Blanding’s Turtle Care Guide [Creating Perfect Setup]

blanding's turtle winking

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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I am sure not many of you are familiar with Blanding turtles. But trust me. This species makes an excellent pet. Recently, I welcomed one Blanding turtle to my home, and the reptile looked happy in the setup. So, I decided to write about my care journey for the Blanding turtle in this article.

Blanding’s turtles, growing up to 10 inches, can each live in a 200-gallon tank. The enclosure requires basking lights, a heater, a filter, and a dock. One-third of the tank’s space must be land. The basking temperature is low, around 80F. The species primarily eats meat, though it also consumes plants occasionally.

Catch more details on the Blanding’s turtle’s care sheet below.

Key Takeaways

  • Blanding’s turtles are docile and friendly.
  • The species is endangered yet available for petting.
  • A bright, solid yellow throat is the key differentiator between a box turtle and a Blanding turtle.

Introducing Blanding’s Turtle: The Rare Beauty

Before buying the Blanding’s turtle, I did a thorough research on the species. It cleared some of my fundamental doubts about this reptile. Besides, the study helped me assume my compatibility with it.

In my opinion, the primary knowledge of any species offers insight into the pet’s life. I am sharing my findings in brief here,

Do Not Confuse Blanding’s Turtles with Other Species

You can spot Blanding’s turtles just by looking at their throats. Unlike other species, their chin and throat are bright solid yellow. But the long head and neck are black-grey.

The shells of Blanding’s turtles are highly domed and look like nothing but a military helmet. Their carapaces are brown to black and covered with yellow dots.

With adult age, the carapaces grow darker, and the plastrons flourish in a striking black and yellow pattern. Dull yellow scales are also seen on the legs and tails of these reptiles.

This species has flat heads. You might spot grey colors on the dorsals and the sides. Their eyes are protruding and stick out of the sockets.

Remember, the Eastern box turtle looks similar to the Blanding’s turtle. You can follow this guide to identify turtle species without any hassle.

conservation status of Blanding’s turtle and legality of keeping them as pets

Blanding’s turtles have a vulnerable conservation status according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

They are listed as threatened under the United States Endangered Species Act and are protected by laws in many U.S. states and Canadian provinces.

In the United States, Blanding’s turtles are legally protected as threatened in the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence region according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. This makes it illegal to take, possess, transport, sell, or purchase Blanding’s turtles without a permit. Some states like Illinois also prohibit the “take” of the species, defined as actions that could harm or harass wild turtles.

In Canada, Blanding’s turtles are listed as threatened under the Species at Risk Act. The province of Ontario has laws protecting the species and its habitat.

While some U.S. states like Indiana allow keeping native turtle species as pets if obtained legally, it is generally not recommended due to Blanding’s turtles’ vulnerable conservation status in the wild.

Proper permits would need to be obtained and care would need to be taken to prevent potential impacts on wild populations from escaped or released captive pets.

Blanding’s turtles are considered threatened or endangered across most of their range due to habitat loss and road mortality. As a nomadic species, they will wander to cross roads between wetland habitats, making them vulnerable to being hit by vehicles. A recent study in Ottawa found the local Blanding’s turtle population is at risk of extinction within the next few years due to urban development destroying their habitat (source: CBC News).

Blanding’s Turtles are Originally From Canada

Even though the Blanding’s turtles are originally from Canada, they are found in the waters of the USA, too.

Their habitats are in Southeastern Ontario, Southern Nova Scotia, and Quebec in Canada. In the United States, the Blanding’s turtles inhabit Nebraska, Maine, Pennsylvania, New Yoirk, North Dakota, Indiana, Illinos, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

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Blanding’s turtles love slow moving waters with low currents. For example, marshes, shallow lakes, vernal pools, bogs, wetlands with abundant vegetation, and grasslands near freshwater sources. They choose such surroundings to hide from predators.

Blanding’s Turtles Are Medium in Size

Generally, a baby Blanding’s turtle is born 1 to 1.5 inches big and weighs 10 grams. The average size of adult turtles is 5 to 8 inches (13 to 20 cm).

But there are records of the species hitting an 11-inch benchmark.

These turtles are not bulky at all. They will grow 750 to 1400 grams in their adult life.

There are no size differences between the male and female Blanding’s turtles. However, the males own a concave plastron, while the female lower shells are flat.

Blanding’s Turtles Have A Long Lifespan

My pet Blanding’s turtle might outlive me.

Research indicates that this species can live up to 83 years.

