How Do Softshell Turtles Mate? [Everything You Should Know]

How Do Softshell Turtles Mate

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

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The mating approach of softshell turtles is a bit different from other turtle species. As a softshell turtle owner, it is important for you to learn about the mating or breeding of these turtles in detail. This knowledge will help you breed your pet turtles successfully. So, how do softshell turtles mate?

In the wild, usually, the male softshell turtle makes the first move. He will slightly push the female softshell turtle’s head. If she agrees to mate then the pair will go into deeper water for coitus.

If you want to know more about the mating behavior of a softshell turtle or how to breed them, then this article is for you. Do not forget to read to the end.

How Do Softshell Turtles Mate?

Scientists believe that spring is the mating season for the softshell turtles. Obviously, courtship can occur at any other time of the year. But at this season, softshell turtles stay at the peak of their reproductivity.

Successful mating is only possible between a mature male and female softshell turtle. You already know that the female softshell turtles are bigger than the male ones. It means the mature male will also be smaller than its mating partner. You can check the size of different softshell turtle species from this article.

Usually, the male softshell turtles are more sexually active than the female ones. During the mating seasons, they keep searching for the female softshell turtles. You may observe 2 basic types of mating attempts in softshell turtles.

First, the male softshell turtle will nudge or chase the female one in the water. The chasing pattern is really interesting. When two softshell turtles come in a close distance, they will start to swim around each other. They will submerge under the water and reappear on the surface a few times.

After a while, the softshell turtles will separate their ways, submerge in the water, and reappear on the surface together. Some experts believe that this is a way for the softshell turtles to judge their mating partners.

There is another type of mating attempt in softshell turtles. A male softshell turtle often makes his move when the female one is basking on the dock. Usually, the male turtles move from turtles to turtles on the basking dock and investigate their gender. He will extend his neck and place the snout under the edge of the carapace. If the basking turtle is male, he will not respond to this behavior and leave the place.

On the other hand, if the basking turtle is a female, she may respond in 2 different ways. Such as:

  1. If the female softshell turtle is interested in mating, she will stay passive and let the male one mount her from the back. Both the turtles will eventually go into deep water for successful mating.
  2. If the female softshell turtle is not interested in the coitus, she will probably ignore the male turtle. Sometimes, if the male softshell turtle irritates the female one, she will act aggressively. She will spin around the male turtle, bite and chase him until he leaves the site.
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In the wild, sometimes multiple male softshell turtles try to mount one female turtle. The mating totally depends on the female softshell turtle’s mood. For successful intercourse, the pair sometimes go to deeper water.

Right after a male softshell turtle gets a positive signal, here comes the mounting phase. In this part, the male softshell turtle will adjust his plastron over the carapace of his mating partner and grip her with the forefeet claws. The male turtle’s neck and head will stay extended, while the female softshell turtle will stay motionless.

To get a solid grip, the male softshell turtle will land on his hind feet and bring his cloaca closer to the female’s cloaca. The mounting phase can last for 5 to 1 hour. After that, the intromission phase starts.

Throughout the mating, the male softshell turtle keeps a solid grip on his mating partner. Though at the end of the mating, the male dismounts the female turtle, they stay cloacally interlocked. This phase can last for 9 to 20 minutes. During the courtship, the male softshell turtle sometimes extends his head out of the water and breathes air.

According to a study, 4 out of 5 mating attempts become successful. Also, the courtship activity of the captive softshell turtles is more effective compared to the wild ones.

Breeding Softshell Turtles In Captivity

Breeding softshell turtles require both knowledge and experience. A beginner can also breed his pet turtles with the help of an expert. In this section, I will discuss how to breed a softshell turtle in captivity. But first, let’s look at the importance of breeding softshell turtles:

  1. A captive softshell turtle breed will be easier to pet.
  2. The softshell turtle can adapt to the captive environment and human contact with less time.
  3. The bred softshell turtle will have less wild instinct.
  4. Softshell turtles are popular pets. There are many farms that are cultivating this species. So, breeding the softshell turtle will surely lessen the negative impact on the wild.

Cross Check These Factors Before Breeding Softshell Turtles

You can not just breed any softshell turtle pair. To make successful breeding you have to do everything perfectly. Here are some factors that you need to cross-check before putting them for a mating:

  1. Gender of the softshell turtle
  2. Age of the softshell turtle
  3. Heath condition of the softshell turtles
  4. The ideal mating ratio for the softshell turtles

Gender Of The Softshell Turtle

You can not put two same sex softshell turtles for a mating. That is why, at first, you need to determine the gender of the turtles. Here is the proper way of identifying the gender of a softshell turtle:

  • Size: The same aged female softshell turtle will always be bigger than the male one. Check this article to get the full size chart of different softshell turtle species.
  • Weight: As the female softshell turtles are bigger, their weight will be more than the male ones. Click here to know how much a softshell turtle weight.
  • Tails: The male softshell turtle tail is thick and long. On the other hand, the female tail is thin and short.
  • Hind claws: Female softshell turtles have longer hind claws compared to the male ones.
  • Reproductive maturity: The same age male softshell turtle becomes sexually matured earlier than the female ones.
  • Physical appearance: There is a distinct difference between the male and female softshell turtle’s physical appearance. For example, in eye color, shell color, and shell pattern.
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Check this article to get the step by step process of identifying the gender of a softshell turtle.

