sliders are semiaquatic turtles which means they can live
in water AND on land. If you look at your turtle's rear
feet you will notice that its webbed feet are perfect
for pushing water. The slider shell is considerably more
flat and smooth, which reduces resistence as they swim,
than those of non-aquatic turtles which have more highly
general, they remain in the water 70% of the time and
on land 30% of the time. These hardy turtles will spend
time on land, or any dry material such as a log, to bask
in the sun. Like all reptiles, turtles need a range of
temperatures to aid in digestion. Sunlight provides the
necessary heat, UV-A and UV-B wavelengths which helps
the turtle's body to produce and metabolize vitamins and
other reasons for out of water activity on land include:
the travel of hatchlings overland from a terrestrial nest
to water, travel by the female to a nesting site, movement
to and from hibernation site or alternate feeding areas,
departure from an unsuitable habitat and travel by males
in search of females.
prefer lakes, slow moving rivers, small streams and even
man made canals with submerged and floating vegetation
where it has been observed that they hunt by poking their
heans into the plants to scare out prey like small fish,
water bugs, and small frogs and tadpoles. Turtles may
also practice neustophagia during which they will skim
the top of the water with their mouths open, forcing water
out of their nostrils and jaws and eating the remaining
algae and duckweed.
will spend time in shallow water and in clumps of dense
floating vegetation. They can cling to the vegetation
to rest, and access the surface while remaining camouflaged.
Aquatic vegetation is also home to baby fish and aquatic
bugs all of which are easy prey for the turtle. I suspect
that shallow water will have higher temperatures which
will heighten baby turtle metabolism which will increase
digestion and growth.
grown turtles will spend time in deeper water to hunt
bigger prey. Another interesting reason why adult females
may avoid shallow water is that their size and weight
will make them more slow and vulnerable to predators.
most ideal home for a full grown slider is an enclosed
escape proof and predator proof pond. If you cannot build
a pond at this time there are other alternatives such
as wading pools (find the deep collapsible kind rather
than the rigid and shallow) and livestock watering troughs.
Sturdy plastic containers designed for outdoor use such
as those made by Toter.com can be buried in the ground
to make a mini pond for your friend.
sliders may be housed in large rubbermaid storage containers.
most common home for pet turtles are fish tanks.
my turtle's habitat has been upgraded to a Waterland
I moved I didn't have a chance to acquire a glass
tank nor a waterland tub so I constructed a temporary
enclosure using office cubes, a rubbermaid tub
and some baby blankets. As long as you provide
your turtle with hiding areas it will not try
to escape (remember the trick is to make your
pet feel SECURE). Again, this setup was temporary
and lacked adequate swim space---I just wanted
to demonstrate that creative solutions are possible
when you are desperate.
or Acrylic Tank
I have used both. The biggest tank I currently own is
made of glass.
Acrylic tanks, especially the seamless ones, are worry
free in terms of leaks. In fact, many acrylic tanks come
with warranties of some kind which pertain directly to
leaks. However, many acrylic tanks are designed for built
in trickle filters which may prevent you from installing
proper lighting, heating or basking structure for your
turtle. Acrylic tanks also require special cleaning pads
which will not scratch the surface. However, if you DO
find an acrylic tank which will function without the water
filled to the top then go for it!
Dimensions & Stand & Water Depth
Get the largest tank you can find! Keep in mind that proper
tank stand may easily cost twice as much as the tank.
Unless you are an experienced aquarium stand builder you
MUST buy a proper stand otherwise you may wake up one
morning with your turtle on the carpet.
Many fish tanks are too narrow for a turtle to comfortably
Try to choose a tank which is twice as wide as the length
of your turtle's shell that way it can swim comfortably.
For adult turtles fill the water as high as possible---adult
turtles are excellent swimmers. Remember you are caring
for an animal which can live in a deep lake. Hatchling
turtles on the other hand, should have water as high as
the length of their shell. As they grow, increase the
water depth so they can exercise and develop bone density.
