17 Types of Pet Turtles: Best Turtles to Have as Pets

Types of Pet Turtles

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

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In this article, I am going to talk about the types of pet turtles that you can own easily. All these turtles are ideal for having as pets, only if you are committed enough to take care of them. So, if you are interested to know about the best turtles to have as pets, read the article till the end.

Though there are hundreds of types of turtles in nature, not all of them are ideal for having as pets. However, the number of turtles that can be kept as a pet is not low either. There is a huge list of turtles that can be kept as a pet. With such a huge list, a beginner can easily get confused on what species of turtle to go for. That’s why in this article, I am going to list out my favorite types of pet turtles along with their personalities, preferable environments, and ideal habitat.

Best Types of Pet Turtles:

Here is a list of my 17 favorite types of turtles to have as pets:

1. Red Eared Slider:

Common NameRed eared slider, slider, water slider
Scientific NameTrachemys Scripta elegans
Lifespan20 to 40 years
Size6 to 12 inches
Water Temperature75 to 80 Fahrenheit (23 to 26 degrees Celsius)
Basking Place TemperatureAround 10 degrees higher than water temperature
FoodCommercial food, insects, krill, worms, live fish, vegetables, etc.

The Red-eared slider got its name from its famous patch of red color behind each eye. It is one of the most common types of pet turtles available in the USA. They are generally available in all over the world. However, you can mostly find them in the Gulf of Mexico to Texas.

Red-eared sliders are a strong swimmer. They love slow-moving waters such as ponds, marshes etc. If you want a pet turtle that can live as much long as a human, red-eared slider can be a smart choice as they can live for up to 50 to 70 years.

Size and Appearance:  

Red-eared sliders can grow up to a pretty big size. Adult red ear sliders can be about 12 inches in diameter. The overall body color of this turtle is greenish with a bright red patch behind each eye. Red-eared sliders are aquatic turtles. So, they must need an aquarium with water.

Preferable Habitat:

The preferable aquarium size for a red eared slider is at least 30 to 50 gallons. Measure your turtle’s body length and multiply it by 2. This should be the required area of water in the aquarium. Turtles are generally very dirty animal. So, the aquarium must have a very efficient filtration system. The ideal temperature for red-eared sliders is 75 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit. There must be a basking area for the turtle in the aquarium. The basking area should have a temperature about 88 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit.


You can provide red-eared sliders with a commercial food. However, the diet shouldn’t only consist of commercial foods. You should add green vegetables and fresh fruits with it. This ensures that your red ear slider is getting a balanced nutrition.


According to the Nature Mapping Foundation, the red-eared sliders start to get inactive from October. Sometimes they may hibernate under water. Generally, red-eared sliders start to hibernate if the temperature gets below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Painted Turtle:

Common NamePainted turtle, skilpot
Scientific NameChrysemys picta
LifespanAround 30 years
SizeAround 8 inches
Water Temperature75 to 85 Fahrenheit (23 to 29 degrees Celsius)
Basking Place TemperatureAround 10 degrees higher than water temperature
FoodCommercial food, insects, krill, worms, live fish, vegetables, etc.

It is one of the most widespread turtle species in North America. They are also available in Northern Mexico to Southern Canada. The painted turtle gets its name from its appearance. It looks as though an artist has painted on it.

Size and Appearance:

When adult, the painted turtle can get about 10 inches in length. They generally live for 25 years. If you look at a painted turtle, you may think an artist has painted on it. They have bright colorful yellow, green and red colors.

Painted turtles are generally found in marshes, ponds and other water’s edges. They are an aquatic turtle, so they love to swim in the water. However, they bask in the sun too.

Ideal Habitat:

Painted turtles do not need as large environment as red-eared sliders. As they are aquatic turtles, they spend most of the time swimming in the water. However, you do need to provide a good basking place. the ideal temperature range for them is about 60 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Painted turtles must have access to full spectrum lighting for at least 10 to 12 hours a day.


You can feed them any well-known turtle commercial food. It is better to add feeder fish and diced up chickens in their diet for added protein. You should also supplement green vegetables to the diet for providing a balanced nutrition.


Like red-eared sliders, painted turtles start to get inactive in around October. They generally go into hibernation if the temperature falls below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

3. Box Turtles:

Common NameBox turtle
Scientific NameTerrapene
Lifespan40 to 80 (can be even 100) years
SizeAround 7 inches
Temperature75 to 85 Fahrenheit (23 to 29 degrees Celsius)
FoodCommercial food, insects, krill, worms, live fish, vegetables, etc.

A box turtle has a unique appearance than most other aquatic turtles. Their feet are not completely webbed like other aquatic turtles. They also have a shell shaped like a high dome.

These turtles are called box turtles because, unlike most other turtles, they can completely hide inside their shell, much like a box. Box turtles have a hinged belly which can close very tightly. Even an ant can’t get inside the box turtle if it closes up. It is thought that box turtles evolved this ability in order to protect themselves from other predators in nature. One of the most common species of box turtles in the USA is Eastern Box Turtle.

For keeping a pet box turtle, you should only get one that has been bred and raised in captivity. With proper care, a box turtle can be a lifetime pet for you.

