how to take care of a turtle

How to Take Care of a Turtle: Tips for New Owners

by Janine DeVault - 10/07/19

While there’s no question that turtles make for interesting (and adorable) pets, caring for them isn’t as straightforward as looking after other pets. After all, turtles are reptiles and require a particular type of environment in order to thrive. You can’t just let one loose in your living room! If you’re considering adopting one, this guide will cover all the basics of how to take care of a turtle. Nearly 300 different species of turtles are known, so you will need to do additional research once you choose one, but this guide will get you started.

How Long Does A Turtle Live?

Before you adopt a turtle, it’s important to consider whether you’re ready for a long-term commitment. Smaller pet turtles can live anywhere from 30 to 40 years, depending on the species and their health. Are you prepared to care for a turtle for that long? Be sure to conduct careful research so you know what’s involved before you decide to take the leap into turtle ownership.

What Do Turtles Eat?

While your turtle’s diet depends on the species, most eat an omnivorous diet. Young turtles often eat a carnivorous diet and transition into becoming an omnivore with age. Your turtle’s ideal diet will usually reflect what can be found in her natural habitat. Generally speaking, it will consist of insects, vegetables and even fruits. Some turtles may eat cooked meat or eggs as well. Commercial turtle foods are available in pet stores, and while these may be sufficient to make up your turtle’s entire diet, supplementing this with fresh vegetables or fruits is preferable. Ensuring that your turtle eats a well-balanced diet is one of the most important factors in taking care of a turtle. Make sure to ask for tips from an expert in your turtle’s breed.

Ideal Turtle Environment

Your turtle will likely live in a terrarium, which will enable you to provide easy access to both water and land. Make sure the tank is large enough that your turtle can roam around. If you’ve adopted a baby turtle, remember that she will grow, so be sure to pick a terrarium with this in mind. Of course, you can always size up down the road, but we recommend purchasing the largest tank you can afford at the time. Inside the terrarium you should accommodate a water source where your turtle can swim. The water should be filtered, as keeping your turtle’s water clean is essential to his health. Next you will need to choose a substrate for the land portion of your turtle’s enclosure. You will need to research your breed’s preferred environment to determine what‘s best for your turtle. Some turtles enjoy digging, so soil is a natural choice, while others love to loll in mud, or moss. Your turtle will be happiest and healthiest in a clean environment, so be prepared to change the water and substrate on a regular basis. Finally, decorate your turtle’s environment with foliage, rocks or logs to provide resting and hiding spaces.

Turtles make low-maintenance pets in the sense that they won’t demand your attention and affection. They won’t destroy your furniture or bark all day while you’re at work, but they do require special care. There are hundreds of turtle species out there to choose from, so be sure to do your research; pick a breed that you will be able to care for over the long term. Your research process should include speaking to current turtle owners and experts, to learn more about the costs and challenges associated with your desired breed. If you’re willing to put in the time and effort to learn how to take care of a turtle properly, they make fascinating companions.

Janine DeVault is a pet writer, animal rescue advocate and former celebrity dog walker. She lives in Mexico with her three rescue pets, Maia, Fozzy and Kesi.