Meet Dan "The Turtle Man" and his Diamondback Terrapins
If it has fins or flippers, Dan "The Turtle Man" Roselli wants to get a good look at it. Why? This Rock Hill, South Carolina, man has been obsessed with tropical fish and turtles since he was a young boy — and that passion is now splashed all over the Internet for everyone else to enjoy.
"I have absolutely loved nature and everything 'animals' since I could walk," Roselli shared. "Whether it was my neighbor's goldfish pond or going to nature centers every weekend with my grandmother, I was always finding reasons to get outside and look at critters."
You can get a close-up view of his current menagerie of over a dozen turtles, check out his huge homemade turtle pond, pick up some turtle health tips, and laugh at silly terrapin jokes on his Instagram and YouTube feeds. Roselli records his animal adventures to educate the public on threatened or at-risk turtle species and to show how to best care for pet turtles.
It Started with Guppies
Lots of kids have small pets. Sometimes, it's a colorful rock or a fuzzy hamster. At age 10, Roselli decided it would be fun to have pet guppies in his bedroom — and breed them! Then at 13, he picked out his first pet turtle from a pet shop and said, "It was game over for any other animal." He was "love stuck" for the big bright eyes and shiny patterned shells of turtles.
Roselli is currently raising 15 diamondback terrapins and one Chinese box turtle. He used to have more but downsized heavily due to a recent move. He'd like to expand and add a few more different species of turtles and terrapins, so keep an eye on his social feeds for new reptile family members.
Some of his original cold-blooded buddies, including one of his first pairs, Miss Bean and Mr. Pancake, are still paddling around with him. If you're lucky, you might sneak a peek of Mr. Pancake doing one of his infamous yoga poses on video as you scroll through your social feeds. He's known for his super stretchy relaxation postures, including downward-facing terrapin. You can also see Roselli handling Miss Bean, who he handraised during his college years, showing off her gentle demeanor.
And then there's Miss Flipper. She's a blonde beauty with black speckles and yellow highlights that has Roselli simply smitten. He says she's the sweetest little lady and by far the most friendly turtle ever.
How Turtles Let Roselli #RepYourself
Watch more than one of Roselli's videos, and you'll instantly wonder how many cups of coffee he's had because he's so animated and devoted to caring for his pets.
"I'm high energy by nature. I am so passionate about my critters, and I overflow with that energy and talk (ramble) about them forever," he explained. "They're my purpose and why I was put on this Earth. This isn't a side gig or a little hobby for me. It's my life!"
He finds it extremely rewarding to witness his turtles behaving naturally and watching them interact with the things he offers, like wood for basking or food for foraging. Although he does interact with his hatchlings to build trust and rapport, he doesn't interact with the adult turtles as much to respect their space and natural routines. He finds that bonding happens naturally during their health checks and feedings every few days.
"I really enjoy watching them interact and behave with their environments naturally. Dogs or cats are fully domesticated, but turtles are still wild animals. Seeing my turtles behave as they would in the wild is so rewarding. I will do anything to keep making their lives better."
Tips for Setting Up a Turtle Habitat
Roselli houses turtles both indoors and outside. He gave us tips on a few items aspiring turtle parents might want to check out to help their pet better transition into a new home.
He says the Zilla Slimlines fluorescent lighting fixtures with UVB bulbs are crucial for indoor pets to synthesize vitamin D3, which helps keep their bones and shells healthy. Roselli gives his turtles access to UVB lighting as soon as they reach 4" in length, and he says, "They have the most beautiful growth with it!"
To get closer to that light, your turtles might like to float around on the Zilla Turtle Trunk, a log-shaped island for juvenile and adult aquatic turtles to enjoy.
"I have it with a few of my juveniles, and they love it! It's a super cool design and a very good-looking basking platform. I use it for my 4" (and larger) turtles only. They love it. I had them eating shrimp treats off of it earlier."
A Few Final Words of Advice
The "Turtle Man" reminds all turtle fans to do their research before becoming a turtle parent. Since these pets aren't as common as cats and dogs, it's best to do lots of reading to understand their environmental needs, common health issues before they appear, and exactly how to care for turtles — including giving them the most space you possibly can so they thrive and show off their amazing naturalistic behaviors like swimming, diving, and foraging.
"When you do everything you can to make your animals happy, they will thank you and be a happier, healthier critter," he says.
Learn more about caring for these amazing dinosaur-like creatures in "The Ultimate Guide to Turtles and Tortoises."
Read about more amazing reptile pet parents in the #RepYourself series: