Taiwan Turtle ID
February 3, 2014 3:33 AM   Subscribe

I inherited three turtles (1 min 34 sec YouTube video) from the previous tenant in my house in Taipei, Taiwan. I believe the one resting on a rock is a Brazilian turtle, but I have had no success trying to identify the other two, which are very shy. I have checked Discover Life and scanned through Google Images (keywords: Taiwan turtles, China turtles), but that didn't help. Have I overlooked an obvious reference? The two big ones eat standard turtle food; I have never seen the smallest one eat anything. Their pond breeds mosquitoes, but I don't know if it is safe to raise carp or fish in this pond to gobble up larvae. Can anybody help out? Maybe I could find some other way to handle the mosquito problem?
posted by juifenasie to Pets & Animals (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The smallest one looks like a soft-shelled turtle because it doesn't have the scutes on its shell. Here's the wikipedia page for the Chinese Soft-shelled turtle. It might be eating the insect larvae in the water and would probably eat small fish if you introduced any.

The turtle trade is pretty international so I wouldn't assume that you have local turtle species, especially if you already think you have a Brazilian species. This site is from the US but has a whole section on 'water turtles' - maybe look around on there for similar looking species.

I'll poke around a bit more online to see if there are any good references but if you could get better (still) pictures of the sides of their heads and the patterns on their shells, that would be really helpful.
posted by hydrobatidae at 8:10 AM on February 3, 2014

You could try asking hobbyist forums - Austin's Turtle Page has an identification forum which seems fairly active, and there's a stickied thread with identification tips.

Once they're identified, you could ask for care tips in the relevant subforums too.
posted by 35minutes at 8:22 AM on February 3, 2014

Okay, this is an amazing document (pdf) for Canadian border guards to figure out if a species falls under CITES or not. It looks like it's broken down by 'rarity' and then further into general categories of turtles. There's also really good diagrams of exactly how species differ. Unfortunately from your video I can't do the identifying but you may be able to manage in person.

Here's some information (pdf) about threatened and endangered Asian turtle species. Hopefully you don't have any of those species.

It's not online but there's a book called "An Identification Guide to the Tortoises and Freshwater Turtles of Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Singapore and Timor Leste." which gives general turtle identification and might point you in the right direction for a correct identification.

Once you get a better idea of the species, this pages seems to have some suggestions for care. For example, here's information on soft-shelled turtles.
posted by hydrobatidae at 8:39 AM on February 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Turtles eat fish. They eat a lot and will grow to however big their food source is. Yours are already big for their pond so for their future happiness, feed them the minimum.

You really want to fix the mosquito larvae problem for you and your neighbors safety, although that suggests your pond is stagnant. Is this an artificial pond or natural? Have you checked the filters and pumps if they are installed?

You can go to a fish shop and explain you have a pond with three turtles of this size and ask them what to stock the pond with. Take photos to show them. I've seen turtles coexisting with fish although maybe the owners just restocked regularly. The really big turtle ponds I know have only big fish visible.

They are handsome little guys!
posted by viggorlijah at 4:08 PM on February 3, 2014

Thank you, Hydrobatidae, for all the useful weblinks you supplied. Thanks also to 35minutes and viggorlijah for your valuable input. My significant other, who was eager to tackle the mosquito problem, went ahead and bought five gouramis, only two or three of which are still visible. When first introduced, two of them spent a few minutes hovering directly in front of the Brazilian turtle's mouth, prime candidates for Darwin Awards. Perhaps the survivors were slightly more paranoid?
posted by juifenasie at 1:14 AM on February 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

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