Reeve’s Turtle Care Sheet

Reeve’s Turtle Care Sheet

The Reeve’s turtle (Mauremyx reevesii) is a 5-6” long, semi-aquatic, diurnal species of turtle found in east Asia. They prefer slow-moving freshwater habitats, although they are more aquatic as juveniles than they are as adults.

Reeve’s turtles have a smooth, triple-keeled shell, blunt head, large eyes, and a long tail. Their shell is typically uniform brown to dark gray, with darker skin. Juveniles and adult females often have an irregular pattern of pale lines on each side of their head.

Reeve’s turtles can make great pets for those new to turtles, but they still need specialized equipment that requires a significant initial investment. When cared for properly, they can have a 15+ year lifespan.

Minimum enclosure size for Reeve’s turtles

The expected adult size of a Reeve’s turtle can vary considerably based on locality of origin. Most Reeve’s turtles in the pet trade max out at 5-6”, but some bloodlines can get to 12” or larger. For this reason, make sure to buy captive-bred and get information on the size of your turtle’s parents so you can prepare the enclosure appropriately.

The minimum size enclosure for housing one turtle requires at least 10 US gallons of water per inch of the turtle’s anticipated adult length. So if your turtle’s largest parent is 6” long, then you will need at least 60 gallons of swimming space. A land area can be built onto an aquarium to convert it into a suitable Reeve’s turtle enclosure, but given the choice, it’s best to use a Waterland tub or similar for housing your pet.

If your local climate and housing situation allows, turtles tend to do best when housed in an outdoor pond for at least part of the year. If this is a possibility for you, make sure that the pond is sufficiently large, with an accessible land area. The pond must be enclosed by a secure fence to prevent escape, plus anti-predator measures. The turtle may need to be brought indoors for the winter, depending on your local climate.

Cohabitation (housing multiple turtles in one enclosure) can work with Reeve’s turtles in a large pond. However, they are not social and do fine when kept solo.

Do Reeve’s turtles need UVB?

Yes! Reeve’s turtles require exposure to appropriate amounts of UVB in order to maintain good health and wellbeing. Providing UVB lighting to your turtle offers several benefits, including all of the vitamin D that their body needs, better appetite and activity, and a stronger immune system.

The best UVB bulbs for Reeve’s turtles are:

  • Zoo Med Reptisun T5 HO 5.0
  • Arcadia Forest 6%

The UVB bulb should be half the length of the enclosure and housed in a reflective fixture like the Arcadia ProT5 or Vivarium Electronics. Place the lamp close to the heat lamps, about 8-11” above the basking platform if there is mesh obstruction, and 13-15” away if no mesh. UVB bulbs decay over time, so don’t forget to replace your bulb every 12 months to maintain good performance. 

It’s best practice to provide extra illumination via a strong LED or T5 HO 6500K daylight lamp. This helps better replicate daylight and is also good for any live plants you may be using.

Lights should be on for 13 hours/day during summer and 11 hours/day during winter. However, if you are housing your turtle outdoors in a pond, then supplementary lighting is not required.

Best temperature for Reeve’s turtles

Unlike mammals, which control their own body temperature internally, Reeve’s turtles and other reptiles rely on external sources to regulate their body temperature and metabolism. 

Different reptiles require different temperatures for best health. For Reeve’s turtles, the basking area should have an air temperature of 95°F, and the water should stay between 70-80°F. Measure basking temperature with a digital probe thermometer, and water temperature with a high-quality aquarium thermometer.

Provide basking heat for your turtle with a halogen flood heat lamp on one side of the enclosure, positioned directly over the basking area at the same height as the UVB lamp. Avoid ceramic heat emitters (CHEs), red bulbs, or blue bulbs, as these are not as effective. Use a higher wattage bulb if you need more heat, or use a plug-in lamp dimmer if it’s too warm.

If you need to heat your turtle’s water, use an aquarium heater rated for the amount of water in the enclosure and placed inside a protective plastic tube to prevent your turtle from getting burned by accidental contact.

If you are housing your turtle outdoors in an appropriate climate, heating equipment is not required.

Water maintenance for Reeve’s turtles

Reeve’s turtles are semi-aquatic reptiles. Juveniles spend most of their time in the water, and although adults are more terrestrial, they still need an area of water to swim in. This means that you’ll be essentially maintaining a pond or aquarium with an accessible land area. 

