Types of Pet Turtles

Box Turtle
Box turtle

With proper care, a turtle makes an ideal pet. There are many different types of turtles, and each pet turtle species needs specific care in order to flourish. Here are some of the most common so you can choose your favorite.

Box Turtles Are a Docile Pet

A box turtle has a high-domed shell with non-webbed feet. His hinged shell allows the turtle to pull the lower half of the shell tightly against the upper half after he pulls his head and feet inside. The protective design of the shell affords the box turtle with additional protection from potential predators. This turtle measures up to 6 inches in length when fully grown and lives up to 20 to 40 years.

You should only buy a box turtle that has been bred and raised in captivity. Pay close attention to his care, and you could have your pet turtle for a lifetime.

Box Turtle's Environment

This land-dwelling type of turtle does not require an aquatic habitat, but he does benefit from a small wading pool. Your turtle will reside happily indoors in a cage or in an outdoor habitat. Some box turtles live well in aquariums, but others become obsessed with trying to claw their way out of the glass to explore.

Care of Box Turtles

The box turtle benefits from a temperature above 60 degrees Fahrenheit. If the night temperature drops, place a heated stone or dome enclosure in the cage to provide warmth. Line the bottom of the turtle's enclosure with a mixture of sand, leaf mulch, potting soil, and sphagnum moss. Mist the substrate lightly each day to help keep the enclosure's humidity adequate. Without adequate humidity, the box turtle can suffer from dry eyes and respiratory disorders. This turtle benefits from having a variety of logs and rocks to burrow under or lay upon.

Feeding Your Box Turtle

This turtle requires fresh, clean drinking water daily since box turtles tend to defecate in their water. An omnivore, the box turtle enjoys a varied diet. Consider providing insects, worms, vegetables, and fruits each day. Place the food on a flat rock to replicate its natural environment.

Box Turtle Hibernation

In the wild, this kind of pet turtle burrows into soil or leaves to hibernate. Some captive turtles that receive at least 12 to 14 hours of artificial light per year skip hibernation and remain active, but others naturally begin to enter into hibernation mode. If a pet box turtle begins to burrow into the substrate and enter hibernation, keep his enclosure in an area with a temperature of 45 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the Soquel Animal Hospital. Place the turtle's enclosure in a draft-free area with dim lighting until spring.

Red-Eared Slider Turtle Is a Type of Aquatic Turtle

The red-eared slider turtle grows up from 6 to 12 inches in diameter. This greenish turtle boasts a bright red stripe behind each eye. A type of water turtle, it requires an aquarium with water. It has a lifespan of up to 50 years.

Slider Environment

One red-eared slider can easily live in a 30 to 50-gallon aquarium. Provide an area of water in the tank that measures at least twice the turtle's body length. The water should have a filtration system to keep it clean. Maintain the water temperature at 75 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit with a submersible heater. Provide a basking area for the turtle and maintain the temperature at 85 to 88 degrees Fahrenheit.

red eared slider

Red-Eared Slider Care

Consider placing this turtle's tank outdoors on warm days so he can enjoy the sunshine. Make sure the turtle has a shady spot to retreat to if he becomes too warm.

Feeding Your Red-Eared Slider

Feed the red-eared slider turtle a commercial turtle diet. You can supplement his diet with diced up vegetables like carrots or leafy greens.

Red-Eared Slider Turtle Hibernation

The red-eared slider becomes inactive in October, according to the Nature Mapping Foundation. Some turtles may hibernate under water. The red-eared slider usually displays inactivity if the winter temperature dips to 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

Painted Turtle Are Colorful Outdoor Pets

The painted turtle measures up to 10 inches in length and lives approximately 25 years. The aquatic turtle boasts colorful green, yellow, and red colors. The turtle resides well in landscape turtle ponds. According to Petco, they rarely like to be handled.

Painted Turtle Environment

The painted turtle requires a similar environment to the red-eared slider turtle. Be sure to provide the turtle with a basking area to enjoy his time out of the water. Maintain a temperature that ranges from 60 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

painted turtle

Care of Painted Turtles

This turtle needs 10 to 12 hours of full-spectrum lighting to allow for his basking time.

Feeding Your Painted Turtle

Feed the painted turtle small feeder goldfish and diced up chicken. Feed a commercial turtle food daily. Supplement the turtle's diet with leafy greens.

