To those of you looking for a pet where behavioural observation is your main desire, to the right pet for you. They are fairly easy to care for, they are more active and less dangerous than keeping other reptiles such as snakes. They are quiet and don’t require a great deal of care.
Of course with all animals where the key to your relationship with them is one of observation rather than interaction – don’t expect your turtle to be your friend, your companion or to bark excitedly when you return home from work. The best you can hope for is that your turtle will recognise you as a source of food and come to you in search of it.
As with all reptiles, a licence issued by your State or Territory is required and it is illegal to capture a turtle from the wild and keep it as a pet. Yes the creek that runs to the back of your property is the wild. It would only be in a very rarest of occasions you would receive permission to have an exotic species as a pet is a strict regulations on keeping non-native turtles within Australia.
Australia has several species of turtle and a suitable as keeping as pets with the most common being the eastern longnecked turtle. If you see a turtle for sale in a pet shop it is most likely a turtle of this variety. Keep in mind those cute little turtles only a few centimeters across can live for four decades by which time their shell may well be 30 cm across.
Some things to consider when buying a turtle are:-
If you are purchased a very small turtle it would be best to keep it inside were easier to control its environment. Small turtles are more sensitive to large changes in temperature. A fish tank approximately a meter long is appropriate at this size. The tank floor should be covered in gravel with the gravel piled up on one side creating a beach that your turtle can rest on with the swimming area large enough for two actually swim in and deep enough for your turtle to be completely immersed even when completely on its side. Turtles love to bask on rocks, especially flat ones so endeavour to put some in the warmest part of the tank.
As your turtle grows, so will its enclosure need to grow. For a full grown longnecked turtle the recommended tank is more than 3 m in length, with water in the tank being at least 45 cm deep.
Water heating and Filtration
It is most important to ensure good water quality. This can be achieved by using a water filter, doing regular water changes (at least once a week replace a third of the water) and by adding some water plants which will help take up excess nitrogen from the water.
Always ensure the water you add to the tank is chlorine free. This can be achieved either by leaving the water in a bucket for 24 hours or by adding special drops you can obtain from a pet shop. The pH of the water needs to be slightly alkaline from pH 7.4 to 8 so you will need a pH tester and chemicals to add to the water to increase the alkalinity. You’re not only need a heater for the enclosure for your turtle to bask under, your need a water heater with water temperature being maintained at around 22°.
Turtles need to have a definite day night cycle. Don’t place in a room where there is a light on 24 seven. Lesser white incandescent light at one end of the tank which will provide the “day” light as well as heat that the total requires – to between 25 to 28° C at the hottest end. Turtles need UV light domain of the bones and shells see a total should have access to UV light where it is artificial or from sunlight.
Your turtle will require feeding two out of every three days in the late 5 to 10 bite sized pieces of meat or fish. They always feed in the water in the wild and this is where they should be fed in captivity. The pet shop will likely have a total specific petfood which apart from being designed to not soil water will contain all the elements needed for your turtle’s nutrition. Don’t try and raise your turtle on human food it will only make it sick. If you are unable to supplement your turtles diet with insects your pets shop should be able to supply these, as well as worms and insect lava – your turtle will be eternally grateful and will show you be being generally healthier.
If there is still food in your turtles water an hour after feeding likely you gave your turtle too much to begin with. Ensure all excess food is removed from the water after one hour to prevent the water getting polluted. If some reason excess food is left in your turtles water overnight, you should do a 33% water change the following day.
Longnecked turtles are difficult to sex, the males and females to have slightly different length carapaces but for a novice turtle handler using this method to section turtle will be difficult. Most often turtle breeders will only offer male turtles for sale in any case. If you wish to breed turtles yourself you’ll have to put in a special request for a female
In the wild turtles are remarkably hardy and healthy animals, but in captivity thye are susceptible to a number of ailments. Firstly all turtle diseases in captivity are due to poor feeding practices, bacterial disease caused by found water or substrate, bone and carapace problems due to lack of UV light.
Looking after your turtle is by no means a big job but when it comes to the health of your turtle it is an important job so sure you keep your turtles tank clean, feed it correctly and are vigilant in looking for any potential problems.