How To Take Care Of Musk Turtle? [Foolproof Care Guide]

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

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Musk turtles are oddly cute and an ideal pet for intermediate turtle hobbyists. However, I have seen newbies raising this species with proper guidelines and detailed care sheets. I have been petting musk turtles for years and finally decided to reveal my cheat sheet on how to take care of musk turtles.

A 30-gallon tank equipped with a dock, heating bulb, UV light, tank heater and water filter is essential for musk turtles. Besides, water and basking temperatures should be maintained around the 80s and 90s, respectively. Lastly, the species is carnivorous and eats both animal and plant matter when it comes to diet.

Catch all the details of raising musk turtles with zero knowledge in the following article.

How To Take Care Of Musk Turtle?

Taking care of a musk turtle is neither challenging nor a cup of tea. You have to focus and master the species’ habits simultaneously. The more you know the turtle, the easier it would get for you to handle it. From its appearance to critical needs, you should research every bit of the pet.

So, without wasting any more words, let’s jump to the discussion on the musk turtle care sheet,

Musk Turtle: Species Summary

Common musk turtles (Sternotherus odoratus) are widely popular. People often think this subspecies represents the whole musk turtle species. But in fact, the musk turtle has roughly 7 or more subspecies. Such as,

  • Common / Eastern musk turtle
  • Mexican giant musk turtle
  • Chiapas giant musk turtle
  • Stripe neck musk turtle
  • Razorback musk turtle
  • Loggerhead musk turtle
  • Flattened musk turtle

The musk turtles often go by the name of stinkpot. Do you know why?

Musk turtles release a foul odor whenever they face a potential predator. The musky smell is secreted from the scent glands situated on the edge of the shells.

Musk turtles come from different parts of the United States and Canada. They have been named according to their appearance or natural habitat. The species has similarities to mud turtles as they share the same family.

Appearance: How Do Musk Turtles look?

A musk turtle’s main characterization point is a highly domed blackish-brown carapace with a vertebral keel. This natural color grading favors the species to blend in the mud.

However, keels are not the forever companions of the musk turtles. Only the hatchlings and young ones get these pointy spikes at the center of their shell, which flattens out with growing age.

Again, the plastron of musk turtles is almost flat, but this can not help you determine the species. The streamlined shell helps these turtles swim swiftly in water.

Apart from the carapace color and shape, musk turtles have two more distinguishing characteristics. The first one is their head color.

You will notice two parallel yellow stripes running from nose to neck in young musk turtles. Like the keels, these spots also fade away with age.

Another differentiator of musk turtles is the small and fleshy chin barbel. Furthermore, you can not ignore the tiny nostril holes on the tip of musk turtles’ faces and the sharp and edgy nails of these turtles.

Anyway, musk turtles do not smell with their nostrils but their barbels. Yet, those openings are significant in carrying out their biological system. Moreover, the pronounced nails favor these turtles to dig out the land or while attacking the imposter.

Still confused about identifying musk turtles? Try out the simple steps I follow in determining turtle species.

Native Habitat: Where Do Musk Turtles Live?

Musk turtles are native to Eastern and Northern America, covering Florida to Ontario and West to Texas. The species is also found in Southeastern Canada.

Shallow water bodies are the primary preference habitat of musk turtles. You will find them in clear lakes, ponds, rivers, swamps, marshes, slow-moving water sources, and shallow streams. In short, musk turtles are freshwater turtles and select little muddy areas.

However, instead of being aquatic, musk turtles are avid baskers. These turtles bask on logs and rocks in the wild.

While building a musk turtle enclosure in captivity, these choices of the species should always be on your mind.

Size: How Big Do Musk Turtles Get?

The cute little musk turtles mostly grow between 2 to 5.5 inches. These tiny sizes suit the preferences of hobbyists who look for small turtles.

However, a few musk turtle sub-species might get up to 7 inches big. Those giant turtles are often not appropriate for petting, and hence, they live in the wild.

