Terrapins are cold-blooded reptiles, hence due to the decrease in the water temperature, terrapins may become sluggish and loose appetite.
They stop movement as well as the food intake and try to hide under the mud.
This phenomenon is called the ‘Hibernation”. In wild, hibernation totally depends upon the seasonal change while in captivity, it can be controlled by manipulating the water temperature.
Pet terrapins may hibernate before their breeding season starts but it is not an essential event. To induce hibernation in a captive terrapin, the water temperature should be reduced gradually to 4°C that is 39°F.
During this period they should not be fed at least for seven days, as they evacuate to clean the bowel. The terrapinarium should be kept in a moderately cold place (cellar or room) and the temperature is to be checked regularly.
Hibernation can be continued for one and half months to three months which may vary according to their body weight or size. The terrapin should be weighed before it goes in to hibernation and after the recovery to check the difference.
They utilize the fat reserve of their body which causes gradual reduction of the body weight and hence hibernation of a weak and thin terrapin may pose danger. Weight checkup once a week is thus necessary during this period.
Find out more about hibernating terrapins
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In case of hibernation of a captive terrapin, proper caution should be taken to avoid death. They may be kept in the boxes filled up with wet moss and placed in a cold place. Regular damping of the moss is necessary to avoid its dehydration and kidney failure.
In case there is too much of weight loss (above 10%), the terrapin should be allowed to warm up slowly for a few hours. Keeping it in the warm water, providing sunlight or artificial light and regular feeding can terminate the hibernation.
Proper diet and a warm condition during winter can keep them active and away from hibernation. The owner should never encourage a sick or ailing terrapin to hibernate.
When the terrapin is hibernating in an outdoor pond, the water surface should not freeze completely. The terrapin will need a muddy layer to dig and hide under. It should be minimum 1 meter deep and have a bigger surface area to prevent oxygen deficiency. Rotten leaves should also be removed to keep the water clean.
It is necessary to provide special care after the hibernation ends. For a full guide on hibernating terrapins check out my full terrapin care guide review.