Aquatic turtles are the most commonly seen turtles in the
wild. Most people who live near a waterway have seen turtles
lounging on a log in the sun. They look like they would be
fun and easily kept pets. The truth is that some are good
pets, and some definitely aren't. And even the ones that are
fairly easy to keep need a carefully planned and maintained
habitat to stay alive and be healthy.
So if you want an aquatic turtle for a pet, you should do
some research about what type of turtle will be best for
you, and how best to care for it where you live. Of course,
that is what you are doing now. A big "Good for you!" is in
order if you are reading this before you have acquired your
Aquatic Turtle Basic Care:
Most of the aquatic turtles that are good for pets can be
kept in glass aquariums, although all turtles do better when
kept outdoors. It goes without saying that the larger the
tank the better for the turtle. Long tanks are better than
tall tanks for turtles, as the turtle will have more surface
area for breathing in a long tank.
The tank must be large enough at least to hold enough water
that the turtle can swim and turn over if it gets upside
down, with no places it might get stuck and held underwater.
And most will need a place that they can climb out of the
water to dry off, such as a rock pile with a smooth top of
rock or wood and a spotlight or basking light above for
warmth. If you intend to breed your water turtles, they will
require a land area with sand or soft soil where the female
can lay her eggs. Be sure the climb out of the water won't
scratch or damage the turtle's shell and invite infection.
The aquarium will need a good filter, a large canister type
is best, probably a water heater to keep the water at the
temperature best for the species, and an underwater
thermometer so you will know that it has done so. A good
filter will help to keep your turtle healthy, avoid shell
infections, and save your changing the water as often as
otherwise. (You should still change a third of the water
every couple of weeks to keep the pH and mineral level good.
You don't have to decorate the tank, and most turtles won't
need a bottom substrate. The tank will be easier to clean
Another thing that will help greatly in keeping the tank
clean is to provide a separate tank for feeding, and only
feed your turtle there. That way its primary home will not
have the risk of missed food spoiling, and you can more
easily monitor how much food your turtle is getting to make
sure it gets enough food but prevent obesity. An obese
turtle is an unhealthy turtle, and probably stressed as
well, as they cannot pull their heads and legs in when
frightened. Most adult pet turtles only need to be fed every
other day and only as much as they will eat in 3-5 minutes.
Feed on a schedule and your turtle will be happier.
Vitamin and mineral supplements are needed by all turtles in
captivity, and if your aquatic turtle is housed inside full-
time, you'll need to provide a full-spectrum reptile light
so that the turtle can properly metabolize its vitamins.
The best water turtle for a beginner is a captive-bred local
species of turtle. That way you won't have to acclimatize
the turtle to a radically different climate, and your turtle
won't be stressed or even ill as wild-caught turtles or
turtles that have been shipped some distance usually are.
Be sure to have your turtle examined by a veterinarian as
soon as possible, just to be sure it is healthy. Have its
tank set up and ready in a quiet spot before you bring your
turtle home, making sure that everything functions correctly
and the temperatures are regulated, and once it is in its
new home disturb it as little as possible for a few days, so
it can get used to the tank and de-stress. Don't worry if it
doesn't eat much for the first few days, but if it hasn't
eaten at all after one week, take it to the vet.
If you have researched your chosen turtle species and
provided it with a home as close as possible to its native
habitat, you should have little trouble and much enjoyment
with your new aquatic turtle pet.