Turtles are cute pets — but don’t let their stalwart, passive appearance fool you; they require plenty of care and attention. If you thought it’d be as easy as keeping fish, you were wrong. However, it’s still less work than caring for a cat, dog, or another active animal.
Still, that doesn’t change one simple fact — before you decide whether turtles or tortoises are perfect for your home and get one, you should still know how to take care of them. That’s why we’ve prepared a little list of tasks you’ll need to complete before you know you’re ready for your new pet!
Follow our advice, and you’ll be a few steps closer to having a happy little turtle!
Get A Tank
If you plan on keeping your pet turtle indoors, you’ll need to arrange their indoor habitat. Ideally, it will be a tank — when they’re little, it needs to be 40 gallons at least. That’s enough space to let them roam around and get the exercise they need to grow to their adult sizes.
Also, the tank should have a heat lamp; that way, they’ll be able to bask in the gentle light and heat. Furthermore, most turtles require a dry area and a wet area — or full-blown swimming area, depending on the breed. As you can see, much of your preparation depends on your specific chosen turtle. So, please read up on different turtle breeds before buying any equipment to ensure you’ve provided them with the proper living environment.
Dealing With Temperature Control
Almost every type of reptile is cold-blooded — and turtles are no exception. That means they can only thrive in consistent temperatures without sudden shifts. Generally, turtles prefer the 60-90 Fahrenheit range. And while some can still do okay when nightly temperatures drop below 50 degrees, anything lower will probably cause sickness, hibernation, or both. Aquatic turtles require gently heated water and a basking light to heat the air in their tank over time.
Learning About Hibernation
All turtles hibernate. However, different breeds have different hibernation periods — some are drastically longer than others. With that in mind, you should prepare by learning about your turtle’s hibernation period. That way, you’ll be able to provide them with the ideal environment for hibernation and know when to expect them to be inactive.
Some turtle keepers bury their pets in the yard while hibernating or even put them in refrigerators. However, we don’t advise doing this without consulting a vet or a seasoned turtle owner. You don’t want to do anything that might put your precious, slow-moving rascals in danger.
Like any other creature, a turtle needs a healthy diet to thrive. And turtle foods are surprisingly varied. They need a combo of vitamin A, live bugs, flaked, and fresh food. You can find all the turtle food you need at your local pet or fish food store. And if you find any worms and bugs in your yard, feel free to give them to the turtle. The same goes for veggies and other (safe) plants.
Hygiene is extremely important for your turtle’s health and happiness. When they’re out of hibernation, they’ll need fresh water and food daily — don’t let their water go stale under any circumstances.
The cleaning methods will differ depending on where you’re keeping them. However, their enclosure, tank, aquarium, or cage should still undergo regular cleaning. Even if you have great filtration systems and similar maintenance equipment, make sure you thoroughly clean their environment from time to time.
Speaking of which — filtration systems are an absolute must-have for aquarium turtles. If you notice the tank giving off a funky smell, that’s a sign you need to change the water because it’s become dirty.
Refrain From Playing With Them Constantly
Sure, pets are there to be played with. But, much like fish, turtles are more fond of being observed. As surprising as this may seem for a creature with a huge protective shell, turtles become extremely agitated and stressed out if you handle them, probably because they’re not the most maneuverable animal.
They aren’t the perfect playmates, so make sure any children in your household know that — you’ll avoid many nasty biting and turtle injuries that way. Also, it’s vital never to throw or drop the turtle; their thick shells aren’t great protection against that kind of injury, and they’ll easily get hurt.
Washing Your Hands
Turtles can carry salmonella — which makes it vital to always thoroughly and regularly wash your hands after playing with your turtle or even lightly touching it. The same goes for any cleaning or tidying of its environment; wash your hands once you’re done. Don’t take unnecessary risks, especially with children or the elderly; they should be particularly careful when handling turtles, even in a particularly clean household.