How to Take Care of Your Pet Turtle
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How to Take Care of Your Pet Turtle

Turtles can live a very long time.

As a writer for hire, I have to learn a lot about a lot of different topics. I recently finished a big assignment about turtles, and because of my research and my interest in the subject, I have decided I really want one for a pet. No, having a turtle isn't like having a dog or a cat, but it still can bring lots of enjoyment to an individual. Some turtles can interact a bit with you, and some don't. Some turtle are better left as decoration, kind of like tropical fish.

I am of the mind that every living being has a soul, and some level of awareness and intelligence. I have a friend that has a Florida Red-bellied Turtle, and that little critter seems to know its owner. It makes eye contact and seems to like being held in its owner's hand as he walks around with it. As I was thinking about getting a Florida Red-belly for myself, I thought about the commitment one has regarding the animal. If I purchase a young Florida Red-bellied Turtle, it can live from 40 to 60 years in captivity. This turtle will outlive me. That brings me to what I feel is so important before ever getting a pet turtle.

One might buy a pet turtle for their child or themselves. It sits around like an ornament, but it isn't an ornament. It is a living being that needs a clean habitat to live in with plenty of fresh water. Often I hear people complain that their turtles are stinky. They wouldn't stink if their habitat was cleaned out. They defecate in the water. If you don't clean out their tank often it is like they are living in a toilet. That is why they stink. When they are forced to live in a dirty habitat it puts them under stress. They can get sick. Many times when a turtle gets sick it either gets thrown out in the trash can alive or if it is small enough flushed down the toilet. People tire of them sometimes when they become more work than they bargained for.

I would suggest that anyone that wants to have a turtle in their life needs to do some research and decide if they want to really care for one of these creatures. If you keep a turtle in your home you need to provide a habitat large enough for the turtle. The Florida Red-bellied Turtle grows from 11 to 13 inches, but some have been reported to be as large as 18 inches. Its carapace (upper shell) is dark or blackish in color with yellow and black markings on the shell. Its plastron (under shell) is orange, red or coral in color. It is really a pretty turtle.

Every turtle has to have an environment that is compatible with it. The Florida Red-bellied turtle needs at least a 90 gallon tank, but a 100 gallon tank is actually better. I'm talking about one turtle! Each turtle needs at least 90 gallons of space, so if you have two turtles you are going to need a bigger space. The Florida Red-belly is an aquatic turtle. It's a great swimmer, and it needs room to swim and exercise.

If you don't have enough space for your turtle to move around freely to swim it won't be able to get enough exercise. It may get sick and die. Being confined in a space too small is very stressful and can affect the immune system. Not only can your turtle get sick from stress but it can also get sick from problems relating to obesity, just like people do.

Do you know when your turtle is getting too fat? When you startle your turtle its response is to draw in its head and legs. It draws in every part so predators can't get to it. Well, when your turtle is too fat, it draws its legs in and its back legs pop out.

Most adult turtles need to be fed only every other day. They are omnivores, but as they get older they prefer vegetation to animal protein. They will eat cat chow and even some canned dog food every now and then. In the wild they will eat insects and also the flesh of dead fish.

Turtles need to bask. They need to soak up the rays to synthesize Vitamin D3. Turtles are just like humans, we synthesize Vitamin D in our skin from the sun. In captivity they need a basking light. They should have a UVB (60 watt) heat lamp for basking. The basking area can be set up in different ways. You can purchase already made basking areas that sit in the middle of a tank like an island. You can also build a basking area with stones and pebbles and build a land area where the turtle can come out of the water and dry out.

It is important to buy a dechlorinator when you have an aquatic turtle. The turtle spends as much time in the water as it does on land, and maybe even more. In the wild they don't live in chlorinated water. The chlorine over time just wouldn't be good for the turtle. You can get a really inexpensive dechlorinator at your local pet shop.

Turtles caught in the wild and held in captivity hardly ever do well. They get under stress and they won't eat. Their immune systems take a hit and the turtle gets sick. Many times a wild caught turtle is found to be infested with parasites. In the wild it isn't a problem, the turtle doesn't get sick until it gets under stress. When you acquire a turtle, take it to a qualified reptile veterinarian. Let your veterinarian direct you on how to feed your turtle and how often.


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Comments (3)

We had Jeffrey, the turtle, for about six months. He wandered down the street and my husband almost ran over him, so we rescued him (he was a big guy) and put him in a large fish tank. You are right; he was a lot of work to keep clean. We fed him live gold fish (a problem for me, but not for him) and turtle food. Eventually, he outgrew his taste for goldfish and he and a goldfish lived together quite amicably. But eventually, Jeffrey kept butting his head against the tank. I knew he was telling me he wanted out. Fortunately, we lived across the street from a large reservoir. I received permission from the Rangers to release him, and I put him out near a stream, with lots of brush and rocks. He skeedaddled away and could still be there, for all I know. The goldfish continued to live on for months, until we moved, and I gave him/her away to a friend. Talk about luck of the (I)fish!!

Awesome Sky! I'm so glad you had the compassion to let the turtle go. Thanks for responding! :)

What a very intriguing and informative read, I surly did learn a lot here, great read!