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Anna, Reptile Expert, Biologist
Category: Reptile
Satisfied Customers: 11427
Experience:  Have owned turtles, snakes, amphibians, and lizards. Study and provide habitat for wild herps.
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I have a Florida Cooter which I acquired about 11 years ago

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I have a Florida Cooter which I acquired about 11 years ago (I got her from some neighbor kids who caught her in a pond when she was 2" long and she got too big for She is about 9" long now (Measured straight, not over caraprice) and I figure she is about 13 years now and I want to keep her forever (I read they live 40+ years in captivity). Presently, she lives in a 75 gallon aquarium (which I know is too small...I'm looking into making a custom tank for her), I have a good water filter, change the water about weekly, have a basking spot with a sunlamp, and a UAV light. I mostly feed her Reptomin pellets (Which she loves), also throw in some greens and the occasional live food (tadpoloes and minnows I catch). I put her in my pool a couple times a week (sand chemicals!) which she loves! Lately, I have been researching about her (which is how I figured her exact species and sex) and I read that she needs calcium supliments (which I have never done). How do I do this and what else can I do to insure a long life? She has the most interesting personality (which I never expected from a turtle) and I am quite fond of her. Any advice would be apreciated:)

I'm sorry to see that no one has responded to your question earlier. Different experts come online at various times; I just came online and saw your question. It's wonderful that you have had this turtle for so long and are so attached to her. For the most part, it sounds like you do a very good job of husbandry. I have just a few ideas for you to make things better yet.

First, for the calcium: the easiest way to give it is to buy a cuttlebone (sold in the bird departments of pet stores) and place it in the tank. turtles will eat it as they need the calcium, and they are good at determining how much they need.

I would double-check that UV light. It's extremely important that it be a UVB light. UV, UVA, full-spectrum, SunGlo, DayGlo, etc. are NOT the same thing. You need a light that specifically produces UVB rays. A Reptisun 10.0, in a straight tube type bulb, is a good brand that does. If you choose another brand be absolutely certain it provides UVB rays. Don't take the word of pet store personnel, but read it for yourself. I'm putting a lot of emphasis on this because it's crucial to a reptile’s health. Without this light, Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD) will develop because the turtle won't be able to produce vitamin D. Vitamin supplements are not a good replacement for the proper lighting. MBD causes a very slow and painful death. UVB bulbs must be replaced every six months as they lose their effectiveness after that, even though they may still look fine. Light that comes through a window isn't sufficient because the glass filters out the UVB rays.

Cooters in nature are very herbivorous, so her diet should include more plant matter. you can provide aquatic plants and fruit. I would be cautious with the tadpoles and minnows for three reasons. One is that they can carry bacteria which are not harmful to themselves, but can make a turtle sick. This is true of any fish you may buy in a pet store, as well as the wild ones. Second, too much protein can lead to gout and/or kidney disease over a period of years. The Reptomin provides all the protein your turtle needs. High-protein foods are fine for a treat, but shouldn't be fed regularly. Cooked meat is safer than live animals or raw meat. To add variety to the diet, try some different commercial foods in addition to the Reptomin. Mazuri is a good one. Finally, fish contains an enzyme which destroys B vitamins. If turtles are fed too much fish, they can end up with a vitamin deficiency.

With these minor changes, and that new big tank, your turtle has a good chance of living a long healthy life. If you have more questions, just let me know by clicking on REPLY.


(If you find my answer helpful, please click on the green ACCEPT button. Thank you.)
Customer: replied 6 years ago.

Thank you very much! After 11 years I am still learning about her.


OK, I checked and I do have a UVb light, but it is about six months old, so I will replace it. I'll add more greens and some fruit and cut out the live food and I bought a cuttlebone today (Boy does she like that thing!) Also, I'm wondering how big a tank I need for her. I read somewhere that they need about 10 gallons for every inch long, right now that's 90 gallons. She's in a 75 gallon tank, but I only fill it about half way, so she's actually got about 35-40 gallons of water. Since I'm planning on having a custom tank built, I can make it any size and shape I want (I hate plain retangles). This is going to be costly, so I want to make sure it is big enough for years (decades?) to come. How big can she get and how big should her tank be?

