Friday, December 14, 2012

Information on Reeves Turtles as Pets

My daughter recently got a new pet, a Reeve's Turtle. In my area many turtle species are illegal to buy or sell (such as the red-eared slider) but Reeves are allowed. I was surprised to see turtles for sale that so tiny, her turtle was maybe 2 inches (5cm) at most.  In the USA this would not be legal as the trade of turtles whose shell is under 4 inches is illegal.  

I was quite worried about getting her, but my daughter is 18 so it was her decision.  

The Reeve's Turtle is also known as the Chinese pond turtle, they are found in China, Hong Kong, Korea, and Japan; they are considered to be an endangered species particularly in China. The biggest threat to them comes from being hunted for use in Chinese medicine, however they breed well in captivity.

Turtles are not good pets for first time pet owners, they have very specific needs and a person should never get a turtle unless they know they can care for it for its lifetime in relationship to how big it will eventually grow, which is 6 inches. They can live over 40 years.

Housing for a Reeve's Turtle

A small Reeve's turtle needs at least a 10 gallon tank, and 20 gallons (or more) when mature.  We are using a 15 gallon tank made for turtles, frogs, or salamanders, it is not tall but offers a lot of "floor" space.

The water should be 4 inches deep (see more below about water) with a rock for basking coming up out of the water. Other large pebbles can be placed at the bottom of the tank and a land area should be constructed at one end of the tank. A shallow container set on top of rocks can be filled with bark for reptiles and placed in the land area. Anything added to the tank should be sold specifically for use with reptiles.

A water heater and filter are important and should be selected for the size of the tank. An air pump is not required as turtles breathe air from the surface.

Live aquarium plants may be eaten but plastic plants can be used to provide some d├ęcor.

The water itself must be free of chemicals or chlorine. If you live rurally on well water there are usually no issues, but city water often has chlorine added. This can be removed by leaving the water out for 24 hours or by buying a product to remove the chlorine. Water conditioner for turtles should be used in either case. As young reeve's turtles may not be great swimmers the water for small turtles should be no deeper than 3 inches, with lots of things for them to climb up on. As they get use to their tank, and get bigger, a depth of 4 inches is fine.

The tank should have a screen lid. If you have other pets (such as cats) a fine screen is best as it will not only keep out the pet but pet hair and fur that will clog the filter system.

You will need two lights, one for UV and another for heat. The heat lamp should be above the basking rock. The lights should be on for 12 to 14 hours a day.

How Often do Turtle Tanks need to be Cleaned?

You should try to clean your turtle's tank once a week. This is best done by siphoning out about 1/3 of the water, getting under rocks with the siphon. Add warmed water that has had the chlorine removed. The filter itself should be cleaned once a month.

Feeding a Reeve's Turtle

Reeve's turtles are omnivores. They will eat small fish, crickets, worms, and so forth. They may eat romaine lettuce or dandelion leaves (only give in small amounts and only if washed very well and no chemicals were used), pear, and cantaloupe. They can be given turtle pellets. When the turtle is small and if the pellets seem long, they should be broken in half. In regards to fish a small turtle will have a hard time catching fish but a few small minnows or young feeder guppies can be kept in the tank.

Turtles can be fed at anytime but should not be fed just before bedtime.  My daughter feeds her turtle a pellet or two first thing in the morning and a cricket later on around noon.  She also has fish in the water and a few other crickets loose in the cage. 

About Handling your Pet Turtle

Always wash your hands before and after handling your turtle. Use only plain water (no soap) when washing before handling your turtle. You want to remove any salts, greases, or other contaminants from your hand. Washing afterwards is a good idea because turtles can carry salmonella.

Care should be taken not to drop the turtle (of course), but otherwise Reeve's turtles are fairly easy to tame.

When you put your turtle back into its tank, always put it on land.  Reeve's turtles might otherwise panic and dive without taking a proper breath of air first and have been known to drown.

Where to Buy Supplies for a Pet Turtle?

If you are lucky enough to have a store in your area that specializes in reptiles they will have a good selection of products for your turtle.  Most other pet supply stores carry basic supplies too.  If you are in the USA you might want to order some of your turtle's supplies from That Pet Place or Pet Health USA.  Here are some links to help you out. Click here to get reptile supplies from Pet Health USA, Get 5% Off Your Order with checkout code: PETHLTH Or Discount Reptile Supplies from the Largest Pet Store In the World: That Pet Place

Discount Reptile Supplies at

Please do not get a turtle unless you are certain you can provide a good home for it with proper lifetime care!


  1. A small Reeve's turtle needs at least a 10 gallon tank, and 20 gallons (or more) when mature. We are using a 15 gallon tank made for turtles, ...

  2. Where did you get your turtle? I am having trouble finding a reeves turtle.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Well, it’s a nice one, I have been looking for. Thanks for sharing such informative stuff.
    fish & reptile pets