Hundreds of species of aquatic turtles exist in the world, with rred-earedsliders being one of the most commonly kept pet turtles. Adult size varies with species, and any potential new turtle owners should research their species of interest extensively, as some grow to over a foot in diameter and may require over 100 gallons of swimming space.

Housing:                                                                                

  • Cage:
    • an aquatic turtle requires an area for swimming and an area for basking.
    • Rule of thumb is that a turtle requires about 10 gallons of swimming space for every inch of shell diameter.
    • Because of the large amount of space needed, housing an aquatic turtle can be expensive, and people often become creative with their setups.
    • For housing ideas visit austinsturtlepage.com and www.waterlandtubs.com.
    • A durable submersible heater may be beneficial to keep the water temperature between about 75 & 85 degrees F.
  • Substrate:
    • We do not recommend any substrate.
      • Leaving the bottom of your enclosure empty of rocks, gravel or sand makes cleaning easier and reduces surface area that promotes bacterial growth.
      • Gravel and sand may also be eaten leading to intestinal impaction.
      • For decorative purposes, some people use several larger rocks and artificial plants, which can be easily removed and cleaned.
  • Basking area:
    • Providing an appropriate basking area for your pet is essential to promoting natural behaviors and ensuring its health.
      • Your turtle must be able to get its entire body out of the water in order to dry off.
      • For smaller turtles basking docks and islands, are available.
      • For larger turtles, you may have to design your own basking area.
    • Basking area should include a heat source (e.g. incandescent bulb, ceramic heat fixture, other heat bulb) and a UVB light source.
      • UVB bulb must be within 18 inches of your turtle (no glass/plastic in between; metal screening is okay), and should be replaced approximately every 6 months due to a significant reduction in UVB wavelengths over time.
      • The heat and UVB fixtures should be on for approximately 10-12 hours daily.
      • The temperature of the basking area should reach approximately 85-90 degrees F. A digital thermometer with probe is recommended to monitor the temperature in this area.
      • During the warmer months, you may expose your turtle to natural sunlight but be sure to not leave the turtle outside in an enclosed container due to potential of overheating.

Cleaning:

  • Filtration:
    • The larger and more powerful the filter, the less frequently you will have to clean the water.
    • We recommend a professional grade canister filter such as Fluval brand.
    • Purchase a filter that is intended for an aquarium several times the size of your turtle’s enclosure, as turtles are much dirtier than fish or other aquatic animals.
    • You must still clean your pet’s home thoroughly every 2-3 weeks, and 50% water changes are recommended once weekly.

 

  • Water changes/cleaning :
    • Water changes may be performed using a siphon system.
    • The Python Siphon to be particularly helpful with frequent water changes.
    • When cleaning out/changing the entire tank, first remove your turtle to a safe location (i.e. small tub, bathtub, etc.). The aquarium and all its contents, including rocks, fake plants, and other cage “furniture”, should be scrubbed with soapy water. Dilute bleach (1:20) can be used to disinfect all surfaces as needed. Everything should be rinsed well with fresh water several times before refilling and replacing your pet.

 

Feeding:

  • High quality floating turtle pellets and/or turtle sticks are recommended. In addition, we recommend offering leafy greens, such as romaine lettuce, kale, collards and red and green leaf lettuce, several times a week.
  •  You can also teach your turtle to eat in a separate container of water to help keep the main tank cleaner. Crickets, feeder goldfish, and earthworms (store-bought only) can be offered occasionally as treats.

 

PREVENTATIVE HEALTH CARE:

  • Proper husbandry and water quality are the most important factors in keeping your turtle healthy.
  • We highly recommend an annual physical examination along with a fecal examination.
  •  Signs of illness in turtles include pink or red skin, lethargy and/or decreased appetite, pitting or the shell or carapace, nasal/eye discharge, bubbling fluid from the mouth when out of water, lumps and bumps, or balance issues when in the water.
  • Female turtles frequently become reproductively active in captivity, whether or not a male is present, and intervention may be required to prevent egg impaction and address associated problems.
  • Valuable diagnostic testing that can be performed on aquatic turtles includes fecal examination, radiography (x-rays), ultrasonography, blood work, etc.