Chinese driekielschildpad

Reeves turtle

This information sheet does not replace careful reading of specialised literature! We recommend comprehensive preparation for keeping turtles.

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Origin: China, Korea, Taiwan and Japan
Food: insects, aquatic animals, plants
Age: 10 – 25 years old
Solitary/group: solitary
Number of eggs: 2 – 6
Length: 15 – 20 cm
Weight: 0.2 – 0.5 kg
IUCN status: endangered

Behavior

In addition to terrapins, the Reeves turtle (Mauremys reevesii) is one of the most popular aquatic turtle species to keep. This species may not be as colorful, but it has a very friendly nature. It is rare for them to bite. They are curious, lively and uncomplicated to keep. They are only moderately good swimmers, so they always need roots, branches or aquatic plants to get out of the water.

Size

The males of Reeves turtles usually grow to 12 – 15 cm. Females grow between 18 – 22 cm (sometimes slightly more), depending on the conditions in which they are kept.

Origin / Habitat

The Reeves turtle is native to several non-contiguous areas in China, Korea, Taiwan and Japan. In China, it is seriously threatened by intensive fishing for human consumption and habitat destruction. After introduction, the turtle has become established in the U.S. and Canada. The species likes slow-flowing or still waters with soft bottoms and is increasingly found in shallow areas, which are often densely vegetated. In their natural habitat, Reeves turtles can also be found in cultivated areas (rice fields), in artificial water bodies (irrigation ditches) and near human settlements (e.g. village ponds).

Holding individually or in group

As with many turtle species, male Reeves turtles are usually very difficult to keep together, at least in (cramped) aquarium conditions. Even though these turtles are not social creatures in the biological sense, they benefit from being kept in (small) groups, as this gives them variety. Therefore, the tank should be large enough to hold at least 2 animals. These should mainly be females, as a male can be quite a nuisance to the female. However, it is still possible to keep them individually and they can also be enriched in accordance with animal welfare requirements through targeted enrichment.

Keeping with other species

It is possible to keep different species together as long as they are compatible with each other, of similar size and have the same requirements in terms of their housing and climate in captivity. The different behaviors of different species must be taken into account. They cannot be kept together with swamp turtles, but can be kept with musk turtles and mud turtles. Sometimes males of different species get along, but in that case, especially in the beginning, they must be watched very closely and if necessary the males must be separated again.

Housing

Chinese driekielschildpadFor two Reeves turtles, the aquarium should be 130 x 50 x 50 cm (LHB) in size and the water level should be 20-30 cm high, because these turtles – although they live in water – are only moderately good swimmers. A land area corresponding to the width of the tank and a depth (length) of 30-40 cm is also an integral part, even if only females are kept, as they (may) also lay unfertilized eggs. If they do not have a land area with a sandy substrate, they may develop egg-laying distress in the worst case scenario. Chinese turtles also like to stay on land for sunbathing and resting. It is functional and space-saving if the glass plate for the laying area is glued in at an angle so that – when viewed from the side – it forms a sharp-angled triangle that tapers downward and is about 1 – 2 cm higher than the water level. In this way, the animals have a land area without losing much water surface area.

The water area should consist of several roots and/or branches so that the animals can get out of each other’s way and have hiding places. It is essential that there are no narrow passages in which turtles can become trapped and drown. There should be sufficient structures for young animals to reach the surface of the water. Aquatic plants are recommended because they also provide hiding places and improve water quality. The land area can be filled with sand, as the animals can easily dig in it and sand falling into the water is not disturbing, as the bottom should also be covered with a 2-5 cm thick layer of sand (e.g. play sand from the hardware store, wash beforehand). This looks more natural and contributes to good water quality. Whether the aquaterrarium should be partially covered or not depends on whether the turtles can climb over a mat filter (see below), pieces of bark or something similar. To assess this, ask yourself if a turtle could manage to climb out if there were another turtle in a corner of the land area whose back it could use as an exit aid.

Reeves turtles can also be kept in a garden pond, but it must be enclosed to prevent the turtles from escaping. Again, branches, boards or other materials should make it easy for them to get out of the water. The pond should also have a shallow, easily accessible riparian area. When kept in a pond, turtles tend to be more shy than in an aquarium. Depending on the weather, it is only possible to keep them in a pond from May to November. During the remaining months, the animals must be kept indoors.

Two things are essential when keeping an indoor aquarium: light and filtration. It has proven to be a good idea to provide basic lighting with some full-spectrum neon tubes. If you use LEDs, look for products suitable for reptiles. In addition, hang one or more metal halide lamps above the land area, which also emit bright light, as well as heat and UVB radiation, which is essential for the healthy growth of aquatic turtles. Metal halide lamps require a ballast and are made for terrariums by several manufacturers. Suitable lamps are those from 35 W to 70 W. For very large aquariums, lamps of 150 W are also suitable. The installation height should be chosen so that the temperature at the level of the turtle’s shell is about 30 – 35°C. Lamps of this type can also be hung above the water area, but this sometimes strongly promotes the growth of blue-green algae (cyanobacteria), which is not really visually attractive.

Reeves turtles – especially if they are large – eat a lot and produce correspondingly large amounts of feces. A powerful filter is therefore a must for a clean habitat. The filter capacity should be about three times the amount of water. Two types of filters have proven their worth: a) internal filters, b) external filters. The advantage of an internal filter is that there are no hoses running out of the aquarium and thus cannot cause unwanted flooding of the living room. Their disadvantage is that they take away aquarium volume, i.e. swimming space, from the animals. However, very suitable is the so-called “Hamburg mat filter,” which is installed by do-it-yourselfers using two guide rails, a filter mat and a centrifugal pump or air elevator (can also be done without experience). It is easy to clean and all parts are easy to replace. External filters have the advantage of not taking up space in the aquarium and therefore have the disadvantage of having a filter outside the aquarium, whose seals may leak or the hoses may become loose in the worst case. Nevertheless, this type of filter has proven itself many times over in aquariums. However, the purchase cost is considerably higher than for a mat filter. A filter does not replace water changes, but ensures consistently good water quality.

