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.
This week I was reminded that understanding an animals native environment is never as straightforward as it seems, with some unusual insight into the habitats of Asiatic Softshell turtles.
My inspiration came from a blog of someone exploring Asia. In particular, there was a photo of asian Softshell turtles in an irrigation system. Whilst the habitat was man-made, the turtles had moved in of their own accord, and were filling an environmental niché normally predominated by amphibians. The water level in the irrigation system fluctuated with rainfall, but a lot of the time these turtles were happy living in only a few centimetres of water, and a large amount of soggy leaf litter; a huge contrast to the open rivers and lakes they are associated with.
This works with an idea I had some time ago about simulating river flooding as a method of enrichment. Rivers and ponds naturally flood during high rainfall, which colours the water, reduces visability and drags a large amount of organic debris such as leaves and branches into the water. Some turtles, such as Musk Turtles (Sternotherus odoratus) are adapted for continous life in murky, debris-filled water, however I thought for my Chinese Softshell Turtle (Pelodiscus sinensis), this kind of enrichment for short periods would also give it a chance to forage and hide in a slightly different environment.
Since Autumn is already here, there isn't really a better time for collecting leaves to try this out! Hopefully you can see from the photos that Pancake, my Chinese Softshell, seems to be enjoying some added oak leaves. I boiled the leaves beforehand to wash them, and also to help them absorb water and sink. I don't plan on removing them, but will just let them break down in the water over time.
I purchased quite a lot of supplies this week, including some large corkbark sections, mainly for turtle basking areas, but I should also have some left over for other projects. Several people have asked me about turtle basking areas this week, and I've always found corkbark to be great, as it floats, has a rough textured surface which the animals find easy to climb onto, and doesn't seem to go moldy like some driftwood does. It's also fantastic for aboreal gecko hiding places, such as my Vietnamese Golden Geckos (Gekko ulikovskii).
I also invested in some compact fluorescent bulbs for growing the various vivarium plants I have for sale in the online shop. These should definitely come in handy over winter, with the days getting shorter, but I'll also be adding reviews of these bulbs to the review section in the near future for anyone with a planted vivarium or aquarium.
Lastly, I've continued working on my Honduran Wood Turtle (Rhinoclemmys pulcherrima incisa) enclosure, with the addition of a Dieffenbachia plant, and more compost for all the plants. The swimming area seems to be in need of some TLC however, as the pond liner is beginning to wear through.
As always, if you have any questions feel free to email me!
At last, I've managed to put together a working filter for my Honduran Wood Turtle (Rhinoclemmys pulcherrima incisa) enclosure!
I've been struggling for the past few weeks to keep the filter's powerhead running for longer than a few days before the huge volume of soil, leaves and bark causes it to clog up (including the use of a sieve if you missed my last update!), but I seem to have it solved for now! I will be putting the full details online shortly, including a step-by-step guide, essentially it uses a plastic storage box to hold lots of chopped up sponges, which the water is drawn through. The constant flow of water seems to be triggering a lot of breeding behaviour in my two turtles, it's a shame they're both male!
In my last update I wrote about 3 species of plants native to China, which I had planted in my Chinese Softshell turtle (Pelodiscus sinensis) habitat. Hopefully you can see from the pictures that the plants are continuing to grow, especially Lizard's Tail (Houttuynia cordata), which seems to be thriving, and has doubled in size. The only lighting on this setup is a spotlight for basking heat, which seems to be suiting both the plants and the turtle. The tray of plants also has the added benefits of providing a dark hiding spot for the turtle in the back corner, and chewing up excess nitrates to reduce algae growth!
The basking area I constructed for my adult Common Musk Turtles (Sternotherus odoratus) seems to have grown something similar to leaf-mold - the constant contact with the water has clearly taken its toll on the driftwood. I prefer to take a natural route with my enclosures, and rather than trying to make it waterproof, I've added some Panamanian Woodlice (Trichorhina tomentosa) to colonise the wood and feed on the mold, which should make it look a lot nicer!
I've also added another new plant, (Variegated Creeping Fig - Ficus pumila) to the shop, which is available for puchase an delivery anywhere in the UK. This is a fantastic looking climbing vine native to East Asia, and looks spectacular in any tropical vivarium!