Sunday, November 7, 2010

The $300.00 Free 3 Legged Turtle?

How can something free cost $300.00? Isn't that rather an oxymoron? No, I am the moron in this story.

Once upon a time, I was all alone for the weekend and went to buy dog food. A noble activity. While perusing the aisles and my local PetStore I saw a little sign. Free Turtle it said! Red Eared Slider who had been returned due to missing a leg. In other words, free 3 legged turtle. As luck would have it, at this very exact moment, a PetStore worker ambled past, and asked me if I needed help. I said no, but, what was up with the poor little 3 legged turtle? Oh, he was very sad indeed she said. Here! I'll show him to you.

Now right then and there, I should have said no, that's ok hustled off to the dog food aisle and been on my way. But I was curious. She brought out a teeny tiny 5 gallon tank with 2 inches of water in it. Inside was the saddest tiny Red Eared Slider I'd ever seen.

His shell was covered with a white calcium growth, and his eyes were cloudy. He had shell rot, literal pits where the shell had been eaten away. I asked if they'd had a light on him in the back and they said no. He had a tiny log to sit on, and 3 fish in there for him to eat. When he saw me he frantically jumped into the couple inches of water and crashed into the bottom with his shell. It was inevitable, I signed the paperwork and took the poor little tripod turtle home.

Of course, halfway home it occurred to me what I had done. Red Eared sliders are a turtle native to the US. They grow to be 12 inches in shell diameter, approximately the size of a dinner plate. While a lot of people keep RES as pets, they really are an exotic species and deserve to be treated as such. They need much, much, more room than most people realize, a minimum 75 gallon tank for one turtle, ideally a 120 gallon tank. In a perfect world, a pond. They can be picky to feed, those little feeder fish aren't a complete or healthy diet for them. And they need a heat light and a UVB bulb, the UVB bulb allows them to correctly break down their food and absorb nutrients. The prior year I had done quite a large amount of research on aquatic turtles as one of my nephews had wanted one. While I had aquariums, and considerable experience with fish and maintaining the environment, it seemed too big of a responsibility for me. We instead had gotten a Russian Tortoise for a pet. Sara was wonderful and practically no work.

But this poor little turtle needed me, So I went home to do some major research on turtles and rehabbing a sick one.

Once I got home, I set up an empty 15 gallon aquarium and placed the small platform and lights I'd bought in there. Along with the 3 feeder fish the PetStore had included in my 'purchase'. I hooked up a small filter that I'd had laying around and seeded it with media from another tank. Then I hit the web and looked up cures for shell rot, and proper diet. Once I examined Slider I realized his leg 'injury' was old, it had been bitten off completely and was healed. He didn't appear to have any discharge so probably no upper respiratory infection. There were a ton of treatments for shell rot, but I chose the less aggressive plan of super clean water, Stress Coat and nutrition. He was still a very sick little guy but if he'd eat, I was thinking he'd recover.

So every day I'd change Slider's water, and put in new conditioned water. At the same time I'd dry him off and check his shell. He handled all this remarkably well. I was really concerned though that he wasn't eating, and frankly wasn't moving from the lights. I had them on a timer, and he would stay there for hours and hours. But on the 4th day, he started eating, and a week later, he tried to bite me when I checked his shell and then hissed. I knew he was starting to feel better. I kept up the water changes, and then bought a bigger filter to keep the water even cleaner.

Slider began to thrive. I stopped the feeder fish and found a pelleted food he liked along with the knowledge he ate at night. I also added veggies into his diet occasionally. His shell was healing though still not healthy, and he was active. I knew he needed a bigger tank, and started looking for one. About a month later I totally lucked out on a 50 gallon tank at a petstore on clearance. Total score! Took that puppy home immediately!

