Taking care of a turtle means more than most of us think. You can not just buy a turtle and put it in the tank, assuming you are done. Feeding the pet daily also does not count as good parenting. Instead, you have to know what is healthy for the turtle and make the best arrangement.
Taking care of spotted turtles includes,
- Offering them a habitat with dock, lighting, heater, filter, etc.
- Feeding the turtles a balanced diet, maintaining a schedule
- Taking the pets for regular medical check-ups
Go through the article for a detailed care sheet on spotted turtles.
Let’s take a moment and make the care sheet for the spotted turtle from scratch. First, we will start with the species introduction.
Spotted Turtle: An Overview
|Scientific Name||Clemmys guttata|
|Size||Up to 6 inches|
|Weight||Less than 1 pound|
|Appearance||Black shell with bright polka dots|
|Natural Distribution||Canada and USA|
|Lifespan||Up to 50 years|
|Behavior||Shy and curious|
|Cost||$99 – $1000++|
|Tank Size||20 – 40 gallon|
|Tank Set Up||Dock, heating lamp, UV light, tank heater, water filter, etc.|
Spotted turtles are semi-aquatic species and getting rare day by day. There was a time when the native range of this species was distributed throughout the eastern USA and Canada. But unfortunately, the spotted turtles have faced a population reduction of about 50%, and now their habitat is limited to North America only.
Spotted turtles are smaller in size, which makes them adorable and easier to handle. Also, these turtles are not aggressive or demanding like many other species. Moreover, the average lifespan of this species allows anyone to adopt them.
In short, spotted turtles are a complete package for turtle keepers.
Appearance: How Do Spotted Turtles Look?
A spotted turtle is very easy to recognize. The species has a dark shell with yellow polka dots on it. Those bright yellow spots on the carapace are very random. Plastron, on the other hand, can be a combination of black with orange or yellow.
The skin of the spotted turtles also has bright yellow, grey, or orange markings. In addition, their heads can contain spots or stripes.
Gender identification of spotted turtles is possible based on observation. For example, the male spotted turtles have brown eyes. But the females have red eyes. Also, the males have a concave dome, darker chin and a thicker tail.
Size: How Big Do Spotted Turtles Get?
Spotted turtles are usually tiny. They will get roughly 4.5 – 5 inches at best. The biggest spotted turtle ever recorded was around 6 inches.
Because of their small size, spotted turtles do not weigh like bulky turtles. On the contrary, they grow less than a pound.
Native Range: Where Do Spotted Turtles Live?
As I stated earlier, spotted turtles are rare and extinct. The leftover population is scattered around the USA, the great lake regions, and Canada. More specifically, the spotted turtle’s native habitat ranges in southern Ontario, southern Quebec, central Illinois, central Georgia, and the northern and central parts of Florida.
If you ask about the living conditions, spotted turtles are semi-aquatic. So, ponds, marshy meadows, ditches, swamps, bogs, fens, woodland streams, coastal wetlands, and wet pastures make more suitable habitats for these creatures.
Lifespan: How Long Do Spotted Turtles Live?
The expected lifespan of spotted turtles is 30 to 50 years. In captivity, the oldest turtle was 26 years old. But according to many reliable sources, these creatures can dive into their 30s with proper care.
However, there is no guaranteed lifespan for spotted turtles. The lack of resources is responsible for the unknown life expectancy of spotted turtles.
From the statistics of other turtle species, you can assume that a captive spotted turtle lives longer than the wild one. It is because of the extra care and facilities they receive. But yes, you can not say that for sure as there is no available data.
Behaviour & Temperament: How Do Spotted Turtles Behave?
If you have raised a snapping turtle before, you know how aggressive those species can be. Even some docile turtles exhibit hostile behaviour. But well, that is not the case with spotted turtles.
Spotted turtles are pretty playful and curious. So, you will find them being active during the day. But, as the keepers say, it is never boring to watch your spotted turtles playing in the tank. Just provide them with a raft or a small toy, and they will make a game.
However, do not take this docile behaviour for granted.
These tiny pets are always alert to misbehaving and take it as a threat. As a result, it is easy to frighten these creatures. It means spotted turtles can get stressed if handled roughly or too frequently.
Diet: What Do Spotted Turtles Eat?
