Turtle Growth Rate: How Fast Do Turtles Grow?

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

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The growth rate of turtles is an important factor when choosing a pet turtle, as larger turtles require larger enclosures and can live 40-50 years or more. You may keep a young turtle in a small tank for the time being. But your turtle will eventually grow, and then, it will need a larger habitat. But how fast do turtles grow?

Turtles grow slowly compared to other animals. The average growth rate for turtles is 1 to 2 cm per year. Some species of turtles grow larger than others. Besides the species of turtles, other factors such as good diet, proper care, and the size of the enclosure affect the growth rate.

In this article, you will learn more about how fast turtles grow and what affects their growth. You will also know the growth rate of different species of turtles so that you can build the right size enclosure for them.

Do Turtles Grow Quick?

If you have brought a pet turtle for the first time, one of your concerns must be the growth of your little friend. Your turtle might look tiny now, but it will surely grow.

Turtles can live from 15 years to 80 years. Considering this long period of age, they are supposed to grow quite large. If you consider other reptiles, you can see how fast they grow. But turtles do not grow fast as other reptiles.

Other reptiles like snakes, lizards, alligators, and crocodiles have fast growth rates. For example, snakes have a growth rate of 10 to 20 inches per year until reaching maturity. Alligators and crocodiles grow 12 inches per year.

On the other hand, turtles grow only a few centimeters per year. they remain small to medium size though they live longer than most animals.

But this does not mean you can keep a pet turtle in a small tank for a long time. It grows slowly and requires ample space and water to live comfortably.

What Is The Growth Rate Of A Turtle?

Turtles grow at different rates depending on the species and their age. Generally, turtles grow 1 to 2 cm per year until they reach adulthood. But some species of turtles keep growing throughout their life.

Turtles grow fast when they are young and then slow down when they reach adulthood. They also generally grow faster in a warmer climate than in a cold climate.

Pet turtles can have different growth rates depending on the environment they live in and how often they eat (or don’t eat). So, a turtle might require more food than the other for proper growth and development.

How Long Do Turtles Take To Grow?

If you want to keep a turtle around for a long time, you better build the right size enclosure. You should know the adult size of your turtle species for that. Turtles reach their maximum growth at the age of 5 to 10 years.

Turtles achieve fast growth at 3 to 4 years. After this age, they grow at a slower rate. By the age of 10, most freshwater turtles reach their full size and weight. A pet turtle can reach up to 13 inches if it lives in favorable conditions.

For most turtle species, the female turtles can grow a few centimeters more than the male turtles. They need to be larger to carry the eggs in their plastron.

In the wild, freshwater turtles can reach up to 30 to 35 inches long at the age of 3 to 5. On the other hand, sea turtles reach their sexual maturity in 20 to 30 years. These large turtles can grow 3 to 4 feet on average!

Growth Rate of Different Species of Turtles

Freshwater turtles are allowed as pets. You should know that turtles in captivity may not grow as large as a turtle in the wild. The species of your turtle influences its growth rate. So, you should know about your turtle species to build a habitat.

Here is how fast different turtle species can grow:

How Fast Do Red-Eared Slider Turtles Grow?

When baby red-eared sliders hatch, they have the size of a quarter! These tiny sliders grow fast during their first years. A healthy baby red-eared slider should be 1.1 to 1.6 inches (about 3 to 4 cm) long.

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For the first few years, the red-eared sliders grow 0.20 inches to 0.25 inches per month. With this speeding growth, they reach sexual maturity in two to five years. Then, the male carapace length reaches 3 to 4.5 inches, and the females reach 5 to 6 inches.

Red-eared sliders reach their full size by the age of 8. If you provide sufficient space and environment, a male red-eared slider can grow to be 7 to 10 inches. Female red-eared sliders grow more than the males. They can reach up to 12.5 inches.

Red-eared sliders are easy to maintain as pets. These turtles need a good amount of water to swim freely and land area to bask for healthy growth.

Red Eared Slider Growth Chart

Red-eared Slider AgeAverage Shell Size (inches)
1 year1.1 to 1.6 inches
2 to 4 years3 to 6 inches
8 years7 to 12 inches

How Fast Do Map Turtles Grow?

