Turtles are wonderful and fascinating animals with 26 species in Australia alone. The Murray short necked turtle is the most common to have as a pet. They can grow up to 30cm and live a long life. Turtles are a high maintenance pet and aren’t suitable for children. All Australian turtles are protected, so a license is required for having one. Seek your state’s legality and requirements for more information.
Turtles are generally kept in glass tanks or aquariums, which makes observation easy. There should be two sections within the turtle’s enclosure: a water section and a landing area or dock.
Water should be provided to a depth of at least 15cm and increased as the turtle grows. The temperature of the water should not exceed 28 degrees celsius, but cannot be too cold either. The ideal temperature is 22 degrees celsius. An incandescent lamp suspended over the tank or an aquatic heater with a thermostat will help achieve this. A good quality filter is recommended as well as providing calcium blocks to reduce the acidity of the water and help maintain a strong, healthy shell.
Your turtle will need a spot to rest on out of the water, so include a landing dock with a ramp for the turtle to walk up.
Sunlight is necessary for proper bone formation and shell hardening of your turtle. Special fluorescent lights can be used preferably with a UVB rating of at least 5.
The tank should be cleaned regularly to prevent algae and dropping build ups. Water changes of 25% should occur weekly as well as pH tests done with the levels between pH >7 to 8.4.
You can decorate your turtle’s enclosure with gravel, wood, rocks and ornaments. Suitable water plants are a great idea as they also second as a food source.
Turtles need to be submerged in water in order to feed - they won’t feed if the water is too cold. Suitable foods include chopped earthworms, mealworms, or frozen and dry turtle foods which can be bought from your local Pets Domain store.
Turtles should have access to plant matter, either water weeds or a little lettuce daily is suitable. Feed baby turtles twice a day during their first summer, and then decrease to once a day. Do not leave food uneaten in the tank as it can foul the water.
Most health problems with turtles result from poor maintenance and hygiene in the tank. It is vital to ensure your turtle’s enclosure is very well kept.
Shell rot is one of the turtle’s most common health problem. This happens when a turtle’s shell gets scraped by sharp rocks and water-borne bacteria infects the area. Signs of shell rot include discolouration and softness where the abrasion happened. The infected tissue will need to be cleaned and derided. Seek advice if shell rot occurs.
Metabolic Bone Disease is very common and unfortunately quite serious. This can result from not enough calcium in the diet or insufficient exposure to ultraviolet light. Poorly formed and soft shell, pliable bones, distorted tail, weakness and difficulty in lifting itself up, and tremors or seizures are all signs of Metabolic Bone Disease. If you notice any of these signs, seek advice.
Fungus often occurs by poor water quality and exasperated stress. It looks like white spots that grow on a turtles limbs and head which can spread to internal organs quickly. Turtles might refuse to eat and lack energy. Seek advice if you notice any of these signs.
Respiratory infections may occur especially if care standards slip a little or if the room temperature changes suddenly. Often the first sign is that the turtle is blowing bubbles. If you observe this, seek advice.
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