African Sideneck Turtle as a Pet

Aquatic turtles are enjoyable to see, especially when they are as unique looking as the African side-neck turtle If you have not already guessed, these turtles are called so because they are not able to tuck their heads entirely inside their shells so they tuck them to the side rather.

Anatomy and Size

An African side-neck turtle’s anatomy differs from that of a common aquatic turtle such as a red eared slider. Side-necks have unique cervical spines, extra scutes on their shells, and unusual skull characteristics.

Name: African side-neck turtle, Pelomedusa subrufa, African Side-necked turtle, African helmeted turtle.
Size: Average of 6 to 9 inches long
Lifespan: Can be approximately (and often more than) 50 years

Habits and Temperament of African Side-Neck Turtles

african aquatic sideneck turtle

African side-necks have longer necks than many other species of turtles. This gives them an unique advantage over their fellow turtles: If they discover themselves turned over on their shells, these turtles can right themselves utilizing their neck muscles. Most turtles are defenseless when switched on their shells.

You can socialize pet aquatic turtles with frequent interaction, and African side-necks are no exception. They are analytical, cute turtles that are interesting to see.

Be advised (especially if you have kids) that aquatic turtles are believed to carry salmonella bacteria. It’s crucial to wash your hands after dealing with African side-neck turtles, and it’s probably much better to keep them away from small children, who may be tempted to put the turtles in their mouths.

Housing African Side-Neck Turtles

Water tank for african aquatic sideneck turtle
Water tank for african aquatic sideneck turtle

African side-necks are aquatic turtles for that reason they require a big aquarium that will hold water. Your turtle needs to have the ability to swim and dive in their tank so the bigger the tank the much better. Preferably you must have about a 75 gallon aquarium (or larger) that is half to three-quarters filled with water.

A floating dock or large rocks that provide dry land and an area for your turtle to climb out of the water to dry off are likewise needed. Fish gravel or sand works well for the bottom of the tank.

A quality water filter is needed considering that aquatic turtles defecate in the water and without a filter you’ll be doing weekly water changes. Some individuals prefer container filters while others like the smaller sized submersible filters. For a large tank, such as a 75 gallon, buying a quality canister filter is usually your best alternative.

In addition to keeping the water tidy you must dechlorinate the water by either letting it remain for 24 hours before adding it to the tank or by including dechlorinating solution to it. A suggested pH of 6.5 (a fairly neutral pH) need to be preserved and can be easily consulted water test strips from the pet shop.

If you have other pets that have the ability to get into your turtle’s enclosure you must have a metal mesh screen lid to keep your turtle safe however still permit heat lights to heat up the enclosure.

Lighting and Heat

Like all other turtles, African side-necks are reptiles, not fish or amphibians. Therefore, they need supplemental heat to preserve their body temperatures in addition to UVB rays to appropriately metabolize calcium and Vitamin D3.

Both heat and undetectable UVB rays can be easily offered in the kind of unique light bulbs from the pet shop. Heat lights differ in wattage and ought to maintain an ambient temperature of about 80 degrees and a basking temperature level of about 90 degrees. The temperature level must never ever drop below 70 degrees, even at night when the basking light gets turned off.

UVB rays also can be supplied in the kind of fluorescent light bulbs (both compact and standard tube lights) that need to be continued a 10 to 12 hour light cycle. The bulbs must also be positioned about 10 to 12 inches from where your turtle sits outside of the water. These special bulbs produce visible white light together with the invisible UVB rays. These invisible rays will end after about six months so it is important to replace your UVB bulbs even if the white light remains on.

Water tank for african sideneck turtle

What Do African Sideneck Turtles Eat?

Like the majority of aquatic turtles, African side-necks are omnivores. They consume some plant material however they also consume insects, fish, crustaceans, and aquatic turtle pellets while swimming. Meat (such as chicken and beef) ought to never be fed to your aquatic turtle.

Turtle pellets should include the calcium and other minerals and vitamins that your turtle requires. Feeding your turtle as much as he will consume in a 15 to 30-minute period is all it really requires in a day. Get rid of the uneaten food so that it doesn’t ruin or block the filter.

