Turtles as pets: Care and concerns – Part 3

Today we are going to discuss the care of Red Eared Slider turtles. Many people are under the impression that these are easy to own low maintenance pets. This is simply untrue and most of these animals sold as pets die before reaching maturity. It is illegal in the United States to sell turtles that are under 4 inches in length. Most of them are sold as juveniles and are mistakenly kept in small enclosures and even goldfish bowls. These turtles can live for several decades and reach about 12 inches in length at adulthood.

First, we are going to discuss proper housing for these animals. The red eared slider is an aquatic turtle and will require a large area for swimming as well as a warm dry spot for basking. A 20 gallon tank is considered the minimum size necessary for keeping a turtle. You may be able to get away with a smaller enclosure for a juvenile, but these animals grow quickly. You are better off spending more money for a larger tank up front than buying a smaller one and having to replace it in a few months. The water in the tank should be at least 1 1/2 times as deep as the turtle is long. For example, a 4 inch turtle should have at least 6 inches of water to swim in. You should also provide a large basking area for the turtle. A basking area can be made by stacking large stones on one side of the tank, or you can buy a floating basking deck for any pet store. The floating deck is easily attachable to the side of the tank to keep it under the heat source. A spotlight or incandescent bulb should be positioned over the basking area. In addition to the basking light, turtles also require a full spectrum UVA/UVB reptile light. This light helps the animal metabolize calcium, improves appetite, and provides many other health benefits.

You should also invest in a good submersible thermometer. The turtle will require a temperature of 75-78 degrees in the water, and 85-90 degrees in the basking area. The temperature is important, because if the turtle gets too cool it will not eat and may even go into hibernation during the winter. If the turtle becomes too hot, he can easily die. You can purchase submersible heaters to put into the tank that automatically adjust to the correct temperature, but be sure to place the heater behind some large rocks or decorations so that the turtle cannot reach it. A good filtration system is also a must! Turtles tend to be very messy animals and require frequent water changes in their tank. You can

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