How To Take Care of A Baby Painted Turtle? [Foolproof Guide]

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

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People like to have a painted turtle as a pet for its bright, colorful markings. A baby painted turtle looks even more adorable. So, if you have a baby painted turtle, you are probably excited about it. Now, you want to know how to take care of a baby painted turtle.

Painted turtles are wonderful to look at, but keeping them as pets is not so easy. A baby painted turtle requires even more care than an adult painted turtle. Baby painted turtles need to be in a secure environment, and owners must be careful about what they feed them.

In this article, I will talk about how to take care of baby painted turtles and what to feed them. Before that, consider if a baby painted turtle is the right pet for you.

Appearance and Colour of Painted Turtles

Baby painted turtles are very small. Even as adults, they only reach up to 5 to 6 inches. They have a dark color carapace, and their body has bright orange or red markings.

Overview of Painted Turtles:

Scientific NameChrysemys picta
Native LocationNorth America
TypeSemi-aquatic turtle
Adult Size5 to 6 inches
Dietary HabitOmnivores
Lifespan20 to 30 years
Care DifficultyModerate

Can I Keep A Baby Painted Turtle As A Pet?

You can keep a baby painted turtle as a pet if it is legal in your country. Painted turtles are native to North America. In the US, it is illegal to buy turtles that are less than 4 inches in shell length. So, you should not buy a baby painted turtle that is too small to be legal as a pet in the US. 

If it is legal to buy baby turtles in your location, you can buy a baby painted turtle from a reputed breeder of turtles. You also find them in online pet stores.

A baby painted turtle may look adorable, but you should consider some facts before getting a baby turtle. Baby painted turtles are not a suitable choice for beginners. They require attention and care to grow up healthy.

Baby painted turtles are also not a good choice because they can carry Salmonella. It is a bacterium which can be found on turtle bodies and feces. So, touching baby turtles can transmit the bacteria in your body or any other members of your family.

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The turtle tank has a high chance of contamination. So, keep the tank clean and disinfected. Whenever you touch a turtle, wash your hands afterward.

If you think you can manage the complexities of keeping a baby painted turtle, you can keep one. They are surely delightful to have in an aquarium in your house. 

How to Take Care of a Baby Painted Turtle

You may have got a baby painted turtle in your possession somehow. If you wish to grow it as a healthy adult, you must provide the best care and environment for your little pet.

Here is how you can get started taking care of a baby painted turtle:

Step 1: Choose the Right Tank Size

It is best to keep your baby painted turtle indoors until it grows a bit. You can keep them in a turtle tank or aquarium. When it comes to choosing the size of the tank, you have two options. You can either put your baby turtle in a 20-gallon water tank temporarily, or you can put it in a 60–70-gallon tank, which is appropriate for the adult-size painted turtle.

Painted turtles are semi-aquatic turtles. They love to swim and explore their surroundings. So, it is better to keep them in a spacious tank. Besides, your turtle will eventually grow and need space.

Step 2: Add Substrates

The substrates of the tank should be soft. Baby painted turtles have soft shells. So, they can get injured if they bump into rough substrates.

You can use a mix of sand, and crushed coral as substrates for baby painted turtles. If you use pebbles or gravel, make sure they are not too small. Otherwise, your baby turtle might eat them.

Step 3: Add Water to The Tank

Baby painted turtles are not experienced swimmers like adult painted turtles. They learn to swim with time. So, you should not put too much water in the tank as baby turtles can get tired after swimming.

For the safety of your small turtle, you should have water twice as deep as your turtle is long. So, if your painted turtle is 3 inches long, there should be 6 to 8 inches of deep water in the tank.

Fill in the tank with dechlorinated water. Water that contains chemicals in it is harmful to baby painted turtles.

Step 4: Set Up Water Heater and Filter

Turtles are cold-blooded reptiles. They draw heat from their surroundings to maintain their body temperature. So, the water temperature should be favorable for your baby painted turtle.

It should be between 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Swimming in cold water can cause respiratory diseases. A baby painted turtle may not have the immunity to fight dangerous diseases.

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Also, set up a high-quality water filter in the tank to keep the water clean. Turtles are messy eaters. They create a lot of mess while eating and can poop a lot. If you have a small tank for your baby painted turtle, you can use the Tetra ReptoFilter. It is ideal for shallow water. The filter efficiently cleans the water and removes the foul smell.