Size and Appearance:

When fully grown box turtles can get up to 6 inches in length. According to Missouri Department of Conservation, box turtles can live up to 80 years. Box turtles do not have fully webbed feet. They have a high domed shell which is not common in most other turtle species.

Ideal Habitat:

Unlike most other turtles, box turtles are mainly land-dwelling. They don’t need an aquatic environment to grow. However, you do need to provide them a small pool for wadding. You can set up a box turtle habitat either in indoor or outdoor.

I prefer outdoor setups to indoor setups because outdoor setups can be way larger than indoor ones. However, if you live in a place where the temperature gets very rough, it is not recommended to go for an outdoor setup. You can either set up the habitat in a glass aquarium or in a plastic tub.

Box turtles prefer a temperature that is greater than 60 degrees Fahrenheit. If it gets really cold at night, you should place a dome or heated stone inside to provide warmth. You can place sand, potting soil, leaf and some sphagnum moss on the floor of the cage. To keep a constant humidity level, spray water on the substrate every day. It is extremely important to keep a humid environment inside the cage because box turtles can suffer from respiratory problems and dry eyes if the environment is dry.

You should also place some turtle hideouts in the cage and something for it to burrow.


Box turtles defecate in their water. So, you need to provide fresh and clean water every day. As box turtles are omnivorous, they enjoy a variety of diet. You can make up their daily diets with vegetables, insects, worms as well as fresh fruits. You should keep the food in a separate bowl to keep the cage clean. However, to stimulate natural environment, you can put the food on a flat rock.


Box turtle burrow into the substrate to hibernate in the wild. However, in captivity, they may skip hibernation if they receive 13 to 14 hours of light each day. If you observe that your pet box turtle is burrowing inside the substrate for hibernation, keep the habitat in a place where the temperature is between 45 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. They may hibernate until Spring.

4. Mississippi Map Turtles

Common NameMississippi map turtle
Scientific NameGraptemys pseudogeographica kohni
LifespanAround 50 years
SizeAround 4 to 10 inches
Water Temperature75 to 80 Fahrenheit (23 to 26 degrees Celsius)
Basking Place TemperatureAround 10 degrees higher than water temperature
FoodCommercial food, insects, krill, worms, live fish, vegetables, etc.

The Mississippi map turtle got its name because of the map-like paintings on its shell. It is found in the Mississippi valley, that’s why it is called Mississippi map turtles. They are mostly found in rivers, streams, and lakes. Unlike most other aquatic turtles, Mississippi map turtles like to be in moving water rather than ponds.

Map turtles prefer large water body with current such as rivers. They are not very demanding as pets but needs excellent water quality.

Appearance and Size:

Mississippi turtles are also known as “Sawback” turtles as they have a saw-like structure on the top of their shell. They have map-like markings on their shell, thus they got the name “Map Turtles”. Mississippi map turtles are considered to be a medium-sized turtle at the adult stage. Females get larger than males and are more dominant. Females can get about 6 to 10 inches in length when they are adult. On the contrary, males get only about 3.5 to 5 inches in length.

If kept properly, a Mississippi map turtle can live up to 30 years in captivity.

Ideal Habitat:

Mississippi map turtles are one of the most elegant species of pet turtles. However, they require a little bit more attention than other aquatic turtles as they are very skittish and can get nervous easily.

The most important thing for keeping Mississippi map turtles is pristine water. They also need a considerably large enclosure. They also prefer a flowing water body. I recommend Mississippi map turtles only to experienced turtle keepers. You should always get one from a trusted breeder.


As Mississippi map turtles are aquatic, they do almost everything while swimming, even eating. Even, they only eat in water. Map turtles are omnivorous, so they eat a mix of vegetables and protein. However, feeding them too much protein can result in unnatural growth.

You can feed them a reliable commercial turtle food daily. However, the diet should also consist of green leafy vegetables. Their favorite vegetables are spinach, dandelion leaves, lettuce, and parsley. Fruits are a great treat for Mississippi map turtles.


Mississippi map turtles tend to go into hibernation if the temperature drops below 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

5. Wood Turtle:

Common NameOld Red Leg, Wood Turtle
Scientific NameGlyptemys insculpta
LifespanUp to 50 years
SizeAround 8 inches
Water Temperature75 to 80 Fahrenheit (23 to 26 degrees Celsius)
Basking Place TemperatureAround 10 degrees higher than water temperature
Commercial food, insects, krill, worms, live fish, vegetables, etc.

The wood turtle got its name because of its sculpted shell which has brown and tan shades. The legs appear in yellow and red color. They are mostly found in Mexico and Costa Rica. There are four main subspecies of word turtles, however, the ornate wood turtle is the most common one as a pet.

Appearance and Size:

Wood turtles can get up to 9 inches in diameter. Males tend to be larger in size than females. Wood turtles have a distinctive brown and tan shades on their shell. Their shell also has a sculpted structure. The legs mainly appear in yellow and red color.

