New softshell inheritance...

Discussion in 'Turtles' started by JoseOnAStick, Jun 23, 2013.

  1. JoseOnAStick

    JoseOnAStick New Member

    So my roommate picked up this softshell turtle named Dan as an inheritance of sorts. Appears to have an 8"-10" diameter shell (top part, not sure of specific names of body parts yet). Came with everything apparently, including an Odyssea CFS 500. Only thing I'm iffy about is the size of tank as I've never had a turtle as of yet (and roomie is sometimes an airhead), it's only 30 gallon-tall. I have a couple of 40G-breeders I can upgrade with if it would at all be an upgrade; if I need a bigger tank, I'd have to save for it. I'm already looking up diet and such as this was dropped on me so-to-speak and I'm usually the one making sure anything we get is actually cared for. I tried to say no to this addition, but she pays half the bills and was intent on owning Dan for some reason.

    Typical stuff you guys want to know of the animal for help requests:
    1.) Only know it's a softshell, no idea what else so far as species. Wild caught in a river during her friend's camping trip as a juvenile if my info is correct; region is Indiana if that means anything for pinpointing any specific species.
    2.) As said before, 30gallon-tall tank, lid, bulb for lighting, those automatic internally-controlled heaters that keep it at 75 degrees x3 for added measure and to prevent overload on one heater, as well as this digital thermo with a submersible probe.
    3.) Feeding pellets, small fish (as in guppy size) and ghost shrimp. Avoiding snails though they seem to be fond of them as I read they don't digest the shells and impaction can occur. He already chomped down a couple of fish and a shrimp and had it only set up for about half an hour.
    4.) Decorations are light so as to not harm him should he "uproot" something while burrowing, and fake plants for cover while he isn't buried.
    5.) Odyssea CFS 500 external canister filter. As I understand via Google this thing is capable of 500 gallons per hour, much more than the whole "3x gal of water used" rule. Though total tank is 30 gallons, I have only 27 gallons in at the moment so the return oxygenates a little better by stirring up bubbles, I heard that is a good tactic for oxygenation. Apparently you can put custom filter media in it, so any advice is much appreciated for maximum results. Fluval v5?? Something about this one is a Fluval equivalent or something.

    Sorry for sounding like an airhead or a noob, fact is I AM a noob and I need experienced advice or she may not do something right with it.

    EDIT: I just looked around on Google for pics, and I believe he is a Spiny Softshell.

    Further edit: Glad I was planning on an Ally Snapper to begin with. Apparently the heat bulb to warm an upper portion of the water also is needed simply for these guys to bask in, and that I had some spare UVB bulbs and fixtures laying around for his basking site. And the underwater ramp I built actually helps as a basking platform after small alterations. Turns out a lot of the same minerals and vitamins are used for them, so I'm glad I had those on hand as I think he hasn't had even the cuttlebone I placed in there yet. Still worried about the tank size. I keep seeing articles saying they grow to the size of their environment, but he looks huge for just a 30 gallon... Not sure if this is normal or what.
  2. Cammy

    Cammy Administrator Staff Member

    My friend actually has a spiny softshell that I have helped her out with a little! She is an adorable turtle, but they are not the easiest species to keep in captivity. They need large tanks (custom built in the case of an adult female) and pristine water conditions. The fact that you have experience with aquariums is good as I'm sure you understand how important water quality is for aquatic animals. These are primarily aquatic turtles that are much more sensitive to water quality than hard shelled turtles, so make sure you are diligent about water changes.

    Your setup sounds great, but you are correct in thinking he is too big for his current size tank. Generally you should have 10 gallons per inch of shell length, and with these guys, more space is better as they are usually fairly active and again are sensitive to water quality. (The more water volume, the more dispersed waste is going to be of course.) The saying that a turtle only grows to the size of its tank is very misleading. Most turtles will grow until they are far too big for their juvenile tank if given proper temperatures and UVB. After a certain size has been reached, they won't have ample room for exercise anymore, and they will be producing a lot more waste in the same amount of space (leading to poorer water quality); both of these conditions contribute to stunted growth. So, yes, a turtle will stop growing--but it is not healthy for the turtle and will lead to a decreased lifespan. Long story short, I would look for an upgrade sooner rather than later, as an 8-10" turtle should ideally have at least 80-100 gallons of water space. My friend has her softshell in a 120 gallon and says she utilizes every inch of it.

