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|Alligator Snapping Turtle [Macroclemys] Care Sheets|
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Care Sheet for TurtlesAverage Rating Given To This Care Sheet Is 5.00 (1=lowest, 5=highest) Last Updated: 07/02/2007
Care Sheet Submitted By:
|3 to 5 Years|
|Alligator Snapping Turtle [Macroclemys]|
Other Species or Phases this Care Sheet May Cover:
|Common Snapping Turtle [Chelydra] - Although this turtle is different from the Alligator snapping turtle most of the same rules for care apply.|
Sexing and Characteristics:
|The Alligator Snapping Turtle is the largest freshwater turtle in the world and has many easily identifiable defining characteristics.
~The first and most noticeable feature prehistoric look of the species, even more so than the of it’s distant relative the common snapper.
~There is also the hooked ’beak’ on the mouth which it always has open if you are confronting or holding it.
~Next is if you can actually see in the mouth there is a small pink worm like appendage that that it uses as a bait to lure fish (or anything else willing to investigate) into its open awaiting mouth. Then it SNAPS it’s jaws shut on the hapless victim. This appendage is unique to the alligator snapping turtle, no other turtle has it.
~They have fleshy protrusions around their eyes that look like ’eye lashes.’ Their eyes are also lower and more on the side of their heads than the eyes of the common snapper.
~The carapace has three large keels (rows of spiky knobs) running front to back on their shells and spiky edges around the rim of their carapace that wear slightly as they age. (The common snapper’s shell becomes smooth with age.)
~The plastron of the alligator snapper (and the common snapping turtle) is much smaller in comparatively than that of most other turtles.
~The neck of the alligator snapper is much shorter than that of the common snapper and has many spiky tubercles.
~They can grow up to 30 inches or more in length and can weigh up to 150 pounds.
~When viewed from above, the alligator snapper has a triangular shaped head, while the common snapper has a more oval head.
~Their legs are very strong and well suited for swimming, digging in, or ’crawling’ on land. Their feet are flat and paddle like with long claws.
~The tails of the alligator snapper is also longer than that of of a common snapper of the same size.
Sexing of the turtle for the alligator snapper, for those with little experience sexing turtles, can be roughly done thanks to the general fact that this is one of the few species where the males grow larger than females, in addition, males usually have a longer and thicker tail. (Size is not really a comparable indicator in the common snapping turtle.)
Generally the alligator snapper reaches sexual maturity around 11-13 years of age.
Alligator snappers mate in the early spring in Florida, later spring in the Mississippi Valley, and nest about 2 months later. The female lays clutches about 8-48 spherical eggs about 1.5" in diameter, every 2-3 years. Nests are usually excavated about 50 yards from the water’s edge. Incubation in the wild takes from 100 to 140 days, with the hatchlings appear in fall.
Mostly Active During:
Substrate and Water Needs:
|If Using a Tank, no substrate is recommended. Do to the diet of these turtles and the amount of waste they produce substrate may cause an unhealthy build up of bacteria and/or algae and other possible hazardous chemicals.
~In the case of rocks, pebbles the turtle may also ingest them and suffer blockages or intestinal problems, or they may get lodged/caught under larger decorative rocks and drown.
~In the case of sand, these turtles should have semi shallow water so sand creates a problem when using a filter and also increases the problem of waste build-up as the alligator snapper sometimes likes to bury himself when ’fishing’ for his dinner.
In the case of a man made pond, substrate should be restricted to natural occurring substrate such as sand or (using your best judgment) something that is unlikely to harm your alligator snapper
Water should generally be the same quality as that you would use for freshwater fish aquariums and should be kept as clean as possible at all times. Remember this species is an aquatic turtle and rarely even comes out to ’bask,’ Water depth should be about as deep as the length of the carapace of the turtle. That makes it deep enough to swim in but shallow enough to allow it to rest and just poke its head out of the water enough to breath. Once it is about 7-10 inches in size you make vastly increase the depths of the water but you still need to provide a shallow or an under water platform that creates a shallow resting point. If you are using a pond have a shallow area for your turtle to rest in. Many avid breeders and keepers of the Alligator Snapping Turtle recommend keeping the water between 74 - 80 F for the health and comfort of the turtle.
Optimally the amount of water should be endless, but in reality we all have limitations in space and in funding. I would recommend not less than 3-5 gallons/inch of turtle when possible.
