The Cayman Turtle Farm raises thousands of green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) annually under aquaculture conditions. Historically, the turtles have been raised in tanks without routine access to a shade structure. The purpose of this study was to determine the effects of adding a shade structure on curved carapace length (CCL) and weight gain of green sea turtles. In addition, water and cloacal temperatures were compared across treatment groups and shade cover preferences observed. Ninety turtles were split equally into three treatment groups for this 8-wk study. In the first group turtles were kept in tanks in full sun, the second group in half-shaded tanks, and the third group in tanks completely covered with shade cloth. Time-lapse cameras mounted above half-shaded tanks were used to determine turtle shade structure preferences throughout the day. There were no differences in CCL among treatment groups. Significant increases in weights were noted in turtles kept in full sun and half-shaded tanks versus the fully shaded tanks. Significantly higher water and cloacal turtle temperatures were noted in the full-sun tank compared with the half-shaded or completely shaded tanks. A significantly lower number of turtles was observed in the sun in the half-shaded tanks, indicating a possible preference by turtles for a shade structure. Results suggest that providing shade structures for sea turtles results in a significant decrease in both overall water temperature as well as a reduction in maximum high daily temperatures. Results also suggest that turtles exhibit a preference for shade structures when it is provided as an option. From these results, we recommend that a shade structure be provided when housing green sea turtles in outdoor enclosures.
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