Turtles are an incredibly unique pet to own. They can live for up to 50 years, so it’s important to learn about their behavior and how to properly care for them before committing to a turtle as a pet. Not only can caring for turtles be rewarding, but observing the behaviors of turtles can also be an interesting educational experience. Turtles have a range of behaviors that they will display depending on their environment, and understanding these behaviors is key to creating a successful relationship with your pet turtle. Turtles are one of the oldest creatures on earth, yet their personalities remain an enigma for many. They are often seen as low-maintenance pets, but these reptiles have individual personalities and preferences. Whether you’re a beginner turtle owner or an experienced one, this article will let you understand the unique personality of your pet turtle and will help you provide it with the best care and bond with it more effectively.
Things to Know Before Adopting a Turtle:
Turtles are very popular pets and can be terrific for people who want a fascinating animal to look at and appreciate — but maybe not necessarily to cuddle with. Turtles can be great for families with elementary school-age children and older, but not ideal for families with very young kids who might drop them, forget to feed them or forget to wash their hands after handling them. . If you are thinking of getting a pet , here are some interesting facts about them that you may not know.
1. Not All Turtles Swim
Tortoises — as distinct from turtles — all live on land, but did you know not all turtles live in water? Some turtles, such as several species of box turtles, need access to water to stay hydrated but spend most of their time living on dry land. People tend to use the terms “turtle” and “tortoise” interchangeably, but actually they are very different animals. Turtles, who mostly swim in water, typically have webbed feet, while tortoises have defined toes. Also, many turtles are omnivores, meaning they eat both plant and animal material, while the majority of tortoises are vegetarians.
2. Turtles Are Long Lived
Many turtles, when housed at the right temperature and humidity, exposed to ultraviolet light, and fed a species appropriate diet, can live for decades. Many of my chelonian (another word for turtle) patients, in fact, outlive their original owners and are passed from generation to generation within families. Their longevity is certainly something for a potential owner to consider before bringing a turtle into the home.
3. All Turtles Carry Salmonella
Salmonella is a species of bacteria that many reptiles, but especially turtles, can carry normally in their intestinal tracts and are unaffected by it. They shed this bacteria in their stool intermittently. In people and other mammals, such as pet cats and dogs, this bacteria can cause horrible gastrointestinal problems, such as severe vomiting and diarrhea. That’s why it is critical that anyone who handles a turtle, its droppings or the objects in its tank washes their hands afterward. This is particularly important when children, who often put their hands in their mouths, handle reptiles. It is also the main reason why turtles are not recommended as pets for families with very young children. In addition to rigorous hand washing, I remind all the families whose turtles I treat to keep a pump bottle of hand disinfectant right next to the tank.
4. You Can Tell Boy and Girl Turtles Apart
With many exotic pets, it’s not always easy to know if you’ve got a boy or a girl, but in turtles, there are a couple of ways. One good rule of thumb for telling the difference between males and females is that males have longer tails, and their rectal opening — called the vent — is further down the length of their tail than in females. In girl turtles, the vent is much closer to the shell. Some species of turtles also show other differences between males and females, such as distinct shell shapes (the bottom shell, or plastron, in males may be curved inward so they can mount females for reproduction) or eye color (males’ eyes may be a brighter red than the brown eyes of females). Some male turtles also have longer nails than females.
5. Females Can Lay Eggs Without Males
Like chickens, female turtles can lay eggs without a male turtle being around to fertilize them — although these infertile eggs won’t hatch. Many wild turtles lay eggs in the spring in response to temperature and light cycle changes; that’s why we see so many turtles out on the roads when warmer weather hits. They are on a search to find sandy or soft soil in which to dig and bury their eggs. Pet turtles, however, often do not follow these seasonal rules as their environments do not change significantly and they can lay eggs year-round.
6. Aquatic Turtles Still Need Dry Land
Turtles typically live in rectangular tanks filled with water, as they spend most of their time swimming. Yet even aquatic turtles need to dry off sometimes. So all turtles should have a basking area in their tanks — typically a large rock — where they can climb up and hang out. But also keep in mind that turtles love to eat rocks, so make sure that all rocks in the tank (including any gravel in the bottom or that is used for basking areas) are bigger than your turtle’s head in order to prevent inadvertent snacking. Rocks can cause a gastrointestinal tract obstruction.
