Leaf Turtles

Leaf Turtles

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Black-breasted Leaf Turtles

There are two species of leaf turtles in this genus: Geoemyda japonica and Geoemyda spengleri.

The common name for G. japonica is the Ryukyu black-breasted leaf turtle and the common name for G. spengleri is the Vietnamese black-breasted leaf turtle.

Both of these species are rarely bred in captivity and only a handful of G. japonica have been hatched in the United States.

I hope this post will help to preserve these wonderful turtles in captivity as well as bring awareness to their conservation needs in the wild.

Breeding

GEOEMYDA SPENGLERI

geoemyda spengleri Female
geoemyda spengleri (Female)

Breeding G. spengleri in captivity is not easy by any means. This species was once imported in large numbers and you could purchase adults for $30 each.

While they were once cheap and easily obtained from importers wholesale lists, most died shortly after arriving into the country.

High mortality, along with low clutch size, made for small numbers of captive bred hatchlings.

Clutch sizes are usually 1 or 2 eggs, which 3 being an extreme rarity. I’ve only had one turtle lay three eggs and they were all small and deformed.

I’ve even had one that managed to hatch but was deformed. Other than the deformities it was healthy.

Deformed Leaf Turtle (GEOEMYDA SPENGLERI)
Deformed but healthy leaf turtle

My females in the past laid one egg per clutch, and layed two clutches per year. So I was getting roughly two eggs per year per female.

This low reproductive rate is what keeps prices high for hatchlings. It’s also very difficult to hatch the eggs properly as they are very sensitive to temperatures and humidity.

GEOEMYDA JAPONICA

geoemyda japonica mating

As rare as captive bred G. spengleri are in captivity, captive bred G. japonica are almost unheard of.

I am one of only a handful of people who have bred them in captivity in the United States (though no longer do).

There have been no zoo captive hatchings of this species and only one private (AZA certified) institution has any specimens in their collection.

No other zoos have them in captivity at this time. My adults were in captivity for many years before I was able to get eggs that were not crushed into pieces.

Leaf Turtle (geoemyda spengleri) hatching out of egg
Leaf Turtle (geoemyda spengleri) hatching out of egg

I believe the adults try to eat the eggs or they break during the laying process and are then partly consumed. Once I had eggs that were not broken; I was lucky enough to have two fertile eggs and one hatched!

I was only able to find two other people who had hatched them at that time and one was from a wild caught gravid female.

Since then there may have been more captive success stories and I hope that there will be increased success with this species in the future.

The eggs do not seem to be as sensitive as G. spengleri eggs.

Temperature Sex Determination

geoemyda spengleri in egg being held
geoemyda spengleri in egg being held

I don’t think G. spengleri have TSD and it would be really hard to test.  If low temperatures produced males we would see a lot of CB males because many keepers use “room temperature” to incubate their eggs.

In order to prove TSD the temperatures must remain constant throughout incubation.

To test the lower temperature scale the breeder would need a room temperature that is quite low to keep a stable temperature in the low 70′s inside the incubator.

geoemyda spengleri hatchling
geoemyda spengleri hatchling

If the room temperature is too close to the desired incubator temperature it will have an increased ability to affect the incubator temperature or raise above the desired incubator temperature.

That would ruin the consistency needed for TSD studies. I incubated in a basement and was able to keep consistent temps at 79F without any fluctuation and I would imagine I could have gone down to about 75F.

Any lower and the room temperature fluctuations could spike above the incubator temp.

G. spengleri have a very low tolerance for incubation temperature fluctuation in either direction.

If you incubate over 80F the hatch rate decreases considerably.

Black Breasted leaf turtle hiding in shell
Black Breasted leaf turtle hiding in shell

With such a small variation in safe incubation temperatures for this species I would imagine that TSD would not function as it would in a species that can tolerate a wide range of temps.

Usually a species will have several layers of TSD. A low temp produces one sex, the midline produces mixed sex, and the high temps produce the opposite sex.

In a species that has so few degrees to play with it seems improbable to me in G. spengleri.

You never know with nature however and it is worth looking into.

Leaf Turtle Feeding

Once all the females have been mated, the waiting game begins. Personally I was feeding the females heavier than normal in order to build up sufficient nutrients for egg development and laying.

Nightcrawlers and pinky mice can be used as a treat for females that are about to become gravid.

They are small turtles but the females can devour a pinky mouse with no problem!

I tend to use frozen/thawed pinky mice rather than live as it is cheaper, easier, and not as gruesome to watch!

If you are planning on breeding your Geoemyda spengleri, be sure and give the females plenty of egg laying spots!

Geoemyda spengleri egg
Geoemyda spengleri egg

They don’t dig quite as deep of a nest as other turtle species but they will appreciate a mossy area to “sweep” over the eggs.

This area should be humid but not wet. Remove the eggs immediately to be incubated in a separate container.

G. spengleri can sometimes accidentally crack their eggs.

G. japonica will sometimes EAT their eggs!

It’s always safest if you remove the eggs away from the adults.

Conclusion

Leaf Turtles are very special turtles to own, they are more sensitive and breeding them is very difficult, but if you choose to do it, it can be very rewarding.

Do you have any leaf turtles? Do you breed them? Tell us in the comments below!

About the author

Brock Yates

Brock Yates has a passion for educating people about turtles & tortoises. He manages several websites and has a goal of getting everyone the best and most accurate information to help them with their turtle & tortoise care.

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