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

Mud Turtle Vs. Musk Turtle

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

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Last year, my friend wanted to start his turtle-keeping journey. He researched different species and finally decided to go with either mud or musk turtle. He reached out for my advice to clear his doubts, and I did what a good friend would do. I elaborated everything on both species so that he could come to a conclusion.

Both the mud and musk turtles are great for beginners. They share a similar type of care, behavior, size, and lifespan. The main difference between these two species lies in their appearance and native habitat.

Are you struggling to choose your first-ever turtle? If yes, I think this article will be a great help for you. I will draw a detailed comparison between the mud turtle and musk turtle, which will lead you to a quick decision. And who knows, you may end up having your first cute pet today?

Mud Turtle Vs. Musk Turtle: An Overview

Both the mud turtle and musk turtles are low maintenance and make an excellent pet. If you look at the care sheet of these two turtles, they have a similar diet and tank set up. The only difference between these two subspecies is in their appearance.

Mud turtles are slightly smaller than musk turtles. So, if you are looking for a smaller species, you can definitely try them out. However, some subspecies of musk turtles are also small.

Again, musk turtles have a longer lifespan of about 60 years. On the other hand, the mud turtles live around 50 years. Musk turtles will be a better option for a long commitment.

Other than these two factors, mud turtles and musk turtles differ in their looks only. If you have a personal preference, check out the appearances of all the subspecies of these two species and select your favorite one.

Mud Turtle Vs. Musk Turtle: Difference In Characteristics

I have already stated that both mud and musk turtles share a similar type of care. So, their basic difference is hidden inside their looks and other physical characteristics.

If you prioritize the appearance of a pet, then these differences will be the gamechanger. I advise you to go through the chart below and see which species seems more appealing to you,

Characteristics Mud Turtle Musk Turtle
Physical AttributesMud turtles have drab-colored skin. Depending on the subspecies, mud turtles have faded stripes or dots on their head and skin.   The fleshy burble on the chin is another unique feature of the mud turtles. These turtles have a reputation for extruding a strong, musky odor.   Get to know how to identify turtle species from here.Musk turtles are usually olive or dark gray, but you can observe a pinkish shade on many subspecies.   Two bright stripes beneath the eyes help the turtle hobbyists identify the species. In many subspecies, light lines run all over the face and even through the eyes.   Like the mud turtles, these turtles also have barbels on their chins and throats. Also, musk turtles can leave a musky, stinky odor in the air. It is why the species is also referred to as stinkpot.   How to differentiate between two similar turtle species? Learn from this article.      
Carapace (Top shell)The mud turtle carapace is smooth and unmarked. This dome-shaped top shell ranges from olive to dark brown color. A greenish shade on the shell is observed due to the presence of algae.   One identifying characteristic of mud turtles is their total scute number on the carapace. While most turtle species have 12 scutes on the top shell, mud turtles have only 11.  The carapace attributes of musk turtles change as they age. Hatchlings usually have a black and rough top shell. On the other hand, the carapace of the adults ranges from brown to black.   Like mud turtles, the upper shell of musk turtles is also smooth and dome-shaped. In most cases, the shell has absolutely no markings. However, in some species streaks, and spots are noticed.   The identifying characteristic of this species is the ridge situated on the top center of the carapace. Some subspecies might have multiple kneels running down on the center.
Plastron (Bottom shell or belly)The plastron of the mud turtles is identical and one of those characteristics that separate the species from the musk turtles. The double-hinged bottom shell of the mud turtles covers almost everything.   The hinges allow the creatures to retract inside the shell-space tightly. Almost the same way the box turtles do. Like the carapace, the plastron of a mud turtle also has 11 scutes on them. The color of the belly ranges from yellow to brown.Musk turtles own a small plastron with a weak hinge. The single hinge provides no noticeable protection to the turtles and keeps the legs exposed.   Usually, the musk turtle plastrons are yellow. But the color can be dark brown or black depending on the subspecies.
Available SubspeciesCommon/ Eastern mud turtle, Red-cheeked mud turtle, African dwarf mud turtle, Striped mud turtle, White-lipped mud turtle, Southeastern mud turtle, Mississippi mud turtle, Florida mud turtle, Yellow mud turtle, American mud turtle, Ceaser’s mud turtle, Scorpion mud turtle, Dunn’s mud turtle, Sonora mud turtle, Tabasco mud turtle, Oaxaca mud turtle, etc.  Common musk turtle, Razorback musk turtle, Flattened musk turtle, Intermediate musk turtle, Loggerhead musk turtle, Narrow-bridged musk turtle, Stripe neck musk turtle, Mexican giant musk turtle, Chiapas giant musk turtle, etc.
SizeThe average size of a mud turtle is between 3 to 4 inches. Depending on the subspecies and care, the species can grow up to 6 inches.On average, a musk turtle gets 2 to 5.5 inches big. But some musk turtles can grow up to 7 inches.   Get an insight into the growth chart of musk turtles from here.
Native Habitat RangeMud turtles are freshwater turtles and prefer living in lakes, rivers, and swamps. Their native home covers the whole of North and South America. These turtles are also widely available in New England to Northern Argentina.Low current shallow water bodies are the perfect home for musk turtles. These creatures live at the bottom of the lake, river, or pond.   The native habitat of musk turtles ranges from Southeastern Canada to Eastern USA.
LifespanMud turtles are blessed with a long life. The expected life expectancy of the species is up to 50 years. Great care may add a few more years to longevity.Musk turtles live slightly longer than mud turtles. The lifespan of a musk turtle ranges from 40 to 60 years. Some turtles may be able to push the boundary over 60.   Check this article if you are looking for the lifespan chart of each musk turtle subspecies. Also, learn how to tell the age of a musk turtle from here.