7. Even Tiny Turtles Need Big Spaces
Most turtle breeders will tell you that, as a general rule of thumb, turtle tanks need to be five times the length of an adult turtle and contain water that is two and a half times as deep as the turtle is long. The bigger the turtle, the bigger the tank and the greater the volume of water required. A powerful filter is also required to keep all that water clean, as turtles both eat and defecate where they live. The filter needs to be changed regularly depending on the size of the tank and the number of turtles it houses (your veterinarian should be able to advise you on a preferred schedule).
8. Turtles Need Veggies, Too
Turtles have a high requirement for vitamin A in their diets as they do not store this vitamin in their bodies. As a result, they need to get it from their food. Great dietary sources of vitamin A for turtles, depending on their species, include dark leafy green vegetables and red, orange or yellow veggies, such as bell peppers and squash. Without adequate vitamin A, many turtles will develop swollen eyelids and have difficulty seeing.
9. Turtles Know Their Owners
Most people don’t realize this, but many turtles recognize the sight and sounds of their owners! In fact, many owners comment how their pets swim right up to the water surface to greet them when they walk in the room. You might not expect it, but your turtle may actually come to you when you call him!
Turtles can be phenomenal pets if you are willing to take the time to set up and maintain their environments properly and feed them according to their species-specific needs. And remember, just like our furry friends, turtles also need routine veterinary care as well. Most importantly, if you find out that a pet turtle is not for you, please don’t release it into the wild. Many pet turtle species are not meant to live in the wild and will die without care or can introduce diseases that can sicken wild turtles. There are plenty of animal shelters or turtle rescues that will take in an unwanted pet.
Though not every owner wants a pet that is as labor intensive as a turtle, when they are healthy, as you can see from these fascinating facts, turtles can be tremendously terrific to have around.
Everything You Need To Know About Raising Pet Turtles:
If your child has been clamoring for a pet, you may think that a turtle is an easy choice. You may think it’s more exotic than a goldfish and less upkeep than a cat or dog. In reality, pet turtles require a good amount of responsibility and maintenance and their long lifespan makes them less like a pet and more like a long-term investment. So, before you adopt your own little Myrtle, here is an overview of everything you need to know to keep pet turtles healthy and happy.
Choosing Your Breed of Pet Turtle:
There are many different species of turtle, but the types that are most commonly brought home as pets (and the easiest to care for) are box turtles and red-eared slider turtles. Box turtles have dark skin with yellowish markings and tall, dome-shaped shells, which is where they get their name. Adults typically grow to about 6 inches in length. Red-eared slider turtles (also known as sliders) are the most common species of pet turtle. These are the kind that you find swimming around in tanks at your local pet store. While the baby turtles are often 4 inches in size or smaller, adults can grow up to 11 inches long, which means you might have to upgrade the size of your tank in the near future.
Creating Your Turtle’s Home:
Turtles can be divided into two categories based on their habitat: terrestrial and aquatic turtles. Box turtles are land-dwelling, or terrestrial, turtles. They are found in damp areas, such as the mossy parts of forests, all over the world. If you live in a temperate area (with an average temperature between 75-85 degrees), an ideal habitat for a box turtle is an outdoor pen with high walls and a top to ward off predators.
If you live in a colder or warmer climate, set up an indoor area for your box turtle.Box turtles love to dig, so make sure they have lots of dirt, potting soil, shredded newspaper or scraps of carpet to satisfy them. Box turtles also require a certain amount of moisture to survive, try to include plenty of rotting dry leaves and moist soil in your turtle’s pen, as well as a cozy shoe box or flower pot that the turtle can crawl under to hide or sleep. Never place your outdoor turtle in a glass tank. The glass will heat up like a greenhouse and end up cooking your poor pet!In their natural habitat, aquatic turtles, like the red-eared slider, live in swampy, muddy areas with thick vegetation, such as lakes and ponds. They require a habitat with plenty of clean water for swimming as well as dry land where they can rest, hide and bask in the sun. A tank that can hold at least 40 gallons should give your pet turtle an adequate amount of room to move around in.Line the bottom of your turtle’s tank with lots of small rocks so it can have fun digging around. You can also put a large rock or floating log in the middle of the water to give your turtle its own private island for sunbathing.
