Turtle Housing or Enclosure
One of the first things you have to decide is whether you will be keeping your Turtle indoors or outdoors. Each requires careful thought, planning and preparation.
Outdoor enclosures can be good if your Turtle is native to your area or region. Many turtles do seem to be healthier and happier if they are kept outdoors, and nature itself will provide the temperature and sunlight requirements that your turtle needs. Even turtles kept indoors will occasionally have to be brought outdoors for sunlight exposure.
Outdoor enclosures should be surrounded by a fence that goes a good foot underground, and surrounded by a wire mesh top. Remember that Turtles are skilled diggers and climbers, and many owners have brought their turtles outdoors only to marvel at how quickly these slow moving creatures can suddenly disappear. Not only does effective fencing help keep your turtle confined, but it also keeps them protected against roving predators or even against the next-door neighbor’s dog. In no instance should your turtle be allowed to freely wander outdoors.
On the other hand, indoor enclosures allow you to closely monitor your turtle’s conditions, as well as control the temperature of its habitat. This is highly recommended particularly for Turtle pets when they are being kept in areas to which they are not endemic. This should be well-provided for with substrate that is made of a combination of potting soil, leaf mulch, and sphagnum moss. This holds humidity well, especially with regular misting.
Glass enclosures are not generally recommended for indoor housing. Many turtles will stubbornly try to get through the glass, and their inability to do so will cause them a whole lot of frustration and stress. On the other hand, the sight of much activity outside of their glass walls will keep them frightened, anxious and unable to relax.
Whether you are choosing indoor or outdoor enclosures, the area should be landscaped well to provide them with sufficient and interesting hiding places where they can lay low, hide, or seek privacy and protection. Half-logs, rocks, brush, or piles of leaves strategically placed should be present. A well-prepared hide box is also recommended. This can be made of any simple cardboard box in which your turtle can hide. Large, flat rocks which they can climb will also allow them the opportunity to file down their claws.
Finally, and the most important thing, is that your turtle’s enclosure should be of sufficient size to allow them room for exploration. It’s probably also a good idea to plant small shrubs that can provide both shade, humidity, and edible food sources such as strawberries.
Temperature and Lighting Requirements
A heating lamp should be provided to offer them warmth. Keep this to one side of the enclosure so that your turtle can move closer to it or farther away depending on its temperature needs. You should also provide your turtle with a hide box and several places or spots in the enclosure in which they can hide. Not only does this give them a chance to cool off should they need it, but turtles also do like their privacy – over and above that which they can get from retreating into their shells. The landscape of their enclosure should provide them with many interesting places to hide should they wish to do so.
Turtles need a good variety of temperatures within their enclosure so that they could regulate their temperature accordingly. Providing a ceramic heater in one area of the enclosure so that they could move closer or farther away from it as necessary is recommended, as well as the sufficient provision of cooler areas such as scattered shaded areas, a shallow water source where they can soak if necessary, and a basking area where they can dry off after soaking allows them sufficient room to regulate their internal temperatures accordingly.
Daytime temperature should be kept at around 68-72 degrees, with a basking area that has a maximum of 85 degrees.
Turtles need sunlight – or sufficient replacement for sunlight such as UV-B rays. A good lighting choice such as a full spectrum fluorescent lamp that provides at least 5% UVA/UVB lighting will also serve as a heat source, and this should be kept to one area of the enclosure and maintained at around 85 degrees. Occasionally, you should bring your turtle outdoors for a brief exposure to natural sunlight. Turtles that do not see sunlight for at least 12 hours each day can literally stop eating and become inactive. The lack of sufficient light and cooler temperatures could signal to them approaching winter months, thus making them prepare for hibernation. This should be avoided unless you are prepared to actually hibernate your Turtle.
Insufficient humidity, on the other hand, can cause various illnesses such as eye irritations and even respiratory illnesses. A Turtle’s period of greatest activity is, in fact, just before dawn or at dusk when humidity levels are high, or during the rainy season. You’ll probably notice that your turtle’s appetite is greater after misting.