Mud Turtle Vs. Musk turtle: An Overview On The Care Sheet

Mud turtles and musk turtles have the same kind of care sheet. I have met with turtle keepers who keep both the species together without any hassle.

There is an ongoing debate on which species is more aquatic. Many turtle hobbyists believe musk turtles bask more frequently. On the contrary, others believe that mud turtles are the ones who prefer land areas more.

Well, there is no end to this debate, and both the species bask. Also, the mud turtles and the musk turtles are fully aquatic and bottom dwellers. So, you can not expect these turtles to bask as much as the other species.

Here is a comparison chart between the mud turtle and musk turtle care sheet:

Requirements Mud Turtle Musk Turtle
Tank SizeAn adult mud turtle requires a tank of at least 40 gallons. But of course, the more the capacity, the better the home is for the pet.The smaller musk turtle subspecies can adjust in a 30-gallon tank. Depending on the subspecies size, a 60-gallon aquarium might be required to accommodate a single adult musk turtle.    
SubstrateMud turtles require no substrate in their habitat. Turtle keepers often add substrate at the bottom of the tank to increase the aesthetic value.   If you have to cover the bottom, use medium-sized gravel instead of soil or sand.The substrate is also not mandatory for musk turtles. Putting soil just makes the water muddy and filthy. On the other hand, a bare bottom is always easier to clean.
Basking dockThe mud turtles prefer a habitat with half land and half water. Many experts recommend using another tank to build the land portion.   However, there must be a ramp connecting to the basking platform. Also, make sure the dock is strong and spacious enough for the pet.   Are you looking for a buyer guide to select the best basking platform? If yes, then give this article a read.Musk turtles are absolute water lovers. Experts claim that these turtles dehydrate very quickly if they spend more time on the land. Yet, the musk turtles come to the land area to bask under the sun or any other sources.   As a responsible owner, you have to provide a basking platform for the musk turtles. Otherwise, the turtles will get exposed to diseases.   Find out the best commercial docks here.
Lighting sourcesBoth the UV lamp and heating lamp are mandatory inside a mud turtle’s habitat. Mud turtles bask at a high temperature of 90 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit.   Get your best deal on turtle lights here.  In the wild, the sun is the ultimate source of heat and UV rays. But in captivity, artificial sources like incandescent and UV lamps fulfill the heat and UV requirements of the musk turtles.   You have to make sure that the basking temperature in a musk turtle enclosure ranges from 82 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. The air temperature should be around 75 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit.   If you are a beginner, this article will get you to select the best light for your musk turtle enclosure.
Tank HeaterMud turtles are cold-blooded species, and only the basking light is not enough for them to regulate their body temperature. Hence, installing a heater inside the tank is necessary. The water temperature should be around 74 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit.   What are the top 4 tank heaters for mud turtles? Find out here.Like mud turtles, musk turtles also depend on external sources to warm up their bodies. So, a water heater is also a necessity for these turtles to live a quality life. The required water temperature for the musk turtle habitat is 72 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit.   Click this article and get the best water heater buyer guide for beginners.
Water filtration systemMud turtles can be messy. The pets will fill out the water with food scraps and poops. You have to install a water filter to keep the area hygienic.   Check out the fool-proof water tank buyer guide from this link.  Musk turtles are aquatic and so water quality matters a lot to the species. Dirty water harms the health of these creatures. Hence, setting up a water filter is mandatory.   Do not miss out on the 5 best canister filters for musk turtles.
DietMud turtles are considered omnivorous though they have a soft corner for animal protein. Their diet consists of shrimp, worms, insects, small fishes, with a small portion of green veggies. You can feed commercial pellets to your pet mud turtles.Musk turtles are primarily carnivorous. However, their meal sometimes contains algae or veggies.
BehaviorMud turtles act friendly until you irritate them. While provoked, mud turtles can bite the opponent without giving any second thought. The bites are not as hard as the snapping turtles, yet they stink.Musk turtle’s bite is painful, and the wound can bleed. The turtle aggressively acts if it senses danger or feels stressed. That is why experts often discourage young children from playing with musk turtles.

Can Mud And Musk Turtles Live Together?

Mud and musk turtles can definitely live together. Many turtle hobbyists have been raising both these species in a single enclosure successfully without facing any hassle.

Compare the care sheet of the mud turtle and musk turtle from the above charts. They have similar types of requirements. Hence, any installation in the tank benefits both species.

As you know, turtles own a territorial behavior, and they prefer a solitary life. So, a tank mate is the last thing these creatures want. I have seen bloody turtle fights because of the wrong companion pairing.

So, what can you do? See, both the musk turtle and mud turtles are bottom walkers. It means they bask little and stay submerged most of the time. There will be a fight if the tank does not have enough space for both the turtles.

The best way to avoid turtle fights is by providing them with large tanks, spacious basking docks, and more than enough food. However, sometimes the tank mates might get involved in a fight instead of having every requirement fulfilled. In that case, you have to separate the turtles immediately.

Even though mud turtles and musk turtles can live together, you can try other species. For example, red eared sliders or painted turtles can be a good companion for the mud turtle or musk turtle.

Get more tricks to house two turtles in a single enclosure without any trouble by clicking here.

Mud Turtle Care For Beginners: Infographic

Want to get a printable version of this infographic? Click here! [If you want to use this infographic on your website, please link back to this post as the source!]

The Final Verdict

Which one is a better pet, between mud turtle and musk turtle? I say both of them are fabulous pets. The choice depends on your preference and priorities. I suggest you go through each point mentioned above and reach a final decision.

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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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