Freshwater Turtle Care And How To Set Up Your Terrarium
Freshwater turtles and terrapins are fascinating to children and adults alike, they look adorable when young hatchlings but many prospective keepers are caught out by their growth into the large adults that require a lot of aquarium space. If they are cared for properly they can be long lived and provide hours of enjoyment but sadly many people purchase these creatures without researching their special needs and requirements beforehand. They require a special diet, certain equipment that must be added to the aquarium and even setting out the aquarium has to be performed in a special way to suit their needs.
Hopefully this article will give you some insight into their needs so that you can realise the task you are undertaking prior to the initial purchase.
Setting up your Turtle Terrarium
As mentioned above, freshwater turtles can grow large, if you have purchased young specimens you will be able to keep them in a smaller aquarium, be prepared to upgrade to a larger aquarium as they grow. The aquarium needs to be split into two basic areas, an area of water and an area of dry land where the turtles can bask completely out of the water. I have found the best way of adding the two areas is to keep a flat level of dry land at one end of the aquarium and then allow this to slope into the water filled section, this gives the turtles varying depths of water in which to inhabit. The dry land can be built with rocks covered in gravel or even add ledges and just fill these with gravel.
The aquarium should have a lid fitted which contains a light that will be used for the basking periods, the lighting will also help to keep the atmosphere in the aquarium at a temperature that is warm enough for the turtles. Use a timer for the lighting and set this to come on for approximately 8-9 hours per day, at night the air temperature in the aquarium will drop but this replicates their natural climates and will slow the turtles metabolism down, allowing them to have resting periods during the night.
The water will also require heating by placing a submersible heater below the water surface, this should be set between the temperatures of 24 deg C-29 deg C (75-85 deg F) and the heater should be switched on at all times.
Some natural sunlight should also be allowed to hit the aquarium, site the tank so that this happens for a few hours each day during the summer months, the sunlight aids the turtles in their growth and for healing purposes, if this is not possible you can fit a UV bulb into the lid of the aquarium to replicate.
The depth of the water should be slightly deeper than the tallest height of your largest turtles shell, any lower and they cannot manoeuvre properly which will stress the turtles.
Feeding your Turtles
Freshwater turtles are primarily carnivorous, they will also require some vegetable matter in their diet. They will accept a variety of meaty foods such as small pieces of boiled beef, chopped prawns, chopped earthworms and similar. For the vegetable matter you can add blanched spinach or even small amounts of spirulina flake.
They also require minerals and vitamins in their diet, many of the commercial turtle foods supply these but this type of food should not be the only source in their diet as this could lead to digestive problems, remember to vary the food at all times.
The vitamins that they require are A and D3, they will also require calcium for the reasons stated previously. One easy way to provide them with calcium is to crush up some egg shells and add the powder to the water, a tried and trusted method used by many turtle keepers.
When supplying the turtles with the meaty foods it is best to offer them the titbits while they are in the water and they should soon learn to accept their food directly from the keeper without any problems.
Like all pets, freshwater turtles are prone to diseases, these are mostly attributed to a poor diet but there can be other reasons such as poor water quality or even infections from scratches and the occasional bite from their tank mates. Most diseases and illnesses can be treated, spotting them at an early stage will speed up the process but the most important thing is to segregate any turtle that is showing symptoms, once treated and cured they can be replaced back into the terrarium.
Swollen eyelids are normally a sign of vitamin deficiency, normally vitamin A . Adding the vitamin to the food of the turtle should clear up the problem, rich meaty foods should also aid with this problem.
Fungal areas or flaking shell is another problem that seems to show up on a regular basis, it is not clear what causes this but by removing the infected shell by scraping and dosing the are with iodine will clear this up and healthy shell should grow through.
Colds and cold like symptoms are easy to spot, like us, the turtle will develop tight breathing, bubbles of mucus at the nostrils and similar. Placing the turtle in a tank that has a heat emitting light will help, the tank temperature will rise and the cold virus should disappear, make sure that the water in the tank is topped up on a regular basis so that the turtle can still submerge itself if it wishes to.
General bites and cuts can be treated with an antibiotic cream, most of these will heal quite quickly but make sure that they have healed completely before returning the treated turtle back to the main tank.
Freshwater turtles can carry diseases, they should only be handled when required, always wash your hands after handling as they can pass on the diseases that they carry.