Please inform me if you know what's going on...
A few weeks back I aquired an alligator snapper. It's a hatchling. I've finally got my tank all set up but I'm thinking that this turtle is acting very unusual.
First of all, I know that most snappers enjoy semi-deep water and don't come on land too often. This turtle loves the water, no doubt. He hasn't gotten on the land area yet and actually avoids it. The problem is he can't swim at all. Really. He CAN'T SWIM. No... really.

I initially filled the tank 8'' deep. When I placed him inside, he sunk to the bottom. No problem, I thought, until about 5 minutes later when he seemed to be making an attempt to swim for the surface to get air. No problem, right? Wrong. He is too weak to swim and cannot propel himself upward even an inch.
Fearing that he was going to drown, I spent the next painstaiking 4 hours reconfiguring the tank for 4'' water and jerry-rigging my filter to work in water that shallow. There is still a land area, and it's easy to get to, but he won't go there. Also, he hides from the light, ALWAYS. So I just got rid of the UV lamp alltogether (which wasn't that bright at all) and traded it in for a full-time nocturnal red heat bulb.
Otherwise he seems to be normal. Eats fine. Gets some activity walking around. He even tries to bight me, not afraid of me at all.

I just don't understand. Is this turtle dysfunctional or something?

Thanks
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Please inform me if you know what's going on... A few weeks back I aquired an alligator snapper. It's a ... to bight me, not afraid of me at all. I just don't understand. Is this turtle dysfunctional or something? Thanks

Jenn? You wanna take this one Emotion: smile You're the snapping turtle person around here.
-cat
Please inform me if you know what's going on...

I'll try to help. I keep common snappers.
A few weeks back I aquired an alligator snapper. It's a hatchling. I've finally got my tank all set up ... area yet and actually avoids it. The problem is he can't swim at all. Really. He CAN'T SWIM. No... really.
I get the impression that alligators swim a lot less than commons, since they have the tongue lure. Not that my commons like to swim much. The only one who does is the male, who is in a glass tank and thinks swimming at the glass will get him fed. :-) The girls just walk around the bottom of their stock tank. Occasionally they get motivated by food or spooked and they dash/swim away, but the only time I see any of my turtles at the surface is when the male is dead asleep during the night.

(Looks really weird, he floats just under the surface with all his feet and neck hanging down.) So, I would assume that yours would not want to swim at all, although the complete lack of ability makes me think he might be a little weak.
I initially filled the tank 8'' deep. When I placed him inside, he sunk to the bottom. No problem, I ... get air. No problem, right? Wrong. He is too weak to swim and cannot propel himself upward even an inch.

This does sound odd. I captured my first snapper as a baby in a reservior and it was swimming on the surface. It was a common, but an alligator should still be able to swim.
Fearing that he was going to drown, I spent the next painstaiking 4 hours reconfiguring the tank for 4'' water ... UV lamp alltogether (which wasn't that bright at all) and traded it in for a full-time nocturnal red heat bulb.

I keep all of my tanks at a water depth of about twice the height of the turtle, when it stands. Snappers have very long necks and mine can all comfortably breathe and look around in this setup.
I don't use lights on my snapper tank, just ambient room light (unless I'm taking pictures). They don't like light at all. I bring my girls to an annual reptile show and they hide under the logs for most of the weekend, trying to get into the safer darkness. I'd ditch the red bulb for a submersible titanium or steel heater (snappers move their cage furniture around so I wouldn't use a glass heater, it'd get broken) and just keep a lamp near the tank.

If it's a little dark, he should feel safer and spend more time in the open. As for the land, my male has a ramp to climb on and I've only caught him on it twice in 3 years. I entered the room in the early morning (I'm not a morning person) and heard a splash as he dove into the water. He certainly wasn't basking, none of the lights were on yet! My girls don't have any land, but they have healthy shells and I don't think they really need it. Give a snapper a good, healthy diet and keep the tank clean, and I think they do fine completely aquatic.
Otherwise he seems to be normal. Eats fine. Gets some activity walking around. He even tries to bight me, not afraid of me at all.

Try to get him used to being picked up while he's small. Don't spend a lot of time playing with him or anything like that, but occasionally take him out and check him over. It makes it easier if he's used to it when he's 50 pounds and can take your hand off!
I just don't understand. Is this turtle dysfunctional or something?

As long as he's eating well and walking around, I wouldn't worry too much. I'd suggest getting a little kitchen scale and weighing him regularly. If he doesn't start putting weight on, or drops any, take him to a vet. But if you are worrying about him, go ahead and take him in now for a general checkup and fecal (if they can get poop from a snapper, my vets have never tried, but who wants to swab a 30 pound snapper's cloaca?). Snappers are quite a bit different from other turtles in their habits, and if this is your first one you'll learn its behavior over time. They're fantastic animals!
Good luck!
Jennifer
I just don't understand. Is this turtle dysfunctional or something?