Take a look at the size chart of different musk turtle subspecies,

Turtle SubspeciesAverage Size Range
Common Musk Turtle/ Eastern Musk Turtle/ Stinkpot2 to 5.5 inches (5.1 to 14 inches)
Mexican Giant Musk Turtle/ Mexican Musk Turtle/ Narrow Bridged Musk Turtle14 to 15 Inches (36 to 38 centimeters)
Chiapas Giant Musk Turtle6 to 7 inches (15 to 18 centimeters)
Stripe Neck Musk Turtle3 to 4 inches (7.5 to 10 centimeters)
Razorback Musk Turtle5 to 6 inches (12 to 15 centimeters)
Loggerhead Musk Turtle3 to 6 inches (7.6 to 15 centimeters)
Flattened Musk Turtle3 to 4 inches (7.6 to 10 centimeters)

N.B. This chart includes the expected size range of different musk turtles. Therefore, your pet might have a different growth rate, which is healthy as long as the turtle is active.

However, you can always seek help from an expert in any confusion. First, go through these growth factors and see if your turtle lacks any parameters.

Pet Turtle Lifespan & Size Chart

pet turtle lifespan and size

If you want to get a printable version of this amazing chart, click here!

Lifespan: How Long Do Musk Turtles Live?

On average, musk turtles have a lifespan of 30 to 60 years. However, subspecies like narrow bridge musk turtles live a shorter life, about 15 years.

Have a look at the life expectancy of different musk turtle subspecies,

Musk Turtle SubspeciesExpected Lifespan
Razorback Musk TurtleMore than 25 years
Flattened Musk Turtle40 to 60 years
Loggerhead Musk TurtleMore than 20 years
Common Musk Turtle30 to 60 years
Narrow Bridged Musk TurtleMore than 15 years
Stripe Neck Musk TurtleMore than 20 years
Mexican Giant Musk TurtleMore than 30 years

As you can see, the longevity of musk turtles depends on their subspecies. Besides, other factors like diet, health, care, genetics, etc., affect the lifespan of these turtles. The wild musk turtles often lead a shorter life due to the harsh environment and lack of care.

How to make your musk turtles live longer? Get the ultimate tips from my previous article.

Musk Turtle Care Sheet

Now that you know a little bit more about your musk turtle, it is time to move forward with other care factors,

  • Tank set up
  • Environment replicating
  • Diet planning
  • Health care idea

Musk Turtle Tank Setup

The first thing you should consider while setting up a turtle tank is its size. Musk turtles are comparatively small, yet they require a spacious enclosure. Hence, a 30-gallon tank will be enough for an average adult musk turtle.

Why do I emphasize tank size? See, turtles are concerned about their territory, and a congested home often gets on their nerves.

Arranging all necessary supplies like a filter, tank heater, dock, etc., in a limited area leaves the turtles with only a limited space for movement. Such practice not only stresses these pets but also affects their growth.

See also  Mud Turtle Vs. Musk Turtle: Which One Is A Better Pet?

Hence, never compromise with the turtle enclosure size.

Usually, the baby musk turtles can live in a 15 – 20 gallon aquarium. But with growing age, you have to switch them to a more spacious tank.

Though a 30-gallon enclosure is the standard choice, you can shoot for a larger tank. If you raise more than one turtle, you have to manage an even bigger aquarium. Generally, the experts suggest that a 40-gallon tank can accommodate a musk turtle pair healthily.

What Should Be In A Musk Turtle Tank?

After arranging a properly sized tank, you must focus on other mandatory arrangements to decorate the musk turtle enclosure. Such as:

  • A basking dock
  • Proper lighting arrangements
  • A powerful water filter
  • A tank heater

Each of these supplies carries individual significance, and you can not eliminate any of them. Allow me to explain their importance in more detail.

Basking Dock: Do Musk Turtles Have To Bask?

Musk turtles are aquatic and spend most of their time underwater. True that! Still, you have to set up a basking platform inside the habitat.

Musk turtles occasionally venture onto the platform to soak heat and dry their wet bodies. Besides, these turtles also use the land as their resting zone. Unfortunately, many owners think a dock is not vital for this species as they are entirely aquatic. Such ignorance can devastate the health of these creatures.

See, musk turtles will not be able to bask without any land area. As a result, they will stay in the water all the time, which increases the risk of respiratory illness, cold, and bacterial attack. Hence, a basking platform is a must in any musk turtle habitat.

However, do not expect your musk turtle to bask too often or too long. Unlike other species, musk turtles get dehydrated quickly. Thus enjoying the heat for hours is not for these creatures.

Now that you know the significance of a basking platform, where can you buy it? Of course, all the pet stores sell basking docks. But are they compatible with your musk turtle? Not necessarily.

I have been in this turtle-keeping hobby for so long. However, from my past experiences, I can trust only a few brands when it comes to basking dock.

