Turtles can often be incredibly fun, engaging, and overall adorable pets to have around.
If you’re willing to take care of them properly, they can be very rewarding pets.
By doing the right kind of research and planning, you can take steps to ensure the health and longevity of your turtle.
Let’s learn about turtles in more detail.
Turtle Species Overview
Turtles are very adaptable and can be found on almost every continent except Antarctica.
Turtles are most often found in southeastern North America, South Asia, and Southeast Asia.
They’re among the earliest and most primitive groups of reptile species, having evolved millions of years ago.
Turtles can be found worldwide in almost every type of environment.
Most turtles spend their lives in water.
They’re adapted for aquatic life, with webbed feet or flipper-like appendages and a streamlined body.
Sea turtles rarely leave their natural habitat except to lay eggs.
Freshwater turtles live near bodies of fresh water, such as ponds and lakes, and climb out of the water to bask in the warm sunshine.
Turtles are aquatic reptiles that have webbed feet and hard shells.
The hard shell protects the turtle from predators. It covers the turtle body except the head, neck, tail, and legs.
The shell is mainly made of bone. The top part is the dome-shaped carapace, while its underside is the flat plastron or belly plate.
It has an outer layer made of keratin, which is the material of hair, claws, and horns.
The turtle jaws are equipped with hard beaks that allow them to capture and cut apart their prey.
Some turtle species can live in shallow water because they’ve eyes and nostrils located on top of their heads.
Names of Species
The Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS), the turtle order, splits into two suborders, Cryptodira and Pleurodira.
And then further splits into 13 families, 75 genera, and more than 300 species.
Below is the list of pet turtles that are bred in captivity:
- African Sideneck Turtle,
- Bog Turtle,
- Chinese Box Turtle,
- Chinese Softshell Turtle,
- Common Musk Turtle (Stinkpot),
- Desert Box Turtle,
- Diamondback Terrapin Turtle,
- False Map Turtle,
- Eastern Box Turtle,
- Eastern Painted Turtle,
- European Pond Turtle,
- Florida Softshell Turtle,
- Gulf Coast Box Turtle,
- Loggerhead Musk Turtle,
- Mata Mata Turtle,
- Midland Painted Turtle,
- Mississippi Map Turtle,
- Northern Map Turtle,
- Ornate Box Turtle,
- Ornate Wood Turtle (Painted),
- Ouachita Map Turtle,
- Pink Belly Sideneck Turtle,
- Razorback Musk Turtle,
- Red-Eared Slider,
- Reeve’s Turtle,
- Southern Painted Turtle,
- Spiny Softshell Turtle,
- Spotted Turtle,
- Striped Mud Turtle,
- Three-Toed Box Turtle,
- Western Painted Turtle,
- Yellow-Bellied Slider, and
- Yellow Mud Turtle.
The lifespan of turtles will vary depending on the species. However, most turtles can live for decades.
So these aquatic pets can become a lifelong part of your family.
Some popular pet turtle species, like the African Sideneck Turtles and the Map Turtles, are generally expected to live for 25 years or more.
Terrestrial box turtles live for up to 100 years, but their average lifespan in captivity is 40 to 50 years.
Other species of wild turtles can even live longer than pet turtles.
Proper care is vital in achieving a longer lifespan for pet turtles.
Turtle size will vary depending on the species. So there’s no average size with so many different types of turtles.
The western painted turtles can grow between 4 to 10 inches, and the red-eared sliders can grow between 5 to 12 inches.
Female red-eared turtles are typically larger than males.
So the size and weight of a turtle can vary significantly.
Factors like age, diet, gender, environment and UV light play an important role in determining the size of the turtle.
Turtle Tank Setup
Turtles can live for long. So taking proper care of them will ensure that they have a healthy and happy life.
Let’s understand how to set up a turtle tank in detail.
Turtles need an indoor habitat of at least 40 gallons to grow to adult size.
Turtles are messy, and a large tank is a better option as it allows the waste to disperse and dissolve more efficiently.
Water should cover three-quarters of the area, and it should be at least as deep as the turtle’s width.
You should also design an area where the turtle can lie down under a heat lamp to warm up.
Since the length of hibernation varies by turtle species, it’s essential to know how long they typically remain inactive and how to provide them with the best environment during this time.
Tank Equipment And Decorations
Turtles grow big. So make sure your space is suited to the size of the adult turtle you want to keep.
Wooden boards or bricks are good for building land areas because you can clean them easily.
Make sure they’re kept dry and slope gently toward the water so that they’re easily accessible.
Ensure that the plants you’re putting inside the tank are compatible with your turtle and that it won’t get sick by eating them.
It’s best to use a mix of artificial and natural plants in the turtle tank.
A water conditioner is also necessary if you use tap water for your tank.
It will neutralize metals and chlorine, which can upset the pH balance of the water.
Turtles need sunlight; they require approximately 12 to 14 hours of direct sunlight each day for vitamin D3.
So purchase a high-quality UV light for your tank and set up an automatic timer.
Given below are the items required in a turtle tank:
- Dry Rock / Wood / Bricks for Land area,
- Aquatic Plants (Live & Artificial),
- Water Conditioner,
- Heat Fitting and globe,
- UV fitting and globe,
- PH testing kit,
- Turtle neutralizer block/vitamin D3 block,
- Feeding Tub,
- Water Siphon, and
- Decorations like artificial rocks, ornaments, driftwood, etc.
