13 things you must know before getting turtle as a pet
Apart from being one of the most popular pets, turtles are terrific pets for people who appreciate the beauty of nature. There are hundreds of species of turtles, with each varying from another not only by their size but also by their incredible shell designs. These beautiful and fascinating creatures might not be the best to cuddle with but keeps you busy with their little tricks. So, is a turtle a good pet for a child?
Turtles are intelligent and low maintenance pets, who would not demand attention from you. However, turtles are not great to keep around if you have very young children. Turtles are great for families with children above 10 years of age.
According to Amino, turtles are the 9th most popular pet in the world. So, if you are thinking of getting a turtle as a pet, here are a few interesting things you must know beforehand.
1. Turtles are long term commitment
Turtles are known to live longer lives than any other pet. Getting a turtle as a pet is a long term commitment, and might even outdo you in age. When turtles are kept at the right temperature and humidity, fed an appropriate diet, and are exposed to sunlight every day, turtles are known to live for a few decades. So, when getting a turtle as a pet, you should keep in mind that you are adopting a lifelong family member.
2. Not all turtle breeds can be kept as pets
When it comes to turtles, they have literally hundreds of breeds. There are about 356 known species of turtles. However, out of these only 270 species can be kept as pets. While deciding which turtle you should adopt, you should prefer one which grows no longer than 12 inches. Small to medium size turtles are easy to keep at homes, and can even roam freely in your house.
Some of the best turtle species to keep as pets are slider turtles, common musk turtles, diamondback turtles, and painted turtles. Before deciding which turtle species is perfect for you, you should consider the environment your pet would live in.
Some turtles need a larger tank to live in, while others need a less humid environment and more land space to live comfortably. Some turtle species are friendlier and easy to tame, while others like to spend almost all of their time underwater exploring their tank. So which breed you should adopt basically depends upon your requirements.
3. Turtles need a large and spacious tank
Your pet turtle might look really small to you, but they need spacious tanks to live comfortably. As a general rule, a turtle tank should be at least five times bigger than the length of an adult turtle and at least two and a half times deeper. Turtles not only need water to swim, but also enough land area to roam around.
Along with a spacioustank, you would also need a powerful filter for your tank. Turtles are messy creatures. They are one of the few species who eat and defecate in the same place. Changing the water at least once a week and using a water filter would be able to maintain the hygiene of your turtles tank.
Your turtle would also need a heater in his tank to maintain the temperature of the water. The temperature of the water should be around 75-80 F. When your pet is too cold, they might lose appetite or immune system strength. They cannot maintain their body temperature, so it is necessary for you to maintain the temperature of the water and keep your turtle as a pet warm and comfortable.
4. Not all turtles like to swim
Turtles are generally always associated with water. However, not all turtle species are adapted to swim. Species like box turtles are not very skilled at swimming. They can and do swim, but very clumsily. On the other hand Aquatic turtles like cooters and red-eared sliders have long webbed feet which assists them in floating and swimming in water.
Species like box turtles go to the water to hydrate themselves but spend most of their time on dry land. They have shorter feet when compared to aquatic turtles and individual toes.
5. All turtles carry salmonella
Salmonella is a species of bacteria that many reptiles contain. The bacteria generally affects younger children or adults with a weak immune system. Turtles are one of the reptiles that carry salmonella in their intestinal tract and are immune to it. Turtles shed this bacteria in their stool. Salmonella can cause severe diarrhea and vomiting in humans which can at times be life threatening. This is why it is necessary that you wash your hands after you clean your turtles tank or even after you handle your pet. Many turtle owners prefer keeping a bottle of hand sanitizer next to their pets tank so that everybody can disinfect their hands after playing with their little one.
6. Turtles need fresh vegetables in their diet
Turtles need and enjoy fresh vegetables in their diet. Just like humans, turtles are unable to synthesize their own Vitamin A. Vitamin A is necessary for your pet for a strong immune system and a good vision. Turtles generally get this Vitamin through fresh green vegetables. Good dietary sources of Vitamin A are bell peppers, cucumber, as well as leafy vegetables.
Turtles love eating veggies. Try feeding them when they are in a dry place or when you are playing with them. Some turtles even love eating fruits. Fresh fruits and vegetables supplement your pet with lots of vitamins and minerals. With the absence of fresh ve in their diet, your turtle can develop swollen eyelids, and can even have difficulty in seeing.
