Can You Keep A Diamondback Terrapin As A Pet?

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

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Have you seen a diamondback terrapin? The visible diamond-shaped marks on their scutes are so pretty that you would want to take these turtles in right away. But can you keep a diamondback terrapin as a pet?

In most states, it is legal to keep a diamondback terrapin as a pet. A few states have imposed restrictions on the trading of the species because of its vulnerability. Terrapins interact with the owner and have a minimum demand, making them excellent as pets.

Are you thinking of adopting the terrapin but can not come to a decision? If yes, then the following article will help you clear your mind. You will find all the bright and dark sides of keeping a terrapin as a pet.

So please give it a quick read and see whether the species suits you or not.

Can You Keep A Diamondback Terrapin As A Pet?

You can indeed keep a diamondback terrapin as your pet. It is totally legal to own this species as long as you have purchased it following the state procedure. If you ask about their nature, the diamondback terrapins are docile and interact with the owners to an extent.

Do you know what makes a turtle eligible as a pet? First, of course, the legality.

Now that keeping diamondback terrapins is legal, would it be a fantastic pet for you? Well, you can not say for sure until you cross-check your compatibility level with this species.

Each hobbyist has a distinct taste when it comes to choosing turtles. Not every species will suit your personality. Hence, I always encourage the keepers to re-consider the demands of the pets before welcoming them home. Such as,

  • Size
  • Required space
  • Housing necessaries
  • Maintenance
  • Behavior, etc.

You need to re-examine and research all these things closely.

Let’s dive deep into each probable question on your mind and see where diamondback terrapin stands as a pet for you.

Are Diamondback Terrapins Legal As Pets?

Diamondback terrapin is legal as a pet in most states of the USA, which includes New York, New Jersey, etc. However, a few states have banned the trading of all turtle species due to the endangerment issue. Hence, check the legality of a diamondback terrapin in your region before taking it home.

Surprisingly, the demand for diamondback terrapin has been on the rise recently. The beautiful features or more people getting into the turtle hobby might be responsible for this sudden interest hike.

Unfortunately, the black market has grabbed this opportunity and started the illegal trafficking of diamondback terrapin. The increased trading is affecting the wild turtle population and eco-system balance.

Recently, the IUCN has marked diamondback terrapins as the globally vulnerable species. It means these turtles might face extinction if we do not come forward conserving them. Considering all these possibilities, a few states of the USA and other countries have banned the trade of these diamondback terrapins.

Hence, you should never deal with the black market just because of the heavy discounts. It is illegal, and if the authorities find out, you are in trouble. Again, never bring a wild diamondback terrapin home. The chances are these turtles will act way more aggressively and might die.

Always purchase your turtles from certified and licensed pet stores. The states sometimes refrain one person from getting multiple turtles. Make sure you go through all the laws and orders beforehand. If you are a potential breeder and want to trade, apply for a permit.

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Lastly, selling or buying turtle hatchlings under 4 inches is illegal in the USA. This law applies to more or less all the turtle species. Concerned authorities suggest that turtle babies might carry salmonella, making our children and even adults sick. So, taking precautions and necessary steps to avoid this bacteria is mandatory.

Diamondback Terrapin Care Infographic

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How Big Can Diamondback Terrapins Get?

A diamondback terrapin hatchling is born small, not more than 1 to 1.5 inches. However, adult terrapins can get 5 to 11 inches big. The male diamondback terrapins reach a carapace length of 5.1 to 5.5 inches, while the females grow much larger, about 7 to 11 inches.

The diamondback terrapins are the perfect medium-sized pets. Their average growth is limited to 5 to 8 inches, and the females hardly reach the carapace length of 11 inches. The largest female terrapin ever recorded was 9.1 inches big.

These females have distinguishing characteristics that separate them from males. Short tails, larger heads, and wider jaws are the features that will help you sex your diamondback terrapins.

The size range is advantageous if you are not looking forward to setting up a grand aquarium. A 75-gallon tank is enough for accommodating an adult male diamondback terrapin, and to house a female, a 100-gallon tank is required. Furthermore, a baby terrapin will happily live in a 10 to 25-gallon tank for the first 6 to 12 months of its life. But once the hatchling grows, you need to manage a spacious aquarium.

