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baby turtles in 2016

17 Jan

I found two nests from my Red-eared Slider in 2016. Each clutch had six eggs.

See the eggs! The Mom always picks a nice warm, rainy day to go digging.

I incubated the eggs in a plastic tub. I put a layer of sand on the bottom with a heat source, then a smaller plastic tub with moist coir (coconut fiber), and that small tub loosely enclosed in a clear plastic bag to hold humidity. I set the temperature where the eggs were  to about 80-82 F. (27 C)

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The first group of eggs never developed at all. From the second group of eggs I had 5 hatchlings. They took 70-80 days to hatch.

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After hatching, the babies sit for a few days absorbing their yolk sac. Then I place them in shallow water with smooth rocks to crawl up on.

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I have a UV light over them but I also put them outside whenever possible. Their shells harden up and they eat like mad. Mostly bloodworms, shrimp, and earthworms. High protein for fast growth.

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They are so cute but I can’t keep them. I advertise them and give them away to good homes. I ask a few questions. It’s easy to tell who knows what they are doing. I don’t expect miracles, just an honest effort to give the babies a good home.

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Thinking outside the tank

16 Jan

My water turtles spend the winter indoors in a 100-gallon horse trough. Let’s call it a turtle trough instead.

This year I acquired two more adult sliders A female Red-ear and a female Yellow Belly.

The basking spot I had was an upside-down bucket with a smooth rock on the top. There was not enough room for 4 turtles to bask.

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One day, a teeny little light bulb went off in my teeny little brain. I went to the garage and cut a few 2″x4″ boards. I drilled them into the studs along the wall behind the turtle trough. Then I added a piece of plywood. The plywood is very important. It keeps the turtles inside their habitat, rather than falling off the logs and onto the floor.

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I added 4 random pieces of wood. I drilled the first piece through the plywood and into a 2″x4″.

Then I added the other pieces of wood. I just played around with them and made them fit together so the turtles could climb up under the basking light. They are all screwed together with 3 1/2″ wood screws.

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A big benefit is that I can now fill the turtle trough almost completely to the top. They gained at least 20 gallons of water and now have a big natural basking platform.

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Eventually , I will finish this project. I’ll paint the plywood board in a solid, natural color like green or brown. Then, I’ll drill maybe a dozen holes into the board. Why, you ask? What is this madness?  I’ll tell you!  I’ll push ARTIFICIAL plants into the holes, creating a solid wall of fake greenery and flowers. When I do that I’ll post some pictures so you can see how it turns out.

A new tortoise pen

30 Apr

Here’s a quick photo summary of the tortoise pen I built yesterday.

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I used 2″ x 10″ boards.

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I used 2″x 4″s for the top. I stapled the wire to the bottom of the boards. The white plastic ties are only there because I used the wire that I had, which was in two pieces, instead of buying a single piece. Cheap cheap cheap, that’s me.

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Two hinges on the back.

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A latch on the front. I probably don’t need to lock it. I’m not aware of any turtle thieves running around but, my Red-foot Tortoise is worth $200 and if she were taken it would likely be bad for her.

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Now we’re getting fancy. A handle on the front. Cost me $1.99

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I bought a bag of Cypress Mulch (three bucks) and the sun came out for an hour so…

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…the tortoises got to come out to eat and sunbathe. I get these organic dandelions from my neighbors yard (thanks NW). He says he grows them just for me!

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But it’s still too chilly in Iowa so I took them indoors for the rainy days to come. If this Red-foot keeps growing I’ll be building a bigger pen before too long.

The important point to make is this: If you have a tortoise try to take it outside when you can. Even if you have UV lights, I believe nothing is like the real thing. A sluggish tortoise will totally perk up when exposed to natural sunshine. Even a few hours per week will do wonders. Same for some popular lizards, like Iguanas and Bearded Dragons. Remember to provide shade and water if it’s hot outside. My Red-eared Sliders spend the summer in a pond but if you can get yours out in a swimming pool (not a chlorinated pool for humans, I mean a small kiddie pool) once in a while they will love it.

