The Problem with Aquatic Turtles

It can be easy for animal lovers to be charmed by an aquatic turtle at the pet store. The two most common species are the red-eared slider and the yellow-bellied slider. This small animal, lying still on an artificial rock, doesn’t appear to require a great deal of attention. It seems like the perfect companion animal for someone who doesn’t have much time to take care of an animal, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Keeping a turtle healthy in captivity is not easy. 

The specific needs of aquatic turtles 

The problem is that people adopt these animals without being aware of all their specific needs. Keeping a turtle in captivity in your home is no easy task. Failing to provide the conditions vital to their well-being can seriously impact their health. An unsuitable environment, improper diet, lack of UV rays or poor hygiene can lead to a host of problems, including respiratory infections, shell softening and eye irritation (due to a high level of ammonia in the water, which can poison the animal over time). 

Also, these turtles can exceed the size of a cantaloupe. To ensure optimal well-being, they should be kept in a pond or basin, so they have enough room to swim around. At the very least, a large, 70‑gallon aquarium will do.. And since they aren’t common domestic animals like cats and dogs, few veterinarians specialize in turtles, which can make it difficult to get them the basic care they need. 

In addition to their unique needs, turtles can live 30 to 40 years. Adopting an aquatic turtle is a long-term commitment that shouldn’t be made lightly. 

A threat to Quebec’s biodiversity 

Given the above issues, guardians seeking to give their turtle a better life sometimes decide to release them in nature. This should be avoided at all costs, as red-eared sliders are an invasive species. Also, if a turtle has always lived in captivity, he or she might not know how to survive on their own. 


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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