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Re: Keeping snapper outdoors

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Posted by heretic on April 03, 2003 at 11:41:59:

In Reply to: Keeping snapper outdoors posted by Dinobot711 on March 31, 2003 at 16:06:32:

:I finally got the 300 gallon stock tank for my common snapper that I was supposed to get over a month ago. I was hoping I could put it in my basement but there is no way I can get it down there. I guess I'm going to have to keep it outside behind my house. I just wasn't sure when that would be ok to do. I live in NJ. I caught the snapper here a while ago so I know he can live here outside. It's been kinda cool some nights lately, going down to 30 last night, but it's also gone up to 70 during the day. Would he be ok outside soon even though he's used to 75-78? Also, in the winter, what is the best thing to do. Bring him in the house in a small tank, let him hibernate outside(if they can do that in the water), or get a pond deicer? Thanks for any advice you guys can give me.

I live in Ohio and kept a common snapper outside in a 400 gallon pre-formed pond for several years. The pond was set into the ground, with a 20 by 10 foot area around it fenced off. I used a large pump and filter system to keep the water clean, and this was then redirected in the winter to keep a hole open in the ice. I did not use a heater.

Things to remember:
You cannot let the pond freeze to the bottom.
Keep a hole open in the ice whenever possible. If there is no air exchange, the water will quickly harbor only anerobic bacteria and will turn toxic.
Fatten the turtle up in the summer and fall. When the forcast calls for it to start getting cold, feed the turtle lots of live and high-fat foods. Slow feeding as the temperature drops- the digestive system doesn't work well in lower temperatures.

Before the onset of ice, I would drain the pond, clean it, then refil it with clean water and pile in leaves I raked from the year. I'd try to make it so the leaves filled to about half the depth of the water. This helps the turtle hibernate and seemed to let her relax.

Use a pump or bubbler to keep some water circulation going and keep a hole open in the ice for as long as possible. If the pond freezes over for a few days or a week, it's not a big deal. But you don't want a sheet of ice over the water for several months straight. I would recommend against a de-icer that heats the water unless there is absolutly no other way to keep the pond from freezing to the bottom. Heating the water will cause the turtle enormous stress because it's metabolism will adjust itself to the warmer conditions, and it will not hibernate properly. You would also then have to feed it all winter.

If you are moving him from indoors to outdoors, I would strongly suggest you do it as soon as the outside temperatures are warm enough- give the turtle as much time as possible to acclimate to being outside. I kept most of my turtles in outdoor accomodations, and they all overwintered very well. However, I did lose two turtles over the course of about 10 years, so you will have to accept the fact that overwintering is stressful to the turtle and not without risks. A plus side is you will see much more natural behavior- all my turtles acted just as wild turtles would, and breeding occured every year. Be sure to keep tabs on the temperature- if it warms up slightly in the middle of winter, your turtle will probably be looking for food. Resist the temptation to clean the enclosure until spring does roll around- until then leave substrate in the water for the turtle to hibernate in.

One final thing- To make your life much, much easier, buy a bulkhead fitting from a water garden supply store. Fit this to the bottom of your stock tank (unless it already has a drain fitting) A 2 or three inch fitting is perfect. Locate your stock tank high in your yard so you can plumb in a PVC drain pipe and valve. In the summer, water changes can become quite a chore- snappers are messy creatures and the water can get quite foul. although this really doesn't bother the turtle too much, it is unpleasent for humans.

Feel free to contact me if there's anything else you want to know about keeping these guys outdoors.

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