Have you just bought a map turtle and a little bit confused about how to take care of it? Well, you are one of the thousands of people who are looking for the same thing. Most of the online and offline resources do not share a solid idea on this topic. I have been raising map turtles for the past several years, and I will share information from my experience.
Taking care of a map turtle includes several different things, such as housing, tank environment, additional setups, pet’s diet, health issues, and so on.
In this article, I will explain each point you need to know while raising your map turtle. I will discuss the map turtle’s housing system, which UV or heating light will be useful, which will be a good tank companion for the pet, its health issues, and everything else.
No matter if you are a beginner or you are facing any trouble in the middle of your journey, you will benefit from this article.
Map Turtle Care Sheet
For a printable version of this amazing care sheet, click here.
Know Your Species
Before getting into the caring guide, I would suggest you learn the subspecies of your map turtle. It is because the housing requirements or the diet chart can vary a little from one subspecies to another.
We know map turtles have more than 14 subspecies and hybrid species. But 13 of them are more compatible as a pet for the beginners. Instead of being confused about the subspecies, click here and get a clear idea about the identity of your map turtle.
How To Ensure A Proper Care of The Map Turtle?
I have mentioned earlier that proper care of a map turtle does not mean to take care of the pet alone. It includes some other things. Such as:
- Habitat environment
Obviously, a good turtle’s care also includes breeding, care for its eggs, and hatchlings. In the upcoming sections, I will discuss each point one by one.
A proper habitat plays a significant role in a map turtle’s health. You can build two types of habitat for a map turtle.
- Indoor habitat
- Outdoor habitat
Both habitats have some similarities, dissimilarities, advantages, and disadvantages. Let’s talk about the housing system of a map turtle.
Most of the map turtle owners prefer raising their turtles in an indoor enclosure due to the lack of space and security. If you are planning to build an indoor habitat for your map turtle, you will need the following things:
- Basking dock
- Water filter
- Tank water heater
- Light sources
For an indoor habitat, we mainly use an aquarium. Many beginners often get confused about the size of the tank. Technically speaking, your tank size depends on the size of your map turtle.
We know that map turtle has more than 13 subspecies, each with a different size range. So, here I will add a chart that describes which size tank you should get for your pet. If you are confused about the size of your map turtle, read this article to get a clear idea.
Map Turtle Tank Chart:
|Map turtle species||Minimum tank capacity (Male)||Minimum tank capacity (Female)|
|Mississippi map turtle||25 gallon||75 gallon|
|Texas map turtle||30 gallon||50 gallon|
|False map turtle||25 gallon||75 gallon|
|Ouachita map turtle||40 to 50 gallon||90 to 100 gallon|
|Northern map turtle||75 gallon||125 gallon|
|Barbour’s map turtle||75 gallon||120 gallon|
|Black Knobbed map turtle||25 gallon||75 gallon|
|Cagle’s map turtle||40 gallon||55 gallon|
|Alabama map turtle||40 gallon||90 gallon|
|Sabine map turtle||40 to 55 gallon||90 to 100 gallon|
|Yellow blotched map turtle||30 gallon||55 gallon|
|Pascagoula map turtle||40 to 55 gallon||90 to 100 gallon|
The size capacity I have mentioned is the minimum and for a single map turtle. If you want to house more than one map turtles in the same enclosure, you have to get a larger tank. I recommend increasing the size by half each time you add a new partner. Remember, the larger the tank is, the more comfortable the housing will be for the map turtle.
If you have a hatchling, then start with a 20 gallon tank. Big tanks are durable and cheaper than the small ones. And also, the pet turtles love space for swimming. So, always try providing a larger habitat to the map turtle.
Map turtles are semi-aquatic species. They are excellent swimmers and spend most of their time swimming underwater. From time to time, they need to come to the land to dry their bodies. That is why a basking dock is necessary for every enclosure.
You can use several things to make a basking area for your map turtle. Such as:
- Flat rock
- Smooth rock
- Anything that supports the map turtle’s weight
- Commercial floating docks
If you choose to buy a commercial floating basking dock, make sure it is stable. Also, build a rampage so that the map turtles do not find trouble getting in the dock. Without a proper basking area, the pet turtle can suffer from severe shell diseases. So, it is your responsibility to ensure an adequate land area for the pet.
