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Habitat Decorations

Plants

A must have for all turtle habitats, after all even your turtle prefers a little bit of greenery! And the pleasure of plants swaying in clear water is an immensely relaxing experience. If you have fish in your tank ensure that you have leafy plants along the corners of the tank for them to hide from the turtle.

Turtles have a tendency to attempt eating everything inside their tank, including plants. So you need to be careful that the plants introduced into the habitat are not harmful if consumed. Eitherways,
live plants rarely survive long in a turtle tank, before they are eaten. Therefore, to maintain a green tank it is advisable to use artificial plants that are easily available with your pet store. After initially attempting to eat them the turtles would eventually let them be. While buying artificial plants ensure that they are not very delicate or have sharp edges.

We recommend a
mix of real and artificial plants in your turtle habitat. Real plants are quite cheap, so even if your turtle eats one every couple of weeks, it doesn't hurt either the turtle or the pocket. On the contrary it serves as an emergency meal or an in-between snack that the turtle can source at its own discretion.

One safe plant that the turtle doesn't eat is the 'sword plant'. They don't eat it because its leaves are bitter.

Maintenance

Real plants need no maintenance except trimming of dying/rotting leaves once a week. Artificial plants need to be cleaned every 7-10 days. They should be collected from the tank, cleaned and returned to the tank only after the water has also been changed and not before.

The best way to clean artificial plants is to rinse it thoroughly under high-pressure water stream. A gentle 'digitization' (rubbing between the tip of the thumb and the first finger) of the of leaves should also be done in case of leafy plants. The main stem can scrubbed gently using an old toothbrush.

If the plant surface is slimy to touch, it requires a thorough cleaning. If you maintain your tank well, this would be required only once in 3-4 months. Follow the cleaning instructions provided by your pet store or the manufacturer as they can vary based on the material used. Whatever method you follow rinse well and soak in clean water for an hour, before putting it back into the tank.

Plants of varying kinds and colors are easily (and cheaply) available with pet stores, so choose well.

Stones

Stones (greater than 2 cms in diameter) form an essential part of any turtle tank, and add immense ornamental value to your tank. Properly arranged they can provide the turtle a hiding place, form a ramp to the land area, and serve as anchors around any plants.

You can use stones of any type or color. In fact differing variety and textures make for a more interesting turtle habitat. But don't go overboard in placing stones in your tank as they limit the 'swimming area' available to the turtles.

Also make sure that you
don't put any stones that have sharp edges as they can damage the turtle shell. Smooth river stones or those found on rocky beaches are ideal. A few stones of varying sizes clustered around a plant form an arrangement that looks nice as well as gives the plant a much-needed anchor.

Always try and put a flat stone in the land area for the turtles to bask on. You can fix your light source to focus on this stone. A darker stone is preferred for basking, as it is more natural, and would heat up faster than a white or lighter colored stone.


Maintenance

Stones need to be cleaned every 7-10 days. They should be collected from the tank, cleaned and returned to the tank only after the water has also been changed and not before. Stones should not be subjected to strong detergents, acids or other cleaning ingredients, as they tend to absorb these. It could release these chemicals into the tank water later, polluting it.

The best way to clean stones is to rinse it thoroughly under high-pressure water stream. They should also be scrubbed using an old toothbrush, especially along the rough surfaces, troughs, fissures etc. as this where most waste can collect.

If you notice any green growth or the stone surface is slimy to touch, it requires a thorough cleaning. If you maintain your tank well, this would be required only once in 3-4 months. To clean the stone, rub bleaching powder paste on the stone surface and place it in the sun for at least 30-45 minutes. This bleaching powder costs less than INR 10 for 100 GMS and will be easily available with your local grocery shop. After the paste has dried, soak the stone into boiling water and keep for 1o minutes. Let it cool, then rinse it under a high-pressure water stream. Scrub well using an old toothbrush, making sure that no traces of white powder remain. Soak in clean water for an hour, before putting it back into the tank.

Stones of varying kinds and colors are easily (and cheaply) available with pet stores, so avoid picking up anything from the roadside. But if you pick up any from the roadside
it before you put it into the tank.

Shells

A water set-up without shells seems incomplete! So go ahead and put some shells to add form and color to your tank. The guidelines for shells are similar to those for stones. Size should not be less than 2cms in diameter and sharp edges should be avoided.

Shells have a higher tendency for algae growth, and tend to turn slimy quicker. So they require more maintenance than stones. Flat discuss shells are preferred to
conch-shaped ones as the insides of the latter are nearly impossible to clean, and would accumulate waste.  Shells can be put in one part of the land area, to provide an alternative texture.