Where to Place the Tank
Keep your tank away from direct sunlight which will encourage
rapid algae growth and cause the tank to overheat. Drafts
may lower your turtle's basking area temperature. Never
place a glass or acrylic tank in direct sunlight as it
is equivalent to leaving a child in a car on a hot day.
My turtle seems to enjoy watching people so his home is
in our living room. By making the tank your household's
center of attention you may observe your turtle's behavior
and quickly spot illness and detect habitat problems.
For example, my turtle broke a submersible glass heater.
I walked by and noticed the light in the heater flickering
and immediately unplugged the device. If the tank had
been in a low traffic area, the heater may electrocuted
my green friend---or me. Note: I have since purchased
an unbreakable titanium heater.
Water Quality & Filtration
Your shelled friend is living in a closed system in which
the water he drinks is also the water in which he poops
and pees. So all the rules of water quality in fish keeping
are the same for turtles. I use tap water treated with
chlorine neutralizer. During partial water changes I add
ammo-lock. Ammonia is a substance which is produced from
animal waste and rotting food---it can easily kill fish
and may have long-term negative effects on your turtle's
shell, skin and eyes.
keep tank water clean you will need a filtration system.
In the past, I have used a hanging power filter with minimal
success. It would clog and overflow by the middle of the
week. Remember, many filters are designed for fish. The
external hanging filter produced a constant noisy water
fall because I did not fill the water to the top of the
tank due to the basking structure. Now, that I have a
bigger and deeper tank I have to use (2) 301 Aquaclear
power heads attached to (2) Lee's Triple Flow corner filters.
I load each corner filter with filter pads and a filter
mesh bag filled with carbon.
have recently upgraded to a MAGNUM 350. It was easy to
install and has consistently kept the water crystal clear.
I highly recommend this canister filter.
the left is a filter mesh bag filled with carbon
and ammo-lock carbon. If you wish to preserve
the beneficial bacteria in the carbon be sure
to keep the bag in a bucket of the original
tank water. Once the tank is filled with new
water dechlorinate it and then place in the
carbon. The bottom line is, chlorine will kill
the good bacteria.
cork has been soaked in hot water and will be
placed in the sun to dry.
Lee's Triple Flow Corner filter is being loaded
with new filter mesh.
three different artificial light and heat sources
to choose from
the hood to the right has a ceramic socket to
accomodate the high temps of the mercury vapor
black box is the electric ballast.
mentioned earlier sunlight and heat are crucial for your
turtle's health. Bodily functions such as digestion and
shell growth depend on the right combination of sunlight
and heat. The most ideal situation is if your turtle was
housed in an outdoor pond and enclosure where it can bask
finalizing your light and heating arrangement in your
friend's home you must first purchase a reptile thermometer.
Place the thermometer exactly where your turtle will sit
and turn on the lamp. If the temperature reaches 90-92
degrees then you are set! Ultimately, the goal is to provide
a range of temperatures for
your pet. The long piece of cork under the lamp allows
my turtle to move farther or closer to the heat source.
Another added benefit of using cork as a basking platform
is that the rough surface allows air to circulate beneath
the turtle's body drying the plastron.
setup you decide on always remember to secure the hoods,
clamps and check on electrical outlets. If you live in
an earthquake prone region, be sure to invest in secure
clamps and a timer or turn on the lights whenever you
T-Rex Day Bulb is to the left
Mercury Vapor Bulb is to the right
your turtle is housed indoors please consider the suggestions
Active UV & Heat Electronically Ballasted Mercury
the name suggests, the bulb emits the necessary UV and
heat. It requires a 10 inch diameter dome hood with a
ceramic fixture and usually comes with a ballast which
plug into the outlet. Initially, you will consider this
to be the most expensive arrangement but compare it to
option 2 and you will realize the value. The most important
reason why I have settled on the mercury vapor lamp is
the research that has been devoted to measuring its UV
output and the many testimonials I have read from reptile
keepers not affiliated with the company. In some cases
sick iguanas owe their recovery from Metabolic Bone Disease
(MBD) to this light bulb. It is recommended that you replace
the bulb once every six months.