Lighting and UVB:
|All I recommend is the UVB for overall General health, although I personally use a UVA/UVB light for mine. These aquatic turtles rarely ever need or want to bask like res or others. They prefer to go to warmer water levels to warm up. (This is the reason many snapper, mud turtle, and musk turtle owners recommend a tank heater when you have a tank.)
I would ask that you remember this specific turtle is usually active in murkier waters/depths and enjoys its solitude, so full spectrum lighting while very nice for viewing, isn’t necessary in this case.
Also remember that ANYTHING you place between your turtle and the UVB light/sun filters out a variable percentage of usable rays and UVB is diffracted heavily (to an almost useless amount) through glass and plastic, so if your light uses a cover remove it for the most direct lighting possible for your snapper.
Temperatures and Humidity:
|As suggested above, water temps of 74 - 80 degrees Fahrenheit. 78-80 is probably best for your turtle’s actual health for digestion and natural activity range.|
Heating and Equipment:
|Filters: You should always use a 3 stage filter for water turtles. (1) Mechanical- removal of particulate matter from the water like:turds, uneaten food, and other general solid waste. (2) Chemical- using a chemical media in the filter to remove other chemical (possibly harmful) substances from the water. A good example of this filter is activated carbon. Biological- probably the most important filtration system in your tank. Aquatic animals ( turtles, fish, crabs, snails, etc.) produce wastes in their bodies, and excrete it as ammonia, which builds up rapidly & is very toxic. Beneficial bacterial colonies that grow in your filters biological media ( Bio-wheel, Bio-Max ceramic rings, Aquaclear sponge...) aid in breaking down these wastes into less hazardous more manageable materials that can be treated and/or diluted with regular water changes. Most water turtle lovers (including myself) swear by the Fluval filters, but generally the least you should ever uses is 2 x the volume of water present in the tank/pond the turtle inhabits. so if you have a 40 gallon breeder with 10 gallons of water, you will need a filter with a minimum rating of 20 gallons. Generally I prefer to use an underwater filter.
Remember with a snapping turtle anything in the tank it can move, it will. I would like to make a note that I have the cords for my filter and heater equipment enclosed in a special plastic pipe mounted into a corner of the tank for the safety of my snappers. The pipe is large enough around to ensure that neither of my snappers can get their mouth around it.
I would recommend using an in tank submersible with adjustable settings. (I use Ebo Jaeger for in my tank.)
I don’t recommend any decorations other than a ’hiding’ area. I use a large piece of Mopani Wood that is much heaver than my turtle can move and anchored into place for additional safety. My friend is using a Tupperware container )much to his wife’s disliking) with two wholes trimmed into it to allow the turtle a place to hide and still be light enough that his alligator snapper cannot get "pinned" by it. (Remember your snapper has to breathe air.)
I would also like to comment that if you have a pond just in case for the safety if the turtle, get a de-icing heater for the pond. Better safe than sorry.
|I have a small 2.1" long alligator snapper and a 5.5" common snapper. They differ in size by a few inches so I have to keep them separate. For right now, until they get to be about 10-12 inches, I keep them each in what is commonly referred to as a breeder tanks. The measurements are 36" x 18" x 18" and I only fill it as deep as I have to. Once he gets bigger than the cage will allow for descent housing, I will move him to an enclosed man-made pond, and release the common snapper back into the local marshes she hatched from. (I am keeping him safe from local predators and terp hunters until he is bigger and more capable of handling himself.|
Description of Diet:
|I chose Carnivorous since this should be a HUGE majority of their diet, but they have been known to eat just about anything they think looks good. So I warn against using plastic plants or other such decorations as they could create intestinal distress or even death. There are a few natural plants in my tank for effect and a little asthetic value, and each of them has a few chunks taken out of them.
While it is true they will readily learn to eat prepped foods, if you are the type who absolutely must feed yours live foods, please note that many non-feeder types of fish and many goldfish are treated with chemicals that can build up to toxic and lethal levels in your snapping turtle. Please, if you must feed live foods, stick to minnows, guppies, small crayfish, crabs, shrimp, worms, or other designated ’feeder stock’ animals.
Generally speaking feed your turtle chunks of meat slightly smaller than his head and when ever possible vary the meat to ensure as many different nutrition needs as possible can be met.
Feeding for the first year or 2 should be daily, then after that every other day depending on your snapper’s diet and activity.
