Turtles as pets: Care and concerns

Gathered all together on the rocks, are these cute little baby turtles reaching for the sun. They are so cute with their little red ears, they tug at so many of our heart strings. They sell them in these cute little bowls with a palm tree and become a spur of the moment buy, at flea markets, tourist places, pet stores and more.

My heart breaks every time I see this, its one of the largest saddest deathtraps to be so commonly exploited.

What many do not know is these little guys are days or maybe a few weeks old. They cannot live in these little bowls. Their needs are quite a bit more extensive. For starters they need temperature maintained of 76 degrees water temperature and 86 degrees basking temperature. They need a UVB light and mainly of the lights sold only offer UVA rays. Without UVB their shells cannot form properly and grow. In a little bowl you cannot maintain temperature and you’d need to change the water every few hours to keep toxins from building fast. Also, they are not happy. Red eared sliders, even hatchlings love to swim, they are great swimmers and like diving deep. How can they do that in a bowl with three inch sides.

In addition these hatchlings grow fast. My two one year old turtles are 5 inches in shell length. My 5 month old that I took from someone that had him in a little bowl swims happily alone in a 29 gallon aquarium and is now 3 inches in length.

Before you buy a cute 1 inch turtle, think and plan. Are you ready to get a pet that will live 30 years and get 10 to 12 inches? A pet that will require a swimming enclosure of 120 gallons with strong filtration and regular cleaning?

Do not even think you can just let him go in a local pond. In most states this is illegal, as well as captive bred and raised turtles hardly have a chance being dropped into a pond with other territorial turtles. They may look cute and sweet but a territorial male can be brutal, and what’s your turtle gonna do without someone throwing in the food they are used to.

In my area there are so many pet turtles released each year that its hard to find a true native as they are interbreeding and becoming over populated. You may think these guys are native to your area, and while they are found in almost every state, they are only native to a few.

Before you think about getting a turtle, make a plan. Decide exactly how you are gonna care for them for the next 30 years and make sure you have all the facts. These are not a small child’s pet, what child can be responsible for regular water cleaning, filtration cleaning ect and let’s face it kid’s bore easily of their pets. Realize a proper set up alone is not cheap, and requires upkeep such as changing uva/uvb bulbs and replacing filters.

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