being the most common species found in captivity.

You’ll find these beautiful little shelled guys in all kinds of environments. From grassy fields to meadows, moist forests and shallow streams – they’re really adaptable within the Eastern American climate.

This adaptability is what makes them a good pet choice, although they do still require some special care to ensure they truly thrive.

Eastern Box Turtle

Box Turtles As Pets

Box turtles are small and so they are easy to handle, which makes them great pets, although they don’t necessarily love to be handled. That being said, they can develop bonds with their owners and become a real asset to the family in that way.

Many reptile owners also appreciate that box turtles are quite hardy and less specialist in their needs than other turtles. Although, they are still more specialist than other types so they aren’t necessarily the ideal turtle for a beginner.

If you choose to buy a box turtle do consider adopting an unwanted pet. Responsible owners who can no longer care for their box turtle will give it to a veterinarian or suitable rescue centre. There, you can often adopt a turtle at a discounted rate and feel assured that it is healthy and ready for adoption. Be wary of taking on box turtles offered ‘free to a good home’ as you cannot be sure of their health or history.

If you do want to buy from a breeder take care to buy from a reputable seller. They should be happy to answer all your questions and they should ask you questions to check your suitability for box turtle ownership. If they ask you lots of questions, this is a good sign and shouldn’t be taken as them being nosy or intrusive. They want the best for the turtles they breed, which is what you want from a breeder.

 

Indoor Box Turtle Care

Tank

As box turtles are so little they don’t need a lot of space, although the bigger the enclosure the better because every pet animal deserves the most possible space to live in.

The minimum sized tank is around 20 gallons but realistically, more towards 40 or 50 is better.

Forage

In the tank the box turtle requires different products that it can hide under and investigate. Safe logs (without any sharp bits) are a good example of this, as well as clean leaves and twigs that you’d expect in their natural habitat in the wild.

The turtles also like a shallow pool for soaking. Unlike aquatic turtles, they don’t require water to swim in and many actually can’t swim. So, the pool has to be shallow and easy for them to get out of.

Lighting & Heating

*The lighting and heating advice in this section relates to the Eastern Box Turtle. If you are buying another type of box turtle it is important to check the specifics for that turtle type as they differ slightly.*

The overall lighting in the tank can be provided by a 75-100 watt bulb on for 12 hours of the day whilst the turtle gets the shady environment they need around and under the logs, plants and leaves you provide.

The lighting needs to be on for 14 hours for baby box turtles and unwell turtles. The lighting should also be on a little while before you feed your turtle so that its temperature adjusts. If this isn’t done you may find your turtle is not in the mood for breakfast.

This lighting can add warmth to the tank but most people use heating lamps as well. You may need extra warming lamps throughout if the room the tank is in gets cold.

The ambient temperature of the tank needs to be around 70-75 degrees Fahrenheit in the day and between 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit at night.

If the box turtle is not kept warm enough it will start to slow down and eat less, which can lead to it getting unwell and potentially catching disease through lowered immunity.

Some owners like to heat the tank up from the bottom rather than through overhead lighting. This can be problematic because the turtle then has no escape from the heat.

Overhead lighting/ heating tends to be preferable so the turtle can stay cool, especially if you not only provide logs and shelter, but you allow one end of the tank to stay shaded and less light-filled. Having separate heating also enables you to keep the tank at an ambient nighttime temperature without the light having to be on, ensuring that nighttime is properly replicated for normal sleeping/ behaviour patterns.

You’ll also need to make sure the humidity is about 60% for Eastern Box Turtles (higher for very young box turtles).

BaskingBox Turtle

Basking is one of the most important elements of a box turtle’s care. Box turtles require sunlight for their mental and physical health, which makes UVA and UVB rays essential for keeping the animal healthy.

UVA rays keep your box turtle healthy, happy and active. UVB rays are the ray type box turtles need to create vitamin D which helps them absorb calcium from what it eats. Without this it may get shell malformation and general bone disease.

The important thing to know as a pet owner is that UVA and UVB won’t get into the turtle’s tank through daylight in your house. You need to provide the right lamps for your turtle to provide these rays. As well as the general lighting we mentioned above you will need to provide concentrated UVB and UVA lamps on a basking platform for your turtle.

You can usually get lamps that emit both types of UV, and those lamp manufacturers will list the distance the bulb needs to be from the basking platform to provide the right UV levels. The lamp has to be at exactly the right level as not to provide too little or too much heat and UVA/ UVB for your turtle.

Once you choose the bulb it is important to replace it as often as the manufacturer recommends so that the emitted UV rays do not decrease.

Some people also like to allow their box turtles to spend time outside foraging in a pen in summer. This boosts their natural UVA/ UVB levels.

I recommend these Heat Lamps here.

