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Asian Spiny,

Spiny Hill, or

Cogwheel Turtles

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The Asian Spiny Turtle, also called the Cogwheel Turtle,
Spiny Hill Turtle, and scientifically, Heosemys spinosa,
grows to a maximum length of nine inches. Their native
habitat is in and along shallow, clear streams in the high
altitude rain forests of Indonesia, Sumatra, Malaysia,
Thailand and the larger surrounding islands. Cogwheel
Turtles are very shy in the wild, spending much of their
time hiding buried in the soft floor of their forests and
occasionally wandering in the shady, cool, moist areas. They
are omnivorous, but eat more plants than meat, and tend to
be nocturnal.

As you may guess from the common names, these turtles have a
very interesting shell with spikes edging the scutes along
the back and front of the carapace. The young Asian Spiny
Turtles even have spines also along the keel (top of the
shell along the backbone), although the adults often have
smoother backs and edges due to wear and tear. Most
specimens are basically the color of dried leaves, and their
color along with the shell edge spikes no doubt provides
them with excellent camouflage against predators in their
native forest habitats.

In captivity Cogwheel Turtles are still not very active,
but, like all turtles, they should still be given the
largest possible living space. An outdoor habitat is best.
If you are in a warm climate, where temperatures range
between a nighttime low of seventy degrees Fahrenheit (21
degrees Celsius) and daytime lows of around 80 degrees
Fahrenheit (27 degrees Celsius), you can keep them outside
year-around. Provide plenty of shade and turn on water
sprinklers on the hottest afternoons. Care for this species
is similar to care for North American Wood Turtles.

Indoors, a tank of at least three feet long and one and one
half feet wide should work for a single adult or a couple of
small turtles. Plant the land area of the tank thickly, in a
deep substrate (at least three inches) of a mix of sand,
orchard bark, coconut husk, etcetera, topped with moss to
hold water for added humidity, and dried leaves and maybe a
few small bark pieces or wood logs on top. Artificial plants
will work, but real plants help with humidity and provide
the occasional snack, and look better too, just be sure that
any live plants are nontoxic to turtles. The turtles will
use the plants for hiding places, and this will lessen
disease-producing stress on your turtles.

Be sure to set up a full-spectrum UVB light and run it for
about thirteen hours per day, even though your turtles may
not spend that much time out of hiding. A heat bulb should
also be set up at one end of the tank for a basking area of
around eighty-two degrees Fahrenheit. Provide a water area
that is large enough for the turtle to swim, and easy for it
to get into and out of, and be sure to filter the water and
change it often.

Asian Spiny Turtles, as we said, are not very active
turtles, sometimes seeming to sleep for days at a time. This
is probably because their native habitat is mountain forests
that don't ever get warmer than around eight-five degrees F.
When they do rouse to eat every few days, they will eat a
basic diet for omnivorous turtles, with much more plant
matter than meat. They prefer fruits such as apple, banana,
melons, strawberries, tomatoes, and vegetables such as leaf
lettuces, collards and other leafy Brassicas. Dust all food
with a good reptile vitamin/mineral mixture. Several times a
month only, feed them earthworms, mealworms, or pinky mice
to provide more protein.

Most Cogwheel Turtles in the pet trade are wild-caught, and
as such will be heavily stressed and parasite-ridden when
you get them. Take your new Asian Spiny Turtle to a good
reptile vet immediately for a parasite check and treatment
and to see if it has any injuries from the often-uncaring
transport. And unless you acquire your turtles from a very
reputable dealer, be sure to keep your new Asian Turtles in
quarantine from any other reptiles for at least ninety days
to prevent infection of your other animals.

In the initial quarantine period, keep the turtle at the
best temperature for its species, provide plenty of
humidity, and offer it strong smelling food such as ripe
fruits or earthworms to entice it to eat and strengthen its
immune system. Weigh it regularly to make sure it is eating

Not much is yet known about their breeding habits, as they
have rarely been bred in captivity. They are not easy to find the
gender but the males usually have longer and broader tails and the
common male turtle's concave plastron. They usually mate
between December and February, after the rainy season. In
captivity you should shower the tank a few times per week
for proper humidity, and you might induce mating by spraying
the turtles directly with water from a host, to simulate

Your breeding tank will need to be about half swimming area,
and the land area will need a deep substrate for egg laying.
The male will chase the female into the water to mate, and
the female will lay up to three clutches of eggs per year,
only one or two eggs at a time, with an incubation period is
around one hundred and six days. These beautiful turtles,
like all Asian turtles, are rapidly disappearing from their
native habitat, so if you are interested in breeding them,
please do so, and best of luck.

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