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Old 24-10-2007, 04:44 PM
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Default Terrapin Care


Terrapins, turtles and tortoises are reptiles and are classically known as chelonians. They are recognised by the protective shell into which they can withdraw. While the tortoise is a land animal, the terrapin is amphibious, spending time in water as well as on land. In the United States these animals are called "turtles", a term used in Britain for the marine species.Another American name for them is "sliders".
The species most commonly kept as a pet is the Red-eared Terrapin Trachemys scripta elegans from the south of the USA. There are over 126 species of terrapin worldwide.

Terrapins are long lived, with life spans of over 30 years, so you are taking on a long term responsibility. To ensure that terrapins enjoy a long and healthy life, it is essential to provide them with a lifestyle resembling the natural one as closely as possible. Many health problems derive from poor husbandry. To achieve success the following points must be observed:
* Correct, varied diet.
* Free access to clean water in which to swim.
* Natural sunlight or artificial light for warmth and basking.
* Careful handling.
* Scrupulous attention to cleanliness.
* Observation of general health and regular examination of animals.

Keeping Terrapins well is expensive in equipment and electricity costs.

Terrapins are usually purchased as hatchlings. Many die through inadequate care or outgrow their tanks and/ or the interest of juvenile owners. Many come up for rehoming through Terrapin rescue and other rescue centres such as British Chelonia group, and red ear slider rescue . It is preferable to give an unwanted animal a home rather than encourage the trade in hatchlings. A healthy terrapin should be alert, bright-eyed, clean about the mouth and nostrils. The shell should be hard, without cracks or other damage and the neck and legs free from wounds.

Hold the sides of the shell firmly. Remember that, although the shell is hard, it and bones of the legs, head and neck can get damaged or broken if the animal is dropped. Care must also be taken to put the animal down as gently as possible to avoid injury to the legs. Large animals are very powerful andare quite capable of inflicting painful bites or scratches with their sharp claws which, in turn, might cause them to be dropped. Always wash your hands after handling terrapins.


Terrapins can grow up to 20 cms (8 inches) long.
A 60 x 30 x 30 cms (24 x 12 x 12 inches) tank would be suitable for a pair of half-grown terrapins up to 10 cms (4 inches) shell length. As the number or size of terrapins increases, so a larger tank in proportion would be required. A reliable guide is to allow 100 cms for each 1 cm of shell lengthto be accommodated: e.g. one 10 cm terrapin = 10 x l00² cms or one 10 cm terrapin plus one 5 cm terrapin = 1 5 x 100² cms to give the total surface area required.
Never overcrowd your terrapins as they can be very aggressive towards each other and always keep a close observation on your animals if you introduce new ones to the tank.
Water depth needs to be approximately the width of the shell for juveniles but should be no deeper than 5 cms for hatchlings. Adults like deeper water provided with an easy exit to a basking area.

It is advisable to include a safety circuit-breaker (such as is sold for lawn-mower use) in the electrical system as a safety guard in the event of an accident. Healthy adult animals can tolerate normal living-room temperatures. Indoor tanks should never be placed in direct sunlight as thismay cause overheating, and, since glass filters out most ultra-violet light,there is little benefit to be gained.
Dirty water is a major problem which causes smell and the potential for disease. The installation of a canister filter and pump, obtainable from an aquarist shop, is advisable. The filter (either on or in the pump) will require cleaning at regular intervals. Avoid using under-gravel filters as the principle behind their design is not suitable for use with terrapins. Even with a filtration system, the tank will have to be emptied and cleaned. After washing with hot water (remember that boiling water will crack glass), it is normal to clean the glass with a safe disinfectant - never use any containing phenol or phenolic compounds - and always rinse thoroughly beforerefilling. Betadine antiseptic solution, obtainable from chemists, is an iodine, aqueous-based safe antiseptic.

There must be a basking area for your terrapins. The simplest is a stack of house-bricks with a spot-light bulb over this. Other methods of providing a basking area include fixing a platform or tray to the sides of the tank withaquarium cement. This allows a larger area (up to one third of the surface area) since the terrapins can swim underneath it, but, if using this method,beware of forming places where the terrapins could get trapped and drown. A slope should always be provided for the animals to haul out for basking.
A dry basking area should be large enough to allow all of the terrapins to bask at the same time. The type of light and the wattage varies throughout the year. In the summer a 40 or 60 watt bulb used in conjunction with a Sunglo or Trulight tube (to provide ultra-violet light) will give sufficientwarmth, but in winter a 100 watt lamp is recommended. Whichever lighting youuse, it needs to be on for no longer than 12-14 hours per day. Do not put an airtight cover over the tank since this will prevent ventilation and increase the temperature and humidity.>p>

