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Turtle Newbie

Discussion in 'Introduce Yourself' started by purplecandle, Oct 22, 2014.

  1. purplecandle

    purplecandle Active Member

    Hi, my name is Cynthia. I'm a turtle newbie. I've had my turtle for a few days. My husband found him on the road, no where near any sort of water or mud. Bizarrely, he was heading towards houses and more roads. So, hubby brought him home.

    I searched the internet til my eyes were bleeding and found out he was a male painted turtle (likely a Southern).

    Well, he had no where to go. Didn't want to just drop him off in a river or creek. So, we decided for now to keep him.

    Now, I'm a fishkeeper, so I have tons of equipment and decor. I also had a cycled, empty 55 gallon tank that I was gonna turn into an African cichlid tank. So I spent most of a day transforming the tank from a fish tank to a turtle tank....Not an easy thing to do! It is half way filled with water, free swimming on one side and basking area on the other side.

    He seems to be enjoying himself and I've gotten him to eat crickets. This Friday I will go get some other foods for him to try.

    For the most part, I'm clueless here. I really need help. I've never had any sort of turtle and until a few days ago I had never known a single thing about turtles, let alone how to care for one.

    I've been trying to get advice on forums, but most of them are ghost towns. I'm hoping to get help here.

    Anyways, nice to meet everyone! I'll try to attach a picture of the turtle.
  2. purplecandle

    purplecandle Active Member

    Can you guys see my post and pic? For some reason it disappeared?
  3. Merlin

    Merlin Administrator Staff Member Premium Member

    Welcome Cynthia. You ran afoul of one of our anti spammer protocols that locks up a first post with a link in it. It will now display
  4. purplecandle

    purplecandle Active Member

    Duh...I should have known better! Sorry! Just wanted to get that picture showing. Thanks for fixing it!
  5. kriminaal

    kriminaal HH Block Leader Staff Member Premium Member

    Welcome to HerpCenter.
    Nice looking turtle. Attractive colours.
    I would like to help but you already have more experience with turtles than I.
  6. Dragoness

    Dragoness Elite Member

    Well, if you are determined to do right by this turtle, you'll need a UVB lamp, to start with. Painters are basking species, and require UVB to absorb calcium to maintain and grow bones and shell. Without this, health problems can occur, ranging from MBD to shell rot.

    D3 supplements are a poor second choice to actual UVB, as there is no formula to determine how much your turtle will need.

    3 main kinds of UVB those are available, depending on budget, intended function, etc.

    Most commonly used ones in the herp trade are mercury vapor bulbs. Most of those will last a year, and project the UVB a decent distance. You'd have to read specs to be sure the UVB is getting to your turtle. Be prepared to spend $50+ on one of these. Mega Ray and Power Sun both have good products.

    Fluorescents (Compact or tube) are cheaper, but do not project the UVB as far, and typically quit producing it after about 6 months - even if the lamp is still working, it may not be giving off the UVB wavelength. Some varieties can cause eye problems.

    LED's are not easy to find, and generally cost an arm and a leg, but supposedly last longer. I have not personally used the, nor heard how long they produce UVB (as opposed to just visible light.)

    I do not know enough about this species to know if their biological rhythms will be upset by not spending a good long winter buried in the mud of a lake bottom.


    Turtles are filthy animals compared to fish. You will need about twice as much filtration (per volume of water) for a turtle as you would need for a fish tank of equal volume.


    Painters are omnivorous, and will eat almost anything. Variety is the best option for any creature. Whole prey is preferable. Avoid processed or canned foods in favor of live insects, earthworms, minnows, fresh fruits, greens, and vegetables, etc. You can frequently toss a slice, peel or scrap of your uncooked fruits and vegetables in the tank for your turtle to munch on (see nutritional guide lists below for suggestions).

    Many bait shops sell crickets, worms, and minnows fairly cheap. Can even be found at big box stores in their outdoors departments, sometimes. You can also feed frozen goodies (brine shrimp, krill, minnows) that you may already keep handy for fish, but I would limit that, as some brands may have questionable salt content.

    If you breed feeder insects of any kind, your turtle will gladly eat those as well. Some of your fish may enjoy them, too.

    There are also turtle pellets readily available at most pet stores. I use them occasionally, but only supplementally. I prefer to feed my turtle whole prey and whole nutritious foods.

    Here are some great lists of good choices for fruits and vegetable for herps on the site:

    Diet - Greens Information

    Diet - Vegetables Information

    Diet - Fruits Information
  7. purplecandle

    purplecandle Active Member

    Thanks for your response! My biggest issue is trying to know what uv light/heat lamp/bulbs to buy! So confusing! I just know I'm gonna go to the pet store and get talked into buying unnecessary stuff.

    As far as maintenance, my fish are pretty filthy so I change the water once a week. Hopefully that is ok for a turtle. I can change it more if needed.

    The filter on the tank is rated for 60 gallons. It's a bit of a pain to keep it going with the water level dropped, but I managed. I put baffles on the filter to keep the noise down. He does have a heater, but it is glass and some how he managed to move the heater AND turn the temp up! Smart booger. I'm changing it to a plastic one.

    I'm still working on the aquascaping. I really don't want to buy a ramp...I'm trying to keep it more natural looking. So far, he is very mobile and reaches the basking area easily.

    For the food, I have crickets, worms, shrimp and stuff like that for my fish. I'm gonna try more greens this Friday and gonna try a premade pellet. I think he is an adult, I 've read they prefer veggies like greens...but I think I'm suppose to avoid spinach and non nutritional greens like iceberg lettuce.

    --If anything seems wrong with what I've said, PLEASE let me know!--

    Current questions-

    Can I take him out of the tank for water changes?

