Most turtle species have a hard time during winter, but the good thing is that most of them will survive the bone-wrecking cold if you give them a warm, hygienic environment.
If you have baby turtles, you might be wondering how you’ll help them survive the cold months of winter, considering that they are poikilotherms (can’t regulate their own body temperatures and thus rely on the environment). Also, baby turtles are prone to frequent illness due to weather, making it even more challenging to take care of them in winter.
During winter, adult turtles hibernate to shield themselves from the harsh cold temperatures. At this time, they use their fat reserves to fuel their body processes. The baby turtles and juvenile turtles don’t have enough fat deposits to help them survive through the hibernation process.
Therefore, never allow your baby pets to hibernate. Instead, prepare an indoor enclosure for them that has a water heater, UV bulbs, and a heated basking area to make life comfortable for your baby pets.
In this article, we’ll discuss winter care for baby turtles. We’ll cover why you shouldn’t let your baby turtles hibernate and how to shield them from the bone-wrecking cold of the winter.
Let’s get started.
Why You Shouldn’t Let You Baby Turtles to Hibernate
Although some may survive hibernation, most of them die. Hibernation is dangerous for baby turtles. Let’s explain this in greater depth.
Turtles are cold-blooded creatures, which means they cannot generate heat in their bodies and thus depend on external temperatures to regulate their internal temperatures. To put this in perspective, if the temperature outside is 37 degrees Celsius, a turtle’s body will be 37 degrees Celsius.
Therefore, when winter hits and the turtles freeze, they slow down body processes and metabolism. During this time, they depend on the energy stored in their fat deposits. In fact, they minimize their heart rate and cardiovascular activities significantly to preserve their energy.
During hibernation, turtles become inactive and sluggish, and they don’t drink or eat at times. When in the wild, they hibernate at the lake’s bottom and utilize oxygen in the water by absorbing it through their skins.
All these explanations help you understand why baby turtles are not ready for the whole hibernation process.
Here are now the reasons why baby turtles shouldn’t be let hibernate:
- During hibernation, turtles use their fat deposits to run body processes. Unfortunately, baby turtles cannot survive the whole winter without refueling their bodies since they don’t have enough body fats, and their metabolism is quite fast than adults.
- Hibernating turtles sink to the lake’s bottom, where they survive by absorbing it through their skin and cloaca. If oxygen gets depleted for some time, they can survive without oxygen for some time. A baby turtle has no mechanism to survive without oxygen, which means they’ll end up drowning to death.
- A baby turtle’s body may not fight diseases as its adult counterparts. As a result, they’re likely to contract respiratory infections.
And even if baby turtles survive hibernation, they’re likely to suffer from slowed growth. Therefore, don’t allow baby turtles to hibernate. Instead, provide a normal environment for them during winter, and this brings us to the subtopic of the day:
How to Take Care of Baby Turtle During Winter
We’ve already discussed why hibernation is dangerous for baby turtles, and thus you need to find an alternative. So, how do you take care of baby turtles in winter?
It’s simple – maintain normal temperatures in their enclosure.
Here is how to set up a baby turtle’s enclosure to help it survive winter.
Invest In a Quality Water Tank
During summer, you can either keep your baby turtles outdoor or indoors. However, during winter, your turtle should be indoors so you can control the temperature of their habitat.
When indoors, avoid overcrowding baby turtles in one place as this may harm your pet’s health. Overcrowding the baby turtles in one tank will not help keep them warm as they all depend on the external environment.
A water tank with a capacity of 30 gallons and an enclosure measuring 4 by 6ft will be ideal for one turtle. Increase the length and capacity accordingly based on the number of turtles that you have. Try not to keep more than three hatchlings in a medium-sized enclosure even if they are coexisting well.
Install a Water Tank Heater
Just like their adult counterparts, make sure to install a tank heater to keep their water warm. Baby turtles are vulnerable to diseases, especially respiratory infections, which is why you need to keep the water warm.
Install a water heater in their tank to keep the water temperature in ideal temperatures. You should invest in a quality heater that doesn’t fluctuate temperatures.
Water tank heaters are available in different capabilities (power), and thus you’ll need to invest in one that matches your tank size.
It’s possible to use two water heaters if your tank is too big. Also, investing in two tank heaters is a good decision as one heater may break down.
There are many tank heaters in the market, and you should buy the right one for your needs. Price may dictate the quality of the tank, which is why you shouldn’t go for the cheapest one, especially if you want one that will serve you for a long period.
Another thing you’ll need is a thermometer to ensure tank temperatures are ideal for your pets. You can get a digital thermometer or an analog thermometer.
Have UV Lamp in the Tank Area and Basking Area
Turtles need both UVA and UVB light exposure. UVA light helps in regulating body processes and ensuring the babies maintain a perfect state of mind.
On the other hand, UVB light helps baby turtles absorb vitamin D3, which allows their bodies to process calcium. Both the nutrients are essential in helping baby turtles build stronger bones and shells. A deficiency in vitamin D3 and calcium exposes the baby turtle to metabolic bone disease.
Since there is no sunlight during winter, you need to provide sufficient UV exposure to baby turtles to help them grow healthy. That’s why investing in a UV bulb that emits both UVA and UVB light is important. Keep the UV bulb on for 8-12 hours, like it is the case with sunlight.
Invest In a Heat Bulb or Light for Their Basking Area
Since baby turtles are semi-aquatic, you should provide a basking area with a heat bulb in their enclosure. Avoid the LED light as it may emit too much heat. The basking area fitted with a basking lamp offers a space where baby turtles can heat and soak their bodies.
If there’s no basking area, your pet may not come out of the water tank, and this can result in different issues, including the growth of fungus on their shells and respiratory diseases.
During winter, the basking light should be on 24/7 and to encourage baby turtles to come out of the water at any time. Sometimes they even sleep in the basking area. To avoid messing their biological clock and sleeping cycle, invest in a red light bulb.
For temperatures, maintain it at 85 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit in the basking area and 78 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit in the water tank.
Feed Them Right
We’ve already mentioned that turtles may stop eating as winter approaches to prepare their bodies for hibernation. However, if you have set the right temperature in their enclosure, they’ll find no need to hibernate and thus will keep eating.
Baby turtles need to eat frequently, and their diet should comprise of balanced nutrition. You can feed them spinach, romaine lettuce, green leafy vegetables, flake, pellets, blackworms, earthworms pellets, mealworms, turtle sticks, feeder fish, melons, grapes, shrimps, water hyacinths, strawberries, apples, and kale.
Make sure that each meal is rich in vitamins and proteins. To ensure they get enough nutrition, you can supplement with calcium, protein, and vitamin supplements.
If your baby turtle ceases to eat during winter, try to provide food variations and ensure the temperature suits them. If this persists, consult a vet as soon as possible.
Signs of Sickness to Look Out For
Baby turtles are sensitive to extreme cold, and you should be on the lookout for any signs of sickness and attend to them as soon as possible.
Some of the signs of sickness to look out for include:
- Loss of appetite
- Being inactive in the basking area
- Mucus discharge from their mouth and eyes
If you notice any unusual change in behavior from your baby turtle, isolate the pet and take it to the vet as soon as possible.
Despite them being sensitive and vulnerable to diseases during cold seasons, baby turtles are born survivors. As long as you provide a comfortable enclosure and balanced diet during winter, your baby turtles will survive and grow into adulthood as healthy creatures.
Ensure to be on the lookout for any signs of sickness and take them to the vet whenever an illness arises.