There are at least six species of turtles that are commonly
known as Asian Leaf Turtles. It is important to know which
species you have or are considering acquiring, as they come
from differing habitats and require different care. Below
are some basic identifying characteristics and care
information for the six. Each species is covered in more
detail elsewhere on this website.
Asian Leaf Turtle
The turtle with scientific name Cyclemys dentata is most
often called simply "Asian Leaf Turtle." It is also the most
common Asian Leaf Turtle in the pet trade, and is a hardy
pet that can be bred in captivity. These very aquatic, web-
footed turtles grow to a length of nine inches, with a
nearly round, flattish shell with a single pronounced keel
down the backbone. Most are brown, but other colors may be
encountered. When adult, they have a single hinge in the
plastron that allows limited closing of the shell when
In the wild they live in clear mountain forest streams, and
in captivity this species needs a large tank or pool with
filtered, very well-cleaned water kept at slightly below to
slightly above seventy degrees F., a land area with basking
light, and, if kept indoors, although they do prefer low
light intensities, a full-spectrum UVB light for some hours
per day for bone and shell health. They are omnivorous.
The Yellow-headed Temple Turtle
The Yellow-headed Temple Turtle, scientific name Hieremys
annandalii, is a large turtle that can grow to twenty-four
inches long! It is aquatic, and comes from warm tropical
swamps, rice paddies and slow, shallow rivers. Both the
young and adult turtles are dark colored with a varying
number of yellow-cream stripes on the heads, slightly
serrated rear shells and a notch in the shell at the tail.
These turtles need a very large tank, of course, or
preferably an outdoor pond in a warm climate, and a varied
vegetable and fruit diet.
The Striped-necked Leaf Turtle
The Striped-necked Leaf Turtle (Cyclemys tcheponensis) is
found from Vietnam to Thailand, and looks quite a bit like
the Cyclemys dentata described above, except that its
maximum size is slightly smaller and it has four bright
stripes of yellow, orange or pink on each side of its head.
Its captive habitat should be similar to Cyclemys dentata,
but it will spend more time on the land part of its tank,
and it is more herbivorous.
The Borneo Black Leaf Turtle
The Borneo Black Leaf Turtle, also known as the Malaysian
Black Mud Turtle, and scientifically as Siebenrockiella
Crassicollis, is found throughout Southeast Asia. This shy
and rarely seen turtle grows up to eight inches long and has
a keeled black carapace with rear serrations, black head,
tail and legs, and white markings on the head and white
"spectacles" around the eyes. It is a carnivorous and highly
aquatic turtle, having fully webbed feet, and will eat
commercial turtle food along with live food in captivity.
The Annam Leaf Turtle
The Annam Leaf Turtle, also known as the Vietnamese Leaf
Turtle, Vietnamese Pond Turtle, is classified as Mauremys
(Annamemys) annamensis. It is a dark colored, smaller
species of turtle, reaching a maximum size of six or seven
inches. The carapace is fairly flat and slightly depressed
in the center, with at least one keel, no serrations, and
webbed feet. Its habitat is tropical and semi-aquatic. It is
rare and seldom seen in captivity, but should you find one,
it will need similar conditions and food to the Striped-
necked Leaf Turtle.
The Black-breasted Leaf Turtle
The Black-breasted Leaf Turtle is also called the Vietnamese
Wood Turtle, or Chinese Leaf Turtle. Its primarily
terrestrial home range is in the mountain forests of
Southern China, Vietnam, and the Sumatran islands.
Its scientific name is Geoemyda spengleri, and it is a small
turtle that seldom reaches five inches in length, with a
brown, chestnut, mahogany or tan carapace that is serrated
front and back, and three keels. Its skin is dark with
colored spots or mottles, and females have a yellowish-cream
stripe down each side of the head. Its feet are semi-webbed,
and it has large bulging eyes with white irises.
Give a captive Chinese Leaf Turtle a large, room-temperature
vivarium with an easily cleaned pool and a large soil and
bark litter land area, planted to provide hiding places.
Provide a full-spectrum UV light, feed an omnivore diet and
mist the vivarium daily to maintain humidity. This striking-
looking turtle can become tame and responsive and make an
excellent, long-lived pet.
If you choose an Asian Leaf Turtle for a pet, try to buy
captive-bred to avoid the potential for parasites and
stress-induced illness that wild-caught reptiles suffer, as
well as avoiding contributing to the nearly complete
decimation of the Asian turtle population that is occurring.
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