Siebenrockiella crassicollis : Black Mud Turtle
SAMAN, ATC member from Indonesia, shares photos of his favorite
Black Marsh Turtles
by Russ Gurley
Comments: This solidly built turtle has a broad head and powerful jaws. Juveniles and females are black with pale markings around the eyes and under the chin. Adult males turn dark and lose their characteristic panda face. This is a gentle, yet nervous species that spends much of its time slowly wandering the bottom of its enclosure.
Distribution: Black Marsh Turtles are found over a large range from Vietnam to Sumatra, Java, Borneo, Malaya, and Myanmar.
Adult Size: Males and females grow to 8 (20 cm).
Captive Care: These turtles do very well in outdoor ponds in most areas. They can live well outside throughout the year in warmer climates. They will slow down in cooler weather and should be kept indoors in temperate climates or when the temperature drops below 55º to 60º F (13º to 16º C). When handled, these turtles will give off a powerful stench. The secretion excreted from their cloaca is no doubt an effective deterrent to predators in their natural environment.
Indoors, a basic setup in a 75-gallon aquarium will hold one or two adult Black Marsh Turtles and a tub or stock tank will be sufficient to hold five or six adults. They are not aggressive towards each other and multiple males can be kept together successfully. We are careful to keep the water in their enclosures shallow 8 to 10 seems to work well. The water temperature should be kept in the 78º to 80º F (26º to 28º C) range and a good filtration system should be established. Black Marsh Turtles seem to enjoy exploring the bottom of their enclosures, so we keep them on a substrate of rinsed river sand. You should add a variety of floating and submerged aquatic plants to their enclosure. In addition to helping keep the water clean, plants will add some variety to their diet. Add a shop light fixture with UVB-emitting bulbs and establish a basking spot with a 100-watt spotlight. Hanging out under the basking light in shallow water seems to be the preferred method of heating up for this species.
Feeding: In the wild, these turtles feed on live aquatic invertebrates such as snails and other mollusks and have been seen scavenging on rotting plants and dead animals (Pritchard, 1979). In captivity, they feed well on commercial turtle diets and will eagerly take live earthworms and thawed pieces of fish. We have also noticed them taking bite-sized chunks out of the water lettuce and water hyacinth floating in their enclosures.
Common Health Problems: Imported Siebenrockiella usually arrive with a variety of shell damage. These problems tend to clear up quickly in a warm, sunny environment with clean, filtered water. The addition of small amounts of salt (one tablespoon per gallon) to their water and direct sunlight overhead help immensely in this healing process.
Depending on individual importations, Black Marsh Turtles have arrived into the pet trade in great condition or poor condition. Though this sounds obvious, it can make all the difference in your success or failure with this species. Dehydration is a common initial problem facing these turtles. In addition, if they are chilled during transit in the fall or winter, they will commonly show a variety of respiratory problems from runny noses to full pneumonia. This is a lethal combination and these turtles will do very poorly. Veterinary intervention with antibiotics and administration of fluid may be necessary. A quick round of Panacur® and Baytril® seems to help newly imported specimens acclimate. Treatment has been somewhat difficult as these turtles are very shy and they tend to eat in the water. If the specimen is feeding, we have had some success by adding the proper dosage of Panacur® or Baytril® into a piece of fish, a minnow, or into a piece of banana.
Breeding: It is easy to determine sexes in adult Siebenrockiella . The males lose the pale markings on the face, becoming an overall black and gray. The males mature at a smaller size and have a slightly concave plastron and thicker, longer tails. S. crassicollis reportedly lay 3-4 clutches of 1-2 eggs (Liat and Das, 1999). The few hatchling Black Marsh Turtles that have been captive-produced have been shy but hardy and have fed well and grown quickly. Hatchlings should be set up in 20-gallon long aquarium with clean, chlorine-free water and live plants. We have had success with keeping a heating pad on the low setting underneath the enclosure to keep the water in the 78º to 80º F (26º to 28º C) range. Babies feed eagerly on live food such as redworms, blackworms, and will eagerly chase small guppies. Once feeding well, commercial turtle foods can be added to their diet.
Liat, L. B., and I. Das. 1999. Turtles of Borneo and Peninsular Malaysia. Natural History Publications (Borneo). Kota Kinabalu. 151 pp.
* Excerpt from Gurley, R. 2003. KEEPING and BREEDING FRESHWATER TURTLES . Living Art publishing. 305 pp.
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