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Author Topic: RED EAR SLIDERS and other turtles  (Read 9176 times)
i2canoe
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« on: December 18, 2007, 09:53:04 AM »

I have read and understand the position that turtles should not be kept as pets.
WOW – thinking that way would suggest it wrong to captivity keep any animals.
I think that attitude goes back to the industry practice of cheaply selling baby red-eared sliders or map turtles with the 4” deep - 12” round plastic turtle bowl with the green plastic palm tree.  Of course these poor creature were doomed to slow death.

Over the years I have enjoyed raising various turtles.
RED EAR SLIDERS – I have kept them well fed for years, outdoors in the summer in a very large tank fed earthworms.  I used to find these in the wild when I was a kid but don’t see them anymore.  I never felt bad wild releasing any I nurtured in those areas where I used to see them.  Figured after years of captivity being set free in the wild for a summer a wonderful reward and did so hope they would adapt and survive.
SNAPPERS – about twenty years ago I bought a pair of babies smaller then the size of a silver dollar.  They grew quickly, always ravenous and oh so dirty.  I kept them about 5 years but they became too much to handle.  I was feeding them raw chicken necks and legs in the end; they were extremely vicious and were always out growing my tanks.  It got to the point that when they were not feeding they would be harassing each other to the point of doing serious harm.  Apparently it is not legal to sell these animals as pets as they are native animals and not be poached from the wild.  Unable to sell or return these to a pet shop I wild released them.
SOFTSHELL – I kept one of these for years, I bought him for $30, the size of a ½ dollar.  Kept initially with tropical fish, growth and appetite required it’s own tank.  At 12” across I was forced to give him up.  The pet store bought him back, gladly, giving me $60 for him.  I watched him there for several months.  They priced him at $120 so I thought nobody would buy him.  When he was gone one day, I was told that the owner of an Asian restaurant had bought him.  I envisioned him in a beautiful display tank but was informed by the pet-store staff that buyer mentioned these are considered delicacies in his county.  . . . what a horror!

All that said, turtles are wonderful to study and watch grow.  Today pet stores in my area sell baby red ear sliders for about $26 a piece.  So the price rules out indiscriminant purchases and people willing to invest that kind of money will do a bit of research to understand the needs of growing turtles.

Once they understand that a turtle is a very dirty animal to keep, eats much, messily tearing apart its food and creating literally tons of waste, requiring very good filtration and frequent and massive water changes and decide they are willing to make the commitment to this and supplying a large enough housing there is no reason to deny the pleasure of keeping and observing these fascinating creatures.
« Last Edit: January 20, 2008, 11:10:56 PM by Debra » Logged
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« Reply #1 on: December 18, 2007, 10:06:55 AM »

I have a problem with your statements.  OF course there are some animals that we should not keep, what about sharks, they are sold but do many of the hobbyist have an adequate tank for them? 

And, you didn't have a problem releasing these animals you speak of because you didn't see any problems.  You could have been housing some type of virus or bacteria and your pets could have been carriers, you won't see the damage until it's too late.

Your post sounds to me that it's ok to keep any turtle because after all, if you can't afford to house it or you don't have time or for whatever reason you have, all you have to do is let it go or give it to a store.  That is not my idea of responsibility.  Where was your responsibility to these animals, didn't you realize that once you owned them, they were yours?

One more thing, state wildlife laws vary, what is legal for you may not be legal for everyone.

I do agree somewhat that turtles can be kept successfully by the right person in the right environment, does that usually happen, I think not.
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« Reply #2 on: December 18, 2007, 10:20:52 AM »

I must strenuously disagree with you on this issue. As your three examples above demonstrated, it is difficult to give the turtles you mentioned an adequte home and proper care for the extent of it's life in a normal home situation. It is irresponsible to release into the wild any animal that has lived the majority of it's life in captivity. When we take the responsibility to keep an animal as a pet, we must be willing and able to provide ALL of its needs for the extent of it's life; otherwise, we are irresponsible pet owners. The mindset that one can always release the animal or sell it back to the petstore is not in the best interests of the animal. In most places it is illegal to release animals purchased at a petstore into the wild.

I must also disagree that simply because someone pays a lot of money for an animal, that means they understand it's needs, have done research, and are able to provide adequately for it's care. We hear of problems every day, not just with aquatic animals, but with dogs, cats, rodents, you name it--because people have not done their research and are not willing to invest the time and effort into the animal that it needs. Adding to the problem are petstores who give turtles away free with the purchase of a setup (we have one of these in my area), which appeals to the throw away pet mindset. People who research the needs of the pet before they buy it are, sadly, in the minority. How many times have we heard someone say "I just bought such and such a pet. How do I take care of it??"

