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Friday, August 12, 2011

Meet Jasper!

Today, I went to our county fair. They had a game where you could win live turtles, live iguanas, and live hermit crabs. I still find this concept weird that you can win animals that require specialized cages and lighting. It would make more sense to win a puppy or kitten, since most homes are already equipped for them.

In reality, I don't agree with the practice of the animals as prizes. But that's another story for another day. The long and the short of it is - I'm a sucker for animals of any kind, and I always think I should adopt everything so I can be certain it's taken care of. The fact that I walked away with only one turtle and not a whole slew of reptiles shows an extreme level of self restraint on my part.

Anyway - I digress. Meet Jasper - the newest edition to my family:

The picture's a bit blurry, but rest assured, Jasper's face is perfectly clear in real life.

That's Jasper running away from a Dixie cup. He's insanely fast. I'm starting to think the Tortoise and the Hare was a total lie.
 From what I can tell, Jasper is a red eared slider. I'm not sure of his age, but he's small enough to easily fit in a Dixie cup. (I didn't put him in one. I just put him next to one for a size comparison.).

There's a chance that Jasper isn't a boy, but I don't know how to tell the difference, and I figure that Jasper won't care if I refer to him as a "he" even if he's a she, as long as I take proper care of him and give him food and lots of clean water to swim around in.

I've never had a turtle before. I've had iguanas and frogs and toads, but never a turtle. This didn't occur to me until I got home, and I begun to panic that I would somehow kill him.

Jasper's currently set up in a ten-gallon tank that has water about half way up and a resting rock thing designed for turtles such as himself to hang out on. He also has a heat lamp and turtle food that I bought at Walmart. Walmart was the only store open that sells turtle food after I got Jasper, but tomorrow, I'll go to the pet store to see what else the recommend.

My aunt has three turtles, so I asked her how to take care of them. She said that she feeds her turtles minnows sometimes, but I think Jasper might be a bit too small for that right now. Unless minnows are smaller than what I think they are. She also said she feeds them greens (I think she said lettuce).

I also ordered some books on turtles. And I expect I'll talk to my aunt more about how not to kill Jasper and keep him happy.

The point is - Jasper is very, very cute. He might be the cutest thing I've ever seen. I know some things about turtles - like that have salmonella and they need a habitat with land and water. But if any experienced turtle owners have tips, feel free to throw them my way.


  1. Aww I used to have one when I was little.. at least until my mom told me he died when he "jumped" from his tank. Many years later I found out she accidentally knocked it over ad the dog ate it :-\

  2. Red eared sliders are a lot of fun and very fast. They LOVE the water. They can be a pain in the ass, though.

    We used to let ours out and we'd play with them...sort of...

    But be careful, they will hide and disappear and you'll never see him again

  3. I had a terrapin when I was a kid. We fed him with a toothpick, and he used to eat bits of lettuce, dead flies, and bits of roast beef sandwich meat from Arby's. My grandparents finally painted his shell with a dot of nail polish and released him in their back yard, because we actually caught him in the wild originally. He lived for a long time, and used to crawl up to the back steps every once in a while looking for a treat.

    Jasper is adorable!

    Christy, that sounds similar to what happened with my hamster when I was a kid. My dad said he had a heart attack, but I found out he got out of his cage and got into a mouse trap. My dad lied, because I used to yell at him all the time about how cruel those mouse traps were. LOL

  4. My turtle, like a kid, spent too much time in the water. Or I didn't give him enough "rock". His shell got soft and he croaked.

  5. I used to have turtles, but its been so long...

    The only thing I remember clearly is to check the ingredients of the food you give him. No ant eggs or blood worms, they can cause blindness in turtles.

    That may have changed(not sure how, lol), but its worth looking into. Most foods don't use those in their recipe, but better safe then sorry.

    My apologies if this is a bit garbled, but I'm desperate for some sleep. Good luck! :D

    P.S. My two liked crickets or grasshoppers, and they'd beg for bits of cooked fish(though I suppose they would've liked raw fish too if I'd offered it). Just make sure they're tiny pieces if you let him have some, or he'll choke.

