Mauremys japonica / Japanese pondturtle - Care

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Specification Description
Class: Reptilia
Order: Testudines
Suborder: Cryptodira
Family: Geoemydidae
Subfamily: Geoemidinae
Scientific name: Mauremys japonica
Dutch name: Japanse moerasschildpad
English name: Japanese pond turtle

Mauremys japonica is a turtle with a small size but with a very big character. This species is very active and very attentive which makes it a pleasure for the hobbyist to take care of this species. This species is regularly bred and young specimens are relatively easy to raise.


Appearance: Adult females can measure 18 cm but normally reach an average length of 15 cm. Male specimens are often smaller with a length of 10-14 cm. Young animals have an inconspicuous shell color with a dark green or brown base with an irregular pattern of spots and / or dots. Sometimes some lighter colors are visible. The endings of the ventral shields regularly have a dark to black color. The plastron and the underside of the marginal shields are deep black in color. This dark color can also be seen on the body of the turtle. Only the neck has a lighter color, often dark gray and a lighter pattern is sometimes visible on the legs. A pattern of unclear longitudinal stripes is visible in the neck. The head is lighter than the body, especially on the top of the head and around the jaws and the face is a clear green or dark yellow / brown color visible. The legs are powerful and the tail of this Asian turtle is remarkably long. Adult animals can be very remarkably colored with a clear green color on top of the head, many shades of yellow to almost orange on the shell and dark spots on the ventral shields. However, there are also many specimens of which the shell is an unremarkable dark brown with sometimes an unclear pattern of dark hues.

As with many species of wetland turtles, the sexual distinction between subadult and adult animals is relatively easy to see. The tail is long in this species, but males have a clearly wider tail base, and the cloaca is clearly placed farther beyond the anal shields, whilst the female's cloaca does not pass the anal shields and is placed closer to the plastron. Males also get a clear concave plastron.

Hybrides:  As with many species within the genus Geoemydidae there are also hybrides known of M. japonica with other turtles, found in the wild but also by intention by men on the well-known turtle farms etc. We found the following hybrids:  M. japonica X M. reevessi, M. japonica X M. sinensis, M. japonica X C. flavomarginata en M. japonica X S. quadriocellata.  Because of this reason we will advise to keep this species seperate from others. Even if their character might allow it. As these are threatened species we must do our best to keep the lines in captivity as pure and healthy as possible.

Status:  The main threat to this species is habitat loss. Mostly due to agriculture, building of housing and pollution of their natural habitat. There is no export allowed, all animals you will find in captivity come from many generations of captive bred animals from hobbyist.


Origin and habitat: As the species name of this species suggests, this turtle is endemic to Japan where it is found in a small but diverse number of areas on the southern islands of Honshu, Kyushu, and Shikoku, of which Honshu is by far the largest island, almost 60% of the total area of ​​Japan represented. In the south of this island it is a fairly cool climate with a clear difference between two seasons, M. japonica occurring in this area also endure a winter rest during the cold season but can still be active from 5 degrees Celsius if there is a possibility to sunbathe. In the north, the climate is warm, even and subtropical.

The Mauremys japonica is found in various areas, from swamps with a lot of vegetation to mountain streams with a stronger current, lower water temperatures and more rocks. They are good swimmers but prefer to walk on the bottom and are regularly found on land. Both young animals and adult specimens like to sunbathe. This turtle is therefore mainly day active. During the evening/night they hide in hiding places both in the water and on land.


Husbandry: Due to the adaptability within their area and the possibility of tolerating very low temperatures, these turtles are very suitable for housing in captivity. They adapt easily and can be kept under various circumstances. The fact remains, of course, that there are requirements for the accommodation to house, raise and possibly breed the animals in good health.

