Turtles and tortoises (more scientifically known as chelonians) comprise a few hundred species, some of which are very popular pets.
“Red-eared sliders still prevail as the most popular aquatic turtle and this is mainly attributed to the low price and ease of acquisition associated with them,” said Chris Leone, owner of Garden State Tortoise, a turtle and tortoise breeding facility in central N.J. “Other popular aquatic species catching up to them are Mississippi map turtles, western painted turtles, yellow-bellied sliders and peninsula cooters.”
“As for tortoise species, the sulcata, also known as the African spur-thighed tortoise, is the heavy weight champion here, trailed by Russian tortoises, various hingeback species, red foot tortoises and sometimes eastern Hermann’s tortoises,” Leone said. “Sulcatas are attractive tortoises which can easily adapt and turn out to be quite personable.”
However, Leone also said the large adult size of sulcatas means they are not the right pet for many keepers and owners often have to give up their sulcatas when they get too big.
“Zoo Med is proud to offer a full line of products for turtles and tortoises,” said Ashley Rademacher, animal care and education coordinator for Zoo Med Labs. “As turtle and tortoise enthusiasts, we commonly find a need for specialized equipment for these specialized animals and use this knowledge and experience to find solutions for fellow keepers.”
This line of products for shelled companions includes Turtle Clean Filters, Aquatic Turtle Feeder, Turtle Tub Kit, the new Turtle Pond Dock, the Tortoise House, the Tortoise Play Pen and an array of diets created for a wide range of species and life stages.
“Our Aquatic Turtle Feeder makes feeding time fun and interactive by encouraging more activity from pet aquatic turtles,” Rademacher said. “The floating, fish shaped feeder can be filled with turtle food pellets which are released when the feeder is bumped by the animals. In nature, turtles forage for food and this item is designed to help promote these natural activities.”
The Pond Dock provides a large basking platform for aquatic turtles housed in outdoor ponds or large indoor enclosures. It and Zoo Med’s other Turtle Docks have a self-leveling feature, so they automatically adjust to all water levels, allowing turtles to haul out to bask and dry off when they feel the need.
The Tortoise House can be used indoors or outdoors. The wood siding offers the pet security and the enclosed “sleeping area” is snug and weatherproof. According to Rademacher, the modular design allows keepers to expand their housing as needed, and it is easy to assemble. Zoo Med’s Tortoise Play Pen allows temporary outdoor housing so a tortoise or box turtle can graze on grass and be exposed to beneficial sunlight.
Recently, Tetrafauna from Spectrum Brands launched ReptoHeat, a dual temperature basking heater suitable for turtles and tortoises. It features two temperature modes with the heat provided by a ceramic heating unit. It mounts quickly and safely to a metal screen cage top.
Unlike many other reptiles and amphibians, turtles and tortoises can thrive on convenient packaged diets.
Mazuri is one company that offers a full range of diets for chelonians.
“Each of the diets were designed by nutrition experts dedicated to producing the best quality of diets for your turtle and tortoises and each product contains a 100 percent satisfaction guarantee,” said Troy Tollefson, Ph.D., nutritionist at Mazuri.
“For freshwater turtle species, Mazuri has an extruded floating pelleted diet (Mazuri Aquatic Turtle) and a gel based diet (Mazuri Aquatic Gel) that are both nutritionally complete and designed to meet the needs of all life stages of your turtle,” Tollefson said. “All diets contain high levels of fish, fish oil, natural vitamin E and are highly palatable.”
Mazuri also offers three pelleted diets for tortoises: Small Tortoise LS, Tortoise LS and Tortoises. According to Tollefson, the Small Tortoise LS diet meets the nutritional requirements of growing tortoises for their first year, and the regular Tortoise LS diet is for tortoises older than that. The Tortoise LS diets are based on timothy grass, have high levels of fiber and contain live probiotics.
In June of 2016, Tetrafauna will launch the ReptoMin Pro Lifestage Nutrition line of age-specific diets for aquatic turtles. It will feature Baby, Juvenile and Adult diets.
“Not only are these Lifestages formulas scientifically balanced to fulfill the needs of each growth milestone, but each stage is also complemented with natural, easily digested yucca extract that controls and blocks odors derived from pet waste for maximum enjoyment of your pet turtle,” said Keely Roberts, Spectrum Brands aquatic nutrition marketing. “And with odor-blocking technology, you can finally spend your time enjoying your pet–not constantly cleaning up after him.”
Selling Stuff for the Shelled
Tetrafauna’s merchandising will make it easy for pet store personnel to sell the Lifestages Nutrition line.
“For the new Tetrafauna PRO ReptoMin Lifestages Nutrition line, we will provide retailers with merchandising strategy and many advertising tools to help educate and make their consumers successful,” Roberts said. “From easy-to-decipher size charts at the shelf, icons on packaging, innovative talk box and brochure design, as well as Tetra Care’s trusted support team, we are confident Tetrafauna PRO ReptoMin® Lifestages Nutrition will be well received by turtle keepers and retailers alike.”
Zoo Med also provides help for retailers selling products for chelonians and for consumers caring for them.
“At Zoo Med, education is very important to us,” Rademacher said. “Our website, Facebook and YouTube are filled with educational information about our products and the animals they are intended for.”
Leone advises that, to maintain chelonian keepers as customers, you have to stock the right products.
“With turtle and tortoise husbandry being at the peak of its popularity, many keepers are aware of the better choices in equipment,” Leone said. “It seems many retailers have not caught on to this, which can be frustrating. I know all too well that when you are in a pinch and need to replace something like a bulb, sometimes you can’t simply run to the pet store because they just don’t carry it.”
He recommends some less obvious products that would appeal to these pet owners.
“Over the counter deworming medications, which are extremely important for tortoise health care like Panacur and Safe Guard, would be great to see available,” Leone said. “More appropriate enclosures such as Vision cages, HerpCages and Neodeshas should be carried as these work well for housing semi-terrestrial turtle species that require high humidity and low light. They also work well for raising baby tortoises, which by nature require high humidity levels.”