Spotted turtles are omnivorous, but their diet consists mainly of animal proteins. For example, insects, worms, slugs, vegetation, etc.
In captivity, you can compliment the meals with a small amount of pellets. Besides, supplements are mandatory to back up the nutrition deficiency.
Community Habitat: Can Spotted Turtles Live Together?
Spotted turtles can live together when they are at a young age. The babies barely fight with each other. But as these turtles grow, you will face issues keeping them in the same enclosure.
The male spotted turtles often bully the females and young turtles. They do it to exhibit their social power and dominance. The lack of space, food, or a basking station can also lead to such fights.
Hence, if you plan to raise multiple spotted turtles in a single enclosure, ensure the basic needs first. Providing them with food and enough space solves half the problem. Also, build several hiding spots so the weak turtles can save themselves.
Cost: How Much Do Spotted Turtles Cost?
Spotted turtles are rare and extinct. So, it is evident that these turtles cost more than the common turtle species.
Generally, the baby spotted turtles cost around $99. If you want a young spotted turtle, you have to pay $300 – $600. The amount increases to more than $1000 if you are looking for a healthy adult. Usually, the gender, age, availability, and health of the turtles decide their price.
How To Take Care Of Spotted Turtles: Spotted Turtle Care Sheet
Now that you know the primary profile, you can easily draft a care sheet for them. Let me help you with that,
Tank Size: What Is The Ideal Tank Size For Spotted Turtles?
Spotted turtles do not grow over 6 inches. So, they do not require a monstrous tank. Instead, an aquarium of 20 gallons is perfect for the young spotted turtles. You can upgrade the tank size to 40 gallons if your turtle requires more space.
Spotted turtles easily share spaces with other turtles. Hence, you can house multiple turtles in the same enclosure too. But in such cases, you have to go for a bigger tank of 75 to 125 gallons depending on the number of turtles. Remember, those pets will be on each other’s throats without enough space.
The most important thing here is ensuring the tank’s water depth.
Spotted turtles are not great at swimming. So, offering them a deep water pool does not help. The experts advise not to exceed the water level over 6 inches. This depth will be lesser for the babies.
Actually, the ideal water level is such that the spotted turtle can walk on the bottom, keeping its head over the surface.
You can set up an outdoor habitat for the spotted turtles. Simply dig a small pool with a minimum water level and transfer the pets there. But, of course, you also have to make other arrangements like fencing, covering up with chicken wire, etc.
As spotted turtles are really small, an outdoor habitat is not worth the trouble. So instead, upgrade the indoor enclosure and add a more natural touch to it.
Habitat Set Up: What Equipment Do Spotted Turtles Require?
A big tank is not the only requirement to raise healthy spotted turtles. You have to arrange some other supplies too. Such as,
Spotted turtles are not fully aquatic. Yet, they bask a lot. They will spend hours under the heating and UV lamp soaking the rays.
Generally, most species bask to dry out their bodies after a long swim. Also, they take a rest at the station whenever they are tired.
The basking platform serves the same purpose for the spotted turtles too. After a swim in the water, you will notice your tiny spotted turtles strolling on the dock. Resting under the heat helps the creatures to dry.
Walking around on damp skin can increase the risk of bacterial or fungal infection for the turtles. Hence, providing the pets with a dock minimizes the risk of bacterial attack.
Again, spotted turtles are cold-blooded species. When they are on the platform, they get direct access to the heat, which helps them stay warm. Therefore, turtles can stay away from cold diseases.
As I have said, basking docks also serve as a resting station for spotted turtles. Sometimes, they work as a life saviour too. The turtles can get on the platform to breathe if the water level is too much or the water environment is not comforting.
For such reasons, a basking dock is mandatory for spotted turtles.
Basking docks are available for spotted turtles in pet stores. But you can take the liberty of DIYing the platform for your turtles. Using a metal sheet, foam, plastic, log, wood, large rock, etc., can be converted into basking stations. If you have a large enclosure, feel free to offer more than one dock.
No matter if you buy a basking dock or make it yourself, make sure it fulfils the following criteria,
- The station should be spacious enough for your spotted turtles
- It has to be rigid and robust so that it can carry the weight of the pets
- Eliminate any rough edges from the dock that can scratch or injure the spotted turtles
- Attach a ramp with the platform. Otherwise, the spotted turtles can not get up on the dock as they are bad at jumping.