Monitoring

The light levels, UVB and UVA levels, humidity and warmth within the tank all need monitoring to make sure the turtle is getting the right care. Thermometers and other monitoring equipment don’t cost much and yet, they can be the difference between your turtle being sick or healthy, happy or very lacklustre so they are worth getting.

 

Feeding Your Eastern Box Turtle

It is important to make sure that your turtle is fed well. They are omnivores and a well balanced diet will help keep them active, happy and healthy for life.

Box turtles enjoy a diet of meat, fruit and veggies which spans across all kinds of sources in the wild. They can feast on anything from slugs, to mushrooms, worms and roots in the wild.

In captivity your turtle needs to be given around 50% protein, 20% fruit and 30% veggies. Some people also provide their box turtles with pellets, but they shouldn’t make up any more than a quarter of your turtle’s diet if you do use them.

Here are some suggestions for foods within each category:

Protein: Tuna, worms, snails (shell and all!), crickets, boiled eggs, shrimps

Fruits: Plums, watermelon, blueberries, grapes, kiwi, bananas

Veggies: Tomatoes, squash, dandelions, carrots

These items need to be varied every week so that your turtle gets a mixture of nutrients. The food given should also be clean and sourced from reputable sources (in the case of insects and meat) so that your turtle doesn’t get sick from the food you give them.

Extra Eastern Box Turtle Feeding Tips:

  • Speak to your vet about supplements for your turtle. Some people supplement with calcium, but it’s not always necessary. An exotic reptile vet can advise on this to help you decide.
  • Avoid processed food, white potatoes, any dairy, sweets, bread, refined grains, sugars or rhubarb as they will make your turtle sick.
  • Remove uneaten food every day and clean the rocks you place the food on thoroughly every couple of days.
  • If you have more than one turtle they should have their own feeding area to ensure they eat enough and don’t compete over food.
  • Consider giving your turtle live insects (bred for food) as they enjoy the movement aspect of catching food, which stimulates their mind and keeps them active.
  • Feed the turtles at dawn or dusk as that is when they naturally eat in the wild.

 

You’re Well On Your Way To Owning A Box Turtle!

Owning a pet like a box turtle can be challenging, but incredibly rewarding. By reading guides like this one, and consulting breeders, box turtle owners and exotic pet veterinarians, you can ensure that your new Eastern Box Turtle thrives in your care.

Be sure to check out My Turtle Shop Here for the essentials you need to help you set up.

How To Care For A Southern Painted Turtle

How To Care For A Southern Painted Turtle

The Southern Painted Turtle is a stunning animal that makes for a truly interesting pet. It does take specialist care, though, to keep it happy andSouthern Painted Turtle healthy.

If you’re considering getting a Southern painted, this guide will give you all the information you know to keep your new reptile friend in the best condition.

From enclosure guidelines, to feeding tips, here’s all you need to know to care for your beautiful new Southern painted pal:

 

The Southern Painted In The Wild

Southern painted turtles (Chrysemys Picta) are stunning animals with a smooth shell. They have a black and green shell and body, with bright red and yellow markings and stripes.

In the wild, you will find the Southern painted in all kinds of watery environments like streams, meandering rivers, marshes, ponds and other slow moving sources of water with a soft bottom. They can be found across North America most commonly, but can be found much further afield too.

Sadly, the animals can be caught for food, for fun or to be unethically sold in the pet trade by humans. In the wild other animals will prey on Southern painted turtles for their meat and eggs, which is why they use the water as their ‘safe place’ where they hide and pull their body into their shell if attacked.

If you see a Southern painted in the wild you can expect it to be basking on objects on or around the water, like logs or stones. They will commonly be seen with other Southern painted turtles and the group of them together is called a ‘bale’.

 

How To Get A Healthy Southern Painted

Southern painted turtles are beginner turtles because they can be handled easily at just 6 inches long, their adult size. They do, however, get snappy if you make quick movements near their head and they aren’t naturally friendly. So they may well be a turtle to enjoy watching, not touching. Although it is handy to know you can pick one up to examine or move to another enclosure/ travel box if needed.

If you care for your Southern painted well it can live up to about 20 years or more in captivity. Of course, this is only if you care for them well and also if you get a healthy specimen to begin with.

Getting a healthy Southern painted turtle means buying one from a breeder, or taking on an unwanted pet. Both methods involve you doing a lot of checks and homework on the seller to make sure the turtle is in good health.

Rescue centers are a good starting point because they can speak to you about painted turtles they have, as well as giving you advice on breeders should they not have any suitable animals for you.

As a general rule, breeders and people looking to move their pets on should be willing to answer any questions you have. They should be able to give you a full history of the animal too. Breeders will also be able to provide information like who the parents of the turtle are, and they should also be able to show you other painted turtles they have in their care.

