Even if turtles may look like an excellent choice for pets (not as demanding as cats and dogs, but a lot more energetic than fish), there are a couple of things to know about before running to the pet store.
In all fairness, their popularity has risen over the years. It’s not complicated to buy a turtle (you can even do it over the internet), and they’re beautiful too. One thing, to begin with, is that we can never talk about “an easy pet.” Scroll down to understand why.
Page Table of Contents
Where from should you buy your turtle?
No matter how tempting it is, you should never get a wild turtle as a pet. More often than not, it’s not going to make it in captivity (even though you don’t see your home that way). It’s better that you go and adopt a turtle from the local turtle organization. No matter where you’re buying from, you should always make sure that it was born in captivity.
We know that tiny turtles found at a tourist shop all over the country are incredibly adorable, but you shouldn’t give in.
Even if you can buy tiny turtles in Chinatown, for instance, that doesn’t mean it’s legal in any way. Permits for pet turtles are required in some states as the stresses population of native turtles is a real matter to worry about. It’s better that you stay legal and check the local laws before adopting a turtle.
Turtles do look like they don’t need a lot of maintenance, but experts say you couldn’t be much farther than the truth.
How to care about their health and safety?
Maybe you don’t know just yet, but many turtles can carry salmonella, which poses a high risk for the young children, the pregnant women, or the elderly. People within the categories should avoid the turtles and wash their hands very well after touching them.
As children could put turtles in their mouth, the federal laws prohibit selling turtles that are less than 4 inches in size.
A “good hygiene protocol” is mandatory when you’re planning to take a turtle in your home- and it’s the professionals’ recommendation to consider it.
As a matter of fact, people should treat all turtles as if they are already contaminated with salmonella (nine times out of ten they are). You should always wash your hands after handling the cage, their feces, touching them. Don’t ever touch other people, your face, or anything else until you’ve washed your hands thoroughly.
It’s also fundamental for your health that you always keep the turtles away from the food and from people that have a risk for infection in any way.
Which species should you select?
It’s not unusual for small turtles to grow and become as big as garbage can lid, which is why you should always read about the type and gender of turtle that you want to get. Unlike what you may think, it’s females that may grow larger than the male counterparts.
The male painted turtles, musk and mud turtles, and the made red-eared sliders make it as the most popular varieties (especially for beginners).
When it comes to turtles, there are so many myths that are anything but real. Many believe that turtles don’t need much space or maintenance, but it’s the opposite in real life. Don’t forget that turtles can live for decades, so the chance for them to outlive you is pretty significant.
Turtles do need a various and somewhat chaotic diet, a large aquarium and precise temperature control. You need to clean their habitat a lot more than you’d think. However, a water turtle may be less fuss than a box turtle.
What does your turtle need?
When it comes to turtles, bigger is always better (go figure!). Most aquatic turtles are energetic swimmers, which is why you should go with a large aquarium. Don’t go with anything smaller than 30-gallon if you have a small species of turtle (4 to 6 inches). A turtle measuring more than 8 inches is going to need a tank between 75 and 125 gallons.
The filtration is fundamental for the turtle tank, and you should never compromise on it, with the canister filter and the internal aquarium filter being the best options. No matter which type you select, you should always keep it in good condition, mainly because turtles tend to be quite messy.
It’s also vital that you don’t go over the top with the tank decorations, and it’s only because your turtle is going to try to destroy it. Most turtles don’t need gravel or substrate, which is good news for the cleaning. A bare-looking tank isn’t beautiful, so you should know what counts more for you.
One piece of décor that turtles fancy is the basking spot. A bit of driftwood, a rock (placed in the right spot) or a basking platform from the pet store is going to do it. It should be big enough for your turtle climb on it out of the water entirely. Make sure you place it under the basking light.
Know your turtle!
Truth be told, turtles are lovely pets, and they’re relaxed around the house. They’re quite interesting, and each one has a personality. They’re exotic pets, and it’s pretty standard for the pet store owners not to be able to provide you much information.
There are plenty of turtle and tortoise societies around the country which can offer you the information you need about your new pet. The turtle societies are excellent sources of information, and you shouldn’t hesitate to get in touch with one the moment you take your tiny friend in the new home.
No matter how difficult it gets to take care of your turtle, you should never release it into the wild. Do the honest thing and get in touch with a turtle society to find out about your solutions or the ways to make it all easier (for you and your turtle).
Unfortunately, way too many people are releasing red-eared sliders into the wild, rending them to become an invasive species in many places around the world. Sadly enough, they are threatening native turtle populations.
One last thought
Turtles make wonderful pets- there’s no denying in that. However, you should always do due diligence before getting them so that you’re able to care for it, keep it healthy and happy for the longest time, without ever posing a risk for the health of your loved ones.