Painted Turtle Hibernation

The painted turtle shares the same hibernation habits as the red-eared slider turtle.

Reeve's Turtle Are Among the Best Turtles for Pets

A popular turtle in captivity, the Reeve's turtle is widely imported by the pet trade from mainland China and Japan. This hardy, small pet turtle measures up to 6 inches in diameter and lives approximately 25 years. A good choice for a first turtle pet, this turtle genuinely enjoys being touched and stroked, according to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The Reeves turtle requires the same care as the red-eared slider and the painted turtle. It also undergoes the same hibernation process.

Wood Turtle Are Medium-Sized Pets

The wood turtle has a sculpted shell in varying shades of brown and tan. His legs appear red and yellow. This turtle measures up to 9 inches in diameter. Males appear larger than females.

Environment of the Wood Turtle

The wood turtle does best with an indoor and outdoor enclosure. He requires an indoor enclosure that measures up to 84 inches in length. Line the bottom of the enclosure with gravel and place a shallow tub with water in the middle. Consider covering the gravel in cypress mulch. Add a few plants for the turtle's enjoyment. Be sure to use only nontoxic plant choices. Provide rocks and other areas for the turtle to lounge. Outdoor enclosures should resemble an indoor cage, but with ample shade for the turtle. When constructing a pond in an outside enclosure, ensure that it has sloping sides so the turtle can get in and out easily. Make sure the pond is not too deep, or the turtle may drown.

wood turtle

Care of the Wood Turtle

Exceptionally hardy, the wood turtle thrives when his basic food and housing requirements have been met.

Feeding Your Wood Turtle

The wood turtle prefers a diet high in meat; consider feeding moist cat food to this turtle. The wood turtle also benefits from leafy greens every two or three days. He also enjoys strawberries, bananas, and other fruits.

Wood Turtle Hibernation

During the winter, the wood turtle may enter hibernation in the water.

Russian Tortoise Requires Little Care

The Russian tortoise can measure up to 10 inches in diameter and live over 100 years. A hardy tortoise, he thrives with very little care.

Russian Tortoise Environment

The tortoise will live in a 75-gallon or larger aquarium. He can also thrive in a rubber container indoors, but this tortoise does best in an outdoor enclosure. Run the fence at least 8 inches below the soil's surface to keep the tortoise from escaping by digging out. The perimeter fencing should stand at least 12-inches high. Curve the fencing inward to prevent the tortoise from climbing out. Consider placing a screen over the enclosure's top to keep raccoons or other predators from climbing in. Provide an area for the tortoise to seek shelter and consider installing a heater for inclement weather.

russian tortoise

Russian Tortoise Care

The Russian tortoise enjoys basking in 90 to 95-degree heat. He tolerates temperatures at night that drop to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. This tortoise prefers low humidity. In his native habitat, he lives in arid conditions.

Russian Tortoise Diet

Provide this tortoise with broad leaf greens to consume. He will especially relish dandelions. Always offer the Russian tortoise fresh, clean water. Without adequate fresh water, this tortoise may build up uric acid, according to the Russian Tortoise.

Tortoise Hibernation

Consult with a veterinarian about hibernating the turtle. Some owners do not hibernate the Russian tortoise until he exceeds five years old. In the wild, the Russian tortoise hibernates for up to nine months out of the year.

Mississippi Map Turtles Live Shorter Lives

The Mississippi Map Turtle is also known as the Sawback turtle. If you look at their shell, which appears to have a dorsal fin, you'll know how they got that name. While they have "Mississippi" in their name they are actually found in the Mississippi River rather than the state of Mississippi. Their lifespan is approximately 15 to 20 years although they can live as long as 30 years.

Mississsippi Map Environment

Mississippi Map Turtles have a reputation for being a hard species to have as a pet. This is due to their temperament which tends to be skittish and wary of people which makes them stressed. If you decide to own a Mississippi Map turtle, you'll need to keep them in a large tank (at least 25 gallons for a male and 75 for a female) and the water must be kept clean at all times. In order to keep the water clean, some owners will have a separate tank to feed them in. Their tanks should have ample water for swimming, live plants suitable for aquariums and an area for them to come out of the water and relax. They also require UVB lighting and a cage temperature of 85 to 90 degrees whereas the water should be in the 70s.