terrapins can be released into the garden pond in the springtime once tempurtures have rising enough we tend to release ours around late april . Do remember that one of the natural prey of terrapins is fish, so do not put them into a goldfish pond! An outdoor pool is ideal for the warm summer months. The terrapins will bask in the sunlight and the natural ultra-violet rays enable them to synthesise vitamin D3 which is essential for the absorption of calcium from their diet. Ensure that they have some shaded area to escape from the sun on very hot days. Also, ensure that the area is escape-proof as they are excellent climbers. Avoid wire netting - not only will they climb it, they may actually get trapped in it. As with the indoor tank, there must be some form of slope so that the terrapins can climb out of the pool. Logs and small shrubs ( avoiding poisonous plants such as rhubarb, ivy, yew or laurel) are ideal. Provide an area of sand as a possible nesting site. In more permanent outdoor set-ups, waterfalls and circulatory pumps can be included.
Large, healthy adult terrapins of 750 gms ( 1 lb 9 oz) can be kept outside and allowed to hibernate during the winter provided that the water does not fall below 4 degrees C (39 degrees F). Small, shallow garden ponds do not offer adequate protection in frosts.
Outdoor ponds should always be provided with adequate protection from the attentions of cats, dogs and birds, especially the heron!

As with any young animal, small hatchling terrapins should be fed daily. As they grow older and larger, they require feeding less often and as adults only 2 - 3 times a week. Terrapins will only feed in water, not on land. To keep the tank clean, feed the terrapins in a separate container - this can be a plastic bowl. The water temperature in this container should be similarto that in the main tank. Once they have eaten, leave them in the feeding container for a further 10 minutes, during which time they often empty their bowels and bladder, thus avoiding contaminating their own tank. Dispose of the water and food debris down a drain or toilet (never a sink) and then clean the feeding container as described for the tank. For various good reasons, keep this container exclusively for feeding your terrapins and label it as such. Terrapins in the wild feed on fish, frogs, tadpoles, worms, water snails, water insects, various larvae and water plants.
Suggested foods are: sprats, whitebait, herring, snails, mussels, cockles, prawns, shrimps, Daphnia, earthworms, Tubifex worms, bloodworms,dandelion, watercress, lettuce, vegetables, fresh fruit, tomatoes, koi or trout pellets, chicks, mice and beefheart.

When feeding dried koi or trout pellets, always soak them beforehand, and this provides an opportunity to introduce a soluble vitamin supplement such as "Abidec" by placing it into the water which is being soaked up.
Always feed fish whole with guts, liver, roe, skeleton etc. as it is essential that terrapins obtain the vitamins and minerals from these parts of the fish. Avoid feeding minced meat, chicken or slices of butcher's meat alone, because these are deficient in essential minerals and vitamins.
Some terrapins relish vegetables like lettuce, watercress and other greens occasionally. It is important to ensure that you feed a varied diet, since feeding the same food for too long can lead to a number of disorders. A cuttlefish bone can be deposited in the main tank - when eaten, it will supply a source of calcium to the terrapins. "Turtle foods" comprising of dried river shrimps as sold in pet shops can be added as a source of roughage.


Red-eared Terrapin males have elongated, tapering tails and elongated front claws which are used to stimulate the female during courtship. Females have short claws and short tails and tend to be 20% larger than males.
Breeding: Article by Paul Coleman on breeding the species

1. Soft shell/ lumpy shell: lack of calcium or lack of Vitamin D 3 which promotes healthy bone and shell growth.
2. Swollen/ closed eyes: this can lead to loss of vision and an inability to feed. It can be caused by infection, lack of vitamin A, incorrect feedingor incorrect environmental conditions.
3. Shields: terrapin shields or scutes covering the shell do not grow, so every few months you may find they "moult". The new shield underneath will be brightly coloured. Check that the terrapin is feeding and behaving normally. However, if there is any sign of blood, or the terrapin appears listlessor off its food, seek advice from your veterinary surgeon immediately.
There are many recognised diseases of terrapins, so should you suspect that your animal is ill, veterinary advice should be sought at once. If you are unable to afford private fees, take the terrapin to the nearest People's Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) Treatment Centre or RSPCA. You may transport it safely in a cardboard box with crumpled, damp paper around it for protection.
A graph for assessing health from weight for Red-eared Terrapins was published in The Veterinary Record, 3 June 1995, pages 566-568.

