Turtles can make great pets; they’re cute, enjoyable to watch, and offer a much different experience than dogs or cats. But it may come as a surprise that they have very special needs and, because of that, require special care and devotion. The following five tips will help prepare you to become a turtle owner so you can properly care for and enjoy your new pet.
1. Know what you’re getting into.
Before you become a turtle owner, make sure you understand all that goes into being one. First, you’ll want to be aware of the law. Make sure the specific species of turtle you are looking to take home is legal to purchase in your state and not endangered. Remember that any turtle under three inches long is illegal. Next, you’ll need to know if the turtle came from the wild or has been captive its whole life. Your best bet is to purchase one that has been bred and taken care of by a breeder. Third, realize that the initial cost of owning a turtle goes well beyond just the purchase price and can actually get rather expensive when you take into account its need for special housing, housing equipment, and food. You also must be prepared to take care of your turtle for the duration of its entire life, which is quite awhile considering turtles have lifespans of up to 50 years. Finally, do some research on the kind of turtle you’ll be buying. Not all turtles have the same needs. In fact, their needs vary greatly depending on their species and whether they are indoor or outdoor turtles.
2. Exercise caution around your pet.
Unlike dogs or cats, turtles aren’t particularly cuddly and most are not immediately open to being touched and played with. It’s important to keep your hands away from the turtle’s mouth to avoid being bitten. You also want to wash your hands before and after handling your turtle and/or its food and housing to prevent transmitting any diseases. It is always wise to keep kids and other pets clear of the tank and, instead, have them look on from a safe distance.
3. Purchase the right housing and equipment for your turtle and properly maintain its environment.
The housing and equipment required for your pet depends on whether the turtle belongs indoors or outdoors and whether it is a land turtle, aquatic turtle, or semi-aquatic turtle. For an indoor turtle, you’ll need a tank that’s an adequate size for how large your turtle is going to grow. You’re also going to need a heat light, some water for them to bathe and swim in, and some rocks so they have a dry place to go. Outdoor turtles require an enclosed, fenced-in area that contains rocks, a pond, plants, shelter, and sunlight. After providing your turtle with the proper housing, you also must maintain the environment. The water must be kept at a certain depth, temperature, and pH level, and the tank should be cleaned regularly.
4. Know how to properly feed your pet.
If you want to give your turtle a chance to live out its long lifespan, you must feed it correctly. Indoor turtles are more carnivorous and outdoor turtles are more herbivorous. Offer an indoor turtle things like slugs, freshwater shrimp, and crayfish, and then balance their diet with fruits and vegetables. An outdoor turtle should be given mostly green foliage and fruits.
5. Miscellaneous, helpful tips.
- Turtle food often has a bad odor. Rather than feeding the turtle right in the tank, feed it in a bucket so the smell is contained and easily eliminated.
- If you decide to take care of more than one turtle at once, it is wise to keep them separated or buy a tank with more space to prevent them from fighting with one another.
- Betadine will work wonders for some of your turtle’s shell and skin issues, such as fungal infections and wounds.
Owning a Turtle
Turtles – What You Need to Know Before You Buy
How to Care for Turtles