We can't possibly describe in this article all the aquatic
turtle species kept as pets in the world, although you will
find detailed information on these and many other species
elsewhere on this website. Here we'll try to simply give you
a short introduction to the most popular types, at least in
By far the most commonly kept aquatic turtle family is the
Slider, and more specifically, the Red-eared Slider,
scientifically known as Chrysemys scripta elegans. Anyone
who lives in the Slider habitat knows how they got their
name, as they love to bask on logs and riverbanks, sliding
into the water at any hint of danger.
Red-eared Sliders are very common in the South Eastern
United States, and many adults remember the baby sliders
they had as (usually short-lived due to poor care and
handling) pets when they were children.
Given proper care, however, all the Sliders and related
species such as Cooters and Chicken Turtles can be kept
healthy in captivity and live to a hardy, ripe old age.
Sliders can be very tame, but be aware that they can bite,
and males may be aggressive to other males during breeding
season. Young sliders are mostly carnivorous, but get more
herbivorous as they grow older. Be aware that an adult Red-
eared Slider can grow to twelve inches long, so keep in mind
that adult turtles in this family will need a very large
tank or preferably an outdoor pond.
Many types of Mud Turtles make great pets. Mud Turtles got
their name because they live in soft-bottomed ponds and
pools, where they burrow into the mud bottom for
hibernation. Many are quite attractive turtles, and most are
very easily tamed. They need the same basic care as the
Sliders, Cooters, and related species, except they prefer
more land and shallower water.
Most Mud Turtles are carnivores throughout their lives, so
consider whether you can provide live food for them. Most
Mud Turtles don't get very big, which is nice for pet
turtles, but be sure to carefully research the species you
are looking at and learn what its specific needs will be.
The Reeves Turtle comes from Asia, specifically China,
Japan, and South Korea. It is also a small turtle, growing
to a maximum of 5 to 8 inches. The Reeves Turtle is an
interesting looking turtle, with three pronounced ridges
down its brown back, and a yellow plastron with brown spots.
You must keep your Reeves Turtle in very clean water to
prevent the shell infections to which they are vulnerable,
and be sure to provide a good basking spot and plenty of UV
light for their health. Also, be sure to buy a captive-bred
Reeves Turtle, as all the Asian species are in danger of
extinction due to the food trade, and nearly all wild-caught
Asian turtles are parasite-ridden and ill from poor
Reeves Turtles are mostly carnivorous, but will take turtle
pellets. They are a good pet turtle, but not necessarily for
beginning turtle keepers, unless the turtle is captive-bred
and the keeper is dedicated.
There are many species of Soft-shell Turtles, with members
of the family found in waters all over the world, except for
Australia and Antarctica . All live only in the water, and
most grow large and need plenty of swimming room, are
carnivorous, may bite, and like to bury themselves in sand
or gravel to wait for prey to come by, so they are not the
most simple pets to keep.
Indoors their tank water should be shallow enough that they
can reach their heads above water to breathe while buried in
the sand on the bottom of the tank. They need the normal
filtered and frequently changed clean water, full spectrum
UVB light and warm basking area at 90 degrees F.
They don't get very tame, but are an attractive and
interesting turtle, and will eat commercial trout or catfish
food. They should not be kept in crowded conditions, and
probably not best for beginners. Be sure to carefully
research before buying a soft-shell turtle.
The Painted Turtle, (scientific name Chrysemys picta), is
the most widespread American water turtle. They can be found
in the wild all across Canada, and south to Georgia,
Louisiana in the United States. They are small and their
fairly flat top shell is dark with red markings around the
edge. They have yellow stripes on the head and red and
yellow stripes on the neck, tail, and legs, and a yellow
plastron. Painted turtles grow normally to between four and
seven inches long, although the record is nearly ten inches.
Their tank will need frequent cleaning, as they are active
omnivores, and can be messy. Of course, like all turtles,
they will be healthier and happier with an outdoor habitat,
but they will do fine inside with the proper habitat. They
tame well, and will eat from your hand.
Painted Turtles in captivity should have a varied diet of
about 25% meat, 20% or so turtle pellets, and the balance
fresh greens and vegetables. Some fruit is okay.
These are just a very few of the choices you have before you
if you choose to be a "turtle person." You can find much
more information on your choice of species on this website,
by searching online, or by asking your veterinarian or your
local turtle keepers club.