Q&A - Reptile Questions and Answers

Got Questions?  We have answers.

Want help from the experts? Just “Ask Tetrafauna!” Here you can browse through questions that other reptile and amphibian enthusiasts have asked, or ask your own questions about products or problems you may be experiencing.

If you don’t find the answer to your question here, you can e-mail us at TetraCare or call 1-800-423-6458.

Here are the most frequently asked questions we receive about reptiles and amphibians. If you don’t find what you’re looking for here, please send us an email or call TetraCare at 1-800-423-6458.

Q. My turtle has shell rot. How can I prevent this? 

Shell rot is usually caused by poor living conditions. It is more common in aquatic or semi-aquatic turtles. The key to preventing shell rot is keeping the terrarium clean. That means changing the water at least once a week and removing uneaten food. It is also very important to provide a basking area for the turtle. The area should be large enough for the turtle to get completely out of the water. If the turtle cannot dry out, the shell will weaken. The basking spot should be about 84-86°F. If your turtle does get shell rot, seek a veterinarian for help. The vet will use povidone iodine or potassium permanganate solutions to help cure him.

Q. What should I feed my pet aquatic frog and tree frog? 
The first thing to do is find out what type of frog you have. Most pet stores will sell the Aquatic African Clawed Frog or a type of tree frog. The African Clawed Frog will eat Tetrafauna® ReptoMin®, Tetrafauna Baby ReptoMin®, Tetrafauna Bloodworms Freeze Dried Treat, earthworms, mealworms or crickets. Be careful using live foods—it will foul up the tank quickly if left uneaten. Your smaller tree frogs will eat wingless fruit flies or pinhead crickets. The size of the frog will determine what type of food you feed it. It is best to dust the food with a calcium buffer. Tetrafauna ReptoCal® is one example of a calcium buffer.

Q. How do I care for my tadpoles?
Tadpoles are fairly easy to care for. When they are free from the jelly and swimming, put each individual in its own small container. It is important to use de-chlorinated water. It is equally important to change that water every day. The main reasons tadpoles die is poor water conditions. You should feed them once a day. You can use ground up fish flakes as a food source. TetraMin® Tropical Flake Food will do nicely. Once you sprinkle the water with the crushed up food, take a clean squirt bottle and spray the surface of the water. This will cause the flakes to sink to the bottom of the container. Avoid feeding them bloodworms, water fleas, etc. ,since they can carry parasites. It takes about eight to twelve weeks for the tadpoles to fully develop. When all four limbs are visible and half of the tail has been re-absorbed, move the froglets to a small aquarium. Make 3/4 of the aquarium land and 1/4 water. Make the transition from land to water a gentle slope. When the froglets are ready, they will climb out of the water and onto the land. They normally climb out when the tail has been completely absorbed.

Q. My Viquarium pump has stopped pumping water. How do I get it fixed? 
It will be necessary to open the pump and clean the impeller to prevent it from stopping over time. To do this, open the housing by twisting the impeller cover. Remove the housing lid and take out the magnetic impeller assembly. Now soak the black magnet and the white spinning blades in vinegar for two hours. Take a Q-tip and go around the inside of the pump. When the parts have soaked for two hours, rinse the parts with warm water and put the pump back together. This will keep your Viquarium pump running smoothly again.

Q. Is the Tetrafauna In-Tank Filter submersible?
The Tetrafauna In-Tank Filter is completely submersible. The pump is a modified pond pump that has been in production for more than seven years. It is perfectly safe.

Q. What is wrong with my turtle if he will not eat?
The best way to find out what is wrong is to take the turtle to a veterinarian. 
The age of the baby turtles may determine why they won’t eat. Very young turtles will live off their yolk sacs for weeks after it is absorbed. If so, you won’t need to feed it until the sac is gone. It should eat the Tetrafauna ReptoMin® Floating Sticks, the Tetrafauna ReptoMin® Baby Floating Sticks, Tetrafauna JumboMin Krill, shad (fish), etc.
The turtle may be adjusting to its new surroundings. Keep offering food, but remove any uneaten food. If this is the problem, the turtle should eat in a few days.
The turtle may not be healthy or feeling well. Make sure the water is clean. That is the number one reason turtles get sick. You should do a water change at least once a week. Also make sure you have a basking spot for the turtles to climb out of the water and dry out. If the turtle is wild caught, it may have parasites or disease. Only a veterinarian can tell you for sure.
If you got the turtle from a retailer, ask what they feed the turtle. You may not be offering it a food source it recognizes.