To know which basking dock is the best, how to choose the right basking dock, and how to set up one for your map turtle’s enclosure, click here.
Many people have this question of why map turtles require a water filter in its habitat. Let me explain it to you.
Map turtles are semi-aquatic species and spend most of their time underwater. However, the quality of water is very significant to these aquatic creatures. Unhygienic or dirty water can cause many diseases to them.
Map turtles emit nitrogen contained wastes that include ammonia. Though the effect of ammonia on map turtles is not cleared yet, the presence of this element can kill several fish and aquatic creatures. Also, a slight change in the water pH and the presence of chlorine in the water can irritate the map turtle’s eyes. That is why we recommend bio water filters or high-quality water filters.
A high-quality water filter can dissolve harmful elements in the water. And then it dilutes via water change. A regular water change is significant to keep the enclosure clean. Here is a routine you can follow to change the water in pen:
- A 25% water change, once a week if you have more than one map turtles in a small tank.
- A 50 to 90% water change every 2 or 3 weeks if you have a large water tank.
You can use the Python System to change the water. The Python system makes it easier to remove old, dirty water and replace it with new, clean water. To know which water filter is the best and how to find the perfect water filter according to your map turtle’s enclosure, click here.
Tank Water Heater
We know that map turtles spend most of their time underwater. So, this is very important for you to ensure a suitable water temperature. If you fail to provide a considerable warm temperature, the map turtles may suffer from cold diseases.
The easiest way to warm up the tank water is to set up a tank heater. Nowadays, finding a tank heater is not a hard job at all. You will find one in the online shops or at your local pet shop. But before buying a tank heater for you map turtle’s enclosure, consider these three things:
- Design of the heater
- The coating material of the heater
- Power of the heater
Do not but any fancy designed tank heater that will not fit with your tank. Moreover, you must consider the coating material of the heater. Make sure it is thermoplastic resistant and can endure the heat.
However, avoid glass cover at any cost. It is because map turtles are hard shell species and they can break it. In that case, there is a high possibility that the turtle may get electrified and die.
I have also mentioned about considering the power of the heater. Make sure the wattage can be heated up the whole tank. So, the larger the tank, the more powerful heater you will need to warm up your map turtle’s enclosure.
Here is a chart that will help you choose the perfect wattage tank heater:
|Tank size (Gallon)||Tank heater power (Watts)|
You have to check the room’s temperature before selecting the power for the tank heater. If your room is colder, you may need a more powerful heater and vice versa. Many turtle owners prefer setting up more than one tank heaters in a single enclosure. Read this to learn more about tank heaters.
Click here to know the types of a tank heater, how to choose the perfect tank heater for your map turtle and which heater will provide the best service.
Map turtles are cold-blooded species and can not regulate their body temperatures. So, when they come to the basking dock to dry themselves, they need an external source to provide heat. A basking light serves the exact purpose.
However, in a map turtle’s enclosure, you need to set up two types of lights.
- Heating light
- UV light
Heating light helps the map turtles to maintain their body temperature and keep the air dry. On the other hand, UV light serves a higher purpose. It produces vitamin D3 in the map turtle’s body and helps it to get calcium. Without proper UV light setup, the map turtle can suffer from pyramiding or other metabolic bone diseases.
While choosing the heating light, consider your expected temperature in the area. A 50, 75, or 100 watt bulb will provide heat between 85 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. However, the power of the UV light will depend on the enclosure’s size. For example:
|Tank size (gallon)||UV bulb (watt)|
|Around 55||50 to 75|
There are specific rules to set a UV light or heating lamp inside the turtle’s pen. You have to set it at a particular distance from the basking dock depending on the power.
Here is a chart that indicates where you should set up the light inside the enclosure:
|Power of the light||Distance from the basking dock|
|50 watt||5 to 7 inches|
|75 watt||7 to 9 inches|
|100 watt||10 to 12 inches|
|150 watt||12 inches|
There are many types of UV and heating lamps available in the market. Always try to buy a multifunctional bulb. These bulbs can provide both UV rays and heat. To know which bulb is the best and how to choose the perfect lighting system for your map turtle, click here.
