Western pond turtle care

Origin: Western United States (ponds, lakes, and salt marshes)

There are two subspecies:

Northwestern pond turtle (Clemmys marmorata marmorata) and

Southwestern Pond Turtle (Clemmys marmorata pallida)

Adult size: usually up to 8 inches (shell length)

Life expectancy: unknown, probably more than 30 years like other pond turtles

Temperament: Not as territorial and aggressive as many other turtles. You can keep some of these turtles together as long as they have enough room to swim.

Setup: This is an aquatic species, so the enclosure should be primarily water. Your turtle will need a place to get out of the water and bask in the sun, such as a well-placed rock or a pile of rocks, or a turtle dock found at your local pet store. Use sand or gravel to cover the bottom of the tank and decorate underwater with aquatic plants or driftwood to keep your turtle safe.

The minimum recommended tank size for one of these turtles is 20 gallons long. Bigger is ALWAYS better. Other containers, such as Rubbermaid’s large containers, can be used as long as the container can safely hold about 20 gallons or more of water. Fill the tank at least half full. Water conditioner or dechlorinator is not necessary unless you are using extremely hard water (such as State College J tap water), in which case a water conditioner made especially for turtles should be used.

Lighting / Temperature: This is a diurnal species, which means that it is active during the day when the sun rises. The turtle’s body uses the ultraviolet rays of natural sunlight to produce vitamin D3 from the calcium in its diet. Fluorescent UV bulbs made especially for reptiles are available at pet stores to keep your tortoise healthy. While generally posing as a waste of money to make “the fans” happy, this light is extremely important and if you don’t provide it (along with enough calcium) it will seriously affect your tortoise’s health and quality of life.

You also need a lamp for sunbathing. Place the light on the rocks or dirt area in your tank to create a warm spot to bask in the sun. Use the appropriate wattage heat bulb and set the light to create a heating temperature around 90-95 degrees F. There are many thermometers available to measure the temperature inside the cabinet, but remember that all dial-type and adhesive thermometers, Although it is useful to have it, it measures only the ambient temperature (air temperature) and will not give you an accurate reading of the place to sunbathe. To bask in the sun, you need to buy a digital probe thermometer (available at most hardware and garden supply stores, and it’s not as expensive as you think!). The digital probe measures the surface temperature, the temperature at which the rock is heating up for sunbathing and provides adequate belly heat for good digestion.

An aquarium heater is a good idea. These guys do best in warm water and should be kept in water temperatures in the 80s F. A submersible heater is the only way to go, as the tank won’t fill to the top. These turtles are notorious for breaking their heaters, so we recommend that you find a “shatterproof” titanium or glass heater to avoid problems.

Filtration and Maintenance: Aquatic turtles are very dirty, so a good, reliable filter is important. There are many different types of filters, although none are particularly better than the others. It really is a matter of personal preference, whether you want to use a submersible filter like the Fluval, under gravel, electric head or Hydrosponge, or if you want an external type like the waterfall type to hang on the side or the filter of container. Whichever form of filtration you choose, remember to have A LOT and clean it frequently.

Regular tank maintenance is a must with aquatic turtles. Water gets dirty quickly and constantly dirty water can have a really bad effect on turtle health. How often you need to change the water or clean the filter depends on how many turtles you have relative to the size of your tank, and also how much filtration you have and how much or how often you feed them . Cleaning your fish tank is not much different than cleaning a fish tank. A good aquarium siphon will go a long way and is the easiest way to remove all debris and debris from the bottom of the tank. Drain all the water you need to clean the tank. Turtles are not sensitive to the byproducts of the nitrogen cycle like fish are, so you don’t have to worry about cycling or be careful with the filter, and this gives you a lot of latitude when it comes to cleaning the tank. Just remember never to use soap! There are spray cleaners available at your local pet store that are safe to use around reptiles, and if you are really concerned that the tank is dirty, a little bleach should do the trick. Just be careful to rinse it well and not put your turtle back in the tank until the bleach smell is gone.

