Can You Keep a Sea Turtle as Pet?
After digging up a bit of information, I found out that most out of the seven sea turtle species are endangered. So, you can’t keep them as pets. You can only keep them as temporary pets if you found them injured and you’re helping them.
But after they get better, you have to let them go back into the sea. Though, this may not apply to all sea turtles. Not all of them are as endangered, so you may keep some as pets, I think. Though, it’s unclear whether pet shops will have sea turtles on sale.
In this article, I’ll tell you more about the living conditions of sea turtles, food and water requirements, and enclosure conditions. Moreover, are they legal in your country?
Is it even legal to keep sea turtles as pets anywhere in the world? What about baby sea turtles? I’ll give you a detailed rundown of all these things, so keep reading if you want to know!
Sea Turtles are still turtles, so they’ll need approximately the same enclosure conditions. Get an aquarium of at least 40 gallons per individual turtle, especially if the turtle is big. Sea turtles are aquatic species that live in water, for the most part.
Though, they’ll need to come to the surface and breathe from time to time. Breathing through their butts is not enough for long-term underwater survival.
I recommend filling half of the aquarium with water and prepare a surface area where the turtle can come out and breathe. It’s also good to place some rocks or above-water terrain where the turtle can come and relax. Sand is recommended, though other materials are also good. As for the substrate in the aquarium, I recommend coconut husks, pot soil, small pebbles, sand, and so on.
Ideally, the turtle should be able to dig in the substrate, so make sure it’s soft enough. If you want to keep baby turtles, you should buy a bigger tank/aquarium. As the turtles grow larger, their needs grow as well.
An adult turtle needs about 40 gallons worth of space in an aquarium. Two turtles need 80 gallons, and so on. Baby turtles don’t need as much space but they will eventually grow, right? Take that into consideration!
The water in a sea turtle’s aquarium needs to be non-chlorinated and clean at all times. They’re not fast swimmers when not threatened, so they won’t move long distances through water.
If you feed them correctly, these turtles will live a long and happy life, possibly outliving you and your grandchildren. Keep in mind that turtles defecate and urinate in water, so you’ll need to filtrate and clean it periodically.
This isn’t a problem in their natural habitat because the seas are extremely large. The water currents carry the waste somewhere else, and turtles travel for long distances either way. They get clean water all the time, except that humans have been polluting it hardcore in recent years.
But that’s a story for another time. If you plan on keeping a sea turtle as a pet, install a water filter and have a spare aquarium on hand.
When you clean one aquarium, house the turtle in the other aquarium. This way, it won’t be in any danger and you won’t risk its health. Sea turtles need water like we need air.
Sure, they can breathe normal air through their noses, but water is vital to them. They can’t live outside it for too long. So why risk their lives when you can just buy another aquarium?
When it comes to food, sea turtles love eating plastic bags and whatever else we humans pollute the seas with. Evolution has made them able to digest plastic like no other species on planet Earth.
Yeah, that was a bad joke. But the truth is that many sea turtles die due to ingesting plastic. It can rupture their internal organs or cause intestinal blockages which lead to starvation. Approximately 52% of all the world’s sea turtles have consumed plastic waste at one point.
That’s because plastic bags are very similar to another staple food for turtles – jellyfish. They eat jellyfish all the time because the jellyfish’s venom does not affect the hard shell of a turtle. They can easily deal with their prey and, in the end, they eat a delicious and nutritious meal. In the world, there are seven species of sea turtles, and each has its own dietary preferences:
- Flatback Turtles – This one is a gourmand that eats everything from crabs, shrimp, and even seaweed. It doesn’t have any particular preference, and you’ll rarely get it wrong with seafood and sea plants.
- Green – These sea turtles are almost exclusively herbivores, hence their name. They eat a lot of algae and seagrass, which is also why they prefer living near coral reefs.
- Loggerhead – During the hatchling phase, these turtles are omnivores, meaning they eat both plants and animals. But when they become adults, Loggerheads are exclusively carnivores. They prefer conchs, crabs, and whelks but other sea life is also good.
- Olive Ridley – An omnivore sea turtle species, the Olive Ridley will eat jellyfish, fish, sea cucumbers, and other plants or animals.
- Kemp’s Ridley – Only meat for these sea turtles. They eat crab for the most part, but they won’t say no to fish, conchs, shrimp, or whelks.
- Leatherback – This species is a bit special, in that it only eats sea squirts and jellyfish. The Leatherback is a gelatinivore, so it only eats gelatinous sea life.
- Hawksbill – These turtles are known as fussy eaters, as they generally eat sea sponges that other turtles don’t have access to. But their bird-like beaks let them access coral cracks and get sea sponges with ease.
One common meal all these turtles share is plastic, though. Ever since being mass-produced in the 1940s, plastic has had a devastating impact on sea life, especially on sea turtles.
Out of all seven sea turtle species, most of them are endangered. So, you can’t buy them as pets. Whoever sells sea turtles is doing so illegally. However, some states allow you to keep sea turtles as pets if you’re helping them recover from an injury.
Then, you are allowed to take care of them. Either they recover from the injury or they don’t. In the latter case, the state allows you to care for them indefinitely but this is only a supposition.
I couldn’t find any definite information regarding this. Are you supposed to release them whether they recover from the injury or not? Things aren’t quite clear on this. Regardless, no one should sell sea turtles in pet shops. Regular turtles are another story.
Even aquatic turtles are green for pet shops. You can sell them, buy them, and keep them as pets. But sea turtles are different from aquatic turtles.
Aquatic turtles make for great pets if you know how to care for them. They’re very friendly and sociable, in fact. I recommend getting more than one so one turtle doesn’t feel alone. They’ll be more active and happier together. Regarding enclosure and other living requirements, consult my other guides for more information. I’m quite the turtle and tortoise lover!
Can Baby Sea Turtles Be Kept as Pets?
The short answer is no. Baby Sea turtles are still sea turtles, which means they are just as endangered. Come to think of it, they are even more endangered due to their small size and feeble physique.
If you see a baby sea turtle stranded on the beach or in an inaccessible place, take them back to sea and release them. That’s the best thing you can do. It’ll rejoin its siblings and parents eventually.
But if you find an injured baby sea turtle, then I guess you can take it back home, nurse it back to full health, and then release it back into the sea. I don’t condone any illegal behavior but, understandably, you’d want to keep such a small and cute turtle all for yourself.
Their endangered status won’t change unless people stop hunting them or throwing plastic into the seas. Until then, it’ll still be illegal to keep them as pets.
Three of the seven sea turtle species are dangerously near extinction at present. They are critically endangered because of human action. The others are at fewer risks but still, they are cataloged as endangered species.
So, long story short is that you can’t keep sea turtles as pets unless you’re nursing them back to health. No reputable pet shop will sell you sea turtles because it’s illegal in most states.
Sea Turtles are protected under the Endangered Species Act (which carries hefty fines (upwards of $13,000) for even touching or “harassing” them much less transporting them and having them in your possession.