• Aquarium: A glass or acrylic tank filled with water in which aquatic turtles live.
  • Aquatic Plants: Live plants placed in the turtle’s habitat that can provide food and help maintain water quality.
  • Aquatic Turtle: A turtle that spends the majority of its life in the water.
  • Amazon Swords: A type of freshwater aquatic plant often used in turtle tanks because it can tolerate the conditions and provides cover for turtles.
  • Anal Scutes: Plates on the rear part of a turtle’s plastron, with the shape differing between males and females, often wider in females.
  • Annuli: Growth rings on the scutes of tortoises, similar to rings in a tree, indicating age although not always accurate due to varying growth rates.
  • Anterior: The front, or head-end, of the turtle where the head protrudes from the shell.
  • Antibiotic: Medication used to treat bacterial infections, sometimes required for turtle health issues such as respiratory or shell infections.
  • Air Temperature (AT): The temperature of the surrounding air, which can affect a turtle’s behavior and physiology.


  • Basking Area: A warm, dry spot in the turtle habitat where the turtle can rest, typically equipped with a heat lamp.
  • Basking Lamp: A lamp that provides heat and possibly UVB light to simulate the sun’s warmth, aiding in the turtle’s thermoregulation.
  • Brackish Water: Water that has more salinity than freshwater but not as much as seawater, suitable for certain types of aquatic turtles.
  • Beak: The hard, pointed mouthpart of turtles, used for eating; it is sharp in carnivorous species and more blunt in herbivores.
  • Bridges: The parts of the shell that connect the top (carapace) and bottom (plastron), found on the sides of the turtle.
  • Breeder: An individual who mates turtles to produce offspring, often with the intent of studying genetics or supplying the pet trade.
  • Breeding: The process of reproduction in turtles, involving courtship, mating, and egg-laying.
  • Body Mass (BM): The weight of a turtle, often used as an indicator of health and maturity.
  • Body Temperature (BT): The internal temperature of a turtle, which can vary with external conditions due to their ectothermic nature.


  • Calcium Powder: A supplement used to dust turtle food to ensure proper shell and bone development.
  • Carnivorous: Describes turtles that eat primarily meat, such as fish or insects.
  • Co-habitation: Keeping more than one turtle in the same habitat.
  • Commercial Food: Specially formulated pellets or sticks for turtles that provide a balanced diet.
  • Carapace: The upper, dome-shaped part of a turtle’s shell, consisting of fused bones covered by scutes.
  • Caudal: Refers to the tail end of the turtle, where the tail protrudes from the shell.
  • Chelonian: A scientific term encompassing all turtles, tortoises, and terrapins.
  • CITES: Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, important for regulating the sale and trade of endangered turtles to ensure their conservation.
  • Cloaca: The single opening for the intestinal, urinary, and genital tracts in turtles, used for excretion and reproduction.
  • Clutch: A group of eggs laid by a female turtle at one time, which can range from a few to several dozen depending on the species.
  • Curved Carapace Length (CCL): The measurement of a turtle’s shell from the neck to the tail along the curve of the shell.


  • Detritus: Waste or debris of any kind. In a turtle tank, it refers to the organic matter produced by the turtle and uneaten food that can deteriorate water quality.
  • Diurnal: Active during daylight hours, which applies to many turtle species that bask and feed during the day.


  • Ecosystem: A biological community of interacting organisms and their environment, which for turtles can include aquatic, terrestrial, and marine systems.
  • Ectothermic: Another term for cold-blooded, referring to how turtles, like other reptiles, regulate their body temperature externally.
  • Endangered species: A species that is at risk of extinction, which includes many turtle species due to habitat loss, poaching, and other factors.
  • Estivate: A state of dormancy in turtles during high temperatures to avoid overheating and dehydration, similar to hibernation in cold weather.
  • Extinction: The dying out of a species, a permanent loss with significant ecological impact; several turtle species are facing this threat.
  • Environmental/Ambient Temperature (ET): The temperature of the turtle’s surroundings, influencing its thermoregulation.


  • Full Spectrum Lighting: Artificial lighting that simulates natural sunlight, providing both UVA and UVB rays which are essential for turtle health.
  • Filter: A device used to clean the water in a turtle’s aquarium by removing waste products and ensuring the water is suitable for the turtle’s health.
  • Full spectrum light: Lighting that provides both UVA and UVB rays, essential for turtle health, aiding in vitamin D3 synthesis and proper shell growth.


  • Gestation: The period between conception and birth in turtles; however, since turtles lay eggs, this term is less commonly used than “incubation.”
  • Gravid: Pregnant; carrying eggs. A female turtle that has developed eggs is gravid until she lays them.
  • Gular: The projection from the plastron under the head of some turtles, part of the gular scute, which can play a role in protection and mate attraction.
  • Genetic Sex Determination (GSD): The mechanism where sex is determined by chromosomes at the time of fertilization.


