4 Ways to Take Care of Baby Tortoises

Table of contents:

4 Ways to Take Care of Baby Tortoises
4 Ways to Take Care of Baby Tortoises

Tortoises spend most of their time swimming and feeding in water or sunbathing on land. They can be cute and fun pets, but in order for them to thrive, they need proper care, especially when they are puppies. In order to have a baby turtle healthy and happy, it is necessary to provide it with the proper nursery and the correct nutrition, and keep the pond very clean to avoid the onset of diseases.


Method 1 of 4: Setting Up the Tortoise Farm

Take Care of Baby Water Turtles Step 1

Step 1. Provide a large aquarium

The ideal here is a rectangular or cubic glass aquarium suitable for the size the turtle will be as an adult. In other words: that it has a good space for it to swim, in addition to having a rock or a platform where the reptile can go when it wants to get out of the water. The bigger the aquarium, the better; but remember to meet the minimum size requirements:

  • Minimum 115 L for turtles 10~15 cm long.
  • 210 L for turtles 15~20 cm long.
  • 285~475 L for adults over 20 cm.
  • Minimum length: 3~4 times the length of the animal.
  • Minimum width: 2 times the length of the animal.
  • Minimum height: 1, 5~2 times the length of the animal, and an increase of 20~30 cm above the highest point where it can reach;
Take Care of Baby Water Turtles Step 2

Step 2. Install a water heater in the aquarium

Unable to regulate its body temperature, the tortoise has to live in water of adequate temperature, which can be done with a heater. Most baby turtles need the water to be between 25ºC and 27ºC, although you should visit this link and check the care required by your turtle species.

  • The heater cover should be plastic or metal and not glass, a material that can be broken by the tortoise.
  • If possible, use two heaters to give the water a more even temperature and in case one of them malfunctions.
  • Check the water temperature with a thermometer regularly.
  • Buy a heater of adequate wattage:

    • 75W for a 75L aquarium;
    • 150W for a 150L;
    • 250w for a 250L;
    • 300w for a 285L.
Take Care of Baby Water Turtles Step 3

Step 3. Install a UVB lamp and a heater lamp

Turtles need UVB light to synthesize vitamin D and heat-warming light, as they are homeothermic animals and, as such, cannot regulate body temperature. UVB light and heat are equally important.

  • UVB lamp: sold in compact or tubular models. Use a lamp with 2, 5% or 5% UVB - namely, those that imitate the light of tropical areas or wetlands. Lamps that mimic desert light are very strong. The 2.5% bulb should be 30 cm above the water and the 5% bulb 45 cm.
  • Heating lamp: this is an incandescent or halogen lamp. The type doesn't make all that much difference, as long as it's properly positioned in relation to the area where the turtle stays to warm up. The center of this area should be close to 35ºC, with cooler surroundings. Use a thermometer to ensure the temperature is correct.
  • Timer: you need to keep the lights off 12 hours a day to mimic the natural day and night cycle. A timer would do that instead.
  • Note: Never look directly into the aquarium lights, which can damage your eyes. Arrange the lamps at an angle such that the light is not visible to anyone sitting in the room.
Take Care of Baby Water Turtles Step 4

Step 4. Put a metal screen in the mouth of the aquarium

It will protect the reptiles from any objects that might fall into it. This is very important because of the risk of UVB lamps exploding, especially when splashed with water, and throwing shrapnel that could injure turtles. The screen has to be metal, as UVB light cannot penetrate glass or plastic.

Take Care of Baby Water Turtles Step 5

Step 5. Provide a dry portion in which the turtle can stay out of the water completely

This can be a stump, a rock or a floating platform for turtle aquariums. There must be a ramp from the water to the surface so that the turtle can climb up to it. Make sure the platform size is adequate:

  • The dry area should occupy about 25% of the aquarium surface.
  • It should be at least 1.5 times the turtle's length and sturdy enough not to break under its weight.
  • The top of the aquarium should be 25~30 cm above the dry area so that the turtle does not escape.
Take Care of Baby Water Turtles Step 6

Step 6. Make the water depth properly

Aquariums for baby turtles need a body of water at least 2.5 cm greater than their shell height. So they will be able to swim freely. As turtles grow, the water depth must increase.

