8. Maintenance and care of turtles at home
There are several ways to keep turtles: free, in terrariums or in specially equipped enclosures. Choose a method based on the characteristics of this species, its requirements for ambient temperature, the presence of nearby water, etc. In other words, having bought a turtle, you must know in which region this species lives in natural conditions, as well as the tortoise is captured at large or was born in captivity.
An important role in choosing a healthy turtle is played by its appearance. The first step is to carefully examine the skin of the animal for parasites. To do this, the turtle should be laid on a table or other surface covered with white cloth or paper, and carefully inspected. Ticks most often hide in folds of skin near the tail, on the neck, sometimes around the eyes. On water turtles leeches often parasitize.
The tortoiseshell needles should be the same in length, and there should be no horny growths on the front of the head that prevent it from eating. You should also pay attention to the correct shape and strength of the shell. A deformed or too soft shell may indicate illness or malnutrition.
In an adult, normally developed animal, both carapace and plastron should be motionless and solid, without damage and scratches, and also without spots that do not correspond to the natural color of this species. The cornea is firmly attached to the skeleton. The shell shields of a healthy animal should be even and fit snugly against each other.
In many ways, the behavior of the animal depends on the ambient temperature. If in a well-warmed-up room the tortoise sits calmly, without moving, drawing its head in, this may be a sign that it is sick. A healthy animal moves, is examined in an unfamiliar environment, and when approaching it immediately hides its head in a shell.
The eyes of a healthy animal are easy to open, not glued, clean, without swelling and secretions. If the eyes are sunken and surrounded by a narrow recess, then this may be evidence of dehydration of the body of the turtle. There should be no spots or cracks on the skin.
It is recommended to pay attention to the behavior of the turtle, the coordination of its movements. The lethargy and lethargy of the animal can be signs of the disease. It is also necessary to listen to the sounds made by the turtle. It should be remembered that breathing should be silent, without wheezing and extraneous sounds. Sometimes in unusual circumstances, these animals begin to snort, so it’s best to wait until the turtle calms down.
A healthy turtle, if you take it in hand, will certainly resist, waving its paws. Raising the turtle, it is recommended to keep her head to her, as, having become agitated, she can give you a stream of urine or feces.
In order to determine whether the tortoise is suffering from a lack of weight, you need to pick it up and compare its weight with the weight of relatives from the same group.
When purchasing several turtles, one must remember that males often behave aggressively towards each other, since in nature they have to defend their territory.
Experts believe that keeping turtles in an ordinary city apartment is necessary in a terrarium, since free movement can lead to overcooling of an animal, injuries and illnesses.
Water turtles contained in the terrarium can also conflict with each other, so you need to prepare a fairly spacious room for them in advance.
After the turtle is selected, it must be delivered home. By the time the pet appears in the house, a place for it should already be ready. a corral or terrarium. It is best to carry turtles in a regular cardboard box, on the bottom of which a layer of crumpled paper is laid.
If it is cold outside, it is recommended to put a heating pad on the bottom of the box.
Most owners of turtles do not know how to handle these animals, and reptiles often die from improper maintenance.
Some types of land turtles, while moving freely, remain absolutely healthy. The main thing with free keeping is to be careful not to touch the animal and not step on it.
In addition, the apartment should be warm enough so that the animal does not catch a cold. It is good if your house or apartment has underfloor heating.
However, for most tropical and freshwater species of turtles, free keeping is absolutely unacceptable, since these animals require special conditions and treatment.
Keeping clean in an apartment with a free-living turtle is not a big problem: cleaning it is even easier than cleaning a cat. It is best to feed the turtle in a specific place, laying a piece of paper or oilcloth on the floor so that the animal does not stain the floor. Over time, the turtle will come to this place when she wants to eat.
In spring and autumn, when the heating does not work, and it is cold outside, it is advisable to move the turtle overnight to a special paddock or heated terrarium. Many types of turtles become sluggish when the temperature drops and can hibernate prematurely.
The advantage of free keeping is that turtles are not constrained by anything, they can move in any direction and do whatever they want. It has been observed that with free keeping in turtles the reproductive instinct is more common than with keeping in a terrarium.
It is necessary to protect the turtle from the dangers that may await it in the apartment. You need to remove all the small objects that the turtle can eat and try to limit its access to places where it can damage something to itself. Often turtles crawl into any gaps between the furniture and then can not get out on their own, so you need to constantly monitor them.
If there are enough places in your apartment that are dangerous for the animal, it is best not to leave the turtle free when you leave home for a long time.
If you go out of town in the summer, you can take the turtle with you. For her, this will be very useful, since at the summer cottage she will be able to find the plants she needs and breathe in fresh air.
