Caring for Long-Neck Turtles

Caring for Long-Neck Turtles

A Publication of the Unusual & Exotic Pet Group  A Special Interest Group of the Australian Veterinary Association


An aquarium full of water is very heavy so it needs a strong, stable surface.

Avoid placing the tank in direct sunlight as this will promote the growth of algae.

Give some thought to how you will clean the tank.

The water needs to be conditioned to remove chlorine as this ingredient of tap water is toxic to turtles. Gravel is a suitable substrate. The water temperature is maintained between  22 – 28°C using

an aquarium heater. The water should be held at a pH 7 and be soft to moderately hard (150ppm). UV lighting is required for good bone and shell growth. Good water filtration is vital for turtle health

An alternative is an outdoor pond which provides a more natural alternative.

Long Neck Turtles are carnivores. They are ambush feeders and enjoy catching live fish in their tank. They need to be fed in the water in order to swallow their food.


Turtles can be fed 2-3 times a week. Reduce the frequency of feeding when the water temperature drops below 16°C


Remove uneaten food after 20 minutes as it pollutes the tank and can contribute to health problems. Aim to feed an amount similar to the size of the turtle’s head. Overfeeding leads to obesity.

Food items that you may offer your turtle includes: crickets, daphnia, fish, mice, shrimps, snails, worms, yabbies, heart and liver. Commercial foods to offer include fish flakes, trout and yabby pellets, as well as turtle food.

It is recommended to supplemen

A dry land area must be provided and be large enough for the turtle to be completely out of the water. Provide a basking light in this area.

t food with multivitamins suitable for turtles.


In Australia, there are several species of turtles that are kept in captivity belonging to the Chelodina genus. These include the Eastern Long Neck (C. longicollis) and the Broad-shelled Turtle (C. expansa).

Australian turtles live in and near water. It is a good idea to check licensing laws in your state before you purchase a turtle.

It is normal for the turtle to hibernate over the cooler months when the water temperature drops below 12°C. Provide leaf litter for the turtle to hibernate.

Pick up your turtle with both hands to support the shell. Some turtles will struggle out of your hands and can injure themselves if dropped.


Length:    up to 30 cm for Eastern Long Neck Turtle

Life span:  up to 30 years

Sexual maturity:      8 years


A long-neck turtle that is not well may show one or more of the following signs:

    • Listless
    •  not eating
    • Wheezing when breathing
    • Swimming unevenly
    • Scratching on tank objects
    • Changes to the colour of the shell
    • Swollen eyes
    • Changes to the appearance of the skin – such as yellow areas, sores, swellings.


Choose a healthy turtle from a reputable dealer. A healthy turtle is active, alert, and swims horizontally.

Good tank hygiene is vital to preventing disease. The turtle needs to eat, breathe and toilet – all in the same water!

Change one quarter (25%) of the water each week.

Rinse and change the filter weekly.

Monitor the pH, hardness, ammonia levels in the water regularly and if your turtle look unwell.

If your turtle appears unwell, consult your nearest reptile veterinarian. Take a sample of tank water with you and know the details about your tank: size, filter, lighting, food, etc. This information will assist the veterinarian in determining cause of the problem.

Unusual & Exotic Pet Veterinarians.

The Australian Veterinary Association has a special interest group of veterinarians experienced with the care and treatment of pets such as rabbits, rodents, ferrets, reptiles, fish and native animals kept as pets. This brochure is one example of the quality information provided by these veterinarians. To find a vet in your area with experience with these pets contact your local division of the Australian Veterinary Association or visit the AVA on the internet:

Acknowledgements: This document was created with the assistance of Dr Robert Johnson

Edited and Photos by: Dr Anne Fowler