Useful Tips

How to care for a turtle at home: recommendations and maintenance rules


This article is co-written by Pippa Elliott, MRCVS. Dr. Elliot, BVMS, MRCVS is a veterinarian with over 30 years of experience in veterinary surgery and the treatment of companion animals. She graduated from the University of Glasgow in 1987 with a degree in Veterinary Medicine and Surgery. He has been working in the same animal clinic in his hometown for over 20 years.

The number of sources used in this article is 21. You will find a list of them at the bottom of the page.

Turtles are not as cute and sociable as cats or dogs, but they also make excellent pets. Since turtles live for decades before you buy a turtle, think about whether you are prepared for such responsibility. To make the turtle comfortable in your house, you will need to equip a dwelling for it, provide food and care. Each type of tortoise has its own grooming requirements, so ask the breeder or pet store employee to tell you about the care of your turtle.

We equip the house

The first rule for proper reptile care is to set up a terrarium. Those who think that for greater freedom it is better to let the turtle walk around the apartment are very mistaken. Drafts and a cold floor sooner or later will cause the animal to go cold. Turtles do not like cold, and in their habitats hide under the ground.

So, how to properly equip a home:

  1. The minimum length of the terrarium should be five times greater, and the width should be three times the length of the turtle. The depth of the terrarium depends on the nature of the substrate and the size of the animal, but should not be less than 30 cm.
  2. The bottom of the dwelling should be sent out with soil or bedding (the usual hay or pine bark is most often used).
  3. The decor should resemble the wildlife of reptiles. It can be decorated with large pieces of pine bark, pebbles, plants, but here it is worth considering that the turtle can eat and trample plants. Do not overdo it with the decor, because extra pieces can take up extra space for the life of a pet. The turtle should have a place to walk.
  4. It must have a small pool. It can be a bowl or basin, but so small that the turtle standing at the bottom can hold its head above the surface.
  5. In the terrarium, place a small lamp with a capacity of not more than 100 watts and not less than 60 watts. It is advisable in the corner so that the reptile can be located not only in the illuminated territory, but also in the shade.
  6. Be sure to have a heater near the feeder and drinkers. The ideal temperature for the turtle is +26 degrees.
  7. The feeder must be stable so that the animal cannot turn it over. Do not install it near the heater so that the greens do not dry out.
  8. There should be a drinking bowl near the feeder (near the lamp). It must be well immersed in the ground, so that while quenching thirst, the reptile does not squeeze its neck.
  9. A prerequisite is a house for sleeping. It can be any pot turned upside down and with a hole.
  10. The material for the terrarium does not matter. Mostly used glass or plastic.

Important! The terrarium should not stand in a place subject to drafts, because the turtle can catch a cold or in a place too lit by the sun - in this case, the animal can overheat.

What to feed

Proper nutrition is an integral part of proper maintenance. Land turtles are herbivores that are very fastidious in food. To see what she prefers, you should feed her a little food and watch.

So, how to properly and what to feed:

  1. The diet of a young animal should consist of 50-75% protein, in old ones it should not exceed 10-20%. Protein - their main diet should suppress plant foods. Good sources of protein are earthworms, crickets, grasshoppers, aquatic and terrestrial snails, fish, crayfish, daphnia, mussels, and shrimp.
  2. 2. Favorite food of turtles - plants: dandelion, alfalfa, clover, chamomile. It's important to know! For turtles, plants such as ivy, St. John's wort and African violets are poisonous.
  3. In the menu you can include: Chinese cabbage, carrots, cottage cheese (as a calcium supplement). Periodically, you need to give fresh berries (for example, strawberries) and fruits (apples, pears).
  4. Be careful with bananas because they contain a lot of sugar and are quite high in calories. Give occasionally and in small quantities.
  5. You should not give them products that people eat, especially those that are rich in fats and sugars: cheeses, milk, bread, cakes, sweets.

Young turtles should be fed daily, and old turtles at least 3 times a week. If the turtle has a varied diet and is not sick, you do not need any supplements. If in doubt, consult your veterinarian.

Animal hygiene

In order for the turtle to remain healthy, its housing, like itself, must always be clean.

  • the terrarium needs to be cleaned daily from feces,
  • rinse the bowl and feeder every other day,
  • bathing once a week (bathing water should be +30 degrees),
  • regular clipping of claws (exclusively white edges are trimmed),
  • examination by a veterinarian in case of suspected illness, injuries, colds, indigestion, poor appetite, wounds on the legs.

That's all the information on how to properly care for a domesticated turtle. If there are comfortable conditions and proper care, your pet will delight you for decades. Caring for a turtle quickly becomes a habit, and the animal during this time gets used to the new habitat.

Who are the red-eared turtles?

