Owning a turtle can be a wonderful experience for any pet owner once they learn how to care for it properly. Generally, turtles are higher maintenance than many pets, but lower maintenance than a great deal of other reptiles, including monitors and iguanas. They are mellow in nature, which makes them ideal pets for adults who wish to hold their pet often and spend time with it outside the habitat. It is important to handle them carefully to avoid stress, since even captive turtles are not domesticated and are still technically wild. Providing a turtle with the right type of environment will help them relax and become a comfortable member of the household.
The type of turtle is also important to pay consideration to, seeing as land turtles have drastically different care requirements than water turtles. Land turtles are often easier to take care of because their needs are less specialized. Water turtles produce heavy amounts of waste and require frequent water changes and heavy filtration systems to keep up with the water quality in the tank. There are hundreds of species of turtles in the wild, and dozens within the pet trade. The most popular land turtles tend to be mud turtles and box turtles, while the most common water turtles are sliders and painted turtles.
A number of illegal species exist in the pet trade, most of which are illegal because they have been re-released by unknowing pet owners in non-native ranges. This can cause local disruption in the ecosystem, where plants and animals that the turtle might prey upon need to adjust quickly to the appearance of a new predator. Land turtles often feed on plants that are endangered, while water turtles reduce the population of insects and small fish in the environment. Some species are not illegal, but are rarely kept as pets. Most pet owners cannot provide adequate care to a rare species of turtle, and may see their turtle fail to thrive as it reacts to stress in its environment.
One of the most important parts of keeping a thriving turtles is paying attention to its diet. Many turtles adapt to a schedule readily and will eat meals at the same time every day. The amount depends on how old they are and what their environment is like, since turtles living in cool environments will eat less than turtles living in hot environments. This is correlated both to activity and to metabolism, since warm turtles need to eat more to maintain the same amount of energy. Most land turtles eat vegetation with a staple diet and supplemental fruit, while water turtles eat a pellet diet with freeze-dried or frozen animal matter included.
When looking for turtle breeders that supply new owners with their first turtle, there are a few parts of their care routine that turtle owners should examine. The first is diet, since dietary requirements are varied for turtles and most turtles cannot get all of their nutrition from their staple diet. As such, all turtles require supplements in the form of a vitamin powder or liquid drops. They also require fresh greens on a daily basis, which can be rotated for variety to keep the turtle interested and active in its diet. Providing supplemental nutrition in addition to this is a great way to ensure that turtles are always getting the right nutrition, especially for turtles that are picky about what they eat.
Another part of any turtle breeding facility that new owners should pay attention to is the environment and the type of habitat in which the turtles are kept. This also depends largely upon the species of turtle, but regardless of type, the habitat should match the rest of the turtle and will reflect upon whether the breeder is a good one to acquire turtles from. Land turtles should be kept on dry substrate in habitats that provide a lot of horizontal space, while water turtles will utilize vertical space as well as horizontal space and prefer roomy aquariums with plenty of space to swim. The habitats should always appear clean and hygienic, and they should allow the turtles enough space to move freely.
Turtle breeders who are in touch with the animals they breed will also be familiar with the normal behaviors that indicate a healthy turtle. They should be able to show a new owner what a comfortable turtle looks like and describe warning signs that might indicate that a turtle is injured, sick or failing to thrive. Some turtles are not content with their surroundings and will show this by acting agitated. Others will sit in a corner and ignore their surroundings, but will not hibernate. Breeders who recognize these signs are often committed to keeping turtles and are skilled at breeding them and caring for them, making them an ideal source for a first turtle or even later turtles for owners who become serious.
Additionally, good breeders make an excellent first contact for new owners, especially owners who want to become serious about breeding and keeping turtles. Having connections can make it easier to exchange information about different parts of daily turtle care, ranging from diet formulations to technical requirements such as heating and lighting. The majority of skilled breeders will also have ins to communities with local members who are also knowledgeable about the animals that they keep. Having this type of connection can make it easier to successfully keep turtles and learn more about them, since there is an easy source of information at close hand most of the time. Getting a turtle from respectable turtle breeders will help add a valuable asset for any new owner and their newly-formed information arsenal.
