Turtle Care 101

Turtles are beautiful animals that can live up to 10 years or more with proper care. The tips that follow will give you a foundation for basic turtle care. Be sure to also research specific care information for your turtle’s species.

Turtle or Tortoise?
Unlike land-dwelling tortoises, turtles live in or near water, have webbed feet and eat meat or a combination of meat and vegetation. Some of the most popular species include Red Ear Sliders, Painted Turtles, Northern Map Turtles and Wood Turtles.

Turtle housing
Turtles should be kept in tanks that provide water for swimming and a dry area for basking. Make sure the water area is large enough for swimming and diving. Tanks should also be at least 20 gallons or larger, especially as the turtles gain in size. Red Ear Sliders, for example, can grow up to 11 inches and will need more space as they grow.

Heat and lighting
Since turtles can’t generate their own body heat, heat and lighting are needed. They will help your turtle regulate his body temperature and maintain a healthy shell. You should provide both fluorescent light for his health and incandescent light for heat.

It’s essential to keep the water clean in your turtle’s tank. For healthy water conditions, clean and/or partially change the water at least once a week. Also consider a canister filter or a power filter, depending on your tank setup.

Because turtles are omnivores, most will eat mealworms and insects such as live crickets. Leafy vegetables and turtle food are also part of a nutritious diet. Start by feeding young turtles daily, then feed switch to 4 or 5 times per week for adult turtles. Provide variety with insects, dark leafy greens and canned or pelleted turtle food.

Like other animals, turtles can carry salmonella in their intestinal tracts and feces. Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after handling your turtle or cleaning the tank.

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