Let’s talk turtles

Have you ever seen that cartoon where they show you a turtle and the tank is this small round, glass flower pot type container with a palm tree and the turtle is wearing sun glasses while lounging around in a lawn chair? Owning a turtle is nothing like that…

For as long as I can remember I have always loved turtles. Sea turtles specifically but I don’t discriminate against different breeds. A couple of years ago, my daughter and I were at a local festival, sitting on the grass enjoying a snow cone when a little kid walked by with a tiny aquarium with a turtle inside. The little kid in me perked up with excitement. I looked over at my daughter and I said “Do you want to get a turtle?”

I knew nothing about taking care of a turtle and thought it was going to be an easy pet; like a fish. It wasn’t until my turtle was two years old that I started to realize I was doing things wrong. I felt like the worlds worst turtle mom. My turtles shell was bumpy, not smooth like all of the online turtles I was seeing. Turns out, I didn’t have the correct lighting and I wasn’t feeding her the correct food. Thankfully I was able to make the changes and correct them. Turtles shells shed their scutes just like a lizard sheds its skin. Their diet is an important part of the shedding process; so is lighting. The pet store gave me pellets for her food but I had no idea I was supposed to only feed the pellets a couple of times a week, not daily. Daily food is green leaf lettuce and red leaf lettuce. I’m thankful I found an amazing red-eared slider support group on Facebook. Now, my turtle basks in her lights and eats her lettuce and is shedding beautifully. Similar to those cartoon turtles, minus the sunglasses and a much, much bigger tank.

Fun fact! Did you know that you need 10 gallons of water per 1 inch of turtle shell? And the females can get to be 11 inches in length. YIKES! I have this dream to build her a large backyard pond some day so she can roam free and bask in the sun.

Here are some images of my turtle. Her name is Squishy after Finding Nemo “I shall call him Squishy and he shall be mine. He shall be my Squishy.” She’s about 3 1/2 years old and while she loves her lettuce and carrots, I think her favorites are blueberries and grapes (Which she can’t have often but I’m pretty sure she would eat them daily if given the chance.) These images are old so her shell looks a lot better now. She’s still a work in progress and it takes time to shed those scutes.

This first image was tank cleaning day. I let her roam around the backyard while I clean everything out.


This is the dog toy I put lettuce in to keep her entertained. She’s not amused. See her sand? Apparently turtles will eat everything so you don’t want gravel/rocks in the tank with them. They’ll eat them and become impacted. So I use sand instead.IMG_6677

Feeding time!! “Mom! Where are my grapes?! Don’t make me get them myself.” Did I mention they’re climbers? IMG_6493

When I walk by the tank she goes nuts and swims and splashes about. I’m pretty sure she thinks about food 24/7. Don’t let them fool you into thinking they need to eat all of the time though. Portion control is important. IMG_4696


I hope you have learned a little about red-eared sliders today. There are many great resources out there and I hope I don’t scare you out of ever owning a turtle. I recommend not listening to the pet store people for turtle advice and do some research before getting one of your own. They do take a lot of care and require some heavy duty filter systems for the aquariums but once you get a routine going they’re really great. Don’t do what I did and start two years into owning a turtle.


PS. Don’t feed them goldfish and don’t put pleco’s in the tank with them. They’ll eat both and neither are good for them and can cause harm. I learned the hard way as my Squishy ate our pleco “Spot” after about two months of peaceful living.

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