I have made a list of suitable basking docks for spotted turtles. You can access the list from here.
Spotted turtles need heating lamps to keep their bodies warm. You already know that these turtles are cold-blooded. So, the lack of heat in the enclosure can make the spotted turtles slow down their metabolism and hibernate. But, of course, hibernation without preparation can cause permanent damage to the pets.
Besides, the heating lamp helps the turtles stay dry after a long swim. This way, these creatures can avoid the risk of bacterial infection. Also, the heating has a link to the metabolism and digestion of spotted turtles.
So, the lack of a heating lamp in the enclosure raises several issues. For example, exposure to infectious and cold diseases, messy digestion, etc.
Therefore, I recommend you set up a quality heating lamp in the enclosure, maintaining a distance and proper wattage. Here is a chart for your reference:
|Wattage||Distance From The Dock||Temperature|
|50 watts||4||104 degrees Fahrenheit|
|50 watts||8||81 degrees Fahrenheit|
|50 watts||12||73 degrees Fahrenheit|
|75 watt||4||120 degrees Fahrenheit|
|75 watt||8||91 degrees Fahrenheit|
|75 watt||12||81 degrees Fahrenheit|
|100 watt||4||131 degrees Fahrenheit|
|100 watt||8||113 degrees Fahrenheit|
|100 watt||12||90 degrees Fahrenheit|
|100++ watt||4||144 degrees Fahrenheit|
|100++ watt||8||131 degrees Fahrenheit|
|100++ watt||12||126 degrees Fahrenheit|
The ideal ambient temperature for spotted turtles is 75 – 80 degrees Fahrenheit. But, again, the basking temperature range is 82 – 86 degrees Fahrenheit.
Keep the heating lights on 10 – 12 hours a day. The spotted turtles require no heating lamp exposure during the night. As you know, a chilly environment helps these creatures sleep better. My previous write-up includes all the primary questions and answers on turtle heating lamp requirements and setups.
There are several options available as a heating lamp for spotted turtles. Mercury vapour lamps are quite a popular option among owners. You can find a better deal on the heating light here.
The sun is the ultimate source of UV rays in nature. These UV exposures have their roles in the life of spotted turtles too.
When a baby spotted turtle is born, its body is fragile, and so is its immunity system. However, the hatchlings become stronger with time by eating a proper diet. The minerals and nutrients help the turtle one way or another to build a solid system.
Vitamin D and calcium are the two most significant minerals that assist in building solid bones and shells in spotted turtles. Though turtles absorb vitamin D3 from the diet, it is not sufficient. The UVB rays can influence vitamin D3 production in these creatures.
Not only that. The calcium will only benefit the bones and shells only if there is enough vitamin D in the system. So, the UVB also aids in calcium absorption in another way.
Besides building a solid body structure, the UVB rays contribute to the immunity system. Therefore, a turtle with enough UV exposure tends to have a healthy body.
Furthermore, UVA rays happen to influence the mental stability of spotted turtles. It has been seen that turtles with enough UV exposure are mentally chill and stay less stressed.
In short, UV rays are inevitable for the healthy growth of spotted turtles. According to research, a baby turtle without UV lights can die within a year. Even if the hatchling survives, it will grow with a weak structure and immunity.
So, considering all these reasons, you should invest in a quality UV light. These lamps are available in different power forms, such as 2.5% UV, 3% UV, 5% UV, 10% UV, etc. While 2.5 or 5% of UV lights are suitable for spotted turtles, 10% of UV lamps are designed for desert turtles.
Like the heating lamp, you must maintain a proper distance while installing UV light. The ideal distance from the dock is as follows,
|Power||Distanc From The Dock|
|2.5% UV||12 inches|
|3% UV||12 inches++|
|5% UV||18 inches|
|10% UV||18 inches++|
While buying a UV for spotted turtles, always check the power. Also, ensure it is not a full-spectrum bulb, as those are useless in most cases.
Moreover, UV lights lose their magical power with time. Therefore, it is recommended to replace the bulb once every 6 months.
Otherwise, your turtle will start exhibiting signs of insufficient UV rays. Another thing, do not place any glass or plastic cover between the UV light and the dock. These exposures can not get past those barriers.
