How to set up for a Mississippi Map Turtle

The Mississippi Map Turtle can be found along the length of the Mississippi River as well as streams and lakes in North America. They are both aquatic and terrestrial in their habits being strong swimmers but venturing to the surface for basking opportunity. They have a green-brown shell colour with dark skin that is lined with yellow markings. They are a relatively small species although there is a significant size difference between males and females. Turtles aren’t the best pets for handling and can be intolerant. Apart from this, don’t keep them away from the water too long as this is where they are able to move best and feel safe. They are characterful and fun to watch.

Housing

The Mississippi Map Turtle is a smaller species of turtle measuring around 5 inches for males and up to 10 inches for females. Tank size should be judged therefore off the gender and size of your turtle, with smaller males being ok to be housed in a 3ft tank, and larger females needing a 4ft tank. Fish tanks would be best to provide the depth of water but ensure the correct lighting can be included, and for this, a tank without a hood may be better. This species is terrestrial as well as aquatic, so a land area will be necessary, incorporating a basking area which can be done with rockwork or platforms such as Zoo Med’s Turtle dock. This needs to be large enough so that the basking bulb is only over land and not water (as this can cause them to blow). 

You can use a variety of rocks, wood pieces and foliage to provide good leverage for movement as well as creating a more natural setting and an enriching environment. It is also essential that enough hiding opportunity is created with decor so that your turtles feel secure.

Water temperature

The temperature of the water in your tank should remain between 22 – 25C for adult turtles, though it is recommended to keep youngsters slightly warmer, which can be achieved with the relevant sized aquatic heater. For monitoring purposes and to ensure the heater is working effectively, you will also need an accurate aquatic thermometer. 

Filtration

Water conditions for the Mississippi Map Turtle should be kept clean with no ammonia, nitrite and very little nitrates – similar to that of a fish tank which is achieved through good quality filtration systems. Turtles in general can be mucky pets and will require regular water changes as well as a good filter, but you will find the better the filter the less work for you. To take up less space inside the tank and because they tend to be more effective, an external filter may be best. Like with a fish tank you will need to clean the gravel of any waste and debris and ensure filter sponges are kept clean.

Heating and lighting

The basking temperature for this species should remain at 30-32C in the land area of the tank. They also require UV which can be achieved with a mercury vapour bulb (heat and UV in one bulb) – though it is important that this is attached to a movable bracket as they cannot be attached to a thermostat, so movement will be the only way of proper regulation. Alternatively, you could have the heat and UV separate although this would require the construction of brackets for the strip UV over the top of the tank. 

The UV should be a high output such as Arcadia’s mercury vapour or 12% T5 bulbs – this being dependent on the height of the enclosure. UVB will create a more natural environment and ensure the proper health and well being of your turtle so is a necessity, and without which illness will occur. UV should be used in a 12-hour cycle, going off at night to promote good day and night periods. It is also important to remember that any UV will have a lifespan between 6 – 12 months – this again depending on the bulb and brand. After this, the UV will no longer be effective, even if the bulb is glowing.

Diet

Your Mississippi Map Turtle is an omnivorous species and should be fed on a variety of fish, worms, mussel, commercial pellet feed and insects as well as vegetation, which will become a more prominent part of the diet into adulthood. Health issues have been noted with this species when given a diet too high in protein, so ensure they eat their greens. Fish in the diet will provide a good calcium source as bones are ingested, and the veg will provide good vitamins, however, it is still essential to supplement the diet. 

Being aquatic this can be a little tricky as many supplements come in the form of dust, but there are alternatives such as Beaphar Turtle Vit or Zoo Med’s Dr Turtle Slow Release Calcium Block, ensuring your turtle has all the required nutrition for health and development.

Swell SuperStore Mississippi Map Turtle Species Profile:

  • Scientific name – Graptemys pseudogeographica kohni
  • Adult Expected Size – Male: 5 inches / Female: up to 10 inches
  • Habitat – rivers and streams in North America. Semi-aquatic.
  • Required Enclosure Size – 3ft fish tank for males / 4ft minimum for females
  • UV Lighting – 3 – 4 UVI (12% T5 – depending on the height from basking)
  • Expected Lifespan – 20 – 30 Years
  • Temperature Gradient – Water temp: 22 – 25C / Basking temp: 30 – 32C
  • Humidity Levels – Aquatic
  • Feeding – Omnivores – a variety of fish, worms, muscle, commercial pellet feed and insects as well as vegetation
  • Handling – Turtles aren’t the best pets for handling and tend to be intolerant, feeling safer in water.


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