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Red-Eared Slider, Map and Painted Turtles – Semi-Aquatic Turtle Care

Florida CooterHello, Frank Indiviglio here.  Turtles that split their time between land and water are among the world’s most popular reptilian pets.  Cooters, Red-Bellied Turtles, Yellow-Bellied Sliders, Reeve’s Turtles, Red-Headed Sidenecks and many other species can also be kept as described below.  Please write in for specific information on these and other turtles.

Natural History

The Red-Eared Slider, Trachemys scripta elegans, is bred in the millions on farms in the American Southeast.  Unfortunately, their needs are often not appreciated by new owners, who are usually surprised at how quickly their pets grow.  However, assuming that you plan for its size and 30+ year lifespan, the Slider makes a wonderfully-responsive pet. Read More »

The Best Filters for Red-Eared Sliders and other Aquatic Turtles

C. insculptaHello, Frank Indiviglio here.  Long-lived, responsive and intelligent, Red-Eared Sliders and similar turtles are among the most popular of reptile pets.  However, aquatic turtles feed in water and are quite messy about it, and produce a great deal of waste.  Keeping their water clear and odor-free, and in a state that promotes good health, is a challenge faced by all turtle-keepers.  Today I’ll review some filters that are especially designed for use with aquatic turtles and other reptiles and amphibians; you can view other available models here

General Considerations

Your turtle’s natural history and feeding behavior will greatly influence the type of filter that should be used, so be sure to research these topics before making your selection.  For example, Spotted Turtles will be stressed by fast currents, Soft-shelled Turtles will kick sand about and dislodge intake tubes, the carapaces of Pig-Nosed Turtles are prone to bacterial attack in highly-oxygenated waters, and so on.  Please write in if you need help in selecting a filter. Read More »

May Red Eared Slider Hatchlings be Legally Bought and Sold?

Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.  Although Slider hatchlings (Trachemys scripta elegans) have been banned from the US pet trade by the Food and Drug Administration since 1975, the tiny green turtles are still regularly offered for sale in certain areas, creating confusion for aspiring turtle owners.

History of the Law

Red Eared Slider HatchlingUnder the law, turtles less than 4 inches in length may not be sold, regardless of the species.  The sale of larger turtles is regulated by state law (the 4 inch rule is a bit confusing, more on that in a future article).  

Traditionally, turtles were considered prime carriers of Salmonella bacteria… the law was enacted in response to over ¼ million annual cases of Salmonellosis among turtle owners in the early 70’s.  Salmonellosis can cause meningitis and miscarriage, and may be fatal to children, the elderly and immune-compromised individuals.

“Safe Sliders” to Force Policy Change?

According to commercial turtle farmers, however, the situation has changed in the 30+ years since the ban went into effect.  Farmers claim they are now able to produce Salmonella-free hatchlings, and that effective pre-treatment before sale could be used as additional insurance. 

In 2007 Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu introduced legislation seeking to legalize the sale of Salmonella-free Red Eared Slider hatchlings (Louisiana is home to an estimated 80 turtle farms).  Last month (April, 2010), the Louisiana District Court ruled that the FDA has not adequately addressed the issue, and directed that further consideration be given to legalizing the sale of small turtles. 

So, the ban remains in effect for the time being, but the situation may change in the future.

What to Do?

You can contact the FDA (888-463-0332) regarding violations of the turtle sale rule.  If you own a hatchling, ask your local humane society for advice, but do not release it.  The Center for Disease Control provides safety guidelines for turtle owners.

It is important to keep in mind that the irresistible little turtles grow rapidly into large, active animals.  Proper care entails full-spectrum lighting, a heated, filtered aquarium (of 75-100 gallon capacity for adults) and a well-balanced diet.  Do not purchase sick turtles in hope of curing them, as this is a difficult prospect even for a veterinarian.  Rather, report the matter to your local humane society. 

Learning More

Red Eared Slider laying eggRed Eared Sliders turn up in the unlikeliest of places…I’ve found them in sites ranging from the Bronx River to temple ponds in Japan; please see Typical and Atypical Slider Habitats for more info and photos.

Please check out this recent Mississippi Newspaper Article for a turtle farmer’s view.

Please write in with your questions and comments. 

