The domestic turtle can make a wonderful companion animal, but like everyone else it needs attention and care to live well and for a long time. Knowing the needs of this reptile is one of the responsibilities of a good owner, starting from the habitat, from feeding to access to water.
Part 1 of 2: Keep Her Healthy
Step 1. Provide her with a tub with adequate space
As a general rule, you should provide a 40L terrarium for every 2.5cm of turtle; At a minimum, it should be a container with a capacity of 200 liters if it is still a small specimen (which is about one year old), but you should offer it a space of at least 450 liters or more if it is an adult turtle. Make sure you have a general idea of the size your friend will have once she reaches maturity, so that you don't get caught off guard and find that you are unable to maintain it.
Define whether it is a sea turtle or a land turtle. The most common ones, such as terrapene, need a desert habitat; if you wish to have an aquatic one, you must provide it with a dry land area, adequate space to swim in and make sure the tank is properly sealed to prevent leaks
Step 2. Get a proper filtration system if you have a marine specimen
When it comes to turtles, the basket model is fine; ask the pet store clerks for advice on the best brands. Without a good filtering system, the turtle could become severely weakened and ill, as well as accumulating feces and food scraps.
However, you must regularly change the water in the tank even in the presence of an effective filtering system. As you go, make sure the filter is not clogged; if residues of dirt or food scraps remain attached, blocks may form which prevent the water from filtering correctly. You can also purchase a dechlorinating product or a softener at pet stores
Step 3. Clean the aquarium regularly
Remove any objects, including any places the reptile likes to bask, and remove all water. Wash each item with warm water and an antibacterial soap; leave the rocks to soak in hot soapy water and then rinse thoroughly to remove all traces of detergent. Put all the components back into the tub and fill it again with clean, chlorine-free water. If you have a land turtle, be sure to replace the substrate at the bottom of the container each time, for example you can use sand, wood shavings or newspaper.
The frequency of cleaning depends on how dirty the turtle is; usually, it is a good idea to do this at least twice a month. Once you have finished cleaning, remember to wash your hands thoroughly
Step 4. Provide balanced nutrition for your friend
An appropriate diet for the red-eared turtle and other similar species includes the following proportions: 50% of vegetables and aquatic plants; 25% commercial feed; 25% live protein. If she is under a year of age, you should feed her every day, while once she is over a year, every other day is enough to keep her from being overweight.
- Among the vegetables you can offer her are aquatic plants such as duckweed, azolla and water lettuce. This reptile also enjoys fruit and vegetables, such as papaya, carrots, apples and green leafy vegetables such as romaine lettuce.
- As for the protein serving, the turtle can eat chicken, cooked turkey, or even raw beef. If you want to give her live animals, consider meal moths, snails, wax moths, beetle larvae, or even small goldfish.
- There are also commercial ready-made products, such as pellets, which can provide you with a complete diet from a nutritional point of view; make sure you read the ingredients carefully and verify that the proportions between vegetables and proteins are appropriate.
Step 5. Give her enough light
If she doesn't have access to direct sunlight, you need to get her some UV lamps so she can bask; in nature this reptile stays in the sun every day and the nutrients it is able to absorb from the rays are essential to allow it to grow and develop in a healthy way. The amount of light needed varies by species, but terrestrial specimens typically require more.
Keep in mind that UV rays are unable to pass through the glass, so you must install the system inside or on top of the reptile house
Step 6. Keep the water at a correct temperature
For this, you need a heater. Turtles are cold-blooded animals, so they must find an external heat source to be able to warm the body; if the temperature gets too low or too high, it could kill the animal. If you have a young or sick specimen, keep the water at 27-28 ° C, if it is healthy and over one year of age, keep the temperature at 25-26 ° C.
The dry area in which it basks should have a temperature 6 ° C higher than the water to allow it to warm up
Step 7. Look for possible signs of illness
Even if you do your best to ensure the health of the reptile, there are many diseases that typically attack these animals; however, if you pay attention to a few indicators, most of them are treatable and the tortoise can begin to get better quickly.
- Vitamin A deficiency: occurs when the reptile does not follow a proper diet. Common symptoms are loss of appetite, swelling of the eyelids, ears and persistent breathing difficulties; the animal may also have buoyancy problems when swimming. You can solve the situation by improving nutrition.
- Respiratory infections: the most common signs are wheezing, difficulty in breathing, blisters and mucus on the nose, frequent cough; if you notice these discomforts, take the turtle to the vet to undergo x-rays and define the most suitable course of antibiotics. These infections are usually caused by incorrect temperatures of the water or heating area, or by exposure to drafts.