Ideal Habitat:

You can keep wood turtle both in an indoor enclosure as well as outdoor enclosure. The minimum length of the indoor enclosure should be 84 inches. You should place a thick substrate on the floor so that the turtle can burrow if it wishes. Also, place a tub full of water. It is a good idea to mix the substrate with cypress mulch. It is also recommended to add some plants in the enclosure for a more natural environment. You should also put some large river rocks in the cage for the turtle to lounge.

The outdoor enclosure should have similar features to the indoor enclosure, however, it needs ample shade in one part of the enclosure.  Always make sure that the water tub is not too deep as wood turtles may get drowned.


Wood turtles prefer meat-rich diet. It is a good idea to feed them cat food. However, also provide them green leafy vegetables 2 to 3 days a week. You can also add some fruits to the diet such as bananas, strawberries etc.


Wood turtles may get into hibernation during the winter season.

6. African Aquatic Sideneck Turtle:

Common NameAfrican sideneck turtle, African mud turtle, African aquatic sideneck turtle
Scientific NamePelusios castaneus
LifespanAround 50 years
SizeAround 10 to 11 inches
Water Temperature80 to 85 Fahrenheit (26 to 29 degrees Celsius)
Basking Place TemperatureAround 10 degrees higher than water temperature
FoodCommercial food, insects, krill, worms, live fish, vegetables, etc.

African Aquatic Sideneck Turtles have originally come from the southern and eastern Africa. They are getting more famous as pets as these turtles tend to be more active during the daytime. Moreover, Sideneck turtles are easily available as they are not an endangered species.

Here is an interesting fact about Sideneck turtles. Unlike most other turtles, they can’t fully hide their heads inside the shell. Instead of that, they take their heads to the side and fold them below the shell. That’s why they are called Sideneck turtles.

Size and Appearance:

African Aquatic Sideneck turtles can grow from 8 to 18 inches long when they are fully adult. With proper care, a Sideneck turtle can live up to 25 years.

African aquatic Sideneck turtles are generally dark in color. Their belly has a darkish grey color with underdeveloped yellow regions. The head has either a brown or olive oil color with dark markings. The feet are not completely webbed. They have sharp claws too.

Many turtle owners regard African aquatic Sideneck turtle as a cute pet. It is because their mouth always resembles a smiling face.

Ideal Habitat:

You can keep an African aquatic Sideneck turtle either inside or outside. A Sideneck turtle habitat must have a considerable large tank, a basking area, proper lighting setup, heating and lastly balanced food. You can either use an aquarium glass tank or plastic tub. A single African Sideneck turtle will do well in a 40-gallon tank.

Keep the water level at least 1.5 times the length of the Sideneck turtle. I prefer a depth of 6 to 8 inches of water. Always keep a dry basking area for the turtle where it can dry off completely. It is extremely important for the healthy growth of aquatic turtles. For keeping the water crystal clear, get a large powerful filtration system.


African aquatic Sideneck turtles are omnivorous. Always feed your Sideneck turtle a variety of diet, no matter how your turtle loves a single a type of food. Giving varieties of food will ensure that your turtle doesn’t form a fixation.

Young Sideneck turtle’s diet should mainly consist of protein such as insects and worms. As they get older, add more green leafy vegetables to the diet. You can give your Sideneck turtle a reliable commercial food daily. However, mix other items with it such as fish, cooked chicken, beef heart, snails, dandelions, collard greens etc.


Unlike most other aquatic turtle species, African aquatic Sideneck turtles do not hibernate on a seasonal basis. So, you should only keep them in an outside habitat if the temperature is favorable.

7. Caspian Pond Turtle:

Common NameCaspian pond turtle
Scientific NameMauremys rivulata
Lifespan25 to 80 years
SizeAround 7 inches
Water Temperature75 to 80 Fahrenheit (23 to 26 degrees Celsius)
Basking Place TemperatureAround 10 degrees higher than water temperature
FoodCommercial food, insects, krill, worms, live fish, vegetables, etc.

Originating from the Middle East, a Caspian pond turtle is easily recognized by its olive or tan color with cream or yellow color markings on the top. The markings also appear on the head, legs, and shell. One interesting fact about the Caspian pond turtles is, they can recognize their owner with time.

Size and Appearance:

Caspian pond turtles can get about 7 to 10 inches in length when they are fully adult. With proper care, a Caspian pond turtle can live for up to 40 years.

These turtles have a smooth oval shaped shell with olive oil or tan color. There are also distinguishable yellow or cream markings all over the shell, head, and legs.

Ideal Habitat:

A Caspian pond turtle needs at least a 75-gallon tank. It is better to keep them in a plastic tub or outdoor pond rather than in a glass aquarium. For each extra turtle, you need to have at least 40-gallon extra space in the tank. These turtles don’t need any substrate. A bare bottom tank is fine. However, the habitat must include a basing area where the turtle can completely dry itself off.

It is also very important to keep a powerful large filter for keeping a pristine water quality.


The young Caspian pond turtles are carnivorous. However, with more age, they start to become omnivorous. You can provide them a reliable commercial food daily with some green leafy vegetables, insects, worms as well as chopped fishes.


Caspian pond turtles generally hibernate during the winter.

