The Common Snapping Turtle
Schnappschildkröte, Amerikanische Schnappschildkröte (German)
Species: Chelydra serpentina.
The common snapping turtle is native to North America: the south-east states of the US and Canada.
It can be found in rivers, ponds and lakes, but it prefers the water basins with oozy bottom where the turtle can bury itself. The common snapping turtle likes water basins with slow flow and thick coastal vegetation.
The common snapping turtle can reach 45 cm in length, though some specimens twice the size have been reported too. It weighs about 15 kg.
It is a large species with powerful jaws and rough and ridged black or brown carapace. It has three rows of carapace keels. Often the carapace is covered by algae or moss because of the turtle’s sedentary lifestyle. The back edge of the carapace looks like saw. The plastron is lighter, normally dark yellow, though in some cases it can be black. This turtle has a long tail, it is as long as the carapace. They have dark webbed feet and dark fingers with strong claws. The head of the turtle is big, with a beak and powerful jaws.
Males are larger than females and their plastron is smaller. Their cloaca is located more backwards, behind the edge of carapace. It has got a small moustache on the chin.
The common snapping turtle is very aggressive (hence is the name) and often bites. You have to be careful with them and follow safety rules.
They should be kept alone.
This species is cold resistant, it can even move under the ice.
In the wild they have brumation period which they spent buried in the ooze.
The common snapping turtle requires a very large tank, starting from 500 litres. You will have to get a powerful external filter since these turtles eat a lot and soil a lot. The filter has to be cleaned once a month. For summer you can put the turtle in a pond, but it cannot stay there in autumn, since it will be too cold for it. The turtle cannot be put with any other reptiles or fish, it will simply eat them all.
You will have to change the water in the tank every week, up to half of the total volume. The turtle will need some substrate where it can climb and warm itself.
The ambient temperature should be about 24°C at night and up to 30°C at daytime. The turtle will need a basking spot: you can use a heating lamp or a reflector.
The ideal water temperature is 24 degrees, so you will need a reliable heater.
The air humidity should be about 60%.
Your tortoise will need 12 hours of light per day. A UV lamp and a reflector are a must.
In the wild the common snapping turtle eats everything that moves. In captivity it should be fed every second day in order to avoid overeating. You can feed the turtle with mice, shrimps, fish (guppies, goldfish). Wild-caught fish can cause tapeworms so it’s best not to use it. You will have to add to the food vitamins and mineral supplements.
This species also likes commercial food for turtles. Its advantage is that it contains all the necessary vitamins and minerals so you won’t have to add anything to it.
It is a large species which is interesting to observe.
These turtles are easy to keep.
They are very aggressive, even towards their owners.
The common snapping turtle is very large and requires a big tank.
It can attack and bite people.
This turtle is not recommended for keeping at home.
Generally it is a very healthy species, they rarely get ill.
Wild-caught turtles can have tapeworms. In order to confirm this you have to make a test of their feces and if this is the case, a vet will recommend a suitable antihelmintic.
Young turtles can get rachitis due to the lack of calcium. Its symptoms include soft shell and distorted limbs. It can be treated with proper food and mineral supplements.
Breeding in the wild is quite simple, since these turtles mate at the first opportunity. Females that are ready to lay eggs are ready to destroy everything around them in order to find a suitable place. Males and females should be kept separately and put together only for breeding. After mating the female lays 10-15 eggs, and after 80-85 days hatchlings come out. Like adult turtles, they are active and eat everything, so it is not difficult to bring them up.
This species does not breed in captivity.
Average life span is up to 30 years.