Age Of The Softshell Turtle

It is important to know the age of your softshell turtles. You can not put immature softshell turtles for mating. This will stress the pets and make them physically ill.

Usually, the male softshell turtles reach sexual maturity at the age of 4 or 5, and when their carapace length is around 5 to 7 inches. On the other hand, the female ones become reproductive at the age of 9 to 12, or when their carapace grows 9 to 10 inches. If you can not determine the age of the turtle, take it to the vet.

Health Condition Of A Softshell Turtle

Mating can be a stressful process for the softshell turtles. That is why you have to make sure the breeding pair is mentally and physically healthy. How will you determine if the pet is in its right condition?

Observe the softshell turtle’s growth, weight, and daily activities. Compare the data to any healthy turtle. Or the best option is to do a proper checkup by a vet.

Ideal Mating Ratio Of The Softshell Turtles

I have mentioned earlier that all the mating attempts of the softshell turtles may not be successful. To increase the success rate, the experts recommend putting 1 male softshell turtle and 5 female softshell turtles in the enclosure. This is the ideal mating ratio for this species.

How to Choose A Good Breeding Pair

It is not mandatory to always maintain the ideal mating ratio. You can put a pair for breeding too. Here are some tips that will help you select the perfect softshell turtle breeding pair:

  1. Choose a male and a female softshell turtle.
  2. Make sure both the turtles have attained sexual maturity.
  3. To ensure the health condition of the turtles, pay a visit to the vet.
  4. Do not try cross breeding between the mother-son, daughter-father, sister-brother. This can lead to the physical disability of the new generation.

Pre Mating Preparation For The Softshell Turtles

If you are thinking about breeding your pet turtles, consider making preparations to increase the success rate. For example, feed the turtles well, do regular health check ups, and create the perfect environment for mating.

Feeding the softshell turtles will make them physically healthy. As mating is a stressful process and requires energy, you have to feed the pets well. Provide the turtles with healthy and balanced diets. Shrimps, small fishes, cuttlebones, and pellets are good choices for the softshell turtles. Check this article to get a complete feeding guide for the softshell turtle.

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It is always preferable to breed the softshell turtles in an outdoor pond. But a well decorated aquarium is also good. Just make sure the tank is large and deep enough for the pair. Also, set up the necessary supplies like the water filter, tank heater, basking dock, UV light, hiding places, substrates, and so on. Here is a foolproof guide to softshell turtle tanks set up.

However, preparing a breeding pond will also benefit you. Most of the professional breeders use these kinds of ponds to conduct successful breeding of the softshell turtles.

Once the environment is ready, put the turtles in the enclosure and observe their behavior. Sometimes the male or female softshell turtles do not get along so well. That can lead to fights and one party may get injured. However, if your softshell turtles get along well and mate several times, separate them after a few days.

Nesting Of Softshell Turtles

As mating takes place in the spring, the female softshell turtle will get ready to lay eggs between March to May. A softshell turtle can ovulate several times a year. Each clutch of eggs may contain 4 to 38 eggs depending on the softshell turtle species.

You have to provide the gravid softshell turtle with a nesting area. The substrate of the nesting area has to be moist and suitable for the softshell turtles. Before laying the eggs, the gravid turtles will spend a lot of time on the land areas.

She will search for a suitable place where she can lay eggs. She will dig the soil using the hind claws. After laying eggs, she will cover the hole with dirt and leave the place.

Softshell Turtle Egg Care

In the wild, gravid softshell turtles lay eggs on the river shore. The eggs hatch naturally and sometimes the predators eat or steal one or two eggs. But in captivity, you can not depend on nature for egg hatches. Why? This is because the captive temperature and humidity are not perfect.

So what is the solution? I recommend to incubate the eggs in another medium. You will find turtle egg incubators or you can make one by using a plastic container and proper medium. Maintain a really high temperature around 80 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit and humidity around 90% inside the incubator.

The softshell turtle will hatch within 60 to 90 days if you provide the perfect temperature. For more details on softshell turtle egg care, check this article.


The mating behavior of softshell turtles is a bit different than most turtle species. In this article, I have included a complete guide on how softshell turtles mate, their breeding, and egg care. I hope this article will benefit you while breeding your pets.

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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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