Animal Information

Snake-Necked Turtle (Chelodina longicollis)

Snake-necked turtle (Chelodina longicollis) characterized by long necks that can bend and move in a serpentine fashion was first described in 1794. Snake-necked turtles are a group of side-necked turtles with necks that range from nearly as long as to slightly longer than the shell.

In fact, they inhabit the waterways of Australia and southern New Guinea and possess the longest neck of any group of turtles in the world. Because the neck is so long that it cannot be retracted completely beneath the margin of the shell. There are six species of turtles belonging to the genera Chelodina and Macrochelodina in family Chelidae,

All aquatic turtles are great swimmers

Rather than swim, these reptiles prefer to walk along the bottom of streams. The aquatic turtles are carnivores and prey on fish. When hunting the reptile holds its neck against its body.

When prey is close, the neck and head lunge forward, and the animal opens its mouth and throat to create a vacuum. Water and prey are sucked into the mouth, which snaps shut. The mouth then opens slightly to allow water, but not the prey, to escape.

The common snake-necked turtle                  (Chelodina longicollis) is found from Queensland to South Australia.

The common snake-necked turtle prefers freshwater rivers, lakes, and swamps with soft sand and muddy bottoms.

Seems like they feel more relaxed with plenty of plant cover above the water and submerged stumps and tree branches below.

Because it is a basking species, add a large branch that rises out from the water’s surface. 

Without a proper basking spot, turtles cannot dry themselves appropriately or shed their old shells. As a result, turtles can develop shell and skin problems, such as shell pyramiding.

Turtles also easily get a fungus on the shell if they do not bask often enough. 

Other reasons water turtles need to dry off is because leeches are a blood-sucking ectoparasite that can cause anemia in reptiles. 

Drying out in the sun causes the leeches to shrivel up and die. Algae on basking aquatic turtles can also dry out and fall off, allowing the shells to retain their aerodynamic nature.

Chelodina species, C. longicollis

The average lifespan of Chelodina longicollis ranges from 31 to 37 years.  The lifespan of wild and captive individuals appears to be approximately equal; however, very few have been held in captivity. While the snake-necked turtle reaches 10 inches in total shell length.

Consequently, what makes this turtle unique is its neck is nearly as long as its carapace. The common snake-necked turtle’s carapace is broad and flat, and it is typically dark brown to black in color. In contrast, the plastron is yellow with black lines following the seams.

Much as many aquatic turtles, common snake-necked turtles emit a foul-smelling liquid from their musk glands as a defense against predators. The smell is similar to that of a skunk, and it’s amazingly potent for such a small turtle. In fact, this obnoxious odor is no doubt an effective deterrent to a curious dingo or monitor. Most noteworthy, Snake-neck turtles often stop exuding this musk in captivity.


It is recommended to keep small turtles up to fifteen centimetres SCL (Straight Carapace Length) indoors where they can be easily monitored. A 120cm-180cm (4ft -8ft) length aquarium is recommended, depending on the species. The width of the aquarium is very important for freshwater turtles and should be a minimum of 2ft (front to back).

Large turtles should be kept in outdoor ponds, but if this is not possible, a minimum 6 x 2 x 2 ft tank will be sufficient for two or three individuals, depending on the species. A guide to how many turtles you can keep in your aquarium is to work out your aquarium water volume.

The aquarium substrate should be made up of 2-3 inches of rock and river sand mix. Do not use beach sand as it has sharp, angular edges. On fact, it is important to build beneficial bacteria.

If your aquarium’s substrate is any deeper than this then anaerobic bacteria can cause unstable water chemistry, including high levels of ammonia, fluctuating pH and can also produce toxic gas (hydrogen sulphide). The water depth should vary according to the size of your turtle.

Very small turtles should start with a water depth of a couple of inches. Larger turtles can have a full aquarium providing they cannot escape.

It is not recommended to have an enclosed hood on your turtle aquarium as constant humidity can cause respiratory infections. Dangerous black mold can also be an issue in humid conditions.

You may add a handful of aquarium salt if your water conditions are poor. Do not add salt when replacing evaporated water.

