Adopting an Aquatic Turtle

The Montreal SPCA takes in many turtles who were abandoned by families who, despite all their good intentions, miscalculated the time it takes to care for these reptile companions. Bought from pet stores when very small, turtles may seem like they take up little space! However, they can exceed the size of a cantaloupe and require careful care throughout their life, which lasts up to 30 or even 40 years if their health is good. 

Adopting a turtle is therefore not a decision to be made lightly. If you are willing to make a long-term and informed investment, however, this small animal can be a great companion. 

No, turtles aren’t boring! 

True, when you see them motionless under a heat lamp, it’s hard to tell that turtles are an active and alert animal! But aquatic turtles don’t just like to swim… they also love to stretch their legs and explore the house. In summer, some enjoy the warmth of the sun and strolls in the grass. But be sure to fence in an outdoor area and keep an eye on them, as turtles are surprisingly good at digging tunnels! 

All kinds of games can brighten turtles’ days, stimulating them both physically and mentally. For example, they will push shells with their noses or catch a ping-pong ball floating on the water. On the ground, hiding places and tunnels made of cardboard boxes become an enticing terrain to be explored. 

Although of course each turtle has their own personality, in general, turtles aren’t boring. Over time, your new friend may react to your presence, for example, by swimming faster when you enter the room.  

Caring for an aquatic turtle 

Aquatic turtles have specific needs that, when unmet, can lead to health problems! Turtles should be kept in a pond or basin, so they have enough room to swim around. At the very least, a large, 70gallon aquarium will do. The water should be maintained around 26oC and changed regularly. Essential accessories include a platform where your turtle can get out of the water, a UVB lamp and a heating lamp. 

You’ll need to feed your turtle about three times a week. Take them out of their aquarium for these feedings and give them a mix specially designed for their species, proteins (like frozen shrimp), fruits and vegetables. 

Serious consequences can result from an unsuitable environment, a lack of heat or a poor diet. These include respiratory infections, eye irritation and softening of the shell. It is therefore very important to look after your aquatic companion with care and attention. 

Furthermore, reptiles, including turtles, naturally carry Salmonella, bacteria that can be transmitted to humans and can cause salmonellosis, an intestinal infection. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, pregnant women, children aged five and under, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems are at high risk of infection when handling reptiles or any item with which a reptile may have come into contact. For this reason, it is not recommended that households with these individuals adopt a reptile. 


Though we try to transfer most of the turtles we receive to sanctuaries, the Montreal SPCA occasionally has some available for adoption. If you are interested in adopting an aquatic turtle available at the shelter, our counsellors will be happy to guide you. They can tell you about the needs of each animal looking for a new home. 

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