  6. Very cute. I just got my kids a tortoise last weekend. We went to a reptile show and bought him from a breeder. Serious business. We named him Herman. He is about the same size as Jasper. I was surprised by how much I've been worried about Herman. I'm worried that he's not eating enough. Who knew that having a little tortoise would capture our hearts? Have fun! - Sarah

  7. I once got a tiny baby turtle from a local pond. It was the cutest thing! I put it in a tank with some Cichlid fish I had. As our little turtle grew, we realized the fish were disappearing! That's when a friend told us that we had a snapping turtle. We took him back to the pond when we learned that keeping a snapping turtle captive was illegal in our state. : (

  8. I had two red eared sliders for years. They're a lot of fun. But so dirty if you don't keep up with cleaning. When Jasper gets bigger you can tell if he's a boy or girl by the length of his/her nails. Boys nails are longer. Also, if you feel Jasper fish make sure they're itty bitty. he can choke on their skulls. Mine loved crickets!!
    Good luck!

  9. My husband would say, "When the autopsy reveals a sister size thumb print on his crushed belly, the sister did it!" No matter how loudly said little sister denies she was involved in the testudocide. (Yeah. I made that up, but the latin is sound!) lol I hope Jasper is kept far my sister-in-law, though I think the only thing she's killed recently are chickens.

  10. He's not the type the grows into a humongous one, is he? But then again, if he does, then you have a creature to sic on unsuspecting citizens. :-)

  11. we had two red ear sliders a few years back! we got them from a breeder and were the size between a quarter and half dollar when we got them! since they were breed in captivity they didn't have the hunting skills need to catch the minnows and feeder fish we got i would have to take a knife and slice the fins before putting them in the tank :( i know it sounds awful but it gave the fish less mobility and still got our turtles some exercise for catching them and food in their bellies! we also need an algae eater in the tank with the turtles.....he was bigger then them in the beginning so they didn't bother each other but he really helped clean up all the turtle mess ( if you know what i mean :)

  12. I had a baby turtle as a kid. She loved grapes (cut in half-she ate the inside and left the skin), raw hamburger, lettuce, & grasshopers (I ripped off their jumping legs, but let the front ones stay on).

    Unfortunately, Elizabeth died during a move. My parents saw the 'no pets' sign at the hotel, so we left her in the car. She froze to death. Worse, as we left the hotel, I saw a woman who had smuggled in one of those fru-fru dogs. I was seven. It took a while before I could forgive my parents.

  13. They can live forever, not literally but pretty close. My parents have one that has been with the family longer than I have been alive.

    The little guy will also love worms! Walmart, in sporting goods, should have some little red wigglers they should be plenty small for that little guy to munch on. You can also do tadpoles. We would catch tadpoles and minnows at the river all the time to feed to Speedie. Canned tuna in water is also good, if you ever make yourself a sandwich just throw some in there. From my experience the sliders never really eat a whole lot of greens they tend to be carnivorous, minus the turtle pellets. Also, bad, bad, bad idea, clams! Speedie use to love to eat them but she would often get her feet clamped shut in the little guys trying to pry them open. Not good when the turtle is big enough to bite and could mean business.

    Also something that tends to freak out first time turtle owners, hibernation. It's really not unusual once the temperature starts to drop for Speedie to sink down in the water and hibernate there for several weeks to a few months. She was a wild caught rescue so it may be different with captive bred, but I've always heard the hibernation is important so don't try to avoid it by using heat lamps and what not.

    Also be prepared to upgrade. Not immediately but the little sliders grow quicker than a lot of people expect and bigger tanks cost a lot and take up quite a bit of space. My parents have Speedie in a 55 gallon and she's about grown out of it.

  14. They get big and they get dirty. Husband and I have two turtles that were given to us by his students. They need a heat lamp, and they don't need to be fed everyday.