7. Aquatic turtles also need dry land
Aquatic turtles spend a lot of their time swimming and exploring their tank. However, they also need time off the water and like to dry themselves up. Every turtle tank should have a basking area. Basking refers to lying exposed to warmth and sunlight. Adding a big rock to your turtles tank is a good idea, where he can climb up and hang out for a while.
While getting a turtle as a pet, keep in mind that it is necessary that your pet is exposed to sunlight for a few hours every day. Turtles need to bask in sunlight as they require UV-A light for breeding, metabolism, and mood regulation. They also need UV-B light to produce Vitamin D3. If you are unable to expose your pet to sunshine every day, make sure you set up a UV light above his tank.
8. Determining the gender of your pet turtle is easy
Generally it is difficult to differentiate between genders of exotic pets. However, with turtles it is quite easy to tell them apart. One of the most common way to determine the sex of your turtle is by looking at their tails. Male turtles have long and thick tails, whereas female turtles have short and skinny tails. Also, the rectal opening of male turtles is positioned closer to the tail as compared to female turtles. You can also tell male and female turtles apart by looking at their shell colours and nails. Male turtles generally have longer nails as compared to female turtles. So, make sure you choose your choice of gender while adopting a turtle as a pet.
9. Female turtles can lay eggs without their male counterpart
Just like chickens, female turtles can also lay eggs without a male being around to fertilise them. Most wild turtles lay eggs around spring due to temperature and weather cycle changes. However, with pet turtles, they do not experience such significant change in their temperature and can lay eggs year round. The eggs that a female turtle lay without their partner are infertile and hence would not hatch.
10. Even pet turtles hibernate
Just like wild turtles, even your pet turtles hibernate for ten to twenty weeks. Aquatic turtles and land turtles usually hibernate during the colder months of the year. This period of deep sleep in cold-blooded animals is called brumation.
Turtles typically start brumation at the end of the fall. The cooler temperature slows down their metabolism rate, thus reducing the amount of food and oxygen your pet turtle requires. During the summer months your pet’s heart beats 40 times per minute. But during the colder months it just beats once every ten minutes. If you want to keep your turtle as a pet indoors for brumation, you can set up a hibernating box. Use a durable material like plywood, and ensure sufficient insulation to keep your turtle from freezing.
11. Hold your pet turtle carefully
Turtles are one of the cutest reptiles. However, they do not like to be handled or petted the same way you pet your cats or dogs. You should be very careful while picking up and handling your pet turtle. Always pick up your pet using both hands. Place one on each side of the shell, between their front and back legs. Your pet turtle might want to get away from you when he is not in the mood. They are quite good at getting away with a bit of wiggling, kicking, and clawing.
12. Turtles bond with their owners
Most people think that turtles are not interactive pets, and they do not form a personal connection with their human. On the contrary, turtles recognise the sight and sound of their owners. Turtles take a few years to bond with their humans and get attached to them. They learn the voice t]of their owners and can even swim up to the surface to greet them. Turtles show affection to their owners through their body language and sounds.
13. Make sure you buy or adopt your pet turtle from a trusted source
There are laws in various countries that make it illegal to buy or sell all species of turtles. In the United States, it is illegal to buy or sell turtles whose upper shell length is less than four inches. This is why one of the most common turtles to buy/adopt is red eared sliders. Slider turtles usually reach four inches in length when they are about a year old.
In some states like New Jersey, you might require a permit before getting a turtle as a pet. The law is put into place due to concerns about an already stressed population of native turtles. So while deciding to get a pet turtle for yourself make sure you buy it from an authenticated pet shop or a good breeder. Buying from tourist shops or Chinatown is probably not the best idea, as they might be selling you wild turtles illegally.
Turtles are intelligent and curious pets that you would love to have around in your house. These low maintenance pets would not take much of your time. These small animals are often mistreated and forced into adverse conditions when they are bred for pet stores to sell. So, if you are looking for adding a turtle to your family, do check-in with your local rescue store whether they have a turtle for you to adopt. Before buying a turtle do check our in-depth guide to turtle care, to make sure your turtle as a pet stays healthy and happy.
Thinking to adopt a pet that is easy to handle and care for? Check out 7 best low maintenance pets you can own in 2020.