So you have decided to have a pet turtle? You have chosen a pet that has been on the earth for more than 200 million years. Your pet turtle will be with you for years to come. Depending on the type, a turtle typically lives from 20 to 50 years. The American Box Turtle may live to be 100 years old! Now that you know potentially how long your reptilian friend will be with you, it’s time to take inventory of all that is needed to keep your turtle healthy and happy.
Feeding Your Turtle
Most turtles are meat eaters, but as they get older they eat plants as well. What you feed your turtle depends on its type and its age. Your turtle will require both pellet food and organic choices. In an aquatic turtle’s natural habitat, they eat crickets, worms and comet goldfish for example. A young water turtle should be fed every day, where an adult needs to be fed only 4 to 5 times a week.
You should feed your turtle a mixture of insects, cooked protein, vegetables and turtle pellets. You can provide them with freeze-dried mealworms or other insects a few times of week. Vegetables should comprise of about 80% of your turtle’s diet. Feed them fresh kale or collard greens, yellow or green peppers, sweet potatoes, squash and cauliflower. The greens should be given to them 3 to 4 times a week, in 1 to two teaspoon increments.
Give them a small amount of fruit as well, such as apples, melons and grapes. Give fruit to them only every third or fourth feeding. When you give your turtle these fresh foods, be sure to remove them from the aquarium after a few hours so they won’t spoil. When you give them the pelleted food, sprinkle a calcium supplement on their food twice a week. Turtles can also benefit from getting multivitamins and Vitamin D3 powder to stay healthy.
Creating a Habitat
Try to design a habitat for your turtle that is as much like nature as you possibly can. To determine what size of a tank you need, begin by measuring your turtle. The tank needs to be able to have a water area that is 4-5 times longer than the length of the turtle. The tank needs to be 3-4 times wider than the turtle and 1 ½ times deeper than the turtle’s length. This is important because water turtles like to dive so the depth cannot be too shallow. If you plan on keeping several turtles in the tank, increase the size of it by 25% for each turtle you plan on having.
When you have a water turtle, you need to make sure that in addition to the water area, that you have a land area as well where he can bask in the heat lamp. You can create this by piling up aquarium gravel, for example. You can also find resin basking platforms in most pet supply stores. Place some aquatic plants around the land area to make it feel like his natural habitat.
It is important to keep your turtle’s swimming water clean and fresh. You can do this by installing a filter in the water. When it comes to a filter, experts say that it is best to buy the bigger one.
It is important to give your turtles UV lighting in order for them to stay healthy. They need 12 hours of light per day in order to regulate the temperature of their bodies. The two types of light bulbs you can use are incandescent and fluorescent. Your turtle will need light from both of these kinds of light. If you keep your turtles in an aquarium outside, avoid placing them in full, direct sunlight. An incandescent heat lamp is important to have because turtles cannot regulate their body temperature on their own.
Water turtles need a heating element to warm the water they swim in. An overhead heat lamp will help with this, or you can choose a submersible water heater or under tank heating element. During the day, you need to keep your turtle’s habitat of about 75-85° and at night it should be between 70-75°. The area where the turtle goes to bask in the heat lamp should be about 90-95°. Placing a thermometer near the basking area and another one underneath the water is recommended.
Maintaining the Tank
The tank should be cleaned out every 2-3 weeks. When you do this, you should also change the filter. In between cleanings, use an aquarium net to clean out food debris and waste in the water. You should also check the pH for the turtle’s water from time to time. It should be at a 7 or an 8. You can partially change the turtle’s water once a week. When you clean out the tank, move your turtle to another container that is solely used for the turtle and nothing else. Be sure to always wash your hands after holding your turtle