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Why A Turtle May Not Be The Right Pet For You

Why A Turtle May Not Be The Right Pet For You

August 02, 2018

Do Turtles Make Good Pets?

We’ve become accustomed to seeing turtles in pet stores, and we always see them in documentaries. With the low price tag of a turtle purchase at a pet store, some would think turtles are pretty basic and super low maintenance.  

Maybe you’re thinking all they really need is some lettuce and protein and you’ll have a piece of nature in your home. Maybe you’re thinking it would be fun to watch and play with your pet turtle. It seems that they would make cheap and easy pets.

A Common Story

Heres a story of a young girl who watched Ninja Turtles or maybe even a few nature shows highlighting how cool turtles are. Let’s call this little girl Emma. Now Emma’s completely in love with all kinds of turtles. Turtles were the theme at her 5th birthday party. The little girl said that the only thing she wanted was a pet turtle like the turtles she saw on TV. One year later, for the sixth birthday, Emma’s mom decides to go ahead and buy her a young Red Eared Slider turtle (one of the most common purchased) that came with a little plastic tank, food, vitamins and a turtle hut made of a coconut shell. She figured it would be an easy pet for her daughter, and a good way to teach her responsibility. Worst case, if Emma didn’t take care of it, mom could take over the simple care of a matchbox-sized pet for 2-3 years. 

Today the “little girl” Emma is 21 years old and spends her time running around with college friends, lives in a dorm that doesn’t allow pets and has very little interest in turtles anyway.  The turtle is now full grown at 10 inches long, is 15 years old and requires special UV lighting, heat and a minimum 100 gallon tank which was upgraded over time.  Emmas mom, who bought the turtle 15 years ago was told by the pet store employee that the turtle wouldn’t get any bigger and wouldn’t live beyond 3 years.

Not every employee is incompetent, but it’s up to you to do your own research. it’s doubtful this employee even knew the breed of the turtle.

  • Some species of terrapins only grow to about 4"
  • Other species of turtles will grow beyond 12"

Luckily Emma’s mom is a responsible person and realizes that theres no way this turtle can be released to the wild, and will need lifelong care. The turtle is healthy and she takes really good care of It and plans to do so for many more years because she now knows a turlte can easily live to 30 years. 

Are You Prepared To Do Your Research?

There are too many case where the parent isn’t equipped with the knowledge or simply lacks the ambition to care for such a complex animal.  

Besides all the difficulties of caring for a pet turtle, it can have great reward, so long as you are aware of the work required. There are other factors that come into play when deciding to keep a turtle as a pet. The common turtles sold as pets include red-eared-sliders, box turtles, painted turtles, wood turtles and map titles.  Unlike many other pets, none of these turtle species are naturally domestic. These turtles are born in the wild and live their lives out in the wild unless they’ve been removed and sold or they have been bred.

Every species has different requirements. You should do some research on the specific breed is the best match for you.

Be aware who you purchase your pet turtle from. Some pet stores or markets might have unethical practices and sell you a turtle that may even be sick and tell you that it was rescued, or along the lines. Baby turtles travel on their own from birth and do not need to be removed or “rescued” from their natural habitat. It is illegal to sell baby terrapins under 4" unless its for educational purposes. If they have a serious illness or injury they should only be rehabilitated in an organization that takes care of reptiles full-time. These places can offer a natural habitat and potentially release any rescued turtle back into its normal habitat.  If that can’t be done, these turtles are used to educate others about wild turtles.

This isn’t meant to make you change your mind on owning a pet turtle. This is simply meant to help you think, rather than impulse buy, and become aware that being a turtle owner is like being the owner of any other pet.

No one would keep a dog locked in a closet, It’s not fair to keep a turtle unhappy in a tiny tank or malnourished because it requires more than you expected or could offer.

If you lack the knowledge you need it may just end up costing you money and this can become very expensive. (E.g. wrong food or constantly changing enclosure size).

A few tips to get started and help save some money.

  1. Build your own enclosure or buy pre-owned aquarium/tank
  2. Build your own platform. (Certain adult species will need a bigger one than the suppliers offer anyways)
  3. Buy from breeders to prevent removing one from its natural habitat 
  4. Educate yourself to avoid expensive costs in the future
  5. Even after educating yourself, don't assume you know everything.

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