Map turtles are small species of turtles. They can live from 15 to 100 years depending on the environment. Compared to red-eared sliders, map turtles grow slowly. On average, an adult male turtle has only 4 to 5 inches of shell length. But the females can be 7 to 10 inches, which is twice the size of the males.

Compared to red-eared sliders, map turtles grow slowly. Their carapaces grow 0.75 inches per year. Baby map turtles are about 1.1 inches long when they hatch. They reach 1.6 inches within a year. They become 2.3 inches in their second year.

Male map turtles reach sexual maturity at the age of 5 or 6 years. By then, they are 3 to 3.2 inches. The females are 4.3 inches at that age. Female map turtles reach maturity at 10 years and have a length of 7 to 8 inches.

Map turtles are omnivores, but they prefer lots of plants. So, you should feed your map turtle aquatic plants, algae, fresh fruits and vegetables (spinach, lettuce), and seed pods.

Map Turtle Growth Rate

Map Turtle AgeAverage Male Shell Size (inches)Average Female Shell Size (Inches)
1 year1.6 inches1.7 inches
2 years2.3 inches2.3 inches
4 years3 inches3.7 inches
5 years3.2 inches4.3 inches
7 years3.5 inches5.5 inches
10 years4 inches7 to 10 inches

How Fast Do Painted Turtles Grow?

Painted turtles live up to 20 to 40 years. Young painted turtles are just about the same size as any other baby turtles. But within its first year, it reaches 2 inches. As you can see, painted turtles are one of the fast-growing turtle babies. In their second year, the turtles reach 3 inches in shell length.

However, after the second year, the growth rate slows to 0.5 inches per year. At 5 years old, the turtles are about 3.1 inches. Painted turtles become sexually mature at 8 to 10 years old. On average, the shell length is 4.7 inches when they become mature. Also, the growth rate decreases to 0.1 cm per year.

Throughout their life, painted turtles continue to grow. Male painted turtles reach 7 to 10 inches, and female turtles can have 10 to 11 inches.

Painted Turtle Growth Rate

Painted Turtle AgeAverage Shell Size
1 year2 inches
2 years3 inches
4 years3.2 inches
10 years4.7 inches
20 years6 to 7 inches

How Fast Do Snapping Turtles Grow?

Snapping turtles are another popular pet turtle species. They can live 20 to 50 years in favorable conditions. These turtles are known for their appetites and fast growth rate. From an early age, they eat a lot and grow fast. Juvenile snapping turtles can reach 5 to 6 inches in shell length within the first two years of their life!

After that age, the turtle grows slowly. They grow 1 inch per year until reaching their full size. Adult snapping turtles can have carapace sizes of 8 to 14 inches. But there is a record of snapping turtles having 19.3 inches shell size and a weight of 86 lbs.

Snapping Turtle Age Chart

Snapping Turtle AgeAverage Shell Size
1 year3 inches
2 years5 to 6 inches
15 to 20 years6 to 14 inches

How Fast Do Box Turtles Grow?

Box turtles (Terrapene carolina) are popular for their small size. They live 25 to 50 years in captivity and reach 5 to 7 inches upon adulthood. Female box turtles are slightly smaller than males.

Similar to other freshwater turtles, common box turtles have a rapid growth rate during their first few years. The hatchlings are 1 inch in length. With a growth rate of 1 cm per year, a box turtle’s carapace should be 3 inches at the age of 5 years.

However, the growth rates slow down after that. From the age of 5 to 10 (they reach sexual maturity), the growth rate is just 0.8 cm per year. So, at the age of 10, box turtles have 5 inches to 6 inches shell length. Then, between 10 to 15 years, the box turtles will grow only 0.2 cm per year until they reach their full length.

If you want your box turtles to grow fast, provide them with insects, larvae, earthworms, slugs, mushrooms, and fungi. Pet turtles can also be fed food supplements to help them grow.

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Box Turtle Growth Rate:

Box Turtle AgeAverage Shell Size
1 year1.4 inches
2 years1.8 inches
4 to 5 years3 inches
8 to 10 years5 to 6 inches

How Fast Do Sea Turtles Grow?

Sea turtles are not allowed to be kept as pets. Most sea turtles are endangered turtle species. Leatherback turtles are the largest turtle species. They live up to 50 to 100 years. The average size of leatherback turtles is 3 to 4 feet. Interestingly, they can also get over 6 feet long.

