The genus Sacalia, commonly called Chinese Four-eyed
Turtles, Asian Eyed Turtles, Beale's Turtles, and False-
eyed Turtles, currently contains three species, Sacalia
bealei, Sacalia quadriocellata, and Sacalia pseudocellata.
All are somewhat delicate and very endangered turtles found
in streams flowing in the wooded mountains of northern
Vietnam, Laos and southern China. The Sacalia quadriocellata
is found only in Fukien, Kwangtung, and on Hunan Island, and
the even more rare Sacalia pseudocellata is found only in
the Hainan Province of China.
These up to six inch (fifteen centimeters) long turtles are
beautiful, with a carapace (top shell) varying in color from
deep chocolate brown to yellowish tan, and distinctive
patterns of lines on the shell. The head is brown, with two
striking colored spots on the top that resemble large eyes,
hence the common names. The head may also have yellow
stripes and the throat may be red or pink. The plastron is
usually yellow with random darker blotches.
Chinese Four-eyed Turtles in the wild live at altitudes from
three hundred to twelve hundred feet, and because they live
in rocky, rugged woodlands they are excellent at using their
webbed feet for climbing as well as swimming. Keep that
ability in mind when housing them in captivity.
A single turtle can be kept in a covered thirty gallon
aquarium. (As with all turtles, the more space the better.)
Make the land area about one third of the tank, with a
basking area and a mossy substrate. Give the turtle logs or
smooth stones to climb on and even live plants if possible.
Put at least six inches of water in the tank, and keep the
water warm, well filtered, and well aerated, and even then
change it weekly unless you have a large canister filter.
Use an aquarium light setup with a basking light and another
full-spectrum UVB light as part of the cover for the
vivarium, so that they turtle can bask and completely dry
out if it wishes. This goes a long way toward preventing
shell rot, and helps keep the tank at proper warmth and
humidity as well.
Larger groups have been successfully kept in large stock
tanks that are kept warm, heavily planted, and with high
humidity. A good temperature for the basking spot would be
eighty-five to ninety degrees Fahrenheit (thirty to thirty-
two degrees Celsius), and seventy-five to seventy-nine
degrees Fahrenheit (twenty-four to twenty-seven Celsius) for
the water and land area. Be sure to provide the requisite
full-spectrum UVB light, perhaps in a "shop light fixture"
over the tank. If you have a number of turtles, provide more
than one spot for basking.
Keep the water in such a tank at about eight to ten inches
deep, neutral to slightly acidic, heavily filtered and well
aerated, to replicate their native mountain streams with
fast-moving water. Provide a good sized land area with many
features such as live plants, rocks, driftwood and the like
for hiding, basking and climbing. Aquatic plants are also a
good addition to their tank, as they provide shade, snacks,
and hunting behavior opportunities for the turtles.
Asian Eyed Turtles will feed both on land and in the water.
Give them a varied and balanced diet of grated vegetables
and fruits, with a little more fruit than vegetable. They
also like earthworms and other worms, snails and crickets,
and will take commercial turtle food or trout chow in the
The females are often aggressive both to the males and other
females, so it is recommended to either keep them in small
groups with the majority being males or in groups of one
female to two males. There is little size difference between
the adult males and females, but the adult male turtles have
green false eye spots on top of their heads, and the spots
of the females are pale yellow. The babies all begin life
with the pale yellow female spots, and as the males reach
breeding maturity, their spots change to the green of the
Reports from successful breeders say that these turtles lay
only from two to six eggs per clutch, so if you can breed
your captive Chinese Four-eyed Turtles you will be helping
the genus have a better chance of survival. There isn't much
research on the wild or captive breeding of this genus of
turtles, but interest is increasing and they are being bred
in captivity. There is some evidence that mating behavior is
triggered by daylight length, so you may want to investigate
this further. Also of note: Four-eyes turtles have been
known to interbreed and produce "eyed" hybrids with the
Chinese Pond Turtle.
Captive raised baby Sacalias should do well in vivariums
with about one inch of water and a large land area of moss,
and the same temperature and basking lights as stated above
for the adults. Give them many hiding places of driftwood,
leaves, mosses and smooth rocks, and feed them small worms
and small crickets on land, and guppies, insect larvae, and
black worms in the water. Feed about three times per week,
dusting the food with reptile calcium and D3 supplement once
or twice per week. Try not to overfeed, and keep the water
spotless, and you should be rewarded with some interesting
and striking turtle pets as well as the satisfaction of
helping to preserve a rare and beautiful genus of turtles.