All the information listed here is based on my own experience, please carry out your own research before attempting to replicate anything on this site.
There's something about Softshell turtles which is absolutely fascinating. Everything we instantly recognise as a turtle is wrong; the domed, plated shell is instead replaced by a flat, smooth layer of skin. The webbed, clawed feet associated with freshwater turtles are drawn to extremes in softshells, resembling flippers with huge spiked claws, and the head shape is tapered into a long pointy snorkel.
They are the pro-swimmers of the turtle world, streamlined and powerful, and capable of rapid speeds underwater. Even the behaviour is flipped; whilst most turtles retreat into the safety of their shell when threatened, softshells lack this protection and resort to a barrage of biting and clawing when handled - after all 'offense is the best defence'.
I first started keeping Softshelled turtles around 11 years ago, with a baby Chinese Softshell (Pelodiscus sinensis). As a little comparison, here's a throwback to the earliest video I have of him, when he was an adorable 2p sized hatchling, and an update video showing his size and temperament...
Back in November, I had the chance to take on the titan of Softshells; Trionyx triuguis at the IHS Breeders meeting in Doncaster. This impressive species, known as the Nile Softshell or African Softshell hails from most of the African continent including the Nile and Congo drainages, and regions of the mediterranean. Although predominantly freshwater, it can also enter brackish and marine waters in search of food.
Unfortunately this species is considered Critically Endangered, and has now become extinct in parts of its natural range due to pollution, being caught as by-catch from shrimp trawling operations, and predation of eggs by stray dogs. Listed as CITES II as of January 2017, captive specimens are few and far between, and captive breeding is essential for this species survival. My new addition looks to be a male although at 5" carapace length, it is still a long way from the 40" (1 meter!) adult size.
The growth on this turtle is phenomenal, putting on 25% of its body weight every month, feeding on a variety of protein-based pellets and wholefoods. Only time will tell how quickly he reaches the species titanic proportions!
If you have any questions about them feel free to send me a email using the address below,