The setup: Due to the small size of this species, not a huge amount of space is required and therefore, in combination with its care, it is a very good alternative to the large Trachemys and Pseudemys species. Of course there must be enough space for the animals to show and practice their natural behavior and for turtles the phrase "the bigger the better" certainly applies. Young M. japonica who are only 2.5 to 3.5cm after hatching and can be housed in an aquarium with only a shallow water portion no higher than their shell length. Add sphagnum moss, aquatic plants and any leaves to the water so that the animals can easily hide and climb to the surface. By means of flat stones, pieces of wood, reptile caves and cork bark one can offer dry places and space for a basking area. After a few months the animals can be placed in an aquarium with deeper water as long as there are enough places and possibilities to easily climb to the surface. Adult specimens must be kept in a setup of at least 120x50x50cm for a pair with a land area of ​​30 cm wide and at least 20 cm deep. On this part of the land there is room for a sun spot and for possibly laying eggs. The Zoomed Turtle Tub is also very suitable for a single specimen.

Decoration: With the help of hollow trunks and cork bark you can offer extra hiding places on this land area. The substrate in the land area can be a mix of sand and coco peat soil mixed with reptibark. In the water area you place trunks of tropical wood to provide shelter and any climbing possibilities to easily reach the surface. You can add aquatic plants to the water but keep in mind that these will also be part of the turtles' diet. The advantage of aquatic plants is that these waste materials such as nitrates filter out of the water, which has a major impact on water quality. By adding wood, various leaves and sphagnum moss to the water you offer a more natural design and you increase the acidity which has an antifungal effect. You can choose to keep the soil bare apart from the sunken leaves and moss. This has several advantages when it comes to keeping the soil clean and overall hygiene. In addition, you do not run the small risk that an animal will take a stone or sharp gravel during feeding. If you would like to use a substrate in the water area, we recommend using soft river sand or rounded, pebbles.

Lighting and heating: If there is a good basking area where the animals can dry and warm up, additional heating of the aquarium water is not necessary in a temperate climate. By means of a heat-spot lamp you can offer this sun spot, focus it on a part of the land that the animals can easily reach. Under this baskingspot, the temperatures should measure on average 28C to 31C. When you house several animals together, it is wise to offer an extra sun spot above, for example, a tree trunk protruding from the water. By means of a UVB daylight lamp you can simulate a day/night rhythm and meet the required UVB requirements which have a positive influence on growth, bone and muscle development and overall health. By placing a reflector behind the UVB TL lighting you can concentrate the UVB output in the accommodation where the animals are exposed to this radiation. Heat and illuminate on average 12-13 hours a day.

Filtration: Water quality has a major impact on the health of your turtles and thanks to the diet of most carnivorous turtles, maintaining good water quality can be a challenge. Proper filtration is therefore of great importance and an important part in the care of your turtles. In small aquariums with young animals and a relatively low occupation, it is often possible to use a sponge filter that is regularly cleaned adequately. Despite this filter, replace part of the water regularly. The required frequency depends on the occupation, food and filtration. External canister filtration is required for larger aquariums and ponds. These combine mechanical and biological filtration. The "mechanical" filtration removes, mainly through filter sponges and cotton wool, fine waste from the water. The biological filtration removes and breaks down contamination such as ammonia, nitrates etc. The water first passes through the mechanical filtration, this prevents large amounts of waste from entering the biological part. As long as the mechanical part is cleaned regularly, maintenance of the biological part is minimal.


Diet: In the basis this turtle is carnivorous but they will also feed on plant material and fruit. Feed as varied as possible, a good basis can consist of the Zoomed Natural Turtle Food and the Repashy Savory Stew and Meat Pie or Tetra reptomin. Vary with various insects such as crickets, meel and morio worms and dubias, earthworms and other invertebrates such as red mosquito larvae, tubifex, artemia, etc. Adjust the size and portions to the size and age of your turtle. Plant-based foods that are eaten include waterweed, horn leaf and duckweed. In addition, fruit such as banana and figs are sometimes accepted, especially as the animals age, a larger part of the diet consists of such substances.

Feed young animals on average every other day up to 5 days a week. Adult animals can be fed three times a week.

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