How to care for pet turtles – an In-depth guide
Turtles might not be as cuddly as other pets, but they are awfully cute and make great pets for families. Living for decades, turtles do need a commitment from their owner, but they are all worth it. Being the 9th most popular pet in the world, turtles make fun pets for both adults as well as children. But, are turtles easy to take care of?
Turtles are really easy to take care of. These low maintenance pets have a friendly and pleasant personality, which will make you fall in love with them. With the right knowledge and resources, you can keep your pet turtle happy and healthy without spending a lot of your time. They are gentle and interactive pets, which makes it easy to care for pet turtles.
Turtles are intelligent creatures and do not need much special care. However, it is important to know little tips to keep your little buddy healthy as well as happy. Read on to learn all about how to care for pet turtles.
Step 1 – Pet turtle needs a large and spacious tank
Turtles need a spacious and a large tank with both land as well as water. As a rule of thumb, your tank should be 10 gallons per 1 inch of your turtle’s shell length. For aquatic turtles, the depth of the water should be at least twice your turtle’s length. Whereas for land turtles, water should be shallow enough that your turtle can lift it’s chin up above the water when it’s fully submerged.
Turtles need a spacious tank to live a happy and comfortable life. While choosing a pet turtle make sure you choose a breed that grows no more than 12 inches. It is difficult to take care of larger turtles and they need a bigger tank and tons of care. As per the general rule, your tank should be 10 gallons per 1 inch of your turtle’s shell length. So if you have a box turtle you would need a 60-gallon tank for a fully grown turtle.
Turtles need a large tank because they need both land and water to stay healthy. Most turtles spend 75% of their time in water and the other 25% on land. Even aquatic turtles need to dry themselves out for a while. Your turtle’s tank should also have a cover so your turtle does not escape or jump out and hurt himself.
Aquatic turtles spend almost all of their time underwater, exploring their tank. They need water deep enough to swim. Ideally, the depth of the water should be at least twice your turtle’s length. For a land turtle, the water should be shallow enough that your turtle can lift it’s chin up above the water when it’s fully submerged. Land turtles like box turtles can drown in deep water.
Appropriate bedding is also necessary to take good care for pet turtles. Do not line the bottom of your tank with gravel. Your turtle might eat these small rocks and choke on them. Peat moss or soil is appropriate bedding for your pet. You can mix equal amounts of wood chips and peat moss or an equal amount of sand and soil and line the bottom of your tank with it.
Here are some good starter turtle tanks that would keep your pet comfortable.
|Cage||Size (LxWxH)||Weight||Extra Accessories|
|Hygger horizon glass aquarium||8 gallons||21.6 pounds||Filter pump, colored aquarium light, 3D mountain background, durable premium glass, extendable mounting brackets|
|Marineland Portrait Glass LED aquarium||5 gallons||12 pounds||Sleek design, 3-stage filtration system, adjustable flow filter pump, energy-efficient LED lights, easy to assemble, easy to maintain|
|Tetra Aquarium Kit||20 gallons||34.3 pounds||Modern design, UL heater, Tetra whisper 20 filters, color-changing LED, plant multipacks, easy to assemble, easy to maintain|
Step 2 – Make a basking area for your pet turtle
Basking is essential for your turtle’s health and allows your turtle to completely dry out and warm up. It prevents various skin diseases like fungal infections to develop. If your pet turtle cannot bask in the sunlight, you can set up a UV lamp on one side of your pet’s tank. To care for pet turtles, you need to let them bask for 2 to 8 hours every day. You can either buy a basking platform from your local pet store or build one with peat moss and wood chips.
Turtles need to lie exposed to either sunlight or UV light for a few hours every day. This is known as basking. Basking is an important routine for your pet turtle. It is essential for their health and allows your turtle to completely dry out and warm up. Basking prevents various skin diseases like fungal infections to develop. While your turtle completely dries out, fungal infections can’t develop.