  • Heat Lamp: A lamp designed to provide heat to the turtle’s basking area but does not necessarily emit UVB light.
  • Hiding Places: Structures or areas within the habitat where turtles can hide for security and stress relief.
  • Habitat: The natural environment of a turtle, which can be freshwater, marine, or terrestrial.
  • Hatchling: A newly emerged turtle from an egg, usually very small and vulnerable, requiring special conditions to survive.
  • Herbivore: A turtle that eats primarily plants; some species change their diet as they age from carnivorous juveniles to herbivorous adults.
  • Herpetoculture: The breeding and keeping of reptiles and amphibians as a hobby, which includes the care of turtles in home environments.
  • Herpetologist: A scientist who studies reptiles and amphibians, including turtles, often involved in conservation and research efforts.
  • Hibernation: The state of reduced metabolism turtles enter in cold weather, allowing them to survive winter conditions.
  • Hybrid: The offspring resulting from the breeding of two different species or subspecies of turtles, often with mixed characteristics.
  • Hydration: The absorption of water, essential for turtle health; dehydration can be a significant health issue for captive turtles.


  • Infrared Lamp: A lamp that emits infrared heat, used to provide warmth to turtles, especially during the night or in colder environments.
  • Incubation: The period of development for turtle eggs, either in a nest or in an incubator, which requires precise temperature and humidity to produce healthy hatchlings.
  • Insectivore: A turtle that primarily eats insects, which is common in many young turtles and some adult species.
  • Incubation Period (IP): The time span from when a turtle egg is laid until it hatches.
  • Incubation Temperature (IT): The temperature at which turtle eggs are maintained during the incubation period, critical for proper development.


Jaw: The part of a turtle’s mouth that contains the beak and is used for grasping and chewing food.


Keel: A raised ridge on the carapace of some turtle species, which can help with stability in water or camouflage.

Keratin: The protein that makes up the scutes of the turtle’s shell, as well as human hair and nails.


  • Land Area: A dry section in the turtle habitat where terrestrial or semi-aquatic turtles can spend time out of the water.
  • Lighting Cycle: The cycle of light and dark in the turtle habitat that simulates natural day and night periods.
  • Lek: A communal area where males gather to display and attract females, more common in birds and not applicable to turtles.
  • Long Term Captive (LTC): A turtle that has been kept in captivity for an extended period, affecting its behavior and potentially its physiology.


  • Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD): A condition caused by insufficient calcium, phosphorus, or Vitamin D3, leading to weakened bones and shell.
  • Melanism: A genetic trait causing increased black pigmentation, which can occur in some turtle populations, leading to darker individuals.
  • Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA): The DNA found in mitochondria, inherited only from the mother, used for studies of maternal lineage and genetic diversity.


  • Nesting: The process by which a female turtle lays her eggs, involving selecting a site, digging a hole, and covering the eggs after deposition.
  • Nocturnal: Active during nighttime hours; applies to turtle species that are primarily active at night to feed or mate.
  • Nuclear DNA (nDNA): The DNA contained within the nucleus of a cell, representing the majority of the organism’s genetic material and inherited from both parents.


  • Omnivore: A turtle that has a diet composed of both plant and animal matter.
  • Oviparous: Egg-laying; a reproductive method where the female turtle deposits eggs that hatch outside of the body.


  • Paludarium: A type of habitat that combines both terrestrial and aquatic elements, suitable for semi-aquatic turtles.
  • pH Level: The measure of acidity or alkalinity of the water in the turtle’s tank.
  • Protein Skimmer: A device used in water filtration for marine aquaria that removes organic compounds before they decompose into nitrogenous waste.
  • Periscoping: When a turtle stretches its neck and head vertically out of the water to look around, often while remaining submerged.
  • Plastron: The flat part of the turtle’s shell that covers the underside, offering protection to the belly and containing scutes that can identify sex in some species.
  • Prolapse: A health condition where an internal organ (like the cloaca or intestine) protrudes outside the body, which can be serious and require veterinary care.
  • Prophylactic: Preventative measures or treatments to protect turtles from diseases, such as regular health check-ups and clean habitats.
  • Protozoa: Single-celled organisms that can cause diseases in turtles, such as flagellates found in dirty water conditions.


Quarantine: Isolating a new or sick turtle to prevent the spread of disease to other animals.