Take Care of Baby Water Turtles Step 7

Step 7. Use a filter to decrease how often the water needs to be changed

Chelonians are messier than fish; evacuate and urinate in large quantities. Without a filter, you will need to change the water daily to prevent the spread of disease. With the filter, this time will increase for partial changes at intervals of two to five days and full changes at intervals of 10 to 14 days. There are specific filters for turtles and tortoises, but you can also use a fish tank filter, as long as you calculate the filtering potential for a volume three or four times the volume of your tank. Otherwise, the equipment won't take care of your turtle's mess. There are several types of filters:

  • Internal filter: normally installed on the side glass of the aquarium, to which it is attached by suction cups. It is too small to be the main filtering equipment for an aquarium over 75 L. However, it can be used in large aquariums to help circulate water.
  • Pressurized filter: the most suitable for turtle aquariums, it is commonly installed under the tank and has great filtering potential, using an ultraviolet sterilizer to kill bacteria and algae. Remember to buy a filter for an aquarium three or four times the size of yours. Read here (in English) an overview of the most common models.
  • HOB (or hang-on-back) filter: as it is designed to be close to the waterline, which is lower in turtle tanks, you will need a tank with an indentation for the filter - that is, a part where the glass is lower than the rest of the top of the aquarium - so it works properly. Also in this case, it is necessary that the filter capacity is for an aquarium with a volume three or four times larger than yours.
  • Aquarium Underground Filter: The reverse-flow aquarium underwater filter pumps water through the gravel, allowing bacteria trapped in it to assist in filtering the water. To extract maximum efficiency from this filter, it must be used with a 5 cm layer of dolomite. This system unfortunately does not filter out large food particles, which means they have to be extracted by hand - which is not so simple as they lodge under the gravel.
Take Care of Baby Water Turtles Step 8

Step 8. Oxygen the water with an air pump or a porous stone

Keeping the hydrogen peroxide inhibits the proliferation of anaerobic bacteria that make the aquarium dirty and put the turtle's health at risk.

Method 2 of 4: Adding Plants to the Nursery

Take Care of Baby Water Turtles Step 9

Step 1. Consider using artificial plants

Live plants have their advantages, such as removing nitrates from the water, but they are basically decorative. With artificial plants, you won't have to worry about the risk of them dying or being eaten by tortoises.

Take Care of Baby Water Turtles Step 10

Step 2. Include a substrate if you are going to use live plants

Deposit sand, gravel or earth to the bottom of the pond. This step is not only unnecessary, it can make cleaning the aquarium difficult. It is possible to buy an aquarium with a painted background and not use any substrate. However, those who are going to use plants with roots or want a more natural look should consider these substrates:

  • Fine sand: Use fine sand, such as in a children's sandbox. It's a great solution for the Chinese squishy turtle, which likes to bury itself in the sand. For most turtle breeders, however, it is the most difficult option for cleaning.
  • Aquarium gravel: bad substrate for plants as it is basically decorative. The stones have to be big enough that they cannot be eaten by the turtle.
  • Fluorite: porous clay gravel is the best choice for those who will use rooted plants in the aquarium. Once added to the aquarium, this gravel will make the water a little cloudy, but it should return to normal after a few days of filtering.
Take Care of Baby Water Turtles Step 11

Step 3. Place plants in the aquarium

Although unnecessary, plants are considered by some breeders to be an increment that gives the aquarium a natural look, reassuring the baby turtle. In addition, aquatic plants facilitate cleaning, as they absorb pollutants, and compete for carbon dioxide with algae that would turn the water green. Choose a plant that is compatible with the turtle species:

  • Elodea: grows well in low light and inhibits algae growth. It is suitable for the striped mud turtle and the muskrat. Herbivorous turtles, including the red-eared turtle, the hieroglyphic turtle and the water tiger, will destroy it.
  • Java Fern: robust plant, used to low light and resistant leaves that turtles will not eat.
  • Java Moss: tough moss that lacks light; it is rarely eaten by turtles.
  • Anthocerus: a plant that develops in floating bundles of thin, branched leaves. It tolerates low light levels and grows fast enough to survive in a tank with turtles that eventually feed on it (red-eared turtles, hieroglyphic turtles and water tigers).
  • Ludwigia-ruby: resistant plant that turtles do not eat, although it can be pulled out by them from the place where it is planted. It requires additional light (2 W for every 3.8 L) and is suitable for small turtles such as the striped mud turtle, the muskrat and the water tiger.
  • Anubias species: hardy plant that lacks light and is not eaten by turtles.
  • Cryptocoryne species: tolerates low light and is resistant, but it has to be planted in some substrate and does not react well to uprooting. It is best suited for small turtles in large aquariums.
  • Aponogeton ulvaceus: tolerates low light levels, is durable and is not eaten by turtles. Can grow on gravel.
Take Care of Baby Water Turtles Step 12