    What are you currently using for your substrate? These guys love to dig, so if you can use playsand they will greatly appreciate it. Just make sure your intake tube is about 6" away from the sand surface and you put some kind of sponge or filter fiber over the intake to catch kicked up sand particles.

    Everything else (diet, etc.) sounds good, but if you have any questions please feel free to ask!

    Edit: Forgot to post this link that talks about care and identification in more detail
  3. JoseOnAStick

    JoseOnAStick New Member

    Ok, before I answer the questions at the end of your post, I must say he has gone batsh*t in his tank since adding the UVB light, I mean he even pokes his head up out of the water and presses it against my hand like he wants attention when I'm netting his scraps out (which I'm sure isn't the case, just odd), which I find rather odd for any reptile, much moreso for a wild caught one. Lets me pet his shell too while he is basking, as long as he isn't in a mood; just looks at me and then around at other stuff in the tank. I asked her friend (previous owner of Dan) if he EVER had a UVB light and answer is no and also no to whether he ever had a bask platform for Dan. I have felt his shell and it feels leathery (on par with online info) but there is a darker area in what appears to be the upper spine area. I hope this isn't shell rot occuring from not being able to bask for 5 years...?? And if so, how do I combat and reverse it? The spot looks like just a darker browner area of shell, though the rest of the top of the shell is greenish with the darker rings. I would provide a pic but my Android has gone kaput since taking my vids of Jose.

    My roommate is also budgeting for a bigger tank, thankfully. You say your friend has her softshell in a 120g. You say bigger is always better, which in most cases is truth, but is there a point where it isn't wise in THIS case, like with some animals? We found a 180g with stand at a local petshop today while looking for spare valves and a sponge block for the filter, pretty decently priced. Has what I'd imagine to be pretty decent height, as well as a VERY nice width for turn-around room and very long fixtures which would be awesome for UVB tubes. But his shell length isn't quite up to par for that size as I found the 10g per inch rule earlier on another site, and also we are having a hard time finding info on how large their adult size is. If he isn't fully grown yet we'd rather just get the adult one now since he can live up to about 70 years or so, according to some websites. She also has 2 pairs of Russian tortoises so I'm sure she is ready for the long term ideas.

    Speaking of the filter block, I went to clean the filter today and was disgusted, and I admit I shouldn't have taken his word for it when he told her he had just cleaned it. I mean, granted, they're messy, but this was overhaul time. We looked at websites and figured it best to toss the sponges we received with the filter and buy a large block of sponge from a local pet shop. I believe it is referred to as "open cell foam" and was 30pi, whatever that measurement means (it seemed less airy than the ones that came with the filter). I took a scalpel and shaped it down into the round cylinder, with about a 2" base above the area cut for the pump connector to the canister casing and then a 1" clearance from the remainder of the height of the sponge cylinder between the wall of said cylinder and the wall of the canister. I carved this in order to maximize filter media surface area so it isn't just utilizing the top of this huge sponge. I also carved out small hollows and took a fresh pack of socks and packed little "pads" of charcoal media in the walls of the sponge for carbon/bio filtration. Then I finished it by taking some linen and encased the sponge in a sleeve of it for what I guess is referred to as "polishing media"; just a little bit better screening on the surface for catching and filtering out gunk as the pump head sucks the water through the sponge. Any idea if this is more work than necessary, or is it actually better this way? Any ideas to do even more for the filtration? The site I got this big idea for the sponge from was for aquaria specifically, but with the load this turtle puts out, I figured any extreme in craftsmanship and modification would be that much better.

    Now to answer your question, yes, he has a layer of play sand for substrate. It was only about 2 inches deep but I added more for a grand total of 4-5 inches deep and he seems better able to dig when he feels like he has to hide. He definitely has an easier time doing it, and I wanted to add a bit more but the small size of his current tank is the issue as I don't want to displace too much water until we acquire the proper size tank for him.
  4. Cammy

    Cammy Administrator Staff Member

    Okay, well first of all, good job on getting him the UVB! Luckily since softshells are not frequent baskers, they can go a long time without UVB lighting, although it isn't great for them, and may have slowed his growth a little. (They are slow growers anyways, though, so it's impossible to say by how much...) His increased activity since adding it is a sure sign that he appreciates it however! The texture of the shell is not concerning as they are called "soft" shells for a reason, haha. A slight give or leatheriness is normal. Is the discolored part any softer than the rest of the shell? If so, then it may be the beginning signs of shell rot. If caught early, you can usually prevent it from progressing by correcting the husbandry and cleaning/disinfecting the area (see:, but you will need to see a vet if it is a sizeable area, is in more than one spot, or has a liquidy or pus-like secretion. If the spot is different in color only, I would just keep an eye on it and make sure it does not change in size or appearance. It may just be the natural coloration of the shell. Hard to say for sure without seeing it though.

