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first turtle

22 16:48:43

Hi I am planning on buying a couple of turtles.  I want a species that wont grow very big so I can keep them in an aquarium.  The two types I have been looking at are Mississippi Map and Southern painted.  I wanted to know which type I should get and what equipment i need.  I have an aquarium but i does not have a flourescent canopy, it has 2 regular light bulbs. Do I need flourescent lighting, I am planning on buying a basking lamp which I don't know much about either. Any information would be very helpful.  
Thanks, Peter

It is important to provide a balanced light for all reptiles. Not only do they need light to see with and to show off their colors under, but the ultraviolet wavelengths help provide vitamin D and help control the groth of germs and mildew, and the infrared wavelenghts help provide basking heat.

The simplist lighting array is:
1. Rig up some fluorescent bulbs to automatically start in the morning and run for about 10-12 hours.
2. Rig up some incandescent bulbs to kick in about 10 AM and run until about 6 PM or so.
3. Rig an infrared heat bulb to run from about noon to 3
4. Finaly, run an ultraviolet (black light) to run for about an hour around 2 PM.

This gives you a dawn and dusk, and a hot part of the day just like nature does. Each part is pretty cheap, and if one part does not work, the rest will be OK.

All lights should be at least several inches above the highest a turtle can reach, and the IR and UV bulbs should be pointed at a basking area, and shine at least partly into the water. Obviously, the IR and UV bulbs need to be in fixtures that tolerate high heat.

Baby turtles (about 1-3 inches) need about 5 gallons of water to swim in for proper exercise. You can keep 1 or 2 very small species of turtles in a 10 gallon tank, but almost anything else will need more water fast. The formula is roughly 2 gallons per inch of turtle, and you need to take into account the turtle's growth in the formula. You also need to remember that any land area, or lowered water levesl need to be taken into account.

Use a 'carapace length' or CL as your main gauge. This is how long the shell is measured from front to back along the curve. The species you mention will be about 5" long, so we'll use that number:
Water depth- 1.5 CL minimum.
Tank length- 4 CL min.
Tank width- 2 CL min.
Tank wall (space above the water line to keep the turtles from escaping)- a bit over 1 CL min.

Note- if you use the minimum in all sizes, your tank will be too small! These numbers provide some room to move, but by themselves are not enough.

You'll need some places for the turtles to get out of the water. Depending on your skills and interests, you can try to anchor some driftwood so it makes a dry platform, you can pile up some rocks, etc. Some considerations:
- Rock piles need to be secured so they do not slide down and possibly injure a turtle or break the glass.
- Wood needs to be water/rot resistant, but also safe for turtles. Cedar, redwood, treated lumber, and so forth will release chemicals into the water, although redwood and cedar are 'semi-safe' if you change the water often enough.
- Rock and stone can abrade the turtle's shells and give disease easy access. Smoother rocks are OK.
- Most plastics are too slick for a turtle to climb on.
- If you glue things to the tank, make sure ti is still easy to clean and does not weigh too much.

Most aquarium stores and books can give you more ideas.

For a small turtle, my recommendation would be the Reeves turtle. It is small, easy to care for, and easy to find at pet shops. On the other hand, it is not quite as aquatic as you may want (this can be a good thing, though- semi-terrestrials are generally easier to care for since they dont need the warm, filtered water, etc.) The Eastern/Carolinan or Three-toed box turtles would also be a consideration.

Some helpful links:
My main recommendation is the Californai Turtle and Tortoise Club at

Others include: