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Turtles make interesting pets, and keep very healthy as long as their special habitat requirements are met. The most commonly kept species in NZ is the red eared slider, but Reeve’s and snake neck turtles are also seen.

The critical thing for turtle health is the temperature of the environment, which should be 80-85F (25-27C), both the water and the air above the water, as turtles breath air.

The pond or aquarium needs to have a water filter and heater, firmly attached to the sides to prevent the turtles moving or breaking them. There should be sand on the floor of the container, not pebbles. A basking rock, either in natural sunlight or with a 40W bulb over hanging it, needs to be accessible from the water. If adult female turtles are kept (over 15cm shell length approx) then a sandpit is required for laying eggs in. A cover over the aquarium keeps the air temperature inside nice and warm.

Diet: prepared reptile pellets are good, but should be supplemented by greens eg silver beet, lettuce, puha floated in the water, aqua shells as a source of calcium, and live food such as tadpoles, small fish etc as a treat. Chicken liver and ox heart are enjoyed, but are NOT a balanced diet on their own.

As turtles can only eat under water, the tank will need cleaning regularly of faeces and food debris; about weekly is usually sufficient.

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