Softshell turtle a.k.a Apalone sp. (Fl Soft Shell Turtle, Leopard Soft Shell Turtle, Chinese Soft Shell Turtle, etc.)
Intro to Soft Shell Turtles
Soft Shell turtles are very strange animals. Flat, squishy shell, long nose, and big fleshy lips? Love them or hate them, they are very interesting animals to keep. These turtles are highly adapted for aquatic life, with almost flipper-like feet, and a very streamlined shape to help them cut through the water, which is one of the reasons their shell is so flat. Their shell is actually covered in a thin layer of skin, which allows them to better camouflage under sand and mud. Soft Shells can reach large sizes, with most averaging anywhere from 14-24 inches in shell length. 20 to 30 years is not unheard of when it comes to the lifespan of these turtles, so be aware of the size and longevity of these animals.
Soft Shell Turtle Care
Soft Shell turtles are carnivores, eating a variety of fish, mollusks, and insects. Pellets along with said food can be offered everyday, or at least three times a week. A 20 gallon aquarium works for 1 one to two babies for their first 2 years and should be upgraded to 10 gallons for every inch of shell length. Turtles don’t need tank mates, but always remember to pair turtles of similar size to avoid out competition if cohabiting. Adult soft shell turtles will need a very large tank, or more practically a kiddie pool or large stock tank. Something around 75 - 100 gallons. Soft Shells are shy by nature, so providing a substrate layer of sand is a great way to help them feel safe and allows them to exhibit natural behavior. A basking area should still be offered although they spend most of their time in the water. The mid 90s works for basking temperatures and UVB should be provided across the tank. Water temperature can remain room temperature up to the low 80s. Filtration can be achieved using an internal filter for smaller tanks, and a canister filter or sump for larger setups. Water should be changed at least bi-weekly. It is also recommended to run a filter rated higher than the size of the tank. So if you’ve got a 20 gallon tank, use a filter rated for 30-40 gallons.
Soft Shell Turtles For Sale in the Pet Trade
Soft Shells are a very peculiar animal, and exhibit many interesting behaviors in an aquarium setting. They can be kept with other turtles of similar size given adequate hiding opportunities and also make excellent pond turtles if kept outdoors. Given their large size, it is important to think about the long term plan for the animal. Letting the animal go should never be the end goal once it gets big. Releasing pets into the wild has proven to be a huge problem for ecosystems, as released animals are not always native to the area released and can become invasive if irresponsibility continues to linger. As a responsible pet owner, plan on keeping your animal long term and always strive to offer the best care possible.