8. Reeve’s Turtle:

Common NameReeve’s Turtle, Chinese Three-keeled Pond Turtle, Chinese Pond Turtle
Scientific NameMauremys reevesii
LifespanAround 20 years
SizeAround 9 inches
Water Temperature75 to 80 Fahrenheit (23 to 26 degrees Celsius)
Basking Place TemperatureAround 10 degrees higher than water temperature
FoodCommercial food, insects, krill, worms, live fish, vegetables, etc.

Reeve’s turtle is a popular species of pet turtle that is widely imported to the USA mainly from Japan and China. This turtle can get about 6 inches in diameter and they can live for up to 20 to 25 years. Unlike most other aquatic turtles, Reeve’s turtle likes to get stroked and handled, so it can be a great choice as a first pet turtle. They are also known as Chinese Pond Turtle.

Size and Appearance:

When fully adult, Reeve’s turtle can get to about 6 inches in diameter. There are three distinguishable keeps from the front to back. The shell has a color range from black to tan. There are also incomplete yellow lines on the heads and necks of these turtles.

Ideal Habitat:

Reeve’s turtle is not the best swimmers, so they need a habitat with shallow water depth. It is safe to provide a water level three times the length of the turtle. the habitat must include a basking area where the turtle can complete dry itself off. There should also be a UVB light and heating light in the habitat. It is better to provide some hiding places in the tank so the turtle can feel safe.

A single baby reeve’s turtle will need at least a 15-gallon tank with 5 gallons of water volume. The larger tank you can get, the better.


Reeve’s turtles are omnivorous, so they happily accept both meat and vegetables. You can provide them a good commercial turtle food daily. However, you do need to add some green leafy vegetables for extra minerals and vitamin. Worms, insects, fishes, chopped chicken etc. can be offered with the vegetables as a good protein source.


Reeve’s turtle has a similar hibernation pattern to the red-eared sliders.

9. Cooter Turtle:

Common NameCooter turtle
Scientific NamePseudemys concinna
LifespanAround 35 years
SizeAround 10 inches
Water Temperature75 to 80 Fahrenheit (23 to 26 degrees Celsius)
Basking Place TemperatureAround 10 degrees higher than water temperature
FoodCommercial food, insects, krill, worms, live fish, vegetables, etc.

Cooter turtles are hard-shelled aquatic turtles mainly found in the eastern and southern USA. There are mainly three subspecies of Cooter turtles: Pond Cooter Turtle, River Cooter Turtle, and Red-bellied Cooter Turtle.

You can either keep a Cooter turtle in an aquarium or in an outside pond. The water must be kept clean. Cooter turtles can get very large, some females can get up to 16 inches in length. Like other aquatic turtles, Cooter turtles need a place for basking as well as proper lighting in an indoor setup.

They are omnivorous. So, you can feed them a mix of meat and vegetables with of course a reliable commercial food.

10. Razor-backed Musk Turtle:

Common NameRazor-backed musk turtle
Scientific NameSternotherus carinatus
LifespanAround 20 years
SizeAround 6 inches
Water Temperature75 to 85 Fahrenheit (23 to 29 degrees Celsius)
Basking Place TemperatureAround 10 degrees higher than water temperature
FoodCommercial food, insects, krill, worms, live fish, vegetables, etc.

Razor-backed musk turtle is the largest type of musk turtle. They are completely aquatic. however, they may come out some time out of the water to bask.

These turtles have a large head along with a comparatively long neck. You can easily identify a razor-backed musk turtle with their sharp beak. The legs are short. They have a large keel which goes through all the length of the shell.


Their body has a cream or tan color with brown markings on the body and shell.  As they spend most of their time in the water, they need a habitat with a large volume of water. Razor-backed turtles should be able to completely submerge, swim and walk along the bottom of the aquarium. One turtle needs about 30-gallon space in the enclosure.

Though razor-backed turtles do not bask frequently like other aquatic turtles, you do need to provide a basking place with proper light and heat setup.

You can feed them a good turtle commercial food on a regular basis. However, I always recommend adding some extra insects, worms, crickets, snails etc. with the pellets for extra protein.

11. Softshell turtles:

Common NameSoftshell turtle
Scientific NamePelodiscus sinensis
LifespanAround 25 years
Size14 to 15 inches long
Water Temperature75 to 80 Fahrenheit (23 to 26 degrees Celsius)
Basking Place TemperatureAround 10 degrees higher than water temperature
FoodCommercial food, insects, krill, worms, live fish, vegetables, etc.

Softshell turtles are named because of their soft smooth shells. Some pet softshell turtles can get about 14 inches long.

The habitat for softshell turtles depends on which type of softshell turtle you choose. Some of the species can get more than 2 feet long. I don’t recommend having them as pets. Smooth and spiny softshell turtles are more popular as a pet.

Softshell turtles need at least a 75-gallon tank. The larger you can get, the better. The water quality must be kept crystal clear all the time. As softshell turtles are much more vulnerable than other species of aquatic turtles, you mustn’t keep any item in the tank that may wound them.

I always recommend a powerful filtration system for softshell turtles such as canister filters.

Softshell turtles prefer a clean smooth sand bottom as it replicates their natural environment. Sand is also a safer option than gravels. You should also provide a basking place for the turtle to completely dry itself off.

