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I should start by apologising in advance. This has the potential to be a rather long review, and at times will possibly read a bit ranty! Actually, where I should start is by saying that turtles and terrapins are the same thing. In USA, 'turtle' is widely used for all Chelonia including tortoises. In UK 'turtle' is generally used for marine species and semi terrestrial species such as Box turtles, and 'terrapin' is used to describe freshwater species. We also say tortoise for...well...tortoises. I just like the word turtle best.
So back to the apology. Turtles are a subject very close to my heart and the myths (and the results of believing them) surrounding their captive husbandry are at times simply baffling, and at others, totally devastating. They are dumped in rivers and ponds, abandoned on pet shops' and rescue centres' doorsteps, flushed down toilets. All because they grow large and require expensive equipment. Rescue centres are so chocka of these turtle species, a lot of them simply can't take any more. I have seen some turtles in horrific states through a lack of proper care and it's heartbreaking. And so easily avoidable. Read, read, read for comprehension. Read everything you can get your hands on, talk to keepers.
Probably the most common falsehood I know of regarding turtles is that they smell. Well, guess what? That would be the keeper's fault. You think you would smell if you were kept in a confined area full of your own waste with wholly inadequate hygiene measures in place? You bet you would. The second, is that like Goldfish (not true either, sheesh!) they will only grow to the size of their environment.
-- A basic run down of captive turtle care --
(for this review I am concentrating on the commonest and cheapest 'pocket money' species, the ones that are the regular victims of ignorance - the sliders and cooters).
Tank size - Generally, as big as you can is best. But there are minimum acceptable volumes and they are as follows; 40 litres of water per inch shell length for the biggest turtle, and 20 litres per inch shell length of every subsequent animal. This not only provides the minimum suitable swimming space, but is also important for waste management (more later). Tanks should NEVER have a lid/hood on them - humidity is dangerous.
Cohabiting - Turtles are not social creatures. They are also highly incompatible depending on their sexes. You must have 2-3 females for every single male in one setup (so one female doesn't get pestered continually by an amorous male), multiple males will never work (potential aggression leading to serious injury), more males than females will never work (the sex thing) and females get huge so for more than one you need a pond (don't forget you have to keep them safely over Winter too). Aside from size, females should live together with no problems.
Adult sizes - Males 7-9 inches shell length, females 12-14 inches shell length.
Lighting/heating - when babies, you will need an aquarium heater. When they reach about a year old though, you can do away with this depending on your room temperature. They need a completely dry area to haul out on and bask. It is important that this is 100% dry, as if they are wet all the time it can cause a whole host of shell problems. Directed on this dry area should be a basking bulb (for light and heat, a normal 40-60w household reflector spot is perfect) and a UVB source. A 10% compact is perfect (replace every 6 months). These should be mounted in clamp on lamp holders attached to the sides of the tank (another reason you can't have a lid).
Hygiene - Turtles are very messy, hence the reputation they have earned of being smelly. However, I would like to point out now that none of my turtle setups have ever smelled. The key is adequate volume and filtration. You need to use a large capacity external canister filter, rated for at least 3x the volume of water you are actually using. This is really important because filters are rated in terms of fish waste and turtles produce a lot more of it. What is right for a fish only tank is not right for a turtle tank of the same size. Ensuring you have an adequate volume of water means the waste will never be too concentrated, which in turn makes the filter's job easier. Fill your filter with biomedia (ceramic, bio balls, alfagrog), for bacteria to colonise and you're good to go.
Feeding- a good quality pellet food, with freely offered plant matter and the occasional treat of live food, worms, shrimp, fish, bloodworm, etc
All of this is of course species dependent, but is the (very) basics for the most common types, This is by no means exhaustive, and please research fully before buying. Search engines are your friend, and you will find discussion forums where you can get answers practically in real time from experienced people (I know a really great one, so ask me) They should live a really long time (20+ years) so they are a serious commitment.
When kept properly, turtles are a wonderful pet. They are intriguing, enchanting and very often utterly comical. They all have distinct personalities, just like your dogs and cats, and are pretty docile though should NOT be handled unnecessarily as it stresses them. They are a look don't touch pet. Not a good choice for children frankly, as they require specialist care and unless the parent(s) have an interest and are willing to do it, best to avoid.
I would not widely recommend slider/cooter turtles as pets, as one thing that has been consistently shown to me, is that seemingly the majority of people are either unable or unwilling to provide the correct environment for them. There is absolutely no shame in this, it's probably not 'normal' to Freecycle a sofa and other living room furniture to fit a pond in. I just wish more people would make this decision *before* buying those tiny cute little hatchlings.