Sea turtles might grow large, but they have a slow growth rate. sea turtle hatchlings are 2 to 3 inches when they emerge from the sand. Leatherback turtles reach sexual maturity at 20 to 30 years old. Their shell size grows to 3 to 4.5 feet long by then. Compared to other turtle species, the size is large. However, considering the time they take to grow is longer than many other turtle species.

Leatherback Turtle Age Chart

Leatherback Turtle Age ChartAverage Shell Size
Hatchling2 to 3 inches
20 to 30 years3 to 4.5 feet

What Factors Affect Turtle Growth Rate?

Many factors affect a turtle’s growth. If the conditions are right, turtles grow to their potential size and weight faster. 

Here are some of the important factors that affect turtle growth: 

Healthy Diet

Turtles need a balanced diet to maintain their ideal growth rate. They can be herbivores, carnivores, and omnivores. An herbivore turtle needs more plants and vegetables to grow. Then, there are carnivore turtles that depend on animals for protein. The omnivores eat animals and plants to grow healthy. 

So, as a turtle owner, you should learn about your turtle’s eating habits to maintain an ideal growth rate. The food habit of turtles can also change according to their age. Young turtles of many species depend on protein-rich food during their growth period. For example, juvenile Green turtles that depended on protein-rich food become herbivores as they mature. 

Protein is an important nutrient for turtles during their early age. It is an essential nutrient for their physical growth. So, you should provide protein-enriched foods like earthworms, fish, and chicken. Keep dark green vegetables and fruits on their food list as well. 

Genetics /Species of Turtle

By now, you have seen that different turtles have different sizes. The growth rate of turtles depends much on their species. For example, one-year-old red-eared sliders have a shell length of 1.1 to 1.6 inches. On the other hand, a one-year-old snapping turtle can be 3 inches in length. 

Moreover, male and female turtles of the same species can have different growth rates. In fact, females can be larger than males in many turtle species. For instance, a fully grown male map turtle can be only 4 to 5 inches, whereas the females can reach 7 to 10 inches!

Turtles of the same gender and same species can also grow at a different rate even if they have the same food and live in the same environment. So, genetics play a key role in the growth rate of turtles. 

Growth of Turtles with Age

The growth rate of all turtle species slows down with their age. Most turtles grow fast during their early life. As the turtles get bigger with age, they need energy for other activities like reproduction and hibernation. 

Instead of using the energy to grow larger, the turtles use it to keep themselves healthy to survive and fight against predators. This is why adult turtles have a slow growth rate than young turtles. 

Temperature

Turtles living in warmer climates have a better growth rate. Turtles that live in low temperatures have to hibernate during winter. During hibernation, turtles stop eating. As a result, they do not grow. 

On the other hand, turtles living in warmer climates do not hibernate as they have plenty of food available. So, they have a fast growth rate.

Therefore, keep your pet turtle’s enclosure warm for uninterrupted growth. The temperature should be between 75 to 85 degrees F depending on the turtle species. 

Other Environmental Conditions That Affect Turtle Growth Rate

A turtle’s growth depends heavily on its environment. We can see how different pet turtles are from wild turtles. 

Here are some of the environmental factors that affect turtle growth rate:

Sunlight

Turtles need a sufficient amount of sunlight to grow healthy. They get the UVB light from the sunlight and use it for producing vitamin D. Vitamin D is necessary to absorb calcium, an important nutrient that affects the growth of turtle shells and bones. Besides, calcium is crucial for the reproduction of turtles. 

Therefore, pet turtles kept inside need a basking lamp and basking area. The basking light should provide the right amount of UVB and UVA light. 

Amount of Water and Water Condition

Turtles can be aquatic or semi-aquatic, which means they need water to survive. The living area of the turtles should have an adequate amount of water for the turtles to swim freely. Also, the water should be fresh and clean with the right amount of pH level. Otherwise, turtles can get sick. Sickness and injury can hamper the growth rate of a turtle. 

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You should have the right amount of water for your pet turtle. A general rule is to provide 10 to 15 gallons of water for every inch of the turtle. The water tub should be deep and wide for the turtles to swim around. 