Dissolved salts in your water detoxify ammonia and nitrites which are the first two nitrogenous compounds of the nitrogen cycle.


Water quality in a pond or aquarium situation is very important as it can mean the difference between owning healthy or constantly sick turtles.  Dirty water can promote many diseases and skin conditions that would not normally occur in their natural environment.  Whilst in captivity, a turtle’s ailment can be worse than if it had the same problem in the wild.  This can be due to many factors including the increased stress associated with being kept in unnatural conditions.

Sparkling clear water is not always an indication of its purity.  Many ‘invisible factors’ that can have detrimental effects on your turtles’ health include water acidity or alkalinity (pH), salinity, temperature, hardness and levels of chlorine, chloramines, nitrate, nitrite, and ammonia.  Wherever possible, you should try to replicate the turtle’s natural environment. 


The pH value is the measurement of hydrogen ion (H+) concentration in relation to the hydroxyl ion (OH-) concentration in water. The more hydrogen ions found in a body of water, then the more acidic the water will be and the lower the pH.

The more hydroxyl ions present then the higher the alkalinity and pH. A pH test kit is used to check the degree of alkalinity or acidity of water. pH ranges from 0 to 14 with 0 being extremely acid and 14 being extremely alkaline. Most basic test kits range from 6.0 to 8.0 with neutral being 7.0. Sudden fluctuations and values outside these measurements can be harmful to plants, fish and other animal life.

Carbonate Hardness 
Carbonate hardness can best be described as the levels of carbonate and bicarbonate found within water. Carbon dioxide dissolved in water reacts with calcium and magnesium to form carbonates. Heated water in tropical aquariums could cause the carbon dioxide to be released and a white, crusty deposit (calcium and magnesium) may form on the glass.

The Carbonate hardness of water and pH go hand in hand. Carbonate hardness helps to control and stabilize the pH. Acids produced in anaerobic (lacking oxygen) pond and aquarium biological filtration systems will reduce the carbonate hardness value found in water, and will, therefore, make it difficult to keep the pH stable. Raising carbonate hardness levels can be done by adding Turtle Grit. Carbonate hardness test kits are available from most good aquarium outlets or pet shops. The ideal level of carbonate hardness in a turtle tank is 80ppm.

General Hardness 
Water can contain many dissolved substances from organic and inorganic compounds, which are described as ‘trace elements’. Many of these trace elements are important in sustaining life within all ecosystems. They include calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, sulfates, and chlorides. General Hardness is the levels of calcium and magnesium concentrations found within a body of water.

General hardness is caused by acids reacting with magnesium and calcium to form calcium sulfate, calcium chloride, and magnesium sulfate and magnesium chloride. The desired range for general hardness is between 180ppm and 200ppm. General Hardness can also be raised by adding Turtle Grit to your aquarium substrate.

Adding between 4-5 grams of pure evaporated sea salt (pool salt with no additives) to every litre of water (0.4% – 0.5%) will help reduce the chances of your turtle getting skin infections. Salt also inhibits diseases and helps to destroy infectious micro-organisms. Never use iodised salt or salt with added caking agents.


Turtles over 6 inches in shell length can be kept in larger ponds outdoors. A fiberglass pond or pond liner, which can be purchased from most large garden nurseries, are both perfect for beginners. Make sure to choose a fiberglass pond without pebbles or stones covering the inside, or scarring and infections in your turtle’s shell may result. For the serious enthusiast, a pond can be constructed of concrete.

A builder should be consulted to determine the thickness of the walls, the amount of steel reinforcing to use and the best product to seal the concrete with. Water depth should be a minimum of 12 inches to allow turtles to mate successfully and help prevent the water overheating during summer.

The pond should be situated where it will receive as much sunlight as possible, especially the morning sun, as turtles like to bring themselves to their optimum temperature so they can begin their daily activities. Shade an area of the pond so they can escape from the harsh midday sun and hide when they feel threatened. Build a wall at least 35 inches high around your enclosure to prevent escape because turtles are extremely good climbers.

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