All turtles, including map turtles, have a select list of foods that they prefer over everything else. If given the chance, most turtles would gorge themselves on treats and never eat anything else. Understandably, it is important to limit these foods to treat-only status; however, there is nothing wrong with offering an occasional treat as long as it is done moderately. For the most part, adult turtles are less active than juvenile turtles and since they need fewer calories, they should have fewer treats than young turtles. Adult turtles should have treats once every two weeks, while juveniles can have a treat once weekly. Portions should be moderately sized, small enough that the turtle can finish the entire serving in a few minutes. Additionally, portions of treat foods should be offered well after the final meal of the day so that turtles do not ignore their meal in favor of a treat.
Since map turtles are aquatic, they usually have diets comprised of only small amounts of vegetables and very few fruits, since fruits contain high amounts of fructose and sucrose, which should be limited in their diets. An occasional treat in the form of a small handful of berries or melons is usually highly appreciated because of the naturally sweet taste. Some favorite berries of turtles include strawberries, currents, blueberries and cranberries. Turtles also enjoy having cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon and other melons. Since these fruits are very high in water and sugar and have little nutritional value, they should be relegated to a treat-only status, but this will only make them more desirable to the turtle when they do get to indulge.
As far as animal protein goes, aquatic turtles are not discriminatory about what seafood they will consume. They will eat very nearly anything that goes into their tank, making it easy to select seafood that is relatively healthy as snacks and treats. Aquatic turtles are especially enthusiastic about high-fat crustaceans and fish, as well as insects and worms such as tubifex and bloodworms. When purchasing worms, it is important to pay attention to the method of preservation, since frozen tubifex is especially vulnerable to parasitic infestation when purchased frozen. Freeze-dried tubifex is perfectly safe, as are all other freeze-dried foods. Mealworms also make delectable treats for map turtles, although they are usually impossible to find freeze-dried and need to be fed live.
Aquatic turtles such as the yellow belly turtle do best when offered food on a set schedule every day. These turtles generally have higher metabolisms and better appetites when their habitat is warm, as their metabolism and energy expenditure is directly related to the environment. This holds true for other cold-blooded reptiles as well. Additionally, aquatic turtles regularly go through periods where they might seem to be in a sluggish state, especially when their habitat is cooler in temperature. Turtles that live in warm water may seem to be hungry more often, sometimes even begging for food when they recognize their owner near the tank.
Most stores sell pellet foods, which can be more difficult to offer to turtles compared to moist foods such as gels or pates. Aquatic turtles such as the yellow belly turtle are often more picky about their food than land turtles, and may be reluctant to eat pellets. This is especially true if they were raised to eat frozen or live animal protein. Some stores offer dehydrated foods that the owner can add warm water to, which produces a warm, fresh-smelling meal that most turtles will happily consume. Additionally, these mixes include nutritional fortification to make sure that they include the same nutritional value as a pellet food.
In addition to a complete staple food, it is important to supplement aquatic turtles with extra animal protein in different forms. Turtles require variety in their diet, which can come in the form of frozen crustaceans, fish and other animal protein. Alternatively, the same foods can come freeze-dried. Frozen foods are more enticing to turtles, but freeze-dried foods are more inexpensive, easier to store and cleaner to feed. As such, the majority of turtle owners feed freeze-dried food on a regular basis and offer frozen seafood as an occasional treat.
Some turtles will eat fruits and vegetables occasionally, which is a valuable source of fresh nutrition. However, it may take some work to get turtles to eat them, since aquatic turtles have a bigger appetite for animal protein than vegetable. Calcium-rich vegetables can help make sure that turtles avoid metabolic bone disease, since they are often reluctant to ingest supplemental calcium with their food. Their primary source of nutrition should always be a staple diet and supplemental animal protein, but adding small amounts of fruits and vegetables is a great way to add variety and nutrients.