Zoo Med/Iguana Fluorescent & T-Rex Day Blue Bulb
The Zoo Med or Iguana Fluorescent needs its own separate
hood. Be sure the hood and bulb are compatible. Zoo Med/Iguana
is supposed to emit the necessary UV wavelenghs while
the T-Rex Day Blue Bulb, which requires a separate dome
hood, provides heat. Thus, I had 2 bulbs and 2 hoods going
at the same time. Besides, the clutter and need for additional
outlets I could never remember which bulb needed to be
Nothing beats real sunlight. Whenever, possible I allow
my turtle to bask in real sunlight. My turtle's good health
is due to the combination of option 1 + 3 and 2 + 3...
but never only solely on bulbs. Please read the Socialization
and Exercise section for more information.
some of the equipment needed to keep one turtle
happy. I usually don't need to use all the buckets
on a weekly basis. Note: the 2 shallow white buckets
are used as a feeding container and a place to keep
small parts during cleaning.
some creativity and planning, maintaining your turtle's
home can be quite easy.
Some tools to use are the Python No
Spill Clean and Fill System or the Jelinek.com Super
Safety Siphon, which is comprised of a submersible pond
pumb and pvc pipes. You may want to purchase a regular
gravel vacuum for small clean up jobs as well.
starting any clean up job be sure to unplug the submersible
heater at least 30 minutes before emptying the tank
and turn off all lighting equipment.
the left is the Jelinek Super Safety Siphon pumping
out water (green hose). Water is being rotated into
the tank via the orange garden hose. I placed a
large blue bucket beneath the setup to catch any
system you choose you will need to purchase:
fine mesh net to be used daily to scoop poop the net
should be disinfected in hot water as often as you
tooth brushes and chemical free sponges to scrub tank
and filter parts. Chemical free sponges may be purchased
at aquarium stores. Another handy tool is a brush attached
to string, also available at aquarium stores. This inexpensive
tool will allow you to thoroughly clean any tubing especially
those used with canister filters.
1-2 small buckets for small clean
up jobs and tank refills
1 shallow bucket to separate filter
parts from other tank items such as rocks (a shallow
bucket can also be used as a separate feeding container)
one large bucket to clean large tank
items such as bricks, ramps and rocks (a large and
deep bucket is necessary so that all items can be
soaked in hot water)
water change system you choose, it may also be handy
to get a sheet of plastic to place beneath the buckets
to protect your carpet from minor leaks. I use an old
your tank has a cork ramp I recommend weekly disinfection
with hot water and allow it to dry in the sun.
the left are the larger tank objects being disinfected
with hot water.
tank is placed in the living room, thus the garden hoses
are able to transport the dirty water from the tank
to the front yard. If you cannot dispose of the dirty
water outside you may pour it down the toilet and thoroughly
clean the toilet. Turtle water may carry various bacteria
and even salmonella so if it all possible avoid disposing
the water in a kitchen or bathroom sink.
One month before your departure, research
airlines which will allow you to keep your turtle in
the plane cabin. More than one phone call to the airline
should be expected. Always keep track of who you spoke
to and which department he or she represents. Most likely
you will need to speak to someone in the customer relations
department. If the airline is adamant to research their
policy on live animals, be sure to mention that the
animal will be in a secure carrier and will have the
appropriate health certificate. During several phone
calls I repeatedly received a "no" as an answer
but finally received a positive answer from someone
higher up in the airline who took the time to examine
their policy on live animals. Always ask for the exact
fee you will have to pay for your special carry on and
what means of payment are acceptable. I paid an additional
$75.00 at the airport using a credit card. Be sure to
ask for the dimensions of the area beneath the seat
so you can purchase the appropriate sized carrier. Once
you received an okay to take your turtle on board the
plane, ask for a formal letter and confirmation number.
