Before You Go to the Pet Store
It is late September as we start to write this tour. Many of our turtles outside are hard to find because we have had many cool nights here in Pennsylvania; most of the turtles have stopped eating. We are making preparations for hibernation by preparing our leaf pile. We have put away our incubator for the year. And all across the land people are finding baby turtles; we know we hear from many of them. Baby turtles will be found well into the winter months.
It is common for people to pick up baby turtles to help them survive whether they intend to keep them as long term pets or to simply help them survive the coming winter. Many of these people make a quick trip to a pet store before doing their homework. Then when they do search the internet, they find TurtleTails.com and we get email. This tour is intended to help new pet turtle owners make more informed purchases. Long time turtle owners may also benefit from our ideas.
If you did make a trip to a pet store and you made purchases you are less satisfied with after reading this tour, consider returning to the pet store to exchange the items you purchased. That means we must discuss aquariums which we will do. But first lets discuss baby turtles.
Baby turtles that emerge from a nest in late summer, fall, or winter get off to a slow start. Many do not travel far at all. Many will not eat until spring. If you do find a turtle, any turtle at any time of the year, know that you have time on your side. Perhaps the only immediate need you must deal with is providing water and humidity. Water is obvious. Do also provide a temporary container with a substrate that is moist like damp leaves or soil. An empty bowl or box is like the ultimate dry desert especially during the heating season.
So you have a new turtle and it is contained in something temporarily. You have found TurtleTails.com and you are doing your homework. Good! Read all the articles on the Raising Baby Turtles page and all the articles on the Backyard Turtles page as you have time. These behind-the-scenes tours are presented chronologically as they were written and not in any step-by-step order. If you do read most of them you will understand that the place to start is not in a pet store but rather at home.
Whether you are
about to set up an aquarium or vivarium, some of the most useful items
you will ever use are probably in your kitchen or storage area. When you
identify an item like a hand towel or dish towel, we recommend taking your
old one for the turtles and purchasing a new one for your use rather than
using the new one for the turtles. That makes sense doesn't it.
22: How Much Space for Pet Turtles we explain that we only use 20 gallon
long aquariums and 30 gallon breeder aquariums. We want the most floor
space for the volume (capacity stated in gallons) since we never fill aquariums
with much water anyway. This is even more important when setting up a vivarium.
We also recommend experimenting. That is why a used aquarium from a thrift
store or yard sale is a good place to start. Your turtle will than test
your experiment and tell you what works for him. Do not worry about upsetting
your turtle during this time. Your new turtle has already begun adapting
and will continue to adapt. This is no different than bringing a new dog
or cat into your home. This is simply a period of adjustment.
Once a turtle uses
the water, we call it "turtle dip". Turtle dip is water enriched with turtle
poop. Most turtles in a vivarium will poop in the water and aquarium turtles
have no choice. Whether you see poop or no, it is turtle dip. There are
water treatments to help break down the poop, but you can not stop the
natural biological processes anyway so why spend money on treatments. Treatments
do not remove dirt and filters only trap some of it.
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A special note here
for new turtle owners. You may read about the dangers turtles pose by carrying
salmonella. Turtles are no different than any caged animal that may step
in its own poop or swim in "turtle dip". Any animal's poop may carry salmonella.
Whenever you handle turtles and turtle items, you must follow some simple
rules. While your hands are contaminated, do not touch your face, nose,
eyes, or food for people. Yes that means that kids should not kiss their
turtles. Do not eat while your hands are contaminated. Use your turtle
towels while your hands are contaminated. After you are done, wash your
hands with a soap containing antibacterial agents. Turtle towels are not
to be used for drying your hands after you wash them.
We do not wash our
hands before handling our turtles.
For larger poop the useful tool is also found in the kitchen, a small wire screen sieve. Again, we recommend taking an old one for use with the turtles and putting the new one to use in the kitchen. Aquarium fish nets can also be used.
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And where do you
empty your pooper scooper. Any old plastic food container or drink cup
will do. You can either discard them often or use them over and over.
water scoop and sponge:
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You may not find
the ideal bottle for making a scoop when you want to make one. Since this
is a free item you can always make new scoops as better bottles become
available. There is room for more than one size scoop too. With enough
water you can clean out almost any plastic bottle good enough for use with
your turtles. After washing it out, let it dry completely in the sun and
then inspect it for residue. It should be totally clean and free of any
strong smells. If you are not sure it is clean enough, fill it with water
and let it set for a day and dry it again.
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in a small container:
We do not measure the bleach we are using when making a solution of bleach in water. We usually just skirt some bleach into a little water for cleaning and disinfecting. For killing insects in a vivarium, we use about one part bleach to eight parts water. Bleach does its work in less than a minute.
Use bleach with care since it will burn skin and discolor clothing. Rinse items with clean water after the bleach solution. Bleach does not leave a residue so allow the item to dry before using if you have any concern about remaining bleach.
If we have a sick turtle in an aquarium or vivarium, the turtle is isolated. Then we clean the tank and all items in it and rinse everything with a bleach solution. After the turtle is well and placed back in its tank, the container it was isolated in is cleaned and rinsed with a bleach solution. If you use gravel in an aquarium, it can be disinfected with bleach too.
Outside we use bleach
straight from the bottle to kill ants. Ants are frequently a problem at
turtle feeding stations and we don't like to see the ants become too numerous.
We pour it into the ants holes. Since it leaves no residue, there are not
toxic chemicals left lingering in the turtles' environment.
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Yes we use brushes
to clean turtles too. Baby snapping turtles hatch with flaky stuff similar
in appearance to algae on their shells. This can be removed by gently scrubbing
them with a toothbrush and water. More than one scrubbing may be necessary.
All our other turtles are scrubbed with a brush and water from time to
time. In addition to looking better, it allows us to better look at their
conditions. Keep in mind that these are domesticated turtles who are used
to putting up with us. The only turtle that really objects is our snapping
turtle who prefers to be covered with mud but that does not stop us.
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If you have turtles outside, you know how often they ask for food, almost every time they see you. We like to keep jars of turtle food handy in or near each pen. Plastic peanut butter and mayo jars are ideal for this purpose since they close tightly enough to keep rain and moisture out. The trick is to place the jars where they will no be exposed to direct sun light. Direct sun will draw moisture out of the food which then condenses on the sides of the jar which causes the food to get moldy. We keep jars of food under day lilies next to our pond.
pots and planters:
So before you go
out and purchase plastic stuff for your aquarium or vivarium, check out
what you may have setting around that you can experiment with. You may
have bonsai planters or oddly shaped flower pots you can put to use. You
may even have some that are complete with plants.
If you have a common
inexpensive household item you use for your turtles that you would like
to share with us, send us an email. We are always looking for new ideas
to use and share with our readers. You do not have to have pictures of
your idea. We learn from each other.
We hope we have given you some ideas and that you enjoyed our behind-the-scenes tour.
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