Hanging out on his basking area
Slider loved his new tank and I decorated it with some driftwood, rocks, and a cave. I added artificial plants and then some platies and guppies. He was too slow what with his 3 legs to really catch them but loved chasing them. They weren't scared of him either, and had tons of hiding places. I ended up with lots of babies in the tank but I felt they were better for his mental health. Yes, I worry about the mental health of my turtle.
But all this brings us up to today. Slider is a happy somewhat spoiled turtle. He is the highest maintenance of the tanks, I have to change it every 7-10 days almost completely, basically down to a couple inches of water. I clean the filter every other week, and it never looks great. Frankly, it looks sucky. The fish are healthy, the water parameters are for them, as long as I change the water religiously. So I started researching filters. I narrowed it down to a Rena XP4, or else a Fluval 405. Both heavy duty solid canister filters that should be able to keep up with a turtle. I had really decided on the Rena, but today at a PetStore the Fluval 405 was at an incredibly low price. It was payday. It was fate. I grabbed the filter and checked out.

Now I was all cocky about being able to put it together. Evidently suffering from temporary insanity about how difficult it is for me to assemble anything or follow directions. This was probably due to the fact that frankly I've put together plenty of filters. In a rapid flow I cleaned the media, filled the baskets, slipped on the tubes and cut them to size. I put the impeller cap on, and slipped on the gasket. Popped the top on, closed the clippy things and primed. Pump pump pump pump.. WHOOSH! Water flowing everywhere. I flipped the lever to stop the flow and reexamined everything. I came to the conclusion I had over primed it. Now I know this makes no sense, really, you don't need to point this out to me. And really, this is where it gets fuzzy. I know I dumped the filter, grabbed towels and reprimed with the same result. Yes, I know that is the definition of insanity. It was that kinda thing. So I decided the hose was too long leading to the outtake tube. I took that off. Oops, filter still primed. You know what that does? It creates a cool little bubbling fountain. All over the floor. Very cool effect, especially when splashing onto the already soaked carpeting and towels.

Looking a little smug
Filter turned off I sat damply surveying the mess, and wondering how this dumb thing was supposed to work. Google here we come! Of course,  I could find no picture tutorials, and just a bunch of sites saying that if the vacuum seal wasn't right the filter would leak. Thank you Captain Obvious. Ok. I took the filter apart and removed the gasket thingie. I then spent considerable time pressing the gasket where I assumed the filter fit together. Placed it back on, snapped it closed, primed, WHOOSH. Damn. Got clean towels out of the dryer, threw wet ones in the washer and cleaned up again. I took the filter apart again, and took the gasket out staring at it in disbelief. Where did this thing go?! Either my filter was totally faulty, or I was an idiot and couldn't put it together correctly. I was betting on the latter. So, I flipped the top over again and the gasket magically settled around a totally different area than I'd placed it. You know, like it was meant to be there. You could almost hear it sigh in happiness. Or maybe that was me. Whatever. I popped the top on, placing equal pressure to secure it just like they said to do online for the vacuum. Pump pump pump WHOOSH! Water OUT THE OUTTAKE!!! By jove, I had it! It was working! I plugged it in, and watched in awe and disbelief as the debris started to be sucked into the intake and the outtake spewed clean water out. Well, actually out and up, the level in the tank was pretty low and it was splashing on top and all over the walls. Out came the python filling system and we fixed that. I won't mention the part when I accidentally sprayed myself in the face, it really doesn't matter.
The Reptile Lair, Slider lives above, Sara below.
So here Slider sits, a now 6 inch big turtle, in his big tank, with a huge filter, pet fish, and free food. His shell is healed, but it will never be a healthy, beautiful smooth shell, you can still see the scarring from his lack of care early on. His leg just makes him a slow swimmer, but doesn't affect his health long term.
Total cost?
Turtle: Free
Tank: 45.00!!
Decorations: 75.00
Basking platforms: 40.00
Lights: 50.00
Filter: 60.00
Filter: 150.00
OK, make that a 420.00 Free 3 legged turtle. And next on the list? A bigger tank, cause he'll outgrow this one soon.. And of course that means he'll need a 2nd filter, more water to push around. Then when I move to a warm climate soon, he's going to have his very own pond. Then I guess I'll call him my 3000.00 free 3 legged turtle...

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