You’re looking for:

  • Clean living conditions
  • Ethical living conditions
  • Healthy turtles with no signs of damage, discharge or distress
  • Lively turtles
  • Transparency from the owner/ breeder

They should also be willing to give you vet check certificates or allow you to go and do a vet visit with them before you take the turtle home and hand over your money.

The Southern painted is going to be with you for a very long time, hopefully, so it makes sense to check if it is a healthy and happy animal when you buy it. This avoids a lot of expensive veterinary care on your part, and potential heartbreak if your new pal is so sick it doesn’t make it.

 

How To Care For A Southern Painted

Tank

The tank of a Southern painted needs to be about 80-85 degrees Fahrenheit in ambient temperature.

The turtle tank of a Southern painted should ideally be around 10 gallons per inch of shell. So an adult six inch Southern painted needs around a 60 gallon tank, ideally. 40 gallons is probably the minimum size tank you could get away with to keep one male Southern painted turtle, but it is not ideal. As the females tend to be a little bigger they need a minimum of 50 gallons, with 75 or more gallons being ideal for them to be happy.

You should also add 20 gallons for every extra male, or 40 gallons for every extra female.

Water

The Southern painted is aquatic so it has to have water to be happy. Around double the length of the average Southern painted (6 inches) is a good starting point for depth. However, more than 12 inches is probably better for a happier turtle.

You will need to use a water heater to keep the water nice and warm at around 70-75 degrees, with two water heaters being placed if you have a very large tank. You will also need to treat the water to remove chemicals before putting it in, and pay for the best filter you can afford. If it filters 60 gallons and you have a 30 gallon tank, that is a good choice for a turtle tank. Turtles make a lot more poop than fish, so you need to work hard to keep them clean and hygienic.

BaskingSouthern Painted Turtle

Southern painted turtles are often spotted in the wild basking. This is the area of the enclosure you need to make sure has heating and lighting to keep your turtle happy and healthy.

Turtles rely on UVA light and heat to trigger their inner biological systems, telling them it is time to be active and move. They also get their body heat and energy this way. For this reason, you need to make sure the surface temperature of the basking platform is around 80-85 degrees.

This platform also requires something called UVB, which is what your turtle uses to make vitamin D, which allows them to absorb calcium from the food they eat. Without this they can get a nasty condition with their shells where it becomes deformed.

You can get a lamp or tube light (like these ones) that provides warmth, UVA and UVB and most manufacturers will state how close each lamp wattage should be from the platform to provide the right levels for the turtle.

This distance has to be very precise so the turtle gets the benefits of the rays, but also so they don’t get burnt.

You can use special thermometers and ray guns (check these ones here) to capture the levels of this platform. By checking the levels you can change the bulb when needed so your turtle never gets less UVA, heat or UVB than they need.

You can make the Southern painted turtles basking platform from driftwood, smooth wooden planks or even large stones. As long as it is stable and they can fit on it and turn around (plus a gentle ramp to get on and off) you can be quite creative with how it looks.

Enrichment

Southern painted turtles require enrichment in their tanks to be happy. Non-toxic plastic and real floating and weighted plants are always fun for them to investigate and hide in. Smooth rocks are another great choice, as well as floating basking stations. Anything you do add needs to be:

  • Non-toxic
  • Smooth
  • Unable to trap them by falling over
  • Unable to trap them because of the gap it provides

 

Keeping The Southern Painted In A Pond

Some people feel the best enclosure for a Southern painted is a pond outside. This is because it is the most natural option for them, and it also keeps them away from younger children inside the house, controlling the risk of salmonella.

If you live in an area where the weather is nice and sunny most of the time you could well keep your Southern painted outside. To do so you need to provide them with:

  • A prefab/ natural pond of 50 gallons+
  • Filtered pond water
  • Ramps so the turtle can get in and out of the water
  • Fencing of 6 inches deep and 2 foot high plus netting to keep other animals out of their enclosure
  • Basking spots
  • Burrowing spots

If your winter dips below 40 degrees Fahrenheit you also need to provide an indoor enclosure for your painted Southern turtle. Hibernation is an option but it is risky in captivity so do speak to your vet about it.

Southern Painted Turtle

 

How To Feed A Southern Painted

The painted turtle likes to feast on so many different food types. That is because they are omnivores and they regularly eat whatever they can find in the wild. Snails, insects, roots – they will eat most things.

However, in captivity they don’t have that same natural range of foods so you need to provide the right nutrients for them to keep them healthy. These types of turtles do well with a lower level of protein provided every couple of days, plus veggies the rest of the time as their staple foraging food.

Protein – Worms, insects, snails, chicken, crickets and mealworms are all great options. Just be sure they are not processed and are bred for use in the food chain. To stimulate your turtle’s natural instincts try offering them live insects every now and then. They will love the movement and it will encourage them to move instinctually to catch them for food.