Increasingly, the red-eared turtle is becoming a popular pet. The animal got its name due to a specific feature - red spots, which are located on the sides of the eyes and are visible to the very neck.

The second official name of the species is the yellow-bellied tortoise, which is also characteristic due to the bright yellow spot on the abdomen. Such popularity of a turtle as a pet is quite logical - the animals are not quite fastidious in care, have an attractive appearance, it is interesting to observe them and they make easy contact. But some owners, thinking that turtles do not need care at all, make gross mistakes, thereby deliberately shortening their lives.

The upper part of the shell of the turtle is rounded with a smooth shape, the color is greenish with black stripes. In young individuals, the color of the shell is brighter, but with age it becomes darker. Moreover, the distinctive red spots on the neck are also darker. To determine the size of the animal, you need to measure the carapace from beginning to end. The curvature of the shell does not need to be taken into account. Therefore, it is more convenient to determine the size of the animal not with a measuring tape, but with a ruler.

At birth, turtles barely reach a size of 3 cm. In a year they reach 7–8 cm. As for puberty, it occurs in males with a shell size of 10 cm, and in females of 13 cm. On average, the size of an animal in adulthood reaches 25 –30 cm. Females are usually always larger than males.

Remember that the calculations are approximate, because it all depends on the specific conditions of detention. To name a pet, you need to understand what gender it is. Sex can be determined by reaching an individual of 2 years of age. The size of the shell should be at least 10 cm. The main differences between the female and the male are the size of the shell, the females will be larger, but their tail is shorter. Claws also act as an indirect sign - in males they are larger and slightly curved.

The difference between males and females

Turtle Care

The first thing you should pay attention to when purchasing a pet is its appearance and size. It will be very difficult to grow a turtle that did not reach 5 cm at the time of purchase. At this age, small individuals are susceptible to various infections and diseases. Thus, natural selection takes place. Therefore, a turtle measuring 5-7 cm will be the best choice when buying.

You should also carefully examine the color of the shell. Claws and tail should be intact. The skin has a healthy appearance, and the eyes shine. After the pet is in the aquarium, see how it swims. A healthy turtle should swim smoothly, without falling in different directions.

Healthy turtle

Features of the appeal

After buying a pet and moving it to the aquarium, it may begin a period of adaptation. Generally, it will take 2 to 5 days. At this time, the animal becomes a little inhibited, or vice versa, very active. No need to panic and take the animal in your arms. Give him peace and time to adapt to new conditions. After a while, the turtle will get used to the new environment and become calmer.

When you try to take the turtle in your hands, do it extremely carefully and always with two hands. Not all representatives are willing to contact. Some may flounder, hiss and empty with fear. The carapace in the water becomes slippery; consider this fact when you take your pet out of the aquarium.

After you hold the turtle on your hands, be sure to wash them with soap. Despite being kept clean, turtles often carry salmonellosis. To avoid the spread of infection, you must always monitor the condition of the aquarium and the quality of the feed.

Shell cleaning

Since green algae in the aquarium are a source of infection, it is important to clean not only the container, but also the tortoise shell in time. They themselves cannot do this. Algae in the process of decomposition also fall under the surface of the shell, and decomposing damage the shell.

Get used to the fact that once every 3-5 days you need to get the turtle out of the water and wipe its shell with a clean cloth, a special soft cloth, or gently brush it with a toothbrush. In the process, you need to try to remove all small particles of algae and other dirt.


Some unscrupulous owners try to make the tortoise’s shell beautiful and grease it with various oils or creams to add shine. This is strictly forbidden, as it harms the skin and interferes with the pet’s healthy “breathing”.

The content of the red-eared turtle at home

To live a pet at home, many different accessories are required, the cost of some of them is quite high. But it all depends on the manufacturer. The following is a list of the necessary things that are necessary for the maintenance and care of animals:

  • aquarium,
  • 100 watts water heater,
  • filters
  • ultraviolet lamp,
  • heating lamp for a pet,
  • thermometer,
  • lamp,
  • island, coast and land.
The components of the aquarium for the turtle

The list is pretty impressive, but every detail is definitely needed.

Aquarium for a pet needs a large, optimally - 200 liters. For a little turtle, which is just bought and brought home, 10-15 liters is enough. To avoid unnecessary trouble, it is better to train your pet in a big house in advance. So it will be easier for him to swim, since the animal must move and develop the muscular system and not be obese.

The water level must be adjusted so that the pet can protrude its muzzle from the water, while standing on its hind legs. If the aquarium is initially deep, you can put a piece of wood or stone at the bottom.

Turtle aquarium

When choosing soil, pay attention to its size and do not use small pebbles. A turtle in the process of eating and collecting food from the surface can get carried away and start eating stones, which will lead to death or illness. Also, with special care, you need to choose algae for the aquarium, because many species, for example, elodea or ambulia, are poisonous to aquarium reptiles.