    As for popping his head out and appearing to enjoy being petted, you may actually be right. I've known a few turtles who have displayed the same behavior. They *can* feel pressure on their shells, so it's possible that they do enjoy being petted there. I even cared for a turtle that would let me pet his head and scratch his neck while he sat there and closed his eyes like a cat...

    When it comes to tank size with turtles, the only time you can really overdo it is with hatchlings or certain species which are known to be weak swimmers. Any strong swimmers are going to appreciate all the room you can give them, provided the correct temperature gradient is maintained and they are still able to find food. If the 180 gallon is still available, I would snatch it up. That is not a common size, at least not in my area.

    Your filtration setup is perfect. Don't change anything. Same goes with the substrate. I agree that you don't want to take away from his water space while in the smaller tank.

    I'm very sorry for the delayed response on this. If you have any further questions, please don't hesitate to ask, and hopefully your phone will cooperate so you can post some update pictures as you upgrade this lucky little turtle!
  5. JoseOnAStick

    JoseOnAStick New Member

    I figured you have a life, lol, don't be sorry for any late response. I Googled some images, and no the spot isn't different in feel from the rest of his shell, but it is darker and apparently you can see some ribs...? But nearly all of the pics I see online of Spinies have this spot, in the same location, but nearly none have it darker - just can see the ribs. No secretions and ti feels the same, IF I was able to get an accurate feel as he doesn't like being held and only touched on his terms. (He is a fast little bugger too, even outside of the water.) And I will snatch that 180g as soon as I can afford it; will be a couple of months as it is cheaper with the stand (I understand a full 180g weighs a tad over 1T) so I want to save a lot of money by getting it as a package, BUT it is still roughly $1300, otherwise separately (which I have nothing that would support a ton) it would be closer to $1700. I don't like the idea of getting a used one as I had a used aquarium for fish and regardless of how much I cleaned it, they still died; after talking to the seller I found out he had used some chemical that apparently was very hard to get out. Would it be better to have a single filter handling that much water, which would also be ridiculously expensive to have one suited for the kind of flow I'm comfortable with, or better to buy a 2nd 500g/h canister and have them run simultaneously? Figure if I do the 2nd option, that I can have inlets on both corners of one end, with outlets on both corners or even just one corner of the other end, or maybe fab out one large outlet to avoid so much pressure creating such a strong jet.

    EDIT: Borrowed her camera to take a few pics. The files are too large, so I had to upload them to Photobucket; sorry if links are against policy, please inform me if I need to refrain from this - she only has the kind of camera that you can take a pic and stretch it to fit a whole darn highway billboard in hi-def, and I'm still in the Polaroid 600 days in experience with operating cameras. I also re-read what you said about them rarely basking, so I took the dock out and plan to offer it a few hours a day. I know it probably doesn't line up with his own preferred schedule, and I'm paying attention to if he has a basking time preference, but again the water displacement is my concern as well as the fact the ramp interferes with what little room he has to move around. I will try to make a vid of him in action later on.

    The first two have more view of the spot; the third is just because he was posing for the camera.
    Cammy likes this.
  6. JoshSnakeman

    JoshSnakeman New Member

    Don't know if this was answered before already, but he is a Spiny Softshell. A dark line does run down the middle of the carapace of some individuals.
  7. Cammy

    Cammy Administrator Staff Member

    Wow, $1300 for a brand new 180gal with stand and light fixtures is pretty awesome. Have you looked into doing an indoor stock tank pond setup? If you are at all handy (or know someone who is) it can be a much less expensive route which still allows the same amount of space, and you can make them an attractive addition to a room, too. I'd be happy to sketch some designs if you aren't creatively inclined but are interested in going that route. Just let me know.

    As for filtering a larger setup like that, I'd go with two "smaller" canisters rather than one big one. I even recommend this with medium sized setups (even with just HOB filters) because it helps keep the water flowing and prevents "dead" areas from forming. Also, you can alternate filter media changes, which means you aren't removing as much of your "good bacteria" all at once. This helps prevent the mini-cycle some people see after changing a filter when they only have one source of filtration. On a similar topic, I also like using multiple smaller watt heaters rather than one big one. That way, if one breaks, you still have a backup heat source and won't have as major a drop in water temperature, which can obviously be detrimental to fish and aquatic turtles.