I have listed my favorite basking platform models with their pros and cons in one of my previous articles. Give it a read to clear your mind before buying a commercial dock.

You don’t need to purchase a commercial basking station. You can DIY one at home. The following materials can be shaped into a turtle dock,

  • Rock
  • Plastic
  • Metal
  • Foam
  • Tiles, etc.

No matter whether you buy a commercial basking platform or build one yourself, keep in mind the following tips,

  • The basking stations should be spacious and sturdy.
  • Turtles are not excellent jumpers. Hence, provide a rampage for these pets to make the dock climbable.
  • The platform should not cover the whole habitat.
  • Ensure the station does not include any sharp edges that could harm the turtles.

Proper Lighting Arrangements: What Lights Do Musk Turtles Need?

Musk turtles require UV rays and heat to maintain their lifestyle. The sun is the ultimate source of UVs and heat in a wild environment. However, in a captive enclosure, a UV light and a heating lamp are mandatory to fulfill the needs of the musk turtles.

Both UV and heating lamps are significant for musk turtles. The absence of these lighting sources affects these turtles in many ways. Here is how:

UV Light: Do Musk Turtles Need A UV Light?

Depending on the wavelength, the UV rays get divided into 3 categories, UVA, UVB, and UVC. Among these three, musk turtles only require two, UVA and UVB.

UVA: The UVA exposures primarily affect the mental health of musk turtles. According to many, lack of UVA might stress out the turtles.

Besides, these rays promote activity level and breeding practice. Some experts suggest that turtles can experience more colors than usual due to UVA exposure.

However, the significance of UVA rays is controversial. These exposures may not be as crucial as the UVB.

UVB: If you want the healthy growth of your musk turtle, then UVB rays are mandatory.

See, vitamin D3 and calcium are essential for musk turtles’ shell and bone growth. Both these necessities are linked to each other. For example, the production of vitamin D3 promotes the absorption of calcium.

In the wild, these creatures get UV from direct sunlight. But in captivity, an artificial source is required.

The musk turtle diet also includes vitamins and calcium. Right? Then why do these turtles require additional influence?

Turtles can not always absorb sufficient calcium from the food due to the lack of vitamin D3. So, without producing this vitamin, the natural growth of the turtle is stuck.

The UV light boosts vitamin D3 production in musk turtles. Thus they do not face any struggle in calcium adsorption anymore. Eventually, the pets grow a healthy shell and bone structure. Besides, the UVB rays improve digestion, activity level, mood, and breeding behavior among these musk turtles.

What if you do not install a UV light? Please never make that mistake. Studies have suggested that hatchlings who do not get sufficient UV light exposure die within a year or lead a miserable life afterward.

The lack of UV rays causes shell and bone deformation. As a result, these musk turtles often undergo unhealthy growth and suffer from MBD disease.

Hence, you should not neglect the necessity of UV lamps and install one in your musk turtle enclosure. Different brands of UV lights are available in the market. But buying a high-quality lamp always proves its worth.

UV lights of power 2.5, 3, or 5 work the best for aquatic species like musk turtles. Consider the distance between the dock and the exposure source while installing. Experts suggest maintaining 12 inches for 2.5% UV and 18 inches for 5% UV lamps.

UV lights are not a long-term investment. You have to replace the old lamp with a new one every 6 months.

Catch out the buying guide of UV light for musk turtles from this link.

Heating Lamp: Do Musk Turtles Need A Heating Lamp?

Heating lamps are equally significant for musk turtles. The species is cold-blooded and can not produce body heat all by themselves. Hence, these turtles are dependent on external sources to warm their bodies.

The turtles will slow down their metabolism, activity rate, heartbeat, and oxygen consumption if you remove the heating source. As a result, you will notice your pets being inactive and ignoring meals. In addition, the musk turtles will eventually enter hibernation if the heat is not restored.

Hibernation is not harmful to musk turtles. However, the unplanned and unexpected hibernating can even push these pets toward death.

You have got the significance of a heating lamp for musk turtles. The sun is enough for an outdoor musk turtle to fulfill its needs. But for indoor pets, you have to purchase a heating source.

Generally, these lights are installed over the basking dock.