Diet: Like most pond turtles, these types are omnivores. This means that they will eat both meat and plant matter. Variety is the key to a healthy diet. There are many prepackaged turtle foods on the market. Some are better than others, depending on the amounts of certain ingredients like protein and phosphorous. Sticking with a high-end brand is your best option, as proper nutrition is very important for reptiles.

Crickets, red worms, and super worms are among the most popular live foods available at pet stores. Sprinkle these with powdered supplements (calcium and vitamins) just before feeding, or “charge” 24 hours before giving them to your turtle. Other good live foods, mostly available online, include silkworms and phoenix worms. Avoid waxworms and mealworms due to their high fat content, general lack of nutrition, and the hard-to-digest shell of mealworms. Remember not to feed your turtle any insects you find outside. Some can be poisonous (lightning bugs are deadly!) And wild bugs likely carry parasites (an expensive veterinary bill you’d rather avoid!). To add a little more calcium to the diet, it is also recommended to float a piece of cuttlefish in the water (available in the poultry section of pet stores). The tortoise may occasionally nibble on the bone, and as it dissolves in the water, it can also be beneficial, not only for the turtle’s nutrition, but also for the health of its skin and shell.

Live fish can be given as an occasional snack. They are not very good for the turtle from a nutritional point of view, they can stunt their growth and they are very fatty. Think of it like going to McDonalds for dinner. A meal there probably won’t have much of an effect on your health, but it shouldn’t become a regular habit! Fortunately, there are some healthier, parasite-free alternatives to live fish for your turtle. Most grocery stores sell a variety of fresh seafood, which is not too expensive when purchased in small quantities. Shrimp, squid (both fillets and tentacles), tilapia, catfish, and shark fillet are popular with turtles. Stick with the “white meat” species of fish because they don’t leave the water as dirty, and be sure to feed as much variety as you can. You’ll also find plenty of freeze-dried or frozen foods at your local pet store that your turtle will like to eat. These aren’t as nutritious as fresh raw seafood, but they make great snacks and help add variety to the diet.

Letting healthy greens (such as collard greens, turnip greens, mustard greens, or dandelion greens) float in the water provides your turtle with entertainment and a healthy snack as well. They will also enjoy endive, endive, chunks of zucchini or yellow squash, cucumber, carrots, occasional chunks of apple or banana, etc. Avoid lettuce and celery, and don’t give it too much fruit. Turtles can have an upset stomach and become dehydrated from eating them. Also avoid kale, broccoli, and spinach for their nutrient-binding qualities. You can probably find much more detailed dietary information online if you look in the right places. We recommend that you start on the Melissa Kaplan website, www.anapsid.org. Just remember not to leave uneaten vegetables, fruits, or insects in the water for long. Letting food spoil makes the water dirty and can also make the turtle sick.

Health: Turtles are susceptible to the same common health problems as other reptiles. Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD), calcium and vitamin deficiencies or toxicities, liver and kidney disease, impaction (intestinal blockage), dehydration, fungal and bacterial infections, stress, respiratory infections, parasites, etc. Most of these ailments can be treated by changing something in your care regimen or with the help of a qualified reptile vet, but they are easily avoided because they have a lot to do with diet / nutrition, temperature, and lighting. This is why it is so important to have the proper settings up front. A well-cared for turtle living in the right environment should live a long and healthy life with a minimum of problems. Another health problem for turtles is their shells. Aside from normal shedding, the peel can sometimes become very flaky, oily, or even sticky. Usually this has to do with poor water quality and / or insufficient UV exposure, and there are some useful products available at your pet store to help keep the shell healthy.

An important side note regarding MBD and other similar issues: If your tortoise and its shell appear to be growing at different rates, or if your tortoise’s legs or face appear to be deformed, your UV bulb may be too late to a change or its The tortoise may not get enough calcium in its diet. This is a serious health concern and veterinary attention should be sought immediately.

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