Terrapin and turtle information and care sheets

Map Turtles

Author - James Thorburn, editing by Neil Bidle

map turtle

Map turtles are generally available throughout the UK, with False maps being by far the most common sub-species. Capable of living for more than 40 years in the right conditions, males can reach up to 6" (depending on sub-species) with females considerably larger, potentially exceeding 11" shell length (once again, depending in the sub-species). Sexable at around 3 inches, males possess much larger tails and longer front claws than females.

As a guide, when choosing a tank, ensure it can hold a minimum of 40 litres of water per an inch of shell length for the largest turtle, plus 20 Litres per an inch for each additional turtle. Bear in mind that this is water amount and not just tank size, and unless you construct an above tank basking area you will not be able to fill a tank to the brim without risking escape. This is especially true for maps, which seem most adept at climbing and escapology.

Suitable tank size will not only allow for adequate swimming space, but help to maintain water quality, which is especially important with Maps as they can be more susceptible to illness caused from poor water quality. This is, in part at least, due to them being a riverine species so have evolved in flowing water which stays far cleaner than a pond or lake. An external filter rated for 2-3 times the actual amount of water is recommended, and it is important perform regular partial water changes.

As with sliders, no substrate is "needed", but a single layer of large smooth pebbles or slate can be used for safe decoration. Avoid gravel as it can be swallowed and become stuck in the turtles digestive system, and sand because it can cause problems with filters as well as being more difficult to clean. All but the very smallest specimens are great swimmers and thrive in deep water as long as there are plenty of places to rest just below the surface with its head above water. Water temperature for hatchlings should be 25-27C, turtles over 2" 22-24C, and standard room temperature (around 20C) being fine for older juveniles and adults.

It is essential to provide a dry basking area that allows them to completely leave the water, absorb UVB rays, and warm up in temperatures of 30-35C for 10-14 hours a day. A floating "Turtle Dock," or large piece of cork bark that can be secured in place are ideal to create this area, or again a DIY basking area. A standard household spot bulb can be used as the basking lamp, plus a UVB bulb or tube with a minimum output of 5.0% (ideally 8.0 or 10.0%) must also be situated above the basking site at a suitable distance. For larger tanks, Mercury Vapour Bulbs (MVB) are great as at correct distance they emit both suitable heat, and strong UVB levels. Even if they are being kept without a male, adult females should ideally have access to a sandy area for egg laying.

A good quality pellet (like ReptoMin) is best for making up the base of a map's diet, feeding as much as would fit into their head if it were hollow once a day until about 6 months old, then slowly reducing until you are feeding pellets just once or twice a week by 4 or 5 years old. Greens such as aquatic plants, kale, and dandelion leaves (ensure they haven't come into contact with harmful chemicals) should also make up a part of their diet, although not as much as with sliders. Treats such as shrimp, snails, muscles, or fish can be offered in small amounts once or twice a week instead of pellets as this is a natural part of a map's diet. For extra calcium, cuttlefish bone should have the hard backing removed and be broken into more manageable pieces, before being placed in the water.

Much like any other turtles, handling is not recommended unless necessary for health checking or similar, as this will cause stress to the animal, and potentially transfer dangerous bacteria such as salmonella. Always wash your hands thoroughly with anti-bacterial soap, or use sanitizing gel after coming into contact with terrapins or anything in their enclosure.

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