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Reptiles/Yellow bellied slider hatchlings

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Question
I bought 2 baby YBS while on vacation in FL. They told me how to take care of them(improperly).have been doing a lot of research, have had about a week. They were in a little plastic critter habitat until we got home( a few days) then I put them in a big tubaware ( maybe equal to a 5 gal tank)meanwhile I sat them under a regular lamp light for heat.. I went and bought( yesterday) a 10 gal terrarium kit. Filter, large basking platform, thin layer of river rocks and a 50 watt daytime and night time heat bulb, also bought reptomin pellets that also have krill and shrimp, plus baby pellets the place gave me when i purchaed them.The temp of H20 is a consistant 80 degrees with the basking lamp. No heater. I also bought a exo terra 13 watt 150 dessert uvb bulb. Main question is : is this uvb dessert too much for these hatchlings given the 10 gal. Tank they are in??   People at pet smart said the bulb would be fine, but they don't have expert knowledge on sliders. The heating and uvb bulb sit on the mesh top cover which is 8" above basking platform. They were not active or eating very well this whole past week until I gave them the proper set up. Now they are eating well and swimming. One turtle has been swimming lopsided but has slightly improved with the new set up . Is this an accurate tank set up for them. Worried uvb light too strong?

Answer
It's great that you're doing research, so many of these little guys perish when owners are given the wrong advice!

The light will be fine. 8 inches is the maximum distance you want it... 6 inches would be better for full UVB exposure.  Given the strength of the light, it may be okay.  Sliders require high UVB, so you got the right light.

My recommendation for the future, when you move them up to a larger enclosure, is to go with a mercury-vapor reptile light.  They throw UVB much further, and provide basking heat at the same time.  The fluorescent UVB lights must be replaced every 6 months, while the mercury-vapors produce adequate UVB for 3 years.

For the setup, I'd lose the river rocks. All they will do is collect nastiness, and one thing sliders need is clean water.  That means very frequent water changes, even with a big oversized canister filter.  I always recommend people seriously consider using plastic tub enclosures for aquatic turtles.  Trying to properly clean a glass tank is difficult, and it's a labor-intensive chore... which causes people not to do it as often as required.  As soon as the water looks cloudy, or gets any sort of ammonia odor, it needs to be immediately changed.  Ideally, the enclosure should also be regularly disinfected with a bleach solution.  Unlike fish, you're not going to have a biological filtration system going for turtles - they're just too messy.  Yellow-belly sliders get LARGE.  Plan for something like a Waterland Tub to house them as they grow, and also seriously consider constructing an outdoor enclosure with a small pond, for summer use.  The health benefits if keeping them outdoors for at least part of the year are extreme.  There are many good  plans online for turtle enclosures that will keep the turtles safe outdoors.  The sheer size of these animals is something people definitely underestimate when they take cute hatchlings home (as a result, rescues are full to bursting with unwanted aquatic turtles - there aren't enough homes for them).

As a general rule, when using a tank, you want to go with a tank that has about ten gallons per inch of turtle shell length.  So, even if you have tiny babies there, the 10 gallon isn't really going to work for them.  Water depth should be 1 and 1/2 times the length of the shell - this is so if the turtle falls in upside-down, it can easily right itself.  Consider plastic storage bins as the turtles grow - Sterilite or Rubbermaid bins are light, inexpensive, and easy to clean.  If you really want the clarity of a glass tank, and are willing to put in all that labor, it will work fine. (Definitely get an oversized canister filter to extend the time between water changes).

Your little one that is swimming lopsided might have a respiratory infection.  If it does not continue to improve at a rapid rate, or gets worse, take it to a reptile vet promptly.  Most health issues such as that are easily treated, but will be deadly if not addressed.

Added:  Here's one of the best aquatic turtle care websites I've found:  http://www.austinsturtlepage.com/

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Donna Fernstrom

Expertise

My particular focus is on snakes and lizards, but I have a decent smattering of knowledge of turtles and crocodilians as well, plus the experience to get relevant information quickly if I don't have it on hand in my brain. I can answer questions on captive care, diet, breeding, incubation of eggs, starting hatchlings, and more. I am particularly experienced with ball pythons, Lygodactylus geckos and other small lizards with similar care requirements, leopard geckos, and garter snakes.

Experience

I am a professional breeder of ball python morphs, Lygodactylus (dwarf) geckos, and mourning geckos. I have begun working with Irian Jaya carpet pythons, and plan to expand to include more gecko species in the future. I also have a background breeding leopard geckos, and have kept several other species of small lizards, snakes, and a water turtle.

Organizations
Nebraska Herpetological Society (nebherp.org)

Publications
I have many care sheets published on my own website.

Education/Credentials
High School Graduate. Extensively self-taught due to high interest in wildlife and reptile care.

Awards and Honors
Fauna Classifieds board of inquiry Good Guy Certification

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