How to Care for an African Side-necked Turtle

There are many speculations that it is quite a tedious job to have an African side-necked turtle at home. But, on the contrary, it is only a myth, provided the approach to house them is right. This PetPonder article tells you how and why.
PetPonder Staff
Did You Know?
On sensing danger or predators, African side-necked turtles can emit an unpleasant odor to keep off their predators.
African side-necked turtles belong to the family Pelomedusidae. They can be real fun to watch at, but they seem very sensitive to touch, and can hide themselves for hours if we attempt to touch them. Therefore, it is advisable to first establish familiarity with them before handling them frequently. They are not at all demanding, but do have some key requirements, which if met, can make them one of the best choices as a pet. Let us take a closer look at them in the succeeding part of this article, which speaks at length about the prerequisites, which are necessary in order to keep this wonderful mammal at home.
Habitat Setup Checklist
Size of the Habitat
The size of an adult African side-necked turtle may vary, considering the gender and the species of the turtle. Females can grow 8 inches and above, reaching even 20 inches, as opposed to the males, who restrict their height to about 9 inches at adulthood. Therefore, always do your homework correctly before buying this wonder for yourself. Make sure that the tank is spacious enough for your pet to swim and rest. The capacity of the tank should be between 60 - 90 gallons. Alternatively, you could also have them in any open area outside your house, in the backyard, or in the garden, where you can easily fill the area with exactly what your pet needs. This will also make it feel at home, thereby helping it to grow healthy and be merry!
Make sure that you have enough water in the tank so that your aquatic friend can swim. The water should be free of chlorine and other chemicals. You should also be aware of the fact that they pass their feces right into the water. Therefore, you will have to get the water cleaned either manually, or you can always take the aid of a water filter. This will make the water absolutely desirable for your turtle's survival.
Sufficient Space
It is advisable not to house other marines in the same tank with your turtle. This restricts the space it is used to enjoying, and it may also devour on the poor fish.
Props in the Tank
The key to have a jovial and active pet is to provide it with an atmosphere that is in close resemblance to its natural habitat. Keeping this in mind, always use props that will appeal to your turtles. Keeping a log under the water in the tank is a superb idea. This will allow the turtle to enjoy sunbathing, and also help it to rest after a swim. You can also keep marine plants, which these turtles love munching on. Apart from these, you can have other things like rocks, which will help them hide when needed. The bottom of the tank should have wet, swampy mud so that females can bury their hatched eggs under it. This they do as a technique for egg care.
This variety of turtles is omnivorous in food habits. They like feeding on plants, insects, worms, and also fish. They also pick water grass, hyacinth, lettuce, and other water plants as good choices for food. Introducing your pet turtle to the commercial turtle food types is beneficial. Feeding them with these will help them have a healthy well-being. Most of these kinds of food are eaten with pleasure. These turtles prefer eating under water as it eases their swallowing procedure.
One typical feature of these turtles is that they prefer basking in the sun. So, in order to prevent any damage to their bones and shells, sufficient exposure to UVB light is essential. This is a part of the shell care procedure. Along with proper lighting, also install a water heater to keep the temperature right, as these turtles belong to the hot atmosphere of Africa.
Egg Care
This is a crucial thing to do. If conditions permit, then you will have mini turtles hatching out of the eggs in 2 - 3 months. However, a small act of carelessness can kill the embryo within the egg itself. It is of paramount importance that when you move the eggs from the mud bed, elsewhere for incubation, always know for yourself, which is the top side of the egg. In case you put the top side down, the egg embryo will be dead. Before dislocating the eggs, put them in a good container with good amount of moss, sand, and organic decomposition matter.
Shell Care
Turtles are hardy mammals. Their shells are made up of keratin. It is a non-detachable part just like ribs and the spine. But there can be serious problems with it if not treated on time. There could be some minor shell damage, or there may even be grave conditions like shell rotting or formation of a shell pyramid. However, these conditions are curable. Major remedies (or precautions) for these conditions include ample intake of sunlight and adequate nutritional intake.
Know Them More!
  • The name African side-necked turtle is derived from a special feature that this animal owns. In self-defense, when it is attacked, unlike other turtles, it doesn't pull in its head and neck inside the shell completely. Rather, it folds them just at the border of the shell.
  • They do not have ears. They are very sensitive to vibration, and can track the coming of predators by sensing the vibrations in water or land.
  • Female African side-necked turtles attain a larger size, as compared to their male counterparts.
  • The average lifespan of these turtles ranges from 25 - 50 years of age!
  • The sex of these turtles is determined by the weather conditions that the eggs are exposed to. In case the temperature is warm, the turtles are females, and if the temperature is mild, they are males.
The natural habitat of the African mud turtle primarily consists of water bodies such as lakes, ponds, and pools. They are habituated to chasing their own prey and feeding on them. Therefore, while preparing to own one of these beauties as a pet, you will have to take utmost care in order to match up to the maximum, with regard to their natural habitat.