“Hey! Did you know it’s World Turtle Day? This is the day all us turtles get to be recognized for the awesome pets we make. But remember, we need care just like any other animal, so before you bring us home find out what we need to be happy and healthy. Then we can all shell-abrate!” — one happy turtle
What’s not to love about our shelled-friends?
They have tiny feet, cute facial expressions and a handy hard home that keeps them sheltered. However, you may be surprised to learn that even though turtles may seem like a great low maintenance animal for the first-time pet parent, turtles can actually be quite a handful. Read on to discover what it entails to keep one of these adorable pets happy and healthy.
What You Need – The Turtle Set Up
First of all, you will need a glass aquarium for your pet – even the tiny turtles need room to swim, bask and roam – so keep this in mind when making your first purchase. Your starter tank should be at least 30 to 40 gallons to provide adequate room to swim and bask (as your turtle grows you will need to upgrade to an even larger tank). You will also need to have gravel for the bottom of the tank, an area designated for basking out of the water, a submersible heater, appropriate UVB lighting and lastly a siphon vacuum for maintenance of the tank.
Feeding Your Turtle – The Right Stuff
In the wild turtles eat both meat and vegetation so providing your pet turtle with a varied diet is paramount for its health and well-being. According to the Michigan State Veterinary Medical Center, a domesticated turtle should be fed a diet consisting of leafy greens like lettuce, celery and broccoli. Small amounts of apple and pear can be used occasionally as treats. Protein is important for muscle development and growth. Live fish (size appropriate) will give your turtle exercise and also stimulate its natural hunting skills. Insects, shrimp or brine are also excellent protein sources. What about that processed turtle food that makes feeding a snap? Use this as a supplement to an all-natural, balanced diet, not the only option.
Handling – Cleanliness is Key
Turtles can carry salmonella which is dangerous to humans and is especially dangerous to very young people and those getting on in years. In order to keep your family safe from illness, be sure to keep your turtle’s environment clean with a once-a-week tank cleaning. Remove any uneaten food so it doesn’t contaminate the water and ALWAYS wash your hands before and after handling your pet turtle. And of course, no matter how much your friends may pressure you, NEVER put a turtle in your mouth or on your face. To read more about salmonella and turtles, check out the Humane Society of the United States website.
A Friend for Life
Unlike our furry companions, turtles can live a very long time. Some species can live to 100 years and beyond. Are your prepared for a friend for life? This is a huge commitment that must be looked at honestly in order to be a responsible pet parent. Do you have the time it takes to keep this pet happy and healthy, possibly for the rest of your life? Is there a responsible person willing to take over the turtle when you no longer are able? Are you prepared to upgrade your turtle’s environment as it grows? These questions are paramount in your decision of adopting a pet turtle.
Turtles can be amazing pets. Do you have a turtle? If so, share your pet turtle’s picture with us. We’d love to give turtle pet parents a shout out!