hatchling juvenile baby, common musk turtle, terrapin, sternotherus odoratus

My juvenile Sternotherus enclosure

This enclosure houses two juvenile Common Musk turtles (Sternotherus odoratus), constructed from a plastic underbed storage box, wooden frame, and an array of live plants and aquatic life.

  • 70 x 50cm footprint
  • Sand substrate
  • Heavily planted
  • Live plants and fish
  • Minimal filtration
  • Common Musk Turtles are a relative shy species of turtle, preferring to stay hidden away on the bottom of the enclosure, or in amongst dense vegetation, in slow moving water sources or ponds. They do however, quickly learn to associate you with feeding time, and grow in confidence.

    I aquired my two youngsters in early April 2011, and originally started them off in a 10 gallon aquarium, with a small internal heater and filter. However, since rearranging my collection of reptiles, and upgrading another turtle species to a plastic tub setup, I also decided to give these two a bigger habitat.

    Sternotherus odoratus hatchling juvenile common musk turtle stinkpot The plastic enclosure is an underbed storage box, which measures 70 x 50 x 20cm. It has been framed with square-edged timber, which supports the structure and prevents it from bowing, and also increases the height of the enclosure walls, to ensure there are no curious escapees. The basking area is made from a spare chunk of corkbard I had handy, and is attached to a pond planting basked using cable ties. I also use a playsand substrate, as musks are a "bottom-walking" species rather than swimmers, and I feel that having a substrate underfoot makes them feel more secure. I never advise the use of gravel due to the risk of impaction, which I have had problems with in other species of turtle. Sand (or any particulate substrate smaller than the turtle's head) can also pose this risk, but finer particle substrates like play sand are more likely to pass through the digestive tract without problem.

    Inside the enclosure are a variety of species of plants which are native to North America, where these turtles originate, including Pontederia, Lemna, Salvinia and Elodea. I did introduce some female Swordtail fish, but they made one of the turtles very youngsters and were subsequently moved to another setup. There are still some Swordtail fry living in the setup amongst the vegetation, but these are too small to scare the turtles, and the little Stinkpots are not quick enough to catch them.

    Equipment for this storage tub setup is minimal; I use a small internal fluval 1 filter, mainly to create a light current, and a household spotlight for heating the basking area. The water temperature stays pretty constant without a heater, at around 25 degrees celcius due to its location in my reptile room. Currently, I do not use an Ultraviolet bulb, and instead supplement the diet with Vitamin D3. Due to the turtles' small size, I have found it easy to clean this enclosure without using heavy filtration. The plants also contribute to clean water.

    I'm really happy with how this setup has evolved. I started out with the aim to create a similar pond-type habitat for these two little musks, and I think it is certainly turning out that way. It has proved to be one of my most successful "native" habitats, and the turtles are constantly active, and basking quite readily, which is a rare sight unless they feel secure enough!

    Sternotherus odoratus hatchling juvenile common musk turtle stinkpot Sternotherus odoratus hatchling juvenile common musk turtle stinkpot basking

    If you have any questions about this enclosure, dont hesitate to email me,
    Paul Edmondson

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