Types Of Softshell Turtles That You Can Keep As Pets

Types Of Softshell Turtles

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

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The softshell turtles are one of the most exclusive turtle species that a turtle owner can keep as a pet. Raising these turtles can be a bit challenging. If you are thinking of buying a softshell turtle, then you need to plan for it and research this species. For example, you can start by finding out which softshell turtle species are better as a pet.

There are more than 25 species of softshell turtles available. Among all these species, the followings turtle will make a better pet:

  1. Florida softshell turtle
  2. Spiny softshell turtle
  3. Smooth softshell turtle

Is it hard to raise these softshell turtle species as pets? What exactly makes these turtles a better pet? Read on to this article if you have the same question in mind.

3 Types Of Softshell Turtles That You Can Keep As Pets

I have mentioned earlier that there are more than 25 softshell turtle species. But not all of these turtles can make it a good pet. Softshell turtles are wild and aggressive species. The wild environment is more preferable to these turtles than the captive surroundings.

Among the 25 species, 3 types of softshell turtles can get adapted to the captive environment very well. Such as:

  1. Florida softshell turtles
  2. Spiny softshell turtle
  3. Smooth softshell turtle

The Chinese softshell turtles are not always as perfect as a pet. You need to consider your turtle keeping experience in this case.

In the upcoming section, I will give a short caring guide on each of these species.

Florida Softshell Turtles

florida softshell turtle

The Florida softshell turtle is an American freshwater turtle. You will find these turtles at the sandy, or muddy bottom of lakes and ponds. They can also live in brackish and slow-moving water sources. Click here to learn the geographical location of the Florida softshell turtles.

The adult male Florida softshell turtles can grow between 6 to 12 inches and the adult females can get 8 to 25 inches big. Check this article to know the growth factors of a softshell turtle.

So, you have to provide these turtles a big enclosure. For a baby or young Florida softshell turtle, a 75 gallon tank is enough. But for the adult softshell turtles, a minimum of 100 gallon tank is a must. The bigger the enclosure, the better it is for the softshell turtles.

The stock tanks are more preferable as an enclosure for the Florida softshell turtles. You can build a minimum 400 gallon stock tank for the turtles. A 600 gallon enclosure will be more ideal for the Florida softshell turtles.

Though the Florida softshell turtles stay most of their time underwater, a basking dock is necessary. Read this article to understand the importance of basking for Florida softshell turtles.

Besides a basking dock, you need to provide the Florida softshell turtle with a UV or heating light. The UV exposures will help the turtles to generate vitamin D and absorb calcium. To ensure the water quality inside the tank, install a water filter.

See also  Are Softshell Turtles Endangered?

It is very important to maintain a suitable temperature inside the Florida softshell turtle’s tank. The perfect water temperature is around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. You can not hold the heat of water without any external equipment. A water heater can be the perfect fit to serve this purpose.

The Florida softshell turtles are carnivorous and eat a small portion of vegetation. Their favorite meal is small fish, snail, crayfish, shrimp, worms, insects, mussels, etc. The captive softshell turtles basically prefer cuttlebones and pellets.

The Florida softshell turtles are the most aggressive species among all softshell turtles. So, raising it with any other turtles or fishes is not recommended. But some owners have successfully kept the Florida softshell turtle with mud turtles, painted turtles, map turtles, musk turtles, cooters, and sliders.

Try to provide a single enclosure to each Florida softshell turtle. Click here to find out the perfect tank mates for the Florida softshell turtles. You can see that it is not easy to raise these turtles. So, can a beginner keep a Florida softshell turtle as a pet?

The answer is yes if you have a male softshell turtle, and no, if the turtle is female. Personally, I suggest not to buy Florida softshell turtles if you do not have experience with any turtles.

Spiny Softshell Turtles

spiny softshell turtle

The Spiny softshell turtles live throughout Northern America, Orlando, and New Mexico. They are freshwater turtles. You will find Spiny softshell turtles in ponds, lakes, rivers, and marshes. Check this article to learn the geographical position of a Spiny softshell turtle.

A male Spiny softshell turtle can grow almost 5 to 9.5 inches, while the female Spiny softshell turtle can get more than 6.5 to 18 inches in size. Click here to learn more about the growth factors of softshell turtles.

As the female Spiny softshell turtles are bigger, you need to provide them with a big enclosure. A minimum 75 gallon tank will be okay for the male ones, and for the female Spiny softshell turtles, you have to buy a minimum of 90 gallon tank.

The Spiny softshells are large and they require extreme space for swimming. Experts suggest raising these turtles in a stock pool. A stock pool, or aquarium, or tank is much similar to a small pond. So the spiny softshell turtles feel much comfortable in these tanks. If you want a stock tank, go for a minimum of 400 gallons or more.

The Spiny softshell turtles prefer the tanks that have muddy or sandy bottoms with a little amount of vegetation. Maintain a water depth of 4 feet or more for the adult Spiny softshell turtles. For babies or young Spiny softshell turtles, you need to reduce the depth.

You have to install some equipment in the Spiny softshell turtle’s tank. Such as:

  1. A basking dock or basking station
  2. UV or heating lamp
  3.  Water filter
  4. Tank heater

As you know, the Spiny softshell turtles can not generate heat inside their bodies. They totally depend on the surroundings. You have to make sure the tank temperature is suitable for pet turtles.