Mississippi map turtle

Mississippi Map Care

While they are known to be a turtle with general good health, improper water conditions can make them ill. Fungal infections come from bad water as well as a lack of sunlight and indoor lighting. Fungal infections are generally not serious and can easily be treated by your veterinarian.

Food for the Mississippi Map Turtle

An interesting fact about these turtles is that they will only eat in the water because they are habitual swimmers. They should be fed commercial turtle pellets along with vegetables like Spinach, dandelion greens, Romaine lettuce, parsley, and fruits such as apples. They also need proteins that are low in fat as well as crustaceans and insects. Typical items they will eat are snails and clams (only by female turtles) and crustaceans, mollusks, mealworms (not live), and fish (live or dead). You should plan on feeding younger turtles each day while adults should eat about four to five times a week.

Mississippi Map Hibernation

Wild Mississippi Map turtles will hibernate in the deep, placid water pools and reservoirs in the winter, whereas captive ones will do so if their tank temperature hits 60 degrees or below. Unlike other types of turtles in the wild, they do hibernate by burrowing in the mud but are easily found in the water, particularly by predators.

Razor Backed Musk Turtle Are Good Types of Turtles for Beginners

This is a good choice for a beginning turtle owner but only with a proper environment and knowledge that they are one of the shyer types of turtles. With proper care their typical lifespan is about 25 years or more.

Razor Backed Musk Turtle's Environment

These turtles need to live in a tank that is mostly water. The water needs to be deep enough for them to walk on the bottom as well. The tank should be at least 30 gallons per turtle in the tank. They will also need a rock to bask with a UV light and heat lamp. The temperature of the tank should be in the range of mid 80 to low 90 degrees. The non-basking air area is best in the 75 to 80-degree range and water should be in the high 70s. You will also need a good water filtration system because they tend to make a mess when they eat.

Razar backed musk turtle

Care of Razor-Backed Musk Turtles

Razor-backed musk turtles can be shy and would appreciate plants and rocks that provide them with hiding spots. They enjoy walking along the bottom of the tank and will need something to walk on such as smooth pebbles or sand. Because they are shy, they should be handled minimally as well. Twenty-five percent of the tank water should be changed out on a biweekly basis. You can also keep a companion turtle of another species if the tank is large enough, and they do well with painted turtles and sliders, but they can become aggressive with other razor-backed musk turtles.

Razor-Backed Musk Turtle Diet

Like many other turtles they should eat commercial turtle pellets and you can add in insects such as roaches, earthworms, bloodworms, mealworms, and crickets. They also enjoy freshwater feeder fish, snails, cockles, crawdads and mussels and plants that are safe for them to eat like duckweed.

Musk Turtle Hibernation

Razor-backed musk turtles in the wild will hibernate in the winter when it gets too cold for them, so a well-kept tank with a proper temperature will prevent hibernation from occurring.

Greek Tortoise Require a Lifetime Commitment

Greek tortoises live in several regions including southern Europe, Asia, and North Africa. They get their name from the pattern on their shells that looks like a Greek mosaic. Another common name for them is the spur-thighed tortoise. They can live up to 100 years or more.

Greek Tortoise Environment

The best environment for a Greek tortoise is one with a lot of space. They need to be able to bask in the sun as much as possible when the temperature outside permits. A large enclosure built with wood is best as they won't be as likely to get out and glass isn't good for their health. A very good option for them if kept indoors is a turtle table. Greek tortoises do well with a pen lined with cypress mulch, aspen shavings or a topsoil/play sand mix, as well as rabbit pellets. Absolutely do not use cedar and pine which are poisonous to turtles. There also should be someplace in their environment they can use to hide which you can buy pre-made or make one on your own using rocks or wood. This area should be cool and not close to the heated basking area.

Greek tortoise

Greek Tortoise Care

Males should not be placed in the same environment as they can become aggressive. In addition to sunning themselves, they also need a lamp with UV lighting indoors. They need a warm and cold area of their pen with the warmest area at about 95 to 100 degrees and the cooler area around 75 to 85 degrees. Greek tortoises are not amenable to a lot of handling although they tend to be generally friendly in temperament.