The main thing in this case is not to lose your pet. So that the animal can be easily found in the grass, a bright ribbon or balloon is glued to its shell with tape. Before releasing a turtle, you need to make sure that it will not be able to get out of the fence of the site.
If the owner does not have the opportunity to take the turtle to the summer cottage in summer, you can arrange a terrarium on the balcony.
The walls of the terrarium should be high enough. The optimum height is 1 m above the floor. Coarse sand should be poured into the bottom of the terrarium. In the corner you need to make a canopy of cardboard or fabric. It is advisable to arrange a pond on the same level with the floor so that the turtle can swim.
For most turtles, this way of keeping is most preferable, since in the terrarium it is possible to create conditions that are closest to natural.
For turtles, it is recommended to select horizontal terrariums; vertical and cubic are more suitable for woody reptiles. The climate in the terrarium can be dry, moderately humid, humid.
It is best if the terrarium is constructed from plexiglass, as ordinary glass does not have sufficient strength and a large turtle can damage or break it.
Regardless of the type, the terrarium should be equipped with lighting, heating and ventilation systems.
The presence of lighting in the terrarium is necessary, since turtles need a fairly long daylight hours for active life. 8-12 hours, depending on the time of year. For lighting, you can use fluorescent lamps with a power of 15, 20 or 40 watts. The length of the lamps should correspond to the length of the wall of the terrarium on which they will be installed. Most types of turtles need ultraviolet radiation, so it is recommended to install in the terrarium not only ordinary lamps, but also lamps with a UV region of the spectrum.
It is necessary to place the sources of ultraviolet radiation inside the terrarium or directly above it, since glass traps most of the ultraviolet rays.
Terrarium lamps vary in intensity and color quality. Color quality is determined by the color temperature measured by Kelvin, as well as the color rendering index. With a high index, the color rendering of the lamp approaches the natural light, which is very important for reptiles. With such lighting, the color of the turtles will be more intense and natural. Especially important for turtles are the quality characteristics of ultraviolet lamps. The ultraviolet wave spectrum is divided into two zones: the ultraviolet A zone (UVA) with a wavelength of 320-400 nm and the ultraviolet B zone (UVB) with a wavelength of 290-320 nm. UVA acts as a biological stimulant, promotes the manifestation of mating behavior in captivity and supports the health of turtles in the norm.
UVB stimulates the synthesis of provitamin D3 in the body of turtles, which then under the influence of heating turns into vitamin D3. over, the finished vitamin D3, added to food, does not have the same effect on the body as the vitamin obtained by ultraviolet radiation, which confirms the need to install ultraviolet lamps in a terrarium.
Currently, there are several varieties of lamps designed specifically for terrariums. The main requirement for such lamps is the full spectrum of radiation, in which the color temperature should be about 5500 ° K, and the color rendering index should be at least 90. The distribution of spectral intensity and the usual
the ultraviolet light of such a lamp should be as close as possible to natural light at noon in clear weather.
When choosing a lamp, you should pay particular attention to these indicators, since recently a lot of lamps have appeared that are advertised as full-spectrum lamps, but do not have the necessary characteristics. Often this term is called ordinary fluorescent lamps that do not give white light, as well as incandescent lamps, in the glass of which an element of neodymium is added. These lamps do not have the required quality of light and cannot stimulate the production of vitamin D3 in reptiles.
Often black ultraviolet lamps are installed in the terrarium, which emit a sufficient amount of UVA, but a fairly low level of UVB. Blue ultraviolet lamps in their parameters practically do not differ from black ones.
Install full-spectrum lamps at a distance of about 60 cm from the location of the animal in order to protect the turtle from burns. A greater distance is impractical because the lamps lose radiation intensity when removed. Heating elements for heating the terrarium can be placed below or inside it. For heating, you can use incandescent lamps or heating cords, stretched under the ground.
When installing the heating system, it is necessary to create a small temperature difference in the terrarium so that the turtle can independently choose the place where it feels best.
For heating, you can use lamps with mirror coating, which are sent to a place, and the rest of the terrarium remains outside the heating zone.
In order to avoid overheating of the terrarium, it is recommended to connect all heating devices through an automatic temperature controller.
In addition to heating and lighting systems, the terrarium must have a ventilation system, since the lack of fresh air often leads to various diseases. In the absence of ventilation, additional difficulties may arise when breeding turtles.
Ventilation holes should be made in the walls of the terrarium and in its cover. It is recommended to tighten them with a net so that the animal does not get out. The size of the holes depends on what humidity should be maintained in the terrarium. If the terrarium is very large, with a volume of more than 1000 liters, conventional ventilation openings will not be enough and you need to install an exhaust fan.