Vegetables – Duckweed, romaine lettuce and dandelion greens free from chemicals and processing are all great foods for your turtle. Try introducing some floating veggies to encourage your turtle to eat as they would in the wild.

You can also feed your turtle something called turtle pellets (such as these here), but they should not make up their entire diet. Your vet can advise on these, as well as supplements sometimes recommended for turtles.

If your turtle is not eating it could be down to a number of reasons such as a Vitamin A deficiency, boredom, injury or parasites. The best thing to do is speak to a vet who has turtle experience so they can quickly diagnose the problem. It is better to be safe than sorry with sick turtles, as the sooner they are diagnosed the better their chance of getting the right treatment to get them back to health.

 

When Will You Get Your Southern Painted Turtle?

A Southern painted pet is an exciting, interesting and sometimes loyal pet.

With our tips and information above – and your own further research – soon you will be caring for your new Southern painted well, helping them to absolutely thrive in your care for many years to come.

Be sure to check out My Turtle Shop Here for the essentials you need to help you set up.

Red Eared Slider As A Pet: A Complete Care Guide

Red Eared Slider As A Pet: A Complete Care Guide

The Red eared slider is a cute little turtle that can make a great pet. They can also live two decades or more in captivity, though, so they are a bigRed Eared Slider commitment.

They also need special care and consideration to keep them healthy, so it’s important to be committed not just to their lifespan, but their care needs to.

To help you get started out in your red eared sliders adventure we’ve got lots of tips and tricks to help you care for them really well:

 

A Basic Overview Of The Red Eared Slider Turtle

Red eared slider turtles (trachemys scripta elegans) are also known as – red eared terrapins, slider turtles and water slider turtles. They have four main marks that allow you to identify them including;

  • A shell made up of different sections called scutes
  • The scutes have a yellow outline
  • The legs, neck and head have light green/ yellow stripes
  • The bottom shell is yellow and has a spot in each scute
  • There is a red mark just behind each eye

Generally, the males and females look the same but there are subtle differences. A prime example of this is that males are a little smaller than the females. The males also have longer frontal claws.

When allowed to thrive, red eared slider turtles get to around 5-11 inches and they can live over 40 years in the wild. Red eared sliders in captivity have a shorter lifespan of about 20 years.

 

Choosing A Red Eared Slider

Red eared sliders are very difficult to care for, and so, they are commonly invasive as pet owners simply abandon them into the wild, believing this to be the best thing for the animal. This is a bad idea for the turtle and the local ecosystem, so please never do this.

If you want to get a red eared slider, the first thing you should do is read guides like this one and really do your homework to check you can care for the animal for its entire life, in the way it needs for it to be healthy.

If you do decide to get one, please try adopting one from a rescue to discourage the breeding and sales of more turtles. Doing this helps out the turtle, who needs a forever home, and it helps you because it tends to be much cheaper than buying from a breeder. Sometimes, they are even available to adopt for free.

If you do want to buy from a breeder, choose a reputable breeder who has a good reputation. You may want to do this to get a ‘morph’, which is a slider bred to look different, such as an albino or pastel slider. Do keep in mind morphs are prone to more health issues and will likely be more expensive to buy.

A good sign that a breeder is not reputable is when they sell turtles under 4 inches, which is actually illegal in the US without a permit. Very large companies should also be avoided as they likely got the turtles from turtle farms or from the wild, which is unethical.

Wherever you get your turtle from, check for the following details so you can tell it is healthy:

  • Are the eyes clear and open?
  • Is the turtle alert and aware of you?
  • Can you see multiple animals to compare?
  • Is the shell and body free from wounds and recent damage?
  • Are the growth rings on the shell smooth and even?
  • Is the body filling the shell well?
  • Can the turtle get around well?
  • Are the ears in good shape and free from lumps?
  • Can the turtle dive easily?
  • Is the turtle nice and heavy?
  • If you pull one of the turtles legs, does it pull it away with a good level of strength?
  • Is the enclosure clean and large?
  • Is there heat and lighting?

If the answer is no to any of these questions you may want to skip this seller.

In addition you should check out the sellers policies, veterinarian check certificates, ability to answer questions about eating habits and mating, and their overall reputation in the reptile community. It is so important to do your research before you make any plans to buy or rescue an animal.

