Caring for your Pet Turtle
If the weather is warm, Land species can be put in an outdoor enclosure, as long as there is access to shaded areas and places to burrow so the can keep cool. Water turtles can also be housed outside when the water is warm as long as there is a pool and basking areas. An outdoor enclosure should be no less than 5 ft by 8 ft with wire or flashing placed 1 ft below the grown to prevent the turtle from burrowing under the enclosure. The floor should also have a stone base that is covered with soil. The walls of this enclosure should be 30 inches high and bent at an inward angle so that the turtle cannot escape. It is also recommended that the pen be moved periodically to ensure the animal a fresh "pasture", however, if pesticides and or chemicals are used please do not house your pet outside.
Winter housing can be an aquarium for the smaller species or a polyurethaned wood pen kept inside where it is warm. The box should be 1'x1'x 2' for turtles and 3'x3'x3' for tortoises.
The steady temperature for a turtle or tortoise should be kept between 73-
Proper lighting is essential to raising any reptile. A "Vita-
Humidity and Bathing
Turtles need a humidity level between 50-
Water turtles need enough room to swim, rest and bask, so this may require many different areas in your enclosure. The swimming area should be as deep as 3 lengths of the turtle. If tap water is to be used make sure it sits for 48 hours so that the chlorine can evaporate out of it before you introduce you pet. Distilled water is best to use but can be costly. If you have a salt water species a Tbsp of non-
For soft shelled a sandy area deep enough for them to cover themselves to the top of their shell should be provided because these species like to burrow. Pebbles and small rocks should be avoided because some turtles may try to eat these and become impacted.
Large rocks and logs should be added for basking, sand for burrowing, a large box or non toxic plant species can be added as well for visual security or a place to hide.
Aquatic turtles only feed in the water. Fish flavored dry cat food can be used as well as Purina trout chow, balanced tropical fish food or turtle food can be fed to adult turtles. Adding live bait fish to the swimming area can serve as a stimulant and as a source of food since adult water turtles are carnivorous. Bait fish are minnows, guppies, and goldfish, earthworms can be added as well. Juvenile turtles are omnivorous, eating vegetable matter and meat. Young turtles can eat the adult food and vegetable matter such as seaweed, spinach, broccoli tops and leaves, mustard greens, grated carrots and carrot tops. The amount of vegetables you feed should equal only 25% of their daily diet. Young turtles should be fed daily and adults should be every other day.
Terrapins (Salt water or Brackish water turtles)
These turtles should be fed a whole food diet consisting of fish, crustaceans, mollusks and insects, or a commercial terrapin diet.
Mainly vegetarians, tortoises eat mostly vegetation with some insects, carrion, and small rodents. The vegetation diet should consist of native grasses, healthy plants, flowers, fruit of cacti, seeds, greens (mustard, collard, beet, turnip) bok choy, nappa cabbage, broccoli, kale, cauliflower, green peas and pods, corn, string beans, dandelions, nasturtium flowers and leaves, squash, pumpkin, romaine and butter lettuce, berries, apples, pears, wheat bread, and (soaked) dry dog food.
Reds, greens, oranges and yellows seem to be most appealing to tortoises in their food choices. Tortoises eat every other day and need fresh water available at all times.
Water turtles, and sick or parasitized animals shouldn't hibernate. Turtles which that can hibernate should be prepared by feeding them a diet rich in digestible nutrients ( i e melons, figs, fruits, and squashes) one week prior to hibernation. Food and water need to be restricted for 2-
Signs of Illness
Runny nose Shell lesions
Swollen eyes Listlessness
Gasping Loss of equilibrium in water
Swelling Open mouth breathing
Weight loss Deformed or Soft shell
Loss of appetite
Your pet turtle should also be seen on an annual basis with a veterinarian who is familiar with reptiles, to keep it healthy.