Caring for a pet mud turtle

Caring for a pet mud turtle

The mud turtle (Kinosternon) is one of the most popular pet turtles kept within the domestic home, as they are long lived and only grow to around 5” long. They are a close relative to the musk turtle, and look very similar to them, but the mud turtle is a little smaller and has a less steep rise to the dome of their shells.

They are native to Mexico, South America and Central America, with the greatest concentration of mud turtles in the wild being found in Mexico. As a popular pet all across the world, the mud turtles offered for sale within the UK will almost without exception have been bred in captivity.

If you are considering keeping a turtle as a pet and are trying to narrow down what species would be the most sensible choice for you, this article will teach you about the mud turtle in a little more detail. Read on to learn more.

Accommodating a mud turtle within the home

The mud turtle is one of the smaller species of turtle, averaging around 5” long and rarely growing any larger than this. They are petite and compact, which means that they do not need an incredibly large tank to stay happy and healthy, but they do still need to have plenty of room to move around, swim and dive within their tank.

Using a large fish tank or aquarium of around 100 gallons capacity is fine to keep mud turtles, providing that you can set it up suitably to allow for both land space, and enough depth of water for your turtles to swim happily and be able to dive down into the water. The mud turtle gets its name because it likes to burrow into the mud in preparation for hibernation, but there is some debate over whether keeping a mud turtle in captivity necessitates the presence of mud or not.

This decision will largely come down to whether or not you intend to allow your turtle to hibernate, in which case you will need to provide mud within the tank to allow a cooler area to trigger hibernation. If you do not intend to hibernate your turtle, mud is not required, and may in fact cause the temperature in the bottom of the tank to be too cool, and possibly prompt hibernation unwarrantedly.

If you decide that your turtle will not hibernate and so does not need a mud tank, you can use fish tank gravel or pebbles as the tank substrate, with a built-up slope down into the water and a basking rock to allow them to bask in the heat.

Mud turtles and their lighting requirements

As well as adequate tank heating, turtles require additional UVB lighting in order to allow them to stay warm enough and convert the calcium and vitamin D in their diets into useful nutrients. UVB lighting cannot be provided by standard aquarium lighting or room lighting, so you will need to arrange to set up a UVB light array to keep your mud turtle healthy and well. The standard cycle for UVB lighting is to keep it on for twelve hours per day year round, and replace the bulbs in the light every six months as they begin to lose their effectiveness before they burn out.

As well as your UVB lighting, you will need to provide the usual heat lamps to keep the tank warm enough and provide a warm spot to allow your turtle to bask, with a temperature of around 90 degrees in the hot spot and not lower than 70 degrees in the rest of the tank.

Feeding a mud turtle

In the wild, the staple diet of the mud turtle consists of worms, snails, small fish and other small prey that they can find in the water, as well as greenery and vegetation. Turtles are omnivorous, meaning that they will potentially eat lots of different things as part of a balanced diet.

Within the domestic enclosure, feeding commercial turtle pellets will provide for most of your pet’s dietary requirements, providing that these are supplemented with some fresh greens, such as parsley, salad leaves and dark lettuce. Dandelions also make a tasty treat for turtles!

In order to ensure that your mud turtle gets enough calcium to keep their shells healthy, the greens that you feed should be dusted with a calcium supplement at least once a week.

Mud turtle health and longevity

Mud turtles can live for as long as fifty years, so if well cared for, your mud turtle could easily be a pet for life!

The main health issue that poses a threat to mud turtles (and most other turtle species too) is problems with the shell, and the shell is often the first area to show signs of problems if something within the tank is not quite right.

Poor lighting, a poor diet or dirty water can all lead to problems like shell rot, the shell sloughing off or becoming misshapen and deformed, so it is vital to ensure that your mud turtle’s enclosure and parameters are carefully monitored in order to keep them healthy.



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