So you are ready to take the plunge into turtle owning. What a turtle-iffic idea! However, before you welcome your new pet turtle home, there are a few key things to consider. Here are a few tips on how to adopt and care for a pet turtle.

To begin with, it is important to understand that caring for a pet turtle requires a good amount of time, maintenance, and responsibility. While turtles may seem like easy pets to take care of, there are various points to consider before adopting one. Turtles have a particularly long life span (generally 20-40 years) and can sometimes outlive their owners. When adopting a pet turtle, it is important to keep this in mind.

Best turtles for new pet owners

All tortoises are turtles but not all turtles are tortoises. This may sound confusing, but to put it simply, a tortoise is a land-dwelling creature and is usually vegetarian. Turtles and tortoises are also known to have different types of feet. While a turtle usually has flipper-like feet, making it easier for it to swim, a tortoise does not.

The two most common turtles to adopt are Box turtles and Red-eared sliders.

Tortoises

  • Greek tortoise
  • Russian tortoise

Turtles

  • Box turtles (land-dwelling)
  • Red-eared sliders
  • Painted turtles
  • Central American wood turtles
  • African aquatic sidenecks
  • Caspian pond turtles

Box turtles

Closeup Focus Stacked Side View of a Mature Eastern Box Turtle with His Head extended, on White

Box turtles have dark greenish-brown skin with yellow markings. Their shells are tall and igloo-shaped.

Red-eared sliders

Red Eared Slider Turtle  (Trachemys scripta elegans)

Red-eared sliders are the most common pet turtles. They have a brownish-green shell and a red stripe alongside each side of their head.

Setting up your turtle's home

For the box turtle, if you live in hotter climates (around 75°F and hotter), it is best to set up your turtle's home outside. If you live in colder climates (less than 75°F), it is best to set up your turtle's home inside. Keep in mind that Box turtles like to dig. You can line your tank with small rocks for them to dig around in.

For Red-eared sliders, it is best to prepare an environment with lots of mud and water. Red-eared sliders love to swim, so having water in the tank is very important. Larger rocks can be placed into the water to create a sort of island in their swimming water. This allows them to have a place to bask in the sun.

When setting up a tank for your turtle to live in, make sure to keep your turtle's swimming water separate from its drinking water. It is better to avoid tap water because it contains chlorine and fluorine, which could negatively affect your turtle.

In general, it is important to keep the water in the tank clean to keep your turtles healthy. This is especially important because turtles use the toilet inside their tank. Make sure to clean and filter the water often.

It is possible to decorate the terrarium with plants as long as they are not poisonous. The plants that you place in the tank could also double as food for the turtle. Some safe options are water hyacinths and water lettuce.

Place your turtle's home in an area that gets proper sunlight. This allows their shells to develop properly.

A turtle's diet

A turtle's diet differs from turtle to turtle. Surprisingly, turtles are most often omnivores. They can eat leafy greens, fish, and insects. It is also possible to buy turtle food from pet stores. Tortoises, on the other hand, are herbivores. Their diet should consist of a mix of fruits and vegetables.

Box turtles can safely eat cantaloupe, apples, tomatoes, insects, and leafy greens. Dandelions are also a great option for them. One of the Box turtle's favorite foods is snails. Make sure, however, that the snails are pesticide-free. Box turtles tend to eat meats while they are young and develop a more vegetarian diet as adults.

Keep in mind that aquatic turtles need to be fed underwater. This is done so that they can swallow their food. They can eat meats such as crayfish and snails. They can also eat fruits and vegetables (except for iceberg lettuce or spinach). It is also a good idea to feed your aquatic turtle live goldfish at least once a week. Turtles love to be able to hunt for their own food.

In general, turtles do not eat as often as other pets. They usually need to eat around four to five times a week. That being said, a baby aquatic turtle should be fed daily.

Are you thinking about adopting a turtle?

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