For more information on spotted turtle UV light requirements, check this article.
A heating lamp and UV light definitely keep the spotted turtles warm on the deck. But what about in the water? Yes, spotted turtles do not swim as much as snapping turtles or map turtles. Yet, you can not let these turtles shiver in the cold.
Letting the spotted turtles swim in the chilly water can invite several distresses. For example, there is a high chance of those tiny pets suffering from a cold because of the temperature change.
The change in weather also weakens their immune system, making them vulnerable to many more diseases. If the temperature falls below their comfortable range, these turtles will prepare for hibernation.
These effects are more pronounced if you live in a cold region.
For an outdoor habitat, it is nearly impossible to keep the enclosure warm. But while indoors, you can manipulate the temperature with a tank heater.
Tank heaters are an absolute game-changer. These devices can track the water temperature and regulate it as per the setting. Hence, the water for the spotted turtles will always be in the comfort range.
The ideal water temperature for spotted turtles is 75 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Though you can reduce this temperature by ½ degree during the night, fluctuating below the range will make the turtles cold.
Tank heaters come in different wattages and are of varying quality. So let’s talk about the selection of the power first.
You should buy a tank heater that can warm up the water properly. So, the wattage depends on the tank size,
|Tank Size||Tank Heater (Liter)||Tank Heater (Watts)|
You can select the tank heater as per your aquarium size. Usually, a heater of 75 – 150 watts works fine for a single spotted turtle tank. But if you have a larger habitat, set up multiple tank heaters to ensure proper heat.
Now, there are different types and models of tank heaters available. However, while the world is moving toward advanced technology, some pet stores still sell analogue heaters. Yes, those old devices are cheap, but they have several disadvantages.
For example, the heater sometimes raises the water temperature too high. Also, from time to time, the machine stops working. So, you really can not rely on those analogue water heaters.
On the other hand, the digital heaters track the temperature smoothly. The screen indicates the current temperature, and the device allows you to regulate the temperature as you want.
If you want to invest in a quality tank heater for spotted turtles, give this article a read.
Spotted turtles can endure harsh environments. But when it comes to a filthy habitat, these turtles can not stand it.
Yes, cleaning the dock or the land area is not hard. But keeping the water clean is a challenge in itself.
Spotted turtles are messy creatures. They eat in the water and also release their waste there. So, the water becomes hazy because of food scraps and poop or urination.
Also, that wastage makes the water environment stinky and more suitable for bacterial growth. If you keep the turtle inside the filth for a long time, the pet will suffer from bacterial infection. Though shell infections are totally treatable, respiratory diseases are not 100% curable.
You can always try cleaning the water manually. But let me warn you. You are just wasting your time and energy.
Moreover, frequent water change can make the habitat water hazy as you kill the beneficial bacteria. Read this article for more reasons behind a cloudy turtle tank and its fixes.
The best option here is to install a water filter inside the tank. Those devices are designed to suck in the filthy water, filter through three layers, and release freshwater for the turtles. All the food scrapes and poops get stuck in the filter chamber, which needs occasional cleaning.
But here is the deal. Setting up a water filter is not the end of your responsibility. You still have to clean the tank thoroughly at least once a month and change the water every other week.
Given the plethora of tank filters available in the market, it is confusing for the customers to select the perfect one. Considering this dilemma, I have come up with the perfect water filter lists for your spotted turtles. You can choose the device according to your requirements and budget.
A spotted turtle can live in a bare bottom tank, but a habitat with a substrate is preferable. It gives the aquarium a more homely vibe.
You can layer up the bottom with dirt, soil and mud. But as these are challenging to clean, the medium-sized gravels will also work.
Remember, the spotted turtles will eat the substrate out of curiosity. Hence, make sure those ingredients are safe and non-toxic.
Hiding Places & Decorations
Rocks and small aquatic plants offer a more aesthetic look to the aquarium. Not only that. These decorations replicate the natural environment for the spotted turtles.
You can place big, smooth rocks in the aquarium. Also, add some non-toxic aquatic plants like duckweed, water hyacinth, honeysuckle, etc., to the tank. These plants are a great source of oxygen in the habitat, and the turtles can munch on the leaves wherever they are hungry.
Follow my previous article for tips on adding live plants to the turtle habitat.
Diet: How Much And How Often To Feed A Spotted Turtle?
