Pet Advice Turtle in Tank

Published on December 21st, 2017 | by Debbie Martin


Aquatic turtles – How best to keep them

Aquatic turtles are lovely pets to own, but be prepared for some hard work as they’re also rather challenging. To keep your turtles happy and healthy you need to be prepared to invest time, money and space for them both indoors and outdoors. In Britain you are most likely to come across sliders, musk, mud and map turtles. It’s worth learning the difference because they all have slightly different needs.

Water, water, everywhere

As you can tell from their name, aquatic turtles require water but different species require varying amounts of water. Surprisingly, musk turtles are not very good swimmers and so they require less water but they do need good access to land as this is where they spend most of their time. A map turtle on the other hand will be happier in deeper water as they are very good swimmers. There are a number of different ways to provide your turtle with an area suitable for swimming. These include plastic tubs, outdoor ponds and glass aquaria. Bear in mind that outdoor areas for turtles are only really useful during the summer months as turtles need heat. If you intend to keep them outside year round you will need to prepare appropriate lighting and heating facilities for your turtle. Keeping your turtle inside also requires some careful thinking as the water must remain temperate. If your turtle’s water is in direct sunlight, it can soon become too hot for the creature.

turtle-2824551_1920In order to keep the water safe for your turtles you must quickly learn how to achieve optimum water quality. If the water quality falls below appropriate conditions your turtle could develop a serious shell infection which can lead to death. In order to keep the water at optimum quality you will need to acquire filters, pumps and arrange strict cleaning regimes. Regular cleaning and powerful pumps are necessary as turtles produce more urine and faeces than fish and so standard fish tank filtration will not be adequate. It is however easier to use a power appropriate pump in order to be able to carry out partial water changes rather than full tank changes. Using a pump will also mean that you don’t need to change the water quite as often. Bear in mind when changing the water that the water temperature needs to be maintained as sudden changes in water temperature can be dangerous for your turtle. Use a thermometer to be sure. If you find that your circumstances demand that you change the water completely, consider using a more elaborate design of cage that will allow you to do this more easily. It is possible to use ozone filtration and ultraviolet sterilisation but these are very expensive options.

For the range of species mentioned here, water with a neutral PH value is appropriate but check details for your specific species is as some other aquatic turtles require a more acidic pH level in their water to thrive.

It’s getting hot in here

Turtles like it to be warm. Again, this varies depending on species but usually a turtle will enjoy the temperature range to fall between 24 to 28 degrees celsius, although they do need you to provide a separate basking area which is maintained at a warmer temperature. To keep your aquarium at the optimum temperature you can use overhead basking lights and heaters that can be submerged in the water which are thermostatically controlled. Avoid placing any other electrical heaters near the water to avoid accidents.

To stay healthy, digest food properly and maintain a well functioning immune system, turtles must be allowed to bask as this helps them to regulate and maintain their core temperature. You must make arrangements to provide a basking area for your Turtle. The area must be dry and topped with basking lights. The dry area can be stationary but your turtle will be happy to bask whilst floating too. Using driftwood or plastic in the water and allowing it to float is fine. Raised Stones or platforms are also good alternatives.

Food glorious food

The food a turtle needs and likes to eat is specific to its species but bear in mind it is very easy to feed turtles too much and this can lead to obesity. It can also impact on the quality of your water. Baby turtles are usually fed daily but your adult turtle can be fed as little as once a week and up to three times a week.

Most species enjoy worms, shrimp, rodents, fish and molluscs and this will make up the majority of their diet. Some species benefit from the addition of leafy green vegetables and small pieces of fruit. It is possible to buy feeder insects but these tend to be too low in calcium for a turtle and would require a supplementation before being fed to them. It is possible to offer supplements to your turtles but if they are already being offered a good variety of foods then supplementation shouldn’t really be necessary. If you feel that your turtle does require his supplementation you can buy commercially produced pellets. It is difficult to know the exact needs of a turtle because the only data that we have is based on observation from wild animals. Other data is limited.

Turtles are very beautiful, graceful pets and can be rewarding but as you can see, they require a lot of care and have very specific needs with regards to their environment and their diet. Bear in mind also that turtles can grow very big and live for a long time so an owner must be committed before purchasing an aquatic turtle to avoid a scenario where your pet ends up in a rescue centre needing a new home.

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About the Author

Debbie Martin has worked at Beeston Animal Health for over five years, having previously worked as a nurse in equine and small animal practice. Although generally involved with aspects of marketing these days and putting her psychology degree to good use, she still has a great depth of up to date knowledge in all creatures great and small. Debbie lives at home with her partner and two children and spends much of her spare time looking after her horses, dogs and cats or at the home farm with the cows, sheep and turkeys.

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