Should Your Family Get a Turtle?

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A recent episode of Big Bang Theory showed Sheldon and Amy buying a turtle as the next step in their relationship. That show has people thinking about turtles as a pet. But should your family get one? My short answer is no. Here are some reasons why.

You used to be able to buy a turtle at almost any pet shop or department store. Red eared sliders were the most popular. They are the cute little green turtles with the red ear on the side of its face.

We got those in our family growing up and my kids had some also. We did everything wrong. The plastic bowl with a palm tree island was wrong for a pet turtle. We had no idea what a turtle needs.


The initial cost is usually low if you can find red eared sliders anywhere. You need to consider the ongoing cost for a lifetime of care.

Housing and feeding

Turtles need a huge tank to be happy. They can grow to the size of a large dinner plate and need increasing amounts of space as they grow.

They need vitamins, food, bedding, fresh fruit and vegetables or insects and vet care. They need the tank cleaned and fresh water daily.  To be healthy, they need two kinds of lighting. In all, it is a daily investment of time and money.

Escape artists

Turtles like to escape. They are difficult to find because they can disappear into ledges and crevices. In the house, you need to pick everything up and look carefully between pieces of furniture.

If they escape outside, they could go anywhere including neighboring ponds. It does not sound like a turtle hunt is much fun.

When you do find it, you should inspect it for any cracks in the shell, any bleeding, or anything that looks wrong. If you see damage, you need to quickly take it to a veterinarian.

Need care when you are on vacation

Turtles can live 25 years and some live decades. The turtle needs care when you are on vacation or have important things to do.

You need a plan on who is going to continue the care, cleaning, and feeding when you are away.


Turtles carry Salmonella and other diseases. Children should never handle a turtle, but they can catch it by contact with an adult who cared for it or if it is spread to surfaces that they touch.

Care must be taken not to infect the family with this potential killer. There are legal issues surrounding this issue and it is something you probably don’t want to deal with all the ramifications.

Turtles do not react with you or your children

The sad fact is that your turtle will not look at you with love, come running when you whistle or seem to care about you at all except at feeding time.

You soon lose interest in something that is unable to love you back. Once the novelty wears off, children also lose interest.

Don’t do it.

If you are that special family that can meet this lifetime responsibility, you can do it if turtles are legal where you live. My answer is not to bring a one home because of the time, care, cost, and health issues.

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