Bog Turtle Care Manual [Step By Step Guide]

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

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My experience with bog turtles was different. I hadn’t bought the species but adopted an adult bog turtle from the rescue center. Apparently, its owner was too busy to manage his life and the reptile at the same time. Anyway, why don’t I share my bog turtle care guide with you today?

Tank SizeUpto 50 gallon
EquipmentBasking dock and lights, heater, and filter
Basking Temperature85F to 90F
Water Temperature70F to 75F
DietOmnivorous (Hatchlings are primarily carnivorous, and adults are herbivorous)
ReproductionSexually mature at 4 to 10 years old
Each clutch includes up to 9 eggs

Get a detailed care manual below.

Key Takeaways

  • Bog turtles are critically endangered.
  • The market rate of bog turtles is up to $1500.
  • Bog turtles are one of the smallest turtle species available.
  • The species thrive in both indoor and outdoor setups.

First, Know Your Bog Turtle Better

I agree. Bog turtles are not that famous. But once you get to know the species, you will realize they make excellent pets, even for beginners. These turtles have a unique appearance and way of living.

Let’s dive deep into the world of bog turtles.

How Does Exactly A Bog Turtle Look Like?

Spotting a bog turtle is the easiest job.

The species has dark black skin with yellow to orange patches on the neck and head. Such yellow or orange scales are visible on their legs, too.

Bog turtles have dark brown carapaces but the top scutes look lighter. There are lines all over the upper shells. These patterns seem to flare outward from the center.

On the contrary, plastrons of bog turtles are dark brown with black patches. Apparently, their shells have no hinge.

The bog turtle (Glyptemys muhlenbergii) is North America’s smallest turtle, typically growing to only 4.5 inches in length as adults. They can be easily identified by the distinctive orange patches behind each eye.

Where Do Bog Turtles Live?

Bog turtles are native to the eastern USA. But right now, they are scattered throughout different states. A recent report states that Bog turtles have also inhabited southern and northern America.

We will spot bog turtle colonies in,

  • Western Connecticut
  • Western Massachusetts
  • Pennsylvania
  • Throughout New York
  • New Jersey
  • South to Northeast Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Southern Virginia
  • Western North Carolina
  • Georgia

I always encourage adopting a turtle native to your region. This helps the creature thrive. If you live in any of the states mentioned above, petting a bog turtle will be a wise decision. Check this article to find a species native to your area.

Wetlands (bogs) are the favorite habitat of bog turtles. That is where the name comes from. You will also spot the reptiles in meadows, spring seeps, and marshes.

Yes, it is nearly impossible to replicate a wetland-like enclosure indoors. But including vegetation in the habitat will bring a wild vibe.

How Big Does A Bog Turtle Get?

Aren’t bog turtles the cutest? The species is mostly known for its tiny size.

A hatchling is born not more than 1 inch and a few grams. In adulthood, the reptile will reach its highest 4.5 inches and 110 grams weight.

The average carapace size of female bog turtles is 3.5 inches. Usually, the males are slightly larger than the females, around 3.7 inches. You will barely know the size difference from observation.

Well, there are other ways of determining the gender of a bog turtle. For example, look at the tail. Generally, the males have a longer and thicker tail. Furthermore, their plastron is slightly concave that helps them get a grip over the females during mating.

How Long Do Bog Turtles Live?

Don’t worry. Unlike other species, bog turtles do not demand a century-long commitment. These turtles have a short life expectancy of 20 to 30 years. However, there are records of bog turtles living up to 40 years and even more.

Are Bog Turtles Aggressive?

Show me one turtle species that is not territorial. So, why would it be different with bog turtles?

The male bog turtles can be quite rude and aggressive about their space and food. A claim is that the males will attack anyone coming within a 6-inch radius.

Have you ever seen a turtle attack another? Their bullying and fighting style is quite different. For example, the aggressive male will approach the enemy with an extended neck. He might attack with his shell, bite, or kick the opponent.

The females and the babies live in harmony. Of course, they are greedy for power, too. But they can adjust to each other.

While the males act super aggressive towards each other, they do not want to fight the females or babies. Such gentlemen! However, during the mating session, the males disturb and act violently with the females.