In the terrestrial part of the tank, create a snug shelter out of wood or rocks where your pet turtle can go when it wants to get out in the open.You can dress the tank up with plants as well, as long as they are not poisonous to your pet(it is bound to take a nibble at them). Plant species such as Amazon swords, anacharis, water hyacinth and water lettuce are good choices that can double as part of your pet turtle’s healthy diet.Apart from a swimming area, aquatic turtles need an additional area for their drinking water. Be sure to use natural spring water for both your pet turtle’s swimming area and drinking water. Tap water contains chlorine and fluorine, which can throw off the water’s pH balance and harm the turtle.Both terrestrial and aquatic turtles need to bask. If you keep your turtle indoors in an area without regular access to large amounts of natural light, you will need to purchase a basking lamp (also called a sun lamp) that simulates the sun’s Ultraviolet rays. Sunlight gives turtles the adequate amounts of vitamin D and calcium they need to stay happy and healthy. You can keep the sun lamp on a timer that gives off 12 hours of light and then shuts off for 12 hours of darkness or you can regulate the lamp by hand. Just make sure that the lamp is placed high enough that it doesn’t burn your turtle.
Different species of pet turtle require different temperatures for their habitat. Land turtles can retain more body heat for a longer amount of time than aquatic turtles. You will need to find out exactly the right temperature for your species; however, a general rule is to keep the tank or pen around 80 degrees during the day and about 70 degrees at night.
Feeding Your Pet Turtle:
Most turtles are omnivores, which means they eat both meat and plants. Box turtles can eat a wide variety of foods, such as slugs, worms, crickets, apples, tomatoes, cantaloupe and leafy green vegetables. Dandelion leaves are also a good choice for a pet turtle’s diet because they are high in vitamin A and calcium. A box turtle’s absolute favorite food, however, is snails – as long as they are pesticide free. Baby box turtles eat meat when they are young and adopt a more vegetarian diet as they grow older. Aquatic turtles must be fed in the water so that they can swallow their food. Sliders like (de-clawed) crayfish, snails and salamanders. They can also eat bits of meat, fruits and vegetables (never iceberg lettuce or spinach) along with their regular diet. Unlike box turtles, sliders continue to eat meat as adults. Turtle experts recommend feeding your aquatic turtle live goldfish at least once a week. Turtles love to chase their prey, so capturing their dinner will give them a nice bit of fun and exercise.
Frequently Asked Questions:
They have sturdy, sprawling limbs with short feet or paddlelike flippers (marine turtles). Some species bend the neck sideways, but most pull the head and neck backward into the shell. Almost half of the known turtle species are rare, threatened, or endangered.
There are some personality characteristics that are common to all turtles and tortoises. They are quiet, shy, and harmless yet display intelligence. They can identify their keepers and know when it's feeding time. Turtles and tortoises are very sensitive to loud noises, vibrations, and sudden bright lights.
The Turtle possesses wisdom and is an intuitive thinker. While the Turtle may not use very many words, when they do speak, you should listen. The Turtle has a keen insight and the ability to make strong effective decisions, especially during a crisis. Generally, they do not panic.
Yes, both tortoises and turtles can learn to recognize their caretakers. This does take time, but turtles and tortoises are very smart. They will learn your scent, sounds, and behaviors. They will come to associate you with food and safety.
Turtles Know Their Owners! Most people don't realize this, but many turtles recognize the sight and sounds of their owners! In fact, many owners comment how their pets swim right up to the water surface to greet them when they walk in the room.
In conclusion , pet turtles can be a unique, rewarding addition to any home. With proper care and attention, pet turtles can bring joy and entertainment to their owners for years after their purchase. They are relatively low maintenance pets that require a well-balanced diet, clean habitat, and enough space to move about freely. Along with the great responsibility of owning a pet turtle comes immense reward in the form of companionship and long lasting memories. Turtles offer an unparalleled personality that cannot be found in other animals.