Breeding or hatching eggs of only softshell turtles, but any other turtle species requires experience. This does not mean you can not breed your softshell turtle or hatch its eggs as a beginner. You obviously can but only with huge research.
A gravid softshell turtle usually lays eggs between 4 to 38. After collecting the eggs, you need to incubate them in the proper medium at the right temperature and humidity. The baby softshell turtles will hatch after 60 to 90 days.
If you are a beginner and looking for directions to take care of the softshell turtle’s eggs, then this is just the article you need. Here I will share a complete guide on how to take care of softshell turtle’s eggs and hatch them.
When Do Softshell Turtles Lay Eggs?
Basically, there is no particular time for the softshell turtles to lay eggs. Depending on the climate and breeding, the female softshell turtles may start laying eggs somewhere between March to May. Usually, a female softshell turtle can nest several times a year. Depending on the species, each clutch may contain 4 to 38 eggs.
Though the softshell turtles are pure aquatic species, they can not lay eggs in the water. These turtles come to the land area while laying eggs. The softshell turtles need sandy or muddy areas to lay eggs.
In the wild, the softshell turtles may use the alligator’s nest to lay eggs. It is because the predators sometimes steal the eggs and eat them. In captivity, the owner provides an extra nesting box or creates a nesting area in the existing enclosure for laying eggs.
Signs That Your Softshell Turtle Will Lay Eggs
When a softshell turtle is carrying eggs, it will show some symptoms. You will notice the change in the gravid turtle’s behavior. Here are some signs that will help you determine that the softshell turtle will lay eggs:
- A softshell turtle is an aquatic species. But when it is time to lay eggs, the female turtle will spend more time on the land area.
- The gravid softshell turtle will search for a suitable area to lay eggs. Generally, sandy or muddy soil is perfect for the gravid turtles. When you know your softshell turtle will lay eggs, provide her with a nesting area. If the gravid turtle does not find the right place, she will try to lay eggs in the water, which is dangerous.
- As the gravid softshell turtle is carrying eggs, its walking style will be different than usual.
- The female softshell turtle will become restless, lose her appetite, and exhibit weird behavior.
- When the gravid softshell turtle will find the right place for laying eggs, she will start digging the soil. You may know that softshell turtles may dig the soil for many reasons. But the digging pattern is different when they are preparing the hole for eggs. It will be deeper than usual.
- The softshell turtle will use her hind legs to dig the soil.
- The depth of the hole should be almost the same size as the softshell turtle’s length. After laying eggs, the turtle covers the eggs with dirt and soil and leaves the place.
What Will You Do After Finding The Softshell Turtle’s Eggs?
Like other turtle species, the softshell turtles are incredible egg hiders. They will cover the hole in such a manner that you will never find it. That is why I suggest you keep an eye on the gravid softshell turtle when it is time to lay the eggs.
When your softshell turtle is done laying the eggs, you have 2 basic options.
- Let the eggs hatch naturally
- Incubate the eggs
In the wild, the softshell turtle eggs hatch by nature. The gravid turtle lay the eggs beside a muddy or sandy river. Sometimes the predators eat the eggs and the weather becomes rough. So, many eggs can not hatch.
On the other hand, in captivity, it is not smart to let the eggs hatch naturally. Why? It is because you can not create proper temperature or humidity inside the nesting area. So, it will be better to incubate the eggs.
Before incubating, you need to collect the eggs by digging the hole. Clean the eggs using a paintbrush. After that, you need to prepare the eggs for incubation. I will discuss the incubation process in the next section.
Softshell Turtle Eggs Care Guide
Once you get the eggs out of the hole, you need to clean the dirt from it. Then prepare the eggs for incubation. Usually, there are several ways to hatch softshell turtle eggs. I will discuss the most effective method for you.
Well, no matter which method you follow, there are some rules you must remember. For example:
- Moving the eggs frequently while incubating may affect them negatively. The embryos of the softshell turtle’s eggs may get destroyed because of it. So, you need to keep them stable.
- Take a marker and mark the top side of the softshell turtle eggs. This mark will help you detect the side.
- People often use spoons to move the turtle’s eggs.
Incubate The Softshell Turtle Eggs
You can incubate the softshell turtle’s eggs either in a commercial incubator or in an incubation medium. Vermiculite is one of the best mediums for incubating softshell turtle eggs. You can choose any other substrate that can maintain a suitable temperature and hold the moist for hatching eggs.
You can also use a commercial incubator to hatch the eggs. In that case, you have to prepare the incubator before putting the eggs in it. First of all, clean the incubator with a bleach solution or incubator disinfectant. You must clean the inside and outside of the device including the handles and buttons.
Now set the suitable temperature for the softshell turtle eggs and let the incubator run for 24 hours. Place vermiculite, perlite, or any other suitable medium to bury the eggs inside the incubator. Experts suggest avoiding sands as they limit the passage of oxygen.