    Good news: I don't see anything abnormal in your pictures, and he is a cutie too!
  8. JoseOnAStick

    JoseOnAStick New Member

    Ok, sorry for the run-on with this, but I just went to clean the filter again for the weekly cleaning (I do the water change biweekly with it being only a 30g as I figure the change's benefits will outweigh the minicycle going again) and glad I bought spare valves. These things that connect the hoses to the canister are going to be the death of me because the bases of the valves keep leaking, here is a few pics (again, photobucket):

    It's that tiny little strip along the inside of the base that depresses when you push the release button that keeps getting damaged, I'm assuming it's a design flaw. I'd like to just put some lengths of hose straight to the lid barbs (they have o-rings and a flat section that would make it possible) and install inline PVC ball valves to shut off flow for maintenance. Any idea where I can get the PVC valves without having to buy the barbs separately? I can find brass ones but the corrosion over time would be my concern, and more parts usually = more crap that can go wrong, hence why I'd like to find one with the barbs integrated. Need barbs for a 3/8" ID hose. Also, yes, I am very handy (was a fabricator, maintenance tech, and a roofer), BUT the issue involving building a pond would be the fact we are renting right now. Plus, the cats would probably consider fishing if we don't have an actual tank and have it raised. And in regard to having a 2nd smaller filter, something tells me I'm better off just getting the big PVC cylinder for the canister part with fittings and hydraulic pump, and just build the next filter since it'll be just as much to buy it and mod it again. Also I'll probably get a better quality pump this way as well, I'm just glad THIS filter came free with the turtle.

    Tossed those last two in for all of you Tard enthusiasts. :p
  9. JoseOnAStick

    JoseOnAStick New Member

    And no, it hadn't actually been answered JoshSnakeman, I only assumed per Google pics. Thanks for that confirmation.
  10. Cammy

    Cammy Administrator Staff Member

    I'm afraid I'm not entirely sure what you are looking for it something like this?

    Building your own filter is a fantastic way to go. Not only is it fully customizable (meaning you can jam pack in the layers of filtration to suit a turtle's bioload) but it is also much more cost effective. I understand on the pond thing though--probably don't want to come home to cats in the turtle tub!

    Oh, and I LOVE Tardar Sauce!
  11. JoseOnAStick

    JoseOnAStick New Member

    Ya that is what I am looking for, EXCEPT I can't seem to find one with the barbs on each end being 7/8" - the one you linked has 3/8" barbs. (The measurement is in reference to what size of inner diameter of tubing/hose the valved is sized for.)
  12. Cammy

    Cammy Administrator Staff Member

    Well phooey, I'm not having any luck finding anything like that either. I did find replacement shut off valves for that filter system ( and the description implies that they lose their ability to seal over time (as I'd expect any flexible plastic would...). So maybe it is not so much a design flaw as it is an age issue. Who knows if those valves have ever been replaced...

    If you still want to directly attach the tubes to the filter, is the hose flexible enough that it could stretch to fit the next size up? Or could you use some kind of gates hose clamp to make it fit the closest size down? 7/8" is just such a weird size...someone should be beaten for making it that size, haha.
  13. JoseOnAStick

    JoseOnAStick New Member

    Well, I CAN connect the hose straight to it, but then the issue becomes how to go about disconnecting them when it's cleaning day without spilling water everywhere from the hoses, hence the need for a shutoff valve. I know brass and other alloy types of inline shutoffs and ball valves exist plentifully, it seems that whoever makes PVC ones just have to be the oddball by making the most ideal ones such that you have to buy the valve itself and the barbs separately. Which, by the way, DOES make it more modular, but it's just a pain when you don't need modularity. I can find the PVC valves with the screw-down type of fastening method on each barb (you slide the hose in and screw a cap down on each end, a type of compression fitting), but I'd feel much more comfortable with the type of clamps I put on them >see above pics< as of late so I don't have threads taking wear and vibration loosening the end nuts, causing in the long run the same thing I'm trying to permanently fix at the moment. This turtle is becoming somewhat of a headache, lol. And I totally agree, whoever came up with this oddball size seriously needs to be slapped.

