Most Popular Pet Turtles

HomeNews RSS FeedTurtles & Tortoises Information & News

Most Popular Pet Turtles

Bonus content from the February 2010 REPTILES magazine article "Waste Not."

Sulcata Tortoise And Pit Bull Are Best Friends
Georgia Senate Bill 303
Frozen Ball Python Found On NYC Street

REPTILES Magazine Bonus Content

Red-Eared Slider (Trachemys scripta elegans)

The Red-Eared Slider
Red-Eared Slider

Adult Size: 8 to 10 inches. Females are slightly larger than males.


Range: Now established throughout the United States. The turtle is even found in many places in Asia and Europe. This turtle is native to the Mississippi River drainages and found from Louisiana north to Illinois. It extends into Alabama, and also can be found throughout Texas and the Pecos River of New Mexico.

Habitat: A habitat generalist. This adaptable turtle can be seen in permanent ponds, flood-plain swamps and slow-moving rivers.

Captive Care: Easily maintained as long as the turtles have a large aquarium. A 60-gallon tank could house two adult turtles. At least one basking site is required, and it must be easy for turtles to climb onto. A basking light should provide a hotspot at least 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Full-spectrum lighting is also mandatory. Water temperature should be around 75 degrees, and a water filter can be used to maintain water quality. Even so, regular water changes will be necessary.
Diet: Omnivorous. These turtles eat aquatic plants, turtle pellets and animal matter. Juveniles are more carnivorous, but as they mature they consume more plant material.

Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina carolina)

Eastern Box Turtle
Eastern Box Turtle

Adult Size: 4 to 8 inches.

Range: Found throughout most of the United States east of the Rocky Mountains. The turtle is also found in Mexico.


Habitat: Near streams and ponds in grasslands, woodlands and marshes.

Captive Care: This mostly terrestrial turtle requires an enclosure offering at least 4 square feet per adult. A shallow water pan can be included in the enclosure, but the water must be changed daily, and the pan must be cleaned. If kept outside, box turtles need a place to get out of the sun, preferably a few hides in which they can easily turn around and also loose leaf litter in which to burrow. Provide a basking spot that reaches 85 to 88 degrees. Many keepers recommend an ambient temperature of 75 to 80 degrees, but some have suggested as low as 70 because these turtles are very active after it rains and are often found in the shade. A higher humidity is preferred. If turtles are kept indoors, full-spectrum ultraviolet lighting is required.

Diet: Omnivorous. Box turtles accept a variety of insects, slugs, earthworms, vegetables, grasses and fruits. These turtles also accept commercial diets available in pet stores.

Western Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta bellii)

The Western Painted Turtle
The Western Painted Turtle

Adult Size: 7 to 8 inches.


Range: Found in the United States and Canada. This turtle can be found from Oklahoma north to the Dakotas and even as far as Saskatchewan, east to upper Michigan and Ontario, and west to Washington and British Columbia. The turtle can also be found to the south in New Mexico’s Rio Grande.

Habitat: This adaptable turtle occurs in prairie wetlands, river flood plains and river oxbows.

Captive Care: Outside, a 50- to 150-gallon pond is ideal. Inside, the smallest tank recommended for one turtle is 20 gallons. These turtles bask and need a platform of some sort, such as a log, rock or turtle basking platform available in pet stores. A good water filter helps with water quality. If kept inside, the turtles require a basking light providing ultraviolet rays and also a heating lamp that keeps a hotspot around 90 degrees. The water temperature should be around 70 degrees.

Diet: Omnivorous. Western painted turtles eat aquatic plants, aquatic insect larvae, crickets, earthworms and chopped fish. The turtles also accept commercial diets available from the pet store.


Map Turtle (Graptemys geographica)

Map Turtle
Map Turtle

Adult Size: Females measure 6 to 10 inches. Males are half this size.

Range: Northeastern United States and into Canada. This turtle is found in the Great Lakes region.

Habitat: Moving waters, such as rivers and large streams.


Captive Care: These turtles can be demanding because they need higher water quality. They can be prone to bacterial shell rot. One or two small map turtles can live in a 40-gallon tank, but like with any captive turtle, more space is better. If you live in warmer climates, map turtles can be kept outside year round. Inside or out, basking sites are essential. If turtles are kept indoors, an ultraviolet lamp is a must, and so is a heat lamp that provides a temperature between 84 and 94 degrees. Water temperatures should be between 72 and 80 degrees.

Diet: Hatchling turtles eat duckweed and other aquatic plants, but adults are primarily carnivorous. Insects and worms are eagerly consumed. The turtles also accept commercial diets available from the pet store. Give these turtles a calcium and vitamin D3 supplement in addition to full-spectrum lighting to promote good shell and bone health.

Wood Turtle (Glyptemys [Clemmys] insculpta)

Wood Turtle
Wood Turtle

Adult Size: 5 to 9 inches.

Range: Northeastern United States and into Canada.


Habitat: Found in or near rivers, streams and lakes. Laws protect these turtles from collection over almost all of their range.

Captive Care: These turtles should have a water area 2 feet deep and an enclosure 5 feet long and 5 feet wide. Make sure the turtles have a place to easily haul out of the water and bask under a heat lamp and a light providing ultraviolet light, including UVB. Substrate for a land area can be topsoil, sand or a mixture. Provide an ambient temperature between 70 and 80 degrees, a basking spot of 85 degrees, and a water temperature between 60 and 70 degrees.

Diet: Omnivorous. Wood turtles accept aquatic plants, earthworms, mealworms, crickets and crayfish. The turtles also accept commercial diets available from the pet store.