Most turtles prefer to bask in the sunlight. Apart from preventing fungal infections, basking is also necessary for your pet turtle to absorb UV-A and UV-B light. UV-A light is important for your pet turtle as it helps regulate mood and metabolism of your turtle. UV-B light is important for your pet to produce Vitamin D3, which helps to develop stronger bones and regulate the proper functions of their organs.
If you are unable to let your pet turtle out in the sunlight, then you can set up a UV light above his tank. Place the UV lamp at least 12 inches above the basking area. To care for pet turtles, you need to let them bask for 2 to 8 hours every day.
You can either create a basking area for your pet with peat moss and wood chips or buy a ready-made one. To make one by yourself, make sure that you make the layer of peat moss and wood chips higher at one side of the tank. Create a gentle slope so it is not too steep for your pet turtle, and can easily climb up. The basking area should stay dry always, and rise above the water. The height of your basking area should be at least twice the length of your pet, so it can stay way above the water level.
Most turtles follow a daily basking routine, be it a land turtle or an aquatic turtle. For aquatic turtles, you need to make sure that your pet returns to water every day and stay there for a significant amount of time. Excessive basking can dehydrate your turtle.
Here are a few basking platforms that you can set up in your pet turtles tank.
|Basking Platform||Size (LxWxH)||Weight||Additional|
|Penn Plax Turtle-topper||17”x 14”x 10”||5.5 pounds||Spacious, easy to climb, clear, top, durable plastic, simple and easy to clean, fits easily on tanks up to 55 gallons|
|Chnee Habitat Basking Rock||5.3”x 4.33”x 2.16”||0.4 pound||Made of premium resin, eco-friendly, wide and flat top surface, easy to climb, pollution-free, safe for aquariums|
|Alfie pet Basking Platform||6.5”x 2.5”x 3”||0.2 pound||Realistic looking landscape, made of non-toxic resin, wide and flat top surface|
Step 3 – Install a water filter and heater in your pet turtles tank
Since turtles make a lot of mess, it is advisable to install a powerful water filter in their tank. As a general rule, if you have 40-gallon water in your turtle tank, then you should buy a water filter labeled for 80-100 gallon water. Along with a filter, you should also install a heater in your turtle’s tank to regulate the temperature of the water. The ideal water temperature for most turtles is between 72 and 80° F.
Turtles are messy creatures. They are one of the few species that eat and live in the same place. You might feed your land turtle where he basks, but for an aquatic turtle, you need to feed him while he is in the water. This tends to make the tank messy. So, to care for pet turtles, you must install a water filter in their tank to ensure the good health and well-being of your pet.
Since turtles make a lot of mess, it is advisable to buy a powerful water filter. So, if you have an 80-gallon tank, you should fill half of the tank with water. Since you have 40-gallon water in your turtle tank, then you should buy a water filter labeled for 80-100 gallon water. A powerful water filter saves a lot of your time while cleaning the tank. According to the fishkeepingworld, the best water filter for a turtle tank is a canister filter.
Along with a water filter, a water heater is also important for your turtle tank. To take care for pet turtles the water must be kept warm enough for your little buddy to live comfortably. Aquatic turtles spend 75% of their time inside water. Coldwater would slow down your pet’s metabolism, and he can quickly develop infections. On the other hand, if the water is too hot, your pet would not want to bask anymore which can cause fungal infection and shell rot. So, it is necessary to maintain the temperature of your turtle’s tank.
The ideal water temperature for most turtles is between 72 and 80° F. You should always buy a heater with a shock-resistant glass to keep your pet turtle safe. Submersible heaters are one of the best choices for your turtle’s tank. The basking platform of your tank should be at least 10 degrees hotter than the water.