The heating lamps are also available in different wattages as the UV light. While setting up the bulbs, you need to consider the power. Here is a primary idea for you,

Bulb WattageProbable Distance Between Basking Dock And Lamp
50 watt6 – 8 inches
75 watt7 – 9 inches
100 watt9 – 11 inches
100 watt++11  – 14 inches

Different category heating lamps are on sale in the market. Take a minute and go through this article before buying the heating bulb for your musk turtles. The tips will help you get the lights on the best deal.

Do Musk Turtles Need Light At Night?

Musk turtles do not need light at night as they sleep during these hours. Like any bright light disturbs your sleep, it does the same to these turtles. However, specially designed night lights with low brightness do not interrupt their sleep cycle.

Musk turtles are nocturnal, which means they sleep at night. Many people do not know, but turtles sleep with their eyes closed. These creatures try to avoid light as much as possible with closed eyelids. Besides sleeping, musk turtles close their eyes even when resting or relaxing.

Keeping the bulbs on during the night interrupts the turtles’ relaxing sessions. They feel irritated due to the overexposing lighting. The brightness often messes up their sleep cycle.

In short, musk turtles do not require any night light. So instead, keep the bulbs off when it is their bedtime.

However, many turtle hobbyists set up soft night lights to observe their turtles 24/7. You know these creatures tend to escape the enclosure whenever they get a chance. Thus many concerned owners prefer keeping the lights on even after dark.

See also  Musk Turtle Size: How Big Do They Get?

Those night lights are not like the regular bulbs and are specially designed for turtles. Night lamps give off almost zero brightness with a minimum amount of heat. The produced heat keeps the turtles warm on winter nights.

Night bulbs come in handy, especially for newborn babies. The hatchlings often struggle to spend cold nights, and any additional heat source helps them survive more gracefully.

Catch a detail on different types of night lights from this article.

Water Filter: Do Musk Turtles Need A Water Filter?

Musk turtles live in muddy but freshwater sources in the wild. Hence, the creatures would be expecting clean water in a captive enclosure. However, keeping the turtle tank tidy is not a cup of tea as these pets are the master of creating a mess.

Foodscape and poop are enough to degrade the water quality and entice bacterial populations. Musk turtles can stand dirty water to an extent. But the bacterial infection often causes health complications and leads to life-threatening conditions.

No responsible owner would want his turtle to suffer. Hence, cleaning the habitat is the only option left. But do not worry. Installing a water filter will free you from all those hassles and minimize the risk of bacterial infection.

The available canister filters offer excellent service in eliminating germs and circulating fresh water. I have been experimenting with several canister filter models over the years, and honestly, this brand provides top-notch quality. Check this article if you want my non-biased opinion on canister filters for musk turtles.

However, setting up a tank filter is not enough to maintain water hygiene. You still have to scrab the aquarium at least once a month. Besides, replacing 25% of the water once a week is mandatory to preserve the cleanliness of the habitat.

Furthermore, tap water often includes chlorine, ammonium, and other harmful elements that irritate the turtle’s eyes and skin. Use a water conditioner to bring back the healthy water balance and keep the turtle healthy.

Tank Heater: Do Musk Turtles Need A Tank Heater?

A tank heater is another vital supplement in the indoor musk turtle habitat. As you know, the musk turtles are ectothermic. These creatures soak heat from the environment and keep their mechanism on a swing.

If the temperature takes a hit for any reason, the musk turtles slow down their metabolism. As a result, the pet will eventually stop eating and participating in any activity. Again, a few degrees drop in the temperature will make the turtles suffer from cold and other diseases.

So, if you want your pets to maintain the usual life routine even in the cold season, you have to set up an external heating source.

Tank heaters are specially designed to keep the musk turtle enclosure warm. The habitants of the aquarium will not feel any difference in the weather or temperature. Thus, the turtles will continue living their regular life.

Turtle tank water heaters come in different watts. You have to select the device power according to the aquarium size,

Tank SizeTank Heater Wattage
20 gallon75 watt
40 gallon150 watt
65 gallon250 watt
75 gallon300 watt

Moreover, the heaters are available in many types. Some of them are submersible tank heaters, substrate heaters, single heating arrangements, multiple heating arrangements, etc. So choose the set-up wisely and as per your need.

Are you confused about your decision? Please go through my best water heater for musk turtle buying guides. I hope you will get clarity.

Replicating Wild Environment For Musk Turtles

I have already introduced you to the preferred native habitat for musk turtles. However, setting up the tank with quality equipment will do no good for your pets if you fail to replicate the wild surroundings. Hence, experts always emphasize creating a suitable environment for the musk turtles.