 

Enclosure

The enclosure of the red eared slider does not dictate how large it will grow so keeping a slider in a small tank to keep it at a small size will not work. Instead you should offer minimum enclosure sizes for different turtle sizes, working towards the following requirements:

Water

The minimum requirements for a red eared sliders water amounts are:

  • 10 gallons of water per inch of shell length
  • Depth of water that is at a minimum the same length as the turtles shell (ideally more)

The water temperature needs depend on the age and life stage of the turtle. Assuming they are thriving and have no other health conditions, a 9-10cm male is considered adult, and the female is about 15-19cm as she reaches adulthood. The general water temperature guidelines for the red eared sliders are:

  • 78-82 degrees Fahrenheit for baby turtles under a year old
  • 74-76 degrees Fahrenheit for turtles in juvenile stages
  • 70-88 degrees Fahrenheit for adult turtles

You can measure the temperature of the turtle’s water using an aquatic thermometer but it should never be left in the enclosure because the turtles may interact with it and hurt themselves.

You can use an aquarium water heater to heat the water in your turtle’s enclosure. It should be completely plastic encased, known to work well for the water amount in your enclosure and it should have safety features that shut it off if it malfunctions. If the enclosure contains vast amounts of water then you might need to install two.

You can use the same timer plugs used for the heat and UVB lamps to put your water heaters on a timer. Unless you have a hatchling in your care, generally echoing the natural cycle of colder water at night and warmer water in the day makes sense for the turtle’s habitat.

Lastly, you will need to filter the water in your turtle tank using an aquarium filter that is approved as safe for this kind of use. In addition to this kind of filtration, a way to empty the tank is essential. This is especially true if you choose to keep the red eared slider in a pond where you may need to empty the pond at some point for maintenance.

Enclosure Type

  • 100 gallons minimum tank size for any age red eared slider but ideally 120-125 which is more common and tends to be more well-priced
  • Purchased from a reputable retailer, but ideally custom-made and expertly made
  • Alternatively an indoor and outdoor pond which is preferred by the red eared sliders and can be easier to access and maintain by owners (the pond still needs to be 10 gallons of water per inch of turtle shell length)
  • Based somewhere the weight of the water will not affect your home’s structure. The ideal location is on the lowest part of your home

Lighting & UVB

It is important to never use coloured lighting in a red eared slider tank, instead, focus on providing a high quality selection of essential UVB and additional lighting.

UVB is essential to the health of your slider. It enables them to fight off infections, feel good and create vitamin D. For this reason, a red eared slider enclosure must have a source of UVB. The bulb has to be between half and three quarters of the length of enclosure above the basking area. This is assuming there is nothing in between the bulb and the basking area.

As red eared sliders like to bask in strong sunlight they should have the strongest levels of sunlight where they bask, and lower amounts elsewhere, so they have different options. You can measure the UV in their tank using a special metre.

In addition to the UVB light you will need to also add either an LED light or full-spectrum fluorescent to replicate daylight light levels in the turtle’s enclosure. This extra light helps to keep your turtle happy and it will boost the growth of any living plants you keep in the tank.

You should keep all these lights on for up to 13 hours a day (11 hours minimum) which is then trimmed over winter to replicate the change in seasons. You can get timers for this to avoid the inconvenience of manual lighting switching on and off.

Heating

Red eared sliders are cold blooded and use heat outside of their bodies to aid essential functions. They bask in the heat lamp to do this, which is an essential aspect of their maintenance and health.

The basking temperature of a red eared sliders platform should be:

  • 104 degrees Fahrenheit surface
  • 85-90 degrees Fahrenheit air

Using a thermometer you can check the temperatures of the area, as well as using an infrared temperature device which can be pointed from the light at the surface, with the heating light placed at the right distance (recommended by the manufacturer). The lamp should also be at the same distance as the UVB light from bulb to platform.

Overall, halogen bulbs tend to do the best job, equipped with a dimmer so you have control over the temperature on the platform.

In addition, a dome shaped lamp fixture and ceramic socket are important parts of the setup as they allow the animal to heat itself fully in a concentrated area.

BaskingRed Eared Slider Turtle

Remember, red eared sliders like to spend most of their time in water but they still need some time on land to bask so they should have areas they can use for this purpose. The space doesn’t need to be very large, and you can be quite creative with it. Large smooth rocks, driftwood and other items can look really cool in an enclosure whilst enabling the turtle to bask like it would in the wild.

Enrichment

It is important to decorate your turtle tank once you have all the basics right. Decorations that encourage the turtle to climb, smell, explore and generally stimulate them mentally are really important and will go some way to keep your turtle both happy and healthy.

All of the factors above combined set you up for a healthy and happy environment for your slider to live in.

 

Keeping A Pet Red Eared Slider In Native Environments

Many people who live in areas that red eared sliders are native will house them in outside ponds where the sunlight and heat are all provided by the natural weather system, just like they would be in the wild. This does have to be done cautiously though, and if the area is not where red eared sliders are native light and heat will need to be supplemented.

Mostly, though, many people argue outdoor ponds in the right climate are the best possible option for keeping red eared sliders because they get everything they need from nature, apart from the food you provide.