Airlines may assign a special number to your turtle
and electronically attach the record to your ticket.
schedule a health examination for your turtle with a
qualified veterinarian. Request a Certificate for Interstate
or International Movement of Small Animals. You should
contact your state's Department of Food and Agriculture.
It is also a good idea to get a photocopy of your pet's
entire health record from the vet's office as well.
called the hotel and spoke directly to the manager regarding
my turtle. Fortunately, my turtle did not fit the hotel's
no dog and cat policy so the manager allowed me to house
my pet in my room. I made sure to print out a sign to
attach to my turtle enclosure requesting that hotel
staff not handle the animal. Please be courteous to
the hotel staff and the guests who will be occupying
the room afterwards by not housing your turtle in the
bath tub or sink. I carried a square plastic container
with me. Therefore, my turtle did not eat, drink, nor
relieve himself in places which may spread salmonella.
I simply poured the dirty water into the toilet.
purchased a 17"x12"x8" Cabin Kennel,
the smallest of its kind, which easily fit under the
airplane's seats. The carrier was big enough to carry
a flexible and thin binder which had the appropriate
travel and health documents.
kennel was a bit too big for my turtle so I placed a
tupperware container inside the carrier. The container
was necessary because the airholes would have allowed
my turtle to stick out his arms and legs. Before departure,
I witheld food from my turtle for one day so he would
not poop during travel. Up until 3-4 hours before travel,
the turtle had access to water. I dried and cushioned
the turtle in a small towel and placed him in the container.
Whatever you do be sure that the turtle is secure and
does not have too much space to move around.
new X-ray machines at the airports may be dangerous
to living creatures. As soon as it is your turn to pass
through the detectors and x-ray machines explain your
situation, carry your turtle and have the carrier go
through the x-ray machine like any other piece of luggage.
You and your turtle will walk through the metal detectors.
I also carried a pair of plastic gloves which I slipped
on as soon as I needed to handle my turtle.
aboard the plane, my turtle did not scratch the container
nor did he try to climb out of his carrier because he
was well cushioned and not distracted by anything outside
his carrier. As soon as I arrived at the hotel after
7 hours of travel, I immediately allowed my slider to
soak in lukewarm water and offered him food.
is always helpful to keep a three ring binder with dividers.
Label the sections as follows:
When, where and from whom you adopted the turtle.
If you purchased the turtle from a store then be sure
to retain the receipt and business card.
Keep all veterinary receipts in this section. If the
clinic assigns patient id numbers then be sure to write
Vets usually measure and weigh animals during regular
checkups. Be sure to record these numbers to track the
growth of your animal.
If you order basic first aid equipment such as a Betadine
or Nolvasan (topical skin and wound cleansers) then
file the receipts in this section.
List foods which are recommended for turtles. Then list
your turtle's favorite foods. If you need to leave your
turtle with someone else then this information is critical.
Keep all other records of expenses in this section.
For example if you need to order a replacement bulb
but you discarded the packaging then at least you can
refer to the receipt. If possible cut out a portion
of the packaging which has the watts and volts. I can't
remember how many times I went to the pet store and
picked out the wrong fluorescent bulb.
Record websites addresses and books you have found helpful.
What would you do if you won the lottery? Upgrade your
turtle's habitat ofcourse. For example, I would love
to build a pond for my turtle. So I have made a list
of supplies I may need. If you currently have a basking
light and UVB bulb and you wish to upgrade to a Mercury
Vapor Lamp then this is where to list the stores you
have found the item and the cost.
Take pictures of your turtle from various angles and
note unique physical features of your turtle. Ever seen
a lost dog or cat flyer? You should always be prepared
and have id photos ready if your turtle decides to go
"exploring". I took a picture of my setup
to show to my turtle's doctor so she may give additional
advice. You can even make a mini album to store online
or take it to reptile conventions to give ideas to other