The Murray River Turtle, also known as the Macquarie River
Turtle, Murray Short-necked Turtle, and scientifically as
Emydura macquarii. They live in rivers, lakes, lagoons and water
holes throughout the Murray-Darling River system in
southeastern Australia. They are one of the family of
Australian Short-neck Side-neck turtles, which is found only
south of the equator.
Murry River Turtles are freshwater aquatic turtles, and are
called side-necked turtles because while other turtles tuck
their heads into the shell by folding the neck backward in
an S-shape, the side-necked turtles tuck their heads and
necks sideways under the rim of their shell.
These turtles have been popular as pets for many years,
although they are not as common in North America as their
relatives the Red-bellied Short-necked Turtles. These almost
uniformly dark gray-green-brownish turtles grow to about
twelve inches (thirty-one cm) in length. The young are
nearly round, and have been sold as "penny turtles" in the
pet trade. The shells of adults are more oblong.
The dark color of the rest of their bodies is set off by a
yellow-cream stripe that runs from the corner of the mouth
to the back of the head, and sometimes yellow spots on the
chin, which also has two fleshy barbels. The eyes are yellow
with a round black pupil. The genders are distinguished by the
fact that the males have a much fatter and longer tail than
the females and females are generally larger and with a
higher dome to their shells.
The Macquarie River Turtle will do well in an outdoor pond
as long as the weather is not severely cold, but it may
hibernate in the water if the weather grows cool. This
species comes from a temperate climate, so it is easier than
many to keep indoors, as you probably won't need to add heat
to its vivarium. It will, however, need a roomy aquarium,
and you will need to watch carefully as it grows and
increase the size of its tank. It will need plenty of well
filtered and often changed water for swimming, a smaller
land area for sunning under the basking and full-spectrum
UVB lights, and aquatic plants to help keep the water clean
and for snacking.
These turtles are primarily carnivorous, and will enjoy
feeder fish, crustaceans, slugs, snails,
insect larvae, earthworms, and commercial turtle food, trout
chow or low-fat dog food occasionally, as well as nontoxic
If you plan to breed your Murray Short-necked Turtles,
provide a mating pair with plenty of swimming room and a
sizable land area with clean soil mixed with sand or
vermiculite for egg-burying.
Murray River Turtles have unique mating habits. During the
courtship the male does a head bobbing dance as he
approaches the female. He touches her back end with his beak
and then swims around to face her, lining up his chin
barbels with hers and stroking her beak with his fore-claws.
If she is charmed, they mate soon after.
The female may lay up to fifteen long eggs in a hollow she
has dug. Incubation should be at eighty-one to eighty-three
degrees F. (twenty-seven to twenty-nine C.), and it takes
from forty-two to fifty days for the "Penny Turtles" to
emerge. Feed the babies the same food as their parents, but
chop the food small for them.