Softshell turtles are primarily carnivorous. They enjoy a good pelleted commercial food in captivity. You should also spice up the diet with some insects, worms, snails, fishes etc. Always place the food in the water.

12. Common Musk Turtle

Common NameCommon musk turtle, eastern musk turtle stinkpot turtle
Scientific NameSternotherus odoratus
Lifespan30 to 50 years
Size4 to 5 inches
Water Temperature72 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit (22 to 25.5 degrees Celsius)
Basking Place Temperature90 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit (32 to 35 degrees Celsius)
FoodCommercial food, crickets, earthworms, fish, shrimp, aquatic insects, etc.

Next, we have another subspecies of musk turtle, the common musk turtle, also known as the eastern musk turtle. Common musk turtles are widely available in the eastern parts of the United States and southern-east Canada. 

Musk turtles are cute as pet turtles, but they do not feel comfortable with too much human touch. They can produce a foul smell from the glands on the edge of their plastron if they feel threatened. Hence, they are also called stinkpot turtles. 

Size and Appearance 

Despite the risk of the smell, common musk turtles make excellent pets for their small size. Adult musk turtles grow only 3 to 5 inches, which is 1 to 2 inches smaller than the Razor-backed musk turtles. So, people who like a limited space can choose this small turtle species as their pets. 

The shell colours of common musk turtles are quite appealing. It can be dark brown, grey, or black. The shell has keels on the back. There are also some yellow markings on both sides of the head of common musk turtles. 

Ideal Habitat

Common Musk turtles have a small size. So, you can put a musk turtle in a 40 to 50-gallon tank. These turtles are aquatic. So, naturally, they are good swimmers. However, they are not as skilled as other aquatic turtles. They prefer to stay at the bottom of the water and swim side to side. But they struggle to swim upward. 

Therefore, keep substrates and other accessories to help your musk turtle swim to the basking dock.  

To keep common turtles healthy, set the water temperature to 72 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit (22 to 25.5 degrees Celsius) and the basking area 90 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit (32 to 35 degrees Celsius). 


Common musk turtles are carnivores. They need protein to stay healthy. Therefore, provide them with various kinds of small fishes, crickets, earthworms, shrimp, and aquatic insects along with commercial foods. 


In the wild, musk turtles hibernate during the winter. Their hibernation may last two to four months. Their hibernation starts in the middle of October or the first of November. 

If you keep your common pet turtles in outdoor ponds, they will burrow themselves at the bottom of the pond under the substrates. You can choose not to let your turtle hibernate if you keep them indoors by controlling the temperature.

13.Eastern Mud Turtles

Common NameMud turtles
Scientific NameKinosternon subrubrum
LifespanAbout 50 years
Size5 inches
Water Temperature74 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit (23 to 25.5 degrees Celsius)
Basking Place Temperature86 to 92 degrees Fahrenheit (30 to 33 degrees Celsius)
FoodCommercial food, aquatic plants,insects, molluscs, crustaceans, fish etc.

Cannot get a musk turtle? Then get a common mud turtle instead. These small turtles have similar sizes as musk turtles and require similar care. Yes, common mud turtles also produce a smell like musk turtles but do not let this get into your head. You just have to be less touchy to avoid stressing them. 

Geographically common mud turtles or eastern mud turtles are available in southeast America, New York, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Florida and Texas. These turtles are also common in New England and some parts of Argentina. 

Size and Appearance 

Like common musk turtles, the common mud turtles remain small throughout their life. It can grow up to be only 5 inches. The colour of the shell can be dark brown, yellow, or green. The size and colour of the turtles make them attractive pets for turtle lovers. 

Apparently, the musk and mud turtle may look the same, but there are actually some differences. The plastron of a mud turtle is hinged and larger than a musk turtle. Also, the shells of the mud turtles are dome-shaped but have no keels. 

Ideal Habitat

Again, the habitat of mud and musk turtle is also similar. But mud turtles are semi-aquatic. So, have some land area or platform for them to rest. During mid-summer, mud turtles prefer to remain on the land more than on the water. 

You should keep the water temperature 74 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit (23 to 25.5 degrees Celsius) and the basking spot 86 to 92 degrees Fahrenheit (30 to 33 degrees Celsius). Mud turtles are interesting to look at. You can keep different artificial plants and accessories in the tank for your turtles to interact with. 


Mud turtles are omnivores, but they love to eat animal food. You should feed small fish, crabs, shrimps, worms, some chopped veggies, and even fish eggs. Common mud turtles have strong jaws, so eating these foods is not hard for them. 


Common mud turtles that live outdoor will hibernate in winter. They dig deep in the mud to keep their body warm. Some eastern turtles can hibernate for up to 6 months!

14. Diamondback Terrapins

Common NameDiamondback Terrapins, terrapins
Scientific NameMalaclemys terrapin
Lifespan25 to 40 years
Size10 inches
Water Temperature75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit (24 to 27 degrees Celsius)
Basking Place Temperature85 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit (29 to 32 degrees Celsius)
FoodCommercial food, aquatic snails, crabs, fish, clams, mussels, dried insects, etc.

Let us introduce you to one of the most beautiful turtles in this world, the Diamondback Terrapins. It is now legal to keep these beautiful turtles in your home! 