I don't think you truly understand the arguments against keeping a turtle in captivity, or you would not say that they apply across the board to keeping any animal in captivity. Many animals can have their needs met adequately in a home situation. Turtles usually do not--at least not by the average pet owner.
 
Below is an article on turtles written by a long time respected member of our community:

Dan's Turtle Essay

turtles almost always live an unhealthy and short life in an aquarium due to inadequate care. in my opinion and in the opinion of most herpetologists, turtles are not appropriate pets for those without a full understanding of the tremendous amount of care they require. The care and feeding is more complicated than is generally thought ---> daily maintenance of the enclosure, enclosure apparatus and feeding are alot of work. most people are dismayed to find that they can't just stick the turtle in a box or tank of water or let them loose in their yard, tossing lettuce to it once in a while.

Red-eared Sliders are unfortunately one of the most common types of turtles sold in pet stores here and abroad. These fresh water turtles spend much of their time in the warm waters of their native habitat. While they are strong underwater swimmers, these sliders spend much of the warmer hours of the day hauled out on logs or rocks (or, when very small, on marsh weeds and other aquatic plants) basking in the sun.

All sliders are omnivores, eating both animal protein and vegetable/plant matter. Younger turtles need up to 40% of their food from protein sources; adult turtles feed more heavily on vegetation. In the wild they begin by eating tiny fish and amphibian larva, water snails and a variety of plants growing in the water and on land.

It is illegal in the U.S. for pet stores to sell turtles less than four inches in length (this is problematic for those species whose full adult size is 4" or less!). The ones sold legally will be at least four inches long from the neck end of the carapace (top shell) to the tail end of the carapace. If male, it will be somewhere between 2-4 years old and already sexually mature. Wild females reach maturity later, between 5-7 years, and will then be over 5 inches in length; in captivity, females may reach maturity at about 3 1/2 years. You will be able to tell male from females: males are smaller than females in overall body size but have longer tails.

As with all wild-caught reptiles, the animals found in pet stores have been under stress for some time. As a result, they are most likely suffering from protozoan and bacterial infections, including Salmonella which is easily transmitted to young children. Additionally, they are usually emaciated and dehydrated due to long periods of time without food or water or being held in areas too cold to stimulate the appetite; many of these turtles will not eat when they are stressed or frightened and cannot eat when they are too cold.

All Sliders need both a warm, dry area and a large pool of warm water. In the wild, they choose water that warms up quickly in the sun each day. The water must be kept clean; rotting bits of food mixed with feces will combine to make an unhealthful habitat and a sick turtle. Turtles are messy eaters and defecate in their water, so cleaning needs to be a daily routine.

for juvenile turtles, at least a 30 gallon aquarium is necessary to start with to allow room for swimming. clean aquarium rock and gravel to build a slope up from the wet end (the pool) to the dry end (the land). Rough rocks should not be used as they can scratch turtle shells which allows bacterial and fungal infections to get started and penetrate into the turtle's body.

The water must be at least as deep as the turtle is long. If your turtle's carapace (the top shell) is 5 1/2 inches long, the pool that the turtle needs to swim in must be at least 5 1/2 inches deep. This will enable your turtle to swim around naturally. This also means that you will have to continue to increase the water area as your turtle grows.

Proper water filtering systems are necessary to keep the water fresh between your weekly changes. If you have a powerful filter system and you feed your turtle in another tank, you may be able to get away with replacing 25-50% of the water each week for two or three weeks, emptying and cleaning out the tank thoroughly every third or fourth week. Remember to replace the water with warm water.

The water temperature must be maintained between 75-86 degrees F. If you buy a submersible pre-calibrated heater, test it first and make sure the water is the proper temperature before you put your turtle in the water. Too cold and it won't eat; too hot and you'll cook it. Buy an aquarium thermometer and monitor the temperature regularly.

If the room the turtle is being kept in is always over 75 F, then you will only need to heat up a basking area. Using an incandescent light or spot light, allow the area closest to the light to reach 85-88 F. Make sure there is absolutely no way for the light to fall into the water or for the turtle to come into direct contact with the light bulb. Be aware that the light will heat up the water to a certain degree so be sure to monitor the water temperature. Young sliders, and any sick turtle, should be kept warmer (water temperatures between 82-85 F) than the average healthy adult. Sustained low temperatures (between 65-72 degrees) will cause turtles to stop feeding and respiratory infections may result.