Spotted turtles are omnivorous, which means their diet includes animal protein and plant matter. A safe food list for this species is given below,
- Cooked beef
- Cooked pork
- Small fish
- Amphibian egg
- Water lily seed
- Green leafy vegetable
- Soft aqueous plant
Though the list contains animal and protein matter, spotted turtles are primarily carnivorous. So, you have to include more protein in the meals.
As a treat, you can occasionally offer the turtles fruits. Chopped apples, bananas, kiwi, honeydew, avocado, prune, etc., are some of the favourites of spotted turtles.
Some owners add pellets to the list when they are confused about the nutritional percentage of the meals. Pellets are safe for spotted turtles. Yet, it should not take up more than 25 – 30% of the diet.
Moreover, to battle calcium deficiency and vitamin lackings, you can feed the turtles cuttlebones, multivitamins, and supplements. Sprinkle the dust on the meal every other day, and it will back off any deficiency of the pets.
No matter what you feed your spotted turtle, ensure it is non-toxic. Otherwise, the pets will suffer from diarrhoea and abdomen pain, and they can even choke to death. Also, avoid processed foods and junk items of any kind.
Again, as for the food quantity, the head method and the 15-minute rule are pretty popular. According to the 15-minute law, you have to leave more than enough food in the enclosure first. Then allow the turtles to eat exactly for 15 minutes and remove the leftovers.
You can use a separate box for this purpose and to maintain cleanliness. Also, you can reuse the leftovers in the next meal.
As per the head method, choose a bowl just the size of the spotted turtle’s head if it were empty. Now fill it with vegetables and protein. There you go! The meal is ready.
The spotted turtles experience a change in appetite as they grow. So, their feeding schedule also changes. For example, when hatchlings, the babies require more food. So, you have to feed them every day.
Once the turtles hit a young age, switch to every other day feeding routine. Similarly, a thrice-a-week meal is perfect for adults or old spotted turtles.
Sometimes the spotted turtles show no interest in the food. It can be because you make bland meals and offer the same food repeatedly. Instead, bring varieties into the diet, and watch these turtles devour the food like little monsters.
However, you also have to consider the feeding time. The experts suggest that spotted turtles are the most hungry in the morning and the evening. Therefore, try to feed them during those hours. If you are always in a hurry, set up an automatic feeder that will offer the turtles food per schedule.
Spotted Turtle Health Care: How To Keep Spotted Turtles Healthy?
Spotted turtles are quite the fighters. But of course, they can not fight back the diseases.
While spotted turtles can heal naturally from minor diseases, they need medical emergencies to get rid of severe ones. The lack of medical care is one of the reasons why wild turtles have a short lifespan.
As an owner, you should know about the primary diseases and treatments of spotted turtles. But as they say, prevention is better than cure. So, it is recommended to adopt precautions to save the turtles.
Here are some of the common spotted turtle health conditions with their cure and prevention,
Vitamin A Deficiency
Vitamin A deficiency or hypovitaminosis occurs in spotted turtles due to the lack of vitamin A. If you keep excluding vitamin A-rich items in the diet for a long period, the pets will exhibit signs of this disease. Some symptoms of hypovitaminosis are,
- Weak immunity
- Infectious diseases
- Mouth rot
- Eye infection
- Swollen or puffy eyelids
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
Vitamin A deficiency can be treated by offering the spotted turtles a vitamin A-rich diet. Besides, the vets can suggest some antibiotic shots in severe cases.
Prolonged hypovitaminosis A leads to a weaker immunity in turtles. As a result, pets are more vulnerable to diseases now. In addition, if the turtles get a bacterial attack on the lungs during such stages, they suffer from respiratory illness.
Unlike most diseases, respiratory infection is quite serious. This illness can cause permanent damage to the pets’ lungs and physique. Symptoms of this disease are,
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Fear of water
- Frequent basking
- Teary eyes
- Trouble breathing
- Open mouth breathing
- Mucus coming out of the mouth, nose and eyes
You should immediately take the turtle to a vet if you spot any of these signs. A warm, clean enclosure with a balanced diet can heal the pet. Besides, little medications or therapies might be needed in severe cases. On the other hand, if you ignore the condition, the turtles can develop pneumonia.
