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4. Baby water turtles care

Baby red-eared slider turtles.  
ⓒ Aleks Haecky (CC BY-NC-SA)  
The most common baby turtles acquired by people are "little green turtles" of some kind. These can be painted turtles, cooters, or baby sliders. Their care is the same until the turtle reaches a few inches of size. 

Housing

Baby turtles should be kept in shallow water (at least as deep as their shell is wide, but not deeper than that they can reach the surface comfortably). The water must be heated. A basking spot must be provided. It should be set up so that the turtle can get out easily. The water must be changed daily, unless you use a filter, in which case you can change every 2-3 days. However, the smallest filter I know of, the Fluval 1, needs at least 2 inches of water to work and creates quite a current (you can break the current with a rock).
(Note that if the filter creates too strong of a current, the turtles will paddle against it forever and they can get exhausted. You can use rocks or a brick to lessen the flow in the tank.)
One possiblity is to slant the tank slightly, to create deeper water wehre the filter is and shallower water where the basking spot is. I use flat, round river rocks for resting spots.

If room temperature is low, you may need to partially cover the tank to keep the air warm enough. However, don't let condensation accumulate, as it will keep the turtle from drying out enough.

If you do not feed Vitamin D3 and Calcium rich foods, you must get a Vita Lite for an indoor setup. Do not put the turtle tank in the window!

Cover an outdoor setup, as blue jays, cats, and crows think of baby turtles as tasty morsels.

Heating

Baby turtles must be kept warm. This greatly increases their chance at survival. The water should be 85F, and the basking spot should be 85F too. Usually, the incandescent lamp used to heat the basking spot will heat the water, too, especially if you use a rock for basking. Otherwise, using a heating pad under part of the tank is the best way to heat a tank with little water. Use an aquarium thermometer and adjust the temperature until correct.

Feeding

Baby turtles are mostly carnivorous; however, they should have vegetabels available, and they will nibble on them.

  • Butter lettuce. I keep it floating in there for them to nibble on between meals. 
  • Carrot slivers. All the foods listed in the water turtle care sheet, chopped small. 
  • Freeze dried or frozen bloodworms. Available at fish stores. High in protein, don't feed all the time.
  • Fish Gum Drops or other frozen veggie cubes for fish. These cubes contain a variety of vegetables chopped to a good size for baby turtles. Thaw them, then feed the one cube to the turtle. You can get veggie cubes at fish stores. Net or filter leftovers after a few hours. 
  • Redworms, chopped up into small pieces. This is a good food for baby turtles. You can also chop up earthworms and pick small snails in the yard. Tadpoles,if available, also make a good baby turtle food.
  • Reptomin or other specially designed turtle pellets. I know a number of people who have raised baby turtles successfully on Reptomin. Make sure you don't overfeed!
Baby turtles should be fed 1-2 times daily, small amounts. I feed once a day and keep veggies floating in the tank for them to nibble on. Do not overfeed. If the turtles grow too fast, their shells will deform. While this is correctable in the early years (fortunately, since I learned the hard way), better not to have to deal with it.

Fresh food should be part of the diet if at all possible. This also prevents too much protein/fat, which can lead to shell deformities.

Illness

Mortalitly in baby turtles is extremely high in the wild. About 99%. While in captivity this can be reduced dramatically, do not expect all of your baby turtles to survive. Most baby turtles that you get from other people have been kept under poor conditions; they are stressed, and often they are already sick. It is very difficult to treat a tiny baby turtle. Disease usually progresses fast and the turtles dies before you can take steps. If you are getting baby turtles, get more than one, unless you can absolutely not have more than one turtle, should all of them survive.

Most commonly, a baby turtle will simply stop to eat, get lethargic, lay around, and then it will die. Unfortunately, there is little that I can recommend, other than keeping the turtle warm, quiet, and hope.
If a baby turtle gets injured, then teh same care as for adults applies.

Misc

Don't handle your baby turtles often, especially not in the first few weeks.
Wash your hands before and after handling.



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