Eastern Snake Necked Turtle (Chelodina longicollis)

Eastern Snake Necked Turtle

Eastern Snake-necked Turtle Care Sheet

The eastern snake-necked turtle is a popular turtle species kept as pets especially in Australia where the species is endemic to. This fascinating and peculiar looking turtle can grow up to a foot in carapace length and has a long winding neck (which gives this species their common name). While they are friendly, gentle, calm and interactive with people, they can be a challenging pet to care for and require much attention.

Quick Reference Section

  • Experience Level: Advanced
  • Family: Chelidae
  • Scientific Name: Chelodina longicollis
  • Average Adult Size: 9.84 inches (250 mm) & 15.65 – 28.76 oz. (444 to 816 g)
  • Average Lifespan: 31 to 37 years
  • Clutch Size: 8 to 24 eggs
  • Egg Incubation Period: 110 to 185 days
  • Food: Aquatic turtle food
  • Tank Size:  25 – 75 gallons (depending on size/gender)
  • Average Temperature: 79°H/60°L
  • UVB Lighting: Needed
  • Average Price Range: $6 to $40
  • Conservation Status: Not Evaluated on IUCN Redlist

Facts and Information

Eastern Snake Necked Turtle

As with all other snake-necked turtles, the eastern snake-necked turtle has a long winding neck which it uses for hunting its prey. They are also known as the common snake-necked turtle or the eastern long-necked turtle.

They are prevalent throughout coastal and inland waterways of eastern Australia from the Wilton River to the Murray River and along the southwestern border of New South Wales.

As medium-sized turtles, they have an average carapace length of about 10 inches (250 mm). The carapace is oval with a shallow central groove. Their neck is long and narrow. In fact, their neck length is 60% of their plastron length.

As you can see the neck is very long. This feature stands out the most. In terms of color, their carapace color ranges from light brown to black, their plastron is lightly colored (cream) with dark seams. Lastly, their limbs and neck are brown.

Eastern Snake-necked Turtle Habitat

These semiaquatic turtles can be found in swaps, wetlands, streams, and rivers. They prefer slow-moving water bodies. Apart from when they bask, they prefer to stay at the bottom of the water bodies they inhabit. If the water in their habitat dries up, they leave or estivate. Estivation involves burrowing into fallen foliage on the forest floor near shrubs and logs.

Enclosure

Adult eastern snake-necked turtles are best housed outdoors. However, if you want to keep them indoors, ensure the tank you acquire is large. The length of the tank should be three to four feet (36 to 48 inches). The Tetra 55 Gallon Aquarium is a good choice. Once they are 3 years of age, you may want to move them outdoors if you can.

Of course, a pump and filter is a must. This keeps the aquarium’s water moving, oxygenated and clean. Turtles excrete in the water so it’s important that it is clean at all times. Get a pump marked for use with water capacity twice the water capacity of the enclosure. I recommend the Homasy 80 GPH (300L/H, 4W) Submersible Water Pump.

After the pump is sorted out, you need to create a basking spot for the turtle. This is a dry flat surface above the water which is easily accessible. The turtle can dry out at the spot.

This helps stop the development of fungal infections. Some excellent choices include the OASIS Turtle Ramp and the Natural Reptile Habitat Rocks (these are flat natural rocks that can be piled up to create a basking spot).

Before we look at the right substrates, let us take a look at water maintenance. The pH level of the water needs to be between 7.5 and 8.2. This is slightly alkaline. Correct pH level with marine aquarium buffer if necessary.

Additionally, you need to add aquarium salt to the water. Add one cup of salt mix per 13 gallons of water. Test the water quality regularly with a marine test kit such as the API TEST STRIPS to ensure its right for the eastern snake-necked turtles. Also, the water needs to be changed regularly (twice a week). Change about a quarter of the water at a time so as not to shock the turtle.

Substrate

Although the substrate isn’t important when it comes to aquariums, it has its benefits. For instance, coral rubble can be used to help buffer the pH level. A good choice is the Nature’s Ocean 12-Inch Coral Base Rocks. The substrates used shouldn’t float, also they shouldn’t impede the job of the filter and pump used to keep the water clean. Seachem Flourite Black Clay Gravel and GloFish Aquarium Gravel are two other great choices.

Temperature

Temperature requirements are exacting when it comes to caring for this species. As temperate climate species, the water needs to be quite cool.  While in their native habitat, they are no stranger to water temperatures of 54 F, it is best if the aquarium water’s temperature is slightly higher.

The water temperature must be 61 to 68 F. This is within range of most homes, and as such an aquarium heater is rarely needed. However, if the water temperature is consistently low, you can invest in an aquarium heater which has a guard to prevent the turtle from accidentally getting burnt. Use a thermometer such as the Zacro LCD Digital Aquarium Thermometer to monitor the temperature of the water.

Ensure the aquarium never receives direct sunlight as this will cause the inside of the glass tank to heat up. Glass is not a good insulator. The aquarium can be placed adjacent to the window. This way, it receives a lot of indirect sunlight.

Provide a basking light as well with a temperature of 72 to 79 F. There should be no hot spots, the heat provided should be evenly spread. Also, the lamp needs to be out of the turtle’s reach, and the reach of any water splashes. If you’re using a lamp that also provides white light, the lamp needs to be turned off during the night. The Zacro 60W Reptile Heat Lamp is perfect for the required heat provision.

Lighting

Just as any turtle, the eastern snake-necked turtle needs UV light to be healthy. UV facilitates the production of vitamin D3 which is important for bone development and healthy growth.

