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A Quick Guide to Caring for Pet Turtles and Reptiles

Updated on September 19, 2018
Joan King profile image

Joan is a nature enthuiast and animal lover and has cared for various pets over the years.

Caring for pet turtles
Caring for pet turtles | Source

Reptiles make great pets

They are quiet and almost odor free. What a blessing! They are not overly messy and require very little space. No wonder reptiles and turtles make great pets and their popularity has increased by leaps and bounds over the last decade. Often, however, in the heat of the desire for these cute creepy crawlers, very little effort is put into determining the proper care that is required. We helplessly buckle under the pressure from our kids and give in to the purchase of a cute gecko, turtle or frog. Even though they are relatively easy to care for, they would not survive without the proper care and attention.

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Caring for your pet turtle

Turtles do require special attention. You need to understand and deal with their needs in a number of different areas. Each reptile is different so it is not possible to generalize on care. Just be aware that a tortoise does not have the same requirements as a turtle. One major distinction between the two is that the tortoise prefers dry land. I have presented here a simple guide to get you prepared for that new turtle.

Caring for pet turtles
Caring for pet turtles | Source


You don't need lots of room for a turtle like you would for a cat or a dog, but it has to be adequate. They should be housed in an area that is large enough for turtles to live and thrive. I recommend a forty gallon capacity tank.

The elements of land, water and heat should be considered when housing a turtle and should be well designed. You can get your kids involved in this project. A heat lamp should be placed in a spot that allows the turtle the opportunity to lie under it.

Another important requirement is that your turtle should always have a hideaway from the limelight. You would need to build a small enclosed area in the tank for this purpose. Tank temperatures are ideally 80 degrees F. Turtles take longer to adjust to changes in temperature so try to avoid any sudden changes.

Pet Turtle Aquarium
Pet Turtle Aquarium | Source


Cleanliness applies to the living conditions of the turtle as well as the handler. Always wash your hands before and after handling the turtle. This is a simple precaution against contamination. Some turtles are known to carry salmonella, yours may not, but taking the adequate precaution is always a good idea.

To avoid the development of mold and other bacteria that can harm your pet, ensure that the tank is cleaned regularly and replenish the water often. The use of wood chips in the tank is not recommended as they have a tendency to cause contamination. Cleaning of the tank is recommended every three days, so consider the time involved and if you are able to commit.


Food and Nutrition

Turtles are veracious eaters, so it is important that you do not overfeed or underfeed them. Turtles can be carnivores, herbivores or omnivores. Many do well on a diet of live crickets, snails, earthworms and fish. But don't forget the salad; they are partial to leafy greens like lettuce. Turtles also enjoy flowers like nasturtium, borage and hyssop.

Because different types of turtles may have different preferences in food, ensure that you know the specie of turtle you have and seek advice on what you should feed it. Calcium and vitamin D are essential to a turtle's diet. Snails can provide a good source of calcium but I suggest using a recommended supplement with the help of your veterinarian.

Care and caution

Turtles and other reptiles can be great pets. The hardest thing you will have to do is clean the tank, but a filter will significantly reduce the work. One caution is that you keep young children from handling the turtle and keep your turtle away from other house pets.

Your turtle is a living breathing pet and requires adequate care and attention to live a long and healthy and happy life.


Some fun facts about Turtles

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© 2018 Joan King


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