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Chinese Softshells are highly active turtles, and although very aggressive to tank mates or when removed from the tank, are actually peaceful when left alone and can be stressed fairly easily. They are "watch only" turtles even more than other species, but are extremely interesting to keep and watch due to their high activity levels and keen hunting sense. While not all that hardy and therefore not ideal as a beginner turtle, they do make a good addition to any collection if given the proper care. They are usally a pale shade of green as adults, with a very pale cream plastron. Hatchlings had a strong orange plastron, and tend to me more colourful with a more patterned carapace. They are similarly shaped to US softshells (more round rather than oval), although they are much smaller with males reaching around 6-8" SCL and females reaching around 8-10" SCL
TEMPERATURE RANGE (°F)
Air Temperature: Mid 80's
Basking Temperature: Mid to high 80's
Water Temperature: Mid to high 70's
Chinese Softshells are not ideal beginner turtles due to their aggressive nature and being more prone to skin and shell problems. They don't get as large as US softshells though, and providing they have enough space and good filtration, are not beyond the scope of a dedicated first time keeper.
Softshells are almost exclusively carnivourous, eating a variety of fish, snails, crustaceans, and inverts as well as usually taking commercial pellets. They are excellent hunters and can easily deal with live feeders, which means you can "gut load" crickets or mealworms to help introduce extra vitamins into the diet. Greens can be offered, although most softshells do not really take to them.
RECOMMENDED FEEDING SCHEDULE
For the first 6 months of life, feed enough to diminish appetite but not gorge the turtle. After 6 months, switch to every other day feeding. After around a year, you should only be feeding a couple of times a week, but it's best to adjust diet content & schedule accounting for growth, activity level & appetite. Overfeeding causes rapid growth, more waste for the filter to have to cope with, and is believed to be harmful to the liver and kidneys.
These are mostly aquatic, but a basking spot will still be occasionally used and so is required. They tend not to bask if it's too hot as they dry out too much, so while good UVB lighting is needed over the basking spot, only a low wattage heat lamp is required. A submersible heater is recommended if the water temps fall below the recommend range. They are excellent swimmers and their captive habitat should have a water depth as deep as possible without allowing them to escape. A sand substrate is a must as they bury themselves to feel safe, to ambush prey, and also to help keep their shell in good condition.
Softshells prefer slightly acidic water (pH 6.5), and a small amount of aquarium salt can be beneficial for helping to prevent skin and shell problems. Several good sized leafy plants can be added to provide resting and hiding places, but care should be taken to avoid potentially sharp decorations. Basking areas can be made of dirt, sand, gravel, smooth rocks or flat rocks, driftwood or anything that will support their weight and is non-abrasive. A single adult would do best in a 120G tank or larger, although a stock tank or a heated pond would also be ideal.
Softshells are very accomplished swimmers, even as fresh hatchlings, and do fine in deep water. Some people like to offer varying depths of water so that they can use their long necks to "snorkel" while remaining buried, although this is not strictly necessary.
Chinese Softshells do not make good community turtles as they are highly aggressive towards their own species, and hard shelled turtles can easily do a lot of damage to them. Unless a very large tank or pond of several hundred gallons can be provided, it is not recommended to attempt keeping softshells together.
A hatchling's captive habitat should mimic that which it would have as an adult. The requirements are the same pertaining to lighting, heat, basking and water depth. Some keepers worry that their turtle might drown in a deep water aquarium and opt to give the hatchling a shallow habitat. That is completely inaccurate. Hatchlings - even fresh day old hatchlings - do quite well in deep water. Hatchlings should also be provided with numerous plants (artificial or live) for stability, hiding and climbing. The temperature range for hatchlings and yearlings is a bit different, however, simply because of their high mortality rate. Hatchlings and yearlings should be maintained in the same range as the daytime and basking temperatures listed above, however, their water temps should be kept between 78° and 80°F.
Hatchlings will eat the same foods as adults, although smaller feeders are required. Bloodworm are good as they bury into the sand substrate and can be "hunted". Hatchlings are even less likely to eat greens, but once again they can be offered.