Their natural habitat is in the Eastern United States, on the Atlantic coasts of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, Florida and Texas. They are called diamondback turtles because of their diamond-shaped scutes on their back. 

Diamondback terrapins prefer to live in groups. So, it would be better if you get more than one diamondback terrapin as a pet. 

Size and Appearance

A male diamondback terrapin can get only 5.5 inches long during its lifetime. On the other hand, female terrapins can grow up to 10 inches! 

There are about seven subspecies of Terrapin turtles with different shells and skin colours. The diamond-shaped scutes on the carapace are rocky, and the colour of the shell 

can be medium grey, brown or black. 

The skin colour of the subspecies also differs from each other. It can be pale grey, dark grey, light blue and even black. The dark spots on the skin make the turtles even more attractive. 

Ideal Habitat

If you want to keep your diamondback terrapin happy, pay extra attention to the water quality. Diamondback terrapins need brackish water, which is neither freshwater nor salty. In fact, it is a mix of both. The optimal pH level should be 6.8 to 7.00. 

Also, the water has to be clean. Diamondback terrapins are aquatic turtles. The water should be deep enough for them to swim freely. So, your turtle tank should have three times more water than the current length of your turtle. 

The water temperature should not get too low. Keep it between 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit (24 to 27 degrees Celsius). Diamondback turtles also like to bask now and then. The basking area should be 85 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit (29 to 32 degrees Celsius). Make sure the turtles get enough UVB and UVB light to remain healthy. 


Diamondback terrapin turtles are primarily carnivores. They love to eat small fish, aquatic snails, crabs, clams, mussels, and dried insects. They have incredible jaw power, which can crush these foods easily. These turtles may also eat some vegetables.


Diamondback terrapins can skip hibernation if you keep them indoors. You can control the amount of light and heat to prevent the turtle from going to hibernation. However, if your turtle is in an outside enclosure like a pond, it will burrow in the mud under the water to hibernate. 

15. Spotted Turtles                          

Common NameSpotted turtle
Scientific NameClemmys guttata
Lifespan25 to 50 years
Size4 to 6 inches
Water Temperature75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit (24 to 26 degrees Celsius)
Basking Place Temperature85 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit (29 to 32 degrees Celsius)
FoodCommercial food, earthworms, crickets, shrimp/krill, snails, minnows, and greens like dandelion and collards.

Spotted turtles are another species of turtle that is nice to look at. They are named spotted turtles for the unique dots all over their skin and shell. These turtles are found in different locations all around the world. 

You can find them in freshwater sources in Ontario, southern Maine, Quebec, the southern and eastern parts of the US, Florida and Indiana. They are also present in Ohio in the west. 

Size and Appearance 

If you have much space to keep a large tank, a spotted turtle can be the best choice. They grow up to be only 4 to 6 inches. So, they are one of the smallest turtle species available as pets.

The shells of these turtles can be dark brown or black. There are bright yellow or orange spots on their shell and head. Thus, the turtle gets a unique appearance. The protective scales on their skins also add to their appearance. 

Ideal Habitat

Spotted turtles are aquatic turtles, but they are not strong swimmers. Therefore, the water should not be too deep. The turtles will need some support to reach the land area from the water area. Young spotted turtles prefer spending most of their time in the water.

Therefore, you must keep the water temperature similar to your turtle’s natural habitat.

It should not be too cold or too warm. So, keep it between 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit (24 to 26 degrees Celsius). However, as time passes, the spotted turtles can change their habit. 

You may find your adult turtle on the land area and basking area more often. Keep the basking area temperature 85 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit (29 to 32 degrees Celsius). The temperature should not fluctuate too much as it can hamper the metabolic and reproductive activities of turtles. 


Like many other omnivore turtles, spotted turtles have strong beaks and jaws that enable them to eat all kinds of foods. You can give them earthworms, crickets, shrimp/krill, snails, minnows, and greens like dandelion and collards. They will happily chew on them.

If you think your turtle is not getting enough nutrients, you can get high-quality commercial foods for turtles from pet shops. 


You can let your spotted turtle hibernate outdoors. Spotted turtles typically start hibernation in mid-October. Again, you may not allow your turtle to hibernate by keeping them in a controlled environment indoors. 

yellow bellied slider

16. Yellow-Bellied Slider

Common Name
Yellow-Bellied Slider
Scientific NameTrachemys scripta scripta
Lifespan20 to 40 years
SizeMales 5 to 13 inches.
Water Temperature72 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit (22 to 26 degrees Celsius)
Basking Place Temperature90 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit (32 to 35 degrees Celsius)
FoodCommercial food, meal worms, wax worms, crickets, feeder fish, chopped vegetables etc.

One of the best turtle species for beginners is the yellow-bellied sliders. These turtles are easy to get from pet shops as they are very popular. They are widely found in the central and eastern US. These sliders are active, and they do not mind interacting with people. They are called yellow-bellied for their rich yellow colour plastron.  

Size and Appearance 

If you want a yellow-bellied slider, you must have the mentality to keep a large size turtle. Yes, similar to red-eared sliders, yellow-bellied sliders can reach 13 inches in favourable conditions. But do not worry. These turtles are easy to handle even if they get so large. 

