Caspian Pond Turtle
Caspian pond turtles are small, darkly colored turtles with variable neck and head decorations of white, yellow, orange or red. They are personable, inquisitive, diurnal, communal and hearty. They adapt well to captivity. Adult sizes range from 7 to 9 inches (17-23 centimeters), with the females being larger than the males. They reach maturity at 10-11 years of age and can live to be more than 45 years old.
Caspian pond turtles inhabit a gargantuan range, from Greece, through Eastern Europe, the Middle East and into Russia. If the closely related species leprosa, mutica, japonica and rivulata are included, the Mauremys species blankets the whole of the southern portion of the continents of Europe and Asia. With a range this wide it is not surprising that Caspian pond turtles occupy a variety of freshwater and brackish habitats, including rivers, ponds, swamps, marshlands and man-made waterways. Like a lot of water turtles, Caspian pond turtles enjoy basking on aquatic emergents or embankments. They have a preference for highly oxygenated, heavily vegetated areas which provide them with both ample camouflage and an opportunity for grazing.
Provided adequate shelter and warmth, Caspian pond turtles can be kept outside in many parts of the United States. Turtles can be tremendous escape artists—it has been said that what turtles (and tortoises for that matter) lack in speed, they gain in tenacity. Keep this in mind when designing the enclosure; if there is a way for the turtle to escape, it will be found. It is equally important to secure outdoor pens from predators. In spite of their shells, turtles can fall prey to any number of predators, including, but not limited to weasels, raccoons, dogs, coyotes, alligators, and raptors). Tops and/or electric fencing can be used. For aquatic turtles, outdoor habitats should be predominantly water. Preformed plastic ponds can be used provided entrances and exits are supplied. These ponds usually have steep, sheer sides that can make getting in and out tricky. The use of logs, rocks or vegetation to precipitate access to and from the pond is of paramount importance if they are to be used. Keep in mind the turtle’s natural tendency to bask adjacent to (or within) the water when designing the pen. Basking spots should be provided near the water’s edge or through the use of emergent wood, logs or rocks within the water itself. In sunny climates, carefully placed rocks will provide a conduit for heat absorption. In other areas, the use of a basking light may be necessary. Basking spots should provide a surface temperature of 85-90 degrees Fahrenheit. Underwater heaters should be used to ensure that the water temperature does not drop below 45-50 degrees Fahrenheit for extended periods of time. In inhospitable climates (generally, wherever it snows in the winter), it is advisable to remove the turtles to a cool, dark inside area for estivation. See the link on hibernation under the resources tab for further information.
If kept indoors, adult Caspian pond turtles require spacious accommodations and large aquariums are recommended. A horizontally-oriented forty gallon aquarium is the minimum size recommended for a pair of turtles. UVA/UVB and basking lights should be provided. This can be accomplished easily with one of the many commercially available basking lights with UV, or by using a spot/flood light in conjunction with a fluorescent UV bulb. The basking area should be between 85-90 degrees with a temperature gradient that allows a drop of 10-15 degrees on the opposing side. Indoor nighttime ambient temperatures should be adequate under all but the most extreme conditions.
In either situation (outdoor or indoor housing), use of aquatic plants is highly recommended. Aquatic plants not only provide a naturalistic setting, aesthetic beauty and hiding places, they also help to oxygenate the water, which is critical to the turtle’s well being. Some more commonly used plants are: Anacharis, water hyacinth, pickerelweed, water lettuce, lilies, pennywort, duckweed, and the like. Emergent potted plants such as papyrus, bulrush, cattails, irises, etc. can also be used. Also in both situations, external filtration should be used. Water changes of 20-50% should be done bi-monthly or as needed. The smaller the enclosure, the more regularly water changes should be administered.
Caspian pond turtles are omnivorous and eat a variety of insects, crustaceans, mollusks, amphibians, fish and plants on land and in the water. Although they will graze on vegetation, they tend to be mostly carnivorous. In captivity they adapt readily to a variety of commercial turtle foods, fish, crayfish, tadpoles, crickets and worms. They should be feed several times a week when they are active.
Male Caspian pond turtles are territorial and can be quite aggressive in defending their perceived territory. For this reason, males should not be housed together in small enclosures for extended periods of time.
Caspian pond turtles, need to be able to estivate/hibernate for several months out of the year. If you are keeping your turtle in a large outside enclosure, it will likely burrow into the benthos and take care of this necessity itself. With indoor enclosures, it is necessary to make provisions for this natural behavior. See the section labeled “Hibernation Tips” under the resources tab for more information.
Water quality is of particular importance to the Caspian pond turtle’s health. This does not necessary mean crystal clear water, but it does mean water with a high oxygen content. One of the best ways to ensure this is through the use of lots of aquatic plants. See above for suggestions.