Many aquatic turtles will retain their eggs if they do not have an ideal spot to lay them on land. This can leave to serious health problems. Retained eggs can break, damaging a turtle's insides and requiring surgery. Even if you do not plan to breed your turtles, you should provide a nesting box.
Research your turtle species' specific nesting needs for substrate type, substrate depth and lighting. Your turtle will be encouraged to lay by an environment that mimics what she would choose in the wild.
Select a nesting box and a set of waterproof modular shelving. Make sure the box measures at least twice the width and twice the length of the turtle (larger is better), and that it can fit on the shelf. Make sure the box sits about 1 inch above the waterline.
Fill your plastic container to the appropriate depth with the appropriate substrate. This may be sphagnum moss, soft sand or a mixture of the two. Make sure no twigs or rocks are present, since they discourage digging.
Secure the shelving and nesting box. Use aquarium-safe rocks to anchor the shelving and box in place. Also, build up the rocks around the shelving so there is no underwater area where the turtle can get stuck.
Build up a ramp out of cork. This makes it easier for the turtle to climb in and out of the nesting box. You can also use additional moss and rocks to conceal the box. Keep in mind that you may not want to totally close the nesting box in, since you may want to remove it to place the eggs in an incubator or discard the eggs.
Set up a heat lamp for your turtle, using an appliance timer to ensure the light comes on and goes off at the right times. Different species of turtle spawn at different times, so set up your lighting around that.
Items you will need
- Plastic shoebox
- Substrate for your species of turtle
- Small waterproof modular shelving (available at hardware stores)
- Aquarium-safe rocks (available at pet shops)
- Basking light
- Electronic appliance timer
- Cork (optional)
- You can remove your eggs to incubate them out of the aquarium.
- Check for eggs daily; turtles may lay more than one clutch.
- Ideally, you should design the nesting box into the turtle aquarium from the very beginning; setting up one later can stress turtles.
- Always wash your hands before and after handling turtles.
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