The nutritional composition of all these foods varies from one item to the next, making it necessary to select foods with care to ensure that the turtle is meeting all of its dietary needs. Turtles require higher protein and fiber ratios and lower fat ratios, meaning that high fat foods should be set aside for treats only. This is not often a problem, since most turtles do not discriminate between animal protein and will eat high-fiber krill as readily as they would eat high-fat silverbacks. Providing a high quality diet is the key to owning a happy, thriving yellow belly turtle for any owner.
Understanding common turtle facts is important for making the decision to own a turtle. Many pet owners see turtles as a low-maintenance pet that is more docile and easier to handle than other types of reptiles, such as snakes and monitor lizards. Most turtles are relatively mellow, making them good pets for young children or adults who want to handle them frequently, although it is important to use care in handling to avoid causing stress. While turtles commonly live in captivity, they are not domesticated and are still wild animals. The key to owning a happy, well-adjusted turtle is to provide them with an environment that simulates their natural home as closely as possible. This includes supplying a nutritionally complete diet and selecting a turtle species that works well with your lifestyle.
Choosing the type of turtle is especially important to pay attention to, since terrestrial land turtles are very different from aquatic water turtles. Generally, terrestrial turtles are easier to care for because they have fewer special needs. Aquatic turtles are very messy and require frequent water changes, large tank sizes, heavy filtration and careful attention paid to the water quality in their tank. Within the two types, there are many species. The two most popular types of terrestrial turtles are box turtles from the genus Terrapene and mud turtles from the genus Kinosternon or Sternotherus. The most popular aquatic turtles are sliders from the genus Trachemys and painted turtles from the genus Chrysemys. Studying some turtle facts related to each species should make it easier to decide what species is best.
Some species are illegal or uncommonly found in captivity, making them poor choices for pets. Most illegal species are species that pet owners have introduced or released into the wild in non-native areas. This leads to destruction of local flora and fauna that is unprepared to react to the new turtle species. Terrestrial turtles can destroy endangered plant life, while aquatic turtles feed on local fish and insects in the area and diminish their populations. Other turtles are legal, but are rare in captivity so pet owners do not understand their needs very well. These turtles fail to thrive with the best care and may be unhappy or get sick easily since they are continually under stress.
Diet is one of the biggest parts of keeping a happy, healthy pet turtle. Most turtles appreciate meals on a regular schedule at the same time daily. The amount they eat depends largely on their age and environment. Turtles that live in cooler enclosures will be sluggish and eat smaller amounts, while turtles that are receiving the right amount to eat will eat more and remain more active. Terrestrial turtles eat mostly fresh fruits and vegetables with a staple diet in the form of a pellet or gel food. Most aquatic turtles eat primarily a staple pellet diet supplemented by animal protein in the form of freeze-dried fish or crustaceans.
Dietary supplements are an important part of keeping turtles, since there are many aspects of their dietary requirements that they cannot always get directly from fresh foods. Some turtles are fussier about eating fresh greens, or may not always eat their staple food. Many reptiles do not eat consistently all the time, and may go through periods where they eat less, making it even more important that they get supplements when they eat normally. Providing a supplement on a regular basis ensures that turtles always get the right amount of nutrients, even on days or during stretches where they are not eating as well as they should. Taking the time to familiarize yourself on turtle facts about feeding, species and environment can help ensure that your pet turtle thrives.
Sick mud turtles usually try to hide their illness and might not show obvious symptoms until their illness is fairly advanced. However, recognizing healthy behaviors such as regular basking, appetite and activity level makes it easier to notice when something might be slightly wrong. Catching illnesses early improves the prognosis in nearly every disease or injury, so recognizing some of the early signs of illness is important for any turtle owner.
Recognizing injuries is usually easier than recognizing an illness, since the turtle will be reluctant to move the afflicted body part. A turtle with a broken leg might leave its injured limb outside of the shell, since it is too painful to retract. The limb might be swollen and tender, and the turtle will certainly object to being handled, which jostles the limb and becomes painful. Leaving a broken bone to heal on its own often results in the bone healing crookedly and causing permanent disability to the turtle. Alternatively, it might fail to heal and become infected instead, necessitating removal of the limb.