The upper shell can be dark brown or black with yellow marks. On the other hand, the plastron is completely yellow with hints of dark markings. You will also see stripes of yellow all over their olive-green skin. 

Ideal Habitat

Yellow-bellied sliders require a good amount of clean water. They love to swim around. In this case, follow the 10 gallons of water for every inch of turtle method. So, if your slider is 5 inches long. The water area of the enclosure should have 50 to 60 gallons of water. 

The water temperature has to be between 72 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit (22 to 26 degrees Celsius). The sliders can produce a lot of waste. Hence, buy a powerful filter. If you want your turtle to stay active, provide them with a basking spot. The area should be 90 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit (32 to 35 degrees Celsius). 

An ideal temperature is necessary for the sliders to stay healthy. Both UVA and UVB light are essential to break down the calcium from the food.


So, what do you feed your sliders? Interestingly, their food preference depends on their age. Juvenile yellow-bellied sliders are carnivores. They eat insects, worms, and small fish for protein. 

But as the sliders become adults, they like plants more than protein-based foods! They eat carrots, kale, parsley, collard, red bell peppers, waterweed, duckweed, etc. 


Like red-eared sliders, yellow-bellied sliders also hibernate if the temperature goes below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. They hibernate underwater. There is no need to hibernate your sliders kept indoors. 

17. Pink-Bellied Side-Necked Turtle

Common NamePink-bellied side-necked turtle, red belly side neck turtle
Scientific NameEmydura subglobosa
Lifespan30 to 50 years
Size5 to 10 inches
Water Temperature66 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit (19 to 26 degrees Celsius)
Basking Place Temperature90 to 92 degrees Fahrenheit (32 to 33 degrees Celsius)
FoodCommercial food, bloodworms, crickets, fish and vegetables.

The yellow-bellied sliders are not the only colourful turtles on this list. If you have ample space and time, get the cute pink-bellied side neck turtles as your lifetime pet. Pink bellied side neck turtles are native to Australia and New Guinea. But you can check the pet shops or turtles breeders in your locations to get these beautiful creatures. 

Size and Appearance 

Size is an important factor to consider for pink-bellied side neck turtles. While the male of the species grows only 5 inches long, the females can reach 10 inches in shell size! 

The colour of the turtles certainly makes people ignore their size. Pink-bellied side neck turtles are also known as red-bellied side neck turtles. These attractive turtles have pink, red or orange colours on their belly or plastron. Thus they get the name.

The splash of colour is not limited to the plastron; you will also see hints of colours on the edges of the carapace and their skin. The skin colour can be olive green, dark brown, or black. Hence, the colours on the carapace and plastron pop out. 

Ideal Habitat

Pink-bellied side necks are freshwater aquatic turtles. Their claws are like flippers which enable them to swim well. They also like to stay mostly in the water. 

Therefore, most parts of their enclosure need to be water. The water should be deep with a wide surface. Also, it is crucial to keep the water temperature at 66 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit (19 to 26 degrees Celsius) to keep the pink-bellied turtles healthy. 

Do not let the water temperature go below 66 degrees Fahrenheit as the turtle can develop respiratory problems. You will find the turtles much more active in warmer water. 

All turtles need their fair share of light and heat. So, the turtle tank should have a basking spot for the turtles. The ideal basking temperature of the species is 90 to 92 degrees Fahrenheit (32 to 33 degrees Celsius).

To mimic the natural habitat of pink-bellied sliders, put some river sand on the tank floor. In addition, add some artificial/live aquatic plants, rocks, and logs for your turtles to make them feel more at home. 

Pink-bellied turtles love each other’s company. So, it is advised to have multiple pink-bellied turtles in a tank to keep them happy. However, it also means you will need to build a larger tank for them. 


In the wild, pink-bellied side necks live mostly on crustaceans, mollusks, and insects. 

As pet turtles, they should be fed foods that are similar to their natural food habit. So, give them fish, insects, bloodworms, crickets, chopped vegetables, and commercial turtle foods. You can also feed chicken and lean beef as protein for your turtles. 

There is no need to feed shrimp to pink-bellied side necks as they do not get any nutritional benefits from it. 


Like any other turtle, a pink-bellied side neck turtle may also hibernate/brumate if the temperature goes below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Since pet turtles are bred in captivity, they may not survive the long hibernation period. So, it is better not to let your pet turtle hibernate. 

42 Prominent Turtle Species In The World: Infographic

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How to Choose A Pet Turtle?

As you can see, there are so many options when it comes to choosing a pet turtle. Different turtles require different habitats, care, and food. Just because turtles seem low maintenance does not mean anyone can keep them as pets. Remember, turtles live a long life if they are taken good care of. So, are you prepared to have a pet for so long? 

Therefore, you must consider different factors before buying a pet turtle. Here are some factors you need to consider: 

The Size and Species of the Turtle

First, you must consider the size of a turtle. It is not just about the current size of the turtle. Know how big it can get and if you have the space to build an enclosure for it. Some species can be only 5 inches as it reaches adulthood, while others can grow more than a foot. So, choose which size species of turtle you can handle.