You can put small rocks and hiding places inside the enclosure. Small vegetation or plastic plants work as great hiding places.
You can also decorate the habitat with fancy toys. No matter what you put in the pen, make sure it has no sharp edges and is not harmful to the map turtle.
Cost of A Full Decorated Indoor Habitat
Many people wonder how much it costs to decorate an indoor habitat. Here I’ve included a price chart of all the supplies you may need to build a perfect indoor enclosure:
|Supplies||Approximate Price (Varies)|
|125 gallon tank||$650|
|Zoo Med UVB & Heat Lighting Kit||$40|
|Digital tank thermometer||$5|
|Tank heater (100 to 500 watt)||$45|
|Basking dock with rampage||$40|
This set will be fine for one big female or two small map turtles. If you want to go with a 75 gallon tank, then the cost will be less than this one. However, if you are on a tight budget, you can buy the following supplies:
- Stock tank
- Pond filter ( These filters are cheaper and do good cleaning but make loud noises)
- A stainless tank heater
- Instead of buying a commercial basking station, build one by yourself.
- Regular 100 watt bulbs ( not recommendable)
Many turtle owners find it easier to raise their pet map turtle in an outdoor habitat. Also, if you want to breed your map turtle, then an outdoor enclosure is a must. It is hard to mimic the perfect mating environment in an indoor habitat.
However, if you want to build an outdoor enclosure, this section will help you a lot. You can use your small pond or dig a spot to make your map turtle’s habitat. Some other ideas that you can use are:
- Wading pool
- Larger pond with a proper filtration system
- Plastic tubs that offer both land and water areas
Map turtles are avid baskers. So you have to provide them with a large basking station or small basking docks at different positions.
As the map turtles can bask directly under the sun, you do not need to set up any external lighting sources. In the cold season, the map turtles will hibernate in a natural way. If you do not want them to put in hibernation, make some arrangements to warm the pond water or put the species in an indoor enclosure.
Planting small vegetation is always recommended in an outdoor habitat. Water lettuce, water hyacinth, or duckweeds can keep the pond clean and oxygen level high.
There is always a chance of a predator attack in an outdoor habitat. So, you have to give a chicken wire fence around the enclosure. You can also set a night light to ensure the map turtle’s security.
The captive environment plays a significant role in the map turtle’s health. That is why it is necessary to replicate the wild environment in the enclosure too. But how to do that?
The easiest way is to mimic the temperature and humidity level. Also, if you do not provide the perfect temperature to the map turtles, it will suffer from various diseases.
The preferred temperature is not the same in all the spots inside the enclosure. It means the temperature in the air will be different from the temperature in the water.
Here is a chart that indicates the temperature preferences of different map turtle species:
|Map turtle species||Air temperature||Water temperature||Basking temperature|
|False map turtle||80 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit||75 degrees Fahrenheit||85 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit|
|Ouachita map turtle||79 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit||70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit||85 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit|
|Texas map turtle||80 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit||75 degrees Fahrenheit||85 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit|
The average temperature chart for map turtle:
|Air temperature||Basking temperature||Water temperature|
|Mid 70’s to 80’s||Adults: 85 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit Hatchling: 85 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit||Young & adult: 72 to 76 degrees Fahrenheit Hatchlings & juveniles: 78 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit|
The wrong temperature can cause severe health issues in a map turtle. From the charts, you can see that the average temperature in a basking area should be around 85 degrees Fahrenheit. If you provide a higher temperature, make sure to build a larger dock so that they can move from a hotter area to a cool spot.
For an outdoor enclosure, everything depends on the weather. I suggest raising native map turtles in an outdoor habitat. In that way, the pet will be more comfortable with the captive environment.
You can observe the temperature by setting up a thermometer in the enclosure. Different types of thermometers are available in the market right now. To know more about the perfect temperature inside a map turtle’s enclosure, click here.
If you want your map turtle to be healthy, you have to ensure it has a balanced diet. Even though map turtles are omnivorous, they predominantly act like a carnivorous species. Juveniles mainly prefer meat-based food. With age, they gradually become omnivorous. Adults mainly prefer vegetables. But the diet should include some animal protein at all stage.