Space

In the wild, turtles can explore a large area and swim in deep water. The freedom to move around prompts the physical growth of the turtles. On the contrary, turtles living in congested or limited spaces cannot move freely. The lack of movement slows down their growth and causes many health problems. 

Do Turtles Grow According To Tank Size?

There is a myth that turtles grow according to their tank size. It is not exactly right. The size of the tank cannot decide the size of your turtle. However, keeping turtles in a small tank can hamper their natural growth rate. 

As mentioned above, turtles need space to move around in the tank. If there is limited space and the water is not deep enough for swimming, a turtle feels stressed. Besides, it cannot move its limbs properly. Mental and physical distress is bad for a turtle’s growth. 

Although a tank size cannot control the size of a turtle, it can affect the growth rate of a turtle. So, your turtle should be kept in a tank having the right size. 

Why Is My Turtle Still Small?

You may have your turtle for some time now and have noticed it is not growing as it should. Check the ideal size for your turtle species and compare it with your turtle’s size. 

Your turtle may not grow to its potential length for many reasons. Here are some reasons you should know about:

  • Lack of Nutrients: Turtles that suffer from malnutrition stay small. Some turtles are more active than others. They can use more energy. So, they need more nutrients to grow. 
  • Issues with Basking Area: Your turtle is probably not getting the right amount of light and heat. UBA and UVB light is essential for a turtle’s growth. Without UVB, turtles cannot absorb calcium which helps in shell and bone growth. 
  • Temperature Problem: Check the temperature of your turtle’s tank. Turtles may not grow if the temperature is not similar to their natural habitat. 
  • Sickness: Your turtle might be sick, which is causing the slow growth rate. If you find any sign of illness, take it to the vet
  • Insufficient Space: Turtles living in a small space may not grow to their ideal size. They feel stressed and suffocated, which hamper their physical growth. 
  • The Species of Your Turtle: Some turtle species, like the spotted turtle, musk turtle, mud turtle, and box turtle reach only 3 to 4 inches as adults. Your turtle might belong to one of these species. Then it is natural for it to stay small. 

How Can I Make My Turtle Grow Faster?

You can help your turtle grow faster to its ideal size by providing the right conditions. Turtles are easy to care for. But they need favorable conditions to grow healthy. 

Here is how you can make your turtle grow faster:

  • Record the Size of Your Turtle: You should measure your turtle’s size and weight. Write it down to keep track of your turtle’s growth. 
  • Get the Right Tank Size: Learn how large your turtle can get and buy a tank appropriate for that size. You may keep your turtle in a small tank when it is young. Eventually, you will need a bigger tank. So, it is better to buy a large tank instead of going through the hassle of transferring the turtle to a new tank. 
  • Provide Sufficient Amount of Water: The water area of the tank should be deep enough for your turtle to swim comfortably. The tank should have 10 to 15 gallons of water for every one inch of a turtle. If your turtle is 4 inches in shell length, you should put about 50 gallons of water in the tank. 
  • Feed Nutritious Food Timely: Do some research on the food preference of your turtle. Make a balanced diet plan for your turtle containing protein, calcium, and other nutrients. You should feed your turtle timely. Juvenile turtles require feeding every day, while adult turtles can be fed 4 to 5 days a week. 
  • Add Supplements: You can add supplements to your turtle’s diet. There are calcium supplements that can help your turtle’s growth. 
  • Look for Signs of Illness: Your turtle should be healthy to grow fast. Any kind of sickness can hamper its growth rate. You should do a health check on your turtle from time to time. It may get respiratory infections, shell infections, or parasite problems. Check for injuries as well. If you find your turtle in distress, take it to the vet. 

If you follow these tips, you will surely find your turtle growing at a faster rate. Remember not to overdo any step. Avoid over-feeding your turtle. Like humans, turtles can also get fat, which is not good for them. 

Conclusion 

Turtles have a slow growth rate compared to other animals. Nonetheless, their growth is quite surprising. These little reptiles are just an inch long when they are born. But many turtle species can grow nearly a foot by adulthood. 

So, it is important to know the growth rate and potential size of your pet turtle to build the right size enclosure for them. Hopefully, this article has helped you to know about your turtle’s growth rate and the factors that affect it. 

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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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