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Turtles Make Bad Pets!

So... why do turtles make bad pets?

Simple, turtles are expensive and are a lifetime commitment, taking a lot of work to keep healthy and happy.

Most people overlook the real cost of a pet turtle. In the pet store, a cute turtle swimming in a tank looks inexpensive, especially compared to other pets like a purebred dog. What is often overlooked is all the equipment needed for that turtle's survival. When all is said and done, that tiny twenty-dollar turtle is every bit as expensive as a $1000.00 purebred puppy. Do you doubt me? Read on!

Sgt. Pockets exemplifies the needs of a typical Red-Eared Slider. He is 40 years old, weighs over 3 pounds, and his shell is nearly 9 inches long.

Required Accessories

A proper set-up can be expensive and very heavy, make sure your floors can support your turtles home.
A turtle is a reptile and needs lots of sunlight to be healthy. No, you cannot put the tank next to the window and that will do. Glass, from the window and the walls of an aquarium, filters out nearly all the UV from the sunlight. You need both a UVB and a UVA light source and the special fixtures they go into... these lights simulate the sun. They allow the turtle to process calcium and other important Vitamins and Nutrients. Normal house lights don't do this. With out proper lights, turtles will have short lives and health problems. One other thing, that expensive light bulb you just bought needs to be replaced every 6 months to 1 year. After 1 year, even if it is still glowing, it is not putting out any UV anymore.

Let's now look at their home. They will need a tank to live in, a big one. That little turtle will grow and it will quickly outgrow a small tank. You need to regularly buy new and larger tanks or else commit to purchasing a large one from the start. If we are talking about a red-eared slider, the most common and least expensive turtle at a pet store, it will grow to be 7 to 9 inches long (length of shell). The general rule for tank needs is 10 gallons for every inch in length its shell is. Therefore, before you buy a turtle look at what a 70 to 90 gallon tank costs, because you will need to buy it.

If you are going to splurge on an item, filtration is important for the health of the turtle and maintanance work load.
Do not forget about the stand for this large tank. One other thing that is overlooked is how heavy a tank and stand with water is (for that same turtle we just mentioned, 450+ pounds). Can the floors of your house take that much weight concentrated into a relatively small area?

You got the lights and tank, let's talk clean water. They will need a filter system. These can be costly, but on filtration, you don't want to skimp. For a turtle, you need a filter rated for twice the tank size (regardless of where the water level is). You could go small, but unclean water stinks and needs more changes. If you think a filter is expensive, look into what an emergency vet visit costs. Even with a good filter, you will need to clean and changed it often.

Don't get squeamish!

They will also need food, not just pellets either. Face it, no one likes to eat the same thing everyday. Pellets should only be one part of a wider diet. Turtles want live food, ugly worms, and crickets. Let's not forget snacks too. A proper turtle diet can get pricey!

Time and Effort

There ugly and smell funny, but turtles love crickets!
I hope you like tearing down a tank, full of sand and turtle poop, and wiping it out (about a 2-hour job in my house). Draining and refilling all the water is necessary on a routine basis. No matter what filter you go with, this is necessary and if you cheaped out on the filter you will be doing this every few days to a week.

Building a Good Home

You will also need some turtle supplies... floating logs, basking dock, rocks, sand, gravel, plants (live and/or artificial), tank heater for the winter, and perhaps an auto feeder, if you go on vacation. Extension cords, surge protectors, GFIs, and you better put those lights on timers... turtles need to have a normal day, sun up through dark time.

What does a pet turtle cost?

Hunting keeps a turtle's minds sharp and excites them about meal time.
If I did the math correctly, and trust me I did, ONE TURTLE WITH ALL THE SUPPLIES AND LIGHTS AND TANK AND FILTER AND GOODIES... WILL COST AROUND $500.00 (on the cheap end) to $1,200.00 (done properly with the best equipment) to start.

Turtles don't Snuggle

Here's another important thing to remember. Turtles don't like to be touched by humans. They are naturally afraid of us. When we pick them up and touch them, we are causing them great amounts of stress. They may think we are a predator and are going to eat them. Stress can, over time, kill a turtle. Think of being constantly under threat of being killed. Turtles that are caught in the wild and taken as pets typically have a much shorter life span, because of those stresses.

A Pet for Life and Beyond

One other thing that people don't understand, turtles live a very long time. Some turtles have lived over 200 years. That box turtle you see in the woods might live for 100 or more. A pet turtle bought for a child, will become your pet when your kid is away at college. If that child looses interest in that turtle, they still might get it back after it has outlived YOU. Turtle owners must think in turtle life spans, if you have a pet, you might have to put it in your WILL...

Never Take a Wild Turtle As a Pet
(click and learn why)


If you have read this, and you still think you want a turtle as a pet, FINE... We are making sure you are informed about the commitment you are making. We ask you to follow a few guidelines:

Buy your turtle from a reputable source, not a flea market or side of the road vendor (they may be selling wild captured turtles)
Consider adopting over purchasing... there are many homeless pet turtles
Do as much research as possible about how to properly care for your turtle
Give it everything it needs... scenery, filter, a place to hide from you, and all the proper lights.
Be dedicated to taking care of your turtle. It's a living thing.
Finally ... give it the respect that an animal that has been on earth for over 200 million years should be given.

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