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VACTF Manual: Chapter 6: Animal Care Practices

Turtles/Tortoises

Basic Animal Care Practices

  • Aquatic species of turtles need swimming water to swallow their food. The water should be deep enough for swimming and proper feeding (as deep as the animal's shell is long), and the temperature should be between 75 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit; terrestrial species of tortoises should have a non-metal water dish large enough to soak in and drink from. The water should be lukewarm and shallow, and offered at least once a day.

  • Depending on species, young turtles and tortoises feed on small worms, insects, grubs, chopped lean meat, poultry, or fish; most turtles are carnivores . Most tortoises are herbivores, eating a variety of fruits and vegetables. NOTE: It is not harmful or unusual for a turtle or tortoise to go on an unexplained fast for short periods of time up to one week.

  • Sunshine is necessary for the synthesis of vitamin D, which is necessary for their health and the growth of a strong skeleton and shell.

  • A terrarium for a tortoise should be large enough to provide an ample exercise area along with an area in which the tortoise can hide. A bedding of indoor-outdoor carpeting, newspaper, or cloth towels is appropriate. NOTE: Avoid the use of kitty litter and wood chips.

Additional recommendations

Bonemeal, which provides calcium and phosphorous, is a must in the diet for a healthy shell.

Signs of neglect/cruelty - what to look for

Appearance of animal: soft or cracked shell, swollen eyes, pock marks on bottom of shell, white growths on the shell or skin.

Housing Conditions: Dirty substrate, dirty water, presence of uneaten or spoiled food.

Behavior: Reluctance to move or extend head/limbs from shell.

If any of the elements above are present, arrange to have a veterinarian examine animals.

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