Heating the water is not necessary if the aquarium is placed in the living room. If kept in a pond with a low stocking density, no technical aids (pumps or the like) are needed.

Care and maintenance

The care of Reeves turtles in the aquarium consists of checking daily that the equipment is working, feeding (not daily), inspecting the animals and, depending on the stocking density, partial water changes every few weeks. One third of the water remains in the tank and only the rest is changed. On this occasion, some of the detritus (dead organic material) on the substrate (bottom cover) is also removed by suction. Not everything should be “clinically” clean, as the detritus, bacteria, algae, etc. serve the natural balance in the aquarium.

The filter should also not be hot rinsed out or otherwise intensively cleaned, as this would kill all the important microorganisms. A tip for beginners: do not use buckets to drain and feed the water, but use hoses (e.g. garden or pond hoses).

Food

Feeding takes place in the water. The food should be as varied and diverse as possible. Different kinds of pellet food, live or dried mealworms, grasshoppers, wax moth larvae, crickets, frozen (and thawed) or dried freshwater shrimps (gammarus), mussels (“seafood”) or fish (all readily available from the Internet or pet stores) are suitable. In the case of fish, sprat or herring are especially suitable, fed whole or cut up (with head and intestines). The different types of food should not all be mixed into a “muesli,” as the animals then sometimes get into the habit of eating only the “tasty” ingredients. There is only one type of food at each feeding. In addition, adult turtles especially, eat mostly plants, therefore meadow herbs, lettuce, fruits and vegetables should also be offered regularly. In addition, sepia should always be available so that the animals can meet their calcium needs. Turtles should be fed as much as they can eat in 5 minutes (only larger foods such as vegetables longer). Dog and cat food damages the animal in the long run and therefore should not be offered.

If you want to give your turtles a “perfect” diet, you can find information on the Internet about “turtle pudding” (which you can make yourself) and offer your animals this delicacy once a week (sometimes they need some time to get used to it). The main advantage of this food is that a calcium-vitamin preparation can be added to this mixture of various plant and animal food ingredients and gelatin, which would always be washed away by the water if sprinkled over the aforementioned food.

Adult Reeves turtles can be fed 3 times a week, juveniles 5 times a week.

Like many but not all reptiles, turtles need the UVB radiation mentioned above. UVB light is essential for calcium and phosphate metabolism, that is, for the activation of vitamin D3, which ensures absorption of calcium from the intestines. Among other things, calcium and phosphate play an important role in bone formation and development. If animals do not receive enough calcium and/or UVB light, the shell and bones become soft, among numerous other symptoms, which can lead to severe deformities that last a lifetime. This is a problem that occurs when kept indoors, but not when kept outdoors.

Rest time

Compliance with biological rest periods is a prerequisite for the long-term well-being of these species. If you cannot or will not guarantee this rest period, we do not recommend the purchase of these species.

Reeves turtles need a rest period every year to maintain their long-term health and vitality. This is a natural process for them. Moreover, for many species such a rest period is a prerequisite for successful reproduction in the spring (reproduction is prohibited, but egg laying should be possible). For this purpose, the animals are put in a cool place (e.g. basement, shed, balcony) for 2-3 months. This can be done in plastic containers or aquariums (cover if necessary). It has been found useful to add a handful of beech or oak leaves per animal to the water to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria. The water can also be salted for this purpose. The overwintering temperature of the water should be between 5 and 10°C. A proven procedure is to take the animals outside in late summer/early autumn (if kept indoors). There, the length of the day and temperature naturally decrease continuously and the turtles reduce their metabolism and enter a resting phase (which does not necessarily mean immobility). Depending on the region and year, night temperatures do not drop below 5-10°C until late November. When it gets colder, the animals acclimate to warmer temperatures within a week and are brought back inside. For them, spring then begins in December and they have already completed a resting phase of about 2-3 months. Alternatively, they can overwinter in a refrigerator or cool basement.

Wintering in a garden pond may work for some individuals, but the local cool seasons are often too variable and long for Reeves turtles. Moreover, overwintering in a garden pond is less controllable or impressionable than overwintering in a safe, frost-free, cold-protected location.

Common diseases and parasites

Many different diseases and parasites occur in turtles. It is especially important to observe your turtle frequently, so that you start to recognise abnormal behaviour. If your tortoise shows behaviour that is different from normal, it is always a good idea to contact a reptile vet.

If you adopt a tortoise from us, it has been examined by a vet and treated if necessary. All our turtles have been quarantined and tested for parasites.

One possible health risk is the transmission of salmonella, which is part of the natural intestinal flora of reptiles. Normally, this only causes short-term diarrhoea in humans. In rare cases, severe symptoms of illness can occur. This mainly affects children under 3 years of age, the elderly or immunodeficient people. Therefore, we recommend meticulous hand hygiene by washing your hands or using an appropriate disinfectant.

Reproduction

We strongly advise against breeding these species, as the market is oversaturated and it is extremely difficult to place the animals in responsible hands.

This fact sheet has been made available thanks to Auffangstation für Reptilien, München e.V.

Auffangstation-Reptilien-Munchen