  • Reptile Carpet: A substrate option for turtle habitats that is easy to clean and replace.
  • Rostrum: The beak-like structure at the front of a turtle’s head, often used to describe the mouth area.
  • Rasping: The act of scraping food, which turtles do with their beaks when eating, especially useful for tearing apart plant material or flesh.
  • Reptile: The class of animals that turtles belong to, characterized by scaly skin, ectothermy, and typically laying eggs.


  • Semi-aquatic Turtle: A turtle that lives both on land and in water.
  • Spectrometer: A tool that measures the spectrum of light, sometimes used by advanced keepers to ensure proper lighting conditions.
  • Scute: The individual plates that make up the shells of turtles, made of keratin, and sometimes showing growth rings called annuli.
  • Sea turtle: A group of turtles adapted to life in the ocean, known for their long migrations and, in some species, mass nestings called arribadas.
  • Semi-terrestrial: Turtles that spend a considerable amount of time on land but also require access to water for various activities.
  • Shell: The hard, bony external covering of turtles, providing protection and support, consisting of the carapace on top and plastron on the bottom.
  • Substrate: The material that lines the bottom of a turtle’s habitat, which can range from sand and gravel to commercial bedding products.
  • Suture: The lines where the bony plates of the shell (under the scutes) come together, which can be seen on the carapace and plastron.
  • Straight-line Carapace Length (SCL): The measurement of a turtle’s shell from the neck to the tail along a straight line, ignoring the curvature.


  • Thermoregulation: The process by which turtles regulate their body temperature through behaviors such as basking.
  • Turtle Dock: A floating platform where aquatic turtles can rest and bask.
  • Turtle Ramp: An incline that provides turtles with easy access to their basking area.
  • TED: Turtle Excluder Device; used in fishing nets to allow captured sea turtles to escape and thus reduce bycatch mortality.
  • Terrapin: A term used for certain species of small, semi-aquatic turtles that live in fresh or brackish water.
  • Terrarium: An enclosure for keeping terrestrial reptiles, which may have plants and other features to simulate a natural environment.
  • Terrestrial: Land-dwelling, as opposed to aquatic or semi-aquatic; some turtles, like tortoises, are fully terrestrial.
  • Tortoise: Land-dwelling chelonians with high-domed shells and elephantine legs, adapted for a life spent primarily on land.
  • Turtle: Cold-blooded reptiles with bony shells for protection, living both in water and on land.
  • Temperature-Dependant Sex Determination (TSD): A process in some turtles where the sex is determined by the incubation temperature of the eggs.


  • Ultraviolet Light (UV): A type of light necessary for most turtles’ health, aiding in the synthesis of vitamin D3.
  • UVA Light: Part of the UV light spectrum that stimulates appetite, activity, and reproductive behavior in turtles.
  • Underwatering: Providing insufficient water for aquatic turtles, potentially leading to dehydration and other health issues.
  • UVB light: Part of UV light crucial for turtles to synthesize vitamin D3, helping in calcium absorption and overall health.


  • Vitamin Supplement: Additional vitamins provided to turtles to ensure a balanced diet and prevent deficiencies.
  • Vent: An opening for waste elimination in turtles, also known as the cloaca.
  • Vermiculite: A mineral used in incubating turtle eggs by maintaining a humid environment.
  • Veterinarian: A medical professional specialized in animal health who can provide care and treatment to turtles.
  • Vitamin A deficiency: A common health issue in turtles leading to eye problems, skin disorders, and respiratory issues.
  • Vitamin D3: A vitamin produced by turtles when exposed to UVB light, essential for calcium metabolism.
  • Vitamin K deficiency: A rare nutritional deficiency in turtles that can cause bleeding disorders.
  • Vivarium: An enclosed area like an aquarium or terrarium designed to provide a controlled environment for turtles to live.


  • Water Conditioner: A chemical used to treat tap water to make it safe for turtles by removing chlorine, chloramines, and heavy metals.
  • Water Heater: A device used to maintain a consistent water temperature in the turtle’s habitat
  • Waste: The excrement or refuse produced by turtles, which needs to be regularly cleaned from their habitat.
  • Water conditions: The quality parameters of water, such as temperature, pH, and cleanliness, crucial for the health of aquatic turtles.
  • Water hyacinth: An aquatic plant that can provide food and habitat for turtles, but may also be invasive in some ecosystems.
  • Water lettuce: A floating aquatic plant often used in turtle tanks to provide shelter and aid in water filtration.


  • Xeric: An environment with very little moisture; xeric conditions are typically unsuitable for most turtle species.


  • Yearling: A turtle that is approximately one year old, no longer a hatchling but not yet fully mature.
  • Yolk sac: A nutrient-rich sac that provides food to a developing embryo, which can still be attached to a hatchling turtle after birth.


  • Zoonotic: Diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans; some turtle species can carry zoonotic pathogens like Salmonella.