Working on the following factors will definitely make the musk turtles feel at home,

Musk Turtle Water Depth Requirements

Musk turtle’s water level requirements vary from shallow end to deep end, respectively 10 inches and 24 inches. However, hatchlings can not adapt to such depth. Hence, a 3 to 5-inch water level will work for the babies.

Again, these turtles prefer water bodies with a mild current. You can create the stream with a powerful canister filter or additional oxygen stone,

Moreover, musk turtles can not stand chlorine and other harmful elements in the water. Thus, be extra careful about maintaining water hygiene and purity in the tank.

Musk Turtle Water Temperature

The suitable water temperature range for musk turtles is 72 – 78 degrees Fahrenheit. However, some owners set the temperature at 80 degrees Fahrenheit, which is also okay for these pets.

Besides, you have to provide the turtles with proper basking and air temperature zones. Basking temperature should be between 90 – 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and for air, the mid-80s temperature works.

Tank heaters and heating lamps are enough to fulfil these temperature requirements for musk turtles. However, if the temperature falls by a few degrees due to device malfunction, the pets will show signs of slow metabolism. Similarly, an unexpected temperature rise also forces the turtles to act weird.

The latest automatic devices can track temperature changes. Thus these technologies can provide a suitable range customized or programmed for the turtles. However, if you are using an old or manual heating machine, do not forget to set up a thermometer to watch the temperature.

Musk Turtle Tank Humidity

Musk turtles are not native to high humid areas. Hence, these turtles can make a perfect living in 30 – 40% humidity.

Generally, the existing water inside the enclosure keeps the humidity cycle going. Still, you can install a hygrometer to track the humidity level in the tank.

Substrate For Musk Turtle Tank

Substrates are not mandatory for musk turtles. Yes, the species live in muddy or shallow water bodies in the wild. But while in captivity, these turtles can adapt to the bare bottom tanks.

Maintaining and cleaning the substrate is itself a challenge for the owners. Again, many soiling options are not safe for musk turtles as they tend to take a bit of the gravel out of curiosity.

However, still, many hobbyists layer up the tank bottom with medium-sized and colourful gravel. It enhances the aesthetic appeal and beauty of the aquarium. But, again, the substrates are necessary for adding different plants to the habitat. Moreover, it is compulsory to clean and soak the pebbles or gravel before opening the tank to turtles.

Additional Decoration

Musk turtles can get stressed over the surroundings or any internal factor. While in anxiety, these turtles search for hiding spots. The vegetation, rock, and logs provide enough hiding space for these creatures in the wild. Similarly, you have to put stones, wood, and broken pots inside the habitat in captivity.

Again, you can add plants to the enclosure to make the terrarium more appealing. Plants have other benefits besides enhancing the tank’s beauty. For example, the broad leaves provide hiding places for the turtles and supply additional oxygen.

However, taking care of both musk turtles and plants can raise the challenge bar. In such a case, you can use artificial plants if your primary purpose is to modify the aquarium look.

Check out the safe live plant options for musk turtles and the requirements to grow them.

What Does Musk Turtles Eat?

Musk turtles are omnivorous as their diet includes both animal protein and vegetables. However, the species often acts like a carnivore due to the preference for meat. Besides animal matter and plants, the musk turtle meal covers fruits, pallets, and supplements.

So, if you make a list of musk turtle food options, it would look something like this,

Animal MatterPlant MatterCommercial FoodsSupplements




Chopped meat (chicken, beef, pork)









Shrimp Snail
Beet green

Chicory green

Collar mustard

Dandelion green

Dill weed






Turnip greens
Dried and canned foods PelletsCalcium Multivitamin Vitamin D

There are plenty of other options to add to your musk turtle diet. But of course, you have to make sure whether the meals are safe for the pets or not. Toxic food items can cause musk turtles diarrhoea, vomiting, and critical health conditions.

Have a quick look at the forbidden items for musk turtles,

  • Beet
  • Cabbage
  • Carrot
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Cilantro
  • Corn
  • Endive
  • Orka
  • Pepper
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Tomato
  • Watercress
  • Processed food
  • Dog food
  • Dairy items
  • Junk foods
  • Candy
  • Wild-caught animals, etc.

Anyway, experts suggest including around 80% protein and 20% vegetation. Also, make sure the commercial items do not exceed over 40 – 50%. Again, never try replacing natural food options with pellets.

