All animals sleep to rest, and if you have a baby turtle, you may have noticed that they prefer to sleep at night. Being diurnal, baby turtles naturally sleep at night. However, you want to determine the species of your baby turtle, because the common snapping turtle and the stinkpot are nocturnal, meaning they sleep during the day.
Different turtle species have different sleeping routines and habits depending on the environment their owners keep them in, the risk of predators, the need for UVA/UVB, and other factors.
Baby turtles sleep for about 4 hours every day, and to ensure the little one gets sufficient rest, maintain a light-dark or day-night cycle where lights in the aquarium are on for 10-12 hours a day.
Strive to maintain the times of the cycle. Just like humans, disrupting the sleeping cycle of a baby turtle can cause severe stress. You should also know that babies and adults do not have any significant differences in sleeping patterns, only slight differences in sleeping durations. The older your baby turtle gets, the longer he will sleep for.
How Do I Know My Baby Turtle Is Asleep?
Baby turtles close their eyes and will either sleep with legs extended or retracted into their shell depending on their comfortable spot and the density of their shells. Even if your baby turtle is in the safety of your home, he may still sleep with legs retracted as a pure survival instinct. The shells come in handy to protect them from predators and for camouflage, making them like rocks.
Where Do Baby Turtles Sleep?
Your baby turtle will sleep wherever they find most comfortable, so this should not be much of an issue. ‘Comfortable’ for a turtle means adequate protection from a possible predator or a spot that offers sufficient interaction with the environment. Some sleep at the water surface, others at their basing spots, at the bottom, or even while floating midway between the bottom surface of the tank and the surface. Turtles often find a specific comfortable spot that is safe to sleep and make it their permanent ‘bed.’
Can Baby Turtles Sleep Underwater?
Some turtle species, such as the red-eared slider, can go for up to 5 hours without the need to wake for breathing, though the majority will eventually need to breathe. They simply surface for a short moment to replenish their air supply then get back to sleep. It is perfectly safe for your baby turtle to sleep underwater.
However, if you have a box turtle, get him a terrarium, which is a dry version of an aquarium. Being terrestrial, box turtles do not sleep underwater and essentially do not need water to function. Keep the water level relatively low so that the baby is able to surface for air without leaving the bottom completely.
Different turtles come with different care sheets, and if you are not sure what your baby turtle needs, call a vet to determine his species and obtain professional advice.
How Do I Select An Aquarium That Is Safe For My Baby Turtle To Sleep In?
As mentioned earlier, consider the importance of surfacing when selecting a tank for the baby. Other factors to consider will include sufficient room for swimming and playing. Be sure to at least meet the minimum requirements, though, the bigger the aquarium, the better.
The minimum length for the tank should be 3-4 times the turtle’s length, while the width twice his length. The best height for water is about two and a half times the length of the baby to ensure he can easily reach the surface for air while he sleeps.
Why Isn’t My Baby Turtle Active During The Day?
Your baby turtle will benefit from having gravel in the tank, hideaways, and live food, which will stimulate him to play and be more active. These mimic his natural environment and are therefore good for his health. However, if you notice excessive inactivity, the water temperature is probably too low. Under these conditions, the turtle will not eat or digest food either.
Turtles cannot regulate their temperatures and are therefore affected by that in their surroundings.
For baby turtles, keep the temperature between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures below 50 degrees will drastically lower his temperature and trigger hibernation mode. Monitor the water temperature closely, especially in the winter. You can use a water heater with a reliable thermostat to again ensure you do not heat the water too much.
Make sure the heater is covered in plastic or metal, not glass, to keep the baby from breaking it while playing. Thermometers that test water temperature from the aquarium surface are also available for your convenience. Even at the right temperature, the turtle will remain lethargic and may eat less. If you are worried, do not hesitate to call a vet.
Your baby turtle will also require a UVB light and basking light. Now that he is indoors, he does not have access to the sun, yet he requires Vitamin D to grow strong, healthy bones and shell. Without adequate UVB light, the baby will develop Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD). Among the reasons why your baby turtle is awake during the day is to give him time to bask in UVB light, which would ordinarily come from the sun.
The basking light should also help regulate his light-dark cycle, as mentioned above, which will help him distinguish between night and day and the best time to sleep. Consider having a dedicated timer to help you keep his hours as regular as possible.
For baby turtles, a 2.5% or 5% UVB lamp is sufficient. Place a 2.5% lamp 12 inches from the water or a 5% lamp 18 inches away. The basking lamp can be a normal incandescent or fluorescent light.
How Can I Protect My Baby Turtle As He Sleeps?
You must ensure that there are no materials in the aquarium that may trap the baby, thus preventing him from coming up for air. Be especially careful with plants as these may tangle up his legs.
Consider placing a metal screen above the aquarium as things falling into the tank can either harm or kill the baby. To ensure the baby has a healthy environment to sleep and grow in, keep his tank as clean as possible. You can use a siphon-type aquarium cleaner to keep the tank’s substrate (the gravel at the bottom) clean. You also need to replace the filter medium, which strains out dirt, droppings, and food particles clean by rinsing out thoroughly with clean water (no soap).
Even though you have great filters, you will still need to replace the aquarium water regularly to get rid of fine particulates and harmful compounds like nitrates. If your tank is small (30 gallons and below), replace 20% of the water every two days and 100% every 10-12 days. If it is larger (over 30 gallons), change 50% of the water every five days and all of it every 12-14 days.
If you have excellent high capacity filters, 50% of the water should be replaced every week and 100% of the water every 17-19 days. In addition to these guidelines, a smelly tank or a change in its color means that all the water must be replaced and the tank cleaned. When changing the water, place the baby turtle in a bucket with enough water at his usual temperature to cover him.
Every time you change the water in the baby’s tank, clean and disinfect it.
Get turtle-friendly cleaning solutions from a pet store. A more thorough clean can be done once a month, but more often will ensure a healthy baby turtle with a perfect atmosphere to grow and rest in.
What do Baby Turtles Eat?
In addition to sleep and UVB light, the baby turtle also requires plenty of food to grow into a healthy adult. They take anywhere between 30 minutes and several hours to feed. Turtle feed from a pet store has all the nutrients a hatchling would require, but for maximum benefits, offer a variety of foods. Some baby turtles are also picky eaters, and you might find yourself going through a variety to find a food that he will like.
A newly hatched turtle will feed off his yolk for the first week and a few days, so he will not eat. Foods you can give a very young baby turtle include:
- Turtle sticks, flake, and pellets
- Live crickets, mealworms, and blackworms, which will be great as baby turtles will be alerted by their movement
As the turtle grows to a few months old, you can offer cooked eggs with shells, fruit (strawberry, halved grapes, and apples), vegetables like spinach and kale (no cabbage or lettuce), shrimp, and waxworms.
Ensure you place the food in water as he will not be able to swallow dry food. To make cleaning up easier, consider placing the baby in a different tank for feeding time rather than his primary aquarium because scoping out the food debris is often taxing. All you require is sufficient water to cover the baby.
Ensure the water is at the same temperature as that in his primary aquarium to avoid shocking him. Once you place the food in the tank, walk away for 30 minutes to several hours. Turtles do not eat while being watched. Pat him dry before returning to the main tank to avoid transferring food into the main tank. If you decide to feed him in the main tank, use a net to fish out food debris.