Maintenance

Shells need to be cleaned every 5-7 days. They should be collected from the tank, cleaned and returned to the tank only after the water has also been changed and not before. Shells should not be subjected to strong detergents, acids or other cleaning ingredients, as they tend to have surface aberrations fine cracks that could absorb these. It could release these chemicals into the tank water later, polluting it.

The best way to clean shells is to rinse it thoroughly under high-pressure water stream. They should also be scrubbed using an old toothbrush, especially along the rough surfaces, beneath the curved edges, troughs, fissures etc. as this where most waste can collect.

If you notice any green growth or the shell surface is slimy to touch, throw away the shell! It's very hard to sterilize a shell 100%. You could try the boiling the shell under pressure in a pressure cooker for 15 minutes and following it with a 'heat-treatment' in your oven at 150oC  for 25-30 minutes.

Shells of varying kinds and colors are easily (and cheaply) available with pet stores, so avoid picking up anything from the beach. But if you pick up any sterilize before you put them into the tank.

Gravel

Gravel like the one you find in fish tanks provides a pleasant looking floor to the tank - but it is a strict NO-NO for your turtle habitat, because:
  turtles have been known to eat small stones/pebbles, and this can lead to fatal blockage in their
    digestive systems

  turtles generate solid waste in much larger quantities than fishes, and this waste gets accumulated
     under the gravel.

To clean your tank you would need to take out your gravel every 10 days and clean it thoroughly (boil it in bleach and rinse). The entire process is extremely time-consuming and unsettling for the turtle too.

We suggest you avoid putting fine gravel stones along the bottom of the tank, and instead stick to a few large
(greater than 1.5 - 2cms in diameter) and dispersed stone/shell arrangements. Try creating 2-4 arrangements using different colors and textures of stones/shells to provide variety in the tank. The benefit of large stones/shells is that they can be easily extracted and scrubbed clean.

If you still want to have an opaque tank floor, stick colored paper outside the bottom glass of the tank. Another option is to lay a piece of green/black plastic mesh (the ones put in windows to prevent insects and mosquitoes from entering the house during summers/monsoons). This mesh needs to cover the entire base and should be held down firmly with rocks, so that the turtles can't slide underneath them and get stuck!

If you want, you can introduce some gravel in the land area of the tank, but remember not to use any stone less than 1cm in diameter, and to clean it often.


Maintenance

Gravel should be cleaned every 7-10 days. The gravel should be collected from the tank, cleaned and returned to the tank only after the water has also been changed and not before. Gravel should not be subjected to strong detergents, acids or other cleaning ingredients, as it tends to absorb these. It could release these chemicals into the tank water later, polluting it.

The best way to clean gravel is to rinse it thoroughly under high-pressure water stream. Its recommended that you keep moving the gravel while it is being rinsed so that all pieces can be subjected to the water spray. Alternatively, you can swish with a stick in a bucket creating a whirlpool.

If you notice any green growth on the gravel, it requires a thorough cleaning. If you maintain your tank well, this would be required only once in 3-4 months. To clean your gravel, add commercially available bleaching powder to water and soak you gravel in it for at least 45-60 minutes. This bleaching powder costs less than INR 10 for 100 GMS and will be easily available with your local grocery shop. Add 1 tablespoon of bleaching powder for every liter of water.  After the soak, put the gravel into boiling water and boil for 15 minutes. Let it cool, then rinse it under a high-pressure water stream and let it soak in clean water for an hour, before putting it back into the tank.

Gravel is easily (and cheaply) available with pet stores, so avoid picking up anything from the roadside. But if you pick up any from the roadside sterilize it before you put it into the tank.

Driftwood

While it can make the habitat much more natural and interesting untreated driftwood (this is what is usually available) is an extremely high maintenance decoration. Driftwood is NOT easily available at most Indian pet shops, and therefore you might end up getting it from a roadside vendor or collecting it yourself from the beach. In either case it can be fatal to introduce into the turtle tank without sterilization.

Never introduce any driftwood that has been treated with chemicals, paints, varnish etc. Most roadside vendors sell pieces of root/trunk as driftwood that more often than not has polish or varnish coatings - so avoid these.

While driftwood does drift in water bodies - don't ever try and drift it in your tank! It will provide a haven for all sort of harmful parasites. Any driftwood that you want to keep should be placed in the land area as far away from the waterside as possible - the core objective being to avoid getting it wet.


An easy & safe way of darkening the driftwood color is to boil it in water along with some tea!

It is preferable to put them right next to the basking stone, so that the heat from the lamp dries out any water quickly. Also it would provide the turtles an alternative basking texture.

Maintenance

Driftwood needs to be cleaned every 4-5 days. It should NEVER be subjected to strong detergents, acids or other cleaning ingredients, as it would absorb these and could pollute the tank later.

