Spring-fed creek aquarium replicas

Berkeley

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I like to try to replicate nature in my vivariums and aquariums whenever possible. My newest set up is a model of some of the cold, spring-fed creeks and rivers of south Georgia and Florida. The first tank I have set up at my office, and it houses some hatchling spiny softshell turtles and an alligator snapper. Here is a picture of the tank itself.
tank.JPG

It is created with base rock (for marine tanks) purchased at a local aquarium store, with a mix of white playground sand and crushed coral. The eelgrass is plastic, and I just cut it up and epoxied it to some small pieces of gravel to keep it sunk. It is filtered by a Duetto 100 in the back right corner.

Here are some pictures of the inhabitants. The spiny softshells first.
spiny.JPG

Spinifera1.JPG

It's neck is not even fully extended yet! They have really long necks!
spinifera.JPG

Softshells are actually very strong swimmers, and the water is about 8 inches deep. They still bury themselves completely in the substrate and poke their heads out to look around.
spiny head.JPG

spiny head1.JPG

The tank has a footprint of 20 inches by 20 inches. I also keep ghost shrimp and snails in there for the turtles to snack on.

The next inhabitant is a juvenile alligator snapper.
snap.JPG

It is really fascinating to see it clambering around on all the rockwork and woodwork. Often it will wedge itself underneath the branch and wait for a shrimp to scuttle too close.
snapper.JPG

snapper1.JPG

The next aquarium is the same style, but it is set up for some juvenile map turtles which I just acquired a few weeks ago. It is deeper though since map turtles prefer deeper water, and I have a basking platform over the top of the tank for them to haul out on. It is a box made out of cut plexiglass pieces, and sits on the rim of the tank. This maximizes swimming room, but also provides cover. Juvenile maps are incredibly shy, and feel most comfortable if they can observe from the safety of the water. Filtration is done with a hang-on-back Whisper filter.

This is an Alabama map (foreground) and a Barbour's map (rear).
pulchra and barbouri.JPG

The turtles wedge themselves into the gaps in the rockwork, and hang from the branches underneath the basking platform. It is quite the difference in how curious they are from their 'hiding' spot versus when they are 'exposed' in the water or basking.
barbouri.JPG

When they get a little bigger, I will add a powerhead to give some current, further mimicking the rivers that they are found in.
twigs.JPG

All of these turtles are maintained under permits from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

Thanks for looking, and I hope you enjoyed.

--Berkeley
 

wellington

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Looks really nice. I wouldn't think the soft shells and snapper could be housed together? No worries of the snapper hurting the soft shells? I also wouldn't think the crushed coral would be good for the soft shells. It doesn't scratch and damage their shells?
I have no experience with any of these, so just asking.
 

Berkeley

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Thank you, surfergirl and wellington!

Don't worry, wellington, I'm not offended. Softshells are a lot tougher than they get credit for. The crushed coral has not presented any problems in the years I have been using it. I tend to believe it actually helps by exfoliating any dead skin, dirt, etc that they may accumulate on their shells. Their shells are actually quite leathery, vs being soft and delicate.

The two species will get separated when they get a little bigger because the snapper may decide that it wants to see if they really DO taste like chicken. Other turtles are known prey items for large alligator snappers. Little snappers, not so much- they eat invertebrates, tadpoles and other soft-bodied prey mostly.

--Berkeley
 

Yvonne G

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Thank you so much for sharing these pictures. Lovely tanks and such cute little inhabitants.
 

Markw84

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Really well done. I love the most natural settings you've created! Turtles do act very differently - they way they probably do naturally - the closer we mimic nature! ... And beautiful to enjoy for you too!
 

cdmay

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My guess is that Berkley has observed these species in the wild and is mimicking what he's seen.
In the rivers where I've seen Gulf Coast spiny softshell turtles the sand varies from coarse almost gravel-like, to very fine just depending on how far from the bank you are.
The softies are in all of it but buried mostly in the shallows where they can just snorkel up to breathe.
 

Berkeley

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Thanks Yvonne, Mark and Carl. I appreciate the kind words. Mark, a pond like the one you have is a dream of mine! No more of these constraining aquariums! ha ha!

Carl, you are correct. I've been fortunate to spend some time snorkeling these types of waterways. I know you have as well, with some mutual acquaintances. I hope you agree that my attempts at replicating some microhabitats are fairly accurate! (random side note- one of my favorite experiences while snorkeling was cruising through the shallow edge of a creek near a downed log following a Barbour's map turtle, and looking up to be face to face with a small gathering of bowfin, gar and bluegill. Just spectacular!)

Thanks for looking, yall!
--Berkeley
 

wellington

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Thank you, surfergirl and wellington!

Don't worry, wellington, I'm not offended. Softshells are a lot tougher than they get credit for. The crushed coral has not presented any problems in the years I have been using it. I tend to believe it actually helps by exfoliating any dead skin, dirt, etc that they may accumulate on their shells. Their shells are actually quite leathery, vs being soft and delicate.

The two species will get separated when they get a little bigger because the snapper may decide that it wants to see if they really DO taste like chicken. Other turtles are known prey items for large alligator snappers. Little snappers, not so much- they eat invertebrates, tadpoles and other soft-bodied prey mostly.

--Berkeley
Thanks for the info and taking my questions as they were intended:).
 

cdmay

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(random side note- one of my favorite experiences while snorkeling was cruising through the shallow edge of a creek near a downed log following a Barbour's map turtle, and looking up to be face to face with a small gathering of bowfin, gar and bluegill. Just spectacular!)

Thanks for looking, yall!
--Berkeley

Have had many similar experiences Berkeley. Nothing beats them!
You can learn a lot about a species of turtle by watching them in habitat. I've seen numerous big old loggerhead musk turtles happily prowling around the bottom of a creek or river in 10 or more feet of water, yet never seen them appear to need to surface for air.
They also have the ability to navigate easily through water current that is pummeling me as I watch them.

Also, after finding a a good number of neonate and small juvenile alligator snapping turtles in the wild, I've learned that they seem to prefer 'perching' on tree roots or branches just below the waters surface but not far from the river bank.
 

Berkeley

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You can learn a lot about a species of turtle by watching them in habitat. I've seen numerous big old loggerhead musk turtles happily prowling around the bottom of a creek or river in 10 or more feet of water, yet never seen them appear to need to surface for air.

Very true. I remember when I was younger, we went down to Silver Springs (in FL) and we took one of those glass-bottomed boat rides and I saw a loggerhead musk trundling along on the bottom of the spring, pausing to sniff here and there, taking its sweet time...in probably 15 feet of water. I've seen it again since then, but I remember being amazed that that small turtle could do that.

Thanks for the kind words, too, Bea!

--Berkeley
 
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