This article will outline and describe what you need to know before you go out and start buying turtles. Some of this just might surprise you.
Turtles. Tortoises. Terrapins. They have been around longer than the dinosaurs, and every year, millions of people start buying turtles as new pets.
However, the average turtle lives from 20 to 40 years and as such will not only be around for a long time but also require a lot of time, effort and care.
What to Look for When Buying Turtles
Turtles are not ‘set it and forget it’ pets.
They need quite a bit of upkeep and care. Daily. In fact, the easiest step in the entire pet turtle process is going out and purchasing one.
When it comes to buying turtles, a few things need to be said right out of the gate.
There are millions and millions of turtles that are bought and sold each year, and the vast majority of them live in and are held captive in rather deplorable conditions.
They are often caught and injured in traps in the wild and are stacked on top of each and freighted around in total blackness for a while before being sold to different pet stores.
Unfortunately, that is not the end of their suffering as many turtle owners do not educate themselves on proper turtle and tortoise maintenance and as such, these poor creatures often live out the rest of their lives in substandard conditions.
I would advise you to strongly consider adopting a pet turtle or tortoise, or at the very least, make sure you are only buying turtles from reputable vendors that are verified and authenticated as being humane.
If you live in the United States or Canada check out The Shelter Project to check out where to find your local pet shelter.
As was mentioned before, the average lifespan of a pet turtle is between 20 and 40 years.
That’s significantly longer than most cats and dogs.
When it comes to money, the actual cost of the turtle or tortoise is likely to be the cheapest portion of the entire process.
Most pet turtles will cost less than $50. However, the actual cost of owning one typically stretches into hundreds of dollars each year.
You Need the Appropriate Housing
For many turtles, this will require at least a 55-gallon aquarium or a specially-made turtle tank.
These are not cheap. Furthermore, you will need to outfit your tank with basic necessities such as:
You Need the Right Food
While this is often not expensive it is still an expense nonetheless.
If you want to properly feed your turtle that doesn’t just mean buying commercial turtle pellets, but also picking up essential vitamins, vegetables, worms, crickets and other types of insects and food to give your turtle a proper, diversified and nutritional diet.
Possible Vet Costs
What happens if your turtle gets sick? Are you prepared to burden additional costs by taking your pet turtle to the vet if need be?
If you are committed to bearing these costs, that’s great, but you aren’t quite finished just yet!
You will need to consider a few more things.
This doesn’t just refer to their long lives.
If you properly care for your turtle, he or she will likely be around for a long time, yes. But, that is a lot more that goes into proper turtle maintenance than just buying and providing a good environment.
Your turtle needs daily care.
Turtles are quite messy creatures! Just having a good, strong filter in the tank is not enough.
You will need to change at least 25% of the water every few weeks or so, as well as make sure the tank itself is clean and properly maintained. You also need to ensure that everything is working properly and that there are no danger spots, as well as just notice how your turtle is behaving; is it eating alright, is it discolored, looking sick, etc.
What will you do when you go on vacation?
Turtles need to be fed on a daily or every other day basis. That also applies when you go on vacation. You can’t just leave your turtle in the tank, even if it’s for a week. The power could go out. Your timed feeder could break. A million things could go wrong, and you won’t be there. Think about how your turtle will be cared for when you are not around.
Not all pet turtles are the same.
Some are rather tame, others are more aggressive.
Some like to spend the majority of their time swimming in the water, others love to frolic about on land.
Some like to munch on plants, others insects and mealworms.
All turtle and tortoise species are different, and you will need to educate yourself on the general ins and outs of that particular species.
Some common species of pet turtle:
- African Aquatic Sideneck Turtle
- Wood Turtle
- Painted Turtle
- Pond Turtle
- Red Eared Slider
And some common species of pet tortoises:
- Russian Tortoise
- Greek Tortoise
- CB Red-Footed Tortoise
Unrealistic Expectations of Turtle Ownership
Lastly, you may want to consider what exactly owning a pet turtle entails.
To begin with, turtles are not social creatures.
Some turtles such as red eared sliders and painted turtles are rather tame (especially when they are in the water) but that doesn’t mean they will always like, or appreciate other people’s presence.
Box turtles, for instance, can be quite shy, and snapping turtles, rather aggressive.
They are also not great pets for kids.
Turtles commonly carry salmonella, which can easily be transferred to your kids if you are not careful (and not just by touching the turtle).
And of course, as stated above many turtles do not like being handled, especially by a jittery, rowdy nine-year-old!
If after considering all of these things you are fully prepared to meet not only the monetary costs but the time commitment and work ethic it takes to properly care for and maintain a pet turtle, I can say nothing but that they are great creatures to own, and will definitely give you a great sense of satisfaction and pleasure.
They can be challenging to own, but ask any dedicated pet turtle owner out there, and he or she will most definitely tell you that, at the end of the day, it is entirely worth it.