In order for the turtle to produce Vitamin D, it is required to provide it with ultraviolet light. Since in the nature of similar lighting is enough, when keeping the turtle at home, it needs to be created. In this case, household lamps are not useful, since they are difficult to arrange for the entire length of the aquarium.

UV lamp location

The most popular lamp for lighting an aquarium in which reptiles live is recognized Repti Glo 5. For comfortable lighting, you need to position the lamps at a distance of 40-50 cm from each other. Also, lighting and heating play a significant role in the metabolism and other functions. If the pet does not have enough light and heat, it can fall into hibernation, and its activity will decrease.

In pet stores there is a wide selection of islands for the aquarium for every taste and budget. But when buying, be sure to pay attention to the material of manufacture. Also, the main indicator of reliability is the method of attachment to the bottom of the aquarium. For example, in good islands there are suction cups below, with the help of them the island does not slip on a wet surface.

But keep in mind that when the turtle grows and its weight reaches 1 kg, the suction cups will constantly peel off, and the island will float throughout the aquarium. Therefore, instead of an island, it is better to use a special bridge-platform on which the turtle will be able to climb and move.

Suction cup island

When installing such a platform, it is necessary to carry out a ladder to it, which will not prevent the pet from swimming in the water. The reptile will sit on it when it is already hot under the lamp.

Filter and heater

These two important components must be chosen based on the volume of the aquarium and the amount of water in it. Modern pet stores offer filters that allow you to not change the water for a very long time. If the filter is placed outside the aquarium, care for it is much less. And you can be sure that the turtle will not accidentally or intentionally remove it from the mount, bite the wire and eat the suction cup. If we talk about the heater, it needs to be configured automatically to control the water temperature from 21 to 27 C.

The purity of the water in the aquarium should always be monitored. After all, pets sleep, eat and even mate in water. The filter will help make the water cleaner, because dirty water is a source of infection and the spread of bacteria.

Red-eared tortoise feeding

Turtles like to eat a variety of foods. It is the diversity in nutrition that is the key to a pet’s health. To do this, use:

  • balanced feed
  • food for aquarium fish,
  • vegetables,
  • aquarium plants
  • insects
  • seafood,
  • invertebrates.

But here it is important not to overdo it, because turtles are prone to overeating and further obesity. Also, young individuals in the diet need calcium, which is necessary for the growth of the shell. The feed contains a balanced composition containing all the vitamins and minerals necessary for the animal’s body. Many premium feeds already contain calcium. Therefore, before compiling a diet and feeding, be sure to read the composition.

General advice on feeding turtles

To swallow food, the turtle needs fluid. And since they do not produce saliva, they always pull feed into the water. Thus, in order to avoid frequent water pollution, it is possible to carry out feeding in a separate container.

Veterinarians recommend that you give the turtle fresh vegetables. But, as a rule, most pets are completely indifferent to them. Aquarium plants can be a good alternative, as they are similar in composition to those that the animal eats in natural conditions. To do this, you can use duckweed, lettuce, boiled dandelion, etc.

Since turtles are almost omnivorous, they will gladly enjoy what they can get. It can be small snails, worms or insects. If the above species do not live together with turtles in the aquarium, but are one of the types of food, then it is better to refuse it. It is better to use a balanced special food containing vitamins and a complex of vitamins.

Feeding frequency

How often and how much to feed a pet depends on individual characteristics. Young individuals under the age of one year are recommended to be fed every day. After a year, turtles are recommended to be fed once every 2-3 days. The amount of feed also differs from the age of the pet. Newborn turtles should receive 50% more food than adults. In order not to be mistaken with the proportions, carefully read the recommendations on the package with a specific type of feed.

Turtle feeding

Reproduction of species

Representatives of this species mate from 4 years old (males) and from 5 years old (females). In order for the animals to produce offspring in the future, you need to prepare the aquarium in advance. The water level should not be lower than 10 cm. This is necessary so that the female does not remain without water for a long time during mating. Then you need to prepare a dry place where the female will lay eggs in the future.

For proper mating, there must be only one boy and one girl in the aquarium. Otherwise, male turtles will fight, and they do it very aggressively - they bite their tails and paws to each other. After the female lays eggs, they must be transferred to an incubator - a container with sand. According to the scheme, it looks like a chicken incubator. The ideal temperature for ripening eggs is 25–27 ° C. For the turtle to be born on average, you need to wait about 5 months.

Incubator container

After hatching the babies, they don’t need to let them into the aquarium for adults, since the latter do not have maternal and paternal instinct, and they can attack turtles.

If the turtles are properly looked after, adhere to the recommendations on feeding, they will please the owners for more than a dozen years.