Step 4. Create a good environment for the plants

They need nutrients, light and (often) a place to fix their roots. To give plants the best chance to thrive:

  • If you use plants that need a substrate, use some clay gravel like laterite or fluorite, which provide the nutrition that vegetables lack without making as much mess.
  • Install lighting or choose plants that don't need as much light. Most plants need 2~3w for every 3.8L of water, with most light bulbs providing only 1w. This difference can be covered by installing more artificial lights, but not placing the aquarium near a window, as this can overheat the aquarium and favor the proliferation of algae.
  • If the plants are in poor condition, add a fertilizer for aquatic plants, available in pet shops, to the water.

Method 3 of 4: Feeding the baby turtle

Take Care of Baby Water Turtles Step 13

Step 1. Feed him daily

Tortoise chicks need a lot of food to grow. Give them all the food they want and dispose of leftovers after 30 minutes to several hours.

Take Care of Baby Water Turtles Step 14

Step 2. Remember to put food in water

Tortoises can only swallow in water.

Take Care of Baby Water Turtles Step 15

Step 3. Consider feeding the puppy in a separate water container

This helps keep the main aquarium free from dirt. If you choose to feed it in the aquarium, you will have to remove food debris from the water as best you can.

  • Use only enough water to cover the tortoise.
  • Use aquarium water so that the temperature is the same and to avoid a thermal shock to the puppy.
  • Give him 30 minutes to several hours to eat.
  • Gently dry the turtle before returning it to the main aquarium to remove food scraps.
Take Care of Baby Water Turtles Step 16

Step 4. Offer newborn puppies a varied diet

While tortoise feed has all the nutrients needed by hatchlings, a varied and balanced diet is still the biggest guarantee that it will grow up healthy. Furthermore, getting a newborn tortoise to eat can be difficult, and the variety of foods increases the chances that it will accept something. These are some of the most suitable foods for puppies:

  • Flake and pellet feed: Some pet stores sell puppies-specific feeds that contain all the vitamins and nutrients they need.
  • Snacks on toothpicks for turtles: suitable for baby and adult tortoises.
  • Lumbriculus variegatus, crickets and mealworm larvae (the latter being the most suitable of the three, as their movements draw the attention of the baby turtle).
Take Care of Baby Water Turtles Step 17

Step 5. Increase variety as puppy grows

When he is a few months old, you can add some items to the menu. Read here (in English) the foods indicated for each species. In addition to the food and insects suggested above, turtle feeding usually includes:

  • Wax moth larvae and small cockroaches;
  • Small fish and shrimp;
  • Eggs boiled in shells;
  • Fruits (sliced ​​grapes, apples, melons and strawberries);
  • Vegetables (kale, spinach, romaine lettuce; never iceberg lettuce or cabbage).
Take Care of Baby Water Turtles Step 18

Step 6. Newborn puppies may not feed for a week or more

They live on the nutrition they got from the egg. Offer them food, but don't worry if they refuse.

Take Care of Baby Water Turtles Step 19

Step 7. Check that the water temperature is adequate if the turtle does not eat for several weeks

Turtles cannot eat or digest food when their bodies are too cold. Use a heater to make the water temperature suitable for the species you breed.

Take Care of Baby Water Turtles Step 20

Step 8. Leave the reptile alone during meals

Some turtles do not eat when observed. Leave your pet alone with food if it hasn't been fed.

Method 4 of 4: Keeping the Aquarium Clean

Take Care of Baby Water Turtles Step 21

Step 1. Do frequent partial cleanings

Thus, the environment will always be healthy for the puppy and the period between complete cleanings can be longer.