The diamondback terrapins have a perfect growth curve. A 1 to 1.5 inches hatchling grows into 4 – 4.5 inches within the first 2 years. Female diamondback terrapins gain sexual maturity late, around 5 to 7 years. On the other hand, the male terrapins reach the breeding size within 3 to 4 years.

How Long Do Diamondback Terrapins Live In Captivity?

In captivity, the diamondback terrapins live around 30 to 40 years. Cases of terrapins living up to 60 years are not rare either and not very common. The wild diamondback terrapins live a shorter life, about 25 to 40 years, compared to the captive turtles.

Turtles are blessed with a long lifespan, and many species might live up to 100 years. However, many turtle hobbyists are afraid of such a long commitment and do not take in any pets for this reason. Diamondback terrapins can be an excellent option as this species enjoys reasonably healthy longevity.

The theoretical lifespan of diamondback terrapins is 30 to 40 years in captivity. However, the expectancy may vary depending on the care level.

If the owner lacks care, the turtle will suffer and may not grow up to 40. Again, any undesired medical emergency deducts years from the lifespan, which you can not predict. The lack of care and no available medical help are two reasons why the wild diamondback terrapins do not have tempting longevity as the captive ones.

Luckily, the terrapins are real survivors. They hardly fall ill and can withstand harsh environments. Now, who does not want these qualities in his pets?

Do Diamondback Terrapins Bask?

Instead of being aquatic, the diamondback terrapins are quite the baskers. These diurnal turtles bask under the sun during the day and sleep when it is dark. As a result, you will often catch the terrapins stacking up soaking in the heat in the wild.

Is turtle stacking a new phrase for you? Catch all the possible reasons why turtles stack from my previous write-up.

More or less, all the turtle species bask, and it is no exception for the diamondback terrapins. Soaking up heat is a significant event for these turtles to lead a healthy life.

Terrapins spend most of their hours swimming underwater. However, they need to come to the surface to dewet their bodies from time to time as the moisture often invites harmful bacteria. While soaking in the heat, the turtles also absorb the UV rays, which aid in building a solid skeleton structure and defensive immunity system.

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The sun is the ultimate basking source for the diamondback terrapins and all other turtles in the wild. But while in an indoor habitat, you have to set up an artificial heating source. The UV light and heating lamp are hence mandatory supplies for in-house tanks.

In addition to the lamps, you also have to provide a basking station to the diamondback terrapins. Without the dock, the turtles can hardly enjoy the benefits of the basking lamps.

However, while selecting a basking station, make sure the platform can hold the weight of the turtle. Also, set up a rampage so that the terrapin can get on the dock without struggle. Check out the best basking platforms available in the market within your budget from this link.

Position the lights 10 to 12 inches away from the dock and keep them on 10 to 12 hours a day. A replacement is mandatory every 6 months to maintain UV ray production quality. Also, make sure the heating lamps keep a 70 to 72 degrees temperature range in the tank.

What Do Diamondback Terrapins Eat?

Diamondback terrapins are omnivores, which means they eat a whole range of foods. Worms, insects, snails, fishes, crabs, etc., are the favorite meal of the species. These turtles graze on a small portion of plants, including leafy vegetables and algae, compared to animal protein.

Unfortunately, the food habit of diamondback terrapins is yet to be examined thoroughly. According to the available information, these turtles are primarily carnivorous. However, they might eat some vegetation to balance the meal.

The diet chart of the diamondback terrapins includes,

  • Fish
  • Mollusk
  • Crab
  • Snail
  • Mussels
  • Cricket
  • Clams
  • Barnacles
  • Shrimps
  • Marine worms
  • Smelts
  • Prawn
  • Shriner
  • Periwinkle
  • Conch
  • Squid
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Seaweed, etc.

The diamondback terrapins have sharp jaws, which help them crush the animal sources. They can easily tear the hard-shelled crustaceans.

Besides the animal and plant matter, pellets are the top priority food option in captivity. A diet consisting of 40 to 50% pellets is considered healthy for the terrapins. While drafting the meal plan, make sure to add even a tiny amount of veggies.

People often think diamondback terrapins can handle beef or similar meats. I know the terrapins are carnivores, but their digestive system is not compatible with such protein sources.

Furthermore, supplements like cuttlebone, calcium powder, vitamin D, or multivitamins are mandatory for captive terrapins. These additionals promote good health for the turtles by fulfilling the lack of nutrition.