Yes, it is a possibility that the turtles in houses have shorter lifespans. Well, we can not always expect a wild animal to thrive in captivity. Right?

I Have Built An Awesome Enclosure for My Blanding’s Turtles. Here’s How

Blanding’s turtles are mostly comfortable in shallow waters with vegetation. So, my target was to turn a kiddie pool into an outdoor habitat for the pets. But I abandoned the idea later.

Don’t get me wrong. The kiddie pools make excellent homes for Blanding’s turtles. These habitats are easy to set up and cost less. But I was looking for something permanent. So, I decided to use the surface-mounted ponds in the backyard as a permanent home for the Blanding’s turtles.

However, I had to switch to an indoor setup because the predator attacks suddenly rose in the neighboorhood.

I kept the indoor setup simple but natural. My Blanding’s turtle was 6 inches, and a 75-gallon tank was enough. Yet, I bought a 200 gallon aquarium because the adult pet would need it in a few years anyway. In my opinion, you should also aim for a bigger enclosure if you have space. It will save you money.

The first thing I managed was a basking dock. Experts advised to keep 1/3rd dry area in the enclosure. The lack of land will force the Blanding’s turtles to stay in water longer. It raises the risk of cold and infectious diseases in pets.

I stacked flat, smooth rocks to build a dock with an attached land area. You can layer the top with thick soils to bring a natural ground texture. Remember, Blanding’s turtles can not jump. So, add a ramp to the platform if necessary.

Next, I layered the bottom with sphagnum mixed with topsoil. I know managing substrate is not your forte, and the bedding will just make the habitat messier. But substrates help you add live plants and bring a natural vibe to the aquarium. Go with the medium-sized pebbles and gravels if this sounds too much.

Finally, I added some live plants to the tank. This way, I took care of the low vegetation demand of the species. See, Blanding’s turtles sometimes want some time alone and look for a hiding place. I think the vegetation and the rock-stacked caves will be enough for them.

Here is a table with the different life stages of Blanding’s turtle as well as their care requirements:

Care AspectsHatchling Blanding’s TurtleJuvenile Blanding’s TurtleAdult Blanding’s Turtle
Tank Size10 gallons20 gallons40+ gallons
Temperature78-82°F78-82°F75-80°F
Lighting10-12 hours UVB10-12 hours UVB10-12 hours UVB
Heat SourceCeramic heat emitter or heat matCeramic heat emitter or heat matBasking area 85-95°F
SubstratePaper towelsPaper towels or shallow water4-6 inches water
DietCommercial pellets or feeder insectsCommercial pellets or feeder insectsCommercial pellets, feeder insects, veggies, protein
HandlingMinimal, use soft clothMinimal, use soft clothInfrequent, use soft cloth

Researchers tracking Blanding’s turtles in Iowa found they have large home ranges and can live up to 80 years. However, their population is declining due to habitat loss. They are currently listed as threatened in Iowa and under consideration for federal protection in the United States (source: Iowa DNR).

The Blanding’s Turtle Habitat Needs A Few More Supplies (Light, Filter, Heater)

Technically, the enclosure is ready for turtles. But it is not perfect for indoor turtles.

In the wild, the water flows, taking the filth with the stream. But there is no such arrangement in the aquarium. Therefore, I installed a canister filter. It sucks in the waste residuals, processes the filth and circulates freshwater.

Thanks to the filter. The Blanding’s turtle enclosure does not smell like rotten eggs.

Filters 1.5x to 2x the size of the tank are recommended.

Another two necessary supplies are basking lights and a water heater. We use these to keep the turtles warm. What will happen if otherwise?

Well, Blanding’s turtles are ectothermic creatures. Thus, they depend on the sun or other heat sources to generate energy. If there is no heat, they are left on the stored energy. Right?

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Hence, the turtles hibernate, shuting down their activity and diet to survive.

I did not want to handle these situations. So, I installed a heating lamp and a water heater like a responsible keeper.

Oh, wait! Did I forget to tell you about the UV light? It falls under the basking light. While the UVA rays keep the Blanidng turtles mentally sane, the UVB is crucial for building a solid skeleton.

You’ll find lots of UVB bulbs online but most of them are a marketing scam. When it comes to UVB lights, I trust Zoo Med.

Without the UVB, these reptiles can not generate vitamin D3 and absorb enough calcium. So, the pets will not only suffer from abnormal growth but also live with low immunity. For these reasons, I couldn’t take risks and bought a quality UV light for my turtles.

There is one simple rule you should follow when installing these basking lights. The more the bulb’s power, the more the distance will be from the dock.