Map turtles have a sharp jaw that helps them eat any protein. But remember one thing, too much protein can cause fast body growth and shell problems like pyramiding. So, try to provide the pet with a well-rounded balanced diet.
Here are the food items that you can feed your map turtle:
Protein Based Food Items:
- Cichlid sticks
- Feeder fish
- Feeder cricket
- Blood worms
- Occasional crayfish
- Ghost shrimp
- Green crabs
- Fly larvae
- Dragonfly nymph
- Mayfly nymph
Plant-Based Food Items
- Water hyacinths
- Water lilies
- Water lettuce
- Water fern
- Water starwort
- Beet leaves
- Collard greens
- Romaine lettuce
- Red leaf lettuce
- Mustard green
- Turnip greens
- Green leaf
- Sea greens
Commercial Food Items
Now there are various ways to feed the map turtle. Many turtle owners provide commercial foods along with krill, feeder fish, mealworms as the source of 25 to 80 % protein. To round the diet, they choose romaine lettuce, water hyacinths, and other vegetation.
For the first six months, you better feed the baby map turtles commercial foods with meaty insects. And after six months, start feeding them a small portion of vegetation to balance the diet chart.
Here are some food items you must avoid feeding your pet map turtle:
- Hairy animals
- Iceberg lettuce
- Junk food
- Wild snail
- Dog food
- Canned food
- Chemical induced food
No matter what you feed, always sprinkle some vitamin and calcium supplements over the food. Without sufficient amounts of calcium and Vitamin D3, the map turtle may suffer from various metabolic bone diseases.
How Often, How Much And Where To Feed A Map Turtle?
The food quantity will change as your map turtle grows. Young map turtles need more food than an adult one. So, you have to feed them daily. On the other hand, you can offer food to the adult map turtles 4 or 5 times a week.
If you do not know how much to feed your pet turtle, follow the 5 minutes rule. It means you have to offer a map turtle as much as the food it can eat in 5 minutes.
Many turtle owners find it challenging to feed the map turtles. You do not need to feed them with your hands. As the map turtles can eat in the water, leave its food on the surface or at the basking dock.
Many people use a separate place for feeding. This way, the enclosure does not get dirty. You can use automatic turtle feeders too.
To know the perfect diet plan for a map turtle, click here.
Like humans, health is a precious asset for map turtles. Good health indicates the good care that a map turtle is receiving. In this section, I will discuss various diseases that can occur to a map turtle.
13 common map turtle diseases are:
- Shell rot
- Cracked shell
- Soft shell
- Vitamin A deficiency
- Respiratory illness
- Internal parasite
- Organ failure
- Mouth rot
- Swollen eyes
Here is a chart with map turtle’s diseases, causes, and probable treatments.
|Map turtle common diseases||Cause||Treatment|
|Shell rot||Fungal or bacterial attack on the shell Damaged shell Low-quality water Improper housing management||Isolate the sick map turtle. Apply antibiotic and healing lotion on the shell. Provide a well-arranged enclosure to the map turtle. Make sure the water filter is working well, and the water is clean. To know more about shell rot, click here.|
|Pyramiding||Malnutrition Overfeeding of protein||Ensuring a balanced diet is the only treatment for this disease. Click here to learn more about Pyramiding.|
|Cracked shell||Accident Fall from a height Massive pressure on the shell||Take the map turtle to a vet immediately. If the injury is not severe, clean the wound with a disinfectant and cover it with a gauge. You can learn more about cracked shells by clicking here.|
|Shedding||Overfeeding of protein Hotter basking area Low-quality water Fungal infection||Ensure a balanced diet. Keep the enclosure clean and hygienic. Always maintain the perfect temperature inside the habitat. To know the difference between healthy and unhealthy shedding, click here.|
|Soft shell||Poor diet Low-quality UV light||Make sure the food items contain all the nutritions a map turtle needs. Set up a high-quality UV light. Click here to learn more about a map turtle’s soft shell problem.|
|Vitamin A deficiency||Lack of Vitamin A in diet||Ensure a balanced diet to the map turtle. Sprinkle vitamin supplements on the food. The vet can prescribe vitamin shots or meds.|
|Respiratory illness||Lack of vitamin A Bacterial infection||Take your map turtle to a vet. He will suggest the proper antibiotics. Provide a balanced diet to the map turtle.|
|Abscesses||Vitamin A deficiency||Need proper treatment from a vet. A balanced diet can help.|
|Internal parasites||Unhygienic and dirty enclosure||Deworming medicine and proper drugs can be helpful.|
|Organ failure||Feeding high protein||This disease can not be cured. But keep your map turtle under a vet’s checkup.|
|Mouth rot||Fungal or bacterial attack||Clean the infected area with antibiotics. Follow the vet’s prescription.|
|Swollen eyes||Vitamin A deficiency Dirty enclosure||Keep the habitat clean. Ensure a balanced diet. Clean the eyes with antibiotics and disinfectants.|
|Lump||Bacterial infection||The map turtle will need antibiotic shots and meds.|
Besides these 13 diseases, map turtles often suffer from severe shell diseases. Ignoring those conditions can cause life-threatening situations for the pet. Click here to learn everything about a map turtle’s shell related problems.
