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How to Take Care of a Painted Turtle

| Updated September 26, 2017

Among the most common wild turtles in the United States, painted turtles are often kept as pets. Taking care of a painted turtle is a big -- and possibly lifelong -- commitment. Not all states permit keeping painted turtles as pets. Before bringing a painted turtle home, check with your state's department of natural resources or the environment regarding state laws.

Painted Turtle Housing

While you can provide larger housing, the minimum size aquarium for one adult painted turtle should be at least 20 gallons in size, with an additional 10 gallons per each turtle added to the tank. Of that initial 20 gallons, at least 10 should consist of water, with 5 more gallons of water per each additional painted turtle. Your tank requires a water filter, a submersible heater, ultraviolet-B light, a light timer, a humidity gauge and thermometers for the aquarium and the water. Use gravel as a substrate for the aquarium, and provide rocks for a basking site. In nature, painted turtles bask on logs. However, the slight fire risk posed by using UVB lighting on wood makes rocks a better aquarium alternative.

Temperature and Lighting

Proper lighting and temperature are crucial to maintaining your turtle in good health. Keep his primary housing area at a temperature ranging between 72 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit, with a water temperature ranging between 63 and 73 degrees. His basking area should range between 90 and 95 degrees. Keep the humidity level at about 70 percent. Check the tank thermometers and humidity gauge daily. Expect to replace the UVB bulb for the basking area every six months.

Feeding Painted Turtles

Because they are omnivorous, painted turtles enjoy a wide variety of foods. While you should provide your pet with a high-quality commercial turtle food designed with his nutritional requirements in mind, you can supplement this basic food with turtle treats. These include "meat" such as worms, insects and fish, and vegetables, especially leafy greens. In the wild, young painted turtles primarily consume meat, with plants a secondary source of nutrition once they age. To help keep your turtle's housing clean, feed his meals in a separate dish rather than throwing food into the aquarium. Ask your veterinarian about providing calcium and turtle vitamins for your pet.

Painted Turtle Health

If you're bringing a painted turtle into your life, find a veterinarian specializing in exotic species to care for your pet. It's unlikely that a typical dog and cat vet can treat your turtle. Turtles are prone to eye diseases, including conjunctivitis and ulcerated corneas. Subcutaneous abscesses are another common turtle problem, appearing as skin swellings. If your turtle stops eating, exhibits mouth gaping or breathing difficulties, basks too much or won't enter the water, take him to the vet for an examination and diagnosis. Always have a new turtle examined by your vet before introducing him to the tank. Your vet will take a fecal sample to ensure that your new turtle doesn't have intestinal parasites. If the sample is positive for parasites, your vet can treat the condition.