    I found some references while surfing other forums to the notion that acrylic tanks are much stronger than glass ones, especially when they're the kind of capacity in question here. Is this true? As in, do they have enough strength and durability to make another $500 to $1000 worth getting one of them instead, seeing the long-term usage we are looking at here? I read a story about a 180g glass tank exploding under the pressure and I kinda don't take to the idea of having a flooded house very well, if the tradeoff is worth the price.
  14. JoseOnAStick

    JoseOnAStick New Member

    Ok, nevermind what I was just on the rag about with the filter. I found out why these things are faulty. It isn't the shutoffs themselves, but rather the o-rings on the lid barbs being oversized. Here is a link discussing it vs. the o-rings on the FX5, apparently Fluval's design that Odyssea modeled the CFS500 after. , scroll down to CWO4GUNNER's posting #56. Please excuse the gentleman for the run-on sentence structure, I actually designed my filter sponge after his upgrade from his own little "radioactive shape", as I call it. The man is a genius in my book.

    I took the valves off (having spares again just in case) and found these o-rings he is speaking of, and though I admittedly don't have much plumbing-specific experience, I have TONS of hydraulic modification experience, and these o-rings are WAY too big on this thing. Looks like a $25 set of Fluval parts (mainly to get their o-rings specifically as to have a reference part on hand) is a much better fix than this stock setup - just what must be a $0.50 part causing so much damage and headache, lol.
  15. JoseOnAStick

    JoseOnAStick New Member

    Ok, so this guy I posted a link to sounded good and yes the orings are oversized, but the valves are crap. I advise against this filter. At this point I am considering just plain releasing it since it is wild caught anyway; as I understand, it is an endangered species to begin with.
  16. Cammy

    Cammy Administrator Staff Member

    Please, please, PLEASE don't release him! Wild caught animals that have been in captivity for an extended period of time usually don't adjust well to life back in the wild. They grow accustomed to consistent temperatures, feedings, and lack of predators. Putting him back in the wild and exposing him to the extremes of nature, inconsistent feedings and the need to hunt on a much larger scale, the need to hibernate in the winter, and the need to steer clear of things bigger than him would essentially be a death sentence. It would be like taking a city person and expecting them to be able to survive in a third world scenario. Survival instincts might keep them alive for a while, but throw one of nature's extremes in and they likely won't last long.

    On top of that, you run the risk of introducing him to unfamiliar pathogens, and also of him introducing unfamiliar pathogens to the wild. So not only would he likely die, but he may very well take out an entire niche of an ecosystem with him. Even the difference in parasites and bacteria from one lake to another varies greatly. Anything he is carrying, be it from his initial life in the wild, or (even more devastating) from something he has picked up from any frozen or live food, can be absolutely detrimental to an ecosystem.

    Sorry to go off on a small ramble there, but it's something with an importance which I feel the need to strongly emphasize. If you feel you and your roommate are not up to the task, find a wildlife or reptile rescue nearby, or rehome him to someone with experience with aquatic turtles.
  17. JoseOnAStick

    JoseOnAStick New Member

    I'm glad you did, as I figured that since he was already an adult, he should be okay with being back in the wild. I didn't realize they can actually adapt to captivity that well. Glad you said something. At any rate, I figure that since the valve stopped leaking at its base when I turned it a certain direction with these new o-rings, that it must have just been damaged from the old rings as it's doing just fine for now. Figure I'll try one more set of these valves (this time the FX5 ones as they look sturdier and everyone says they're interchangeable) before trying to find him a new home. I can tolerate getting a large tank as it'll be a 1-time expense with a decent return in the long run; forking out 20 bucks a week just on fresh valves isn't something I'm willing to do, and I don't really want to risk the hassle with having to find another filter given how much they cost. Risk to cost ratio is too slim. But I'm seeing why now that the guy wanted to hand Dan off.
  18. Cammy

    Cammy Administrator Staff Member

    Haha, I can imagine why. That is a lot of trouble over a stupid filter. Hopefully it works out with the new valves!
  19. JoshSnakeman

    JoshSnakeman New Member

    On top of it being a bad idea to release a habituated animal, and a possible spreader of new diseases such as this, softshells are also a bit particular about their habitats, unlike other turtles like painted turtles and snappers, which van be found in pretty much any water body. Releasing him into any old pond isn't necessarily gonna work out for him or the original inhabitants
  20. JoseOnAStick

    JoseOnAStick New Member

    Yeah, I got the valves to work on a consistent basis, so it's just a matter of time now until we get the proper tank. Probably gonna just upgrade to the FX5 as well; this CFS500 is AIDS in a spray can, in my opinion.

Share This Page