However, sometimes, the wheezing sound from the turtle does not indicate respiratory illness. Instead, it is the snoring noise of the pet. Yes, spotted turtles snore while in a deep sleep. Curious? Check this article to know more about turtle snoring.
Metabolic Bone Diseases
The lack of UV rays causes a soft or deformed shell and bone in spotted turtles. Such a condition is referred to as a metabolic bone disease. It can be a painful experience for spotted turtles.
A turtle with MBD shows the following signs,
- Lump on the limbs or spine
- Irregular scute growth
- Bump on the legs
- Trouble walking
Besides, the pets will have a weaker immune system. So, they will be exposed to more other diseases.
The only way out of this situation is to install a quality UV lamp in the enclosure. Also, do not forget to replace the light every 6 months. Moreover, you should include vitamin D and calcium-rich items in the turtle’s diet to back up the mineral deficiency.
The most common health issue for spotted turtles is shell diseases. These turtles often suffer from shell rot, cracked shell, shell puncture, pyramiding, soft shell, shedding, white patches on the shell, etc.
Fortunately, each of the shell diseases has its cure. Take shell rot as an example.
Spotted turtles are generally playful and can get hurt while playing. A scratch on the scute is nothing uncommon.
But the problem starts if the scar is not healed immediately. First, the bacteria or fungus crawls to the wound and enters the cavity. Soon, the infection spreads to the adjacent areas and deep into the muscle or blood.
In shell rot, the wounds turn black because of the outgrowth of the bacterial population. In addition, you will notice mucus coming out of the opening with a foul odour.
The affected plate falls off in worse conditions, exposing the internal organs.
Offering first aid and covering the wound in the first place will minimize the possibility of shell rot. Also, bathing the turtles with antiseptic or applying healing cream on the rot will recover the pets soon.
Spotted turtles are curious, and that makes them bite everything. You will often notice your turtle trying to get a bite of the stone. There is nothing to worry about as long as your habitat is clean. If not, then your turtles will get worms.
Parasites thrive in dirty enclosures and get into the system. Then they live off the host’s body and grow their population. These worms can easily make spotted turtles suffer. Here are the signs that your spotted turtles have parasites,
- Sunken eyes
- Weight loss
- Appetite loss
- White worms in poop
Of course, you have to focus on cleanliness to prevent this disease. Besides, take the turtle to a vet and deworm the pet annually.
Spotted Turtle Breeding Care
Spotted turtles are sexually active from March to May. So if you plan to breed your turtles, take your chances during those months.
However, mating the turtles can be a stressful process for the pets, and any mistake can cost their lives. So again, do not breed the turtles to earn money as you need proper licencing for selling these creatures.
For a successful mating, you have to put a healthy and mature couple in a well-arranged habitat. Then, the male spotted turtle will try to seduce the female by nipping her or mounting her. Here, the male turtle can only be involved in mating if only the female gives a green signal.
You need to separate the turtles right after the copulation. The gravid female will start looking for suitable places to lay her eggs within a month or two. In that period, you have to build a perfect nesting box with loose soil for the mother turtles. Go through this article for more details on spotted turtle nesting boxes.
The gravid spotted turtle usually lays 3 – 8 eggs. After depositing eggs, the mother will cover the hole with dirt and return to the water. But, apparently, she never comes back to the eggs ever again.
Now, in the wild, the eggs hatch naturally. But in captivity, you can not generate the exact natural pressure or heat in the nest.
Hence, you have to remove the eggs from the soil and put them into an incubator. With the artificial pressure, heat, and moisture, the baby spotted turtles will come out of the eggs within 3 months.
Are Spotted Turtles Good Pets?
Spotted turtles are excellent pets. They are small, active, and love interacting with their owners. Yes, frequent touch might stress out these pets. But they are fun as long as you are not interrupting their daily routine.
When it comes to caring, spotted turtles are low maintenance. They have no expensive demands whatsoever. On top of that, they require really small space compared to many other turtle species.
The only drawback about this species is the price.
Spotted turtles are expensive. But their exotic nature and less availability justify that.
Spotted turtles are absolutely amazing pets. But unfortunately, the population of this species is in decline. Breeding these turtles is definitely increasing the captive turtle number, but wildlife is still at stake. As turtle lovers, we should discourage black market sales to keep the population of this species balanced.