Many pet owners see turtles as a low-maintenance pet that is more docile and easier to handle than other types of reptiles, such as snakes and monitor lizards. Most turtles are relatively mellow, making them good pets for young children or adults who want to handle them frequently, although it is important to use care in handling to avoid causing stress. While turtles commonly live in captivity, they are not domesticated and are still wild animals. The key to owning a happy, well-adjusted turtle is to provide them with an environment that simulates their natural home as closely as possible. This includes supplying a nutritionally complete diet and selecting a turtle species that works well with your lifestyle.
Choosing the type of turtle is especially important to pay attention to, since terrestrial land turtles are very different from aquatic water turtles. Generally, terrestrial turtles are easier to care for because they have fewer special needs. Aquatic turtles are very messy and require frequent water changes, large tank sizes, heavy filtration and careful attention paid to the water quality in their tank. Within the two types, there are many species. The two most popular types of terrestrial turtles are box turtles from the genus Terrapene and mud turtles from the genus Kinosternon or Sternotherus. The most popular aquatic turtles are sliders from the genus Trachemys and painted turtles from the genus Chrysemys. Studying some turtle facts related to each species should make it easier to decide what species is best.
Some species are illegal or uncommonly found in captivity, making them poor choices for pets. Most illegal species are species that pet owners have introduced or released into the wild in non-native areas. This leads to destruction of local flora and fauna that is unprepared to react to the new turtle species. Terrestrial turtles can destroy endangered plant life, while aquatic turtles feed on local fish and insects in the area and diminish their populations. Other turtles are legal, but are rare in captivity so pet owners do not understand their needs very well. These turtles fail to thrive with the best care and may be unhappy or get sick easily since they are continually under stress.
Diet is one of the biggest parts of keeping a happy, healthy pet turtle. Most turtles appreciate meals on a regular schedule at the same time daily. The amount they eat depends largely on their age and environment. Turtles that live in cooler enclosures will be sluggish and eat smaller amounts, while turtles that are receiving the right amount to eat will eat more and remain more active. Terrestrial turtles eat mostly fresh fruits and vegetables with a staple diet in the form of a pellet or gel food. Most aquatic turtles eat primarily a staple pellet diet supplemented by animal protein in the form of freeze-dried fish or crustaceans.
Dietary supplements are an important part of keeping turtles, since there are many aspects of their dietary requirements that they cannot always get directly from fresh foods. Some turtles are fussier about eating fresh greens, or may not always eat their staple food. Many reptiles do not eat consistently all the time, and may go through periods where they eat less, making it even more important that they get supplements when they eat normally. Providing a supplement on a regular basis ensures that turtles always get the right amount of nutrients, even on days or during stretches where they are not eating as well as they should. Taking the time to familiarize yourself on turtle facts about feeding, species and environment can help ensure that your pet turtle thrives.