The terrarium device for aquatic turtles differs from the terrarium for terrestrial. Inside it must be a place for a reservoir. You can divide the room for turtles into two parts using a plexiglass partition. A pond is arranged on one half, and soil is poured on the other. The partition can be either permeable or impermeable to water. Some species of these animals prefer moist soil, while others, on the contrary, require a completely dry substrate. Given these features, you need to arrange a partition.
Freshwater turtles, especially young ones, can be kept not only in the terrarium, but also in the aquarium. Frameless glued plexiglass structures are best suited for them.
The size of the aquarium depends on the age and size of the animal.
a. with an unshared body of water and shore;
b. with a hanging island;
The choice of plants for landscaping the terrarium for land turtles depends entirely on the climate of your pet’s habitat. For example, in a terrarium with a desert turtle, xerophyte plants that are resistant to high temperatures should be planted, residents of the tropics will like warm and moisture-loving plants such as ficus, philodendron, bromeliad.
Close attention should be paid not only to plants for the terrarium, but also to the methods of planting them: directly on the soil surface, in pots, specially decorated boxes, fixing epiphytic plants on a moss pillow, on suspended structures or branches.
To maintain a constant temperature in the aquarium or terrarium, you can use an aquarium heater with a temperature controller, which is completely immersed in water.
It is advisable to place the glass case of the heater inside the stainless steel casing with holes, after having put on it several ringlets made of a rubber hose so that it does not break. The heater should be positioned at the bottom, it is advisable to cover it with stones or fix it with glue so that the turtles could not damage it. It is not recommended to use heating cords, as turtles can easily tear or bite them.
Some species of freshwater turtles swim rather poorly, so the water tank in the terrarium should be shallow.
When cleaning the aquarium or terrarium, the heater must be turned off and then turned on again. To control the temperature, you should install thermometers, two are best: one for measuring temperature on land, the other in water. In no case should mercury thermometers be used, since turtles can break them and be poisoned by mercury.
You can use alcohol, safer, but the best option is a liquid crystal, attached to the glass of the aquarium from the outside. They are the most accurate, but suffer from a significant drawback. the lack of moisture resistance.
Water should be poured into the aquarium for one day. Needless to say, terrariums, aquariums and pens must be cleaned regularly to prevent the growth of bacteria that can lead to animal disease. In addition, the excrement of turtles, if not promptly removed, decays and gives off an unpleasant odor.
Young turtles grow much faster if the water in the terrarium is often cleaned or replaced.
It is advisable to change the water in the terrarium or aquarium daily, but this is not always possible. Currently, there are various filters for aquariums. Using them, you can change the water once every few days.
Simple internal filters with sponges are best used in small aquariums. In shallow aquariums, these filters can be placed on their sides so that they are completely immersed in water.
Simple filters allow you to trap large particles of dirt, and they can also act as low-power biological filters. For spacious aquariums with a volume of 120-150 liters, which contain large turtles, filters will be required that pump 8-10 volumes of water per hour. For this, portable canister-type filters are suitable. They place filler (plastic or ceramic balls, tubes or cubes). Such a filter quite effectively purifies water in aquariums.
It is possible to protect the filter tubes from damage by fencing off a small area near the wall with a plexiglass partition, and the partition should not go to the bottom. Behind the partition, you can place not only the filter tubes, but also temperature sensors, as well as other devices.
Plant placement options in the terrarium
In addition to filters that clean water from dirt particles, biological filters are now increasingly being used. Their peculiarity is that they destroy nitrogen compounds dissolved in water with the help of bacteria that settle on filtering material with a large surface, such as sand, gravel, plastic tubes or balls.
A biological filter is usually a plate installed at the bottom with a large number of small holes, onto which gravel or coarse sand is poured with a layer of 4-5 cm, but for terrariums or aquariums containing turtles, this filter is not suitable. Turtles scatter sand when they dig at the bottom, resulting in areas that are not covered with gravel and form the filter.
As a biofilter, it is best to build an artificial shore with gravel poured on top 5-6 cm thick, and a pump is used to circulate water in the pond. A safety net must be put on the suction port of the pump to prevent foreign objects from entering the pump. At the inlet of the filter, it is recommended to install a foam sponge as a pre-filter that will trap dirt particles.
A soiled filter must be washed regularly, however, in no case should you use soap or detergent; it is best to rinse it under a strong stream of warm water. The biological filter filler should be cleaned if it is heavily contaminated only with clean water without chlorine so that beneficial bacteria do not die.