UPDATE: It’s Happily Ever After for two turtles dumped at Daisy Field this month.
While I’ve seen my share of turtles in the Wissahickon, it was really startling to find a pair of them duct-taped into an aquarium, sitting unattended in the middle of a wooded trail off Hermit Lane at 9:30am on a Tuesday morning. We were walking our dog, on our way to Daisy Field where we intended to cut back into the neighborhood where we’d parked our car. The turtles stopped us in our tracks.
Another lifetime ago, I worked in animal rescue and even dabbled in reptiles. These guys looked pretty healthy but the sun was really starting to beat down on their glass already. They needed some shade and probably some air too. As Steve dialed Metro Philly Wildlife Center, I started ripping holes in the plastic sealing the tank. Steve was just informing me their VM was full when a black hatchback rolled up to save the day. “We’re here for the turtle,” they said.
Sasha Spasoff quickly filled us in on the situation: they’d come here walking their dog, too, and spotted the aquarium around 8:30 – 8:45 am. He has some experience with reptiles, so immediately he knew they had to save him.
“Them,” we said.
“Well look at that, there are two…”
After some marveling at how well the smaller turtle hides, Sasha seemed genuinely unfazed to suddenly have doubled his rescue cost & effort. In fact, he seemed kind of inspired. As soon as he had the turtles safe and settled, he hopped onto the East Falls Life page to share photos and start advocating for good homes.
These are two male turtles, adults, with nice markings, good appetites and pleasant dispositions. “RES can live in for a looooong time… easily 40+ years,” he told group members, “My partner and I need to make sure interested people understand the time, space and commitment these cool animals require.”
So what kind of requirements are we talking about?
RED EARED SLIDERS
(if you don’t know, now you know)
RES are pretty much the biggest of the “pet industry” turtles. They’re also very hardy, so pet stores often sell them when they are cute and little — the few that actually survive will need bigger and bigger enclosures as they grow.
The basic formula is 10 gallons for every inch of shell. A fully grown male RES measures 5 – 9 inches and females are usually 10 – 13 inches so if you do the math, you’ll need at least a 50 gallon tank and might possibly need double that, and then some. For two turtles, ideally you’d combine their length to calculate the size of a suitable enclosure (or you can add 15 gallons for every inch of the bigger turtle’s shell).
Don’t feel bad about separating them, though. While we often see turtles basking near each other in nature, it’s not because turtles are social animals like birds, dogs or cows. Turtles hang together because that’s where the sun is. Or the food or the mates or whatever — point is, turtles seem to have little interest and even less affinity for others of their kind.
The two guys sharing a tank at Daisy Field might’ve been raised together but they are not friends. Whoever adopts them should understand they might start fighting at any time, and need to be separated. The good news is, turtle enclosures don’t need to big heavy glass things! A lot of people swear by Rubbermaid tubs.
They’re not as pretty, but tubs are light and durable, and come in lots of different shapes/sizes. People get really creative, stacking them together and sculpting little “beaches” with logs and rocks to sun on, etc. Speaking of sun — turtles will need special lighting that provides the proper spectrum needed for healthy shell growth.
They’ll also need an incandescent lamp for warmth and probably an aquarium heater, as well, to keep their water between 75 – 86 degrees. Oh yeah, about that water: turtles tend to be sloppy creatures. You’ll need some kind of filtration to clear the water of poop and uneaten bits of food. Even so, plan on regular water changes, about 25 – 50% every 2-3 weeks.
RES are omnivores — in the wild they eat whatever they can catch plus algae and dead stuff. Pet turtles should get most of their nutrients from commercial “freshwater turtle pellets,” which can be supplemented with treats like fruit, shrimp, leafy greens… Feeding is one of the most fun things about these turtles — they typically have robust appetites and are quite adorable when they explore a new food they get excited about.
RES are pretty smart, too, and will quickly learn who feeds them, and how to beg for treats. They also seem to enjoy “playing” in their environments: poking, pulling, climbing… They can be little escape artists, and for turtles they’re surprisingly quick when they want to be (they “slide” on their bellies, which is how they got their name). While RES will love some outdoor time in your yard, they should never be left unsecured.
Caring for an RES is a considerable amount of work, but for many owners the trade-off is worth it for such a unique and fascinating pet. Turtles might not fetch or cuddle, but they also don’t spray on your bed or demand to be walked twice a day. There are very few surprises, too: once you get their habitat set up, you can fall into an easy routine that’s much less taxing than more “sociable” pets like cats and dogs who crave your attention. Great for busy families (and possibly a source for home school Science credits? Hmmmm…..)
If you think you might be interested in one or both of these beautiful boys, please check out the videos and links in this article before you reach out to Sasha via Facebook (you can also comment below or email us, and we’ll connect you).
Big thanks to Sasha and his partner for rescuing and fostering these turtles! Thanks, too, for all the concerned neighbors who chimed in with advice and support. Here’s hoping we’ll be celebrating their re-homing soon.
