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Turtle: Types, Behaviors, Lifespan, Costs & More

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Turtles are incredible creatures that live for long periods and play a pivotal role in the ecosystem.

Given their easy-going nature and simple caregiving measures, many people have taken a liking to them as pets.

If you love turtles and are thinking about adopting one, then keep reading because we’ll cover everything you need to know about turtles, such as their behaviors, care requirements, growth expectations, and more.

What is a Turtle?

Turtles are a subspecies of reptiles known for their sturdy bone shells and semi-aquatic tendencies.

A turtle can either be freshwater or saltwater and is found all around the world.

There are also terrestrial turtles known as “box turtles” who primarily dwell on land.

What is the Purpose of a Turtle?

Turtles play many roles in the environment.

Turtle eggs and baby turtles are an important food source for many predators, while adult turtles are responsible for eating plants and replanting the seeds through their excrement.  

Sea turtles also help regulate and save coral reefs by eating invasive sponges and carrying various creatures on their back, such as barnacles and crustaceans.

What is the Origin of Turtles?

The origin of turtles is a heavily debated topic, but one thing is certain: they’ve been around for a long time.

Various turtle fossils have been dated back to different prehistoric eras, and it is theorized they are a sister group to an ancient group of reptiles known as archosaurs.

Since they’ve been around much longer than humans, turtles have been a prominent symbol in multiple historical civilizations and cultures.

Similar Alternatives to Turtles

  • Hermit Crabs: Hermit crabs are tiny crustaceans with a hard shell they can retract into – not so unlike the turtle. They’re low-maintenance but don’t live quite as long.
  • Tortoise: Tortoises are almost identical to turtles in how they look and act, except tortoises are primarily land-dwellers and grow quite large – at least larger than any pet turtle you would have. It’s also very likely that your tortoise will outlive you, as many of them live to be over 100.
  • Bearded Dragon: The titular bearded dragon is another reptilian alternative to the turtle. These little lizards are quite small and also pretty easy to manage.

How Much Do Turtles Cost?

Turtles are generally one of the cheapest pets you can get.

Adopting one from the pet store will likely fall between $20 and $50 while hiring a breeder could go for up to $100.

The exact cost will depend on your location and the species of turtle you’re trying to buy.

Turtle Behavior

Turtles are generally indifferent creatures.

They don’t mind humans and spend most of their day wandering around, primarily looking for food.

They can often be found loitering in warm places and will either retract into their shell or run away when threatened.

What Do Turtles Do For Your Tank?

Turtles are a nice accessory to your tank and will most likely get along with any fish you have.

While there aren’t any pressing benefits to having a turtle in your tank, they don’t require much to accommodate them other than space and temperature regulation.

Is a Turtle Dangerous?

Turtles aren’t inherently dangerous, although some may lightly bite you and could potentially carry salmonella.

This may be especially dangerous for small children, so be wary of this threat.

Turtle Lifespan

Here’s some information on how long turtles tend to live.

How Long Do Turtles Live?

The lifespan of a turtle depends on the species, but a prospective owner can expect one to live for at least 30 years in captivity.

There are many instances of pet turtles living over 70 years, so keep in mind that they are a long-term commitment.

  • How Fast Do Turtles Grow? Most freshwater turtles typically only grow a few centimeters per year during the first 6 – 10 years of life.
  • How Big Can a Turtle Get? Turtles will often reach between 8 to 16 inches once they hit maturity, but they can get larger depending on the species.

Tank & Water Requirements

While turtles don’t require much attention, you should meet their tank requirements to care for them properly.

Best Tank Size for Turtles

Many experts suggest getting a tank that holds 10 gallons of water for every inch of your turtle’s shell.

This will usually be a tank between 50 and 100 gallons.

Best Water Parameters & Conditions for Turtle

The water depth should be about two times the length of the turtle’s shell and kept between 72 and 77 degrees during the day (65 to 75 degrees at night).

Water should be changed once a week, and while a filter is not necessary, it can help protect your turtle from disease.

Do Turtles Need an Air Pump?

Since turtles have to come above water to breathe air, an air pump is unnecessary for your turtle tank.

Best Habitat for Turtle

The ideal turtle tank will be between 50 and 100 gallons and have a dryland surface of about 20% of the tank.

Basking bulbs are a great alternative to sunshine for your turtle habitat, and it is a good idea to have various rocks, fauna, and other decorations around.

Do Turtles Need Live Plants?

It’s a good idea to have live plants in your turtle’s tank since they help filter out ammonia and nitrates as well as improve oxygen quality.

Turtle Tank Mates

Before getting your turtle some roommates, read this section on what creatures go best with turtles and which you should avoid.

How Many Turtles Should be Kept Together?

Turtles are solitary creatures who don’t socialize much.

While some species don’t mind each other, others may get territorial if resources are scarce.

Generally, you should only hold two turtles per tank, and it’s best not to mix and match species.

What Fish Make Good Tank Mates for Turtles?

The best fish that work well with turtles are tetra fish and zebrafish.

This is because they’re small, easy to take care of, and agile enough to avoid getting harmed by the turtle.

They’re also cheap and widely available.

Which Fish Should Turtles Avoid?

Any tropical fish.

Since they’re colorful and have long fins, they’re likely to attract the attention of the turtle and may sustain damage as a result.

Also goldfish – goldfish are bad for turtles because they produce a lot of waste which can cause harmful bacteria to grow in the water.

Furthermore, goldfish are cold-blooded and require lower temperatures than a turtle.

Breeding & Reproduction

Turtle breeding is a complicated process that requires certain conditions to be met.

It’s a bit harder than most other pets but possible with the right measures.

Do Turtles Breed Easily?

No, turtle breeding can be quite challenging and should only be done with the help of a professional or if you know exactly what you’re doing.

How Long Does it Take for a Turtle to Have Babies?

The gestation process (time between conception and birth) will usually take between 45 and 75 days but can take longer due to various factors.

How Long is a Turtle Pregnant?

Turtles are egg-laying creatures and typically only lay their eggs once or twice a year.

How to Care for a Turtle

Finally, we get to turtle care.

While turtles are relatively low maintenance, you still need to meet their specifications to allow them to live long, healthy lives.

General Care for Turtles

As outlined before, it’s important to accommodate your turtle with the correct tank and temperature.

You should also avoid “playing” with them too often as turtles may become stressed from this.

Whenever you do touch your turtle, wash your hands as there is always the risk of contracting salmonella.

Turtle Diet and Feeding

Turtles should be fed twice a day in spans of 20 minutes.

Anything not eaten in those 20 minutes should be removed afterward.

Common things to feed turtles are turtle pellets, dry sardines, cooked animal products, and trout chow.

As for living food, you can feed them insects such as crickets, moths, and worms.

Turtles may also enjoy a variety of fruits and veggies.

Common Problems With Turtles

Despite their lengthy lifespan, turtles are prone to numerous ailments that can affect their living.

This may include shell infections, respiratory disease, vitamin deficiency, parasites, and shell fractures.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some frequently asked questions about turtles:

Why can you not touch a turtle?

Turtles are known carriers of salmonella, and touching one increases your odds of getting it.

Is it cruel to keep a turtle as a pet?

If you follow the correct care procedures and don’t bother them too much, pet turtles can live content, carefree lives.

Captivity may benefit them since it eliminates environmental threats and provides a steady food source.

Wrapping Up

In the end, turtles are amazing little creatures to have as pets.

They aren’t as hands-on as a puppy or as simple to take care of as a goldfish, but they do live a very long time and won’t cause you very much trouble.

If you’re considering a turtle as a pet, then you should certainly check them out at your local pet store or adoption center.

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