As for the interaction with owners, bog turtles are docile and smart. But they will bite the keepers if they feel threatened.

According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, bog turtles are currently listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act throughout their entire range due to major population declines.

Aquatic Turtle Care Sheet Infographic

aquatic turtle care sheet infographic

Want to get a printable version of this pdf? Click here!

Set Up Your Bog Turtle Habitat This Way

The above part is crucial for every bog turtle owner to know. It gives you a rough idea on what to expect from the pet. Now, why don’t we focus on the habitat setup? This is how I decorated my bog turtle’s home!

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Habitat RequirementsDetails
TemperatureDay: 75-85°F (24-29°C), Night: 65-75°F (18-24°C)
HumidityHigh humidity, around 80-90%
SubstratePeat moss, sphagnum moss, organic topsoil, or a mixture
WaterClean water for soaking and swimming
Other Key FactorsBasking spot with UVB light, hiding spots, and enough space for movement

Bog Turtles Need A Little Space

Guys, bog turtles are so tiny you can even carry them in your pocket. But I do not think that will be a good idea. So, we better accommodate the pets in a suitable home.

Bog turtles are perfect for outdoor ponds. However, because of its size, I was not confident about keeping my bog in my pool setup. The pet was 3 inches male, and I feared the bigger guys in the habitat might pick up on this little one. Turtles are bullies after all.

So, I chose to keep my bog turtles in an indoor setup.

The adult ones can happily adjust in a 2-foot by 3 feet tank. I bought a 50-gallon aquarium for my buddy, which was spacious enough for it.

The Enclosure Must Be Well-Equipped for bog turtles

Just because bog turtles are tiny, you can not make them adjust anywhere. In reality, these reptiles share the same environmental demands as any other turtle species. It means even though it is a 50-gallon aquarium, it must have all the necessary supplies. Such as basking lights, water heaters, and tank filters.

Why do bog turtles need them you ask? Here are the reasons.

Basking Lights Are Mandatory for bog turtles

By basking lights for turtles, we indicate a pair of heating lamps and a UV bulb. Yes, the light can be a 2 in 1 combo of this pair.

The heating bulb radiates heat and keeps the bog turtles warm. Without this lamp, the turtle will fall cold, and trust me. You do not want that.

See, unlike humans, bog turtles are ectothermic or cold-blooded. If we miss out on providing the creatures with a suitable heat source, they can not operate their routine life. To survive the cold, bog turtles will stop eating and enter hibernation for the winter. During this period, they live on their stored energy.

I know brumation or hibernation might now sound dangerous. Well, it isn’t. But the process can get severe in captivity if you can not execute it perfectly.

Why take the risk? Right?

So, I installed a quality heating lamp in the tank. People who think just any heating source will work, please reconsider that thought. The regular home-watt light is not built for your pet.

Now, moving to the UV lamp, it is equally crucial for bog turtles.

The UVA from the light keeps the pets chilled and promotes healthy digestion. On the other hand, UVB rays focus on building a solid skeleton.

Lack of sufficient UV exposure will affect bog turtles’ immunity and create complicated diseases. I bought the best quality UV bulb for my bog turtles. Just to be on the safe side, I replace the light every 6 months.

NB: Putting up a basking light is not necessary in the outdoor kiddie pools or ponds. The sun is the ultimate source of heat and UV exposures.

box turtle’s Body Temperature Will Drop Without A Water Heater

Should I repeat what I have just said about maintaining the standard body temperature of bog turtles? I guess you get my point already.

Of course, a warm ambient temperature and a hot basking area are necessary. But what about the water temperature? Should you let it go cold?

Definitely not! Even though bog turtles are semi-aquatic, they spend most of their time underwater. So, allowing the pets to swim in the chilly water will only make them sick and influence them to hibernate.

 What to do then? I wired up a submersible digital tank heater. It tracks the environmental temperature and regulates the water temperature accordingly. Yes, it had cost me a fortune. But my bog turtles were happier and that was the goal.

My bog turtle tank was 75-gallon. So, I fit a 300-watt heater, and it was enough. If you have a smaller aquarium, buy a less powerful heating device.