UPDATE — SO HAPPY TOGETHER
It’s a perfect fit! A secure backyard pond in the ‘burbs where these two sliders have plenty of room to soak up the sun and freshwater. Their new owner has tons of experience with reptiles and aquatics, to boot. Big thanks to Sasha and his partner for stepping up to save these extremely specialized pets. Thanks to everyone on the East Falls Life page for helping spread the word until the right home was found. 🐢🐢🙏
TRUE STORY: Many more RES seek homes in our area! Before you purchase from a pet store or reptile show, check with local reptile rescues first. If you don’t see many listings, reach out via email to let them know what you are looking for (these organizations often run on a shoestring budget without much room for website updates).
Forgotten Friend Reptile Rescue (Elm, PA)
The Slimy Scaly Taily Reptile Rescue (Souderton, PA)
The Mid-Atlantic Turtle and Tortoise Society (Baltimore, MD)
(even Petfinder has a filter for reptiles — you can search for adoptable RES by size, gender, age, etc).
Magdalena A—a There’s also a helpful Facebook group for RES and other turtles I always recommend to people 🙂 RESTO-Aquatic Turtle Owners (All Species Welcome)
Robert R—i Who does this dumb shit????
Maggie Tuesday R—s Hello! I have a large outdoor pond and would be happy to give them a new home. Pm me if you still need help with them
Anna F—o Red ears are the nicest turtle pets! They requite consistently clean water with good filtration, but are otherwise very easy to take care of! So sad to see this. PS from this they both look like boys to me which means they’re safe to keep together.
Pluma Avis D—s I have a red ear, my late wife bought him. He is 18 now. He is a sweetheart, handled since he was the size of a quarter.
For any adopter. The water does not have to be crystal clear, their natural habitats are fresh water ponds, swamps, and also rivers with a lil saline so a lil algae is fine but old food is not, poop is not. Filtration is very important to remove particles. They need enough water to swim not just stay wet. They need a dock to dry off or they get shell rot. They need a reptile light, any plants have to be natural or fabric, not plastic as they have a habit of chewing anything. Plastic can block their intestines.
In my experience live plants don’t last long. I drop in cleaned sea shells for calcium. I don’t feed him feeder fish because they often have parasites. It happened twice. If you want clear water get an in line U.V. light or a filter that has one, and change at least 25% of the water weekly. I do it with containers but also have a separate pump and hose for full cleanings. It sounds like a lot but really not much more than a tropical fish tank, just bigger. 2 turtles I think 50 gallon is minimum, but look it up. Mine is in a 70 gallon, because i dont want to fully cover the tank. I like to take him out. It’s 3/4 full so he doesn’t crawl out over the top. Right now I have light algae, and he’s fine.
Whoever did this is an ass. You shouldn’t even have them near windows because of the heat. Happy you found them. I wish I could take them.
Adele W—s So sad, glad they were found. I think a lot of people get turtles without realizing how long they can live for.
The Local Right? The turtles from Rocky are still alive! (they are also red ear sliders)
Adele W—s The Local I read that before, so cool! They are older than me 🤣.
Andrew S—t Dirtbags
Sasha Spassoff So I am trying not to judge whoever dumped these two dudes. Times are very hard for a lot of people. Who ever they were clearly had tried to keep them well, they had a decent setup for turtle bros if they got them when they were smaller. Anyway, I am going to post again tomorrow and abandon this post after that post goes up. Apparently this is my part time job now. Thanks The Local for hosting my new job.
Tanya Gilmore V—h We have a pond but there is always a risk that they will wander out of it
Suzie M—n Do they like sun dried red shrimp? Chewy sent me this randomly with my cat food order… I was going to post on freecycle but maybe these guys can eat it? Happy to leave on the porch for contactless pickup or possibly deliver within EF if new adoptive turtle parents/ fosters/ rescuers are interested
Sasha Spassoff Hi, yes, had to put the two turtles to “bed” safely. We checked and the red shrimp are totally good treats for them. Thanks so much! Cheers and stay safe.
Eileen D—t I would be more than happy to have them. Turtles are my favorite animal.
Sasha Spassoff Hi, we are the fosters. There are two red eared sliders… and have been cleaned up a bit(they were in foul water. I will start the process of the tank/terrarium cleaning shortly. They seem active and healthy. Here are some photos:
Sasha Spassoff Thanks for your interest. If you are interested please direct message me. We need to make sure everyone understands the time, space, and commitment these cool animals require. 🐢❤️👍
Red eared sliders, RES, are invasive and non-native. Having done much research on these turtles, RES are over-bred, over-sold, and over-owned by irresponsible humans around the world. We have cleaned them up, bought them food, and are keeping them healthy as possible.
These two male RES were dumped by a dufus on a park “road” – the park ranger probably would have destroyed them. We have a heat lamp arriving tomorrow, for the evenings. They are eating but are shy about it. They shouldn’t be handled too much but are relatively personable (they are not dangerous).
They eat freshwater turtle pellets, which we have purchased. We also were gifted some “treat” dried mini red shrimp too. Leafy greens, spinach, are being eaten too. They feed in the water, and… poop in the water. So water changes or cleanings are a thing. Cleaning water 2-3 times a week is not too hard. Thanks so much to The Local – anyone interested please message me.