The best way to clean driftwood is to dry-scrub it thoroughly with an old toothbrush, especially along the rough surfaces, beneath the curved edges, troughs, fissures etc. as this where most waste can collect. Follow this with a 'heat-treatment' in your oven at 150oC for 30 minutes.

If you notice any green growth or the driftwood surface is slimy to touch, throw it away!

Commercial Decorations

Most air pump based decorations would be useless for turtle tanks, unless until you have also introduced fishes into your tank. Most of these have anyhow been designed for fish tanks and therefore have numerous edges, nooks and curved edges that are a haven for any waste to collect. Additionally some of them have flimsy moving parts that the turtle might attempt to eat!

I would recommend against keeping any decoration that collects waste and would be difficult to clean - the ideal would be sturdy smooth surfaced decorations that don't have any sharp or eatable edges. Avoid any glass decorations, as your turtle WILL end up breaking it!

You can keep decorations in your land area or between a cluster of stones/shells so that it has a strong anchor.


Maintenance

Commercial tank Decorations need to be cleaned every 7-10 days. They should be collected from the tank, cleaned and returned to the tank only after the water has also been changed and not before.

The best way to clean stones is to rinse it thoroughly under high-pressure water stream. They should also be scrubbed using an old toothbrush, especially along the rough surfaces, troughs, fissures etc. as this where most waste can collect.

If you notice any green growth or the stone surface is slimy to touch, it requires a thorough cleaning. If you maintain your tank well, this would be required only once in 3-4 months. Follow the cleaning instructions provided by your pet store or the manufacturer as they can vary based on the material used. Whatever method you follow rinse well and soak in clean water for an hour, before putting it back into the tank.

Decorations of varying kinds and colors are easily (and cheaply) available with pet stores, so choose well.


Poisonous Plants

  • Azalea (Rhododendron occidentale)
  • Arrowhead Vine (Syngonium podophyllm)
  • Begonia
  • Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia reginae)
  • Boston Ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata)
  • Boxwood (Buxus sempervirens)
  • Buttercup family (Ranunculus species)
  • Caladium
  • Calla Lily (Zantedeschia species)
  • Candytuft (Iberis)
  • Castor Bean (Ricinus communis)
  • Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema modestum)
  • Chinaberry (Melia azedarach)
  • Creeping Charlie (Glechoma hederacea)
  • Crowfoot (Ranunculus sceleratus)
  • Cyclamen
  • Daffodil (Narcissus)
  • Dianthus
  • Dumb cane (Dieffenbachia amoena)
  • Elephant's Ear (Caladium)
  • Euphorbia
  • Ficus Benjamina
  • Fiddleleaf Fig (Ficus lyrata)
  • Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea)
  • Gardenia
  • Grape Ivy (Cissus rhombifolia)
  • Heart Ivy (Hedera helix)
  • Heavenly Bamboo (Nandina domestica)
  • Holly (Ilex)
  • Hyacinth (Hyacinthus orientalis)
  • Ivy (Hedera helix)
  • Jerusalem Cherry (Solanum pseudocapsicum)
  • Juniper (Juniperus species)
  • Lantana (Lantana camara)
  • Lily of the Nile (Agapanthus africanus)
  • Lily of the Valley (Convallaria species)
  • Lobelia 2
  • Majesty (Philodendron hastatum)
  • Marigold (Tagetes species)
  • Mistletoe (Phorodendron flavescens)
  • Morning Glory (Ipomoea species)
  • Mother-in-Law Plant (Caladium)
  • Mother-in-Law Tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata)
  • Mushrooms
  • Needlepoint Ivy (Hedera helix)
  • Nephthytis (Syngonium podophyllum)
  • Nightshade (Solanum nigrum)
  • Oleander (Nerium oleander)
  • Parlor Ivy (Philodendron cordatum)
  • Periwinkle (Vinca species)
  • Philodendron
  • Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima)
  • Pothos (Epipremnum aureum)
  • Pyracanthra
  • Rhododendron (Ericaceae)
  • Rosary Bean (Abrus precatarius)
  • Rubber Tree (Ficus elastica decora)
  • Schefflera
  • Shasta Daisy (Chrysanthemum maximum)
  • Spider Mum (Chrysanthemum morifolium)
  • Split Leaf Philodendron (Monstera deliciosa)
  • String of Pearls (Senecio rowleyanus or S. herreinus)
  • Sweet Pea (Lathyrus odoratus)
  • Umbrella Tree (Schefflera actinophylla)

 

 

 

 

 

Site Created: 1/8/2002, Last modified: 12/7/2003 by Petra Grujic