How To Tell If Your Turtle Is Sick or Not?
The answer is simple. You have to observe your pet. If you notice anything odd or any sign of illness, take immediate actions. Map turtles are very sensitive species, and they can fall sick often. You have to keep an eye on them all time.
However, some common symptoms might help you. Such as:
- Loss of appetite
- Nasal discharge
- Weight loss
I have been raising turtles, including map turtles, for many years. I always prefer doing regular health checkups of all my turtles. And I suggest you do so.
Map Turtle Breeding Care
Many map turtle owners prefer breeding their pets in captivity. To be honest, the breeding process in captivity is challenging, but it has huge advantages. For example:
- The pet will cope with the captive situation easily.
- It will be more human friendly.
- Its wild instinct will be less.
- The most important thing is, the captive breed will lessen the negative impact on the wild turtle population.
And for these reasons, I always encourage newcomers to breed their turtles. Before starting the breeding process, you must learn four main points about your map turtle. Such as:
- The gender of the map turtle: You will need a male and a female map turtle to conduct a successful breeding process. If you can not identify the gender, it might fail all your efforts. Generally, the female map turtles are bigger than the male ones. Read this article to learn how to identify a map turtle’s gender.
- The age of the map turtle: You can not breed two sexually immature map turtles. For a female map turtle, the maturity age is 10 to 14 years. On the other hand, a male map turtle gains sexual maturity at the age of 4 to 6.
- Health condition of the map turtle: Breeding two unhealthy map turtles is not right. So, make sure the couple is healthy, both mentally and physically.
- The ideal male-female ratio for breeding: To increase the chance of successful breeding, you have to put 5 female map turtles for each 2 male map turtles.
Breed You Map Turtle: Step By Step Process
- First of all, you have to find a good pair for the process. Never try to cross-breed your map turtles.
- We always prefer raising map turtles in separate tanks as the males can be aggressive. So, before putting the couple in a single tank, you have to induce mating behavior into them. A study shows that map turtles become more eager to mate after hibernation.
So, a 60 to 90 days hibernation or cooling off period will be enough to increase their sexual desire. When the cooling off period will end, put them back to the normal temperature (around 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit).
- Map turtles get weak after hibernation. If you put them for breeding right after the cooling off period, it will cause them physical harm. Instead, feed them well. Make sure they are getting a balanced diet, calcium, and vitamin supplements.
- Map turtles engage in mating twice a year, in April and October to November. At that season, you have to put the couple in a single enclosure. I recommend using an outdoor habitat for breeding. Make sure the breeding couple get everything they need. After a few weeks, separate the turtles, and provide a single pen to the female map turtle.
- After a successful mate, the female map turtle will show signs of carrying eggs within 2 to 3 weeks. Gravid map turtles do not lay her eggs inside water. They come to the land area, dig a hole, and lay eggs. So, build a nesting area beside the pet’s enclosure.
To know more about a map turtle’s breeding, click here.
Take Care of A Map Turtle’s Eggs
A gravid map turtle lays her eggs in the late May to mid-July. Generally, a map turtle can lay 2 to 3 clutches of eggs each year. One clutch contains 12 to 20 eggs.
