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2. Water Turtle Feeding

Food

* Refer to Is My Turtle Too Fat? How Can It Diet? How often Should I Feed? for more information.
* DO NOT
FEED HAMBURGER. It is much to fatty!
* Water turtles need to be in the water to feed. If they find food on a land
area, they will run to the closest water source, so they can swallow.
* Dietary requirements vary with age and species. Some water turtles will
be mostly carnivores for most of their life, while others, like the popular
slider turtles, will become predominantly vegetarians as they grow older.
It is mandatory that you do research on the specific dietary requirments of
the turtle species you are keeping. Then, experiment with a good mix of food items and find out,
what your turtle likes best. Don't just feed one kind of food. In the
wild, turtles eat a very varied diet.
* It is difficult, to supply the right mix of food in captivity, so it is
recommended that some extra vitamins are added to the food. (See vitamins).
* Good food: earthworms, nightcrawlers (make sure they are not raised on
manure), redworms, mealworms (treat only, fatty),
whole feeder goldfish (occasionally as they contain thiaminase), snails, butter lettuce (wash well) or
melon and other fruit (find out what your turtle likes),
tofu, banana, strawberries, peas, kibbles,
Reptomin, Tender Vittels. Blueberries, dandelion
flowers and leaves, vegetable scraps from your kitchen, tomato, cooked
sweet potatoes, mulberry leaves ...
(Insert show thistle photo form nature journal)
* Do not feed Tubifex worms. Do not feed raw chicken, because of salmonella
in the chicken. Cooked (boiled, well-done) chicken is OK. (Freezing will not destroy
salmonella.) Feed organ meat sparingly, if at all.
Shrimp, ocean fish, squid, can be fed occasionally.
Feed any commercial food as a side, not a staple. Commercial foods are too rich
to be fed all the time.

* More and more people consider feeder fish a low-quality food. Also, feeder
fish are usually not very healthy. Better to feed frozen and thawed freshwater
fish. A colleague recommends what's called 'Silversides'

* As a nutritional staple, you can use a commercial turtle food.
Tender Vittels (cat treats) work well, too, but
not all turtles like them. However, these foods are relatively fatty and high
in protein and should not be fed daily.

* We used to feed canned cat/dog food to turtles. With the availability
of decent dry foods, I can't recommend this anymore, except as a last
resort for an animal that won't eat, even after it has been declared
healthy by a veterinarian.

* Lettuce (to most people, 'lettuce' still
means 'iceberg' which is a NO_NO. Use dandelion greens--very high in calcium
and vitamin A--and escarole & endive & ok, romaine--all good sources of
calcium, and none carrying iodine-binding substances like the cruciferous
veggies or calcium-binding substances like spinach.

* Feed your turtle every 2-3 days, but make greens available daily.
If it gets too skinny, feed more, if it gets
fat, feed less. Most likely your turtle will end up on the fat side, because
it will learn to beg on no-feed days, and you will give in. I tend to feed
my turtles daily in summer, feeding them veggies one day and dry food or
worms the other day. In winter I only feed twice a week and mostly dry food,
because it is cooler, and the population density in my tank is up.

Refer to Is My Turtle Too Fat? How Can It Diet? How often Should I Feed? for more information.

* All non-dry non-concentrated foods can be fed until the turtle is full.
Full is, when the turtle slows down eating.
Stuffed is, when the turtle cannot get any more food down, even if it tries.
It *is* funny to feed a turtle worms until the worms hang out of its mouth.
But don't do this often.

* Read up on the species of turtle you have to find out what ratio of
meat-to-veggies to feed. Captive turtles tend to be fed too much meat.
Young turtles need more meat than adults. For example, adult sliders
should be fed a diet of 60% veggies and 40% meat.

Vitamins

* If you are feeding a perfect diet, no supplements are necessary.
In captivity, we can not easily reach perfection, therefore vitamin
should be given; usually once to twice weekly.

Calcium

Turtles need calcium to build healthy shells and bones.
A cuttle fish bone in the tank will be nibbled on by most turtles and
supplies extra calcium. Get a new bone, when the old one get slimy!
There are also calcium supplements specially for reptiles.