For example, a 50-watt bulb should be 5 inches away, and a 100-watt light must be 12 inches away. Similarly, install a 2.5% UV lamp and set it up 12 inches above the dock.

If you have followed this far, then congratulations! You are almost done. Just set the temperature according to the below chart and pour fresh water into the tank. The habitat will be ready for the Blanding’s turtles in a few hours.

Ambient Temperature70F to 75F
Water Temperature80F
Basking Temperature70F to 78F

NB. Keep the basking lights on only for 10 to 14 hours during the day. Turtles should sleep in total darkness at night.

This is The Diet I Follow for My Blanding’s Turtles

The research I had done showed that Blanding’s turtles are strictly carnivorous. Their favorite food list looks like this,

  • Insects
  • Worms
  • Small fish
  • Crustaceans
  • Snails
  • Carrions
  • Frogs
  • Fish eggs
  • Beetle
  • Cricket
  • Grasshopper
  • Dragonfly, etc.

I always buy live insects, worms, and small fish from the pet store and feed my turtles. This makes the meals more interesting. Yes, I also add pellets to the diet occasionally. But I make sure the portion does not exceed 25% of the total meal.

My Blanding’s turtles enjoy greens, too. There is nothing wrong with feeding the turtles duckeed, romaine lettuce, anarchis, hornwort, etc. The pets will, in fact, get nutrition from these greens.

The ideal meal for my Blanding’s turtles includes 50 to 60% protein, 15 to 20% pellets, and the rest greens. Yes, the fruits are alright as treats. But do not overfeed the turtles. Otherwise, they will have an upset stomach. Luckily, my Blanding’s turtles are not fans of fruits. Oh!! Do not forget to sprinkle the meals with calcium supplements thrice a week.

And about the meal schedule, the young and adult Blanding’s turtles prefer meals every 2 or 3 days. But you must feed the hatchlings every day for the first 6 months. I follow the head method to determine the meal quantity. The 15-minute rule will also work.

Here is a table showing the nutritional requirements at different life stages with nutrients/vitamins:

NutrientHatchling Blanding’s TurtleJuvenile Blanding’s TurtleAdult Blanding’s Turtle
Protein15-20%12-15%10-12%
Calcium1.2-1.5%1.0-1.2%0.8-1.0%
Phosphorus0.8-1.0%0.7-0.8%0.5-0.7%
Vitamin A1500-2000 IU/kg1000-1500 IU/kg500-1000 IU/kg
Vitamin D3150-200 IU/kg100-150 IU/kg50-100 IU/kg
Vitamin E30-50 IU/kg20-30 IU/kg10-20 IU/kg
Omega-3 Fatty Acids1-2%0.8-1%0.5-0.8%
Fiber2-3%2-3%2-3%

Pet Turtle Diet & Feeding Chart

Pet Turtle Diet Feeding Chart

For a printable version of this amazing diet chart, click here!

Weekly Feeding Schedule For Blanding’s Turtle

Here is a sample weekly feeding schedule table for Blanding’s turtles:

DayMorningAfternoonEvening
MondayPellets
TuesdayFeeder insects (e.g. crickets)
WednesdayDark, leafy greens (e.g. kale)
ThursdayPellets
FridayProtein (e.g. worms)
SaturdayPelletsFeeder insects
SundayDark, leafy greens

Some notes:

  • Pellets should be a staple, offered 2-3 times per week
  • Feeder insects like crickets 2 times weekly
  • Dark, leafy greens 2-3 times weekly
  • Protein sources 1-2 times weekly for adults
  • Amounts depend on age – hatchlings eat smaller portions more often
  • Provide a variety of appropriate foods from different categories
  • Feed in the morning and leave uneaten food for 30 mins before removing
  • Uneaten food should not be left in the enclosure overnight
  • Schedule can be adjusted based on individual turtle’s needs

A recent student research study in Wisconsin found hatchling Blanding’s turtles survive at higher rates than previously thought. However, road mortality and habitat destruction continue to threaten populations. Fungal disease has also recently been found to infect some Blanding’s turtles in Illinois (source: UW-Whitewater).

I Avoid Hibernating My Blanding’s Turtles in Winter

You are not unfamiliar with hibernation. Yes, it is a natural process for turtles to survive the winter. However, I have always found hibernating risky for the pet turtles.

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What if I couldn’t prepare the pet for the process? There is a high chance that the Blanding’s turtle will end up dead.