  • Tortoises have to eat in water because they don't produce saliva. Unfortunately, leftover food degrades quickly and leaves the water dirty. Use a net to clean up the remains when the puppy has finished eating.
  • Use an aquarium siphon to clean the substrate (ie rocks or gravel from the bottom of the aquarium) every 4-5 days. Squeeze the bulb to start sucking in the water and place the other end of the hose in a bucket below the level of the aquarium. Gravity will keep the water flowing from the aquarium to the bucket.
  • For more efficiency, use the siphon to do partial water changes. Just suck in a significant amount of water (read more details below) and replace all the removed water.
Take Care of Baby Water Turtles Step 22

Step 2. Clean or replace filter media regularly

It is the filter medium that removes dust, rejected food and faeces from the water. If it consists of a sponge, it needs to be cleaned weekly by rinsing it with water. Do not use soap. The same can be done with foam filters. Anyone using cellulose, synthetic fiber blanket or charcoal filters should replace the filter media weekly. Filters accumulate germs, so:

  • Unplug the filter from the outlet before handling it;
  • Do not work near food or in places where food is prepared;
  • Wear gloves and avoid handling the filter when you have cuts or scratches on your hands;
  • Wash hands and arms with soap and water after cleaning;
  • Remove any items of clothing that have been splashed with water from the filter and wash them.
Take Care of Baby Water Turtles Step 23

Step 3. Change the water regularly

Even those who have a filter have to replace the water regularly to prevent nitrate and particulate build-up. Although you need to change your water more often if it looks dirty, here are the guidelines you should follow:

  • Small aquarium (110L or less) - Change 20% of water every other day and all water every 10~12 days.
  • Medium or large aquarium (over 110 L) - change 50% of the water every 5 days and all the water every 12~14 days.
  • In aquariums with external filter and high capacity - change 50% of the water every seven days and all the water every 17~19 days.
Take Care of Baby Water Turtles Step 24

Step 4. Test the water to make sure changes are made often enough

It is necessary to pay attention to cleaning the water, especially in the first few days.

  • A strong smell or sudden change in water color indicates the need to completely change the water and wash the aquarium.
  • The pH of the water, which is the acidity or alkalinity level, should be between 5, 5 and 7. Buy a pH test kit at a pet store and measure it every four days for the first month to make sure that pH levels are adequate.
Take Care of Baby Water Turtles Step 25

Step 5. Clean and disinfect the aquarium when you do a total water change

This can be done at intervals that can be up to approximately 45 days, as long as you use chemicals (available at most pet stores) to keep the water disinfected and safe for the tortoise. Otherwise, you will need to disinfect the tank more often to ensure the reptile's health. Those who have live plants with roots in the substrate may not be able to do a thorough cleaning, and will need to monitor the water quality more carefully to ensure that the turtle lives in good condition.

Take Care of Baby Water Turtles Step 26

Step 6. Gather the supplies needed to clean and disinfect the aquarium

Arrange everything in advance and work away from the places where food is prepared. Use a harmless turtle disinfectant, which can be purchased at the pet store, or made at home from a solution of ½ teacup bleach to 4L of water. Other supplies include:

  • Sponges;
  • Some scraping tool (like a spatula);
  • Bowls, one for soapy water and one for clean water;
  • Paper towel;
  • Trash bags;
  • Spray or bowl of disinfectant solution and a second bowl of rinsing water;
  • Large container for dipping artificial plants, rocks and dry aquarium area.
Take Care of Baby Water Turtles Step 27

Step 7. Clean the aquarium thoroughly

First, you will need to remove the turtle and leave it in a separate area, such as a bucket with enough aquarium water to cover it. Once this is done, you will need to clean the aquarium, the dry area, the substrate and any other surfaces (the water heater, for example). Do it in the sink, bathroom sink or bathtub, never in the kitchen sink, to avoid contamination.

  • Turn off and remove all electrical equipment: heater, filter, light bulbs, etc.
  • Clean the surfaces of electrical devices that are submerged with soap and water and a disinfectant spray. Rinse them thoroughly.
  • Remove the dry area. Clean it with soap and water and soak in disinfectant for ten minutes. Rinse thoroughly when finished.
  • Remove the substrate. Clean it with soap and water and soak it in disinfectant for ten minutes. Rinse thoroughly when finished.
  • Using a sponge, clean the aquarium with soap and water. Fill it with the disinfectant solution (one part bleach to nine water) and let it soak for ten minutes. Empty the aquarium and rinse it thoroughly.
  • Return everything to the aquarium. The water must be at the correct temperature before the tortoise is brought back to it.
  • Wear gloves or wash your hands thoroughly after changing water to avoid contamination from diseases such as salmonella.

Popular by topic