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The Penn Plax Turtle Pier – a Useful New Basking Site for Turtles and Amphibians

Late Stage TadpoleAfter decades of struggling to create makeshift land areas for semi-aquatic reptiles and amphibians, I was very happy when pre-formed Turtle Docks, Turtle Logs  and Turtle Banks became available.  Today I’d like to review the recently-introduced Penn Plax Turtle Pier, which eliminates certain drawbacks associated with the previously mentioned products.

Drawbacks and Advantages of Various Platforms

Since their introduction, I’ve put the first line of basking docks and platforms to good use in my collection and in several of the aquarium and museum exhibits I’ve designed (please see article below).  Their only limitations are that large turtles tend to sink them below the surface (which keeps the plastron from drying out completely) and robust individuals sometimes dislodge the platforms from the aquarium’s sides. Read More »

New Edition of Newts and Salamanders, A Complete Pet Owner’s Manual, is Published

Barred Tiger SalamanderI’ve recently finished writing a revision of my 1997 book Newts and Salamanders and would like to introduce it here and to thank everyone for their past support and kind comments.

Care and Natural History

Although technically a captive care manual, I’ve included a great deal of natural history information garnered from a lifetime of working with amphibians as well as research updates from technical and popular journals.  Captive breeding is stressed, with specific advice given for each species covered.  Read More »

Aqua Gloves – an Important Tool in the Fight against Salmonella and Mycobacteria

MudpuppyTurtles have been much in the news as potential carriers of Salmonella, but many people do not realize that nearly any creature, including dogs and cats, can transmit the bacteria.  Less well-known are the potential health problems posed by Micobacteria, many species of which thrive in aquariums housing fishes, amphibians, reptiles and/or invertebrates.  Coralife Aqua Gloves are an excellent safety measure for those times when your hands must be submerged in aquarium or aqua-terrarium water. Read More »

Filtering Turtle Tanks – The Zoo Med Canister Filter and Submersible Models

Spotted TurtlesMaintaining clean water is one of the biggest challenges facing aquatic turtle keepers.  Here at ThatPetPlace we stock a number of filters designed especially for use with turtles.  Most are submersible and will function even in very low water…one, the Turtle Cliff Filter, also doubles as a basking site and waterfall base.  Today I’d like to highlight the unit I’ve found most effective in situations where very strong, effective filtration is required – the Zoo Med Turtle Clean Filter.

An Adaptable, Effective Filter

The Turtle Clean Filter is designed along the lines of aquarium fish canister filters, with separate chambers for activated carbon, filter pads and aerobic bacteria colonies, and is backed by a powerful motor (aquariums up top 60 gallons in size, and possibly larger, can be handled by Model No. 511).  Unlike other canisters, it is set up next to, and not below, the aquarium.

Turtle canister filterThe Turtle Clean has the largest areas for filter media of any turtle filter, and its absorbant pads are very thick and quite effective.   It is very simple to clean, requires no priming, operates in as little as 1-2 inches of water and is equipped with a perforated return bar so that outflow can be adjusted.  Waterfalls and turtles requiring low water levels or moderate currents are thus easy to accommodate.

I’ve used the Turtle Clean Filter on heavily stocked turtle aquariums for some time now, and am very pleased with the results.  Feedback from colleagues indicates that it definitely simplifies the keeping of Red-Eared Sliders, Painted Turtles, Cooters, Snake-Necks, Mata Matas, Sidenecks and other messy feeders.

Easing the Filter’s Job

Turtle TankFrequent partial water changes and, if possible, feeding your turtles outside of the aquarium, will render any turtle filter more effective by lessening the volume of uneaten food and feces that must be removed.

A bare-bottomed aquarium, which enables the filter to more easily pick up solid waste, is preferable for most turtles (Soft-shelled Turtles, however, are best kept with a fine sand substrate under which they can hide).

Further Reading

For more tips on keeping your turtle tank water in top shape, please see Feeding Aquatic Turtles: Water Clarity.


Herp Nutrition – Calcium Sprays and Tips for Special Situations – Part 1

calcium sprayCoating feeder insects with calcium and vitamin supplements is a time-tested method of adding important nutrients to reptile and amphibian diets.  However, shy and nocturnal species that do not eat soon after the insects are released into their terrariums may get little benefit from powdered supplements.  Insects quickly lose their coatings as they move about…crickets and roaches add to the problem by grooming the supplements from their bodies as soon as they are able (Yes, “grooming” …watch roaches sometime, they are quite fastidious!).

Spray-On Calcium

R Zilla Reptile Calcium Supplement Spray and Vitamin Supplement Spray help to address this problem.  The spray sticks to and may even be absorbed by insects (as well as dry foods and salad), thereby assuring its delivery no matter how much time elapses before the food is consumed.  These products will prove particularly useful to those keeping Leaf Tailed Geckos, Crocodile Skinks, Flying Geckos, Red-Eyed Treefrogs, Spadefoot Toads, certain burrowing tarantulas and others that are notoriously shy about showing themselves by day.

Agalychnis callidryasCalcium Spray supplies calcium in three forms, including Calcium Gluconate, which is readily utilized by many species.  It can also be administered orally to animals with deficiencies (a consultation with your veterinarian would be advisable beforehand).

Further Reading

Please see my article Providing a Balanced Diet to Reptiles and Amphibians for more information on other aspects of captive herp nutrition.

An interesting article on feeder insect calcium content is posted here.

 Next time we’ll take a look at a few effective but little-used techniques for raising the calcium content of insects fed to reptiles and amphibians


Agalychnis callidryas image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Christian R. Linder

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