-- My turtles --
My first ever turtle was a Peninsula cooter called Murtle. She was bought for me as a graduation present from my big brother. She unfortunately died earlier this year at the age of 7 after a long period of ill health. I have 2 Eastern river cooters, Molly and Daisy. These girls were rehomed to me. My Red ear slider, Morvern, was rehomed to me with very poor shell condition and she is improving greatly. These girls all live in my 1300 litre indoor pond. It is 6ft long, 4ft wide and 2ft deep. It's a talking point when strangers come into the living room. I have a pair of Common Musks, Tutti & Fruitti. These were a present from me to me! I am unsure of their sexes yet. My Ouachita Map, Loki, I think is a female but still a little small to tell. S/he was rehomed to me. At the end of the month I am collecting a Spotted turtle from an online friend, likely to be female and I am naming her Domino. She is a treat from me to me, and also a Reeves turtle (as yet unnamed! Likely to be female also).This one is a gift from this very dear friend.
If you got this far, thank you for reading and I hope you got something out of it.
I have read about other peoples opinions of terrapins on this site and they seem mainly against the little critters. Well my boyfriend and I are lovers of these semi-aquatic creatures and we would like to explain how they can be good pets. On the whole I agree with other bloggers in that, as with any pet, without research into their care and the proper exquipment then terrapins are very difficult to keep. They are sensitive animals and require care and a knowledge of their original habitats in order to live happy trouble free lives. They require the correct lighting, heating, space to bask and the correct diet. Although terrapins will start out about the size of a fifty pence piece they grow big quickly and therefore an investment into a large tank early on will in fact save you money in the long term. They are very fun to watch as they are quite clumsy creatures and they are a great unusual pet esspecially for young boys looking for something different. They can bite and their claws are very sharp but snakes and lizards are particularly cuddly either! They are great pets and really don't require too much work as long as you clean out the tank regularly. Ours really don't smell and there is no reason for them too unless you aren't cleaning them out properly. They need cleaning once a week and you should try and clean any ornaments out of the tank as well. Also a great tip is to feed the terrapins out of their tank in a bucket of water which will keep all waste to a minimum. They are great pets but like all animals they require work and they won't stay small forever (or very long at all really!) if you want any more information or if you need a terrapin rehoming check out our website www.thelondonterrapins.co.uk
We kept terapins for a time when I was a child and the memories that I have of them are actually pretty vague, however I remember we bought a few red eared terrapins who grew to enormous sizes very quickly!
I remember that they needed a great deal of looking after in terms of cleaning out and feeding as they have very specific dietery needs.
They were also very vicious and always looked like they wanted to bite you!!!
They smell and I believe there is also a risk that you may get salmonella from them which isn't pleasant.
The food, tank and to heat the tank becomes expensive as these creatures again need a very specific environment in which to live in.
Yes, they are unusual and interesting to watch, but I find them thankless creatures and personally would advise against them especially if you want a cheap and low maintenance pet.
I have very recently bought 2 terrapins after watching my friends terrapin for a few months. They are both different in the sense that one has markings on it's 'belly' and the other is plain- can anyone tell me if this has anything to do with the sex. We called them Terry and Wade- and they are already being treated like babies. They recognise our voices and I can call they up to the top of the watertank. We can hand feed them to which is great. The tank is cloudy at the minuute but the Pet shop said this is normal and it will clean in a few days. They are the size of a 50p at the minute and I think their great. I'm wanting to find out more about them and the rock in the tank is a perfect size for them to claim on and 'sunbath' on. Can anyone give me more info about telling the difference in the sex, at the minute I'm referring to them as 'my boys'- crazy I know!!
A terrapin is very similar to a turtle to look after except it will live in fresh water or brackish water.
You will need a glass fish tank to keep your terrapin in, a heater to heat your water as it needs to be at 80'f, you will need a uv light for the bones and shell to develop properly and a basking spot above an area where the terrapin can sit out of the water in his artificial sun.
I have got tommy in a 5 foot fish tank which has water 3/4 full and i have put a plastic plant pot with bricks ontop of at one end for him to come out and bask which he realy loves to do.
People thought i was mad putting tommy into a tank this big when we first got him as he wasnt much bigger than a 50p piece but within 18 months tommy is now bigger than my hand so please bear this in mind if you are thinking about one as a pet, they do grow very quickly.
Terrapins can breath on land or in water so dont panic like i did the first time you see them asleep on the bottom of there tank, i thought tommy was dead.
Terrapins are supposed to love the company of others but although tommy loves human company and doesnt bite us when i tried another terrapin in with him he grabbed it by its head and tried to pull it out of its shell so tommy now lives alone.