 

Housing Red Eared Slider Turtles Together

Red eared sliders are commonly seen in social groups in the wild, but that may not translate to red eared sliders in captivity. One slider on its own will actually live quite happily, so there’s no real need to get more than one. If you do want more remember to:

  • Add 20 more gallons of water per additional turtle at least
  • Provide more areas for basking
  • Pay close attention to feeding so you know that all the turtles are well fed
  • House turtles of a similar size together

 

Brumation

Brumation is a natural process all reptiles go through and it is recommended for red eared sliders in captivity to replicate natural behaviours. Brumation is where they slow down and cool for a period of time in winter. It is its own separate process and one that requires a lot of reading and information to get right. You can find out more about reptile brumation from Marla the Western Pond Turtle in this Youtube video.

Red Eared Slider Turtle

Feeding

Red eared sliders feeding requirements are different depending on their age. As a general guide you can follow these feeding guidelines:

Measurements –

  • One portion of protein as much as your turtle consumes in up to 10 minutes
  • One portion of veggies is the same as the turtles shell size
  • One portion of pellets is the same as the turtles head size

1 Year Or Less

  • Turtle pellets on alternate days
  • Veggies everyday
  • Protein every day
  • Overall diet is half and half veggies and protein

Juveniles And Adults

  • Protein once or twice a week
  • Veggies every day
  • Turtle pellets twice a week or three times maximum
  • Overall diet is three quarters veggies one quarter protein

As red eared slider turtles only eat in water to get the food down (they don’t make saliva!) the food has to be sprinkled in their water when it is time for them to eat. You will want to take their uneaten food out with a net to stop the food rotting and contaminating the tank.

When it comes to what you should feed the sliders they eat a huge range of different food types so you can mix and match.

Protein

Protein is best given in whole form rather than cut into chunks so the animal benefits from all the different parts of the animal. Some examples of great protein sources for sliders are:

  • Dead crayfish
  • Shrimp (alive or freeze-dried)
  • Captive bred frogs
  • Mealworms
  • Crickets
  • Earthworms
  • Captive bred snails
  • Captive bred tadpoles
  • Live mollies, guppies or platies

Dead frozen chicks, quail or mice can be given occasionally as a treat.

Overall, feeding the red eared slider turtle wild animals or insects, or processed meat or food or any kind is a bad idea because any additives or chemicals could be harmful to them.

Veggies

Try to give the sliders plenty of variety when it comes to their veggie intake. Here are some examples of great veggie sources for red eared sliders:

  • Endives
  • Collard greens
  • Dandelion greens
  • Spinach
  • Swiss chard
  • Turnip greens
  • Clover
  • Carrot tops

Fruit like; skinned apples, melon, pears and grapes can be given to your red eared sliders as a treat.

Turtle Pellets

When it comes to turtle pellets it is up to you which pellet to choose as they all have pros and cons. Every turtle owner has their favourite, so it is worth doing some research so you are using a trusted brand. Whichever brand you do choose, don’t go over 25% of your red eared slider turtles diet intake with pellets as they need the protein and fresh veggies as well to thrive.

 

You’re On The Way To Being A Brilliant Red Eared Slider Owner

With our guide, you’re well on your way to understanding what is involved in caring for these turtly awesome pets.

There is a lot to owning and properly caring for these beautiful, interesting and often-abused animals. The more that you can fully understand what red eared sliders need, the more able you are to help your little shelled friend thrive in your care.

Be sure to check out My Turtle Shop Here for the essentials you need to help you set up.

Red Eared Sliders

The Essential Guide To Keeping The Alligator Snapping Turtle As A Pet

The Essential Guide To Keeping The Alligator Snapping Turtle As A Pet

There are only two types of snapping turtles in the entire world, the alligator snapping turtle and the common snapping turtles. Both areAlligator Snapping Turtle indigenous to certain parts of the United States, but are commonly kept as pets worldwide.

Common snapping turtles tend to be more common than the alligator snapping turtle.

If you’re interested in keeping an alligator snapping turtle as a pet, this guide is a great starting point.

It’s all the essentials you need to know to understand this cute little shelled friend that bit more.

Let’s take a closer look at the alligator snapping turtle and how to care for it:

 

A Little Background On The Alligator Snapping Turtle

Alligator snapping turtles (macrochelys temminckii) are the largest freshwater turtles in North America and usually live in waterways like lakes, canals, rivers and bayous. The water is always preferred to be deeper if possible, and you won’t commonly find them in a pond or shallow stream. That being said, they can be found in swamps and more shallow waters.

The turtles can be found in the Southern parts of the United States and despite them being pretty tough, they are sadly listed as vulnerable by the International Union For Conservation Of Nature.

