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things to know before buying a turtle

Turtles can be an awesome pet, especially if you are looking for something that requires less work than a dog or cat. That being said, there are a lot of things you should be aware of before buying a turtle. This article will cover everything you should know so that you can set your expectations and understand the responsibilities of owning a turtle.

What to know before getting a turtle?

Before buying a turtle, you should know that they can be hard to house with fish, don’t love to be held, can be destructive, grow very fast, can be picky eaters, and live for a long time.

If you are considering a red-eared slider, you should check out my video below:

Now let’s dive into each section to learn the basics of what you should know before getting a turtle.

Not the best tankmates

turtle with fish

Many people get a pet turtle and plan to put them in a tank full of fish. While it does depend on the species, most aquatic turtles will naturally hunt the fish in your tank. This means the fish will probably not last very long.

Your best chance for having fish survive in your tank is to get a fish that breeds a lot, such as guppies. Your turtle will likely still hunt them, but hopefully they will reproduce faster than your turtle eats them. You should also make sure that there are plenty of hiding spots in your tank for the fish to hide from your turtle. To learn more, check out my guide on can turtles live with fish.

Turtles can also be aggressive toward other species of turtles. Therefore, it is best to house turtles together that are of the same species.

Some don’t love to be held

holding a red eared slider

You’ve probably seen tons of videos of people handling baby turtles and playing around with them. While you may get a turtle that likes to be handled, you should know that a majority of turtles do not like to be held frequently.

It is unnatural for them to be picked up, so many turtles get anxious when they are touched. Some will even feel threatened and start hissing or biting.

If your turtle displays these behaviors when you pick them up, you should avoid touching them unless it’s necessary.

That being said, there are still ways for you to engage with your turtle. You can move your finger around the glass, and they will likely follow it thinking it’s food. You can also look into some toys for turtles.

Turtles can be destructive

This was probably the biggest surprise for me when I got a turtle. I assumed that I would easily be able to add a plethora of plants and other cool decorations for my turtle tank. I quickly found out that turtles can be destructive when you put anything in their tank.

It’s not their fault, as they naturally have a curious personality and want to inspect absolutely everything in their tank. I have tried to put plants in the tank multiple times, and my turtle always finds a way to unroot them and eventually eat the leaves.

It may just depend on the turtle, but I still feel like it’s important to know that you may get a turtle that doesn’t like plants or decorations. If you are interested in plants, check out my guide on the best plants for a turtle tank.

Turtles get big, fast

While it also depends on the species, many popular turtle species reach very large lengths. For example, the red-eared slider and painted turtle, two of the most popular pet turtles, can reach lengths of up to 12 inches.

Their growing size means that you will likely have to continue to evolve and change their tank. Once they reach adult size, you will probably need at least a 75 gallon tank, if not bigger. You will also probably need to upgrade to a bigger basking platform as they grow.

Of course, if you have the resources and space to support their growing size, this shouldn’t be a problem at all. It’s just something to keep in mind as your shopping for turtles. If you prefer species that stays small, you should check out my guide on the best small turtles for beginners.

Can be picky eaters

This is common for just about all pets, but it’s worth noting that turtles can be picky eaters. Most turtles require a combination of pellets and vegetables. It is common (especially for younger turtles) for turtles to avoid vegetables.

Just like a little kid, you have to keep pushing it to them until they start to eat it. You should try a variety of vegetables and pellets to see what they like. This will also help ensure that they are getting all of their required nutrients.

Turtles can live for a long time

One of the biggest misconceptions around turtles is their lifespan. Many people don’t realize that many species of turtles can live over 30 years in captivity. This means that you should only get a turtle if you are willing to make that commitment.

If you are kid or teenager, you should understand that your turtle will likely still be alive when you go to college, so make sure that your parents are okay with caring for it while you’re gone.

Also, you should take into consideration whether you plan on moving in the next couple of years. Turtle tanks and their stands can be hard to disassemble, so you might not want to get a turtle if you plan on moving around a lot in the coming years.

It’s also worth noting that turtle rescues are usually at full capacity, so it can be hard to find a new owner of your turtle if you can no longer care for him/her.

You should also think twice about releasing your turtle into the wild. In some states, it is illegal, and can even be a felony. This is because some turtles can be very invasive to ecosystems, especially if they are not natural to the area.

What it’s like to have a turtle

I want to reiterate that turtles are awesome pets. I didn’t make this guide to scare you from getting one, I just want to make sure that you have proper expectations for owning one. If you have the resources to provide a good home for a turtle, I totally recommend that you buy one.

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