Friday, August 14, 2009

The other day I came face to face with my turtle’s future self, a lady had gone jogging one morning and saw a large turtle in the road. She decided it didn’t look healthy and bless her kind heart wanted to take it home and take care of it. She brought the turtle in a large cooler to Petco (where I work) and asked what she needed to take care of it. The first thing I told her was that what she had in her cooler was a Red Eared Slider. Then told her the best thing she could do for him was to find the closes water to where she found him and release him back into the wild. From there I began to explain everything she would need to keep him as a pet. Not surprisingly she decided to return him to the wild. By the way the Turtle she brought in had a shell that was about a foot long. The original tank we bought for Rex (the one sold as an aquatic turtle kit) was only 12 inches wide and would have never been big enough for the turtle in the cooler.

Red Eared Sliders are relatively cheap to buy, and the young do look particularly delightful, but it is surprising that many people buy them with no knowledge of what they have bought, and not even providing the bare essentials. Many places sell them at an illegal size (under 4 inches) in a little fish bowl like this one.
This set up is completely inadequate for a Red Eared Slider giving him no room to grow and none of the lighting he requires.

Aquatic turtles like sliders need fairly elaborate and expensive housing. They need regular exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light, so pricey bulbs designed for reptiles that produce UVA and UVB light are needed for turtle tanks. Without this light, they can develop metabolic bone disease. Turtles are very messy, and even with a good filtration system you will still have to clean in regularly. Remember turtles have to drink the water they are living in. Their tank should be deep enough and wide enough to allow swimming and a place to get out of the water to bask. Here is a list of equipment you will need if you have or are thinking about getting ANY aquatic turtle:

A suitable sized tank
Heater and thermostat
Filters and air pump
Light bulbs
Suitable depth of swimming water
Dry area

Though aquariums are good for young turtles, make sure you get the largest one you can afford to help prevent the need to keep buying larger and larger ones. At their full grown size the will need a tank that holds about 100 gallons. One of the owners I've talked to used a pre-formed plastic pond (like you get at home depot) to build an indoor pond for his turtle. You might also consider putting him outside part of the year if you have pond in your yard that has a good fence to keep predators out.

Now I'm not tell you all this to keep you from buying a Slider, I love Rex and think he is fascinating to watch. I love when I come into the kitchen first thing in the morning he is happy to see me. Yeah I know he knows I'm there to feed him but it's still fun to watch him climbing around trying to get my attention. Opps started getting off track LOL, I'm telling you this for the turtles sake. Many people take them home and when they get to big dump them. Once these turtles have lived with people they CAN NOT be returned to the wild and expect to live very long.

Don't feel down and blue if you have discovered after reading this that Red Eared Sliders are to much for you to deal with. I have some alternative you might want to consider. They will still need the whole aquatic turtle set up but do to their smaller sizes you can buy a smaller tank. The First is the African Side Neck Turtle:

I borrowed this picture from California Turtle and Tortoise Club I home they don't mind. If you want to see more pictures check out their site (click here). This is the larger of the two I'm suggesting with an adult size of 6 to 8 inches.
The second aquatic turtle I'm suggesting is the Three Striped Mud Turtle:

This photo I borrowed from you can visit them (click here) It's a photo host and share site.
Thise cute little guys only get 3 to 4 inches. So in the first tank I had Rex in I could probably happily house 4 or 5 of these little guys.

I think anyone who is thinking of getting any kind of pet should visit their local library first. Read everything available for the pet your considering. That will help keep surprises to a minimum and insure that you have a healthy long lived pet.


BeadedTail said...

I'm glad that lady ran into you when trying to figure out what to do with that turtle since you were able to provide her such great information. I didn't know all the care that went into a turtle so I learned a lot today!

April said...

I'm glad I could help her BeadedTail. That's part of the problem with Sliders. They looks so darn cute and little in those bowls and some people don't bother to get any info before they buy them.

Anonymous said...

I currently have two turtles and am considering a cat. How do your cats get along with your turtle?