It is illegal for any person outside the veterinary profession to diagnose or to treat disease or injuries in any terrapin belonging to another person.It is possible under certain circumstances to give minor medical treatment to your own animals, but for their welfare, and to ensure that you remain within the law, it makes better sense to consult a veterinary surgeon. Firstaid may be given in an emergency.
It is illegal to cause cruelty and unnecessary suffering by feeding live vertebrates (animals with backbones) to other animals. Therefore terrapins should not be fed live fish, frogs, newts, tadpoles etc. It is illegal to release into the British countryside non-native animals. This means that unwanted terrapins must not be put into ponds, lakes or rivers where they may deplete or compete with the native fauna

care sheet taking from www.BritishCheloniaGroup.co.uk
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Old 25-10-2007, 12:28 PM
Join Date: Oct 2007
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i would just like to say as a terrapin and tortoise owner myself that the information you have supplied to new keepers is the most sensible and straightforward i have seen
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Old 17-11-2007, 01:06 PM
Join Date: Nov 2007
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Default my terrapin is not eating!

I have read the care sheet and stuff but my terrapins not eating anything i feed to him. ive tried mealworms, shrimps, fish pellets. nothing seems to work. It's also affecting the was he moves. He walks more slowly than he used to and he goes really shaky when he moves. It look like he is vibrating! what should I do??
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Old 17-11-2007, 01:38 PM
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first port of call is the vets. there could be some internal problems causing this. make sure the temps etc are correct. and does he have a basking area out of the water?


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Old 18-12-2007, 07:30 PM
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Good Caresheet
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Old 21-12-2007, 10:51 AM
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I don't want it to come across that I am moaning. (especially in my first post) However I would suggest it's not suitable to keep two 4 inch terrapins in a 24" x 12" x 12" tank, from my experience even the smallest Slider/Cooter/Map that you'd find in a shop can swim well in the deepest water you can provide in a standard aquarium, aslong you ensure there are plently or resting areas just below the surface. A Female Slider can reach 12",....and the fact is there are quite a few species of terrapin available in the UK so you can't really have a "terrapin care sheet" as some require different temps and/or substrate etc to others.

You mention "ultra-violet light" but it wouldn't be clear to a newbie that you are refering to UVB (some bulbs only contain UVA...and you really don't want to be using UVC)...also all UVB lighting should have a rating of atleast 5.0.
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Old 21-12-2007, 11:50 AM
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Its very difficult to make a standard caresheet without causing the need for caresheets for all species.

I have not read through the above caresheet thoroughly, i dont believe that i need to - not because i am big headed, but because i know what i need to know, and i ask whatever else i need information on elsewhere.

I do however know that more than once in the abovethe name Red Eared Terrapin is given, thus telling me that the caresheet is for the Red Eared Slider/Terrapin.
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Old 21-12-2007, 12:00 PM
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As I say I wasn't having a moan or trying to pick holes, it just wasn't overly clear to me, and I can imagine a new owner setting up their tank incorrectly further to reading that info.
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Old 04-01-2008, 05:57 PM
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 3

Hiya, I'm Froggy. ^^
I recently (Well. I say recently; it was about three weeks ago) got two red-eared sliders. My aunt works at a place with a lot of reptiles, and they had a LOT of hatchlings in a tank; anyway, a lot of them were dying - I think due to either overcrowding or just the wrong kind of environment. The person she works with bought them because they were cheap. =/
So she took two of them, and brought them here; of course, we didn't have a heat lamp or any sort of terrapin equipment apart from the tank she gave us, which was more suited to fish. So for a couple of days we tried keeping them warm by keeping them next to the heater; but they were still pretty lethargic and stuff.
So we got a UVB lamp, and an underwater heater with thermometer, and moved them to a larger tank, and got terrapin food and everything; but one of them died a couple of days to a week after we got them. The other, Jack (Who I think is a girl. xP) is still alive; but I haven't ever seen her eat anything. I went to a reptile center to ask about terrapin eating habits, in case there was something I had missed, and the guy at the place showed us feeding his terrapins; and they all just rushed at the shrimps he put in and ate them in about ten seconds.
When I put any kind of food in Jack's tank, she shows pretty much no interest whatsoever. I've even left some bits of food in there overnight, counted them, came back the next day, and none was gone. I'm baffled. She couldn't have stayed alive this long not eating anything, could she? I'm starting to think she might have been eating the pond weed type plants we put in, from the center, but I've never seen her do this and can't see any bitemarks or anything.
She doesn't seem very lethargic, she's usually pretty lively. And strong, too; she'll push against my fingers when I pick her up. So I can't figure out why she won't eat any food.
Should I ring the vets, or take her there, and ask them? Or has anyone got any suggestions?
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Old 08-01-2008, 05:53 PM
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Ah - No worries. ^__^ I got two more terrapins to live with Jack, and now they all seem fine!

There are little water insects in the water, and they're eating them, too. I'd recommend little pond insecty things to all terrapin owners, 'cause before we put those in, Jack wouldn't eat anything.
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