    Can I take him outside, in a Rubbermaid bin...just to soak up Sun and fresh air?

    I know I need heat lamp, uv, and to remove the tank lid and switch to a screen. More food. Anything else?

    Should I get a calcium supplement if I have uv?

    Any other advice is welcome! I prefer to do things the right way.
  8. Darkbird

    Darkbird Elite Member

    Yes you can take him out for water changes, and outside for some sun as long as it's supervised, you'd be surprised what they can get out of sometimes. And you don't really even need the screen unless the basking site also allows the turtle to reach the top edge of the tank. Plus any screen between the UV source and the turtle will cut down the amount of UV reaching the turtle. Now me personally I prefer the mercury vapor bulbs as they will do a basking site and the UV, then I supplement with a regular fluorescent fixture for additional lighting. Just brightens up the area where the basking bulb doesn't throw much light. And I also usually pass on having any gravel or anything else in the bottom, makes cleaning a lot easier even if it doesn't look as nice.
  9. purplecandle

    purplecandle Active Member

    I'm so glad I can take him out for water changes! I wasn't keen on getting bitten or hissed at.

    I don't mind substrate maintenance. I've always had it in tanks for the increased bacteria space it provides. Nitrate is a pain though.

    This tank only had sand in it, for the cichlids I was gonna get. But along came the turtle and I had to build up the basing side with gravel. I'm concerned about gas pockets forming so I'll have to stir it often. But for now it's the only way to give adequate swimming space and basking.

    Thanks for the advice on the lighting!
  10. Darkbird

    Darkbird Elite Member

    Having cycled tanks for turtles isn't at all necessary, I normally change out the entire water volume when I clean their tanks, hence the lack of gravel. As long as there's no chlorine in the water when you fillmit your good to go. They will trash the water quickly no matter what. I would consider getting a large canister filter, as was said at least twice the rated capacity as you have for tank size. I've kept various cichlids in the past and a turtle can dirty a tank way faster.
  11. purplecandle

    purplecandle Active Member

    I just assumed they would need cycled water lol. I'm with fish too much.

    I've got good well water. pH is low, but otherwise it's great..for fish at least :)
  12. purplecandle

    purplecandle Active Member

    Oh....just to make sure...he can live in a 55 right? That's what I've read so far.
  13. Darkbird

    Darkbird Elite Member

    It can for now, but you might end up needing a 75 if it turns out to be a female. Or a 40 breeder, it's not the volume so much as the dimensions, the 12" width of most smaller tanks is very limiting on what reptiles you can keep. Just like trying to keep an oscar in a 55, yes it will fit but it eventually gets to the point where it barely has room to turn around. Something to consider as a cheap alternative is to get one of the large plastic stock tanks from a farm supply store. Even without gravel, when set up right it's kind of like having an indoor pond. But the 55 should be fine for a while.
  14. purplecandle

    purplecandle Active Member

    I think it's a male based on some things I've read. His anus is low on his tail and he has long nails. Of course, that's just what I've read. I'm no expert.

    Funny you mention Oscars...mine are laying eggs at the moment :) They will eat them in a few days thank goodness!
  15. Darkbird

    Darkbird Elite Member

    Sounds male, so you might be ok then. And yeah, I'd sometimes come home to a batch of eggs and then they'd dissapear a few days later. I wanted to raise the fry though. Kinda funny story having nothing to do with turtles, I had a pair of red devils in a 110 with a mixed bag of south American cichlids, and of course they started bullying everyone, got so bad all the other fish were packed into the opposite end of the tank. Called the petshop and they couldn't take them, so I had no choice but to pull them out and stick them in a 29. Way too small, but it was all I had at the time. 2 or 3 weeks later I came home to a good size wiggling clound in the water, that's right, had a male and female and didn't know it. Had fun with that.
  16. Dragoness

    Dragoness Elite Member

    Sounds like you have a good start on the turtle setup.

    Does indeed sound like you got a male.

    I wouldn't worry about buying a ramp if you already have a suitable basking area set up, and he is able to access it easily.

    I once made a floating dock out of great stuff, and sealed it with aquarium silicone. Pressed gravel, sand, and moss into the silicone to give it natural appearance, it ended up looking pretty decent. I'll see if I can dig up that thread.
  17. Dragoness

    Dragoness Elite Member

  18. purplecandle

    purplecandle Active Member

    Thanks for the idea! I went to the petstore today and saw some cool things to do a deck with. I made my first equipment purchase, a heat lamp. Me and the store clerk took an hour to figure out which one LOL. She even checked the internet and stuff to be sure.

    Next I'll get the uvb...and I think I will need a ceramic heater something (I'm gonna research that one).

    Gave him greens today...not that interested. But he wants the crickets. It's weird. I thought since he was at least a sub adult he would prefer greens. Oh well. I'll figure this out. I might post an id thread to make sure I have a southern painted.

    You guys/gals have been so helpful! BIG THANK YOU!
  19. Dragoness

    Dragoness Elite Member

    Most omnivorous herps would prefer the insects. I have to argue with mine to get them to eat greens.

    If your lamp is only providing heat, any lamp will do. Many of the standard household bulbs provide plenty of heat, and work for that purpose. The only one you need to be particular about is the UVB lamp.

    And for lamps, bulbs, and fixtures, The hardware store will be cheaper. They sell ceramic fixture lamps around $10 - called "Brooders" because they are usually used for poultry.

    For the UVB, once you decide which kind you want, you may want to check online.
  20. purplecandle

    purplecandle Active Member

    You're my hero...$10 is way better than the $40 the pet store wanted.

    I'm thinking I have an eastern painted. Apparently I misread my states turtles and confused southern with eastern. They all look the same!

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