Caring for the red-eared aquatic turtle

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The red eared aquatic turtle (Trachemys scripta elegans) is one of the reptile species that has become the most popular as an exotic pet in recent years. Whether for the practicality of its maintenance, its exotic appearance or the tranquility of its character, the "elegant jicotea "(as it is also known) has become the favorite pet of many children and adults.

Although they are usually very resistant and easy to maintain, they also need specific care to preserve their good health. If you are looking for a compact and curious pet, the Animal Expert invites you to know the Red-eared terrapin care.

You may also be interested in: Caring for a yellow-eared turtle Index
  1. Red-eared aquatic turtles: taxonomy
  2. Anatomical features of Trachemys scripta elegans
  3. Sexual dimorphism and life expectancy of the red-eared slider
  4. Terrarium for red-eared turtle
  5. Feeding a red-eared slider
  6. Prohibited foods for Trachemys scripta elegans
  7. How to properly feed a red-eared slider?
  8. Preventive medicine for a red-eared aquatic turtle

Red-eared aquatic turtles: taxonomy

Red-eared turtles are characterized as water turtles, but they retain habits semi-aquatic. They belong to the order of Testidunes, characterized by the resistant shell that lines their internal organs and where their limbs come from. Its gender, Trachemys scripta, encompasses more than 250 species of turtles belonging to the family Emydidae.

Its scientific name is Trachemys scripta elegans, but it is popularly known by multiple denominations. In addition to "red-eared turtle " and "elegant turtle ", they are also called "Florida Galapagos ", for being native to the region to the southeast of the United States and northeast of Mexico. And in some countries, it is known as "japanese turtles ", thanks to the small stripe and the lateral colorations that delineate his eyes.

As they demonstrate high colonizing potential, becoming a serious threat to native species and to the balance of the local ecosystem, they entered the Spanish Catalog of Invasive Alien Species, approved by Royal Decree 630/2013, dated August 2.

Anatomical features of Trachemys scripta elegans

The shell of a red-eared turtle can reach 30cm, but the average is 12 to 20cm, which generates a body weight around 250 grams. From the shell, they come out semi-palmeted limbs that allow the turtle to swim more easily, and protect itself by quickly retracting them inside.

Its structure is divided into 2 main sections: the upper or dorsal; and the lower or ventral. The dorsal section is the main one and is made up of various bone plates. In it, we find a central vertebral shield, which is usually more raised; the costal shields on both sides of the central shield; and also a marginal shield, which integrally surrounds the costal shield. The dorsal section, also called the de plastron, covers the bottom (or bottom) of the turtle.

Different colors and shades can be observed in the shell of Japanese tortoises, with stripes and spots scattered throughout the shield, which allows them camouflage In nature. When they are young, a tonality of "tends to predominate.green leaf ", and as the shell ages, the shell darkens until it reaches shades of olive or Brown. Already the plastron is always very light yellow.

A curiosity about their anatomy is that red-eared turtles they do not have ears (or tympanic cavities), and yes very small membranes that allow them to have good hearing. Its name derives from the reddish spots that are located on the sides of its head, and resemble small red ears..

Sexual dimorphism and life expectancy of the red-eared slider

Red-eared tortoises have a remarkable sexual dimorphism, which is only revealed in adulthood. The males are minors that females possess longer nails on its front legs, and its plastron has a concave shape. In addition, the eyeliner has a more intense and striking coloration than in females.

The life expectancy of both sexes is calculated between 25 and 40 years, but it can be reduced by living in captivity or by not having adequate preventive medicine.

Terrarium for red-eared turtle

Japanese tortoises are one of the species "cold blooded ", that is, they need to use environmental factors, external to their body, to regulate their body temperature. This thermoregulation mechanism is called poikilothermia, and is practiced by most reptiles..

Thanks to this organic characteristic, Japanese tortoises lead a "semi-aquatic" life. They spend long periods in the water, where they feed and hydrate, but they also need contact with the earth and its warmth to keep their body temperature stable..

Therefore, when preparing the ideal space for our turtle, we must think of a aquatic pond good size, 120 x 60 x 45 cm minimum (according to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), to allow you to swim, exercise and strengthen your body. You can find a variety of models at pet stores or make an excellent homemade aquarium for your new pet yourself. We will also need to reserve a dry environment, preferably a garden or patio with soil and vegetation, where our pet can receive sunlight. Or you can choose to divide your aquaterrarium into two parts: a wet one (like a large pool), and a dry one (where there is incidence of artificial light coming from a lamp).