For example, a 75-watt heater is perfect for a 20-gallon habitat, and 150-watt work for a 40-gallon enclosure.

Do you have a turtle setup bigger than 75 gallons? Why don’t you set up multiple heaters together? Such arrangements also work well.

By the way, installing a water heater in the outdoor pond is useless. No matter how powerful the device is, it can not heat the water.

There will be no need to regulate the pond temperature in summer, autumn, and spring. The thermometer might drop in the late spring. You should transfer the turtle to an indoor setup during that time.

Tank Filter Ensures Hygiene in box turtle habitat

You know one of my friends once tried to run a turtle tank without a filter and guess what? His setup was smelling like shit. See, it was obvious. Turtles leave biological and food wastes in the water, which rot over time. If you do not remove the filth, the habitat will surely smell.

It was a big lesson for me. So, I bought a powerful Canister filter for my bog turtle enclosure.

The Canister filters have a 3 stage filtration system. As the dirty water passes through each basket, the nets trap the debris, kill the germs, and remove the odor. In the end, your turtles can enjoy freshwater.

Usually, the Canister filters serve the indoor tanks and small kiddie pools well enough. But if you have an indoor pond, go for pond filters. Check this article for a step-by-step buyer’s guide for a turtle pond.

ideal water parameters for bog turtles

Here are the ideal water parameters for bog turtles shown in a table:

ParameterIdeal Range
Hardness0-75 ppm
Ammonia0 ppm
Nitrite0 ppm
NitrateLess than 20 ppm
Chlorine/Chloramines0 ppm (dechlorinated)

Final Touches On The Bog Turtle Enclosure

No more technical talk. We are almost done setting up the bog turtle enclosure. There are just a few items left.

See, bog turtles will not bask while swimming. They need a basking area for that. As bog turtles are semi-aquatic, I extended the basking zone into a land setup.

People buy floating basking platforms from pet stores. Obviously, those are the most convenient options available out there. However, I used a natural log and placed it in the middle of the tank. It added a wild vibe to the aquarium.

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You can DIY the basking dock with metal, plastic, foam, etc. Just make sure that the platform is strong enough to carry the pet’s weight. Also, add a ramp from the water to the dock if necessary, as turtles can not jump.

For the land area, I had just stacked smooth-edged stones one after another. I arranged the rocks in a pattern that created one or two caves. These would work as hiding places for my bog turtles.

Bog turtles can live without substrate. But bedding is always better if you plan to add live plants to the enclosure.

I avoided the topsoil, moss, sand, or whatever the suitable substrate is for bog turtles. Instead, I layered the bottom with medium-sized gravel.

No, I didn’t forget plants. I just selected the species that grow without a substrate. You can choose duckweed, chickweed, moss, etc. Get a list of the suitable plants for bog turtle tanks from here.

Finally, pour fresh tap water into the tank. The ideal water depth is double the height of a turtle’s size. Add a few drops of conditioner if the water includes a high percentage of ammonia, chlorine, or sulfate.

Ideal Environment For Bog Turtles

All these arrangements will go in vain if you fail to maintain a suitable tank temperature. The basking zone should be the hottest, around 85F to 90F. Insteall the lamps right above the dock.

The temperature will vary depending on where you have put the light.

If you have a 75-watt heating lamp, set it 7 to 9 inches away. Likewise, a 12-inch distance is mandatory for 100-watt lights.

Other areas of the habitat need not be this hot. An ambient temperature of 75F to 85F will work. Similarly, set the water temperature around 70F to 75F.

You should maintain a similar distance with UV lamps, too. How far to place the light? It depends on the UVB percentage of that bulb.

If you ask my advice, lamps with 3 to 5% UVB are just fine for semi-aquatic bog turtles. Install them at a 12 to 18 inches distance from the dock. 

Turtle Basking: Why, When, How? [Infographic]

If you want a printable version of this PDF, click here. Please link back to this source if you use the infographic on any other website!