Step 5: Set Up a Basking Area

Build a basking area for your little friend in the tank. You can stack up smooth rocks gradually up to the surface. It should gently slope to the water so that your turtle can easily dive into the water and get on the land from the water.

You may buy a basking platform. Platforms of various types and designs are available in the market. One of the best basking platforms for baby painted turtles is the Penn-Plax Reptology Floating Turtle Pier and Basking Platform. This floating basking platform has a ramp, which your baby painted turtle can use to climb on the basking area.

Step 6: Provide Light and Heat

Let us not forget the importance of UVB light and heat for baby turtles. After setting up the basking area, set up a UV light source and a heating lamp. The UV light should provide both UVB and UVA light.

UVB light is essential to maintain the shell and bone health of baby turtles. Then the UVA light helps metabolism and maintains a healthy appetite. UV lights are not enough to keep your baby turtle comfortable. You will also need a heating lamp to control the temperature.

Baby painted turtles require a slightly higher temperature than adult painted turtles. So, the temperature of the basking area should be 90 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit. The coolest part of the enclosure should be 85 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Step 7: Decorating the Tank

When you decorate the tank for a baby painted turtle, keep it as simple as possible. Baby painted turtles can get stuck or tangled with a decorative item. If they cannot come out of the water in time, they can drown.

You can place rocks and driftwood in the tank for your turtle to hide. Placing a pre-sculpted cave underwater can also be a good idea. You may add some aquatic plants to give the tank a natural look. But do not load your turtle tank with too many decorative.

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What Do I Feed A Baby Painted Turtle?

Adult painted turtles are omnivores. It means they eat living things and plants. But baby painted turtles are not omnivores. They are carnivores. Hence, they eat mostly living things when they are young. It is because they need protein and calcium to grow.

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Here is a list of food you should feed your baby painted turtle:

  • Small fish
  • Insects (Crickets)
  • Worms
  • Boiled eggs
  • Chicken
  • Beef
  • Tadpoles

As painted turtles gradually grow, their food habit changes. They become interested in eating fruits and vegetables as they need the vitamins to stay healthy. So, you can gradually introduce your baby turtle to various fruits, vegetables, and other plant-based foods. For example:

  • Parsley
  • Green beans
  • Peppers
  • Peas
  • Corn
  • Kale
  • Roses
  • Dandelions

Apart from these foods, you should add some commercial turtle food supplements to your baby painted turtle’s daily diet. These supplements provide essential nutrients for your pet turtle.

I recommend the Tetra ReptoMin Floating Food Sticks. These floating food supplements are ideal for aquatic turtle species. The supplement contains protein, calcium, and vitamin C.

To keep baby painted turtles healthy, you must feed them every day. Baby turtles can be very active, and they grow fast. So, they need energy from food to survive. You should not overfeed your baby painted turtle. Give an amount of food which the turtle can eat within 10 to 15 minutes.

Do Baby Painted Turtles Need A Heating Lamp?

Yes, your baby painted turtle definitely needs a heating lamp in the tank. Baby pet painted turtles require heat to keep their body functioning. A heating lamp is a must when you keep your baby painted turtle in an indoor enclosure.

The temperature indoors may not be ideal for a baby painted turtle. So, a heating lamp is necessary to maintain the correct temperature for the baby painted turtles. A baby turtle may swim in the cool water for hours and come to the basking area to dry itself under the heating lamps.

Thus, the heating lamp is necessary to dry and keep the turtles warm. This way, your turtle will not catch a cold. Respiratory disease in a baby turtle can be fatal.

You may think about how long you should keep the heating lamp on for turtles. The heating lamp can stay on during the day but turn it off at night. Turtles can retain some of the heat they absorb during the day in their body to survive the nights.


By now, you should have a clear idea about how to take care of a baby painted turtle. Baby turtles are adorable little creatures that are amazing to look at. They can be quite playful in the tank when they are happy. Remember, a healthy turtle is a happy turtle.

To keep the turtle healthy, you must provide the right environment and food. If you take good care of your baby painted turtles, they will grow into a healthy adult, and live a long life.

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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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