Avoid overfeeding your diamondback terrapin. The 20-minute feeding rule suits the species well and eliminates the risk of obesity. Again, feed the turtles every day at the primary stage and switch to the 3 days a week schedule once they hit adulthood.

Do Diamondback Terrapins Carry Salmonella?

Studies claim that diamondback terrapins shed salmonella, even if they are healthy. The germs can affect humans, especially children, and pregnant women. Unfortunately, there is no method of killing salmonella bacteria in your turtles.

Like all other reptiles, diamondback terrapins carry salmonella. They shed this bacteria with their feces and spread it all over the habitat via touch or water. The germs do little to no harm to these turtles.

When it comes to humans, salmonella is not so harmless. The bacteria transmit to people very quickly. Though the salmonella infection is not life-threatening, it can pose health hazards for low immunity people.

Generally, people get bacteria when they touch the diamondback terrapin without proper hygiene. Once the germs get inside the body, they start exhibiting the symptoms. Signs of salmonella infection are,

  • Abdominal cramps
  • Chills
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever, etc.
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The bacteria will cause complications to infants, children, senior citizens, pregnant women, people with recent surgeries and low immunities, etc. Terrapins smaller than 4 inches have higher risks of spreading salmonella. A few decades ago, this turtle disaster affected the children severely. After the incident, the authority banned turtles trading under 4 inches.

In most cases, salmonella is not dangerous and preventable with proper hygiene. Experts suggest wearing gloves while handling the diamondback terrapin. Washing hands is mandatory after touching a turtle or anything in the pet habitat. Also, it is wiser to keep your baby away from the pet to avoid the risk of salmonella infection.

Do Diamondback Terrapin Turtles Bite?

In most cases, diamondback terrapins do not bite though they have sharp and powerful jaws. Hence, these turtles are comparatively friendly and social. But yes, they can get aggressive and bite the opponent while in danger.

Turtles are solitary animals but not diamondback terrapins. They are social enough, and you will often spot them basking in a group. Surprisingly, these turtles remember their owners and treat them like family.

A diamondback terrapin will not bite the owners unless the situation demands it. The baby and young terrapins are not as aggressive as the adults.

Your terrapin turtle has a razor-like beak. Many sources claim that these turtles can bite off the fingers with these jaws. Usually, the female turtles have the advantage of wider jaws and bulky size, which is why their bites sting more than usual.

Diamondback terrapins are easy to handle as there is less risk of an attack. Still, the owners should not be careless while touching these turtles or moving them. Rough handling can stress the pets, which instigates them to behave fiercely.

Do Terrapins Make Good Pets?

Diamondback terrapins make excellent pets. These turtles have an aesthetically pleasing appearance. Not only that, their docile nature, minimal lifestyle, and low maintenance quality are always wanted and appreciated in a turtle while adopting it as a pet.

Still not convinced? Let me draw the pros and cons of petting a diamondback terrapin for you.

Reasons why you should get a diamond terrapin,

  • Diamond terrapins grow 5 to 11 inches in carapace length, and a 125-gallon tank is enough for their accommodation. The tank size is perfect if you have a space shortage.
  • You do not have to worry about a century-long commitment as terrapins live 30 to 40 years.
  • The turtle has no high demands and can live in harsh surroundings. They hardly fall sick, so you do not have to run to the vets very often.
  • Compared to other species, diamondback terrapins are not aggressive. These turtles are social and friendly, even with the owners.
  • You can house more than one terrapin in one enclosure, and they will live happily.
  • While many turtles hate touching, the diamondback terrapins are the total opposite. They are easy to handle and do not react negatively.

Things why you should reconsider your decision,

  • Diamond terrapins have specific demands regarding water conditions and tank temperature. Even a minor inconvenience can make these turtles suffer.
  • These turtles carry salmonella, which is a health hazard for people. However, this is not really a drawback as you can prevent the spread of the bacteria by maintaining hygiene.

Now, compare both sides and come to a decision. I, personally, think the diamondback terrapins are great pets for both beginners and pro-keepers.


You can keep a diamondback terrapin as long as it is legal in your region. Select the licensed pet stores for your shopping and avoid the black markets at all costs. I suggest you go through the care sheet of the species to check your compatibility level with these turtles before the purchase.

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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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