Proper Rearing of Turtles
It is my father who introduced me to the world of aquariums. He used to work at a marine conservation aquarium before he quit the job to join an advocacy NGO which supported the calls for the conservation of endangered marine species. It was while he was working at the aquarium that I got interested in marine animals. There are some days that he took my sister and I at the aquarium over the weekend and I really loved the turtles which really caught my attention whenever we were there.
One day when my 9th birthday was approaching, my dad asked me to choose a birthday gift that I really craved for. Blatantly without mincing my words, I told him that I would love a pet toy. It sounded as a joke to him as he tried to explain to my naïve mind that it would need a lot of attention to domesticate a turtle at home. I didn’t fathom why we had to undergo all those processes when we could just buy the turtle and keep them in a bathtub.
My request was granted two years later when my dad started working for the advocacy NGO. It was at that time that he felt the need to set a home-based aquarium, and my dreams of owning a turtle became valid.
Building an Aquarium to House Turtles
When you decide to house terrestrial turtle or even smaller tortoises as pets, you need to figure out the space that they will require. Of importance is to remember that these are active creatures and they need some space to explore their ‘world’. After you figure out the right space that will enable your turtle to have some freedom, you now have to build an aquarium for them. The bigger the number, he larger the aquariums needs to be.
The cages that you built need not be made of transparent glass, because these creatures may suffer undue unrest whenever they see someone approaching and they tried to hide. You will realize that most of these creatures view any moving thing as a predator and will always try to take cover. If you are going to use transparent glass, then you need to have the side covered. The best cages are made of plastic because they are easy to heat as well as retain the heat. Alternatively, you could have a homemade cage, which should be painted with water based-paints that are not made of any toxic chemicals.
The cage should be escape-proof as most terrestrial turtles usually try to discover means of escaping and when they find an opportunity they never waste time in utilizing it. After you are done with your enclosure, find the best way of supplying heat to the creatures. This will depend with the type of enclosure. Like I said plastic enclosure are easier in heating and retaining the heat. It will all depend on you aquarium, but make sure that optimum heat is always available for these creatures.
Breeding of Turtles
If you are rearing related turtles i.e. those that share the same mother and father, they should always be kept apart from each other. This is because if they happen to mate, there are high chances of reproducing weak hatchlings which may die with time.
Turtle most mate and breed in spring – around March and April. During this time, they are usually uneasy and may even refuse to eat food. You have to find a potential mate for them at this time. Weak females shouldn’t be allowed to mate because they will lay eggs which have weak shells that can easily break. Also there are some instances when weak females may find it difficult to lay eggs and if the eggs are stuck in their bodies they could easily die.
Care of Eggs and Hatchlings
Female turtles are good at finding the safest spot where they can lay their eggs, and thus you need to provide them with a good site where they can spot the best place for themselves. After they lay the eggs, you may decide to secure the spot with a mesh wire in case of external interference. Ensure that there is optimum temperature on the spot to encourage embryo formation.
Within 70-90 days the eggs will have hatched. Hatchlings are usually targeted by many predators such as birds or rodents and it is best if you keep them indoors. They need to be given water every day and fed at least every 48 hours as you watch them grow. Normally turtles are omnivorous and may eat almost anything, after 3 months so always feed them in proper and balanced diet.