Cleaning the turtle enclosure should be done regularly, even if you already have a filtration system or other maintenance devices.
Turtles are exciting pets to own. At the same time, they’re too sensitive.
So it’s essential to learn how to take care of them before bringing a turtle home.
Most turtles are omnivorous and enjoy consuming tadpoles, frog eggs, snails, leeches, aquatic beetles, dragonfly larvae, etc.
They also eat lily pods, algae, tule, and cattail roots.
Some species of turtles begin their lives as omnivores when they’re hatchlings and later become either pure herbivores or carnivores, depending on the species.
Carnivore turtles typically feed on small wildlife and other fish, while omnivores feed on plants and small fish.
Eating live food is nutritious to turtles as it provides lots of protein.
Besides frozen food and vegetables, you need to plan the diet based on their dietary group.
Some of the live food that you must feed your turtles are:
- Feeder Fish,
- Leafy greens like collards, dandelions, mustard greens, etc.,
- Fresh Vegetables like broccoli, spinach, zucchini, squash, cucumbers, peas, etc.
- Fresh fruits like apples, cantaloupe, bananas, berries, mangoes, etc.
Turtles often defecate while they eat, so keeping their food away from their excrement can help them avoid accidentally ingesting feces.
Ensure that you clean out uneaten food from their tank regularly to avoid unwanted bacteria and algae build-up.
Turtles can live in different water conditions, but they usually prefer stable water parameters.
Captive turtles prefer environments that are similar to their natural habitats.
They need a moist and warm environment to thrive.
The ideal water parameters for turtles are:
|Water Temperature||75°F to 82°F (24°C to 28°C)|
|Basking Area Temperature||82°F to 90°F (28°C to 32°C)|
|Water pH||7.4 to 7.8|
Turtles create a lot of mess.
So regular water changes and a suitable filtration system are required inside their tank to maintain good water quality and hygiene.
For larger tanks, you should use a good-quality canister filter.
Installing a water filtration system will keep ammonia levels under control.
To maintain stable water parameters, you need to replace 30% to 50% of aquarium water every one to two weeks.
You should also clean the gravel during a water change.
You should vacuum it to get rid of the unwanted pathogens to maintain suitable conditions.
Freshwater should always be treated with a water conditioner to remove chlorine and chemicals before adding them to the tank.
Moreover, turtles can carry Salmonella. So your hands after touching your turtle.
Some adult turtles will become overweight if they eat a protein-rich diet.
This can have negative health consequences in the long run.
Turtles can also get fungal and shell diseases if the water quality isn’t maintained at optimum levels.
Given below are some of the common diseases that can affect turtles:
- Loss of appetite,
- Soft/rubbery shell,
- Spots on shell/skin, and
- Floating/inability to submerge.
Turtles need a lot of attention and aren’t very easy to keep.
However, if all factors like general care, temperature, and humidity are taken care of, they can thrive in captivity.
Turtle Behavior And Temperament
Like most reptiles, turtles are solitary creatures and can survive without company.
Of course, they’ll interact with other turtles when looking for mates or defending their territory.
When turtles fight, it usually begins with the front legs flapping in the face.
The more dominant turtle will chase away the less dominant turtle from its territory.
Turtles don’t show any affection toward each other or humans.
However, if your turtle is hungry and responds to your calls during feeding time, it means it’s happy.
A happy and healthy turtle has clear eyes and a clear nose.
Any mucus coming out from these areas is a cause for concern, and you should get them checked out by a veterinarian.
Most species of turtles eat fish. They may eat an entire school overnight.
Large species of fish may also be a threat to small turtles.
If you want to keep small fish, then choose fast-swimming fish that can easily escape from the turtles.
Some of the tankmates that you can keep with turtles are:
- Female turtles,
- Algae eaters,
- Neon tetras,
- Cherry barbs,
- Zebra danios, and
Avoid placing fish with turtles that are large and slow or aggressive.
You shouldn’t keep fish with sharp bones either, as turtles don’t chew their food well.
Male turtles also shouldn’t live together because they’re most likely to fight with each other.
Given below are some tankmates that you shouldn’t keep with turtles:
- Male Turtles,
- Gizzard Shad,
- Rosy Red Minnows, and
- Feathered Minnows.
Turtles are solitary and can be kept alone. However, if you want to keep fish or other turtles, ensure they can cohabitate easily.
Both freshwater and saltwater turtles lay their eggs in nests on land.
Some turtles migrate to lay their eggs, while others deposit their eggs nearby where they live.
Turtles lay their first clutch of eggs about 3 to 6 weeks after the mating process during the warmest months of the year.
Most of the female turtles finish nesting in a couple of hours.
The female turtle prepares its nest on land by digging a hole using her hind legs to deposit the eggs.
The depth of the nest will be as deep as her legs or flippers can reach.
Turtles don’t stick around after they lay their eggs.
Once the female turtle has laid her eggs, she covers them up with mud or sand and leaves the eggs to incubate.
The job of the female turtle is up to the point of laying eggs. She doesn’t look after her eggs or baby turtles.