If the room is not warm enough to provide the turtle with the proper air temperature gradient, you will need to supplement the heat, providing another source of heat which may be used day and night in addition to the basking light. One alternative is to use one of the new ceramic heat elements; these screw into regular incandescent sockets (preferably porcelain sockets), come in a variety of powers, and last a very long time.

Full-spectrum light is an essential part of the calcium metabolization process in turtles, and calcium deficiencies are very common in captive turtles. Many herpetoculturists use full-spectrum lights as, in addition to their importance in mineral metabolizing, they may have subtle psychological benefits such as improved appetite.

To ensure proper nutrition, strong growth and a healthy long-lived turtle, feed a varied diet to both adults and juveniles. remember that adults eat less animal protein and more vegetable matter. Juveniles must be fed every day; adults can be fed once every two to three days. Do not feed more than they can eat; the excess food will go to waste and foul the water.

Feed a combination of the following foods:
Commercial diets (No more than 25% of total diet): Trout Chow, commercial floating fish, reptile or turtle food (pellets, sticks or tablets). The pellets and sticks have the advantage of being formulated specifically for reptiles and don't decompose in the water as fast as other foods.

Animal Protein (No more than 25% of total diet). Live feeder fish -- do not feed frozen fish; they are deficient in thiamin and excess consumption will cause a thiamin deficiency in your turtle. Earthworms -- buy them from a reptile or aquarium store; do not feed the ones from your yard as they may contain bacteria, parasites and pesticides against which your turtle has no immunity. Finely chopped raw lean beef, beef heart and cooked chicken; raw chicken is too often riddled with salmonella. High quality dog kibble can be offered occasionally --dog and cat foods tend to be too high in fat and additives and so should not be used as the main source of protein.

Plant Matter (50% or more of total diet).
Offer leaves of dark leafy greens such as collard, mustard and dandelion greens. Offer shredded carrots (and carrot tops), squash and green beans. Thawed frozen mixed vegetables may be used occasionally, but care should be taken as some frozen green vegetables develop thiaminase which destroys that all-important B vitamin. Fruit can be offered raw; shred hard fruits like apples and melons, chopping soft fruits such as berries. To help keep their beak in trim, let them gnaw on pieces of cantaloupe with the (well washed) rind still attached.

Vitamin Supplements should be added twice a week. Use a good reptile or turtle multi-vitamin. Turtles must also be supplied with additional calcium; they often enjoy taking bites out of calcium blocks and gnawing on cuttlebone, so always have some available to them.

Watch your turtle for any signs of illness: cloudy, closed or swollen eyes; swollen cheeks; open mouth breathing; bubbly mucous around the nose or mouth; runny stools; loss of appetite; listlessness; spots appearing on plastron (bottom shell), carapace or body; soft shell or excessive shedding. Newly acquired turtles are under a lot of stress and may be riddled with bacterial or parasitical infections that may be passed along to you or your kids. Always take a sick turtle to a reptile veterinarian. Always take a sick turtle to a reptile veterinarian, and have your children checked out by their physician if they begin to exhibit any signs (nausea, stomach aches, vomiting).
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phatred
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« Reply #3 on: January 20, 2008, 04:38:56 PM »

I'm not quite sure why you people are saying these are hard to keeep? Aquarium fish are much harder to keep alive than turtles. I've had my turtle in some really crappy water when i was very young and didn't know any better. That turtle is now 16 years old and lives in a very clean 75g tank with an island and heating lamp. He is very easy to feed, he eats almost anything! His main diet consists of turtle pellets, but also eats: brine shrimp, veggies, deli sliced turkey or other lunch meat.
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« Reply #4 on: January 20, 2008, 05:12:09 PM »

We're saying that they SHOULD NOT be kept as pets. Hard to Keep, no...hard to keep properly, yes.
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phatred
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« Reply #5 on: January 20, 2008, 06:07:25 PM »

ok, but why not? what's the difference in keeping turtles and keeping fish?
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Emily
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« Reply #6 on: January 20, 2008, 06:37:24 PM »

So... I've been into the herp world lately (snakes). And naturally I've come across turtle enthuiasts/breeders. What I've learned is basically this.

They CAN be kept properly, and people who love them will do right by them, and raise very healthy turtles. However, most of these people are dedicated enthuiasts. Not to many of them are casual pet owners. And frequently they find themselves struggling with the questions of novice/casual keepers who do not meet the turtle's needs properly, and they do see a LOT of sickly turtles.

It takes dedication to care for any kind of animal properly... but it seems to me that turtles a.) require a lot of room and b.) a lot of specialized care. You could say that about any animal... but turtles seems to need it the most, and seem to suffer frequently from lack there of.