Bog Turtles Follow An Omnivorous Diet

Bog turtles have a more flexible food habit than Blanding’s turtle or chicken turtle. They are not picky and will eat anything you offer them. Their diet includes,

  • Low-fat protein
  • Plant matter
  • Pellets
  • Fruits &
  • Supplements

The safe food options for bog turtles will be:

Terrestrial Plants & Fruits

  • Chickweed
  • Moss
  • Fern
  • Carrot
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Green leafy vegetable
  • Berries
  • Apples
  • Banana
  • Mango

Insects and Invertebrates

  • Beetles
  • Weevils
  • Larvae
  • Fly
  • Snail
  • Worms
  • Insects
  • Slugs
  • Bugs

Aquatic Plants

  • Duckweed
  • Pondweed
  • Water hyacinth

Animal-Based Foods

  • Feeder fish
  • Frogs
  • Carrion


  • Raisin (dried grape seed)

Processed Foods

  • Protein pellets

The hatchlings and young bog turtles demand more protein portions in their meals. So, at least 50% of animal matter should be in their bowl. You can add 20% of plant matter, and the rest can be pellets and fruits.

As the babies grow, decrease the animal portion and increase the green. In adulthood, the bog turtles usually show more appetite for plant matter.

Here is what natural and balanced bog turtle diet should look like:

Food ItemPercentage of Diet
Snails and slugs20-25%
Aquatic plants (e.g. duckweed)15-20%
Seeds and berries10-15%
Frogs and other small vertebrates5-10%
Other invertebrates5-10%

However, bog turtles of all ages need extra mineral shots. So, sprinkle calcium supplements on the meals thrice a week.

Yes, calciums are available in other forms, too. For example, cuttlebones, blocks, etc.

Following the head method or the 15-minute rule is enough to prevent overfeeding the bog turtles. These two techniques are the most popular and efficient in deciding a healthy meal quantity.

As for the diet schedule, feed the hatchlings every day for the first 6 months. Then switch to a 4 times a week meal routine if possible. Some bog turtles are more comfortable eating every other day.

Here is a table showing feeding schedules and amounts for different life stages of bog turtles:

Life StageFeeding ScheduleAmount
Hatchlings/Babies (up to 3 inches)2-3 times per dayAs much as they can eat in 10-15 minutes
Juveniles (3-5 inches)2 times per dayAs much as they can eat in 15-20 minutes
Subadults (5-7 inches)Every other dayAs much as they can eat in 20-30 minutes
Adults (7+ inches)2-3 times per weekAs much as they can eat in 30 minutes

In the wild, bog turtles subsist on a variety of foods including seeds, berries, insects, worms, snails and other invertebrates as shown in this study of bog turtle diets. It’s important for keepers to provide a varied diet in captivity as well to keep these omnivorous turtles healthy.

Pet Turtle Diet & Feeding Chart

Pet Turtle Diet Feeding Chart

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

My Winter Care Routine For Bog Turtles

As I always say, winter is not a friendly season for turtles, especially for the pet pond turtles.

See, the wild bog turtles have no other option but to hibernate in the winter. The process is safe for them. So, typically, it seems like the outdoor pet turtles will brumate without any struggle, too. Right?

No. Do not forget that you have built the outdoor pond artificially. There is a high chance that the pond surroundings are not suitable for hibernation. For the starter, no space for burrowing is available.

So what can we do? Simple, do not hibernate the bog turtles at all. As the winter approaches, I make room for my outdoor turtles inside.

Well, I didn’t have to do the trade and transfer with bog turtles. I gave them an indoor setup with heating sources from the very beginning. As the light and heater were running at full blast, my bog turtles didn’t realize it was winter.

Just for your information, bog turtles enter hibernation when the temperature drops below 55F to 60F. Some turtles find it hard to withstand 65F. They will start showing inactivity as a sign of the chilly weather.

Last year, the winter got more harsh. So, I attached temporary heating pads to the aquarium glasses. Those devices radiated heat, preventing the bog turtles from going into hibernation.

However, I am not saying brumation is impossible in pet turtles. No. You can take the risk but be very careful. Some helpful tips are,

  • Have your bog turtles checked by a vet. Only a healthy adult turtle can hibernate.
  • Starve the pet 3 to 4 weeks before the brumation. Leftovers in the intestine can make the pet bloat.
  • Make a dump with dead leaves and soil at the pond bottom. Turtles will burrow there.
  • Install an oxygen bubble device in the pond. It will prevent the entire surface from freezing in ice temperature and pass oxygen into the water.
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Many people take the hibernating turtle and place it in the refrigerator. This is highly risky and not recommended at all.