 

Thanks, until next time,

Frank Indiviglio

 
Red eared Slider Hatchling image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Jf268
Red eared Slider Laying Egg image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Nephets

Turtles Have Shells,But They Still Need a Place to Hide! – Part 2

Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.  Please see Part I of this article for general information concerning pet turtle shelters.  Today we’ll look at meeting the needs of a few specialists.

Aquatic Bottom Dwellers

Mata Mata Turtles (Chelus fimbriatus), Snapping Turtles (Chelydra serpentina), Alligator Snapping Turtles (Macroclemmys temmincki) and some other aquatic species prefer to burrow under plants or mud, and rarely use caves.  These turtles can easily be accommodated with Hagen Suction Cup-Equipped Plants.  By positioning the suction cups so that the plant just touches the bottom of the aquarium, you can create a naturalistic shelter …several plants used in together can accommodate quite large specimens.

Shallow Water/Swamp Dwellers

Bog TurtleBog Turtles (Clemmys muhlenbergi) and other retiring, shallow water species are usually most comfortable in heavily planted terrariums, with plenty of dead wood and moss available for hiding (please see photo).  These will readily utilize artificial plants as well.

Large Tortoises

That 150 pound Spurred Tortoise you’ve raised will need a custom built “house”, but for most large terrestrial turtles, you can also use the Hagen plants described above.  This actually suits tortoises quite well – in the wild most shelter within brush and under leaves, and not in “caves” per se.

Softshell Turtles

Softshell Turtles of all species are specialists, and do best when provided with fine sand in which to burrow.  Although excellent swimmers, they prefer to shelter below sand in shallow water, so that they can breathe by merely extending their necks to the surface.  Although sand complicates cleaning, most softshells fare poorly without it.

A Hundred Year Old Home

Musk TurtleYou can also create your own shelters…broken clay flower pots are an old standby.  The Common Musk Turtle (Sternotherus odoratus) pictured here has been with me for 40 years.  It is posing before its very unique cave – a 100 year old tile from the roof of the Bronx Zoo’s Reptile House!

Further Reading

The Eastern Spiny Softshell Turtle (Apalone spinifera spinifera) has specific habitat requirements in both captivity (please see above) and the wild, and is threatened throughout much of its range.  A comprehensive recovery plan containing interesting natural history notes is posted here.

Please write in with your questions and comments. 

Thanks, until next time,

Frank Indiviglio

Turtles Have Shells But They Still Need a Place to Hide! – Part 1

Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.  One of the most over-looked aspects of proper turtle care is the provision of a secure place to hide.  It makes sense that a hiding place would seem unnecessary – after all, turtles can simply withdraw into their shells when threatened.  However, it’s not that simple (as usual!).

Shelter Use in Nature and Captivity

Even though their shells are often hard, and offer excellent camouflage – imagine a box turtle on a forest floor or a leopard tortoise among brush – most turtles become quite stressed if denied a secure place to hide.  Even bold, long-term captives prefer a shelter, at least for sleeping. 

Particularly retiring species, such as mata mata, bog and Malayan snail-eating turtles, will Snapping Turtleoften fail to thrive if kept in bare surroundings. Hatchlings, even of common snapping turtles and other aggressive species, are consumed by predators ranging from giant water bugs to herons…most are always “on guard” and will refuse to eat unless given ample cover.

Note: at 80+ pounds, the Common Snapper Pictured here is among the heaviest ever recorded. He is on exhibit at The Cold Spring Harbor Fish Hatchery, which houses an extensive collection of native reptiles and amphibians.

Useful Shelters for Terrestrial and Aquatic Turtles

Eastern Painted TurtleThe Zoo Med Turtle Hut, available in 5 sizes, suits nearly all land-dwelling turtles.  R Zilla Rock Dens sink, and so can be used on land or underwater (check that aquatic turtles cannot lodge themselves inside too tightly, and provide larger shelters as they grow).

The Zoo Med Turtle Dock can be set up to serve both as a basking platform and hideaway for aquatic turtles.  When used in shallow water, the sloping side, top of the platform and tank’s wall form a nice underwater cave readily used by young painted, spotted, mud and other turtles.

Next time we’ll take a look at a few species that have special needs, and I’ll add a note about an old turtle of mine that hides within a unique, very old “cave”.  Please write in with your questions and comments. 

Further Reading

For an interesting report on Eastern box turtle natural history, including the use of shelters in the wild, please look here.

Thanks, until next time,

Frank Indiviglio

 

 

 

 

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