Choosing Your African Side-Neck Turtle

As with a lot of reptiles and turtles, your best option is to get an African side-neck turtle from a trusted breeder. Search for any signs of illness, such as flakiness on the shell, difficulty breathing, lethargy or low cravings.

Common Health Problems

Aquatic turtles are often afflicted with parasites such as roundworms. These are challenging to treat, since the turtle might not show apparent symptoms. An exam by a reptile vet is typically when parasitic infections are found.

African side-neck turtles also are susceptible to vitamin A shortage, which might have symptoms such as swelling and pus around the eyes.

Like the majority of reptiles, African side-neck turtles are inclined to breathing infections. You may see your turtle wheezing if it has a respiratory infection, or notice excess mucus around its nasal passages and mouth.

And shell rot, perhaps the most typical disease to impact aquatic turtles, is likewise a concern for African side-necks. This disease usually starts as a fungal or bacterial infection, and as it advances, can trigger painful ulcers on the turtle’s shell.

All of these conditions should be dealt with by a veterinarian who concentrates on reptiles. Do not attempt to treat a sick turtle with a home treatment prior to contacting your vet first.

Pet owner’s stories

Right Feeding of African Sideneck
My Turtle is very to his self and every time it comes to feeding time it just consumes 3 pellets which’s it! It typically is constantly strolling on the bottom of the tank. So should I feed it something that is up to the bottom? My other turtle will consume most of the food that’s on top, and my Sideneck barely stays on leading unless he’s hanging on to something.

Answer: Sideneck turtles are not good swimmers. The just walk along the bottom, preferring to be able to walk up a slope to get to the top to breathe. So, yes, something that sinks to the bottom would be a good food item like live food (worms).

Young African Sidenecks Trying to Hibernate
I have two young turtles – about 2 inches and about 4 inches diameter – that I put in a new environment (40 gallons long with ramps to sand/dirt box, UV light, heat lights over the ‘beach,’ rocks on the bottom, external canister filter). They have pretty much dug into the sand and not come out, and I am worried about them! Is this alright? Should I get rid of the sandbox? Uncertain what to believe. Thanks for any guidance.

Answer: The water is heated to about 70-ish. They have rocks along the side of the sandbox to bask on; however, they keep choosing to bury themselves in the sand. Think raising the water temp will assist? Their previous tank had water about the exact same temp, great basking spot which they utilized a lot, but no sand.


Do African Sideneck Turtles need a place to live?
Yes, land is necessary for African Sideneck Turtles to relax and enjoy the sun. They ought to be able to exit the water by climbing onto a dry surface.

How long do captive-bred African sideneck turtles live?
If given the right care, African Sideneck Turtles can live up to 40 years in captivity.

Do African Sideneck Turtles require nighttime lighting?
The answer is no, African Sideneck Turtles don’t need light at night. To aid with sleep, they should be kept in a dim location.

What characteristics distinguish a male from a female African Sideneck Turtle?
The plastron (bottom shell) of male African Sideneck Turtles is concave, and they have longer tails. Female African Sideneck Turtles have flat plastrons and shorter tails.

Why is my African Sideneck Turtle floating?
African Sideneck Turtles may float if they do not get sufficient oxygen in their tank. Make sure the water is well-oxygenated and that the temperature is not too high.

Can you place fish in with an African Sideneck Turtle?
No, African Sideneck Turtles are carnivores and will consume any fish that are placed in with them.

How often should you feed an African Sideneck Turtle?
African Sideneck Turtles should be fed every other day. They should be given a variety of foods such as worms, insects, and fish.

Reyus Mammadli/ author of the article

I have had pets since childhood: cats, guinea pigs, rabbits, geese, chickens, ducks, parrots, aquarium fish and dogs (in the yard). Of course, I constantly encountered diseases of pets and treated them. Glad to be able to share my skills and experience, as well as advice on caring for and adapting these critters and birds.

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