  15. @Amanda the commentor, actually veggies are a very important part of a slider's diet. Having a sun lamp and submersible heater is also important. I've raised 2 hatch-ling sliders, which have been with me for 10 years now. They will be around for a long long time, so you are correct about that and their eventual need for a larger environment. Keeping turtles isn't cheap either. When the turtle gets bigger it will need a more heavy duty filtration system that will require the filter media to be replaced once a month.
    If you have any other questions, austinsturtlepage[dot]com is an EXCELLENT resource and has been around for as long as I've had my sliders.
    They are wonderful pets! Cheers!

  16. Can I just say that your fairs are infinitly cooler than mine ever were. I would have LOVED a turle, alas there were but goldfish to be won, and typically they were dead within the week.

  17. Jasper is extremely small. When holding him in the bathroom don't drop him down the sink or in the toilet by accident.

  18. Hey, Amanda, my first comment on your blog is about a turtle! Ha ha!

    Indeed, Jasper is a red earned slider. In reality, he's also illegal. Because of salmonella-related issues, it's illegal to distribute turtles with a carapace under 4". The thought is that these turtles are small enough that children could put them into their mouths. Although the risk of salmonella is over-rated for the most part, it is a real risk.

    The problem with turtles, though, isn't the animal itself, unless you plan on licking it. Eeew. It's the water. Salmonella thrives in dirty water, and since red eared turtles are aquatic, they easily soil their water with feces, and then you've got this polluted water on your hands. When you change the water, NEVER throw the water into any outdoor environment. You can transmit diseases to the local amphibian population this way. Always treat the waste water first with a bit of bleach or something to disinfect it, then flush it.

    Water changes are key for the health of the turtle, especially in a new enclosure. Opportunistic bacteria feed on turtle waste, and a new cage has no beneficial bacteria. Also, decaying turtle waste produces ammonia, which can be deadly to turtles. As a result, many experts recommend a 30% to 50% water change daily for the first month. After six weeks or so, you can drop down to weekly water changes. You'll have enough beneficial bacteria by that point to consume high levels of ammonia. When you're changing water, don't use untreated tap water because it contains chlorine. Always use a dechlorinator. Your water temp should be between 72 and 80ºF.

    If you want to reduce the number of water changes you're doing, feed the turtle outside its cage. Take a small tub and fill it with tank water (they eat in the water) and feed Jasper in there. This will prevent fouling of the water.

    Finally, as annoying as this is, you really should have a filter on the water and lights for the tank. Turtles do best in filtered water, and the filter provides a place for beneficial bacteria to thrive, acting like a reservoir of beneficial bacteria. You can use a charcoal or sponge filter, but sponge filters are better for harboring good bacteria. As far as lights go, get a reptile light that provides both UVA and UVB light.

    When you're handling the little guy or working on his cage, wearing gloves is a good idea to protect yourself.

    As far as food goes, red-eared sliders are omnivorous, so they can eat goldfish, cooked chicken, shrimp, lettuce, worms, fruit and corn. Vary his diet and he'll be a happier turtle.

    A healthy red-eared slider can live for 25 years and grow up to 11 inches.

    Sorry for the information overload, but I work for a pet magazine! Enjoy Jasper ...

  19. That's a good lookin turtle. I suggest getting him into ninja classes at a young age.

  20. Give him a bigger rock or his shell will go mushy.

  21. Turtles are amazing. But I have two warnings:
    1) If the pet store advises you to get tiny goldfish to entertain/feed your turtle, and you take their advice, you may quite possibly end up with goldfish that quickly grow to be not so tiny. {Some turtles do not get the memo about the mandatory eating of goldfish.} However, your turtle will no longer be lonely, so this could be considered a win-win.
    2) Turtles make for dirty fish tankes. Much more so than fish.

  22. I second the dirty fish tank. Two words to describe turtle poop: voluminous and sticky.

    Let's hope Jasper grows very slowly.

