Caring for Water Turtles
How to do right by your turtle!
Let me start out by saying, these are not cheap pets to keep. They may seem cheap when you find that you can buy them for only 4 or 5 dollars but adding to that the proper upkeep they need, you're running into thousands of dollars. If you cant afford that or you don't want to spend the time, please, don't buy these little guys! Too many of them die each year from people's ignorance and improper care.
We have 4 red eared sliders. Two are a little more than a year old and two are only about 6 months. Before we got them, we did all the research we could do. We wanted to find out what they ate, what temperature their water should be, what kind of heat lamps they needed, etc.
One of the main things they need is water. They need it to swim, to eat and to live. Our little guys have water that's about 12 inches deep.
TANKS & HOUSING
They also need a good sized tank. There are many rules you can follow for this but the main one is so many gallons per inch of shell. If you're not sure of the exact amount, its better to go big. One turtle can easily thrive in a 50 gallon tank for years until he outgrows it and needs something larger.
Another thing you will find yourself buying a lot of until you find the right one is a filter. Weve had many in the last year and none of them really work the way they should. Our newest one is HUGE! It still needs to be cleaned once a week. Turtles are a lot of work and the tank tends to smell if not cleaned frequently.
HEATERS & THERMOMETERS
An underwater heater was another thing we had to get. Turtles need water at a certain temperature, about 76-78 degrees. We monitor the temperature with an underwater thermometer.
LIGHTING & HEAT LAMPS
They also need a basking lamp and a "launch" pad that they can get out of the water to get heat from. This is extremely important because this is how turtles regulate their body temperature. Without heat, they will die.
Another light bulb we bought was a UVB/UVA lamp. One simulates sunlight while the other acts as moonlight. These lights are a must-have for artificial sunlight since they don't get the real thing. Their lights should be on for about 10-12 hours per day and they must also get about the same amount of time of dark.
My turtles have hearty appetites and will take food from my fingers but they will only eat it underwater. This is how they digest it since they have fixed tongues. Their favorite food is dried shrimp & dried worms bought from a pet store. They also love their turtle sticks and pellets. Babies are primarily carnivores but as they get older, they will start to eat more veggies. Right now mine will eat tuna (canned in water) and store bought cooked turkey while being hand fed. They absolutely go nuts for meat! I started handfeeding them by putting a chunk of turkey or tuna between my fingers and offering it to them. They've gotten so used to this that now when I just throw the food into their tank, 2 of them look at me like, "Hey! Arent you gonna handfeed me?!" Most turtles will also eat feeder fish; the ones that cost about .12 cents apiece but mine are too lazy to chase their food, they prefer me to do all the work.
My turtles are like little teeny members of the family to me. I take them outside when its sunny so they can run around in the grass. You do have to watch them though because although they're rumored to be slow, they can run VERY fast. They have different personalities whereas some will run when let down and some will dig in the mud. My biggest one is about 5-6 inches in length and she was the size of a quarter last year. They are all growing nicely and look to me to take care of them.
CHILDREN & SALMONELLA
If you are thinking about getting a turtle for your child because you think it will be easy to take care of, think again. Very messy creatures they are. They can also carry salmonella. Children like to put their hands in their mouths and don't often wash. This is where it becomes a problem. People have died from salmonella. You can prevent it by doing something as simple as washing your hands vigorously after coming into contact with a turtle or anything in their habitat. Use an antibacterial soap and teach your child to sing the happy birthday song twice. Then they are done.
I love my turtles and wouldn't trade em for anything but they are a lot more work than most people think and I would hate to see more die from peoples lack of knowledge.
We bought our turtles at www.turtlesale.com. They will only ship overnight (for obvious reasons) and you get them by UPS. This seemed kind of cruel to me at first, especially when I got my first two and one was upside down but after having them for more than a year and a half and them thriving, I realize I did them a service. I personally feel like I rescued them, if I hadn't of bought them, someone less scrupulous might have. If you want to buy a turtle, I would suggest sticking with only one and at most, 2. As Ive said, we have 4 and they take 10xs the work. I just bought them a new tank, a 50 gallon, for $120.00. Plus more light fixtures and bulbs, food, background, etc and spent almost another $200.00. That's on top of the more than $1000.00 weve already spent on them. I would also recommend requesting two females or two males. Yes, the idea of making lil' turtle babies is endearing but the reality is that the world doesn't need dozens more wee turtles running around. Plus it is illegal to sell them so you would have to keep them all. Unless you have tons of room along with tons of money, it's a no-go.
So have fun with your little guys and be good to them.