Would you like your turtles to feel at home in your home? This is no problem at all provied that you offer them a natural food care and a good environment. But be careful because your new lodgers' cannot utter any sounds of well-being or discomfort. Turtles are originally native to warmer counries such as southern Europe and the tropial parts of America. Therefore it is most important that you build a true-to-nature environment for your new lodgers. Please note that temperature, light and infra-red ultraviolet radiation are of particular signifiance owing to the lack of sunshine over here.
Water and marsh turtles are amphibious anials, that means they require a land as well as a water area. we call such a reserve an aquaterrarlum. The water must be deep enough to enable your turtles to dive entirey, It would be ideal to have a water temperture of 20 to 28 degrees C while the air temerature is in the region of 25 degrees C. The land area should at least be large enough for a full-grown turtle to bask in the sun. See to it that your lodgerc can easily crawl out of the water and onto the land. Here is another tip: You can beautifully decorate your aquaerrarium with roots and plants. However, the plants have to be protected from the turtles because turtles like to eat plants. Take care: some pot plants are poisonous.
. Many turtles do well outdoors in the warmer months. For their own protection, they should be contained within an enclosure. A shaded area, as well as a hiding area, should be provided. Turtles can dig out of enclosures, so fencing should be buried 15-30 cm or bricks or rocks placed under the area. Some owners find a child's wading pool a suitable environment. Astroturf can be used for lining material, or grass, twigs, and other natural materials will be fine if they arc changed daily. Of course, food and water must be available. The turtle should be brought indoors when temperature drops below 18░C. Finally, owners should be warned that turtles can become prey for dogs and cats; they should exercise care when housing a turtle outdoors.
The species most widely available in Europe is the red-eared slider (from its habit of sliding into the water off basking logs), Pseudemysl scripta elegans of the family Emydidae. The young reptiles are only some 3-4 cm in length and are usually a mixture of dark green and yellow colours. At this stage they are often difficult to acclimatise to captivity and may refuse to feed; countless numbers of the little creatures perish because they are purchased by persons ignorant of their requirements. Whatever the species to be kept, young emydid turtles mostly have similar basic requirements to enable them to grow up into healthy adults. They must be supplied with a certain amount of light and heat, natural sunlight being the best but supplemented by an artificial source should the former be in short supply. Before purchasing young turtles a suitable terrarium should be prepared. For a trio of young red-ears a tank 60 cm x 35 cm x 35 cm deep would be ample. The type of tank is of little importance, but the advent of silicone sealers has made the all-glass tank cheaper than older metal-framed tanks.
Substrate (cage lining material) should be easy to clean and non-toxic to reptiles. Newspaper, butcher's paper, cloth towels, paper towels, or astroturf is recommended. Astroturf is preferred by many reptile owners. The owner should acquire two pieces and cut them to fit the bottom of the cage. One piece is placed in the cage, while the other piece is kept outside and thus is always clean. When the turf inside the cage becomes soiled, the owner will then have a clean, dry piece to replace it. The soiled turf can be cleaned with ordinary soap and water (dilute bleach or dilute chiorhexidine solution can be used as long as the cage and turf are properly rinsed), thoroughly rinsed, and hung to dry before the next cage cleaning. Alfalfa pellets can also be used as bedding for turtles. Owners should avoid sand, gravel, wood shavings, corn cob material, walnut shells, mud, moss, and cat litter, as these substances are harder to clean and can cause impactions if eaten on purpose or accidentally if the food becomes covered by these substrates. In particular, cedar wood shavings are reportedly toxic to reptiles.
A hiding place is appreciated by all reptiles; reptiles without hiding boxes often become stressed and ill. Artificial plants can be arranged to provide hiding spaces, as can clay pots, cardboard boxes, and other containers that provide a secure area. In general, reptiles should receive 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness each day.
A heat source is necessary for all reptiles, as reptiles are ectothermic and need a variety of temperatures to regulate their internal tempe ature. Ideally, the cage should be set up so that a heat gradient is established, with one area of the tank being warmer than the other end. In this way, the pet can move around its environment and warm or cool itself as needed. To establish and maintain the proper temperature gradient, owners should purchase two thermometers and place one at the cooler end and one at the warmer end. The cooler end of the cage should be approximately 18-20░C, while the warmer end should be 30░C for box turtles. A good way to allow the reptile to bask is to place the bulb and hood at one end of the cage and arrange a branch or perching (basking) area near the light. This set-up allows the animal psychoogical stimulation (provided by the climbing) as well as a safe heat source. A popular form of offering heat for reptiles is the infamous "Hot Rock" or "Sizzle Rock." These devices are dangerous and should be avoided. A convenient, inexpensive, and safe way to supply heat is with a focal heat source. A 40-100W incandescent bulb with a reflector hood works well. This heat source should be placed outside and above one end of the cage. At night, additional heat usually isn't necessary as long as the temperature remains 18-20░C. If additional heat is needed, room space heaters, heating pads placed under an elevated cage (elevated about 1 in. off the surface).