Wounds vary in degree, but are usually superficial enough to recognize with or without a change in behavior. Some turtles find a way to reach their heat source and may burn themselves coming into contact with it. This is especially common in enclosures that use a heat rock or a heating pad instead of a basking lamp, which is dangerous and commonly causes contact injuries. Other common wounds include punctures and scratches from sharp surfaces in the cage, such as rocks or coarse cage substrate. Some turtles scratch their eyes digging in rocks, which can lead to corneal ulceration and blindness.
Dropping a turtle is unfortunately common in households with small children, who may not be entirely sure how to handle a turtle. A dropped turtle may have broken bones or dislocations, which are tender and require veterinary attention. They may experience only slight injuries such as sprains or bruises depending on the distance they were dropped, which leads to tenderness but usually heals without medical intervention. Injuries that are more serious might involve the shell, which is delicate and protects many fragile structures in the abdomen. Turtles that have injured their shells need immediate medical attention and in many cases may not survive.
Turtles with illnesses are usually harder to diagnose on sight because they may keep acting normal until their symptoms become too severe to hide. Many illnesses are circumstantial and can be prevented with adequate care. Some common problems include fungus, parasites and metabolic bone disease.
A turtle with metabolic bone disease will become gradually more inactive, since movement becomes painful. The bones become tender and the joints may swell. In the advanced stages of metabolic bone disease, the legs may become bowed and the shell might become involved. At this stage, it is often too late to treat the disease. Metabolic bone disease is a serious malady that needs immediate veterinary attention. It can be prevented by feeding regular B-vitamin supplements and having a natural or full spectrum light source.
Turtles with parasites will lose their appetites and may become inactive. Their stools may change in color or consistency. Most parasites are treatable with veterinary care and caloric supplementation. The most common cause of parasitic infestation is feeding live fish that are contaminated, such as comet goldfish or guppies. Other food sources such as frozen or live tubifex worms can also be a source of contamination. Avoiding common culprits helps prevent turtles from contracting parasites.
Fungus is common among aquatic turtles and is a result of poor water quality. Most pet stores sell antifungal medications, although turtles with severe fungus should see a veterinarian. Most turtles contract fungus after a prolonged period of stress. The stress might be a result of water that is too cold, lack of a basking area or heightened levels of ammonia in the water. The prognosis for mud turtles with fungal infections is generally good, although it should be caught early for the easiest treatment.
Water chemistry is tricky for new yellow belly turtle owners to understand, and many of the same principles that keep a home aquarium running smoothly also help an aquatic turtle tank stay stable and healthy. The biggest principle that turtle owners need to know is the nitrogen cycle, which metabolizes toxic ammonia into a relatively harmless substance to maintain water clarity and prevent toxic buildup. There are a number of chemical additives and extra substrates that help maintain water quality, some of which can become part of the daily care routine or weekly maintenance.
The nitrogen cycle starts with a colony of beneficial bacteria that lives in the filter of the tank. A new tank lacks these bacteria, but anyone can jump-start their colony by purchasing a bacterial supplement available at any pet store. A new tank will be unstable and experience bad water quality more often, while older tanks have an established bacterial cycle and will remain more stable. For this reason, it is important to change the water in a new turtle tank more frequently.
Additionally, owners should have an ammonia detoxifier on hand to quickly treat toxic ammonia spikes, which will happen occasionally with new tanks. These spikes can also happen in older tanks, especially if the filter is thoroughly cleaned out, which will destroy the bacterial colony and cause the cycle to stop temporarily. Signs of ammonia poisoning include gasping for breath and redness around the eyes and nostrils from chemical burns.
Keeping a test kit on hand makes it easy to see whether the nitrogen cycle is healthy and stable. A stable tank should always read 0 ppm ammonia and 0 ppm nitrite. Nitrate should read between 5-50 ppm. This indicates that ammonia is being metabolized into nitrite, and nitrite is being metabolized into nitrate. Nitrate can only be removed through water changes, so after the tank reaches 50 ppm, a water change should be done to reduce the nitrate content.
