Raising your own food

(Red-Eared Sliders)

  The bottle ecosystem 
This is a method I personally dessigned and developed.  The idea is simple:  create small ecosystems where food animals will thrive and develop and that are both easy to manage and fun to watch.  By observing the small ecosystems we can learn a lot about these animals and rather than becoming a burden, it becomes a pleasurable hobbie.
  Types of bottles to  
In order to use my method, you will need to get some good size transparent plastic bottles.  What you require is plastic transparent bottles with an opening diameter of about 10 cms  (4 inches) and 20 cms in height (8 inches).  You might find plastic bottles like those in food warehouse stores, where they sell food items, parmessan cheese and spices by big amounts.  I think you'll be able to find some suitable bottles, but iff you can't absolutelly find them, you might consider using 2 liter coca cola bottles, cutting up the top part to create a wider opening.  The important thing is that the bottle is transparent to allow light to come in, is plastic so that you can easily handle it, and has a wide enough opening for you to be able to get your hand inside.
  Where to place the 
  bottle ecosystems
I have a simple piece of furniture that has many shelves with no sides.  This furniture is placed in my kitchen against a window that gets lots of light and some direct morning sun.  I placed my bottles on the shelves so that they get lots of light and some direct sun.
  The aquatic snail 
Get a plastic bottle and fill 80% of it  with water.  Add some elodia plants (or any other aquatic plant edible to snails) and set in a couple of snails.  Snails are hermaphrodites but you still need to place at least two of them since a snail can't fertilize himself.  All you have to do now is to wait and observe!  Once the snails have an addult size they will copulate and lay eggs.  The eggs will be attached to the plants or bottom sides of the bottle in small stransparent sacs.  You will see the transparent sacs and lots of tiny beige color dots, those are the eggs.  They will grow a bit and in a week the baby snails will be born.  You don't need to feed them if you don't want to, the snails will eat the plants debris and the plants will feed with the snail stools.  If you want to feed them you can add crushed cuttlebone or shells for extra calcium.  You can also feed them with your commercial turtle food.
The only maintenance you will need to do is, add extra tap water once you notice that some of the water has evaporated, and cleaning the bottle when the water looks a bit green.  This will depend on the weather but as a general rule, I clean my snail bottles about every two months.  If you want to prevent the water from turning green so fast, you can diminish the amount of light that the bottle receives or add extra plants.  Cleaning them is very easy!  All you need to do is carefully drop about two thirds of the water.  Then, with a two inch squared soft sponge, you will scrub the inner sides of the  bottle (if you don't have a small sponge, cut up a big one to fit the required size).  Then, refill the bottle with tap water.  You will notice that a lot of green stuff will emerge to the surface.  Wait until  most of the snails swim to the bottom and sides and then you can remove that green debris at the surface.

  The cricket ecosystem

For this ecosystem, you will need to create a 'terranium' in your plastic bottle.  I set up about 2 inches (5 cms) of  planting soil.  Then I planted some red/green peppers inside and dropped lots of extra pepper seeds around.  I have chosen peppers because they don't overgrow too fast and because their leafs are edible to the crickets, but you may use any kind of slow growing plant that crickets can eat (like grass, beans, etc).  Put all the seeks of a pepper on it.  Don't think it is too much since the crickets will eat even the seeds that don't germinate.  Allow sometime for the plants to grow at least to two or three inches.  Water them lightly since the bottles tend to retain a lot of the moisture.  Now it is the time to place the crickets.  You can buy crickets at bate shops or petshops.  Males have two spikes on their tale while females have three.  Place a bottlecap with water inside for the crickets to drink.  Make sure the small ecosystem is not too wet inside, otherwyse wait for it to dry a bit before placing the crickets inside. 
Most female crickets bought at petshops are already fertilized, so all you need is to place in the bottle a couple of females and you will soon see that they will start digging around or sticking their tales in the soil.  This means they are laying the eggs.  If they don't do that within the two hours after you place them in, add in a couple of males to the bottle.  I have placed up to five adult  crickets in the bottle just to start the ecosystem.  Just after placing the crickets inside, cover the opening of the bottle with a piece of plastic wrap (they type we use in the kitchen to keep food in the fridge) or with a piece of cotton tissue.   Fasten the plastic wrap around the bottle opening with a rubber band, then open lots of small holes on the plastic wrap with a needle.  Don't worry if a couple of days after laying the eggs, the crickets die.  This is normal, they have already accomplished their job.  The females might lay some eggs around the sides of the bottle that you can observe.  Don't worry if you see other types of creatures around your ecosystem... sometimes you will find that there were some small flies that sneaked in, but don't remove them... the crickets will eat them as well.  If the ecosystem is too dry you can add some small drops of water, not too much since the bottle keeps the moisture.  If after the parent crickets die you notice the ecosystem is too wet and there is even fungi growing around, you can remove the plastic for a couple of weeks to allow it to dry.  You can also use a piece of cotton tissue to cover the bottle instead of the plastic. 
Your baby crickets will be born between 50 and 60 days after the eggs were laid.  Just before that time, cover the bottle again with plastic wrap, if you had previously removed the wrap.  Once the baby crickets are born feed them.  Throw in a lettuce leaf, carrot slices, dry oatmeal, add some water to your bottlecap for crickets to drink.  The crickets will be almost transparent when they are born but they change to a darker color in a couple of days.  I try to feed them stuff that will not go bad too fast (like carrots, lettuce and oatmeal), and that will have plenty of good vitamins for my turtless.  Now just add  food when needed (more or less every two weeks) and wait for the crickets to grow up. 
A couple of days before feeding the crickets to your turtles, feed your crickets with extra vitamin loaded meals.  You may even add some turtle vitamins to their diet the day you will feed them to the turtles so that they will have their bellies full of good nutrients for the sliders. 