Snappers aren't very strong-looking swimmers to begin with. They're movements appear very clumsy. Unless your turtle is sick or under- weight, I wouldn't be concerned too much about apparent lack of coordination. They do tend to just sit at the bottom of the tank and to awkwardly climb thier way up to the surface when necessary. You may want to add a branch or some other object as a ramp for the turtle to pull itself up to facilitate surfacing and getting to land on that rare occasion. This is (as Jenn pointed out) assuming that you have a healthy turtle to begin with.

-Z
Please inform me if you know what's going on... A few weeks back I aquired an alligator snapper. It's ahatchling. ... the land area yet and actually avoids it.The problem is he can't swim at all. Really. He CAN'T SWIM. No...really.

I have seen a full grown alligator snapper swim halfway out of the water to get food, just like my red eared sliders used to do. It was in a big aquarium Zoo, really impressive, I was a teenager and it's about 20-25 years ago, but I still remember it quite clear. Heck of a lot of water splashing! As far as I recall, they didn't have a land area for it.

Ulrik Smed,
Denmark, Aarhus
Please inform me if you know what's going on... A ... can't swim at all. Really. He CAN'T SWIM. No... really.

I have seen a full grown alligator snapper swim halfway out of the water to get food, just like my ... Heck of a lot of water splashing! As far as I recall, they didn't have a land area for it.

I've read that they don't need to get OUT of the water, but they should have an area shallow enough that they can stretch their necks and get their head up for air.
Cindy
Thanks Jenn and others for the help. I appreciate it.

I sat watching him all last night and although he cannot swim I've discovered he is very able in the water, much more so than my painted turtle. He actually sat at the bottom for so long I think he was sleeping down there. Much different than my painted turtle who sleeps next to foilage, rocks and driftwood clinging to the side.

I replaced the red bulb with a ceramic heater lamp (no light, just heat), so now he has just ambient light as Jenn suggested. Like magic he did start coming out in the open instead of hiding in the foilage all day.

I will try to handle him more often, but I like to respect that he's probably afraid of being held. I take him out three times a day to put in a small feeder tank so as not to dirty the water. I was thinking this may be a problem tho because I wanted to add baby crays or minnows to his tank so he could hunt.
It really is a fantastic animal. The teeny-tiny tongue lure in his mouth looks really cool but I wish he'd close his jaws for a little while =) There's nothing for him to hunt yet so I feel sorry for him. He's not developed so I can't see any schutes or shell details. He's also completely brown and I think it'll change later.
I rescued him from some Hardee's employee who was keeping him in a bucket. Who knows where it came from because they're not from around this area (central east coast). He said one of his family members gave it to him, but damn! I offered him $50 to drive me to his house and give it to me after I heard about it. He did and gave it to me for the cost of one cigarette! Luckily I was in the right place at the right time to overhear him talking about it.
I guess the only concern I have left is the consistency of his shell. It is firm, but soft like algea. From picture's I've seen this appears normal. His whole body looks like algea, but it's not. I guess it's some type of camoflauge. I don't know how to tell if the shell is too soft or not. It seems that without considerable UV light it would deteriorate. The local vet knows jack about turtles and actually told me not to bring any more in because there's nothing he could do. Now I've got to drive over the friggin mountain to get to a vet who isn't an ***.

Forgive me, but one more question, please. The water temp is 75 degrees on one side and 80 degrees on another. I don't know if he's doing it on purpose, but he has been spending all his time in the 75 degree end. Is
80 degrees too warm?

Thanks for the help and sorry I'm so wordy.
Thanks Jenn and others for the help. I appreciate it.

Do you have a pic on the web somewhere? I have never heard of anybody keeping a tutle before. How much space do they take? Not that I want one, but I have this image of an aquariam the size of a small swimming pool..

Phil
Thanks Jenn and others for the help. I appreciate it.

Do you have a pic on the web somewhere? I have never heard of anybody keeping a tutle before. How ... I want one, but I have this image of an aquariam the size of a small swimming pool.. Phil

Well, at smaller sizes they can go in a smaller tank. This hatchling's shell is about the size of a quarter. I've got him in a 40 gallon tank. The tank was formerly used for my southern painted turtle when she was a hatchling. After she grew larger, I bought a fiberglass pond (120 gallons). It fits perfectly in my house and the water stays remarkably clean with low amonia levels. I was not so lucky with the tank which is hard to keep clean sometimes. It's a real backbreaking experience to change all this water.

I guess the more water you have the better filtration systems will work. Turtles are dirty as hell. Without a good, cultured biological filtration system the water will be rank stagnant within two days. But overall I enjoy the experience of having them around. I guess I'm just weird.
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