N.B. Installing a heater in the outdoor ponds will be of no help. In fact, the entire setup will backfire.

Bog Turtle Reproduction Care For Beginners

As an experienced keeper, I would not suggest any noob breed their bog turtles. Honestly, mating can be stressful for the females, and in many cases, they get injured. However, if you are confident and have expert supervision, go ahead.

You must plan years ahead of breeding the turtles. You need a healthy, adult bog turtle couple.

Usually, the species becomes sexually active between 4 to 10 years.

The breeding season for bog turtles lasts from late April to early June. However, if you have housed the pets in the same enclosure, they will mate regardless of the month.

Generally, the males approach the females. They will bump or mildly snap the female turtle’s head as an invitation for sex. The young males seem to impress the females more quickly than the old ones. Apparently, female bog turtles enjoy aggressive mating.

Copulation of bog turtles takes 5 to 35 minutes. Separate the couple right after the mating. The female will lay her eggs within a month or so.

Before the nesting season, the females will spend more time on the land to find a suitable spot. Attach a nesting box with suitable substrate to the main tank. You will catch your pet turtle depositing her eggs between April to July.

The clutch size of the bog turtles is up to 5 or 7 eggs. Once you collect the eggs, put them in the incubator at 77F to 83F temperature and high humidity. The hatchings will be out within 2 and a half months.

Bog turtle hatchlings are not more than an inch big. Put all the babies in a well-equipped tank with a shallow water level. Offer them a protein diet and enough heat with UVB exposure.

Bog turtles have experienced a significant decline over the past century. Historically observed in 223 places in the South, they can now be found in only 14, representing a 90% decline. The southern population of bog turtles is estimated to be fewer than 2,000, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service completed an initial review in October 2022 to consider listing the southern population as endangered​. (source)

5 Potential Bog Turtle Diseases You Should Be Aware Of

Bog turtles can survive harsh outdoor weather (snowfall or flood). But fighting a simple disease might be too much for them.

When I received my bog turtle, it was already sick. Apparently, its previous owner was too callous towards the pet’s health. Luckily, I had primary knowlegde on turtle diseases and their basic treatments. It helped me restore the rescued pet’s health.

I will discuss the common 5 diseases of bog turtles with their causes and treatments. Hopefully, you can prevent them beforehand.

PyramidingOverfeeding of protein leading to abnormal and bumpy shell growths.Stick to a strict diet to stop bumpy shell development. Irreversible condition.
Respiratory IllnessBacterial attack on the lungs due to cold weather or filthy environment.Antibiotics, balanced diet, and hygienic tank to elevate health.
Metabolic Bone DiseaseLack of UVB rays hampering vitamin D3 generation, leading to poor calcium absorption.Quality UV lamp and balanced diet sprinkled with calcium.
Shell DiseasesAccidents or minor scratches damaging the shell.Treatment varies depending on cause and type of shell problem.
Stress & AnxietyEnvironmental changes, congested enclosure, insufficient food, or bully tank mates.Resolve the root cause of anxiety to bring the turtle back to normal.

1. Pyramiding

Overfeeding of protein leads to abnormal and bumpy shell growths. The young turtles prefer more protein in their meals and are more prone to pyramiding. Even though this disease is irreversible, sticking to a strict diet can stop the bumpy shell development.

2. Respiratory Illness

A bacterial attack on the lungs due to cold weather or filthy envrionement can cause respiratory illness in bog turtles. Labored breathing, mucus discharge, teary eyes, fatigue, wheezing, frequent basking, etc., are common symptoms of this disease. The sick turtle needs antibiotics to recover. Besides, you need to ensure a balanced diet and hygienic tank to elevate its health.

3. Metabolic Bone Disease

The lack of UVB rays hampers vitamin D3 generation in bog turtles.

As a result, the pets can not absorb enough calcium, and their skeleton stays underdeveloped. Soft scutes, overgrown bones, splayed limbs, etc., are common signs of MBD. Installing a quality UV lamp and offering the turtles a balanced diet sprinkled with calcium are recommended treatments.