While the best source of UV light for indoor enclosures is indirect sunlight, it can be supplement with UV light lamps.  The light lamp used should be able to provide both UVA and UVB.

It is best if the light is fluorescent and produces no heat. It can be used in conjunction with the heat lamp. This way the heat lamp can be on all the time. If you use a lamp that produces both heat and light, the lamp needs to be off during the night. The drop in temperature can be uncomfortable (although harmless in most cases) to the turtle.

Regardless of your choice, it is essential to place the aquarium in a room that receives a lot of sunlight. Artificial light is easily weakened and refracted by water where the turtle spends most of its time.

Good artificial light sources include Zoo Med Reptisun, Zoo Med Aquatic Turtle UVB & Heat Lighting Kit and Zoo Med Aquatic Turtle Lighting Combo.

Accessories

Accessories are as much for humans as they are for the turtles. They decorate the enclosure and gives it a natural look. They also provide the turtle with places to hide. Hiding spots are essential to the health of the turtle. When housed outside, plants are a must. For indoor enclosures, BEGONDIS Aquarium Decorations is a good start.

Long Necked Turtle Housing Video

Feeding the Eastern Snake-necked Turtle

As a carnivorous species, the eastern snake-necked turtle only eats animal matter. In the wild, their diet consists of fish, tadpoles, crustaceans, plankton, carrion, and aquatic invertebrates.

Overfeeding is one of the major problems when it comes to eastern snake-necked turtle care. Overfeed them and the scutes of the shell will grow abnormally and lead to deformities and a weak shell.

Feed adults twice a week and about 5 to 10 bite sizes per each feeding session. The hatchlings should be fed daily while the young feed every other day.

While they prefer to eat in water, some do eat on land. Feed them commercial food such as Aquatic Foods Inc. Freeze Dried Krill, and Freeze-Dried Bloodworms. You can also feed them a diet of equal portion prawns (soaked for an hour to remove salt, if it’s salted) and whitebait.

Other food choices include crickets, mealworms, roaches, and other insects. Fish such as goldfish are also a good choice. Since they prefer to hunt their food. Provide live food every now and then. This way they can exercise.

One way to ensure they get all the needed nutrients is to offer calcium and vitamin supplements weekly. Also, feeding them insects caught outside can be detrimental to their health as they may contain parasites.

Eastern Snake-necked Turtle’s Temperament & Handling

Although they are generally display pets, the eastern snake-necked turtle is a gentle, docile and friendly reptile. As they are curious, they interact eagerly with people.

When gotten as hatchlings, they will be become very familiar with the keeper and rush towards the keepers to be fed the moment the keeper enters the room. They will even accept food from your hands. Before holding them ensure your hands are clean. After handling them, properly wash your hand.

How long does the Eastern Snake-necked Turtle live?

Eastern Snake Necked Turtle

Eastern Snake-necked Turtles are known to live up to 50 years however, their average lifespan is 31 to 37 years. With good care, they can easily reach their average lifespan.

How to identify this turtle

Distinguishable by black seams on the belly plate & growing to a carapace length of 250mm.

Common Health Concerns

As with any species, there are common health issues which are to be expected regardless of the care given. However, with proper husbandry, the eastern snake-necked turtle will live a full life free of any serious health issue.

Cuts and bruises

Cuts and bruises can be caused by sharp edges and rough handling. Carefully inspect the aquarium and ensure there are no sharp objects that can harm the turtle. If you notice cuts and bruises, it is best to treat it as soon as possible using a topical medication such as betadine.

Infection

Cuts and bruises can lead to infections when not treated properly. Signs of infections include white fluffy growth usually found around the tail, eyes, and claws, and whitish-grey (or red) patches on the shell.

Have a herp vet diagnose the turtle if you think the turtle may be infected. To help prevent infections, ensure the aquarium is clean and hygienic. Also, ensure the turtle has enough space to bask and the basking lamp provides the needed warmth.

Metabolic Bone Disease

This is usually caused by nutrient and mineral deficiency in specific vitamin D3 and calcium. Supplementing the turtle’s diet and providing adequate access to sunlight is the best way to prevent MBD.

Sloughing which is the shedding of shell and skin is not an infection although novices may confuse it with an infection. 

P.S: It is important not to clean the algae which usually grows on the back of the turtle. While it has no benefit to captive turtles, attempting to clean the algae can lead to needless injuries which can lead to infections.

Reproduction

This breed of turtle generally mates in spring. The females lay between 18 – 24 shelled eggs in a soil nesting chamber. Hatching occurs between 105 – 150 days.

Pricing and Availability

Eastern snake-necked turtles are quite rare especially in the United States; however, they are common in Australia.

Conservation/Threats

The Eastern Snake-necked Turtle (Chelodina longicollis) is not listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The wild populations of the species are thought to be doing well, and they are widespread and abundant in their native habitats. Potential threats to their existence include red foxes, climate change and habitat change. For now, the eastern snake-necked turtle is a species of least concern

Baby Eastern Snake Necked Turtle Overview

Conclusion

This peculiar semi aquatic turtle may be a challenge to care for but their inquisitive and gentle nature makes them a great pet to have. While they can be kept in an aquarium, adult eastern snake-necked turtles do best in an outdoor enclosure with a pond.

This gives them adequate access to sunlight and gives them a lot of space to explore. Regardless of your enclosure of choice, this turtle is sure to entertain and delight any turtle enthusiast.

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