Where Do Softshell Turtles Live?

Where Do Softshell Turtles Live

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

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You will be amazed to know that the softshell turtle has around 25 species out there. The natural habitat of each species is different. You may guess where the species belong to from its name. For example, the native place of the Florida softshell turtle is in Florida.

No matter which states or country a softshell turtle belongs to, you will find them in freshwater sources. Generally, the softshell turtles live in ponds, rivers, lakes, and streams with sandy or muddy bottom.

In this article, I will talk about the native places of different softshell turtle species. Also, I will discuss how you can recreate the wild environment inside the turtle tank.

Native Habitat Of Softshell Turtle

You know the native habitat of a softshell turtle varies depending on its species. Many of you may ask why you need to learn about the native place of a softshell turtle.

Well, experts always suggest petting the native turtle species. It makes the softshell turtles adapt to the new environment easily, and the pet feels more comfortable.

Here is a chart that indicates the native land of different softshell turtle species:

Softshell Turtle SpeciesNative Land Of The Species
Smooth softshell turtleThe states of North America are the native lands of the smooth softshell turtles. You will also find the species in the central and south of the United States. Their habitat range extends from Pennsylvania to New Mexico and the southern part of Florida.   The smooth softshell turtles live in the rivers and lakes with sandy or muddy bottom.
Chinese softshell turtleFrom the name of the species, you can guess its native habitat. You will find the Chinese softshell turtles throughout southern China, Japan, northern Vietnam, Hainan Island, Thailand, Hawaii, and Taiwan.   The Chinese softshell turtles can live in both fresh and brackish water. You may find one in the rivers, lakes, rice paddies, ponds, creeks, or marshlands. In Hawaii, the species mainly live in the drainage ditches and marshes. 
Asiatic softshell turtle/ Black rayed softshell turtleThe native habitats of the Asiatic softshell turtle are Bangladesh, Myanmar, Cambodia, lowlands of the peninsula, Malaysia, Brunei, Thailand, Indonesia, Northern part of India, Singapore, Laos, the Island of Sumatra, and Vietnam. Experts claim that the species can be found throughout South Asia except for the Philippines.   The Asiatic softshell turtles can survive in both the slow and fast-moving waters. The species can be found at the end of a waterfall.
Florida softshell turtleI have mentioned earlier that the primary habitat of the Florida softshell turtle is in Florida. This species also ranges to southern Georgia, South Carolina, and Alabama.   The Florida softshell turtles live in the streams, canals, lakes, and ditches.
Spiny softshell turtleThe geographic range of the spiny softshell turtle is vast. The native habitat of this species is spread throughout the United States. You will find it from western New York and southern Carolina to Wisconsin. It also ranges from Minnesota, south Ontario to Mexico.   The spiny softshell turtles live in the freshwater sources that have small vegetation and sandy or muddy bottom. You will find this species in the farm ponds, rivers, lakes, and marshes.
Yangtze softshell turtleThe Yangtze softshell turtles are very rare, and their native habitats are China and Vietnam. Once upon a time, there were abundant amounts of Yangtze softshell turtles in the Yangtze River and Lake Tai. This species can be found in Jiangsu, Gejiu, Zhejiang, Jianshui, Yunnan, Honghe.   The Yangtze softshell turtles live in the large lakes, freshwaters, and wetlands.
Malayan softshell turtleThe Malayan softshell turtles’ geographic range is from Malaysia, Philippines, Java, Brunei, Sumatra, Sarawak, Indonesia, Myanmar, Singapore, and Kalimantan. This species prefers living in the running rocky streams.
Asian giant softshell turtle/ Cantor’s softshell turtleYou will find the Asian giant softshell turtles in Bangladesh, India, Burma, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, China, and Cambodia. The turtles live in slow-moving freshwater streams.
Black softshell turtleThe Black softshell turtles are rare and can be found only in Bangladesh. A few of these species were spotted in Assam, Kaziranga, and Jia Bhoroli river.   The black softshell turtles used to live in freshwater sources, mainly in the rivers.
Indian softshell turtle/ Ganges softshell turtleThe Indian softshell turtle mainly lives in the Ganges, Mahanandi, and Indus rivers. The species live in freshwater sources. But as the water pollution is increasing day by day, the turtles are disappearing from its habitat. 
Indian peacock softshell turtleThe Indian peacock softshell turtles were abundantly found in the South Asian countries. Such as Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, and India.   Compared to the other countries, the Indian peacock softshell turtles are mostly seen in different states of India. For example, Fatehgarh, Assam, Ganges, Bihar, West Bengal, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Barrakpur, etc.
African softshell turtleYou will find the African softshell turtles in most parts of Africa. This species is also seen in Lebanon, Turkey, Israel, and Syria.   The African softshell turtles live in brackish or freshwater habitats.
Burmese peacock softshell turtleThe Burmese peacock softshell turtles are very rare and can be found in Myanmar. A few turtles of this species live in Thailand and Assam, India.
Asian narrow-headed softshell turtle/ Chitra chitraAsian narrow-headed turtles can be found only in Asian countries. The geographical range of this species is from Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand. 
New Guinea giant softshell turtleFrom the name of this species, you can tell that they are endemic to New Guinea. You may find a few New Guinea softshell turtles in the south of Asia.
Euphrates softshell turtle/ Mesopotamian softshell turtleThe natural habitats of the Euphrates softshell turtles are Iran, Iraq, Turkey, and Syria, etc.
Leith’s softshell turtleYou will find the Leith’s softshell turtles in the Indian rivers. Such as Godavari, Bhavani, and Moyar rivers.
Indian narrow-headed softshell turtleThe Indian narrow-headed softshell turtles are endemic to India and Pakistan.

Habitat Selection Strategy Of A Softshell Turtle

Now you know the native places of different softshell turtle species. Do you know how they select their habitat? Here is how.

The softshell turtles are aquatic and barely leave the water. The water quality is the main key to their health and happiness. So, they choose the freshwater sources.

The turtles also make sure that the water bodies have a sandy or muddy bottom with a little vegetation. It is because the turtles spend a long time burrowing the substrate.

However, in the wild, the softshell turtles go into hibernation during the winter. At that time, the turtles bury themselves in the muddy bottom of the lake or river.

Besides, all these basic strategies, each species has its own habitat preference. For example, the Florida softshell turtles prefer living in slow-moving or still water bodies. On the other hand, the smooth softshell turtles can live in either fast-moving or slow water sources.

How To Recreate Wild Environment For Softshell Turtles In The Captivity

When we buy or adopt one softshell turtle, we try our best to recreate the wild environment as much as we can. This helps the pet to cope with the captive situation soon. Now the question is how to replicate the environment. Here are some tips for you:

  1. In the wild, the softshell turtles live in the lake or rivers. So, they get enough space to swim. You have to provide the pet with a spacious tank so that it can move easily.
  2. Softshell turtles prefer substrate in their habitat. So, put a thick layer of the substrate at the bottom of the tank.
  3. Plant small plants and place smooth or flat rocks over the substrate.
  4. The softshell turtles prefer clean water. That is why you need to install a water filter to keep the water clean.
  5. If you live in a low temperature based region, set up a tank heater. The heater will keep the water warm and comfortable for the softshell turtles.
  6. Place a land or basking area just under the heating source. Many people think softshell turtles do not need to bask. Well, they do. Check this article to know the significance of basking in softshell turtles.


Softshell turtles live in freshwater sources that have muddy or sandy bottoms. Raising a softshell turtle becomes much easier if you can replicate the wild environment.

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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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