The Legality of Owning a Turtle

It is one of the crucial steps before getting a turtle. Many turtles are endangered today. So, there are laws on captivating turtles as pets. Different countries have different rules about keeping turtles. The rules can even change from state to state. 

So, contact The Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) of your area to get a list of turtles you are allowed to have as pets. 

To avoid legal problems, buy or get a turtle from licensed pet stores or breeders. Do not attempt to keep wild turtles as pets.

The Appearance of the Turtle

Turtles have different colours, sizes, and shapes. You will spend a long time with your turtle. So, you can choose a turtle that you like to look at. There is nothing wrong with selecting turtles by their appearance. 

Some people focus on the shape of the carapace of the turtles whereas others can decide on the colours of the shell. 

The Environment 

Is the turtle you want to choose native to your area? Turtles thrive in their native environment as they are habituated to the climate. But if your turtle is not native to your place, can you create an ideal habitat for it? Do you have the space and equipment to build a controllable habitat for your turtle? 

You must control the lighting and heating system of the turtle’s enclosure mimicking its natural habitat. It is necessary to build an environment similar to your turtle’s natural environment for its long life. Hence, you have to be sure about being able to manage an ideal habitat for a turtle. 

Your Turtle Keeping Experience 

If you are getting a turtle for the first time, you should be extra careful about choosing the species. Not all species of turtles are suitable for beginners. 

Beginners should choose a turtle that does not require too much attention. It should be easy to handle and friendly. So, red-eared sliders, yellow-bellied side neck turtles, Box turtles, and painted turtles are the best options for beginners. Common turtle species are also easy to get at a cheap price. 

You can choose other turtles on this list if you have previous experience with turtles. Experienced turtle owners know how to manage both active and timid turtles. You can gain more experience by studying your pet turtle. 

Maintaining the Enclosure 

Turtles are not high maintenance like cats and dogs. You do not have to take them for a walk or clean their poop every day. But it does not mean you can keep your turtles unattended for days. You must spend a good amount of time every week cleaning your turtle’s enclosure. 

Some turtles produce lots of waste after eating. You will need a high-quality filter to keep the water clean. Your turtle will need a basking area, basking lamps, heaters, and food. Moreover, you have to take it to a vet for a health check-up. All of these can be expensive. So, be prepared to invest your time and money in keeping turtles. 

Some Tips on Taking Care of Turtles

After considering these factors, you may have bought a pet turtle. That is great. Now, to keep your turtles happy and active, you must make sure it stays healthy. For that, provide an ideal habitat, water supply, nutritious food, and proper lighting. 

Here are some tips you should follow:

  • Research: Research the species of turtle you are planning to get. Many people do not consider the natural background of a turtle before buying them. You should understand that you cannot provide the same food and habitat to all turtles. 
  • Get The Right Size Tank: Your turtles must live in the right size tank. You can keep juvenile turtles in a small tank for the first couple of years. But you must transfer them to a bigger tank to help them grow to their full size. Keeping them in a small tank hampers their natural growth, which is harmful to their health. 
  • Provide Water and Land Space: Turtles are aquatic or semiaquatic reptiles. They need ample water space to swim around. Besides, semi-aquatic turtles need land space to take a rest from swimming. Hence, the turtle tank should be large enough to have both water and land space for the turtles. 
  • Control the Temperature of Your Turtles Enclosure: The water and basking spot temperature must be similar to your turtle’s natural habitat otherwise it will suffer from many health issues. Turtles can go to untimely hibernation if the temperature gets too low. So, get the right basking light and heater to keep your turtle warm. 
  • Keep the Turtle Tank Clean: Turtles can eat a lot and are messy eaters. As a result, the water can get dirty in no time. Then again, the water should be clean for your turtle’s health. So, you must set up a filtration system that recycles the tank water thoroughly. If you have a large tank, you should use two filters. 
  • Do Not Forget About Hibernation: Whether you like it or not, some turtles may insist on hibernation in winter. But hibernation is not always smooth for turtles. Many turtles die during this period. So, you should either prevent them from hibernating or create a safe hibernation space for them to hibernate.
  • Provide A Balanced Diet: You should research your turtle’s natural food habits and feed them similar foods. The age of your turtle is also an important factor to consider. Young turtles need more protein for growth. But as they grow up, they prefer vegetables. Therefore, keep a mix of protein and vegetables in your turtle’s diet.  
  • Do Not Touch Them Too Much: Remember, turtles do not like to be handled like dogs and cats. They are docile reptiles that want to stay alone. Touching them too much can stress them. Instead, you can watch them playing in their tanks.
  • Check on Your Turtles Health: Your turtle can get sick for various reasons. Monitor them regularly for respiratory problems, shell rots, wounds, or other health issues. If you find your turtle ill or less active than usual, take them to the vet. Also, find out the reason for their health problem.  

Final Words

So, here is my detailed guide to types of pet turtles that you can have. There are some other species of turtles which are much rare and exotic. Also, all of these species mention in the article are not legal to have as pets in all the states of America. So, you should always check the state law before getting a pet turtle.

Let me know which types of pet turtles you have in the comment section below!

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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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