There is a general opinion that the common snapping turtles rarely if ever, except for laing eggs,
leave the water.
Some accounts of seing them sitting on the rocks have been made, but they have always been considered
to be some sort of unusual and even unnatural behavior on part of the snappers.
Based on these conclusions, the popular advice provided in the caresheets for the common snapping turtles
is that of any basking area not being necessary in housing these species. Considered almost 100%
aquatic, also the full spectrum light supply is mentioned as not needed. But are these assumptions
true indeed ?
In my opinion , such finding might be in fact far from the truth. Basicaly, they ignore
the turtles need of Vitamin D3 necessary to sustein the healthy growth of the shell. On the surface with different looks,
the snapping turtles are just turtles - like any others, and their body functions are just like any other
aquatic turtles sharing them the same environment, the same.
Theoretically, they might not need as much exposure to the direct sunlight as the other species,
but still they need some to produce healthy bones ! ( not only the Calcium )
In the nature, a turtle like the snapping turtle, gets a chance to catch some reys even by floating
on the surface of water. Does a captive snapper get the same chance in the tank ? Of course not !
Have snappers been observed basking in the wild ? Sometimes yes ! But not in captivity - at least not
in a small tank filled with water
and no basking light and basking area supplied.
Well, I agree that it is not an easy task for an average turtle keper to maintain a large
and a wild - like set up for larger snappers, but it isn't so difficult with juvenile snappers,
which in fact need more care than the big guys ( same as human babies ) !
My baby snappers were regular baskers until they grew to about 10 inches in lenght. Their home
was set up to be as much as their wild one - stones, driftwood, many hiding places, crystal clear water,
night and day cycle - all in a 60 gallon tank. There was also the sun - a basking spot light suspended over a piece of driftwood.
The snappers used to climb the log almost everyday, with the naps and thus the basking sessions
extending to 2 or 3 hours.
The most interesting thing is that, in the winter, while I was keeping the water temperature
at 25 Celsius, the turtles would climb the log anyway ! They didn't do it because of cold,
but, I guess, the need of sun !
The basking sessions were taken alone, or with other turtles ( at that time, while still
babies, the snappers had not inclination to bite other turtles ).
Here, one of them with a Reeves turtle on a piece of driftwood.
So, do they need the basking light or not ? I think they do and I always supply them
with one. At least during their adolescence.
The grown up snappers, simply because of the sheer space it would recquire to built a
set up with the basking area ( in fact a small pond ), the best way to give them the chance
of catching some sunshine is to let them walk on the grass for an hour now and then,
and sprinkle their diet with reptile Vitamin & Minerals supply once a week.
( includes Vitamin D3, available at local pet shops ).