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Old 10-15-2003, 01:10 PM
Kohm Kohm is offline
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Need advice on tank setup for softshell turtles

Hi everybody, I would like to ask for some opinions on a tank setup for my softshell turtles. These are a couple of juveniles I've had since January 2002, almost two years already. They each have a carapace length of 4" to 5". They are still rather small. I can't keep them together, because one of them is slightly larger and will attack the smaller fella. I suspect the larger one is male, and the smaller one female. My tank is a square 2' by 2' by 1.5' (approx.) tank separated into 2 halves with a transparent persplex board.

In my previous setup, I covered the whole tank floor with round gravel. Softshells like burrowing underwater in the substrate of sand or gravel, it's part of their natural defense mechanism by hiding themselves, or a way through which they ambush prey. My softshells do regularly burrow, usually concealing themselves totally under the gravel. However, this setup is very difficult to keep clean, because of all the waste that gets trapped in the gravel. I know the recommended turtle tank setup is usually to keep the tank floor bare, as that makes siphoning out waste easier.

I did a new setup today, after cleaning out the tank. I've kept the same tank, but this time I've left the tank floor bare. I've contained the gravel to just a one-litre ice-cream box sunk in each compartment. I've also placed som small rocks on the bare tank floor. This setup is definitely easier to clean. I'm giving my turtles time to settle in, to see if they do fine in this new setup. As far as I've seen they aren't really burying in the boxes of gravel, but are weging themselves between the rocks. I think this makes them feel secure. The boxes are a little small, I may find larger ones later.

Do you think it is sufficient to contain the gravel to a section of the tank? Will it be do if I do not use gravel altogether (as that would make cleaning even simpler), but rather provide them with a hide of rocks and driftwood? Is it absolutely essential for them to dig? Any other recommendations for my setup?

Thanks alot!
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Old 10-15-2003, 04:05 PM
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well, I kept some of the Apalone ssp of softshells, and they LOVED to burrow, I dont know which types you have, but it sounds like they enjoy it as well.
What I did to keep the gravel clean (and yes I had a 100% 3-4" gravel bottom) was use one of the siphon hoses that will turn the gravel over as it siphons out the water.
(it had a large wide end on it, made by marineland)
This in conjunction with a undergravel filter over about 1/3 of the tank kept the water pretty clear and suprisingly tidy considering turtles are very very very messy.
I did bi weekly 50% water changes, and it worked well for many years, and I even had several turtle species reproduce with that type of set up.

But if you put just a small area of gravel that is contained,(in a bucket/tupperware container) I would recommend drilling/melting small holes in the bottom so water will drain out, and permiate through it so if you need to lift it out of the water, it will drain out, and you can rinse it without having to remove it all. Which can be a maintenence nightmare.

I did that with bigger lizards (hydrosaurus/basilicus/physignathus) with good results.
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Old 10-19-2003, 12:53 AM
Kohm Kohm is offline
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Thanks! I'll probably work with an undergravel filter to keep the water clean, as well as a regular siphon. I'm trying now, in the meantime, to find other substitute means as hides for my turtles, like plastic flowerpots.
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Old 10-19-2003, 01:11 AM
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they dont really need hides...just a place in the shallows where they can burrow and still be able to stretch their neck out to breath now and then.
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Old 10-19-2003, 01:15 AM
Kohm Kohm is offline
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Yeah, but I'm wondering if I can use a hide as a substitute for gravel in which they can hide in. Still, I'm taking Telefrag's advice, for a biological filter, and regular siphon and water change. Thanks!
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Old 10-19-2003, 02:21 AM
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i'd go with frags advice also being they are really used to having a closed area for hiding when you set up the ugf make sure to cut down the uplift tubes otherwise it would be pointless but you prolly already knew that
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Old 10-20-2003, 10:58 AM
Kohm Kohm is offline
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Thanks Faze, I'm trying to find the suitable siphon hose and the pump for the ugf. Should I use an external air pump, or a water pump situated under the filter plates? I'm sorry, I didn't quite get what you mean by cutting down the uplift tubes.
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