Hatchlings are relatively weak swimmers, so water shouldn’t be deeper than 2” for them as they learn to swim. Once they’re 2.5” long, however, you can switch them to an adult depth. It’s best to provide underwater objects such as branches and terracotta pots that they can rest on as needed, preferably close to the surface so they can breathe easily.

Your turtle’s water must be kept as clean as possible to maintain the turtle’s health. For filtration, you will need a canister-style filter capable of handling at least 2x the amount of water in the enclosure. For example, if you have an aquarium or pond with 60 gallons of water, you will need a filter rated for at least 120 gallons of water. This is one aspect of your setup where it’s very important to invest in excellent equipment!

You will also need to perform routine water changes. Once every 1-2 weeks, remove and replace approximately 30% of the enclosure’s total water volume. As essential as filters are, periodically removing “old” water and replacing it with “new” water helps prevent toxic compounds from building up. To make water changes easier, use a siphon or water pump.

Both indoor and outdoor enclosures require filtration and routine water changes.

Using a water conditioner like Zoo Med Reptisafe is helpful for managing chlorine and chloramines in the water, which can potentially irritate your turtle.

Best substrate for Reeve’s turtles

Older Reeve’s turtles spend a significant amount of time on land, so it’s important to have several inches of sandy soil within easy access at all times, especially for females. Zoo Med Reptisoil works well for this purpose, or you can create your own mix of approximately 80% clean topsoil and 20% play sand (measured by volume).

Substrate is not required in the water portion of the setup, but it does make things more attractive. Well-rinsed sand and crushed coral work best. If you choose to use substrate, make sure to clean it with a siphon during every water change. Avoid pebbles and gravel.

How to decorate a Reeve’s turtle enclosure

The first thing you’ll need to add to your aquarium/pond is NOT optional: because Reeve’s turtles are only semi-aquatic rather than fully-aquatic, you need to provide a “land” area for the turtle to explore as desired. A simple turtle dock/basking platform is not enough for this species! 

Décor should be present on both land and in water. This is about more than just creating an attractive enclosure — it’s also about boosting the setup’s functionality for your pet. Here are some ideas:

  • live/artificial plants (aquatic and terrestrial)
  • driftwood
  • hollow logs
  • terracotta pots

Whatever you choose to add, make sure to create at least a couple places where your turtle can hide from view. This helps them feel more secure!

What to feed to a Reeve’s turtle

Reeve’s turtles are omnivorous, which means that they need both plant- and animal-based foods in their diet to get the nutrition that they need. They tend to be more carnivorous as youngsters than adults, but vegetables should be offered at all stages of life. Here is a general feeding schedule to follow:

Reeve’s turtles younger than 6 months:

  • protein food or pellets daily
  • vegetable food daily

Reeve’s turtles between 6-12 months:

  • protein food or pellets every other day
  • vegetable food daily

Reeve’s turtles older than 1 year:

  • protein food or pellets 2-3x/week
  • vegetable food daily

Animal-based foods for Reeve’s turtles: crickets, earthworms, dubias, freeze-dried shrimp/krill, frozen bloodworms, silkworms, snails, guppies, mollies, platies, mosquito fish, crayfish

Vegetable foods for rReeve’s turtles: collard greens, dandelion greens + flowers, endive, green leaf lettuce, kale, red leaf lettuce, romaine lettuce, raw grated squash, carrots, green beans, raw grated sweet potato, duckweed, water hyacinth, water lettuce, algae wafers

Pellets for Reeve’s turtles: Omega One Juvenile Turtle Pellets, Omega One Adult Turtle Sticks, Tetra ReptoMin, Zoo Med Natural Aquatic Turtle Food, Mazuri Aquatic Turtle Diet

A portion of chopped/shredded vegetables should be roughly the same size as the turtle’s shell. A portion of pellets or protein food should be roughly the same size as the turtle’s head.

For extra calcium, your turtle should have access to a cuttlebone or calcium block at all times.

How to handle your Reeve’s turtle

Unlike some other reptiles, turtles aren’t the kind of pet that you can handle regularly. It’s best to stay hands-off with this pet, and to watch them do their thing instead. If you want to try bonding with your pet, try tong-feeding!

*This care sheet contains only very basic information. Although it’s a good introduction, please further your research with high-quality sources. The more you know, the better you will be able to care for your pet!

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