Here are some good water filters to keep your pet turtle’s tank clean.
|Marineland Magniflow 360 Canister filter||100 gallons||3-stage filtration. For freshwater and saltwater, easy to maintain|
|Marineland Magnum Internal Canister filter||97 gallons||Submerged water for a quick start, 3-stage filtration, micron water polishing,|
|Penn Plax Aquarium Cascade 1000 Canister filter||100 gallons||3-stage filtration, quick and easy setup, easy to maintain, controllable filter-flow rate|
Here are some good water heaters to keep your pet turtle warm and comfortable.
|Hygger submersible aquarium heater||300 Watts||Fast heating, fully automatic control, digital LED display, high-quality quartz glass tube, reliable|
|Mylivell submersible aquarium heater||300 Watts||Made of high-quality quartz glass, automatic temperature adjusting, polarised plug preventing shock|
|Vivosun submersible aquarium heater||300 Watts||Precise temperature control, manual temperature controller, easy to set up, reliable|
Step 4 – Feed your turtle with the correct turtle food
Turtles need both plant and animal protein to stay healthy. Along with turtle food, you should supplement your pet’s diet with live food like crickets and mealworms.
Most turtles need both plant protein and animal protein to stay healthy. Buying high-quality turtle pellets is one of the best and easiest ways to supplement your turtle with all the vitamins and nutrients. Try to maintain a balance between animal-based feed and plant-based feed in your turtle’s diet. Since pellets are a less authentic form of food, your pet turtle might take some time to get used to it.
To care for pet turtles, you must add live food to your pet’s diet. Turtles love to eat meat, and it is one of the most important forms of animal-based food. Your pet turtle would get the most animal-based nutrients from a live food diet. For land turtles, you can feed them crickets, mealworms, waxworms, and other small insects. For aquatic turtles, small fishes like comet goldfish, mosquito fish, or aquatic snails would be a good diet. You can either buy live worms or packaged dead ones from your local pet store.
Here are some high-quality turtle food, that you can feed your pet turtles to keep them healthy.
|Omega One floating turtle pellets||3.5 ounces||Elevated calcium and vitamin D3, consists of Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, promotes proper shell development, promotes consistent and healthy growth, 3mm pellets|
|Flukers Aquatic Turtle Buffet blend food||12 ounces||Blend of mealworms, shrimp, and pellets, a proper balance of protein, minerals, vitamins, and fat, includes calcium to promote shell growth|
|Tetrofauna food for aquatic turtles||2.18 ounces||Rich in shrimp and krill, convenient alternative to live food, includes omega 3 fatty acids|
Step 5 – Supplement your pet turtles diet with Fruits and Vegetables
Fresh fruits and vegetables are an important part of your pet turtle’s diet. Their diet must consist of 90% vegetables and just 10% fruits. A juvenile turtle needs to be fed every day, while an adult turtle needs to be fed just 3 or 4 times a week.
Along with living food, supplement, and pellets our turtle also needs to eat fruits and vegetables. You must supplement your pet turtle’s diet equally with plant protein as well. A turtles diet must consist of 90% vegetables and just 10% fruits. Green and leafy vegetables like kale, parsley, green beans, cabbage, and bell peppers are good choices for your pet turtle that would keep him healthy.
You can also feed your pet turtle with flowers like hibiscus, roses, and carnations. You should avoid feeding your pet turtle with fiber-rich vegetables like lettuce or celery. Apples, pears, bananas, grapes, melons, and kiwis are a good choice of fruits for your pet.
While feeding fruits and vegetables to your pet turtle make sure you chop them finely into bite-sized pieces so that your pet won’t choke on them. A younger turtle would prefer meat over vegetables. But as your turtle gets older they would automatically shift to a plant-based diet. Make sure what your turtle likes to eat and provide them with a variety of food.
A juvenile turtle needs to be fed every day, while an adult turtle needs to be fed just 3 or 4 times a week. If your turtle is younger than seven years make sure he is eating more of an animal-based diet for the proper development of your pet.
Step 6 – Add Calcium to your pet turtles diet
Turtles need calcium in their diet to keep their shells and bones strong. They need at least 2% of calcium supplements every day. Feed your turtle with pellets, vegetables, and fruits which are rich in calcium.