I also try to feed him some vegetables or a dead fish packed with Calcium/D3 supplement or other vitamins just to try to make sure he has the best all around health I can provide. once a week I feed him an actual peace of aloe if he will eat it..
Caution should be used to ensure you do not over feed your snapper. Obesity in the turtle is just as probable as it would be in us.
I would also suggest that you not place anything smaller than them in the tank with them as it is immediately viewed as food.
Supplements, Nutrition and Usage:
|Items I like to have these on hand as well:
Acriflavin; For wounds and cuts. I have only ever found it on line, and it should only be used as directed.
Aquarium Salt: I just use it to help create better water conditions, the same as you would for your fish.
Stress Coat: Serves somewhat exactly the same function as it does for fish. Use as directed.
Vita-Sol: I keep this on hand just in case really. Every once in a while (every month or two) I like to give him a vitamin drop in his open maw when I have him out of the tank while I am doing my 50%-75% water changes. This is just my way of trying to make sure he gets a few extra vitamins. be sure you rinse your turtle back off afterwords.
Cuttle Bone: this is a good source of calcium and fine for the turtles. If you have a baby turtle, you may want to break it up before giving to them. Try to keep an eye on cuttle bone in the water it gets slimy quickly.
Solar Drops: is designed to provide a controlled dose of natural dietary cholecalciferol (vitamin D3) to your herp. I prefer to dilute it with 50% water and deliver it the same way I do the Vita-Sol.
|Maintenance on the snappers in pretty straight forward.
Feed, clean, keep warm, clean, UVB lighting, clean, food, oh and did I mention clean?
Snappers are both voracious eaters and almost completely aquatic. This combination means the water will always be polluted. The best filtration systems cannot completely filter the water so you will still need to do water changes at least every week to every other week.
You may use a SOFT bristle brush to clean algae or dirt from their shells, but try to refrain from brushing too much when they are shedding.
I also prefer to use a turkey baster daily to remove unwanted solid waste when ever I see it.
I also keep a small fish net to remove larger pieces of waste material or to return uneaten fish, inverts to my feeder tank.
If you must handle your snapper, no matter what you read in the books, never grab it by the tail. our vet has reminded people constantly that unless your pet has a prehensile tail then you should never grab it’s tail at all. This can cause detrimental and irreversible damage to your beloved turtle, and our local vet tells of how a large common snapping turtle received spinal damage further up the spine of a snapper because of the thickness of the turtle’s tail. So if you must hold it, support it’s shell on two opposing side. I prefer holding it just behind the head and mu other hand just above the tail.
Some Words on this Species:
|Handling should be kept to a minimum as this species prefers to be left alone. They feel safest when they feel invisible or ’unseen.’ Drift wood, safe secure larger rocks or other substitutes may be used to help your snapping turtle feel safe and secure.
Once heavily collected for its meat, the alligator snapping turtle is now somewhat protected in all of the states where it occurs.
Snappers are completely at home in the water and therefore more docile in their aquatic environment than out on dry land. It should also be noted that, while the alligator snapper will more readily bite and can easily do more damage than the common snapper, because of their short necks you can pretty easily avoid that nasty bite if you pay attention to what you are doing.
Common snappers are active hunters who will eat anything as well, but they charge their food.
Alligator snappers are by contrast trappers and opportunists. They wait for things to come to them. They have even been known to go for carrion from time to time.
To catch a fish, the alligator snapper sits motionless in a pond or river staying submerged for 40 to 50 minutes. There it waits patiently, with its mouth open, wiggling the small, pink, worm-like appendage on its tongue to lure passing meal. When an animal come in to investigate the fake worm the turtle "snaps" it jaws shut on the hapless victim.
You should not mix them with other tank mates including turtles, even other snappers. Small snappers can ea silly cause serious damage to each other. Given the chance, they will also attempt to eat all the other inhabitants of an outdoor pond, including plants, frogs, minnows, ducks and especially nice, pretty ornamental fish.
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The information contain in these care sheets represents only the opinions and husbandry care of members and therefore is not guaranteed to be 100% accurate or reflects the advice or opinions of RepticZone.com. It is always advised to seek additional information or the advice of a qualified veterinarian or qualified reptile dealer. It is also advisable for you to a good amount of research before implementing any of the ideas and care described in these care sheets. We also recommend you ask many questions in their related forums before acting on any information.
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