Hence, I make sure that the indoor enclosure is working alright. Besides, I check the water heater and basking lamps. If the setup can provide a suitable warm temperature for my Blanding’s turtles, why would I take the hassles of hibernation?

However, if you plan to brumate your turtles, start focusing on their health at least a year early. Only a healthy adult turtle can pull off a successful hibernation. Provide the turtles a suitable place to burrow in the pond and starve them for weeks as the winter approaches. They will figure out the rest.

Reproduction Care for Blanding’s Turtle

Blanding’s turtles do not participate in mating until they are 18 to 22 years old.

My turtles are not eligible for reproduction yet (they are just 4). Of course, once they get sexually matured, I might want to breed the couple.

Generally, Blanding’s turtles copulate right after the winter season, in late fall or early spring. If the couple gets along together, let them share a fully equipped enclosure, and they will mate.

Usually, the males approach the females. They will bob their head, swim around the partners, or nip them for permission.

If your male Blanding’s turtle is aggressive, provide multiple females against him. Otherwise, the females might get physically hurt. Multiple partners also raise the chance of a successful mating.

Separate the turtles after the copulation. The female Blanding’s turtle will lay her eggs within 3 to 6 weeks. Attah a nesting box with 10 inches of thick, soft top soil where the gravid turtle will deposit the clutch.

Each clutch includes 9 to 20 eggs. After laying the eggs, the mother will leave the nest. You have to collect the eggs and incubate them in a DIY or commercial incubator. The eggs will hatch within 2 months if you maintain a 78F to 80F temperature and 75 to 80% humidity.

The hatchlings will take 1 or 2 days after you notice egg cracks. Let them come out at their own pace. Once they are out, transfer them to a decorated habitat with low water depth (2 inches).

Blanding’s Turtle Diseases To Fight

I always encourage owners to have a minimum knowledge of turtle’s common diseases. This helps you to proceed with the primary treatment. Here is a chart with potential Blanding’s turtle illnesses and related necessary information,

Potential DiseaseCauseSymptomTreatment
Vitamin A DeficiencyInsufficent vitamin A in the system  Swollen eyelid  

Loss of appetite  

Runny nose  

Infectious diseases
Antibiotic shots

A diet rich in vitamin A
Respiratory InfectionProlonged vitamin A deficiency  

Bacterial attack on the lungs  

Cold temperature
Runny nose

Watery eyes

Mucus discharge

Frequent basking

Wheezing and coughing

Trouble breathing
Antibiotic shots

A balanced diet

A proper enclosure attamgement
Shell RotUntreated scratch or wound on scutesBlack pits around the wound

Smelly discharge is coming out

Inactivity
Antibacterial and healing cream on the spot

Keeping the turtle away from water
PyramidingOverfeeding of proteinBumpy scutes

Oversize shell
A strict meal schedule

A balanced diet
Metabollic Bone DiseaseInsufficent vitamin D3 and UV raysSoft shell

Splayed limbs

Overgrown beaks

Abnormal shell

Trouble walking
Install quality UVB lamp

Add calcium and vitamin D supplements to the diet
Parasite AttackFithy habitat conditionLoss of appetite

Vomit

Nausea

Diarrhea
Deworm the pet regularly

Keep the enclosure clean
StressNew environment  

Frequent touching

Too much brightness  

Too much noise

Improper care sheet
Loss of appetite

Inactive

Hiding in the shells

Aggressive nature
Give the turtle some space

Follow the care sheet properly

Determine and eliminate the cause

Want more on the diseases? Give this article a read.

Blanding’s Turtles Are Definitely Docile

Unlike other species, Blanding’s turtles are not aggressive about their territory. In fact, in the wild, these turtles bask and live in coumminuty. Around 10 to 50 Blanding’s turtles bask together on the rocks or land daily.

I am thinking of transferring my single turtles to a community space. Yes, I have already introduced my Blanding’s turtles to each other, and they show no signs of attack.

If I continue with this plan, I have to arrange a bigger space and provide the tank mates with enough food. Otherwise, they will be at each other’s throats all the time.

You can make the Blanding’s turtles live together from the beginning. But be careful when housing the male and female together. They might get involved in premature breeding.

In August 2023, the Species-at-Risk (SAR) team at the Royal Botanical Gardens (RBG) released 22 head-started endangered Blanding’s Turtle juveniles into the RBG marsh areas. This marked the second year of such releases, with a significant number of young turtles being introduced into their natural habitat​. (source)

Blanding’s Turtle care and maintenance tasks


Here’s a table outlining the maintenance and care tasks for Blanding’s turtles, categorized by weekly, monthly, and yearly intervals:

IntervalTasks
Weekly– Check water quality (pH, ammonia, nitrite, nitrate levels).