When it comes to their temperament with people – they are sassy. They will lunge and give you a nasty bite, especially if they feel threatened. They won’t go out of their way to hurt you though as they are quite timid, so an attack is always a defensive, rather than offensive move. Still, you can hear of stores of those whom were bit by snapping turtle.

There are lots of reasons that people love the alligator snapping turtle. One reason is that it has a really interesting style of hunting. They camouflage themselves with leaves and mud and then use their tongue as a fishing lure.

The unsuspecting fish will then be attracted to the lure where it is then ambushed by the turtle. You can see this impressive ambush hunting style play out in this Youtube Video.

 

Alligator Snapping Turtle StatisticsAlligator Snapping Turtle

Life Span – Some alligator snapping turtles can live well over 100 years although there isn’t much known about wild snapping turtle average lifespans. Their average lifespan in captivity is up to 70 years.

Size – Males are smaller than females, but both will have a shell about 16-26 inches long.

Weight – Males weight between 20 and 75 pounds and females weigh anywhere from 70 to 200 pounds.

Time Spent In Water – They can hold their breath for around 40-50 minutes and may spend most of their time in the water

Social Life – Alligator turtles are solitary animals.

Reproduction – Females nest from April to June and lay up to 45 eggs at a time nearby to the water. Eggs hatch about three months after being laid.

Status – Alligator snapping turtles are endangered and have some level of legal protection because of this, but the enforcement of the protection is difficult to maintain.

Diet – Alligator snapping turtles eat all kinds of foods depending on local availability. They will eat fish, snakes, crustaceans, plant roots, small mammals and even birds.

Threats – Sadly, the main predator of an alligator snapping turtle is humans. Whilst baby turtles can be eaten by various birds and mammals, humans are the main predator for human turtles. They may get hunted for food, to be illegally kept as pets (more in this below) and they can also be run over on highways and roads.

 

Keeping An Alligator Snapping Turtle As A Pet

It is always recommended that you buy a domestic alligator snapping turtle rather than take an animal from the wild. This is the most ethical and environmentally friendly choice, and gives you the best chance of having a healthy animal in your care.

Here are some tips on caring for your new prehistoric looking friend:

How To Hold An Alligator Snapping Turtle

Small turtles can be held by holding the turtles at the sides carefully, making sure you have a good grip of the animal. Adult turtles can weigh as much as a person so it is a little harder. You will need to hold the shell behind the head and in front of the tail being extra careful to avoid the mouth, which is very strong. You should never hold the tail of a snapping turtle as this could cause spine damage.

When handling your turtle please also remain aware of the risk of salmonella. In 1975 the US Food and Drug Administration stopped turtles under 4 inches (carapace) in length being sold to reduce the risk of salmonella. However, all turtles can carry it and there is no way to tell if they do or not. The best thing to do is always wash your hands after handling the turtle and never touch your mouth before you give your hands a good scrub.

Children are at a particularly high risk of getting salmonella from turtles as their immune systems are lower. In fact, the CDC recommends you don’t even look to own a turtle or similar animals if you have children aged five or under because of the salmonella risk.

Quarantine

You should quarantine your turtle for around 90 days at least, away from any other chelonians in the house. During this time it is a good idea to visit an exotics experienced vet to check the animal over and run some basic tests.

Some basic observations you can do yourself include:

  • Is the turtle heavy? If not it could be unwell.
  • Is the turtle alert? If it seems overly docile it could be sick. They do relax after a while when being handled but at first they should have some reaction to being picked up.
  • Are there soft spots on the shell (top and bottom) if there are, the turtle could have shell rot.
  • Are there any flies on the turtle? If there are, there could be some infected wounds.
  • Are there any signs of damage to the turtle’s shell or body, such as blood? Open wounds need attention.
  • Does the turtle have swollen eyes? If so it may be deficient in vitamin A and its diet needs changing accordingly.
  • Does the turtle have an abscess? See your vet if it doesn’t go away on its own within a few days.
  • Does your turtle have less of an appetite, nasal and eye discharge? It may have a lung infection and requires immediate attention.

Of course, over time you will get to know what is normal for your turtle. The best option is to see a vet as soon as you notice there are any issues so that they can be diagnosed and treated as soon as possible.

Protecting Your Turtle During Transport

Whether you are taking your turtle to the vets or home from the breeders it has to be transported properly to avoid damage.

You should never transport them in water because they could drown. Instead a container with some damp newspaper or paper towels will work well for smaller turtles. You may have to add some heat pads and use a polystyrene container if the weather is very cold (your breeder should be able to advise you on this).

With larger turtles you will need to think carefully about how to setup the transportation for them. The seller should be able to advise you on this so you can plan it long in advance of the journey.

