You may be considering a turtle as a pet, thinking it is a low maintenance and easy pet for your kids to care for on their own. The truth is that caring for turtles is a bit more complicated than you may think, and you should think hard before you give your children a turtle as a pet, unless you are willing to take on the care and to also make sure they are treating the turtle the right way. Turtles can be neat pets, and as long as you know what you are getting into and you want a pet to last a long time, they can be a good choice for your home and your family.
One important thing that your kids have to know about caring for turtles is that they should not be handled a lot. This alone can really make kids sad, as they think they will get to play with their turtles whenever they wish. The fact is that turtles can easily get hurt and they are happier if they are left alone most of the time. If their shell were to crack, they could die. It is not as hard as it looks and it can be easy to hurt them. They won’t do well hanging out with your kids when they would rather be basking or swimming around their tank. They can also carry salmonella, which makes excessive handling dangerous.
Legally, turtles can not be sold until they are at least four inches long. Many of the more common turtles sold in pet stores can grow to be a foot long or more. That is a lot of turtle. You have to have ten gallons of space per inch in your tank, meaning a four inch turtle needs a forty gallon tank to grow, thrive, and stay healthy until they are five inches. Then you need more space. That is a huge tank to have in your home. Caring for turtles is not going to be cheap by any means. They also need water and a rock to stay completely dry when needed. A turtle that can not dry properly gets sick also. You have to have space for all of that.
Caring for turtles means a few inches of water so they can swim but still touch the bottom and breathe, and also a dry rock and a sun lamp for basking. They need temps near 90 degrees near their basking area and water temps around 70 degrees. They will not thrive without the proper temperatures. This means a heather and a sun lamp. The water will also have to be changed often, even though it may be filtered, which is one of the more time consuming parts of caring for a turtle.
If you don’t mind the expense and the time involved in a hands off pet like a turtle, they are great pets. They get to know their owners and may swim towards them in anticipation of feeding time. They can be fun to watch, though at times they just do nothing. As long as you are okay with what caring for turtles means, go out and see what you can find. The red eared painter turtle is a common pet, though there are a few other types that you can find as well.