Turtles have always fascinated human beings. Older than homo sapiens by many millions of years, a turtle is the only vertebrate that carries its home on its back in the form of a shell that is actually part of its spine. Given this fascination for them, are turtles good pets? Are turtles easy to take care of?
Taking Care of a Turtle
Taking care of a turtle should be both simple and easy, depending on the species. One thing to keep in mind is that they are cold-blooded reptiles, so their enclosure needs to be kept at a certain temperature to keep them healthy. Another interesting fact is that a well-cared-for, healthy turtle can live a very long time. It’s not unusual for a turtle to live as long or longer than a human being, and owners might want to make provisions for their pet if they can no longer care for them.
There are close to 300 different kinds of turtles, but not every turtle is suitable as a pet. Specialists claim that the following species make the best turtle pets.
- Painted turtle
- Red-eared slider
- Mississippi map turtle
- Eastern box turtle
- African aquatic sideneck
- Central wood turtle
- Spotted turtle
- Caspian pond turtle
- Russian tortoise
- Greek tortoise
Some of these turtles can grow very large. For example, the Greek tortoise can grow a foot in length, so their ultimate size should be taken into account when choosing this turtle for a pet. And turtles never actually stop growing, but their growth rate slows down drastically once they reach maturity.
When it comes to food, some turtles are herbivores, while others eat both meat and plants. Still other turtles eat meat when they’re young but become herbivores as adults.
Enclosure and Environment
The size of the turtle’s enclosure is a factor to consider. Even if an owner gets a turtle when it’s very small, the enclosure needs to be as big as possible to accommodate their pet. Turtles need water and a lot of space to explore.
The enclosure should also mimic the turtle’s natural environment when it comes to light and air temperature. To make sure that the temperature stays consistent, it’s a good idea to keep a thermometer in the enclosure. Experts also recommend that the turtle be moved out in the sun once in a while.
Water, even if it’s in a shallow dish, needs to be kept filled and scrupulously clean. This means it needs to be changed frequently, especially if the turtle is aquatic. If this is problematic, owners should consider a different type of turtle such as a tortoise, which is terrestrial or land-dwelling, and doesn’t require as much water.
Meat-eating turtles will eat insects such as crickets, mealworms, tiny comet goldfish or commercial turtle food. Besides being terrestrial, tortoises are herbivores, so they should be fed fruit and vegetables and the fresher the better. Another good reason for having a turtle as a pet is that they don’t need to eat every day unless they’re very young and mostly aquatic. Grown turtles only need to be fed every other day or so.
A clean environment, including fresh water, good food and the right temperature and light will keep a turtle happy and healthy for decades.