4. Shell Diseases

Any accident or a minor scratch can damage a turtle’s shell. Remember, these reptiles are very sensitive about their shells. If you do not handle the scute wounds immediately, it will put the pets in immense pain. The treatment will vary depending on the cause and type. You can check this article to learn about 5 different shell problems and their solutions.

5. Stress & Anxiety

Taking the bog turtles to a new environment or disturbing them too much will put them under stress. Again, a congested enclosure, little food, a bully tank mate, etc., can also cause anxiety in the pets. Due to such mental disturbance, the turtles will act aggressively and weirdly. Resolving the root of this anxiety will bring the pets to normal.

Care to know more? Click here to get a detailed treatment guide on 38 turtle diseases.

Habitat loss is a major reason for the bog turtle’s decline, along with poaching for the illegal pet trade. Development near their habitats, increased stormwater runoff due to hard surfaces like asphalt, and changes in ecosystems that favor invasive species are also significant threats​. (source)

Can You Raise Bog Turtles In A Community Habitat?

In the wild, bog turtles live in small groups of 20 members. They show no aggression there. It might be because there is no issue over territory.

Even though I had raised a single bog turtle. I know for sure that a community habitat is possible with the species. I have friends who have successfully housed 3 to 4 bog turtles in a single indoor pond.

Usually, the male bog turtles show aggression towards other males. Occasionally, they will pick up on babies and females. So, raising male bog turtles separately and assigning them single aquariums is better.

On the contrary, you can house multiple female and baby bog turtles in a single habitat. They will not lose their minds as long as their needs are taken care of.

Are Bog Turtles Good As Pets?

Bog turtles are excellent as pets. But I do not suggest beginners bring the species home.

As per a recent report, the bog turtles are critically endangered.

If we spike their demands, the black market guys will hunt the wild breeds and sell them to us. I do not want that to happen.

However, not everyone can afford a bog turtle anyway.

The average price of the bog turtle is almost $300 to $400, and the babies are sold at $1300 to $1500.

The bog turtles are low maintenance. So you do not have to be worried about them much. Providing them with a decent setup will keep them happy and content.

frequently asked questions

What are the threats to the bog turtle?

Bog turtles face several threats, including habitat destruction due to urban development, agriculture, and wetland drainage. They are also at risk from pollution, invasive species, and climate change. Additionally, poaching for the pet trade poses a significant threat, as they are small and easily transportable.

What is the life cycle of a bog turtle?

The life cycle of a bog turtle begins with egg laying in early summer. The female bog turtle lays 1-6 eggs in a nest dug in soft soil. The eggs hatch in late summer or early fall. The hatchlings are tiny, about the size of a nickel. Bog turtles reach sexual maturity in 4-8 years and can live up to 40 years in the wild.

What color are bog turtles?

Bog turtles are small and distinctively marked. They have a dark brown or black carapace (upper shell) with a unique orange or yellow blotch on each side of their neck. The plastron (lower shell) is usually yellowish-brown.

why are bog turtles endangered?

Bog turtles are endangered primarily due to habitat loss and fragmentation. Their wetland habitats are often drained or altered for agriculture, development, and other human activities. Additionally, illegal collection for the pet trade has significantly impacted their populations.

how many bog turtles are left in 2023?

Precise population numbers for bog turtles are not readily available due to their elusive nature and fragmented habitats. However, they are considered a critically endangered species, with their population believed to be declining.

do bog turtles bite?

Like most turtles, bog turtles can bite if they feel threatened. However, they are generally not aggressive towards humans. Due to their small size, a bite from a bog turtle is unlikely to cause significant harm. It’s important to respect their space and avoid handling wild bog turtles to minimize stress on the animal.

Zoo Knoxville has been involved in bog turtle conservation since 1985, focusing on breeding and reintroducing these turtles into the wild. Their efforts include using technology like radio telemetry to track and study bog turtles, which has led to the discovery of previously unknown bogs​. (source)

Before You Go…

I am sure not many keepers are familiar with the bog turtles. Why don’t I tell you about some more unique species? The article attached tells the story of some turtles you may have never heard of.

42 Prominent Turtle Species Around The World You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

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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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