New(ish) Turtle, No Idea!

J. MacGregor
  • #1
I'm going to apologize in advance for the long post! Here it goes!

Well about a month ago my kids were down at the lake and they caught a baby turtle while they were fishing. (Poor lil bugger got hooked, not injured just hooked.). They put it in a water bottle (it's shell was only about 3/4 of an inch in diameter at the time. Now its about 1.5 inches.) and brought it home. Now my wife loves the dang thing and I have no idea how to care for the lil guy (or gal which ever the case may be). I live in south west Ohio and I would have to assume that it is one of the native species in the area but I have no idea what kind of turtle it is nor how to properly care for it. So far I have done 2 100% water changes (being sure to put the water conditioner in each time.), thoroughly cleaning the exposed glass of all alge and doing my best to get the uneaten food and turtle poo out of the rocks. But other than that I am way out of my league here.

The tank is a 20 gal reptile kit from Zoomed with an internal filter floating platform and a pile of gravel to one side. It has a heat lamp and a UV lamp (unknown watts on both, its just what came in the kit).

Due to my lack of knowledge and inexperience, I would almost vote to let it go back to the wild where it came from. But like I said the wife and kids just love the dang thing, so I'm kind of out voted at the moment.

The turtle is really quite a beautiful lil critter. It has two yellow streaks on each side of its head (I would assume where its ears are), and red spots all along the edge of its shell. As soon as I can find a camera and can get a good pic I'll upload it and maybe someone can help me identify it. I would think with the yellow streaks by its ears that it would be a Yellow Eared Slider, and have had other people call it a painted turtle. Which it is I have no idea! (you could put all I know about turtles on a 3x5 note card written in big writing and still have room to spaire on the card.)

Thanks for reading
  • #2
It's a baby painted turtle pretty sure. Is the undernlbelly red or partially red with yellow? Or just yellow?
They are the only north american species I know of with good red on their shells.
  • #3
Try to limit 100% water changes, due to the same reasons of stress as fish. Try more 50-70% changes more frequently as turtles produce a lot of mess. A. Lot.
Photos would really help us out.
Can we also see a photo of his tank?

What are you feeding him right now?

It sounds like a painted turtle, judging by the red stripes, but we can't know for sure without photos.

Try feeding fish, worms and insects. Green, leafy vegetables and aquatic plants such as water lettuce, water hyacinth and duckweed will be appreciated.
Never take insects from a place with fertilisers or insect repellents, as they will poison Mr turtle.
  • #4
Probably a painted turtle, I caught one in PA.
  • #5
It sounds like you are mostly on the right track (doing better than most seems like you should give yourself some more credit!) as you got a proper starting set up and seen to genuinely care. I agree with not doing 100 water changes so some of the beneficial bacteria stays in the water but you still need to clean often. They are messy! I think the biggest thing you need to be aware of is that turtle is going to probably get very large down the road meaning a larger tank will be necessary and an added expense. Got my hatchling painted in a 20 gallon but I know a 40 or larger is in the very near future! Get a photo when you can so we can help identify!
  • #6
Hello! I live really close to you! More than likely it is a red ear slider turtle judging by your area and how common they are right here! It could be painted but I'd be willing to bet big money its a red ear slider.

They're super dirty little things so be prepared for that. I've had them in the past from rescue situations.

First take out the gravel. They're known for eating it which can cause big issues down the road. Bare bottom is fine or you can use bigger decorative river rocks, like the big polished rocks. You want the water about 2x as tall as he is from head to tail. They are excellent swimmers at this age. You'll need a heat lamp in an area he can get out of the water. They'll bask there pretty often. You can use big rocks, make sure he can get completely out of the water.

You'll also want a UV strip light across the whole tank. This will ensure he's getting the nutrients he normally would from the sun, this is VITAL to food digestion. You'll also likely need a heater for the water in the tank, you'll want to get one that's not glass.

After all that you'll want to make sure you're offering a good variety of food. Snails, feeder guppies, plants, crickets, etc. Variety is key. Pellets are a great thing to feed but most caught in the wild do not easily take to liking pellets.

As time goes on this turtle will get very big (the longer you have it also you should not consider releasing it because it will get too domesticated) so you'll need a 75 gallon tank or larger in the end. They're pretty slow growers but just something to keep in mind.

In Ohio you actually are supposed to have a license to have any native species and you're also not supposed to have a turtle less than 4". Now is this readily enforced? No, but just as an FYI.
  • #7
I agree that this sounds like a painted turtle, and that a larger tank will be a necessity in the future for long-term care. A bit of research will show you the basic care requirements, to include a full-spectrum basking light placed over a basking spot that allows the animal to leave the water and dry off completely.

But I'm going to swim against the current a bit on water changes. Turtles are reptiles, and as such are not nearly as intimately associated with the water in which they live as are fish or inverts. A 100% water change will not cause your turtle any stress and will help keep the tank environment clean, as turtles are extremely messy, high-bioload creatures. The bulk of the beneficial bacteria are not in the water, they are on the surfaces within the tank and won't be affected significantly by a complete water change as long as the water is dechlorinated properly and is close in temperature.

A turtle this small would benefit from daily feedings, and removing it to a small container of water at feeding time will help immensely with tank hygiene. Keeping it in the bucket for an hour or so after feeding will give it a chance to poop there rather than in your tank. Remember that most aquatic turtles (including painteds) must be submerged to swallow their food, so make sure the water in the feeding container is deep enough to allow that.

The more water in your turtle tank, the better. The higher volume will dilute pollutants more, but no matter how much you have you will still be doing a lot of water changes. If you give the turtle deep water it's a good idea to addition to the basking site...some sort of floating plastic plants or something similar that allows the critter to rest and relax at the surface without the need to tread water or actually leave the water.
  • #8
It’s probably a painted unless it has the red ear stripe. You can keep the zoomed river pebbles. I use the exoterra ones . Everything that came with your kit should be just fine until he/she grows out! I may actually get the 40 gallon version of that zoomed kit down the line. I don’t know if this has been mentioned but heating the water especially for hatchlings is usually suggested. I keep my water at 78/79 degrees.
  • #9
I reread your description and it is most definitely a painted turtle. I have caught 3 different ones and we have at least 4 in our pond 2 of which are little babies. We kept one little baby for a while, he was so stinkin cute, he was like an inch long. We also have MASSIVE snapping turtles, one snapper has a head like 5- 6 inches thick. I hope the little baby makes it, and doesn't get eaten by a snapper.
  • #10
I agree with jjohnwm. Keep doing your 100 percent water changes. As you mentioned, even baby turtles are very messy, and removing as much poop and urine and replacing with clean water is very important for the health and hygiene of your new baby turtle.

Feeding in a separate container will help immensely in water quality. My turtle will usually poop within a half hour to an hour after eating, but if it doesn't not a big deal. There's always a next time.

I'd also start feeding quality pellet food as soon as you can. Worms, fish, greens should be fed as treats.
J. MacGregor
  • Thread Starter
  • #11
Thank you all for your replies!! how often should I be doing water changes?
  • #12
  • #13
I do weekly on my 20 gallon not 100% currently but I would say more than 75% I have the turtle pebbles and I find using a turkey badger helps get the gunk between them more efficiently than the water syphon.

Feeding outside the tank does help a lot with water quality!

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