See also  How To Tell The Age Of A Musk Turtle?

Fruits are excellent snacks and appetizer boosters for musk turtles. But these items include a minimum amount of nutrition. Hence, feeding the pets fruits every day is the worst decision, and it can lead to a mineral deficiency.

Musk turtles show less interest in vegetables. Therefore, at the primary level, do not force the babies to eat veggies and let them feast on animal protein. However, you have to introduce different plants and vegetable options to the turtles as they grow old.

Do you need a detailed meal chart of musk turtles? If yes, check my previous write up on the musk turtle diet guide.

How Often Should I Feed My Musk Turtle?

Feeding the musk turtle hatchlings every day for the first 6 months is a healthy practice. After that period, one meal every other day will do the work as long as the pets are young adults. Then, again, you have to switch to a thrice a week diet plan as the turtles grow old.

See, the feeding frequency of musk turtles varies with their age group. Here is how you can plan the meals for your pets,

Musk Turtle Hatchlings Feeding Schedules

The babies develop their physical characteristics and immunity at the primary stage. Hence, they require more nutrition than the young and adults. Vitamin deficiency at this age can hamper their growth rate and immunity.

Professionals suggest feeding the babies every day. Their diet mainly contains animal protein and pellets with a small portion of veggies. Besides, occasional fruit and live animal treat will boost their appetite.

Musk Turtle Juvenile Feeding Schedule

The juveniles prefer eating a full tummy every other day. Owners can feed their musk turtles every day by dividing the amount into two halves.

These young musk turtles also love feasting on meat and pellets. However, you should try feeding them a variety of vegetables at this age to find out their preference.

Adult Musk Turtle Feeding Schedule

The adult turtles do not have the same appetite as the babies or the young. They can survive on little food.

Experts suggest following the thrice a week feeding routine for adult musk turtles. Their meals should include both animal and protein matter. Besides, you must compliment these pets with a treat now and then to boost their energy.

How Much Should I Feed My Musk Turtle?

Overfeeding the musk turtles is nothing but a curse. It can cause the pets obesity and many more health complications like liver failure and kidney stones. Hence, you must follow the ideal rules to determine meal quantity for the musk turtles. Such as,

  • The 15 minutes rule
  • The head method

The 15 minutes rule

According to professionals, a turtle can eat more than enough in 15 minutes. Thus, leave the meat, veggie, and pellet mixture in the enclosure for 15 minutes and let the pets feast on that. Remove the leftovers after 15 to 20 minutes to prevent overeating.

The head method

As per this method, you have to feed your musk turtles an equal amount of food that would fit in their empty head. You can practice this feeding technique with a bowl.

The head method is quite popular among the pro turtle keepers. However, the beginners resent this feeding idea because of the risk of underfeeding or overfeeding.

Musk Turtle Potential Diseases And Health Care

Musk turtles are survivors and can stand in harsh environments. But these little turtles are not free from the risk of suffering from common diseases. Here are the potential health conditions for musk turtles,

Vitamin A Deficiency:

Lack of vitamin A causes hypovitaminosis in musk turtles. The sick pets experience mouth rot, puffy eyes, lethargy, etc. Prolonged vitamin A deficiency leads to respiratory illness and other health complications.

Vitamin A enriched diet, antibiotic shots, and other prescribed meds can cure this disease in musk turtles.

Metabolic Bone Disease: Insufficient UV rays in the enclosure with the lack of calcium and vitamin D leads to MBD. The condition is severe and can cause permanent health damage to the musk turtles.

Swollen and bumpy legs and deformed bones and shells are the primary signs of MBD in turtles. A balanced diet and installing a quality UV lamp will recover this condition in your pets.

Shell Disease:

Different shell conditions occur in aquatic turtles due to bacterial or virus attacks. Shedding, Schute rotting, white patches, red spots, etc., are common shell diseases in musk turtles. A dirty enclosure and an imbalanced diet are mainly responsible for such health conditions in turtles.

Respiratory Illness:

Bacterial attack in the lung causes respiratory infection in musk turtles. Coughing, sneezing, wheezing, lethargy, frequent basking, weight loss, etc., indicate the pets are suffering from respiratory illness. A balanced diet and well-maintained enclosure can prevent and cure this disease.

Infectious Diseases:

Musk turtles suffer from many more contagious diseases like closed eyes, puffy eyes, swollen eyes, mouth rot, etc. Dirty enclosure and degraded water conditions are responsible for such health conditions in turtles.

