A reader asks Dr Platzhund if keeping an exotic pet, like a tortoise or a terrapin, is a good idea and what she need to know to keep one.
Q: I don’t have time to walk or train a dog, I’m not fond of cats, but I’m very keen on keeping an exotic pet, like a terrapin, turtle or tortoise. What do I need to know about keeping one of these as a pet?
A: Tortoises live entirely on the ground, turtles live in the sea, and terrapins live in fresh water. Each one has different nutritional and environmental requirements, and for your purpose, I’d suggest a terrapin. You need an aquarium 100 times the size of the terrapin, with a well-ventilated top to give it room to move around. Your terrapin will also need a dry landing area with sand and flat stones, and a filter to remove waste and bacteria. The water temperature has to be regulated for day and night and UV light is important for 12 hours a day, though the tank should be kept away from direct sunlight, draughts and electrical appliances. The pet is 100 percent dependent on you for everything. Their diet consists of a mixture of meat and plants, mostly crickets, mealworms and tubifex worms, whole fish, raw liver, fruit and vegetables. You’ll need to mix calcium and vitamin supplements in their food. Feed adult terrapins in their water environment three times a week and young terrapins every day. Water in the aquarium must be changed every four weeks. You must regularly inspect the terrapin to ensure there are no colour changes, bumps or cracks on their shell, and their eyes must always be clear. If there are any signs of a problem, contact a vet specialising in exotic species. Visit Vetassociation.co.za to find an exotic pet vet.