Breeding Spengleri


photo by Mary Hopson



Breeding Geoemyda spengleri requires at least two healthy adults. While that may seem obvious, it can be the most difficult part of the process. The imports have been notoriously fragile, with multiple health issues. Their small size appears to make them more vulnerable to starvation related organ failure, which does not necessarily kill them quickly. In fact, sick imports have been known to improve, begin eating, and even showing an interest in mating, only to go rapidly downhill and die of kidney failure months later. Getting males healthy enough to produce sperm seems particularly challenging. It can take years of excellent care to reach that point. Even then, this species appears sensitive to poor conditions. Allowing the water to get fouled, or the substrate too dry, can cause one or more of the animals housed there to develop a life-threatening infection. People who wish to keep and breed this species will have to be very devoted to the process, willing to pay vet bills, and patient enough to wait for the animals to be ready.

Healthy males will usually be more than willing to do their part. It's a good idea to have several females for each male. I've noticed that both genders seem to enjoy a chase as part of the mating process. Sometimes the male will simply run around alone, hoping that someone will join him in the activity. A large outdoor habitat can serve them well when it's time for a good game of chase. Although the mating chase is frequently reported, it is not universal. Some keepers who use smaller habitats can still be successful in breeding.

Some successful breeders keep males and females separate much of the year, introducing them in the spring. This will generally prompt a flurry of mating activity. Again, this is something that isn't required for successful breeding. I keep my group together.

My females began producing eggs just a few months after I got them. However, for the first several years, none of the eggs proved fertile. There would be no embryonic development at all. In fact, there was no evidence that my males could produce viable sperm for the first five years. Then a couple eggs developed deformed or defective little turtles that died in the egg. Since that time, almost every egg that is laid has turned out to be fertile, producing perfect little babies. The females seem to prefer to lay eggs, usually only one or two at a time, in moist sphagnum moss. When you find eggs in the habitat, take care not to turn them over or alter their orientation as you transfer them to the incubation box.

A variety of incubation tactics can all produce healthy hatchlings. If the eggs are fertile, they aren't terribly demanding about conditions during incubation, except for two important factors: 1. The temperature must never reach 82ºF (27.75ºC), even briefly; and 2. The eggs must never dry out.

I've used a variety of media with good results. Many people prefer vermiculite, with an equal measure of water, with the eggs placed in indentations. Covering with a layer of moist sphagnum moss is often recommended. I have used that setup and produced hatchlings. However, I now prefer to use cypress mulch instead of the vermiculite, because it seems to prevent molds/fungi better. I still cover them with sphagnum moss. I mist the "incubator" every day, and check for moisture levels, sometimes adding a bit of water. The substrates are in a small plastic box, covered very loosely.

I have had trouble getting incubators to maintain a temperature below that critical 82º. Even when they seemed to stabilize correctly, it would hit that deadly mark at some point, and every embryo would die in the shell. Many people prefer to incubate at room temperature, so I decided to try that, even though my home temperatures ranged from 65 at night to 68-70 during the day, which I feared might be too cool. All the eggs in that clutch hatched. They took up to four months. The incubation period varied depending upon temperature. If a temperature can be maintained at 79-80º, hatchlings should appear in approximately five or six weeks.

Tending hatchlings:
The tiny hatchlings should not be placed with adults, or in exactly the same type of setup. Some keepers maintain their babies primarily in shallow water. I soak mine every day in clean water, about 1/4" deep, but allow them to leave the water and burrow into clean sphagnum moss when they want to. Cognizant of how sensitive adult spengs are to dirty conditions, I keep the hatchling habitat very clean. The water dish is a small terra-cotta plant saucer, which provides good traction for climbing in and out. The babies spend a good deal of time hiding in their moss, but do venture out for a soak and to eat. For a first food, I've never had a hatchling refuse to eat live bloodworms in the water. Tiny slugs also work well. Other small wigglies will also be accepted.

More baby pictures!

Not quite born yet, a newcomer peeks out of the egg.
After looking around a bit, this baby wants no part of it.
This little one is getting ready to leave the bath.
Snagging a tiny bloodworm for lunch is fun.
four views of a hatchling


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© 2007 Mary Hopson, Anchorage, AK
This information sheet may be freely copied and distributed.

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