Turtles make great pets for a number of reasons: low cost set up, they don’t run, fly or crawl away never to be seen again, you don’t have to pay to get them “fixed,” there are no 40 pound bags of food buy, and no fur, feathers or scales to clean up. As they are a pet, turtles do need your care to survive but less attention than some other pets.
Since they can live for decades when properly cared for, keeping a few facts in mind this could be the start to one of the longest and healthiest relationships in your life.
Five Tips on the Healthy Care of Your Pet Turtle
Temperature is important. Turtles (feet for swimming and spend a lot of time in the water) and tortoises (feet like elephants and spend their time on land) are cold blooded so they can’t raise or lower their body temperature much beyond their environmental conditions. As a turtle owner, creating the right habitat and maintaining the correct temperature may be your most important contribution to your pet’s health. Some turtles will stop eating if it gets to warm or too cold. Temperature range in general is between 71 and 86 degrees F. Do specific research on your turtle species for its optimal temperature setting.
Create the right environment. Make sure your new friend has enough room to live in the aquarium you got him, with both enough light and shade, clean water and a basking (UV) lamp. Again it is important to research your particular species and try to provide an environment resembling its natural habitat for optimal health. Desert turtles are going to do well with sand, gravel and rock in a low humidity environment. Turtles from greener parts with high humidity do well with bark, peat and moss which work to hold moisture and keep the humidity high.
Your turtle’s tank capacity must be at least 30 gallons per turtle so you can provide both a land area and a water area. Also incorporate a place where it can bask in the heat of the lamp. If you are super dedicated you can recreate the turtle’s natural habitat outside but keep in mind the natural dangers of outside and turtles who live outside will probably hibernate in the fall and you won’t see him again until he digs out in spring.
Handling, Hygiene and Salmonella. It’s a good idea not to take the turtle out of its tank to show it off or play with it as these sudden changes in temperature can affect the turtle’s immune system. Also turtles are mostly solitary animals and while carrying around your turtle may seem fun to you it is mostly just very stressful for him.
Besides, most turtles carry salmonella and there isn’t a way to guarantee your turtle doesn’t so wash your hands after handling your turtles to avoid contamination and maintain good hygiene when dealing with of your pets. Don’t allow your turtle access to areas where food is prepared and don’t use kitchen or bathroom sinks or bathtubs to wash your turtle’s dishes, aquariums or accessories. Read more on preventing the spread of Salmonella at PetEducation.com.
What water to use. Tap water can have chlorine and fluoride added to it which could harm your turtle. Other options are to use natural spring water or distilled water for your turtle’s living and drinking water. Tap water is the cheapest option and you can safely use it for your turtle if you think it is safe enough for you use by buying a water conditioner or just leaving the water out in a large container overnight to let the chlorine dissipate. Distilled water is obviously more expensive than free tap water but it doesn’t require any conditioners and will always be at a neutral pH level.
Feeding. Did you know turtles can become obese? Learn what to feed your turtle and how often he should be fed. There are canned and pelleted turtle food you can buy but remember that aquatic turtles are omnivores and prefer variety in their diets. Aquatic turtles eat snails, mealworms, crickets, waxworms or comet goldfish. Throw some insects into your turtle’s menu a few times a week. Also offer a few teaspoons of kale or greens a few days a week.
Tortoises are herbivores and you can feed them a mix of vegetables and fruit. Try to go more with vegetables like kale, collard greens, sweet potato and cauliflower and offer fruits like apple and grapes every third or fourth feeding as a treat. There are also prepared foods for your tortoises if you don’t want to spend too much time and thought on being your turtle’s chef.
Different types of turtle require different care and putting in a few minutes to learn the needs of your specific breed of turtle can lead to many, many years with your happy and healthy turtle.
Feeding – PetSmart.com
Feeding, Temperature, and Salmonella – PetEducation.com
Water – AquaticTurtles.com