Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Red Ear Slider: Turtles are a LOT of Work!

About a year and a half ago, my son decided he wanted a turtle. To his dismay, it is illegal to purchase turtles in the state of Kansas. Darn it.

His dad told some friends of ours to be on the lookout for a baby turtle in their creek. To my dismay, they found one. It was a red-eared slider, maybe an inch and a half long. He was a cute little booger. But soon, I found out how much trouble turtles are, and how much they cost!
At first, we dug up worms and fed him that. Then it got too dry and worms were hard to find. But that was the least of my concerns. We kept him in a little plastic box with water. At least I knew it was an aquatic turtle, but that was all I knew. At the pet store, thankfully I ran into someone in the turtle aisle who knew all about red-eared sliders. I realized then how little I knew, and it was a miracle that the turtle had survived thus far! I did know enough to take the turtle outside everyday, but did not realize how much water they needed to be in. They have to be in enough water to turn 360 degrees, because if they end up on their back, they have to be able to turn over. If the water is too shallow, they can drown. Weird, huh? Here are some other things I learned...
1. An adult red-eared slider will need a tank AT LEAST 40 gallons in capacity.
2. It is necessary to have both a basking lamp (over a "turtle dock") where the turtle can bask, as well as a lamp providing UVB rays, necessary for keeping the turtle's shell healthy.
3. Young turtles should eat everyday, while adults can eat every other day. Commercial pellets are available, which are very convenient and not expensive at all.
4. The average life span is 20-40 years with proper care.
5. Cleaning a turtle tank is very important to keep the turtle healthy. A filter appropriate to the size of the tank must run constantly. The sides and bottom should be scrubbed when scum begins to accumulate. It is easier to have no rocks at the bottom of the tank, so that debris like turtle poop and leftover food can't hide. When debris accumulates, there is s simple siphoning vacuum that works well. The water should be changed frequently. The filter should be replaced about once a month.

As you can imagine, most of the responsibility of the turtle, aka "Snappy," has fallen on me. My son does help me, but I would prefer it not be my job at all. I mean, it's not like a puppy that can warm your lap or give you "those eyes." It's a turtle! A cold-blooded, hard-shelled, appreciate nothing turtle! But my son loves him, so I do what I need to do. He wants a parakeet for his birthday. That's NOT gonna happen! Here is Snappy now...

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