Most people care enough about the sophistication of their homes not to install a turtle habitat in the foyer. We are not those people.
Right now, the decor in our house revolves around figuring out where my house plants will thrive and the best setup for our two aquatic turtles, one of which has suddenly developed the taste for turtle shell. Mochi’s unprecedented cannibalistic turn has caused me many lost hours of productivity, and the white strands of my hair have become ever more noticeable with worry. (Mom has noticed too – she recommends a spoonful of honey before bed every night.) I take this turtle fostering business very seriously; I have become responsible for the lives of two sentient beings, and I worry about: proper nutrition, adequate lighting, sufficient swimming space, how to prevent Mochi from eating Peanut, keeping their habitats clean despite hundreds of other things I must accomplish as a functioning adult…all within a reasonable budget. Logically, I know they are reptiles and have been here since prehistoric times. They do not need people to survive. But in my house, they depend on me.
As previously described, I kept the two in separate aquariums. There was only one source of lighting, and since Peanut needed to catch up in the growth department, he received most of it. Poor Mochi was getting the shaft and, on top of that, he was already too big for his most recent tank upgrade. Anyone who has ever owned an aquarium knows that the cost rises astronomically with size. Originally, we thought to build a barricade between the two turtles, so at least they could share one tank and a single lighting system. But a tank large enough to allow that setup runs in the $300-$400 range. I also hate the way the glass is prone to watermarks that can’t be removed without chemical cleaners, and if I can’t change the water as often as I should, the filth is very noticeable.
Then DP had this idea for an indoor pond. After much consideration and multiple trips to Home Depot, we gathered up the cheapest possible components. Although I am keen on a surface pond, I ruled it out on account of cost and the uncertainty that the turtles would have enough space even then to avoid one another. In the meantime, we have yet another temporary setup, although this one should last us at least another year. Theoretically, Mochi should not have another huge growth spurt. Theoretically.
I gave in and bought another set of lights because I just couldn’t figure out how else to do it if they have to be separated. (For the non-turtle enthusiasts, they require both UVB and UVA light to stimulate normal behavior and shell growth.) DP easily built these light mounts with PVC pipes and joints, which were much cheaper than buying a metal stand made for the same purpose. Hopefully, with the automatic timer and energy-saving bulbs, the extra lighting will not bankrupt us. It is another source of fretting, as I am that person who follows you around the house, switching off the lights as soon as you leave each room.
When I transferred Mochi to the new habitat, he let out a startled turtle scream – yes, a scream. I have never seen him do that before; his mouth opened in terror, and a giant scream bubble escaped his little turtle lips, rising to the surface of the water with an unhappy blurrp. I felt bad but, judging from his demeanor now, he enjoys the new accommodations much more. Peanut, on the other hand, is still very skittish and difficult to photograph. He usually sticks to the artificial floating plant raft and thinks I’m fooled into believing the piece of plastic is self-propelled.
It’s not the most aesthetically pleasing habitat, but for now it’s working, and I hope to get some aquatic plants when they are seasonable again. I decided not to get a second filter system because they’re not exactly cheap, plus the cartridges are another regular expense. At least the gravel and black color of the tubs make it more difficult to see filth, and there are few things I love more than prolonging cleanliness with an illusion.
Mochi and Peanut survived being alone for four days during our recent Thanksgiving travels, so our task here is done. For now.