Indian Softshell Turtle Care Guide: Everything You Need to Know

Indian softshell turtles, also known as Nilssonia gangetica, are a unique and fascinating species of turtle that make great pets. As an exotic pet expert with over a decade of experience, I can tell you that with the right care, these turtles can thrive in captivity and bring a lot of joy to their owners. In this guide, we will cover everything you need to know about Indian softshell turtle care, including information on housing and habitat, diet and nutrition, health and common issues, breeding and lifecycle, and more.

Key Facts Numbers
Scientific Name Nilssonia gangetica
Adult Size Up to 2-3 feet in length
Lifespan Up to 30 years or more
Minimum Tank Size 75-100 gallons
Water Temperature 75-85 Fahrenheit
UVB Lighting Required
Diet Commercial turtle pellets, live or frozen bloodworms, small pieces of fresh fish or chicken
Breeding Season June to September
IUCN Red List Status Vulnerable

Introduction to Indian Softshell Turtles

The Indian softshell turtle is a species of freshwater turtle that is native to India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nepal. They are known for their unique, flattened shells and long snouts, as well as their strong swimming abilities. In the wild, they can be found in a variety of aquatic habitats, including rivers, lakes, and marshes.

Natural Habitat and Range

Indian softshell turtles are found throughout the Indian subcontinent, including in the Ganges, Brahmaputra, and Indus river systems. They prefer slow-moving or stagnant water, such as ponds, swamps, and marshes. They are also known to tolerate a wide range of water conditions, including high temperatures and low oxygen levels.

Housing and Habitat

Proper housing and habitat are essential for the health and well-being of your Indian softshell turtle. Here are some things to keep in mind when setting up an aquarium for your pet turtle:

Aquarium Size and Setup

As a general rule, you should provide at least a 55-gallon aquarium for a single adult Indian softshell turtle. However, larger is always better, as these turtles are strong swimmers and need plenty of room to move around. The aquarium should be set up with a combination of land and water areas, with a basking spot and a place for the turtle to hide.

Water Temperature and Filtration

Indian softshell turtles prefer water temperatures in the range of 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit. A good quality aquarium heater and thermometer are essential for maintaining the correct temperature. In addition, a strong aquarium filter is needed to keep the water clean and healthy.

Substrate and Decor

The bottom of the aquarium should be covered with a substrate, such as sand or small gravel. You can also add natural decors, such as live or plastic plants, rocks, and driftwood, to create a more natural-looking environment for your turtle.

Diet and Nutrition

A proper diet is essential for the health of your Indian softshell turtle. Here are some things to keep in mind when feeding your pet turtle:

Natural Diet in the Wild

In the wild, Indian softshell turtles are opportunistic feeders and will eat a variety of foods, including fish, crustaceans, and aquatic plants.

Recommended Food and Feeding Schedule

In captivity, Indian softshell turtles can be fed a diet of commercial turtle pellets, live or frozen bloodworms, and small pieces of fresh fish or chicken.

It is important to vary their diet to provide a balance of nutrients and to avoid feeding them the same food all the time.

They should be fed every other day, or even every 3 days, depending on their age, size, and activity level. It is also important to not overfeed your turtle, as this can lead to obesity and other health problems.

Supplements and Vitamins

In addition to a balanced diet, you may also want to consider providing your turtle with a calcium supplement, especially if you are not providing them with a UVB light. You can also dust their food with vitamins and minerals that are important for their growth and overall health. Be sure to consult with a veterinarian or a reptile specialist before providing any kind of supplements or vitamins to your turtle.

Health and Common Issues

It is important to keep a close eye on your Indian softshell turtle’s health, as they can be prone to certain health issues. Here are some things to look out for:

Signs of a Healthy Turtle

  • Clear and bright eyes
  • Smooth and shiny shell
  • Active and alert behavior
  • Regular appetite

Common Health Problems and How to Prevent them

One of the most common health problems in Indian softshell turtles is a bacterial infection, which can be caused by poor water quality or a dirty enclosure.

Other common issues include parasite infestation, respiratory infections, and shell rot.

To prevent these problems, it is important to maintain a clean and healthy environment, provide a balanced diet, and take your turtle to the vet for regular checkups. Be sure to consult with a veterinarian or a reptile specialist if you notice any signs of illness or abnormal behavior in your turtle.

Breeding and Lifecycle

Indian softshell turtles are sexually mature at around 3-5 years old. They typically breed during the monsoon season, which is between June and September. Nesting and egg-laying behavior can vary depending on the individual turtle and the conditions of its enclosure.