Your pet turtle needs a lot of calcium to keep their shells strong. It is one of the most important minerals for your pet turtle’s health. Your pet turtle needs calcium not just for their shells, but also to keep their bones strong, and for proper muscle functions.
According to a study conducted by one of our researchers, your pet turtle needs at least 2% of calcium supplement every day in their diet. While buying pellets for your pet turtle, make sure they are rich in calcium. You can also buy powdered calcium carbonate, and sprinkle it on your turtle’s food every other day.
It is extremely difficult for you to analyze the amount of calcium your pet needs. So make sure you provide him with vegetables, pellets, and fruits which are rich in calcium. If you have an aquatic turtle you can keep a block of calcium carbonate in water for your pet to chew and play with whenever he likes. Lack of calcium in your pet turtles diet may lead to metabolic bone diseases.
Step 7 – Clean your pet turtles tank frequently
Turtles are messy creatures and can fall sick if not kept in a clean environment. Use a fish net to clean your turtle’s dropping every day. You should also change 25% of your turtle’s tank water every week. Clean the entire tank of your pet properly every 3 weeks. Make sure you scrub the tank, and basking area of the tank properly to get rid of any bacteria or fungus.
Turtles create a lot of mess. Installing a powerful water filter is one of the steps to keep your pet’s water a little clean and hygienic. However, even if you have a powerful canister filter installed you still have to clean your turtle’s poop out of the tank every day. You can use a fish net to clean your turtle’s droppings, leftover food, and other debris to maintain a hygienic environment for your turtle. To care for pet turtles, maintain a clean environment is the first step towards the well-being of your pet.
You should also change 25% of your turtle’s tank water every week. For your filter to work properly and efficiently you must discard one-fourth of their tank water. Try not to empty the tank as it contains a lot of good bacteria which is needed by your pet to stay healthy. Clean the entire tank of your pet properly every 3 weeks. Make sure you scrub the tank, and basking area of the tank properly to get rid of any bacteria or fungus. You can use 1 parts bleach to 10 parts warm water to sanitize your turtle’s tank. Remember to wash your hands properly after cleaning the tank, as turtles carry salmonella which can make you sick.
Step 8 – Check your pet turtle for signs of illness regularly
Turtles are strong creatures and do not fall sick frequently. However, you should check your pet turtle for any infections once every two days. Check your turtle for any blisters or blemishes on his skim. Make sure their eyes, nose, and beak are not discolored.
Turtles remain healthy as long as you provide them with proper food, calcium supplements, and clean their water regularly. However, it is a good practice to check your turtle for any infections once every two days.
You can pick your turtle up when you are feeding him, or when he is basking in the sun. Use both of your hands while picking your pet up. A single hand is not recommended while handling your pet as they might wiggle and fall off. Put each hand between the front and back legs and pick your pet up. To care for pet turtles, make sure their skin and shell are smooth without any cracks. A crack in your pet turtle’s shell might refer to a lack of calcium supplement.
Check your pet turtle for any blisters or blemishes on his skim. Make sure their eyes, nose, and beak are not discolored. Turtles generally stay healthy and you do not have to worry much about them. Your aquatic turtle might be prone to skin infections and malnutrition. If you observe your turtle is not eating well, or a change in his behavior, or if he has softshell or cloudy eyes, you should take your pet to an exotic pet veterinarian.
Turtles are easy to care for and low maintenance pers. These exotic creatures are intelligent and fun to have around. Contrary to popular opinion, turtles do make a bond with their human. They get accustomed to your voice and smell and swim to the surface every time you are around to greet you. While adopting a turtle make sure you know his age, and which breed your pet belongs to, to take good and proper care for pet turtles.
Thinking about adopting a turtle for yourself? Don’t miss out on these 13 unique facts about pet turtles before bringing one home.
To find out other easy to care for pets check out 7 best low maintenance pets you can own in 2020.