– Feed adults 2-3 times, hatchlings daily.

– Clean the basking area.

– Inspect the turtle for health issues.
Monthly– Perform a partial water change (about 25-30%).

– Clean the filter and check its functionality.

– Inspect and clean the tank decorations and substrate.

– Review the turtle’s diet and make adjustments if necessary.

– Check and replace UVB and heating bulbs as needed.
Yearly– Perform a thorough cleaning and inspection of the entire setup.

– Replace any worn-out equipment (heaters, filters, lights).

– Schedule a health check-up with a veterinarian specialized in reptiles.

– Review and update the turtle’s diet plan.

– Assess the tank size and upgrade if the turtle has grown significantly.

This table provides a general guideline for the care of Blanding’s turtles and should be adjusted based on the specific needs and observations of each individual turtle.

Are Blanding’s turtles nocturnal?

Blanding’s turtles are not strictly nocturnal, but they do exhibit more nocturnal behavior than other turtle species.

Here are some key points about Blanding’s turtle activity patterns:

Blanding’s turtles are often most active at night or during low-light conditions like dusk and dawn. They will bask and forage at these times.

However, they are not exclusively nocturnal. On overcast or rainy days they may be more active during the day as well.

Nesting and breeding activities tend to occur at night for increased protection. Females will lay eggs and males will pursue mates under cover of darkness.

As with many turtle species, Blanding’s turtles will bask in sunlight during appropriate times to regulate their body temperature. But they seem to prefer low-light conditions compared to fully diurnal turtle species.

Their semi-aquatic habitats like marshes provide good camouflage at night to avoid predation. So nocturnal behavior is an adaptation that helps them avoid detection.

What are some interesting facts about the Blanding’s turtle?

Here are some interesting facts about the Blanding’s Turtle:

  • Blanding’s Turtles have a distinctive yellow chin and throat which distinguishes them from other turtle species.
  • Their shell is a dome shape and can grow up to 4-5 inches long. The top shell is olive or brown with yellow markings.
  • Blanding’s Turtles are one of the longest living turtles – some individuals have been recorded living over 80 years!
  • Blanding’s Turtles inhabit wetland areas like marshes, fens and shallow lakes. They need access to land for nesting and overwintering.
  • Female Blanding’s Turtles don’t reach sexual maturity until 15-20 years of age. They have a low reproductive rate of only 1-3 eggs per year.
  • Hatchling Blanding’s Turtles can take up to a decade to reach sexual maturity, making populations very vulnerable to disturbances.
  • Blanding’s Turtles are omnivorous, eating plants, insects, worms, snails and fish.
  • Blanding’s Turtles communicate through pheromones in their urine to find mates and mark territories.
  • Blanding’s Turtles are considered a threatened or endangered species across most of their range due to habitat loss and road mortality.
  • Their domed shell and yellow chin/throat make Blanding’s Turtles one of the most striking looking turtle species in North America.
  • Blanding’s Turtles can live up to 80 years, making them one of the longest living freshwater turtle species.

Why are Blanding’s turtles important?


Blanding’s turtles are important for several reasons:

  1. Ecological Balance: They help keep their wetland homes healthy by eating various small animals and plants.
  2. Environmental Indicators: These turtles show us how healthy their environment is. If they are in trouble, it often means the ecosystem is too.
  3. Long Life for Research: They live a long time, over 70 years, which is useful for scientists studying environmental changes.
  4. Conservation Efforts: Protecting them helps other animals and plants too, because they all share the same habitat.
  5. Education: They help people learn about and care for the environment by drawing attention to wetland conservation.

In short, Blanding’s turtles play a big role in their ecosystems and help us understand and protect our natural world.

The provincial government has allocated over $9 million since 2018 to 40 projects aimed at the recovery of the Blanding’s turtle. This funding indicates a substantial commitment to conservation efforts for this species. (source)

Before You Go

You can not judge every turtle with the same parameter. Each one has different traits and demands, just like humans. This is why I say the more you know your turtle, the better a keeper you will become. The attached article will definitely give insight into turtles’ behavior.

Top 10 Myths Debunked About Pet Turtles: What You Need To Know

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About Author

Muntaseer Rahman started keeping pet turtles back in 2013. He also owns the largest Turtle & Tortoise Facebook community in Bangladesh. These days he is mostly active on Facebook.

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