Alternative species (click on the thumbnail to see the card)
Pelomedusa subrufa subrufa
Pelomedusa subrufa olivacea
Pelomedusa subrufa nigra
African helmeted turtle
African side-necked turtle
Origin: Sub-Saharan Africa
Biotope: swamps, small bodies of water, ponds, and pools in tropical forests
The tail of males is longer and wider at the base than that of females. The position of the cloaca also differs: the cloaca in males is close to the tip of the tail while it is closer to the base of the tail in females. Turtles are definitely sexable when they measure 10-12 cm (4-4.8").
For 1: 100x50x40cm
Beach day: 30-35°C or 86-95°F
Beach night: 27-29°C or 81-84°F
Water: 26-28°C or 79-82°F
20 to 30cm (7.8 to 12")
more than 20 years
Earth (beach) and water
1 or 3
How to feed the Pelomedusa subrufa?
This species of turtle is mainly carnivorous. To keep it healthy, the secret is in the variety of menus. It is not difficult to feed it. You can distribute:
None of its food should be cooked, dried or fried. In terms of quantity, a meal should be the equivalent of the volume of the head (more or less the volume of the stomach). You can supplement the food with calcium if necessary.
In addition, you can provide a cuttlefish bone in the aquarium. That will bring a natural complement of calcium.
Juveniles need to be fed every day with one day of fasting per week. Adult turtles will only be fed every 2-3 days, depending on their age and build.
What kind of behavior does the Pelomedusa subrufa have?
This turtle is quite fearful and not very quickly stressed. Place the aquarium in a quiet place without too much traffic. In a safe environment, it is quite active during the day, moving around by walking on the bottom of the aquarium. Indeed, she does not swim much because her legs are not webbed. She also likes to hide in the decor.
In nature, when the ponds evaporate under the heat, this turtle buries itself in the mud: it is estivation. This period generally lasts from 4 to 6 weeks. In captivity, this period is not obligatory, even dangerous for farm animals that have never been accustomed to such important variations in their environment. Nevertheless, it will be essential if you wish to reproduce your turtles. To simulate this aestivation, put a good layer of fine sand at the bottom of the aquarium or in a tank placed on the beach. Gradually lower the water level, put the immersion heater down and gently raise its temperature to 29-31°C or 84-88°F. The turtle will reduce its food supply and begin to bury itself.
Who can live with the Pelomedusa subrufa?
Like many aquatic turtles, it is difficult to keep several Pelomedusa in the same aquarium because they are very territorial animals. As a result, these turtles tend to be very aggressive with their congeners (this is especially true for males). It is strongly recommended to keep only one turtle per aquarium.
How to breed the Pelomedusa subrufa?
This turtle lays only once a year, in spring or fall. The observation of a period of estivation is strongly recommended to stimulate the breeding turtles (see "behaviour").
To carry out the breeding of this species, install in the tank a wide and high enough laying area (count 20 cm or 8") for the female to bury her eggs. Put in contact a mature couple (sexual maturity is reached between 5 and 7 years in the wild)."
A clutch can consist of 15 to 30 eggs, sometimes up to more than 40. After laying, separate the couple because fights will start quickly. To ensure a high birth rate, it is best to remove the eggs and place them in an incubator. Use moistened vermiculite 5-8 mm (0.2-0.3") thick. On the environmental side, maintain 70% humidity and a temperature between 27 and 32°C (81 and 82°F). Incubation lasts 80-90 days.
Caution, never turn the eggs over as this kills the embryos!
At birth, juveniles measure between 2.5 and 3 cm (1 to 1.2") and are very fragile. They require a lot of attention and care. They also need to be fed daily, with one fast a week.
Which Paludarium for the Pelomedusa subrufa?
For this mainly aquatic turtle, a good length of the front of the tank is essential. Plan a tank of at least 100 cm or 40" long and if possible more (120 cm or 47" being really ideal for 1 specimen). For 2 turtles, move to a tank of at least 150 cm or 59" in length.
It is necessary to set up an emergent part and an aquatic part in the aquarium.
For the emerged part, provide a ramp so that the turtle can easily climb on the platform. This platform can be a beach, a cork bark, a flat stone... It will be able to rest there and store heat. For this, the installation of a heating spot is essential. The latter must provide a hot spot between 30 and 35°C or 86 to 95°F (to adjust the temperature, simply adjust the distance lamp-platform). The use of a UVB lamp (index 10.0) is also mandatory because it allows the turtle to synthesize calcium correctly. This lamp is replaced once or twice a year even if it is still working (the UVB rate can strongly decrease with use but this is not perceptible to the naked eye). Tip: connect both lamps to a timer and set it to 12 hours of lighting per day. Note that it is necessary that the temperature drops a few degrees at night. A simple ballast will provide sufficient overall brightness. Finally, note that the turtle is quite fearful and may hesitate to get out of the water if the platform is too clear: install a nice and safe decor to encourage it to come and rest in the shelter.
For the aquatic part, a water height between 10 and 20 cm (4 and 8") will be sufficient (to be adjusted according to the size of the tortoise: the water height will be from 1 to 1.5 times the length of the tortoise) because the Pelomedusa subrufa is not a good swimmer. It must constantly be maintained between 26 and 28°C (79 and 82°F). An immersion heater is therefore indispensable, as well as a thermometer to check the constancy of the temperature. Another indispensable element: the filter because turtles are big polluters and the water is quickly dirty. The filtration must be powerful enough to guarantee a clean water, without however causing too much current because turtles like quiet water (to break the current, you can direct the discharge of the filter towards a wall). The recommended power is 5 to 10 times the volume of the aquarium per hour. You can choose between filters specially designed for turtle aquariums, or you can take a corner filter that you can lay on the floor. In any case, the filter gets dirty quickly: clean it once a week. Also do a partial water change (1/3 of the volume) every 10-15 days. The water should be dechlorinated beforehand (let it stand for 48 hours before introducing it into the aquarium).
For decoration, put gravel or non-abrasive fine sand at the bottom of the aquarium and complete with large stones and roots for more naturalness. The floor will have to be renewed every month so that it does not become a nest for bacteria. Set up hiding places because the turtle likes to take refuge in the shade. Some aquarists add plastic plants to bring a touch of green! Be careful to ensure that your landscaping is safe for the turtle: if it gets stuck underwater, it can drown.
Finally, note that it is impossible to install this turtle in an outdoor pond because of the rather warm environment it requires.
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Find all additional information!
Like many turtles, this species does not like to be handled. Feeling attacked, it may try to bite you, watch your fingers! If you have to manipulate it (in case of extreme necessity) grasp it well at the back of its body.
Since the update of the taxonomic lists in 2017 by the IUCN, the family Pelomedusa counts 10 species. This species of turtle (Pelomedusa subrufa) is divided into 3 subspecies:
- Pelomedusa subrufa subrufa (the pectoral scales meet on the central line of the breastplate)
- Pelomedusa subrufa olivacea (the pectoral scales do not touch and are separated by the humeral scales)
- Pelomedusa subrufa nigra (the pectoral scales meet on the central line of the breastplate. Presence of black triangles on the scales on the margin of the breastplate)
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