Therefore, maintaining the hygiene rules can minimize the risk of bacterial spread and heal the pets.

Are Musk Turtles Easy To Keep?

Musk turtles have an attitude and different temperaments. Such personality traits make these pets unfit for beginners. However, the little musk turtles live without hassle if appropriately handled.

Raising musk turtles can be a little challenging because of their short temperament. These pets hate frequent touch and rough handling. In addition to that, intentional disturbance often stresses out these creatures.

An anxious and stressed musk turtle snaps more often. Though the species have no teeth, they can easily bite the opponent with their sharp jaws. The musk turtle nipping can give you a sting and a bruise for months.

However, do not think of these little turtles as brutal and dangerous. On the contrary, musk turtles are pretty shy and prefer living a solitary life. But, again, they behave well as long as the situation is in their favour.

Hence, keeping the musk turtles is no big deal if you can follow the care sheet properly. However, you have to handle these turtles with respect and offer them enough space. Otherwise, raising the musk turtles will turn into a nightmare for you.

Is A Musk Turtle A Good Pet?

Musk turtles are not the friendliest creatures. Still, they make an excellent pet if you fulfil their requirements and handle them with care. Moreover, these turtles are low maintenance and demand very little attention.

How do you decide whether a turtle suits your personality or not? Well, I go through several parameters before buying any turtle. This way, I get along with the species without making any fuss. Let’s compare each factor with musk turtles and see how compatible these little creatures are for you,

Size & Tank Setup:

Musk turtles grow 6 inches at best. While many species demand a 100-gallon tank, these turtles live comfortably in a 30-gallon aquarium. Hence, musk turtles are the perfect match for those who look for small pets.

Musk turtle size is an advantage for the owners. But, apart from that, the basic needs of these turtles are just like others.


Musk turtles are primarily carnivorous and would eat store-bought insects or fishes. With age, the babies grow omnivorous and show interest in vegetables.

Tank Maintenance & Health Care:

You do not have to worry about the tank setups if you install quality products. However, replacing and conditioning water once a week is recommendable. Besides, cleaning the filter and the whole habitat at least once a month is mandatory.

Moreover, musk turtles do not fall sick easily. Therefore, taking immediate action when any weird behaviour is noticed and regular health check-ups can beat any medical emergency.


Musk turtles prefer living alone and can be grumpy in contact with humans. These turtles are saints as long as you do not cause them any disturbance. But they will snap if you touch them roughly.

Cost & Commitment: You can get a musk turtle with a budget of $20 – $70. The additional equipment will cost you around $500 or more. Furthermore, each year may have to pay $250 – $400 to maintain the pets.

Again, many people resent turtles because of their longevity.

However, musk turtles have a shorter lifespan compared to many other species. Thus, the pets are perfect for short term commitments.

In short, musk turtles can be excellent pets if they match your vibe.

What Can Live Wih A Musk Turtle?

Musk turtles can live among themselves as long as you mix the age groups wisely. Besides, this species can bunk in the same tank with mud turtles, painted turtles, map turtles, and red-eared sliders. Moreover, tetras, Zebra fishes, guppies, and other fast-moving fishes might also survive with these turtles.

Raising two turtles in a single tank or mixing turtles with fish indeed creates hassle. However, you can minimize the challenge by choosing the tank mates wisely.

Musk turtles are bottom dwellers, and so are the mud turtles. As a result, both species demand a similar type of care. Hence, you can make mud turtles and musk turtles live together.

Some experts claim keeping two bottom dwellers together can instigate territorial disputes. Thus they suggest housing musk turtles with basking turtles like painted turtles, map turtles, and red-eared sliders.

However, choosing the species should not be your only concern. Besides, you have to focus on mixing age groups. In most cases, adult males get involved in fighting among themselves and try to dominate the young and females. On the contrary, the females and babies live peacefully among themselves without disputing.

Thus, you have to consider the turtles’ species, age group, and compatibility level before housing them in the same tank. However, professional hobbyists keep inter-species turtles successfully by following only a few simple tips. Check this article to master the art of accommodating multiple turtles in a single aquarium.


The care sheet for musk turtles includes everything that brings wellness to these pets. These tiny creatures can be tough to handle for beginners but make excellent pets for intermediate hobbyists. Providing these turtles with appropriate care helps them thrive 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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