If you want to use a homemade incubator, then here are the things you need to do:
- Take a big and sturdy plastic container. As the softshell turtles lay around more than 20 eggs at a time, you may need a bigger container.
- Collect sufficient amounts of vermiculite or any other incubation medium. The vermiculite is commonly used and you will easily get this at a garden shop.
- You need to make small holes on the lid of the container. These holes will work as a good ventilation system.
- Now you need to prepare the vermiculite substrate suitable for incubation. Mix the vermiculite with water in the right proportion and place it inside the container. While mixing the vermiculite and water, measure them by their weight, not volume. Otherwise, the whole incubation of the softshell turtle eggs will be ruined.
- Make sure the vermiculite gets clumped when you compress the mixture. The mixture should be a bit moist but water must not drop from it.
- While placing the mixture inside the container does not fill the container with it. Leave a couple of inches of space from the top.
- Now, you have to place the softshell turtle eggs in the container. Unlike other turtle eggs, the softshell turtle eggs are very sensitive. You need to handle them with care.
- After placing the eggs, you can not change the orientation for more than 5 hours. Why? It is because the embryos start to develop, and changing the orientation of the eggs or rolling them upside down might destroy the embryo. The markings on the eggs will help you keep the eggs in the right position.
- While placing the eggs in the vermiculite mixture, do not press them against the substrate. Keep the marking edge of the egg on the top position. Also, a considerable portion of the eggs should be exposed.
- Now cover the container with the lid. Make arrangements to maintain the proper temperature and humidity inside the container.
If you want to use a commercial incubator, here are some tips for you:
- Place the vermiculite or any other incubation substrate inside the incubator.
- Set the proper temperature and humidity inside and do a test run for 24 hours.
- After that, place the softshell turtle eggs following the same rules I have mentioned above.
- Close the device and turn on the power.
- You need to observe the eggs once or twice a week.
What Are The Perfect Temperature And Humidity For Incubation?
I have mentioned above that the softshell turtle eggs require high temperature and humidity to hatch. Usually, the suitable temperature for these eggs is around 80 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit. The aquatic turtles need a high humidity level to hatch the eggs. So it is not exceptional for the softshell turtles too.
The suitable humidity for the softshell turtle eggs is around 80 to 90%. You can install a Hygrometer inside the incubator to observe the humidity status.
Does Temperature Decide The Gender Of The Softshell Turtle’s Eggs?
Well, you may know that the incubation temperature decides the gender of many turtle species. For example, map turtles, box turtles, etc. But when it comes to the softshell turtle, the case is not the same.
Experts believe that the clutch of eggs of the softshell turtle will produce a 50/50 mix. But this happens under specific conditions. Even though this theory is not proved yet, most professionals still support it.
How Long Does It Take For The Softshell Turtle To Hatch?
Usually, with proper temperature and humidity, it takes 2 to 3 months for the softshell turtle eggs to hatch. For some eggs, it may take a little longer to come out of the shell. The hatchlings will break the eggshell with their egg teeth or caruncles.
If you notice a crack in the eggs, do not force them to open. The eggs hatch naturally. In every clutch of eggs, 1 or 2 eggs may not hatch at all.
Softshell Turtle Hatchling Care
Now that your softshell turtle’s eggs have hatched, what will you do next? Well, baby softshell turtles are really hard to be taken care of. They are slightly bigger in size compared to other turtle hatchlings. So, you will need a minimum of a 25-gallon tank for 1 or 2 hatchlings.
The softshell turtles are very aggressive in nature. So, putting the baby softshell turtles with adult turtles or any other small animals is quite risky. Usually, the hatchlings are less aggressive compared to the young or adult ones.
For their less aggressive behavior, you can raise guppies or other small fishes with the hatchlings. But this is for a few months. When the baby softshell turtles will start growing, you need to provide them with a separate tank. Experts suggest not to raise more than two baby softshell turtles in a single enclosure. Check this article to know which fishes are suitable tankmates for the softshell turtles.
When it comes to food, you need to provide the softshell turtle hatchlings with a balanced diet. The babies are primarily carnivorous. It means they will eat worms, pellets, small fishes, etc. Do not feed the hatchlings any kind of vegetables.
The baby softshell turtles require more nutrition than young or adult ones. They need minerals, vitamins, and calcium to develop their bones and body. Also, sprinkle some Vitamin D and calcium supplements on their daily meal. Click here to get the diet chart and feeding schedule for a baby softshell turtle.
Well, I have mentioned above that the softshell turtle hatchlings will require a spacious tank to grow up. They are slightly bigger in size than other hatchlings. However, you need to set up a hatchling’s tank the same way you do it for an adult or young one.
Set up a water filter, water heater, UV, and heating lamp inside the tank. Also, build a dock or land area for the hatchings to bask.
Taking care of the softshell turtle’s eggs will require much patience. If you are a beginner, you have to research a lot before planning the softshell turtles to breed. In case of any confusion, take advice from a vet or expert.