10 Common Turtle Myths
Written by Susan   

In addition to some wonderful information about tortoises, Susan from the American Tortoise Rescue organization has provided us with a list of 10 Common Turtle Myths.  Did you know tortoise need veterinary care, should not be held in tanks, and can't be happy with artificial light? Neither did I--until now! 

Read all about it!

Myth 1: Turtles are easy to care for – just buy a nice tank.    

Reality:  Turtles are wild animals.  They have territories that can be many miles wide.  Putting them in a tank is cruelty.  All they do is pace all day long like a caged beast.  Think of it this way:  it’s like you and me spending the rest of our lives in the bathtub.  A turtle needs a large habitat or a pond to approximate nature not a tank.

Myth 2: Turtles usually live about five years.     

Reality: False.  In captivity, a well cared for turtle can live 25, 50 or more.  These animals have been on the earth for 200 million years or more, longer than dinosaurs.  They will have to be in your will and your children’s will and then some.

Myth 3: Turtles do not need veterinary care like dogs and cats.   

Reality: Yes they do!  The problem with turtles is because of their very slow metabolism, they do not show the signs that they are sick until the illness has progressed very far.  The signs and symptoms you should be very aware of include:  Closed and swollen eyes, loss of appetite, sitting in one place, daily pattern changes, and runny nose and eyes.  If any of these are observed, you need a vet!

Myth 4:  It is best to buy turtles and tortoises at a pet store.    

Reality: Absolutely false.  Pet stores should sell pet supplies not pets.  Pet stores can be unscrupulous buying their animals from cruel trappers.  About 90 percent die in transit.  Get your turtle the same as a dog or cat.  Go to the nearest animal shelter or find a reptile or turtle rescue online.

Myth 5:  Turtles burrow in the ground to hibernate.    

Reality: Some do, like box turtles.  Some hibernate under water like red eared sliders and cooters.  Each species has its own habits.  Whichever it is, your turtle should be healthy and heavy before it is allowed to go to sleep for the winter.

Myth 6: Turtles hiss like snakes when they are mad.    

Reality: While it is true that the sound a turtle makes sounds like it is hissing, it is not.  When a turtle is afraid or picked up quickly, it pulls its head in really quickly and this action forces the air out.  It is biological, not deliberate.

Myth 7: Turtles can eat just about anything.    

Reality: False.  Turtles are carnivores that must eat live food like snails, fish and worms.  They should not be fed hot dogs, raw hamburger and food that they would not normally find in the wild. Water turtles can only eat under water.

Myth 8: Tiny water turtles stay that size.    

Reality: Wrong!  Those small green water turtles that you see in plastic containers with fake palm tress are hatchlings that will grow up to be any where from six to 12 inches.  It is illegal to buy or sell them in the US until they are four inches.

Myth 9: Washing a turtle gets rid of salmonella.    

Reality: False.  Assume that every turtle no matter how clean is carrying salmonella.  It is critically important to wash your hands, keep turtle things away from the kitchen and keep turtles out of homes where children under six live.

Myth 10: Turtles can live happily with artificial light.    

Reality: Wrong. Turtles need real sunlight to be able to grow normally and to have strong bones.  Turtles deprived of sun get a condition known as metabolic bone disease where their bones disintegrate.  A basking turtle in the sun is a happy and healthy turtle.
For more information, visit The American Tortoise Rescue

Other sites with good information:

Southwest Herpetologists Society

California Turtle & Tortoise Club

Turtle Homes

San Diego Turtle & Tortoise Society

Tortoise Trust

The New York Turtle and Tortoise Society