The pet trade and veterinarians, will prescribe all sorts of expensive lamps, water heaters, aquariums, food, and medicaments for your turtles. Most of these are not necessary. Many of the medicaments do not work. Having kept our red-eared sliders healthy for over six years, we have developed an inexpensive and satisfactory method for caring for them. Remember, these animals have been removed from their natural environment, so, no matter what you do, you will not be able to create a natural environment for them! Just give them what they need to be healthy and happy and they will repay you with years of love and entertainment.


( Puffy in her feeding container) ( Hugie and Puffy in their Basking container) ( Hugie in his feeding container )

You will need a plastic bucket, a plastic bowl, a large plastic water container, and a large, plastic, see through (opaque), storage, container. You will also need rocks of vaious sizes. You will need to use a de-chlorine product in their water. Most, if not all, of these items can be purchased at Wal-Mart/K-Mart for under $30. You do not need lighting if you have sunshine radiating through your windows. We use disposable diapers (with rocks on the corners), you can use paper towels and masking tape, and baby blankets to line the turtle's sleeping and basking quarters (the large see through, plastic, storage, container). If you live in a cold climate, with little sunshine, you may need an ultraviolet heat lamp. You may also need to purchase a water thermometer (water temp must be between 74 - 96 degrees F) and air temperature thermometer (air temp must be at least 70 degrees F).

Turtles do not need to be in the water all of the time. They must be in water to drink, eat, excrete their waste, and to reproduce. We keep our turtle in warm water for 2 to 3 hours a day. Clean warm water, good food, exercise (walking around the house), sunshine, and the correct air temperature, is the key to good turtle health. Their water must be kept warm when they are in it. Warm but not hot. You can tell if the water is too hot for them if they act like they are trying to escape the water. They should react to their water by relaxing/swimming in it. They will stretch out and thoroughly enjoy their water experience.

Never carry your turtle over hard surfaces (tile or concrete) unless 100% secure. If they fall (or are dropped) and crack their shell this could kill them.

It might be better to relate to you how we take care of our turtle, daily:

In the morning, when the turtle is awake in his sleeping/basking container, we place the turtle in warm water (enough to cover the top of his shell), in it's feeding container. We let the turtle enjoy the water for an hour or so. We will add hot water to the water (out of the faucet) to keep it warm as needed. Don't forget to add the de-chlor to his water. During this time your turtle will, usually, do his business. Using a plastic spoon we scoop the turtle poop from the water. If there is a lot of poop change the water. Then we offer the turtle his only meal of the day. If your turtles are young you can feed them twice a day. We feed them fish (from tilapia fillets), cooked shrimp, rinsed sardines from a can, turtle sticks from Wal-Mart, crickets, mealworms, Japanese beetles, June bugs, cooked chicken or turkey (chicken or turkey makes the water and the turtle greasy and messy). You can try raw spinach, broccoli leaves, and nectarine pieces. We didn't have much luck with the vegetables. The best food is fresh fish from a lake, if you are a fisherman. They can eat the whole fish, scales, bones, and all. Do not keep fish or shrimp in the fridge for more than 3 days. Do not feed them spoiled fish or meat.They have a good appetite when they are young and growing. Let them eat as much as they want.

After he has eaten, take him out and wash him off under a luke warm flow of water. If he has eaten chicken or turkey you will need to use a mild hand soap to remove the grease from his shell and body. Be careful not to get the soap in his eyes (avoid washing his head). Hold him firmly when washing him for they are squirmy little guys and with the soap they can slip from your hands. Have turtle towels (old towels) to dry them thoroughly all over. Never expose your turtle to a blast of air, as this can cause the turtle to catch a fatal cold. After taking your turtle out of his feeding container, dump the water and waste (use your bucket). The feeding containers should be scrubed clean once every other week with bleach and a mild soap, then rinsed thoroughly.

(Hugie and Puffy walking around the house for exercise.)

It is time to give your turtle some exercise. Make sure your turtle is completely air dry. We let our turtle run free in our house. We close all the doors ( turtles are escape artists) except the bathroom and let him walk around the kitchen, dinning room, and living room. Since, he will not be placed into water until the next morning this is the only exercise he will get. Since he may urinate or poop on the floor you may want to confine him to the kitchen floor. For clean-up we use paper napkins or paper towels to wipe it up.

After he has had his exercise it is time to place him in the basking container to get some sunshine. You can just move the sleeping container under a window that you know will get a good deal of sunshine some time during the day. Always make sure you have 1/2 of the container protected from the sun to allow the turtle to get out of the sun. If not, you may end up with a dead turtle. It is safe to leave your turtle in this container during the daytime hours. Always keep this container free of urine and poop. If you're using paper towels or disposable diapers it is an easy thing to do. Also, leave a baby blanket or diaper in this container during the day and night. These little guys like to crawl under them. They feel secure being under something hidden from view.

Now, you simply use the same container. Take it to the warmest area of your house, for turtle sleeping. It is best to cover the container completely for turtles are like birds. If there is no light that signals them to go to sleep. Be sure they have a blanket to crawl under. You can wrap them in a blanket before putting them to bed.

A word about salmonella. If you keep the turtle's water and living quarters clean there will be no salmonella. By having dry turtles, this will guard against any bacterial contamination. Bacteria thrive in moisture!

(Puffy and Hugie in their sleeping / basking container)

They need love and affection. Remember to pet them (on top of their shells) and rub (scratch) your nails across their shells. They like the vibrations and feel loved. They usually do not like to have their heads touched. Talk to them and call them by name. The males are more active and responsive than the females. We found it best to relate to our turtles when lying in bed watching TV. They will learn to feel secure and go into their basking stance right on your stomach. Then, you can continue to pet and scratch their shells and touch their legs and feet. They are frightened of being dropped when carried. They make a flying superman response by waving their arms. I comfort them by holding one hind leg, so they will be reasured, when carrying them.

We do hope you will find your turtles enjoyable for they are really more than worth the hassle of caring for them. If you find you are not a turtle person, or grow tired of caring for them, then make sure you find a good home for them or give them up to a turtle society for adoption.

Remember, it is animal cruelty to make them soak in water with their rotting food and waste all day long. - J.V. Bond, Biologist -



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