Q. Do I need a heater for my aquatic turtle?
Yes, most aquatic turtles will need a heater for their environment. The water temperature should be around 72 – 78°F. It depends on the species of turtle that you have. Do some research on your turtle to know what temperature it prefers.

Q. Should I be afraid of getting salmonella from my reptile/amphibian?
Almost all animals, reptiles and mammals, can carry salmonella bacteria. Even crickets are carriers of it. It is something that all pet owners should be aware of, not just reptile keepers. If you take proper precautions with reptiles, the chances of a healthy adult becoming ill with salmonella will be very low. All you have to do is wash your hands after handling your pet or your pet’s accessories. By doing this, you would be more likely to get a salmonella infection from poorly prepared eggs or chicken than your reptile. 
If you do become infected as a healthy adult, you will experience flu-like symptoms. That last flu bug you had may have been from poorly prepared food instead of the flu bug.
While salmonella can be a serious threat, proper handling and cleaning will prevent infection. Keep your pet reptile’s cage clean and wash your hands with anti-bacterial soap after contact. Take extra precaution with infants and children under five years old, the elderly, those with immune deficiency disorders, transplant patients, pregnant women and radiation treatment patients.

Q. Should I use Tetrafauna AquaSafe® in my turtle tank?
Yes, the chlorine in tap water can harm turtles. Tetrafauna AquaSafe® is perfectly safe for turtles. 

Q. Do I need a full spectrum UV light on my reptile/amphibian?
Your reptile will need the UV light to synthesize Vitamin D3. Vitamin D3 is important because it helps in the metabolism of calcium. Make sure your light has a wavelength of 260-315nm in the UVB range. Turtles may or may not need UV light. It is recommended for juveniles, but may not be necessary for adults. It won’t hurt to provide them with a UV light, though. 
Don’t confuse heat with light. Heat will warm the animal and aid digestion.

Q. Does my reptile need a form of heat?
Yes, your pet will need a form of heat based on what type of pet you have. Contact Tetrafauna by email or by calling 1-800-526-0650 if you need help finding the proper heat source. There are several products on the market that can be used. Just make sure you have a thermometer to ensure you are not overdoing it. Heat bulbs or ceramic bulbs are very good for basking reptiles. If you are keeping amphibians, make sure you don’t dry them out. 

Q. Can frozen food be thawed in a microwave?
No. You should thaw out frozen foods naturally or in warm water. The microwave will destroy some nutrients and can make the food hot enough to harm the reptile. Make sure the food is completely thawed; feeding frozen food can damage the insides of your pet.

Q. What are vitamin and calcium supplements, and should I be using them?
Vitamin and calcium supplements are necessary to keep your pets healthy. In captivity, they will not get all the nutrients they need. Follow the instructions on the package to know how much of each supplement to give your pet. 
Most vitamin and calcium supplements can be sprinkled on the food or dusted. Crickets can be placed in a bag with the supplement and then gently shaken. Not properly supplementing the food can cause harmful and fatal diseases.

Q. What are signs that my reptile is sick?
The most obvious signs are lethargy and not eating. You may see the eyes closed, as well. To make sure the animal is sick, check the following: temperature range, bullying from tank mates, unfamiliar food, new surroundings, food is too large, dehydration, pregnancy, breeding season, or offering the food at the wrong time of day. Only an exotic veterinarian can give an accurate diagnosis. Seek their help to be sure your pet is okay.

Q. How often should I clean my aquatic turtle’s aquarium?
If you don’t have filtration, you will definitely have to change 100% of the water every week. Even with filtration, you will have to change about 50% of the water each week. Turtles give off a lot of waste. A trick to lessen the waste in the tank is to feed the turtle in a separate container. This will keep scraps of food from fouling up the water.

Q. My turtle keeps his eyes closed and won’t wake up. What’s wrong?
This can occur if the turtle is placed in water with chlorine. More often, it is a vitamin A deficiency. You may also see a clear discharge from the nose, peeling or thickening of the skin, and lethargy. An infection may also be involved. Seek an exotic veterinarian for help.

Q. Is algae on my turtle’s shell a concern?
Yes, algae growth is natural, but it can cause an infection. Brushing the shell with a toothbrush will remove the algae safely.