Small captive bred Alligator Snapping Turtles do very well in captivity if a few basic guidelines are followed:

  1. Aquariums or tanks with lower sides are preferable for turtles. Some stores refer to these as breeder tanks. It allows heaters and pumps to reach the water easier rather than having a tank with tall sides and little surface area.
  2. The turtles function best with a water temperature of around 82 degrees. The small submersible heaters where the cord goes directly in the water work best. Ebo Jaeger heaters are very good. The heater has a temperature dial right on it. They don't break as easy as some of the other brands.
  3. I also like to keep a generous network of plastic plants in the tank. With a water level of 6 to 10 inches they really attract the snappers to position themselves vertically in the network of plants and lure for fish just below the surface.
  4. Alligator snappers can be kept together with adequate space provided.  Small ones do particularly well together and outward aggression is rarely observed.  These are a much more communal oriented turtle than the common snappers.  In their natural habitat adults often congregate in small groups as well.  Note:  If you drain their tank separate them beforehand.  They freak out totally when their habitat is drained and snap at anything.  Even each other.  This never happens when their tank is normal depth.
  5. Guppies, Rosy reds or small minnows are the best sources of food. Small crayfish are good too. Small bits of lean raw beef or chicken work well. Once they reach 5 or 6 inches chicken necks cut into small segments work well and these can be cut in advance and stored in the freezer for later use. Larger shiners and larger crayfish. Small frozen rodents once or twice a month add considerable bulk but I am not sure this is necessarily good.  Goldfish should be avoided because of certain treatment (copper sulfate) the fish farms use that is toxic to turtles after a certain level is reached.
  6. Fat turtles aren't necessarily healthy turtles over long term.
  7. Driftwood serves the dual purpose of acidifying the water and providing cover for the turtle. They like to wedge under it if the situation presents itself. Water on the acidic side is preferred. Although most snappers tolerate a variable ph it is best to stay under or at neutral which is 7. Rainwater is great if you have access.
  8. You can keep other species of turtles with alligator snappers provided they are the same size. No problems occur unless they is a size discrepancy.
  9. Expect them to grow about and inch or two at the most per year. Skipping hibernation is advisable for the first few years. Just keep the temp at 82 degrees year round.
  10. Full spectrum lighting is nice for overall tank vitality but not necessary as these turtles do not bask. If a decent filter system is used actual water changes are scarcely needed. Maybe just vacuum the bottom of the tank once a month with one of those siphon cleaner apparatus you can get at the pet store.
  11. And finally local wildlife officials discourage letting pets that outgrow their tanks go in the wild. Species that are let go where they do not naturally occur is not a good solution and is usually illegal.
  12. If your turtle grows beyond your means contact me and I will arrange shipment back to me and I will send hatchlings back in trade. This program has worked well for many years now.

Remember to always wash your hands after touching any reptile. Good luck!

John Richards