As the water will require frequent changing, little furnishing will be required, although two rocks - one at each end of the tank - placed so that they just break the surface of the water will ensure that the turtles do not drown (which they will if unable to land). About 15 cm over one of the rocks a 40-watt light bulb is hung so that the little reptiles can 'sunbathe." The rock at the other end of the tank will ensure that they also have a cooler landing point. An additional broad-spectrum fluorescent light fitted into the tank hood would be extremely beneficial but should be used not more than four hours per day, as too much ultra-violet light can be as damaging as too little. The temperature of the water should not be allowed to drop below 18░C (65░F) at night and may be allowed to go as high as 30░C (86░F) during the day. The gradual changes in temperature between night and day are beneficial to the reptiles, but sudden changes such as may occur when the tank is cleaned must be avoided. Whenever fresh water is added to a tank, the turtles should be first removed into a dry container and the temperature should be brought back to the previous temperature by the addition of warm water before returning the reptiles. Thus a thermometer is an important item in a terrapin keeper's equipment. The water itself can be heated using an ordinary aquarium heater and a thermostat. The enthusiast may even contemplate having a system of time switches, dimmers, and thermostats so that a natural "dusk to dawn' effect can be simulated. It is possible, with a little imagination and a little help from an electrician, to simulate a climate almost identical to that of the animal's natural habit. It is a good idea to find out where the particular species comes from and then to consult an atlas in order to ascertain the animal's climatic requirements.
Hygiene is very important in the keeping of aquatic turtles and fouled water should be changed frequently but not forgetting to bring the temperature back up to its previous level before reintroducing the inmates. The emydid turtles must be allowed to bask in the sun or a light to clean the shell and produce vitamins necessary for good, hard shells. Provisions for basking must be available to all aquatic emydids at all times, whether you are keeping hatchlings or adults. As your turtles grow they will require a larger tank, or if breeding is to be contemplated, a specially built aquarium.
An Aquarium for Water Turtles.
The technical equipment for the aquarium.
1. Glass container
2. an island for basking
3. an ultraviolet lamp
4. a spot light as a source of heat
5. a fluorescent lamp
6. a heating pad with a styrofoam underlay
7. a thermostat with a sensing device
8. an air pump
9.an external filter
10. a glass cover
Many water turtles are energetic swimmers. They want to have as much room as possible in which to swim. Therefore, the surface area as well as the water level of your aquarium are important. The only exceptions are a few turtle species such as the soft-shelled turtle, which spends its time at the bottom of the water. Calculate the size of an aquarium for a single animal as follows: Multiply the length of the full-grown turtle's shell times five to obtain the length of the aquarium; for the width, multiply the length of the shell by three. The water should be at least roughly 30 cm deep. The measurements above apply to a bare aquarium, containing perhaps nothing more than a pine root and a few rocks as decoration. If you want to approximate nature more closely with a rock wall, roots, and a sandy bottom, the turtle will lose some of the swimming area. Offset this loss in advance by adding 30 percent to the figure you obtain for the aquarium's volume. An increase of the same amount is advantageous if you want to have a second turtle in the aquarium. Assembling aquarium is simple if you are satisfied with a minimum solution:
1 A astroturf covers the glass bottom so that it does not reflect.
2. A piece of ridge tile on the bottom serves as a hiding place, and a branch of marsh pine helps the turtle get its bearings.
3. If you build a rock wall of flagstones on the rear wall of your aquarium, the result will be decorative in any room. Important: The load-carrying capacity of aquarium bottoms is dependent on the strength of the glass. Your pet store dealer will tell you about its weightbearing power.
4. An aquarium heater made of glass and equipped with a thermostat can be concealed easily behind the rock wall or attached with suction cups in a back corner. Protect the heater with a marsh pine root so that the turtle can not damage the heating system. To prevent broken glass use metal heaters or heaters housed in a filter.
5. Resting places right below and on the water surface are also necessary. Fasten two cork sheets together with strong wire to form two platforms. Secure the resting place to a mount, for example, to the glass crosspiece of the aquarium.
6. About three-fourths of the aquarium is protected from drafts by a glass cover. The "island" is suspended beneath the opening, while the spotlight and ultraviolet lamp hang above the opening.
7. Next to or under the aquarium there is room for an air pump and filtering plant. Important: The air pump and filter set up vibrations that must be prevented from reaching the aquarium. Put the equipment on a nearby table or wall bracket.
(Books: Turtles and terrapins by Jo Cobb; Turtles by Hartmut Wilke, Reptile diseases by Shawn P. Messonnier)