To get healthy map turtle hatchlings, you have to take great care of the eggs. But how will you know your map turtle is going to lay her eggs? Well, if you notice your gravid map turtle doing the following things, be sure that it will lay her eggs soon. For example:
- The gravid map turtle will spend more time on the land area looking for a perfect spot to lay eggs.
- It will walk differently.
- The mother turtle will dig a deep hole.
After laying eggs, the map turtle covers the hole with dirt, mud and leaves the place. Now the eggs are your responsibility. You can let the eggs hatch naturally, but it is tough in a captive situation. That’s why I suggest you incubate the eggs.
To incubate the map turtle’s eggs, you can follow the instructions given below:
- You can buy a commercial incubator or prepare one by yourself. Use a plastic tub or bucket and fill it with a proper substrate to make an incubator. After that, place the eggs inside the substrate. Make sure the top of the eggs remains exposed.
- Maintain a temperature between 78 to 83 degrees Fahrenheit inside the incubator. We know that the temperature will decide the gender of the map turtle. A temperature around 77 degrees Fahrenheit can yield male map turtles. On the other hand, you will need to maintain 86 degrees Fahrenheit to yield female map turtles.
- Humidity is another important factor during the incubation period. Keep the humidity between 75% to 85%. The eggs will get cracked if the environment is too dry.
Now you have to wait until the eggs hatch. It takes around 60 days, depending on the incubation environment.
Click here to learn more about how to take care of a map turtle’s eggs.
Special Care of A Map Turtle Hatchlings
A newborn map turtle needs more care and attention than an adult. You have to ensure three basic things to the hatchlings. Such as:
- Proper environment
Enclosure for Hatchlings
Hatchlings need smaller tanks to live. You can put all the hatchlings in the same enclosure but never house them with the adult ones. Also, you have to decorate the enclosure with the same supplies I have mentioned before.
Proper Enclosure Environment for Map Turtle hatchlings
We often do not understand how deep the water should be in the enclosure. Here I will give you a proper answer.
Chart indicating proper environmental setup for a map turtle hatchling:
|Water depth||1st week – 1 inch (do not use any water filter) 2nd week – 2 inches (do not use any water filter) 3rd week – 2.5 inches After 4 months – around 3 inches and increase the depth as the map turtle grows|
|Temperature||78 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit|
Also, you have to set up a UV light and basking stations for the hatchlings.
Diet for The Hatchlings
Map turtle hatchlings are basically omnivorous. They prefer eating protein based food with a small portion of vegetation. Here are the preferred food lists for a map turtle hatchling:
- Commercial food
- Leafy vegetables
- Vitamin and calcium supplements
Click here to know more about the care of a map turtle hatchling.
I have mentioned almost everything you need to know about a map turtle’s care. Here are some additional quotations that people often ask:
Are Map Turtles Human Friendly?
Map turtles are not social creatures, but they are not aggressive like most other species. The species like spending time alone. If you force it anything, the map turtle will get aggressive and bite as a defense mechanism.
If you want to know more about a map turtle’s behavior, click here.
Are Map Turtles Hard To Maintain?
No. Most of the map turtle species are perfect for the beginners. The main problem associated with a map turtle is its water sensitivity. The species falls sick in an unclean environment. So, maintaining a map turtle is not hard as long as you can ensure everything properly.
What Are The Perfect Tank Mates for A Map Turtle?
You have to be careful while choosing the tank mate for your map turtle. If your pet turtle is not compatible with the tank mate, they will get involved in a fight or the worst cases, one of them can end up dead. It would be best if you do not put adult map turtles in a single enclosure as they can get aggressive towards each other.
Here are the creatures you can put in your map turtle’s enclosure:
- Koi fish
- JD fish
- Neon tetra
- Comet goldfish
- Fish with agile speed
Now you know what you can put inside the enclosure. But do you know which creatures to avoid? Do not worry. Here is a list:
- Powerful fish
- Fish with a long tail
- Slow-moving fish
Click here to know which is the perfect map turtle tank mate.
This is a complete guide for taking care of a map turtle in captivity. If you follow each point properly, you will not face any trouble raising your map turtle. Thank you for reading the whole article.
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