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Captive info for red-cheek mud turtles

Discussion in 'Water turtles' started by cdmay, Aug 3, 2013.

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  1. cdmay

    cdmay Well-Known Member 10 Year Member!

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    This is a follow up to the thread about red-cheeks with some more detail about how I've kept them. Much of this will apply to other types of mud turtle and there are a lot of photos here of striped mud turtles.

    Since about 1980 I have converted aquariums into 'aqua-terrariums' by dividing the tank into two parts (water and land) with a piece of half inch Plexiglas. I use silicone to make the parts water tight. One side is filled with potting soil to fill up the empty space and then topped off with the same sand I use in the water section. This way, when the turtles go back and forth from the land to the water, the water doesn't get fouled. However, you can also use an unmodified aquarium with a ramp leading to a second box or tub for nesting. Some keepers have a nesting box above the aquarium with a ramp or something similar that allows a female to gain access.
    Here are some photos. I should mention that most of these photos the turtles involved are striped mud turtles, Kinosternon baurii. In the second and third photos there is a female nesting--you can see her head protruding out from under the cork bark. Striped mud turtles tend to bury themselves when nesting.

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    In these photos there is sand used as a substrate. But more recently I have been maintaining my aquatic turtles without any sand. This makes for much easier maintenance.

    For smaller species like the striped mud turtles I use 20 gallon long, 55 gallon and 40 gallon 'breeder' aquariums. For larger species like the red-cheeks, 40 gallon breeder and 75 gallon aquariums are used. Waterland tubs are also excellent.

    This is a 20 gallon long tank that is OK for nesting female striped mud turtles.

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    Live plants can be incorporated but I've found that the red-cheeks tend to tear them up.

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    But the smaller striped muds like them just fine. Here is another nesting female...

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    This is a female red-cheek nesting...

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    You can see from these photos that various forms of filtration are used. Submersible filters are OK for small aquariums but I prefer larger canister filters for anything over 55 gallons. Heaters are used at times too.

    As for feeding I have tried almost everything you can think of over the years. If I don't happen to have a lot of turtles at a particular time, moving a turtle into a separate tub or the kitchen sink for feeding goes a long way in keeping the tank clean. I am a nut about water cleanliness!
    Foods for red-cheeks have included various kinds of pellet food designed for tropical fish, pellets made for aquatic turtles, frozen fish foods of various kinds, shrimp, whole live fish, parts of fish (or lobster!) I've caught and was eating myself, nightcrawlers, super mealworms, cooked chicken, and a bunch of other things I can't think of right now. The key is to not over feed and ensure that the turtles are getting enough calcium.

    Keeping mud turtles like red-cheeks in indoor aquariums is a lot of work but
    it is well worth it.

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  2. cdmay

    cdmay Well-Known Member 10 Year Member!

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    I should probably add the fact that the above methods of captive care apply quite well with other tropical mud turtles such as white lip mud turtles, Kinosternon leucostomum and scorpion mud turtles, Kinosternon scorpioides as well as the native North American species of mud turtles.
    Pastel Tortie and Moozillion like this.
  3. Moozillion

    Moozillion Well-Known Member 5 Year Member Platinum Tortoise Club

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    Thanks so much for sharing your methods! I will definitely make it a point to remember these! :)
  4. edwardbo

    edwardbo Active Member 5 Year Member

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    Beautiful,clean exallent set ups,beautiful turtles ,are you getting hatchlings ? How big do get red cheeks get?thank you for the pics .
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  5. ascott

    ascott Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    Beautiful....have you ever had a breach in the added plexi glass divider? Does water seep into the dry area?

    Gorgeous turtles by the way...
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  6. CDBJJ

    CDBJJ Member

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    “Foods for red-cheeks have included various kinds of pellet food designed for tropical fish, pellets made for aquatic turtles, frozen fish foods of various kinds, shrimp, whole live fish, parts of fish (or lobster!)”

    can you use cooked lobster? I’ve heard cooked chicken isnt good for most species also is this true for red cheeks? Also what are your thoughts on this theory “crustaceans in their diet play a role in the vivid red markings on their skin” possibly it’s the copper in shrimp, crayfish, lobster and others?
  7. CDBJJ

    CDBJJ Member

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    The theory is in quotations, but it’s a theory I took from a pdf by James Berry and John Iverson. You mentioned it on here before.
  8. Yvonne G

    Yvonne G Old Timer TFO Admin 10 Year Member! Platinum Tortoise Club

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  9. cdmay

    cdmay Well-Known Member 10 Year Member!

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    OK, hello.
    Sorry for my delinquency.
    Yes, I've fed cooked lobster (that I caught myself), cooked shrimp, wild caught sand 'fleas' and other crustaceans to all of my mud turtles for many years. Although I doubt seriously that there might be a transfer of parasites from the ocean to freshwater mud turtles, I still parboil anything wild that I'm going to offer them.
    And yes, I feel that there are a lot of benefits for offering such food items. First, it gives my turtles something different to attack and any addition to the normal captive diet is a good thing.
    Second, adding the whole shelled crustacean-- with its shell benefit, color, and guts can only be good. At least in my opinion.
    But then, I am blessed...I literally work right on the ocean in south Florida so I have access to these food items.
    If you can purchase such things where you live, make sure that you clean and prepare them properly.
    In regards to the various tropical Kinosternids in their native habitats, most feed on aquatic insect larvae, freshwater crustaceans that include crayfish, giant crayfish (Macrobrachium), freshwater crabs, and any number of insect larvae that spend much of their lives as nymphs.
    Having said all of this, I would caution against feeding TOO much to your captive mud or musk turtles. All of them will gorge on food every day of their little stinkin' lives.. .that's how they are made to do. In captivity they get everything they would ever need-- or want to eat, so it is up to us, their caretakers, to regulate how much they get.
    Use your head, give them high quality foot items-- but in moderation.
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  10. CDBJJ

    CDBJJ Member

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    Thanks for that. I’ve only owned this species for about a year so all the information is helpful and very intriguing! I’ve always been wary with what I feed them, but continuously giving them Mazuri is not ideal. Today they ate cooked Maine Lobster and loved it. I’ll have to incorporate more variety now that I know all this.
    Moozillion likes this.
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