One more thought. My previous tortoise pen had wire buried underneath the entire thing to prevent burrowing out. I never saw any indication that mine were ever close to digging all the way out. Therefore, I did not add wire to this set-up. So consider that, depending on your tortoise. All tortoises dig and burrow. Mine nestle in the mulch and then only dig down an inch or so. They are lazy, even by tortoise standards.

Turtle eggs June 13, 2014

14 Jun

I was watering the plants around the pond and I almost didn’t spot the momma turtle under some flowers. She doesn’t leave the pond except for one reason, to lay eggs.

CAM03094I made a nice sandy beach for her last year but she was 15 feet away from that. All my hard work…

CAM03095She left no trace of a nest, except that I had SEEN her digging. She fills it back in and packs it down and it’s virtually invisible. Here I have removed the eggs, feeling like Roy Chapman Andrews in the Gobi Desert, and left a  spoon in there to show you how deep she goes, through hard ground and full of plant roots. Amazing.

CAM03096Here they are, seven eggs!

I added a layer of mixed vermiculite and coir (coconut husk fiber) over the eggs, then put the container into ANOTHER container which has a bed of sand in it, then put that on a shelf with a heating pad underneath. All the sand is so the heat radiates into the container evenly, no hotspots.

I’ll get a picture of the egg incubator thing and post it soon, and I’ll keep it moist and mostly covered. You check back in a few months, okay? We’ll find out if I am the foster parent of septuplets.

 

 

Four seasons of a pond

14 Jun

If you build a pond these are the four stages you will go through every year:

(unless you live in a nice warm place but bear with me here)

During the season we call Winter let’s just call the pond FROZEN.

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Nothing happening unless your pond is deep and you leave the Goldfish or Koi outside to chill out.

As the Frozen season departs the pond thaws and we have that beautiful time of year when the birds chirp and the frogs croak and the pond is STINKY.

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Hey man, I mean stink, stank, stunk, ya know.

After some hard work we have the briefest season of all, which is simply CLEAN. The water is clear, the bottom of the pond is bare.

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This doesn’t last long. After A Hard Rain Is Gonna Fall the worms crawl in and die. Leaves blow in. Dirt blows in. Everything is Blowin In The Wind, right into your nice, formerly clean,  pond.

The best time of year I call LUSH.

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The plants are growing like a jungle. Maybe your fish are breeding. The pond is alive from every angle. Insects on the flowers and in the ground. Birds bathing in the stream. Frogs and Toads , of course, find this oasis you have created. This is why you have a pond. After all the work, and the smell, you have a little paradise in your life.

Water Lettuce and Water Hyacinth in the Turtle Pond

4 Dec

The first 3 years that I had my turtle pond I couldn’t keep any live plants in the water. The turtles (Red-eared Sliders) annihilate everything.
This year, I came up with a strategy that seems to work:
I start by having Water Lettuce growing in my aquariums during the Winter.

Indoors, the Water Lettuce plant stays small under average lighting.

Indoors, the Water Lettuce plant stays small under average lighting.

I have not had any luck growing Water Hyacinth indoors. It must require much stronger light than I have.

Once Spring comes, I put a bunch of little Water Lettuce plants outside in the shade to acclimate it to the Sun.

Once Spring comes, I put a bunch of little Water Lettuce plants outside in the shade to acclimate it to the Sun. I leave them in the shade for at least a week and bring them indoors if it gets very cold.

Little Water Lettuce in the small pond. SEE THE FROG!

Then, into the small pond. SEE THE FROG!

It grows like mad and covers the little pond.

It grows like mad and covers the little pond.

The Water Lettuce gets bigger. See the frog again?

The Water Lettuce gets bigger. See the frog again?

I start putting Water Lettuce into the turtle pond. I also acquired some Water Hyacinth from a pond keeper nearby.