Food for a Greek Tortoise

You can feed a Greek tortoise a commercially prepared tortoise food but they must have fresh items in their diet as well. These can be greens such as clover, thistle, wild strawberry or dandelions, and greens from vegetables such as turnip, kale, mustard, and collard. You can give them dried organic herbs if you cannot get any that are fresh. They also enjoy cuttlebones which is a source of calcium. They do like fruit but this should only be given every once in a while as a special treat. Provide them with clean water at all times.

Greek Tortoise Hibernation

Wild Greek tortoises will hibernate during the colder months of the year and will do so in captivity if their temperature gets too low.

Sideneck Turtle Require a Lot of Care

Sideneck turtles are also called West African mud turtles. These turtles cannot pull their head back all the way into their shell. They retreat by moving their head to the side and beneath their shell, hence the name "sideneck." Their lifespan is 50 years or more.

Sideneck Environment

They should only be housed outside if it's warm enough for them. If you keep them inside, they will need a tank of at least 40 gallons although some people use large plastic totes or kiddie pools. The area should be wide enough to let them enjoy the water should be about six to eight inches deep. They should have a rock, log, driftwood or another platform to move onto when they want to bask under a UV light. They don't actually need a substrate like other turtles but if you want to use one, it should be a gravel or rocks that are big enough to keep them from eating them. They do however enjoy having plants that they can use for hiding if they feel stressed.

sideneck turtle

Sideneck Care

Sideneck turtles are not a good choice for beginners because they have many requirements. Water must be changed a few times a week although a strong filter can help. They require a lot of variety in their diet and fresh foods as well as calcium supplements. If not kept properly, they can suffer from vitamin D3 and calcium deficiency, dehydration, and parasites. While they can be friendly, they can get aggressive if they feel the need to get away and have large claws to protect themselves and can bite. As far as temperature, their water should be between 70 and 75 degrees and their warm area should be between 95 and 100. The overall temperature of their room should be around 80 degrees.

Sideneck Turtle Diet

Proper feeding of a sideneck turtle means switching up his diet regularly. In addition to a commercial turtle diet, they can be fed all sorts of proteins including aquatic insects, crickets, snails, fish, clams, crustaceans, crayfish, earthworms, cooked chicken, and beef hearts. Make sure you buy insects from a pet store as insects you find in your backyard can make your turtle sick. The best greens for them are romaine, spinach, and red leaf lettuce as well as collard greens. They can also eat a variety of vegetables and dandelions as well as water lettuce and water hyacinth. Avoid feeding iceberg lettuce. A calcium supplement should be added to their meals. They also should not be fed very often. They can go two to three days between feedings and they should only eat for a few seconds. They should eat in a separate area as they are not neat eaters.

Sideneck Hibernation

Unlike other turtles, sidenecks do not hibernate.

Caspian Pond Turtle Are Aquatic Types of Turtles

These turtles can live for 40 years or more. Sadly they are dwindling in numbers due to predators and people encroaching on their habitat.

Caspian Environment

Caspian turtles need a lot of space so their tanks have to be at least 75 gallons or 90 gallons for two turtles. Some owners keep them in a pre-made turtle tub or even koi ponds. They do not need anything covering the bottom of their tank and like other turtles, they will need a basking area. You will need a strong filter to keep their water pristine as well as regular cleanings.

Caspian pond turtle

Caspian Turtle Care

They need a UV lamp to provide them with light in their basking area as well as a heater to keep the area at 90 to 100 degrees. The temperature of the water in the tank should be somewhere between 60 and 82 degrees. They do not like being handled and can bite if they feel stressed. They are however known for being friendly when they feel comfortable.

Feeding Caspian Turtles

You can feed your Caspian turtle commercially prepared turtle diets which should be supplemented with fresh foods. They can eat small fish, earthworms, mollusks, crickets, roaches, crayfish, tadpoles, and shrimp, as well as fresh greens. They also need calcium which can be sprinkled on their food or provided with a cuttlebone in their tank. They should be fed every three days.

Pond Turtle Hibernation

Caspian turtles in the wild will hibernate in cold outside temperatures.

Cautions About Handling Pet Turtle Species

Turtles make interesting pets, but potential owners should understand that these animals carry salmonella. Always wash your hands after handling a pet turtle. Homes with very young children, elderly or immune-impaired individuals should not consider owning a pet turtle.

Types of Pet Turtles