How are animals natives of hot climates, tropical and subtropical, it is important to pay close attention to the air conditioning of its environment. The ideal temperature for your pond water should be maintained between 25º and 30ºC. To achieve this temperature throughout the year, you can opt for heating systems that are widely used in fish tanks. In addition, it will be necessary to control the environmental temperature of our home during the coldest days of the year, to prevent it from falling below 24ºC.

Feeding a red-eared slider

In their natural habitat, Florida freshwater turtles maintain a diet essentially omnivorous, with some variations according to the different stages of its development. During their first 3 years of life, they experience the "first ripening" period, where growth is most intense. Your diet should be rich in animal protein, to promote the strengthening of your muscles and bone structures. Its main protein sources are small crustaceans and fish, in addition to earthworms and crickets. When this first stage ends, the turtles gradually decrease their protein intake, and become mostly herbivorous for his entire adult life.

If we decide to have a red-eared turtle as a pet, we must pay close attention to its nutritional needs, and respect this dietary change characteristic of its healthy development. You can find pre-made food at pet stores that work with these turtles. It is a balanced mixture that contains vegetables, proteins (usually from small fish and insects), vitamins and minerals, such as calcium that is essential for the maintenance of its shell. This is the best option to guarantee the adequate nutritional proportions to preserve the health of your pet. But it is also important to include fresh food in their diet.

In a homemade diet, we can privilege the fish meat as its main protein source, since it is usually easier to find and preserve. But we also recommend offering you small earthworms, which are usually marketed as bait at fishing supply stores. A fundamental fact is that we should never give cooked or seasoned meat to our turtle; your body is ready to digest the crude protein, in a natural state. Salty, spicy, industrialized human food can seriously upset your digestive tract.

As vegetable sources, we should prefer to offer you edible seaweed, They can be found in pet stores specializing in sea turtles, and also in stores that work with ingredients for Japanese food (those classic seaweed that we use to make sushi). If we buy the dried algae, we will have to hydrate them with water before offering them to our turtle.

We can also give you lettuce and green leaves (except spinach), but in moderation to avoid an excessively high effect laxative. Fruits can already represent only 10% of the diet of a red-eared turtle, and we must avoid offering citrus fruits.

Prohibited foods for Trachemys scripta elegans

Here are some foods to avoid:

  • Fruits: avoid bananas and citrus fruits; prefer pears, apples, watermelon and melons.
  • Vegetables: avoid spinach, lima beans, mushrooms, bell peppers, sweet potatoes, squash, asparagus and beets.
  • meats: avoid red and white meats that are high in fat.

How to properly feed a red-eared slider?

It is essential to know some eating habits of Japanese turtles, so that their home life does not represent a risk to their health. Here are some tips to properly feed your pet:

  • Japanese tortoises alone must be fed in the water, since they do not naturally produce saliva. When they swallow food, they also absorb sips of water that helps them swallow their food..
  • The feeding frequency varies according to the stages of development that we mentioned earlier. While they are maturing, between their birth and their first 3 years, they must be fed 3 times a day. But when they reach adulthood, the frequency should be reduced to just Once a day. It is important to progressively reduce the food intake of our turtle; For this, we can offer you 2 daily refections for 2 weeks, when it reaches 3 years of life, and then reduce to 1 refection just.
  • It is preferable to offer your food in a different pond to which it inhabits, since turtles usually generate many remains while they eat. Thus, we manage to reduce the frequency with which we need to change the water in your aquarium, and avoid contamination.

Preventive medicine for a red-eared aquatic turtle

The main cause of disease in red-eared turtles is poor hygiene of its aquatic ponds. The remains of food, added to the excrement of the turtles, favor the proliferation of bacteria, fungi and different microorganisms in the artificial habitat of our pet. Therefore, the first preventive care to maintain the good health of your turtle is to change the water in its habitat weekly and carry out a reinforced cleaning of the entire pond, at least once every 2 months. You can use warm water and mild soap to sanitize, avoiding corrosive chemicals. Do not forget that sun exposure is also very important.

The unbalanced feeding it is also among the main pathological causes in turtles. Lack of nutrients weakens your immune system, leaving them exposed to various diseases. In addition, the ingestion of toxic or contraindicated foods can cause serious digestive disorders and poisoning. So, we once again reinforce the need to take care of your pet's daily diet..

If you notice that the shell of your turtle has white spots, cracks or seems worn (as if it lost color), do not hesitate to quickly consult a specialized veterinarian. Most likely, your pet suffers from calcium or vitamin A deficiency, which damages your bone structure and the pigmentation of your shell, and can also weaken your health.

Turtles can also develop eye, respiratory and digestive problems asymptomatically. Therefore, the care of a red-eared slider must necessarily include periodic visits to a specialized veterinarian in said animals. Like a dog or cat, your turtle also requires adequate preventive medicine to maintain good health..

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