Diamond Back Terrapins

Note: This is not a turtle for beginners as the setup requires considerable effort. What a beautiful turtle you must have! I have never had a diamond back myself, but here is what I know: * Diamond backs live usually in brackish water, like coastal marshes, tidal flats, and such. They are found exclusively in estuaries, though I'm sure the odd one will venture quite far up stream - on occassion. There are some interesting studies out there that show that the greatest numbers of terrapins are found where the salinity is above 50% sea water (or 17ppt), as that is where the greatest volume of their foods of choice are found. * Males get about 10-14cm, females 15-23cm--that is 4-6 inches for males and 6-10inches for females. Which makes it a pleasantly small turtle. You won't need a 100 gallon tank in a few years. * Diamondbacks are almost completely carnivorous. In the wild they are scavengers but will not pass up a live morsel. The following has been found to be eaten by wild animals: snails, crabs, shells, and some other marine animals. Captives can be fed: chopped fish, crabs, snails, oysters, clams, insects, marine annelids, and some beef. -- I would also try earthworms and pellets; it would make your life easier, if the turtle took those at least occasionally. * Occurs along the all along the Atlantic coast from Cape Cod to Texas and the Florida Keys. There are 7 subscpecies. * Latin name is Malaclemys. * I got most of this information from: "Turtles of the World" by carl H. Ernst, ISBN 1-56098-212-8 Setup: (Thank you Jared Purdy for this information!) If you are going to be keeping terrapins, you must adopt a "husbandry" attitude that leans strongly towards recreating (as closely as possible) the water conditions that are natural to this species. That means you should purchase a hydrometer, a cylinder to view the hydrometer, and marine salt from a fish store. Changes in PH, KH and salinity have a considerable affect on this animal. The most common affects are serious dermal and shell infections. This species has adapted to a high saline environment, which is also characterized by a high PH (8.2~) and a high KH (hard water - mineral rich, like marine water). Changing these characteristics affects osmotic pressure within the species and can result in infections. Cleanliness is next to Godliness with diamond backs - filtration is a must! (Thank you Lori) I put salt in all my tanks but my diamondbacks have a bit more. When they are really young I only put a tiny amount because in nature that is the way they do it. Once they get older I increase the amount of salt I use but what you have to remember is that they drink fresh water so you have to give them clean fresh water to drink everyday. Here is a bit more: Check out the Audubon Guide on North American Reptiles and Amphibians for information on species, sub-species, distribution, breeding, and such. They have a good article which is too long for me to type in. You should also be able to find more info on your state reptile at the local library. Here is a summary with focus on suggested husbandry. My additional source is "Turtles of the World" by Carl H. Ernst. Females grow to 10 inches, males to 6 inches. Natural habitat is brackisch water, coastal marshes, tidal flats, coves, estuaries, and lagoons behind barrier beaches. ==> Don't be shy about adding a bit of salt to the water as suggested in the car sheet. It will help keep the turtle healthy, and he won't mind. Try 1 teaspoon per gallon of water. Turtle will hibernate in the North, not in the South. ==> You don't have to hibernate him. ==> Hardy animal, will tolerate relatively wide spectrum of environments. ==> Use a generic setup as described in care sheet. It will be fine. Probably doesn't need to be kept as warm as a slider. Don't let temperature of water drop below 70F in average. You can keep him outdoors in summer. He'd like that. Food: probably a scavenger but also likes live food in wild. Found in stomach have been snails, fiddler and other crabs, marine anelids, and a bit of marsh plants, clam leftovers. Captives can be fed on chopped fish, crabs, snails, oysters, clams, insects, marine annelids, and a little lean beef. Don't expect your turtle to eat veggies, but try to give him some dry food (since in the wild, he does accidentially ingest plants and algae for a balanced diet). I would also not feed beef but cat/dog food once a week for the vitamins. Diamondbacks can handle the salt in ocean fish and crabs. Feed snails and shrimp with the shell.