If you are thinking about getting a pet turtle or tortoise, first take the time to learn about what proper turtle care involves. In this guide on how to take care of a turtle, we will take you through all the various consideration and responsibilities you will need to follow. With just a bit of knowledge, you will drastically improve your chances of keeping your new pet happy and healthy for years to come.
Determine if you should You Get a Turtle?
The first thing to consider is, can you provide a turtle or tortoise a suitable place to live. This will depend on several factors including: what type of turtle you want to get, where you want to house it and are you willing to take on the responsibilities listed in this guide. Once you can answer these questions, you will be able to determine if you should get one or not.
What Species do You Want?
There are a couple hundred breeds or turtles and tortoises that all have specific needs but to simplify things just a bit, we can classify these into four groups: aquatic species, box turtles, desert tortoises and tropical tortoises. Aquatic turtles will need a pond or large aquarium that they can spend the majority of their time in. A box turtle and tropical breeds need an environment that is warm and humid. Finally desert species need a living space that is dry and hot. Additionally, tortoises and some aquatic species can grow large and will require a larger living space. Do your homework and research the type of turtle you want to get so you know what will need to be happy.
Where Will it live?
In your process of determining which kind you will get, you should also take into consideration where you want to house this pet. If you want to keep it outdoors in a garden pond or backyard pen, you need to make sure that your climate is right for a turtle. In warmer climates, it's not usually an issue but you wouldn't want to get a desert tortoise and keep it outdoors in a wet climate – nor would you keep a tropical species in a dry climate. The best thing to do is to find a species that has a natural environment that is similar to yours.
If however you have the space to provide a proper habitat indoors, you may house your turtle permanently indoors or decide to take it inside when the weather gets too cold or too hot. It's important to know that no indoor habitat can rival that of the outdoors where a turtle can get fresh air and natural sunlight.
For the most part, turtles big or small will do best in a large habitat that resembles that of what they their natural habitat is like. This means you need to take into consideration what temperatures and humidity the living space needs to be as well as the types of substrate, vegetation and decorations they will like best.
You need to avoid overcrowding your turtle pen. When too many turtles are in a given living space, it leads to more waste in that space and poor hygiene. Use the following standards: One or two box turtles per 12 square feet (1.1 square meters). This ends up being a pen about 4 x 3 ft (1.2 x.9 meters). This is the minimum requirement but if you can build a larger pen, do it. A tortoise should have 3 square feet per inch of shell (.25 square meters). Adolescent tortoises that are four to six inches long (10-15cm) can be housed in a pen that is 4 x 3 ft (1.2 x.9 meters) but fully-grown tortoises will likely need double that space.
Locate your turtle pond in a spot that gets plenty of mid day sun and in a place that has enough square footage to place adequately sized habitat for the amount of turtles you have. Don't place it near any trees that will drop leaves into the pond. These leaves will add to the bio-load and end up rotting on the bottom. Rotting leaves add nitrates into the water and are the cause for low pH and high ammonia levels. Equally as important, avoid placing the pond in a spot that gets excessive sunlight because it can overheat a small pond and also lead to algae blooms.
Indoor Tanks and Tables
All turtles and tortoises, no matter the breed, need (ultra violet) UV-A and UV-B light to remain healthy. You will to get special lights that contain these types of bulbs. Depending on a turtle's needs, you will be required to create a temperature variation anywhere from 70 * f to 95 * f. Different types of heaters are available to regulate the temperatures in your tank. If you have a box turtle or a tropical tortoise, these require a living space with high humidity. The inside of your house usually has a lower humidity than what your pets need so humidifiers or misters will also need to be installed.
How to Feed a Turtle
Your turtle's diet needs to be well balanced. This is a crucial part of keeping it healthy. This is especially the case if you house it indoors in a turtle tank where they don't have the same wide variety of plants and or animals to feed on naturally. Not every turtle eats the same types of food so you need to know what they eat in the wild. Some turtles are herbivores, some are carnivores and many are omnivores. You never want to feed a vegetarian turtle meat since it can make then sick. Likewise, you don't want to starve a meat eater by only feeding it greens. Again, do some research and find out what turtles eat.
Prevent and Treat Illness
Turtles can become ill when their living conditions are less than ideal. In terms of a pet in captivity, illness and disease is usually caused by poor husbandry. That is, when an owner doesn't provide the proper lighting, heat or humidity and also fails to keep the environment clean of waste. Prevention of turtle diseases is the best treatment method but if your pet does come down with a sickness or an injury, you can find a list of ailment and their respective treatments on the Internet. If your efforts fail to work, you should take your sick pet to a vet for a diagnosis and medication.