Hatchling Care and Development

If you are planning to breed Indian softshell turtles, it is important to be prepared to care for the hatchlings. Hatchlings are small and delicate and require a special diet and specific environmental conditions. They should be kept in a separate aquarium and should be fed a diet of small live or frozen food such as daphnia or brine shrimp. It is important to provide them with UVB light and a heat source to promote healthy growth and development.

My Private Notes

As an experienced exotic pet expert, I have had the pleasure of working with Indian softshell turtles for many years. Here are some non-obvious tips that I have learned through my experience, that I would like to share with you:

Provide a UVB light

Indian softshell turtles need UVB light to produce Vitamin D3, which is essential for their overall health and well-being, especially for their shell and bones. Make sure to provide them with a UVB light source, such as a compact fluorescent bulb or a mercury vapor bulb. Be sure to change the bulb every 6 to 12 months or when it stops producing UVB

Regular Water Change

Indian softshell turtles produce a lot of waste, and the water in the enclosure can become dirty and polluted quickly. Regular water changes are essential to keep the water clean and healthy. It is recommended to change at least 25% of the water every week, or 50% if the enclosure is heavily stocked

Provide a Basking Area

Indian softshell turtles need a basking area in their enclosure where they can dry off, warm up, and relax. This can be a piece of driftwood, a rock, or a platform that sticks out of the water, and that can be heated with a basking light or a ceramic heater. Make sure the basking area is big enough for the turtle to comfortably fit and that the temperature is between 85-90 Fahrenheit

Provide a Hide Box

Indian softshell turtles need a place to hide and feel secure in their enclosure. A hide box can provide them with a sense of security and can also help them regulate their body temperature and reduce stress. You can use a ceramic pot, a plastic container, or a PVC pipe for this purpose, just make sure it’s big enough for the turtle to fit in.

Offer Them a Varied Diet

Indian softshell turtles are opportunistic feeders and can eat a wide variety of food. Offer them a varied diet that includes commercial turtle pellets, live or frozen blood worms, small pieces of fresh fish or chicken, and vegetables such as leafy greens, carrots, or squash. It’s important to rotate their diet and avoid feeding them the same food all the time.

Provide a Shallow Water Area

Indian softshell turtles have flattened shell that makes it difficult for them to swim in deep water. Provide a shallow area in their enclosure where they can easily swim and forage for food. This can be achieved by adding a shallow water dish or by using a water depth of only a few inches.

By following these tips, you will be able to provide your Indian softshell turtle with the best possible care and ensure that they live a long and healthy life. Remember, owning a pet turtle is a long-term commitment, and it is important to be patient and dedicated to providing them with the best possible care.

People Also Ask

Can Indian softshell turtles be kept with other aquatic animals?

Indian softshell turtles are semi-aquatic animals, and can be kept with other aquatic animals, such as other turtle species, fish, or crayfish, provided that the enclosure is large enough and the water is clean. However, it's important to note that Indian softshell turtles are opportunistic feeders and may consider smaller tankmates as food, so it's always best to keep them separate or with larger tankmates.

How do I know if my Indian softshell turtle is male or female?

The easiest way to determine the sex of an Indian softshell turtle is by looking at the shape of their tail. Male Indian softshell turtles have longer and thicker tails compared to females, and their cloacal opening is also farther from the base of the tail. Another way is to observe the males during breeding season, they develop a concave plastron which helps them to mount the females for breeding.

Can I keep my Indian softshell turtle outdoors?

Indian softshell turtles are native to South Asia, and they are well adapted to live in warm and humid environments. They can be kept outdoors in a pond or a tank provided that the enclosure is large enough, the water is clean and well-filtered, and the temperature remains between 75-85 Fahrenheit. However, it's important to note that Indian softshell turtles are sensitive to temperature changes and can be affected by cold temperatures, so it's best to bring them indoors if you live in an area with cold winters.

Can Indian softshell turtles eat fruits and berries?

Indian softshell turtles are opportunistic feeders and can eat a wide variety of food. Fruits and berries can be offered as occasional treats, but they should not make up a significant part of their diet. Fruits and berries are high in sugar and low in protein, which can lead to health issues in turtles if fed in large amounts. It's important to consult with a veterinarian or a reptile specialist for a proper diet.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Indian softshell turtles are an interesting and challenging pet to keep, but with proper knowledge and care, they can thrive in captivity. It is important to research the species, understand their needs, and provide them with the best possible environment, diet, and medical care. Always consult with a veterinarian or reptile specialist if you notice any signs of illness or abnormal behavior in your turtle. And remember, these animals are not disposable, they are living creatures that deserve proper care and attention throughout their entire lives.

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