You can buy pelleted terrapin food but tommy isnt keen on this and it makes a right mess of your water so i use fresh fish with him and others at our house now, prawns, cod, muscles, crab sticks and pilchards are good for them.
Terrapins will only eat in water so dont put there food on there basking spot as they wont eat it and the heat will make it smell your house out very quickly.
These would make a brilliant pet for someone who enjoys fish but if you find fish boring stay away from these as they are no more interesting.
Me personally i love all animals and find tommy quite amusing tio watch especially when he eats.
I've had 2 experiences with terrapins - first was when my brother adn sister in law invested in 2. Reason - none really other than they were simply different, looked good, and seemed easy to maintain, needless to say not much researching had gone into it. They were bought about the size of a 50pence piece each, but boooooooooooooooy did they grow!
After both getting larger in size, a couple months on about the size of a medium sized hand, they became harder to clean out, the way in which my brother would do this was by using his hands to take them out of their tank, they soon became nippy, and i was told it actually hurt. The larger the 2 of them got, the more rowdy they got with eachother, actually taking bites out of one another. Eventually my brother decided they weren't what he had hoped and the novelty had definately worn off, and found a friend at his work who was wanting to take them on.
Thinking i would never be in a situation with terrapins again, as they are somewhat rare, i couldnt believe my 'luck' when i met my partner and discovered he had one.
We've since moved in together, and we are plagued with the smell of him. He's called vinny and about 3/4 years old now.
Personally i don't like him, he seems to hiss a fair bit, and the larger hes gotten the more he scuttles about in his tray when we clean out his tank.
These creatures need ALOT of care. They have very specific environmental and dietary needs. Food can often be expensive, prawns, terrapin specialised food, and snacking on lettuce aswell tends to be vinny's favourite. the problem we are faced with now, is he's out growing his tank, and to be fair, the tank is a pretty big size alredy, and we've only been able to find somewhere to fit that, never mind looking to buy a bigger one! So take this in to consideration on purchasing your terrapin!
We seem to be forever cleaning him out, because if he doesnt eat all his food, it simply floats about, dirtying the tank, and producing a vile stench that fills the house.
Aswell as this, you seem to never get any affection with it, it's not an animal you can take out and pet, that will paw at you with big wide eyes. instead you seem to slave after it in some respects and not get any appreciation!!
A large factor to consider is how long they live aswell, they can go up to 20 yrs, and probably beyond, so make sure you realise this when purchasing.
They aren't cheap, but what animals really are these days, it's part and parcel of taking on board a pet, but you must ensure you research terrapins before going out and splashing the cash on one, they need rocks within the tank so they can crawl out of the water and sit themselves in the rays of the heat coming from the light etc etc!
I hope this little insight will help some of you out if you are debating whether or not to add a terrapin to your household :o)
I remember seeing my first terrapin at a friend’s house when I was about six or seven years old. Then not long after came those “Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles” which made me want some even more! I hassled my parents until finally they let me buy two. Unfortunately, I never thought about how much hard work these two little chaps would be. All to soon the reality hit home and the novelty soon wore off. These creatures need a lot, and I mean a lot of care. They have very specific environmental and dietary needs, which when I purchased the terrapins, I was not informed about. Many other youngsters who had joined the craze for terrapins found that they grew too large for their aquarium tanks, the owners then panicked and dumped them into local ponds, rivers and streams. Not only was this cruel on the terrapins, it was also cruel to other native wildlife, since the carnivorous and hungry terrapins devastated the local ecology by devouring all other occupants of the same body of water. Terrapins can now be found in reptile sanctuaries along side many other pet crazes such as giant green iguanas, and other reptiles such as corn snakes and pythons. I have made a list of things you really should consider before purchasing a terrapin. Hopefully this will help you not make the same mistake as me all those years ago. Can I afford it? Terrapins are somewhat cheaper than some other amphibians. Typically you will pay between a minimum of £100 for an adequate set up, more likely nearer £200 once you have taken everything into consideration. Such as the terrapin’s tank, the heating and lighting accessories, all of which are absolutely essential. Terrapins are also carnivorous. They will normally need proper terrapin food and any fish that you may have had in the tank before hand! Some will eat food from the garden such as earthworms. Do I have the commitment to it? You should be aware that some terrapins can live up to
20 years, and after the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle craze (people going in for the fad of buying terrapins and then finding themselves unable to keep them), terrapins are harder to sale (I spent many months trying to find mine a good home as many pet shops will no longer take them.) Please read through this article and think carefully before purchasing a terrapin.