The Real World: Aquatic Turtle Edition

This is the true story of what happens when two turtles stop being polite…and start getting real.

If you’re not familiar with my turtle drama, I have this one beast of a yellow bellied slider who tries to eat everything in his tank, including our baby river cooter.  Since last fall, I have kept them in separate tanks to avoid first degree murder on a half shell.  As you can imagine, I grew weary of cleaning two turtle habitats, and frankly the front entryway looked like wild animals were squatting in it.  I won’t even pretend it was cute, despite the strategically placed plants. 

Some time during my spring cleaning marathon, I was ticking items off this gargantuan list of “to-do’s” and started feeling pretty confident that the time had come to re-introduce the turtles.  I put Peanut in the pond with Mochi, just as I had twice before, only this time there were plenty of aquatic plants to act as sight blockers and hiding places.  I waited with frayed nerves, fish net in hand, ready to scoop up the little one at the first sign of attack.

It took a while for Mochi to notice Peanut.  When he finally did, there was a tense moment in which he extended his neck towards her and opened his mouth…

Just as I was going to intervene, he did the most bizarre thing. Instead of snapping, he extended both front legs towards her and waved his flippers frantically in some indigenous aquatic dance.  I was half-curious, half-mortified.  I watched for a long time, waiting to see if this was a new cannibalistic, pre-meal ritual.

But no, you guessed it.  Peanut must be a female.  It is difficult to tell with aquatic turtles when they are not fully mature, but it seems Mochi knows.  Since that introduction, he has harassed her incessantly.  Sometimes he does the weird dance; sometimes he steps on her head and smashes it underwater nonchalantly.  Peanut doesn’t act terrified – just mildly annoyed.  It’s like watching National Geographic, and I lost an hour of my productivity observing them.

The important thing is that I could get rid of the other habitat and use the one filter again, which makes maintenance so much easier.  As a bonus, our front entryway looks less like two irresponsible teenagers live there.  Ignoring the feeling of unease that is associated with watching animal mating rituals (come on, I know you feel the same), it’s a win-win!  Put that one in the books as one of my greatest achievements as a pet owner.

Can’t imagine what it will be like when we finally get a mammal pet, or maybe even an actual miniature human.


13 thoughts on “The Real World: Aquatic Turtle Edition”

  1. Is smashing the potential mate’s head under water part of the turtle mating ritual?! That seems unattractive and harsh to say the least. Great story–gave me a great laugh this morning!

      1. Mochi would probably have a few choice words to say to me about letting his tank get super dirty a few times and also about how cold the water was during winter. He gave me really rude glares.

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