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Spotted Pond Turtle

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Species group:

Other common names: Black Pond Turtle

Scientific name: Geoclemys hamiltonii

The basics:
The Spotted Pond Turtle - large, rare, and striking in appearance – has long been on the wish lists of zoos and advanced private keepers alike. Captive breeding has only recently become consistent, resulting in greater general interest in this amazing creature. The Spotted Pond Turtle has a limited natural range, being found only in the Ganges and Indus River Basins of northern India, southern Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh. It favors quiet, shallow waters with heavy plant cover, such as are found in swamps, oxbow lakes, forest ponds and river margins. As is true for many Asian freshwater turtles, collection for the food and medicinal trades and habitat loss has devastated wild populations, so please make sure to purchase only captive-bred individuals.

Appearance / health:
The eye-catching, highly-domed carapace is black in color and bears numerous orange, cream, yellow or white marks of varying sizes and shapes. Keels and rounded protuberances add to its unique appearance. Adults may reach 16 inches in length.

Behavior / temperament:
Although initially shy, Spotted Pond Turtles adjust to captivity quickly, and soon learn to feed from the hand; in time, they become as responsive as any red-eared Slider. Males often harass females with mating attempts, and may stress or bite them in the process; males cannot be kept together, as they will usually fight.

Housing:
Hatchlings may be raised in aquariums that are equally split between land and water areas. The water in a hatchling’s aquarium should be of a depth that allows the turtle to reach the surface with its head without needing to swim, i.e. 1-2 inches. The aquarium should be equipped with an easily-accessed basking site, UVB bulb, water heater and floating plastic or live plants under which the shy youngsters can hide. Bare-bottomed aquariums are preferable, as gravel greatly complicates cleaning. The large, active and extremely powerful (i.e. destructive to furnishings!) adults require aquariums of 75-100 gallon capacity, or commercial turtle tubs and ponds. Ambient temperature: 74-80 F; Basking temperature: 90-95 F. UVB exposure is essential.

Turtles are messy feeders, and quickly foul swimming and drinking water. Removing your pets to a plastic storage container for feeding is a good way to lessen cleaning chores. Some folks find it easier to maintain their semi-aquatic turtles in plastic storage containers that can easily be emptied and rinsed.

Diet:
Spotted Pond Turtles have not been well-studied in the wild, but appear to feed mainly upon snails, insects, fish, tadpoles, frogs and, perhaps, aquatic plants. Pets should be fed whole animals such as earthworms, snails, crickets and other insects, minnows, and an occasional pre-killed pink mouse. A high quality commercial turtle chow can comprise up to 50% of the diet. Kale, dandelion, zucchini, mustard greens, collard greens, apples and other produce may be offered on occasion, but are often rejected. Spinach and various cabbages cause nutritional disorders and should be avoided. Goldfish should be used sparingly, if at all, as a steady goldfish diet has been linked to kidney and liver disorders in other turtle species. A cuttlebone should be available to supplement the calcium provided by whole fishes and similar foods.

Breeding:
In the wild, Spotted Pond Turtles breed from May to October, and pets generally (but not always) follow a similar cycle. Two clutches per year, each containing 6-40 eggs, may be produced. Incubation times have ranged from 50-90 days. Females sometimes have difficulty passing their eggs, especially if the diet lacks sufficient calcium. Gravid (egg-bearing) females usually become restless and may refuse food. They should be removed to a large container (i.e. 5x the length and width of the turtle) provisioned with 6-8 inches of slightly moist soil and sand. Gravid females that do not nest should be seen by a veterinarian as egg retention always leads to a fatal infection (egg peritonitis).

Written by Frank Indiviglio