- Armor mycosis: these are diseases caused by fungi; Symptoms include white, oozy, foul-smelling shell with pus. The turtle may also complain of small abrasions of the carapace; if you notice these signs, take her to the vet who will prescribe antibiotic treatment.
- Parasitosis: these are the most common diseases. The worms that most infest turtles are pinworms, roundworms and hookworms. The affected specimen shows inappetence, traces of undigested food in the stool, weight loss and sometimes food regurgitation. Your vet may ask you for a stool sample to be analyzed to identify the parasite and prescribe targeted therapy.
- Find a good veterinarian who specializes in herpetology. Not all professionals treat exotic animals; make sure the one you're targeting can handle reptiles and amphibians to help your turtle. Do some research online to find a good doctor in your area who customers are happy with and who can demonstrate good knowledge. Call several clinics to find out if they treat turtles or if they know of professionals who can do it.
Part 2 of 2: Choosing the Turtle
Step 1. Decide on the type of reptile you want
There are several breeds that you can buy, each one representing a more or less onerous commitment in terms of care and costs, as well as showing a different temperament and docility.
- The painted pond turtle is perfect for beginners. It is very colorful, widely available, easy to care for, and very suitable for a first-time owner of this kind of pet. It is quite small, does not grow beyond 10-12 cm and is active; it is bred in captivity and years of genetic selection have made it docile and domesticated. It is recognizable by the colored signs that make it appear "painted", a characteristic from which it takes its name.
- The common musk turtle is a relatively hardy aquatic specimen; it can easily live in a small reptile house (about 120 liters), but does not like to be handled.
- The name of American marsh turtle indicates several varieties, of which two are the most common: the red-eared turtle and the yellow-eared turtle. Typically, they grow no more than 25-27cm and are easy to care for; they are also docile and tame.
- The diamond-backed tortoise is another common breed that you can buy in pet stores and breeders. Although it does not overgrow (no more than 20cm) it is very friendly, but is more suitable for experienced people, as it requires a greater commitment than the specimens described above; it prefers brackish waters and therefore involves more work.
Step 2. Find a reputable breeder or dealer
Many pet stores sell several varieties of these reptiles; however, you should know where it comes from before taking one home. This means you need to know if it is a farmed or wild-caught specimen; in addition, you must make sure that it is kept in an adequate habitat, is alert and is in good health.
Ask for documents that prove it is a farmed specimen. If the vendor can't provide them, it's likely a wild animal. Taking turtles from their habitat has negative effects on the reptile population, as well as on the specimen itself which is therefore more subject to stress, a condition that weakens it
Step 3. Verify that it is a healthy animal
Unfortunately, many are reared in precarious conditions and subjected to stress because they were caught in the wild. It is essential to choose a healthy looking turtle; it must be alert, free of parasites and relatively active. Make sure she has an appetite and looks well fed; your eyes should be bright, you shouldn't notice bubbles from your nose as you breathe or sounds that indicate dyspnea. The legs must be strong and the animal must move them when it is lifted, as fatigue is a symptom of disease; the armor must be sturdy, free of cracks, holes or wounds.
Check out the reptile house. There should be clean water, food available, and there should be a source of light; if any of these elements are missing, you run an increased risk of bringing a sick animal home
Step 4. Make sure you are ready to hold a turtle
In addition to all the commitment requirements, you must guarantee it a ready-made habitat before you even go and get it; in this way, he can immediately begin to get used to his new life.
Step 5. Always handle it safely
Whether you are the person who takes care of it the most or a child who touches it often, be aware of the possible diseases it can transmit. The turtle is a carrier of salmonellosis and other contagious diseases that you may contract with contact with the reptile house. Practice all necessary precautions, wash your hands thoroughly every time after touching the animal or its tub.
Older people, children and infants are particularly susceptible to salmonellosis; even if they do not interact directly with the reptile or its environment, always wash your hands carefully before coming into contact with these risk categories
- If you happen to see the supine turtle, turn it over immediately; these animals are sometimes unable to get back on their paws and some may even drown because they cannot move and reach the air.
- Remember that when it shows symptoms of illness, it is often too late. This reptile is very good at hiding its health conditions; therefore, when he appears obviously ill, it means that the disease has progressed and medical attention is needed as soon as possible.
- You should find a herpetologist veterinarian who works in your area who specializes in turtles; if your friend gets sick, the only way to treat her is to see a doctor. If you have already spotted one early, before any emergency, it is easier to take care of the reptile's health.
- Make sure the filter is off when the animal eats, otherwise it cannot catch the food.
- Clean the reptile every 4-5 days.
- Don't give the turtle red ants, spinach, or meal moths.
- Do not put stones or other decorations with sharp edges in the reptile house because the turtle could get injured.
- Do not turn it upside down in water because it cannot breathe.