  The fish ecosystem

I have a normal small aquarium where I keep a couple of guppies, a male and a female.  Those are the parents of all the colony. Their job is to produce the babies. 
I filled one of my transparent plastic bottles with water that has been sitting on open air for at least 24 hours to get rid of chloride.  I got some elodia plants, held them all together by the base and stuck the base inside a snail shell (just to hold them all together).  Then I placed the shell at the bottom of  the bottle and put a small stone on top so that it stays in the bottom.  You really don't need to do all this since elodia plants don't need to be planted to grow and thrive.  I did it just for aesthetical purposes.  I love to observe all my little ecosystems.  In this bottle I placed the first batch of baby guppies.  You can set up a different bottle each time you get a new batch.  In that way you will rase them according to their ages. 
The guppies eat some of the plants and plant debris, and since the bottle gets lots of light, the guppies are growing very healthy.  All you need to do now is add extra water when the level goes down.  Remember that for fish, the water you add has to be water that you have let sit for at least 24 hours to get rid of the chloride, otherwyse they will die.  I don't use any chemicals to treat water or diseases.   I prevent the diseases on the fish by providing them lots of light and clean water.  I think it is best for my turtles to eat fish that has been raised in a totally natural way. 
I feed my guppies regular fish food but I also feed them every two days with one pellet of turtle food.  My purpose is to get them used to the turtle food.  If my  turtle doesn't eat them immediately after I throw them to the turtle aquarium, they will help me clean some of the food leftovers that my turtle always leaves around. 

   Raising aquatic plants

If your turtle likes eating aquatic plants they raising them is a must.  You can raise elodia in a separate plastic bottle or combine the plant raising to the fish or snail raising.  You don't need to plant them at the bottom, you can let them float  freely inside.  All they need to grow fast is lots of light and warm temperature. 
Water hyacinths are one of the aquatic plants most accepted by red-eared sliders.  These plants grow on the surface of the water.  The leafs have a nice bright green color, they are tick and attached to something like a green bulb.  They produce beautiful purple flowers.  Unfortunately, you cannot grow them in a bottle.  For  these plants you will need a bigger type of container and provide lots of light and warm temperatures.  They are better  kept outdoors, where  they reproduce very fast. 
Duckweed is a tiny surface floating aquatic plant.  You can grow them easily on the surface of the same plastic bottle where you  grow elodias.

  Raising earthworms

These fellows require a different ecosystemm than the one provided by  the  bottle ecosystem method.  I would say you must provide the contrary.  They need to be kept in a cooler place with no light. 
I set up a good size plant pot with  different layers.  The first layer is made of newspaper (the thickness of 3 sheets).  This  helps keep the moisture inside the pot.  Then I place a layer of  dry leafs (to let worms have air pockets inside to move and also to start some decomposition process) .  Then I set up a layer of planting soil (thicker than the other layers), followed by a layer of banna peels, carrot peels or any other natural peel.  I cover all that with another layer of planting soil, then I place a dozen earhworms inside.  I keep my 'pot' in a dark cool place and regularly water it so that the earthworms will have enough moisture.  Once a week I dig in a bit and  add up some more peelings if needed.  Earthworms are hermaphrodites, just as the aquatic snails.  They grow a batch of eggs at one of their extremes.  The entire earthworm production takes about three months. 
Removing morms from the pot to feed to the  turtle can be done in two different ways.  Either you simply 'overwater' the pot (the excess of water will urge the worms to crawl to the surface where you can grab them), or I dig them out. 
  Raising mosquito 
  larvae (for baby 
This is easier to do if you have a garden.  Get a wide opening container.  Fill it up with water and place some soil and dry leafs at the bottom.  Place it out in the open.  Wait and check every few days.  The mosquitos will come and lay the eggs.  In a few days you will start to see tiny almost transparent larvae moving inside your container.  When they get a nice dark color they are ready to harvest.  Get a cup size strainer (like the ones used to strain cooffe).  You can find good plastic ones for less than a buck.  The larvae move constantly up and down.  You gotta sit down quietly and watch out when they move up.  At that moment you quickly scoop them with the strainer.  They will get stuck in the  strainer's net and then you can repeat the process until you have caught  a good  amount.   Just before giving them to your turtle, pass the strainer under your faucet in order to clean some of the dirty water's debris.  You will be able to scoop larvae every other day in the summer!
  Other food raising  
  methods on-line
Raising crickets. 
Cricket care
Rearing crickets (University of Kentucky). 
Breeding and raising the home cricket (Melissa Kaplan) 
Sirac cricket rearing

Rearing earthwors (Ohio State University). 

Rearing mealworms (Ohio State University). 
Rasing mealworms (University of Kentucky). 

Guppies (mosquito fish): 
Laurel lake guppy hatchery.

French version
Spanish version

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Email:  reslider@guatemala.crosswinds.net