Terrapins are commonly available to buy as pets but these animals will require a specific environment and proper nutrition to live a long and happy life.

The Aquarium

Two small or juvenile terrapins will need an aquarium at least 90cm x 30cm x 30cm (approx. 3’ x 1’ x 1’) with a heater/thermostat to keep the aquarium water at about 240 - 260C (75 - 780F). They will also need a good aquarium powerfilter, a fluorescent lamp with a high UVB output and a white spot lamp to provide a heated basking area.

A thin layer of aquarium gravel should cover the base of the tank. Some large pieces of bog wood and flat rocks like slate are ideal for creating a basking site. Live plants can be grown in carnivorous terrapin set-ups but artificial plants would be more suitable for omnivorous and herbivorous species.

The water should be shallow enough to allow you to create a basking area, but deep enough to allow the terrapin to swim about and exercise. A heaterstat must be placed beneath the water at all times and is best placed behind the bogwood and slate.

The terrapin aquarium needs a lot of regular cleaning to keep things running smoothly and 50 per cent water changes will need to be carried out once a week.

Variety is essential. A pellet diet can be used as a large part of a juvenile’s diet – a small amount should be fed daily. Leafy greens such as lettuce, dandelions and pond plants can also be floated in omnivorous species’ aquariums. Other foodstuffs including pinkie mice, chopped prawns, chopped fish meat, koi pellets and live/frozen fish foods can also be fed. Never overfeed terrapins, however. Offer them small amounts of food regularly and remove anything uneaten within 10 minutes or so.
Responsible terrapin ownership

Never buy a terrapin (or any pet) on impulse, always research the subject in advance. This will allow you to consider if this really is the pet for you.

Cute baby terrapins very quickly grow into large demanding animals, which require expensive equipment and regular maintenance to keep them remaining healthy.

The biggest consideration of all is the length of time these animals can live. Chelonians have a deserved reputation for longevity and terrapins are no exception. These animals can live between 20-50 years in captivity. That’s a long time to be responsible for a pet, especially a demanding one.

There are many species of terrapins available through the pet trade and private breeders, though most species originate from farms in North America. These include the Red-eared Terrapin, Yellow-bellied Terrapin and Map Terrapins.
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