  23. P.S. Seems like every single post on here mentions how lovable turtles are, then mentions many negatives about owning one (size, poop, heat lamps, oh my!). Maybe that's why turtle ownership peaked during the Turtle Soup craze of 1980 and has waned ever since.

    Perhaps, Amanda, winning one of those teensy crabs would have been better. They like to live in a wine glass full of sand, and usually croak in a couple months.

  24. I'm surprised you have a turtle so small where you didn't get it from Chinatown. I thought those illegal.

    I've had a red-eared slider for 19 years now. I thought she was a he too until I took "him" to a vet a few years ago.

    Get a good filter because manually changing the water sucks. They're fast buggers and eat everything, including fingers. Thankfully, mine no longer does that anymore.

  25. Awe! He's so adorable! Looking at Jasper seriously makes me break into baby talk...I'm honestly doing baby talk inside of my head as I type this. He's just THAT cute! :D Thanks for sharing, Amanda! :D

  26. Hi Amanda,

    Check at your pet store for a vitamin and mineral powder that can be added to his food and a calcium supplement. Turtles, as you can guess, have a lot of growing to do with their shell and this will require mountains of calcium. Make sure the supplements are specific to his species. One of the toughest things about raising turtles to maturity is balancing their diet so their shells can form correctly.
    Hope that helps. Drop me a line if there's any more info you might need (I covered a lot of this stuff in University).

  27. Yay for turtles! Red-eared sliders are pretty easy to care for and are pretty sociable, as far as turtles go. I second the person who recommends vitamin supplements (the easiest ones to give are actually liquid drops that you put right into the water), and the one who advised avoiding anything containing ant eggs. When mine was that wee, we actually had to crush up his turtle chow so that he could bite it and supplement with meal worms to make sure he got enough protein. Unless you want to move the tank constantly with the direction of the sun, it might also be more efficient to put his tank in a shaded space with a heat lamp above his rock so that he can sun himself.

  28. We fed our turtle cantaloupe. Wait for it to go on sale, buy like 4 of them. Slice and dice it all up and freeze it. Every day just took a frozen chunk and the turtle would munch on it as it thawed.

  29. Awwww! What a cutie!!! My cousins have two turtles and they said that their (the turtles')tank always gets really dirty really quickly. My cousins say that it can be a pain in the butt (sometimes) to clean the tank constantly.

  30. I've read through all of these posts, and you've got a lot of good advice here about what Jasper needs, with this exception: a good macro lens. I don't think you'll be able to capture his expressive little face without one. So - I don't know what sort of gear you've got, or if you've got a DSLR at all, but I'd recommend one. Here's your Jasper dream kit: Canon EOS 7d, Canon 100mm F2.8 macro lens, filter, extra battery, and a few high speed flash cards (minimum 8gb 60mb/s) so you can get some video for all your Jasper fans. A Canon 24-70 f2.8L would also do nicely, but will be a bit more expensive. Can't wait to see your pictures...
    On a different note, I love to watch your success (and have read all of your books). I hope you are enjoying it.

  31. Aww, so cute. I won an iguana at the fair once, along with five goldfish. And I had a baby desert tortoise for awhile, but they're a bit different to care for. Looks like you've gotten some great advice though.

  32. make sure to wash your hands after you touch him.. they can cary salmonella.

  33. We have a painted turtle, my daughter named Franklin (original huh?) when she was around 3 years old. she's 17 they live a long long time and probably the easiest animal to care for. At Halloween we put rabbit ears on him and a cotton ball for a tail (very cute). Also male turtle will grow really long front nails, that’s how they get a date.

  34. He is adorable!! (I also agree though, live animals should not be given away as prizes...good of you to "adopt" him!!)

  35. My only comment Amanda is that you should read what PETA has to say about keeping pets, buying pets and what to do when you are faced with a choice. I am sure that with thousands of people reading your blog, many kids have been inspired to dig out turtles from lakes and natural habitats to keep as pets.

    Anyway - wish you the best.