Maintaining a healthy nitrogen cycle involves doing periodic water changes to reduce nitrate, testing the water to make sure the parameters are good, and occasionally adding a dose of bacterial supplement to keep the bacterial colony well populated. Having a good substrate for bacteria, such as ceramic filter media, also makes it easier to maintain good water quality. Finally, a regular care routine will ensure that the tank stays stable. Filter media should be rinsed regularly, but never completely replaced at one time. Replacement should be done gradually to allow time for the bacteria to replenish itself.
Instead of using one type of substrate, layering a number of substrates helps keep the water quality optimal. Ceramic substrate can help facilitate bacterial colonization, while filter floss can catch both fine and large debris. A layer of a chemical substrate such as carbon or zeolite can be added occasionally to treat temporary ammonia spikes or to remove medication from the water after treating a sick turtle. Having multiple substrates on hand is a good idea for these reasons, and will make it easier to maintain a healthy tank.
Maintaining water quality through the nitrogen cycle is extremely important, but turtle owners can use a number of additives to help stabilize water parameters. Not every product will be used on a regular basis, but a good deal of them are appropriate to add to the regular maintenance routine, and some of them are helpful to have on-hand in case of an emergency. Bacterial supplements are extremely important and should be added any time a large water change is performed, filter maintenance is done or a new turtle is introduced to the tank. This helps ensure that the nitrogen cycle is always taking care of toxic ammonia, which can kill turtles if it is not maintained. A stable yellow belly turtle tank should have no trouble with the nitrogen cycle or ammonia spikes, and dosing bacterial supplements periodically helps ensure that tanks remain stable.
Map turtles make popular pets due to their striking features.
The carapace of the map turtle renders it distinct in a number of ways. Although physically reminiscent of painted turtles and sliders, one feature of the carapace differs from that both of those. A well-defined keel marks its center. In some species this is rendered even more prominent by a collection of large knobs or spines that jut either up or towards the back. For this reason, this type is sometimes also called the Sawback turtle. It makes the back of the turtle seem serrated.
Another characteristic that distinguishes them is the surprising speed they are able to muster in emergencies.
When kept as pets, their care is similar to that of painted turtles and sliders, although they can be more sensitive to impurities in their water. They can be kept inside or outside.
If housed indoors, map turtles will need access to UV lighting or a Vitamin D3 diet with their food. Their meals can include a large variety of plant and animal matter.
In nature, they are predominantly meat eating, consuming earthworms, bloodworms, crayfish, ghost shrimp, feeder fish, feeder crickets and krill. Some of the vegetation they also sample includes water lilies, water hyacinth, duckweed, water lettuce and pondweed. A few other types of vegetables and plant matter such as zucchini, kale, dandelion, mustard greens, beet leaves, Romaine lettuce and Endive. Avoid fruit if possible or keep it for very rare treats. Also avoid feeding any hairy animals. Some owners offer hairless mouse pups, but as hair is indigestible, anything with hair could subject the turtle to hairballs that would cause obstruction within the gut.
Northern map turtles have a ferocious appetite and can easily be overfed, with disastrous consequences. Too much protein can make them prone to pyramiding or liver and kidney complications.
In the wild, this type of turtle can bask for hours. A pet’s enclosure should feature a basking platform, where a temperature of 85 to 90 Fahrenheit (29.4 to 32.2 degrees Celsius) is maintained. The water may also need to be heated, but be careful with the safety of submersible heaters. Placement should be such as to avoid the turtle getting burnt or being in a position to damage the heater.
Map turtles are accomplished swimmers and the water can be quite deep. Provide features such as driftwood and rocks, but be careful with gravel small enough to swallow. To deal with the ammonia they excrete into the water, you will need a relatively powerful water filtration system. Change the water on a regular basis and dechlorinate it before adding it to the tank. If you have hatchlings they may need to be accommodated in shallower water.
Map turtles are hardy and attractive and make great pets for beginner turtle owners.
Due to their streamlined and fairly attractive appearance, map turtles have become frequent selections as pets.