Temperature

You’ll need to raise the water temperature of the turtle’s enclosure to remain at between 75 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. This will differ depending on whether you have a northern or southern alligator snapping turtle type. Using a turtle tank thermometer and the appropriate warming accessories will help you monitor this.

The water should also have sunny spots and shaded spots, which you can provide with a mix of reeds and other suitable plants in the pond.

Enclosure

Snapping turtles grow really quickly so it’s a good idea to be ready to expand their enclosure as they grow along the following measurement guidelines –

  • Hatchlings – 20-50 gallon tank up to a year
  • Juveniles – (Over 8 inches) 55 gallon tank until adulthood
  • Adults – 200-800 gallon enclosure

As a general rule, the bigger is better with an alligator snapping turtle enclosure. They also require running water and space to be immersed in that water, as well as a land area.

You can choose from a metal or a plastic tank, with metal tanks needing pond liner to avoid the metals seeping into the water and hurting your turtle.

When the turtle gets bigger it will need a pond built and will likely be too big for a tank. Cement ponds tend to be more durable but more expensive.

The pond should be –

  • Over three quarters shallow and warm
  • A maximum depth of three metres in the middle
  • Offering a gentle slope and no difficult steps for the turtle to navigate to get in and out

When the pond is built you should add appropriate protection for the turtle as raccoons, cats and other animals will try to prey on the turtle.

Lastly, the water will need to be filtered and circulated to keep it clear and full of oxygen. You can make ponds that don’t need filtration but it is much harder. Either way, both types of ponds will need a way to drain the water for the best maintenance options.

Lighting

Alligator snapping turtles do not necessarily require UVB lighting, but will appreciate incandescent basking lights in the tank for when they do decide to get out and bask.

Substrate

Lots of turtle owners will recommend that the tank contains no substrate which will help the water stay clean and reduce the chance of bacteria growing.

However, that doesn’t mean your snapper should not have a little hiding place. It’s a basic instinct your turtle has and it will help them feel safe.

Lining the tank with smooth rocks too large to be swallowed by the snapper or trap the snapper underneath is a good idea. You can seal these to the surface with a waterproof, aquarium sealant. You may also want to think about providing turtle suitable plants, or turtle suitable plastic plants or even some treated driftwood (which can look really nice).

Basking Site

Snappers don’t really bask but they do need to get oxygen and rest. For this reason you should add things like large rocks, logs and other safe items for your turtle to climb on and bask. You could simply get a turtle basking platform to meet this requirement.

Feeding Your Turtle

In the wild snappers tend to eat whatever they can, making it a varied diet.

Your turtle will need that same variation, with babies and juveniles getting fed daily and adults getting a feed every other day.

Over-feeding them will only dirty their tank so try not to feed them more food than about the size of their head (as a general guide). Over time you will get a feel for how much food your turtle tends to require.

When it comes to preparing the diet of your turtle you’ll need to provide lots of varied food types even if you give them a commercial feed.

In captivity zoos will often feed snappers fish, worms, small mammals, age-appropriate commercial feed and raw beef and chicken. Live foods can also be fed to your snapper in the form of shrimp, crickets, minnows, snails, worms and similar animals. Live foods help keep your turtle stimulated and active.

Fruits and veggies like kale and lettuce will also help to boost the diet of your snapper.

Hibernation

Although snapping turtles can hibernate for a short time in the wild it is thought to be a risky practice for snappers in captivity under three. For your turtle’s safety, you can stop it from hibernating by keeping its water at a warmer temperature.

If you do wish to hibernate the turtle wait until it is over three years old and consult your exotic animal veterinarian for advice on how to do it properly. It needs to be done really carefully for the safety of the animal so it is best to seek advice.

Water

As with substrate, the topic of water and alligator snapping turtle enclosures is complex and important. There are guidelines with the salt content, temperature, chemical structure and filtration that need to be carefully assessed before the turtle is purchased.

The same rules for the other elements apply here and will influence the health of the turtle, so it is important to get right before you get your turtle.

The best thing to do is speak to the breeder you’re purchasing from, and consult other experts in regards to your setup as a whole.

Before making your purchase, read as much as possible on caring for turtles to help you get a really good insight into these incredible animals and how to give them a healthy, nurturing environment that ensures that they thrive in your care.

snapping turtle tank

“The turtle’s teachings are so beautiful. So very special. It teaches us that everything you are, everything you need and everything you bring to the world is inside you, not external, and you carry it with you, and are not limited to a place, space or time.” – Eileen Anglin

 

If you’re considering getting an alligator snapping turtle, or common snapping turtle, there’s a lot of work to do to prepare for this tiny little prehistoric cutie’s arrival.

The more research and preparation you do, the more likely your new little alligator snapping turtle is going to be happy, healthy and content in your care.

Be sure to check out My Turtle Shop Here for the essentials you need to help you set up.