While all pets are created equal, let’s be real — the average person knows a lot more about cats and dogs. They’re simply the most common pets; however, that doesn’t mean others aren’t worth your attention and love.
Turtles are a great example; most of us don’t even know the difference between a turtle and a tortoise. And yet, we do know that many people have pet turtles — and just as many would like to get one.
However, even though they’re slow little rascals, they’re not always easy to care for. Just like with any other pet, you need to consider different factors before deciding you’re ready to adopt them.
Turtles, for example, require frequent cleaning and special care. And as surprising as it may seem, they’re not always great with kids; they’re prone to biting and don’t appreciate being handled.
Still, they’re extremely fun to watch. You need to learn some of the basics about turtles before you get one — and we’ll help with that right here!
What Turtles Are The Best Pets
If you’re not a turtle aficionado, you probably haven’t considered that many different turtle species are out there. And some of them make better pets than others. If you’ve seen people with pet turtles, they’re most likely:
- Caspian pond turtles
- Wood turtles
- Reeve’s turtles
- Painted turtles
- Red-eared slider turtles
- Box turtles
All of these are semi-aquatic and aquatic turtles. If you’re in doubt, check their shells; fully aquatic species have a more streamlined, flat shell that gives them better movement in the water. On the other hand, semi-aquatic turtles — like box turtles — come with more tortoise-like shells.
Each turtle species we’ve noted above have a long lifespan — usually over 25 years. The box turtle, for example, is known to live long into its 80s, for instance. Still, the most important thing to note is that different turtle breeds have varying temperaments.
As adults, their shells grow into more than 10 inches in diameter. Naturally, the little turtles you can most commonly get at a pet store tend to be juvenile — they’ve got plenty of growing left ahead of them, provided they have the right environmental conditions.
If you’ve got kids, also remember that turtles have been known to carry salmonella. As a result, they can cause sickness in immune-compromised people, the elderly, and children. Generally, families with kids younger than 5 should wait before they buy a turtle. And if you have one, always ensure you’ve washed your hands after playing with it or its habitat.
Tortoise vs. Turtle
So, should you get a tortoise or a turtle?
It all depends on your specific environment and tastes — keep in mind that turtles are generally fond of water habitats, so they’ll need a pond for frequent dipping at the very least. On the other hand, a tortoise thrives in arid, dry environments. Also, depending on the breed you get, learn whether they prefer indoor or outdoor enclosures first.
For example, the red-eared slider turtle would require an aquarium with plenty of room for rest, relaxation, and swimming; that’s their optimal habitat. Conversely, box turtles would do better on land with a tiny wading pool where they can cool off. So, different breeds are a better fit for different households.
Also, if you intend on keeping your pet outside — check the outdoor temperatures you get year-round. A Russian tortoise might do well in a place like Arizona, with dry and hot temperatures. However, painted turtles need large cooling ponds, which would probably dry up in that environment.
However, a Russian tortoise could die if kept outside in Maine; there’s too much humidity and cold.
At the end of the day, keeping tortoises and turtles inside is easier — you can always regulate the temperature. However, you’ll probably need a large tank at some point; you could keep a juvenile turtle in a 40-gallon tank, but they’ll outgrow it quickly. It may be better to get a bigger tank right away — you won’t have a hard time cleaning it, and your pets will have more space.
Turtle Fun Facts
We hope we’ve helped you pick a great turtle for your household! And while they can be surprisingly fussy pets, they’re still glorious creatures. With that in mind, here are a couple of turtle fun facts!
Some turtles spend up to 9 months in hibernation each year.
- Turtles have existed for more than 200 million years.
- You can find turtles on every continent except the South Pole.
- Turtle shells consist of around 60 bones.
- Turtles are some of the most ancient reptiles on the planet — handily beating alligators, crocodiles, and even snakes!
- Despite what cartoons may have taught you, turtles can never leave or outgrow their shells.
- Depending on the species, turtles can be both carnivores and herbivores.