Can they be kept as pets? Sure - but it's a full time job. Will most people do what's neccesary to keep them properly? No - and at the cost of the animal's health.

Phatred, fish are much easier to keep then turtles. While aquarium fish may be more delicate, it's also easier to provide and ideal enviroment for them as opposed to turtles.

Edit: I think we're kind of misinterpereting Dan's words, by saying that "Turtles shouldn't be kept as pets - here's Dan's essay on why." (I know that I myself have said that, and it's not true.) He actually says: "In my opinion and in the opinion of most herpetologists, turtles are not appropriate pets for those without a full understanding of the tremendous amount of care they require."

My point is that there are people who fit that bill - just not many.
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phatred
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« Reply #7 on: January 20, 2008, 10:25:48 PM »

easier to provide ideal environment? Sorry still strongly disagree..

fish- fish need perfect ph, nitrate levels. salt and other chemicals need to be added. water must be very clean. must only mix with certain other fish species and genders.

turtles- a decent size tank add water and heating lamp. turtles can handle just about anything. whats hard about it?
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« Reply #8 on: January 20, 2008, 10:37:42 PM »

Hi, Phatred!

     Sorry, but Emily definitely carries the day on this one.
     First, there is no such thing as the "perfect pH".  If you're looking for that, all you're likely to find is frustration.  It's a myth.
     Second, who told you that you needed to add salt and chemicals?  Certainly nobody on this board.  What freshwater fish need is fresh water.  Simple.
     And last, if you truly believe that keeping turtles (properly) is as simple as what you've described, then I'd suggest you re-read Dan's Turtle Essay in kcgirl's post above.  There's much, much more to it.

Bill
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« Reply #9 on: January 20, 2008, 11:03:58 PM »

Phatred, I held back from saying this before, but now I'll say it.

You're not taking proper care of your turtle(s).

And that's why you find it so easy. Read Dan's essay.

You also don't seem so clear on basic fish care. Which is probably why you find it so difficult.
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« Reply #10 on: January 20, 2008, 11:11:49 PM »

Enough Said.
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« Reply #11 on: January 25, 2008, 06:09:55 AM »

I am going to add my 2 cents here despite the lock.  I agree with keeping turtles.  I think that indeed some people can and do keep them properly.  I  know that keeping them properly is probably a very small percentage of turtle owners.... but let me compare that with a common fish that is also cared for improperly by the masses:  the betta.

What percentage of bettas bought in a pet store are cared for properly?  Yet there is no crusade to stop people from keeping bettas as pets?  Instead the crusade is towards teaching people to care for them properly. The same could be said for gold fish.  The cost of taking a betta our of its 1 quart  unheated/unfiltered bowl and getting it homed properly is a small fraction of the cost of taking a gold fish out of its 1 gallon bowl and getting it homed properly... and both are cheaper to do than turtles. 

   I strongly disagree with the stance of this board to advocate completely against turtle husbandry.  It all falls under the goals of NCIAC and overall needs for research before purchase.  I don't understand why this board as a whole advocates for "learn to care for your pet properly" for all things except turtles where the general feelings are "you can't do that".  Gold fish live nearly as long as turtles when cared for properly.  But no one says... well since 99% of gold fish owners kill their gold fish in less than 6 years, we should advocate against the husbandry of gold fish!

Ok, so I said my 2 cents.  And I have said it in a locked thread and now you guys will all get mad at me.  Enjoy!
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« Reply #12 on: January 25, 2008, 09:12:19 AM »

Just as this is not the site to come to for your pet monkey questions neither is this the site to come for your turtle questions. There are a few thousand herp sites on the www now. With a little bit of effort a person can find the sites with qualified herps in control of the information that is being given out. If you own a turtle then go to the site with professionals that will help you and your turtle. This is not that site.

BTW I can't think of any reason why anyone would get mad at you. This just isn't the site for turtle owners. They really need to be directed to other sites. happy
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« Reply #13 on: January 25, 2008, 09:48:32 AM »

I agree.  But rather than preach.... "no one should keep pet turtles", perhaps we could preach.... "They are hard to keep and should be researched properly, try googling 'turtle care'".

I honestly have no problems with people asking for how to care for turtles here.  There are a handful of successful turtle keepers here.  This site is just as likely to have turtle knowledge amongst its ranks as it is to have snail knowledge or any other aquatic pet.

I have never kept turtles long term, but I set up a lot of turtle terrariums for DEC offices about 10 years ago.  I am a long ways from an expert, but I do have a tid bit of knowledge that could be passed along.
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