See also  Do Softshell Turtles Need A Basking Area?

Maintain a temperature around 70 degrees Fahrenheit inside the tank. The basking temperature must be around 85 degrees Fahrenheit. If the temperature gets too low or too high, the turtle will become uncomfortable and suffer from diseases.

The captive Spiny softshell turtles have a diet similar to the wild one. Here is a list of foods that you can feed your Spiny softshell turtles:

  • Pellets
  • Bug
  • Small fishes
  • Cuttlebones
  • Cloves
  • Grasshopper
  • Cricket
  • Shrimps
  • Frogbits
  • Worms
  • Insects
  • Cabbage
  • Lettuce

You have to sprinkle vitamin D and calcium supplements on each meal of the Spiny softshell turtle. Check this article to get a complete guide on the softshell turtle’s diet.

Like the Florida softshell turtles, the Spiny softshell turtles are aggressive and tend to attack any other species present in the same tank. That is why the experts suggest not to raise the Spiny softshell turtles with any other species.

Some people claim that you can keep African Pacu, Uaru, Pike, Musk turtles, painted turtles, cooters, and some other fast-moving in the same tank with Spiny softshell turtles. Check this article to get more information on a Spiny softshell turtle’s perfect tankmate.

The Spiny softshell turtles are not easy to handle. Experts claim that the difficulty level to raise a female Spiny softshell turtle is advanced, and for the male Spiny softshell turtles, you have to be an intermediate level turtle keeper. So, as a beginner, you should avoid petting this species.

Smooth Softshell Turtle

smooth softshell turtle

If you want a unique turtle, pet a Smooth softshell turtle without any hesitations. They are exclusive in look, color, and behavior. The Smooth softshell turtles hate polluted waters. So, you will spot them in a big lake, streams, and rivers that have sandy or muddy bottoms.

This North American softshell turtle can range from Pennsylvania to New Mexico, and from the Southern part to Florida. Read on to this article to get more geographical information on a Smooth softshell turtle.

Compared to the Florida softshell turtles, the Smooth softshell turtles are not that big. The male ones can grow between 5 to 11 inches. And when it comes to the female smooth softshell turtles, they will grow about 6.5 to 14 inches. Click here to get a full-size chart of softshell turtles.

The Smooth softshell turtles are really cautious about their environment. Once they get matured, they will need a lot of space. Buy a minimum of 75 gallon tank for the Smooth softshell turtles. The larger the size of the turtle, the bigger enclosure you will need.

As the smooth softshell turtles are freshwater turtles, you have to make sure the tank water is clean and filtered. The best way to clean the tank water is to install a water filter. You will also have to put a substrate at the bottom of the tank. This way the pet turtle will be able to bury itself inside the sand.

Besides the water filter, you have to set up a UV lamp, tank heater, and a basking dock inside the Smooth softshell turtle’s habitat. Make sure the air temperature inside the enclosure is around 75 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit, and the water temperature is around 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Also, the dock should not exceed the limit of 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

See also  Are Florida Softshell Turtles Dangerous?

You can also feed the same diet to the Smooth softshell turtles. They are carnivorous, and small fish, insects, worms, and shrimps are their favorite foods. At adult age, feeding a little amount of vegetables or leaves is okay. But do not feed any types of vegetables when these turtles are young.

The Smooth softshell turtles are strong swimmers. They are also very fast and aggressive. So, when you house them with other turtles or fish, things will surely get messy. This is why you have to raise the Smooth softshell turtles in a separate single enclosure. Check this article and learn more about the ideal tank mates of a Smooth softshell turtle.

Many experts claim that these turtles are not for beginners as they can be a bit hard to maintain. So, as a beginner do not buy this species. Rather start with a red eared slider.

Is It Okay To Pet A Softshell Turtle?

It is definitely alright to pet a softshell turtle. Though they are hard to handle, they can make excellent pets. Do not buy a softshell turtle from an illegal trader or take it from the wild. These turtles are endangered and without your concern, this species will vanish from the wild soon.

Check this article to learn more about the conservation status of a softshell turtle. Do not pet any rare or endangered softshell turtle species.

Can You Pet A Softshell Turtle As A Beginner?

Even though some people claim, a beginner can raise the male Florida softshell turtles, I personally discourage the idea. The softshell turtles are very sensitive. A little mismanagement can make these turtles sick.

Also, the softshell turtles require high maintenance and all time care. As a beginner, this can be a little bit tough.

How To Choose The Perfect Softshell Turtle For You?

I have discussed 3 basic types of softshell turtles that you can keep as a pet. But which one will be better for you?

I know choosing the right pet can be confusing sometimes. But with the proper questions, you can select the perfect pet turtle for you. For example,

  1. What is your budget?
  2. How much does the turtle cost? Check this article to learn the market rate of different softshell turtle species.
  3. How much will it cost you to maintain the turtle?
  4. Where do you live?
  5. Will the turtle feel comfortable in your geographical area?
  6. Can you invest your time and energy in that turtle?

By questioning these basic questions, you can choose the perfect softshell turtle for you.


Softshell turtles are hard to handle, but with time, they will be a really great pet. If you have turtle keeping experience and you want to raise a new species, then go for the softshell turtles.

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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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