Customer: replied 6 years ago.

Sorry, but the more I sit and think, the more questions I have...


More the 40+ lifespan accurate? Is the swimming pool time OK (sand chemicals)? How big should the basking area be? What type of light should I use in the basking area (I currently use a light that says it is specifically for reptiles) and how warm should the basking area be? Every so often I take her out and let her run around the house (Drives the cats crazy! and I find her in the strangest places) is this OK? She really is unique...if you get in the pool with her, she will swim right up to you and if you stay still, she will climb on you and rest..have you ever seen the like?

Turtles do have individual personalities, and yours sounds like quite a character. An adult female can be up to 16 inches long, but 11 to 13 inches is average. The basking area just needs to be big enough for her to lie there without being crowded, and the temperature should be 85*F to 92*F. Water temperature should be maintained in the 70*s. You can use a submersible aquarium heater to do that. You don't need a specific type of basking light. Any sort of lamp that will take a 40-60 watt incandescent bulb is fine. If you live in an area that has farm stores, you can buy a clip-on metal light fixture made to keep baby chicks warm for just a few dollars. Don't buy the accompanying bulb, however. You need an ordinary incandescent bulb in the basking light. Hardware and home improvement stores sell similar light fixtures as work lights. You can adjust the temperature by raising or lowering the light fixture, but don’t put it so low that your turtle can be burned.

As for tank size, the bigger the better. 90 gallons is considered the minimum for an adult cooter, but it's always recommended to have the biggest you can afford and have room for. The swimming pool visits are fine as long as there's no chlorine in the water. do keep in mind that turtles often carry salmonella bacteria without being sick themselves. This could pose a risk to humans, especially children, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems.

Running around the house is once in awhile all right, but it would be best to watch her constantly and to keep the amount of time short. Believe it or not, I've had people who want to know how to find their pet turtles after they escaped from the house, and that's not an easy task. There are two species of cooters native to Florida. Their care requirements are similar. I'm going to give you links to further information on both:

Many cooters have lived for 40+ years in captivity in zoos where they've been provided optimal habitat, so yes, that number is XXXXX If you need anything else, let me know.

Anna and 2 other Reptile Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Thank you Anna, your information is very helpful and should help me keep her around for a long time..."Miss T" thanks you too:)
You and Miss T are very welcome. I hope you have many more years together.

Customer: replied 5 years ago.
It's been a while, but I have new questions. First, I got a new 140ish gallon tank for her, 2nd I have been feeding her a lot more fruits and veggies (had to find ones that float...she won't eat it if it sinks). I have heaters that keep the tank in the mid 70's and 2 UAVb lights and a nice basking area with warm light. OK...I was told to give her a cuttlebone and she would regulate her calcium intake...not true, she eats the whole Damn candy! I'vé taken to giving her a small piece every other day, but she's grown almost 2 inches in The last 6 this healthy...or a result of her bigger tank and better diet and lighting? I'm concerned because it seems like too much, too fast.
It's good to hear from you, and I'm glad to learn that you've made so many improvements. She is a big turtle, and she has lived without calcium supplements for a long time. It's likely that she will need a lot of calcium for awhile until her body is replenished. They do generally regulate their intake. I would expect her to eat less as time passes. You can also use a plain calcium powder (without added vitamin D3), which would be less expensive. The Flukers company makes one. Here is an online source:

The problem with using a powder with turtles is that it has to be dusted on to the food. then, When you put the food in the water, the powder washes off. That's why cuttlebones are recommended. If you can find a way to stuff the powder inside a food, that would work.

The growth probably is a result of the improved conditions. However, turtles can grow too fast, which can sometimes result in problems such as kidney disease. If you are feeding her every day, cut back to 3 times per week. Hatchlings need to eat every day, but by the time a turtle is as big as yours, that isn't necessary.

If you need anything else, let me know.