The map turtle’s top shell is beautiful and somewhat similar to that of painted turtles and also the slider family. One difference is the keel running down its center. In some species of map turtle, it even includes biggish knobs that protrude upward or towards the back. That is why map turtles are also known by the alternative name of Sawback turtle.
Map turtles are known for their agile movements within the water, if they need to make a quick getaway.
As captives, much of the instructions for painted turtles or sliders, also apply to map turtles. Regular PH readings for their tank water is advised as they may be acutely affected by impurities. They can thrive in an interior or exterior setting.
For map turtles kept inside, you may need to provide UV illumination or Vitamin D3 with their food. They can be fed a combination of animal and plant food.
When in the wild, meat takes up a larger portion of their diet and this includes earthworms, bloodworms, crayfish, ghost shrimp, feeder fish, feeder crickets and krill. Owners may wish to indulge such preferences as well. There are even some who offer mouse pups, but this will need to have the hair removed, as hair cannot be digested by the turtle and could cause hairballs and other digestive complications. Aquatic plants to offer your map turtle may feature water lilies, water hyacinth, duckweed, water lettuce and pondweed. More meal suggestions include such turtle favorites as zucchini, kale, dandelion, mustard greens, beet leaves, Romaine lettuce and Endive.
Northern map turtles are very hearty eaters and carers should guard against overfeeding them. This could lead to a variety of possible health problems, ranging from pyramiding to organ damage.
This species is very fond of sunning itself in its native environment, and a basking platform will probably see plenty of use. Ideally the temperature would range between 85 and 90 Fahrenheit (29.4 and 32.2 degrees Celsius). Another suggestion for the comfort of your map turtle would be to add an underwater heater. You should take care that the turtle has no direct access to this feature, as it may get burnt or accidentally break it.
As map turtles are naturally talented and strong swimmers, the water level within their tank could be fairly deep. Make their habitat interesting, by adding scenery they can use for cover, such as driftwood or rocks. If using gravel, avoid stones that can be ingested. You would also require a functional water filter to clear the ammonia they release into the water. For good hygiene replenish the water frequently. The chlorine should be removed before it is poured into the tank.
Elegant, yet durable, map turtles make a great choice for the first time turtle owners.
Map turtles are similar to sliders and painted turtles and other aquatic species that are mostly found on the continent of North America. Although there are different opinions about the number of actual species of map turtles, they are generally separated from the painted turtles and sliders by distinctive ridges that run down the center of their backs. Sometimes these ridges are so raised and predominant that map turtles are also nicknamed saw backed turtles.
In most species of animals the male is usually larger than the female. This is not the case with map turtles. The female is generally much larger and maybe stronger than the males in general and particularly in jaw strength. This variation can actually affect what the turtles prefer to eat not only between different species but even between males and females of the same species. Those turtles with larger stronger jaws are more apt to eat mollusks and snails because they can crush the harder shells. Those who are not as strong may eat other items such as small fish, insects, vegetable matter, or even carrion if no other food is available.
Preferred habitat can depend upon species but many prefer rivers and fast flowing water rather than ponds or lakes which are preferred by other aquatic species. Regardless of the type of water they are around, they prefer to have easy access to basking areas. Their nervousness in nature causes them to be harder to study because they are more apt to jump off of their basking spot into the water with the slightest movements. Painted turtles and sliders will often stay unless they are actually disturbed. Since map turtles dive into the water more quickly and more often they are more susceptible to damage of their shells which can lead to life-threatening infections.
This nervousness is one of the reasons map turtles are not is often seen in captivity as painted turtles and sliders. They are not as common as other species and tend to have problems with constant attention that is placed on them while they are in captivity. Female turtles can lay eggs more than one time during the season and their incubation temperature is an indicator of the sex of the hatchlings. Cooler incubations tend to create more males while warmer temperatures same to create more females. Having multiple clutches during the season in varying temperatures helps to keep the male to female ratio even.
Map turtles are not as common as other species and captive breeding to increase their numbers should be encouraged by environmentalists.