By TD Yandt
I will admit to having been among those
who believe turtles are smelly, dirty, messy and, overall, completely
undesirable pets. They were one of the only species I had no
desire to work with, on any level. Thankfully,
my thoughts on turtles as pets were completely turned around
when two four-year-old female Red Eared Sliders needed rescuing.
Never one to turn away an animal in need, I set out to research
proper care, housing and diet requirements for these two turtles.
Often called the “dime-store turtle,”
these tiny quarter-sized turtles rarely make it to adulthood.
Poor care and a lack of knowledge result in tragedy for these
babies. It is far too easy to purchase a tiny turtle without
giving any thought to their adult size and proper care requirements.
Red Eared Sliders are not the pet for everyone, but for those
with the inclination, time and money to care for them properly,
they are a very rewarding pet.
There are many rumors regarding turtle
care, and turtles in general, that have circulated during the
last 20 years. One of the main myths is that turtles are dirty
and smelly animals. I have seen many cases where this has been
true, but every one of these turtles was receiving inadequate
care. Aquatic and semi-aquatic turtles require a very high level
of water filtration. They eat, swim and defecate in the same
pool of water. Without strong filtration, a turtle's environment
will very quickly become foul. Expect to purchase a filter that
is at least four to five times stronger than what you would
need to filter the same amount of water for fish.
There is also great debate among Red
Eared Slider owners as to how much space these turtles really
require. Some believe 50 gallons of water per turtle to be sufficient,
while others are adamant that each adult needs at least 100
gallons of swimming space. I tend to fall somewhere in between.
It is important to remember that each turtle needs room to swim,
not just to stand, in a proper sized pool.
Despite what the pet store may lead you
to believe, that little plastic bucket the store sells isn’t
appropriate for even the smallest hatchling. Plan on starting
your baby(s) in something with at least 20 gallons of water.
A 20-gallon long aquarium with an acrylic ledge siliconed to
the corner should be adequate. As your little ones grow (and
they do grow quickly) be prepared to have a large section of
your home or yard dedicated to your turtles. They need a fair
amount of space to remain healthy and active.
As important as well-filtered swimming
space is, room to bask, dig and sun is equally important to
your Red Eared Slider. Sliders need to be able to dry themselves
out completely or they risk getting “shell rot,”
which can be deadly. A UVB (ultraviolet B) lamp must be provided
to ensure your turtle is getting the quality of light it needs.
Be sure to also purchase a good quality heat lamp for daytime
of the best environments you can provide for your future
family member is a preformed pond. These come in a large
variety of sizes and provide room to bask as well as room
to swim. They are less costly than aquariums, and also
provide a much more natural living environment.Turtles
may be inexpensive in and of themselves, but when providing
all they need, the expenses can add up. You can expect
to pay between $40 and $100 to purchase a UVB, heat lamps
and their appropriate fixtures.
A good submersible filter will cost
between $70 and $120. Depending on the climate where you live,
you may also need to buy a titanium submersible heater for another
$60 to $80. And, providing them with an appropriate habitat
can run anywhere from $150 to $600. Your turtle is decidedly
the least costly part of your investment. However, once your
initial outlay is complete, turtles are inexpensive to maintain.
You will need to provide him with plenty
of fresh fruit and veggies. Carrots, celery, tomatoes, strawberries,
apples and lettuce will all be much appreciated by your Slider.
Be sure to choose a staple diet that contains more produce than
commercial pellets typically provide. Contrary to what pet-food
producers would have you believe, a turtle usually only eats
fish and other meats while still a hatchling. Once grown, Sliders
prefer an almost completely vegetarian diet.
Given the proper care, Red Eared Sliders
can live between 40 and 50 years, and will provide your family
with years of entertainment and discovery. After the past two
years with our rescued females, I can honestly say that they
have been among my all-time favorite pet species. Red Eared
Sliders are fun, interesting and engaging animals. I look forward
to many more years with our girls, and entertain the prospect
of adding even more turtle species to our family in the future.
I’m sure you will feel the same.