When you’re thinking of bringing a turtle home as your pet, there is definitely food for thought. What turtle would suit you ? Would your lifestyle suit the turtle ? What are the requirements before buying a turtle ? And so much more.What makes it more difficult is that turtle choices stand on an individual basis i.e. what suits your neighbor might not be your thing. So therefore here are the points to ponder upon before bringing you beginner turtle home.
1. Indoor vs Outdoor :
One of the most critical decisions to make , in terms of your beginner turtle is whether should you go for an outdoor turtle or an indoor one. Though indoor is mostly recommended for beginners given the possibilities of escape, you can go for an outdoor one once you’re convinced. The pros and cons are listed :
a. Outdoor Enclosure :
- Size : Space provided should be large enough to ensure comfort for the turtle; large volume of water is recommended for waste dilution and to allow room for swimming, along with room for exercise and attractive visual appeal.
- Expenses : Custom ponds might prove to be costly due to filtration systems, which can be avoided in case you have plants.
- Labor : Labor and cost for the same is high, especially in case of in-ground concrete ponds.
- Climate : You can’t exercise complete control over the climatic conditions. A severely hot day or an unexpected frost can prove to be a disaster, in case your setup isn’t prepared or if your turtle can’t bear one of those. A good volume of water and sufficient shade must be present to provide buffer. Also, natural sunlight is better than a UV- bulb, mostly.
- Predators : Kids, adults, dogs, cats, foxes, minks,snakes,cranes, bull-frogs,raccoons,oppossum, skunks, coyotes, and so many more. Security, for your turtle can be a major issue.
- Temporary Use : You cannot possible let your turtles out all winter, where they can’t hibernate. So it’s important to ensure that you can boards your turtles inside in winter.
- Flooding : Is there’s a thunderstorm and your pond is flooded, what keeps the turtles from escaping. You need to check all possibilities before you’re good to go.
b. Indoor Enclosure :
- Size : There’s a wide variety to consider for the size of an indoor enclosure. At least 20 gallon long should be for hatchlings or a mud turtle, 55 gallons for one or two basking turtles would do.
- Expenses :Aquarium set ups can be expensive, depending on size. Plastic tubs and stock tanks are cheaper.
- Visibility : Aquariums provide you the benefit of horizontal side-on viewing which plastic tubs can’t match.
- Availability : The greatest advantage of an indoor enclosure is that you can watch over your pet 24×7, even at 4 am.
- Breakability : Glass aquariums can be shattered.
- Weight :Glass aquariums may weigh around 10-12 gallons, when filled. Be sure that your floor can handle the weight.
- Acrylic : Acrylic is prone to scratching and less breakable than glass.
2. Tortoise/ Box turtle vs everything else i.e. Land or water :
- Utilization of space : Huge outdoor enclosures require less maintenance but more space as compared to indoor enclosures. Indoor, on the other hand pose cleaning issues. Also, box turtles can only move horizontally and not vertically.
- Size : By turtle standards, most tortoises stay medium to large, only few are really small; Egyptian tortoise being an exception, stays really small.
- Dietary issues : Tortoises, mostly herbivorous, generally have a diet that is rarely producible, like grasses. Also, high protein diets, if fed, can lead to organ damage or serious deformities. Box turtles, semi-aquatics and aquatics mostly match with diet people can usually provide more easily.
- Tortoises: Majorly difficult to handle as they require appropriate diet with roughage, fiber and low proteins along with space needs and climatic requirements.
- Box turtles : They are better with an outdoor enclosure suitable for them to hibernate in. They are generally slow, clumsy and poor hunters.
3. Basking vs Bottom Walkers :
a. Basking Turtles : ( i.e. cooters, sliders, painteds or maps )
- Much less domed than box-turtles or snappers, more than softshells.
- These are mostly seen in ponds, lakes and rivers.
- Generally omnivorous with varying but significant herbivory.
- Babies tend to be vividly colored and adults somewhat so.
- They acclimate to humans vigorously, continuously beg for food by swimming at the tank wall, appearing enthusiastic and interactive.
- Easy to feed by hand and also from all levels of the water column.
b. Bottom Walkers : ( i.e mud and must turtles)
- Tend to have more drabber colors than baskers.
- Mud turtles are semi-terrestrial .
- Omnivorous with a strong carnivorous bent.
- Some of them are active before dawn and after dark(including mornings and evenings), in case you find that appealing.
- Hatchlings and young ones are generally very shy, take time to acclimate to humans.
- They generally feed close to or on the bottom.
- They beg for food and learn to hand-feed.
- Snappers and bottom walkers and large, generally not recommended for beginners.