I start putting Water Lettuce into the turtle pond. I also acquired some Water Hyacinth from a pond keeper nearby.

The turtles proceed to eat the plants, mostly the Water Hyacinth.

The turtles proceed to eat the plants, mostly the Water Hyacinth.

But the 30 gallon pond keeps supplying me with Lettuce and Hyacinths and I begin to win the war.

But the 30 gallon pond keeps supplying me with Lettuce and Hyacinths and I begin to win the war.

The Water Lettuce gets gigantic outdoors. The turtles start to get sick of eating it!

The Water Lettuce gets gigantic outdoors. The turtles start to get sick of eating it!

But they LOVE the Water Hyacinth.

But they LOVE the Water Hyacinth.

The pond stays so much clearer with lots of plants to shade the water and filter it.

The pond stays so much clearer with lots of plants to shade the water and filter it.

It was so hot and dry we even had a toad living in the pond.

It was so hot and dry we even had a toad living in the pond.

I take some medium sized plants indoors and , before you know it, I am giving them away for aquarium use or even throwing them away.

Before Winter I take some medium sized plants indoors. They soon spread over the surface of the aquarium.

Before you know it, I am giving them away for aquarium use or even throwing them away.

Before you know it, I am giving them away for aquarium use or even throwing them away.

Turtle egg report for Summer 2013

3 Dec

This past Spring, on May 1 to be exact, I reported that the momma Red-eared Slider (also known as  Banana) was outdoors digging a nest. When the sun went down that night it quickly became VERY cold, under 30 degrees F.  So I put the mother into a dry tub for the evening, where I hoped she would rest until the next day. But instead of resting, she laid her eggs in the tub. Then the eggs got jostled and stepped on. I still hoped they might survive. I put them in my homemade incubator but none developed. All of the eggs, 5 of them as I recall, quickly shriveled and/or fungussed.

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Two months later, in July, the momma was out wandering again and this time I saw her on three consecutive days. That can mean only one thing. She was looking to nest, but I never saw her digging. I searched hard for the nest, hoping to rescue the eggs, as my past experience of leaving eggs underground did not go well. Last year, a nest left to develop naturally was destroyed by several types of worms and grubs. So it’s possible there was a nest of turtles but with the drought conditions here I doubt the eggs ever developed or that the babies could even dig out. And if they dug out what would happen? Would they crawl to the pond only to be eaten by their parents?

During the entire month of August we had one measurable rain and it was only a few tenths of an inch.

Rain was so rare that I ran out and took a picture of the pond.

Rain was so rare that I ran out and took a picture of the pond.

One day in September I came home from work and Banana the Turtle was on land, hiding in the shade under some plants. The ground was very hard. I turned on a sprinkle of water, raining down gently over her, but within a minute or so she scampered (yes, turtles can scamper) back into the pond.

And that’s it for 2013. No eggs to be found.

I decided to construct a sand nesting area that the turtles can use next year.

I dug a hole...

I dug a hole…

...and filled it with exactly 100 pounds, or 45 kilos, of sand.

…and filled it with exactly 100 pounds, or 45 kilos, of sand.

A turtle beach!

She’s indoors now for the Winter, and I have a 55 gallon aquarium ready for her of she acts like she needs to lay eggs. I have about 6 inches of mulch in the bottom of the aquarium. I think I’ll just take her out of her water habitat every week or two and put her in the dry aquarium.

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Sometimes a pregnant turtle will lay their eggs in the water, where the eggs quickly die. Or the mother turtle may hold the eggs in and become egg-bound. That is not a good thing. An adult aquatic female turtle  needs a place to lay eggs. If you see a major behavioral change in your water turtle, and you suspect her to be pregnant, put her on dry land for a few days.

The behavior change you notice may be that she gets extremely active, trying to escape the tank she is in, or just the opposite, sitting on the bottom of the tank , fat and miserable, like Americans on Thanksgiving.