Vitamin D3

Synthesized in the turtle`s body using natural sunlight. A full spectrum reptile
light is an acceptable substitute, or a supplement can be fed. There are supplements
available that contain Ca/D3.
Of course, the best way for your turtle get D3 is to get
unfiltered sunlight, and then it will synthesize the vitamin.
NOTE: OUTDOOR TURTLES SHOULD NOT BE SUPPLEMENTED WITH VITAMIN D3, as
they make plenty of their own.

 Vitamin A

If lacking, will cause loss of appetite and swollen, runny eyes. A common
symptom in turtles not fed properly. Can be
fixed using a varied diet. In severe cases, drops may be recommended by your vet.
Feeding too much Vitamin A will cause the skin to peel and eventually
come off and leave bare flesh. It looks very ugly, is very painful, and
often the turtle will die.
Vets used to give turtles vitamin A shots. But since dosage is hard to
determine, this should only be used as a last resort.

* There are some products available now that are formulated for reptiles.
Herptivite (by RepCal) is a recommended product.

Light

* Turtles need several hours of exposure to natural sunlight every day. This
helps them synthesize vitamin D3. If you keep your pet outdoors, and there
is sun and shade available in the enclosure, you don't have to worry.
If your turtle is indoors all the time, you have to provide a source of
full spectrum lighing or supplements.
There are constantly new lights on the market, and there is a lot of
discussion on this issue.
There are 3 bulbs on the market that produce significant
levels of UVB: Zoo-Med's ReptiSun 5.0, ESU's Desert Sun 7.0, and Reptile
D-light (usually available only by mail order). All must be replaced every
4-6 mos (timing depends on which research you think was most elegantly
designed, but they all agree on the brevity of the useful life) because a
coating builds up on the inside of the bulb which blocks the UVB. Also, they
must be no more than 12" (or 14", or 18", again depending on whose research
was best designed) from the animal in order to affect blood calcium levels.

* Some of my turtles enjoy a walk outdoors every once in a while. Watch your
turtle at all times, so he won't get hurt or lost.Turtles can get lost
very quickly, if they want to.

* Turtles need a basking light. The silvery shop lights from the hardware
store are great. Place it on a screen top or hang if (high enough that
the turtles cannot touch the bulb). I find that a 60W bulb is about the
right strength. I tend to use a 40-60 Watt bulb in summer and 75W in winter.

* The lights should be on between 10 and 14 hours a day, depending
whether you use a yearly cycle, or not, and depending on where your
turtle comes from.

Hibernation

* If you keep your turtles indoors and are not breeding, you do not need
to hibernate them.

* If your turtles live outside in the summer, you can take them in
in winter and need not hibernate them.

* Sliders can be kept outdoors all year in the southern states and will
hibernate on their own, provided the pond is deep enough and has a
thick mud bottom for the turtle to bury in.

* Turtles from tropical areas do not hibernate. They will die if you try.

* If you want to hibernate your turtles, refer to one of the books
listed below.

Sexing

These are not clean-cut rules, and not all work for all
turtles, but using a combination of them, will usually help
you determine the gender of your turtle.

* Males often have fatter, bigger tails than females.

* Males have the vent (cloaca) about 2/3 from the shell towards
the tip of the tail. Females have it closer to the shell.

* Males have a flat or concave plastron (bottom shell) - so it will
fit better on top of the female. Females have a flat or convex
plastron - so there is more space for eggs.

* Male sliders grow long claws on their front legs.

Breeding

This is an advanced feature and not covered here. If you keep a
pair of turtles, and their are eggs in the water, you have several
options. Do nothing. Most likely those eggs are already dead.
Or take the eggs out immediately and try to incubate them. If
you want to encourage your female to lay more eggs, provide a land
area with sand or dirt for her to lay her eggs. If you want to
incubate the eggs, do NOT turn them or they will die!
For starters, keep t
he eggs moist and warm (~85F). Then consult
a book or a person to help you on.

Baby turtles

Very young (small) turtles are no longer sold in the U.S.A. A turtle
needs to have a 4" shell to be legally sold in the pet trade.

Baby turtles need extra care to remain healthy. Mostly they are much
more affected by an unhealthy diet. If you feed too much protein to
young turtles, their shells will deform. This is fixable in young
animals by adjusting the diet. Once the turtle reaches a bigger size,
the deformities are permanent and cause the turtle much discomfort.

People have succesfully raised baby turtles on and almost exclusive
diet of Reptomin.
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