How to look after turtles and terrapins

Turtle Care GuideA turtle is a reptile that can swim and splits its time between the water and the land.For this reason many people often mistake it for an amphibian but a reptile it is (remember Over the Hedge? They got it right!).

A terrapin is exactly the same thing as a turtle – just a different class – that lives in fresh or brackish water. Further, most turtles owned as pets are called ‘terrapins’ in the United Kingdom and called ‘turtles’ everywhere else.

 

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Semantics aside, owning a turtle entails a fair amount of responsibility, as with any other pet. Hopefully the following tips will help you out a bit.

 

The Turtle Enclosure

This is probably one of the most important aspects of turtle care. You should attempt to create a habitat that closely resembles that of their natural living area so do your research on your turtle. Keep in mind the future growth of your turtle and plan its habitat accordingly. If you feed and care for the turtle properly it can grow pretty large. When filling your tank with plants only use real ones that are edible as adult turtles are herbivores. As young turtles they are carnivorous and grow into the green side of life. You can keep your turtle outside as long as they have water to swim in and shade to escape the sun.

 

Lovin’ the Heat

Turtles and terrapins, like other reptiles, are cold-blooded and hence love to bask in the sun. For this reason it is important to either have their enclosure with some sunny spots or keep an ultraviolet (UV) light placed over their basking rock.

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Turtle Book with GuaranteeThey also require the water to be warm keeping an ambient temperature of around 85 degrees but no lower than 75 degrees Fahrenheit. For your turtle to live as naturally as possibly turn the lights off at night. You want to simulate night and day as much as possible. Your turtle also needs unfiltered sunlight which means taking them outside. Turtles can’t digest milk products but require calcium to maintain their shells and to heal – sunlight helps them process food to do this.

 

Needing More than Feeding

Since these turtles are land and water dwellers most of the feeding will take place in the water because they lack the ability to swallow food. Keep a separate plastic bowl of food on land for them (this also helps with maintaining cleanliness). The type of food they eat is also a factor in their health. Raw meat is enjoyed on occasion but should be limited to crayfish and the like. Other meat like turkey and chicken is too fatty and should be cooked first. A vitamin supplement can also be added to their food but you should never only feed them turtle pellets.

 

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Shell-shocked: Common Illnesses

The majority of illnesses in turtles are from improper care and lack of natural light. If your turtle gets sick you should isolate the sick ones as a precaution. New turtles should also be under quarantine for at least 3 months and watched in case any symptoms arise.

Look out for fungus that is gray or white in spots, lumps or patches of flaking shell or skin. Tropical fish remedies for fungus can be used in the water. If fungus is growing on the shell you can paint the affected areas with water mixed with 5% iodine.

This should be done every day until the fungus goes way. Remember that a healthy tank equals a healthy turtle so clean the water and tank every few days and take your turtle outside for real sunlight.

 

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