Owning a pet turtle, however, won’t be for every household. They aren’t particularly interactive or cuddly creatures, they can carry ᴅɪsᴇᴀsᴇs, and with their famously long lifespans, they may even outlive you. All turtles also have complex housing and feeding requirements that you’ll need to consider.
There are a wide variety of turtle species, and some make better pets than others. Some will grow to a very large size, others are known for being more sociable and less ᴀɢɢʀᴇssɪᴠᴇ than others, and they will all have different requirements in terms of space, lighting and ᴅɪᴇt.
We have listed 6 turtle species that are popular pets, along with some details about their care requirements to help you kick start your research on whether a turtle will be right for you and your family.
1. Yellow-Bellied Slider
Yellow-Bellied Sliders are one of the most popular aquatic turtle species to keep as pets as they tend to be relatively hardy, providing they get the right ᴅɪᴇt, enclosure and lighting.
Unlike some turtles, they tend to be most active during the day, which appeals to a lot of owners looking to observe them.
They need a large tank or suitable outdoor enclosure as they’re bigger than the likes of the Stinkpot or the Spotted Turtle.
Because of their popularity, they’re relatively easy to come by. Just make sure you still source your Yellow-bellied Slider from a reputable breeder or supplier.
2. Mississippi Map Turtle
Mississippi Map Turtles have a distinctive dorsal fin running along their sʜᴇʟʟ, and this is why they’re also sometimes referred to as the ‘Sawback’.
They don’t need quite as big enclosures as some of their aquatic turtle relatives, and this can make them an appealing choice for those with space limitations.
While they can still live up to 30 years, their lifespan is a bit shorter than average.
They can be more wary of people than some other turtles, and this means they can be more prone to sᴛʀᴇss. You’ll need to keep handling to a minimum and create an environment that allows them peace and places to take cover.
Map Turtles tend to be quite hardy and less prone to health issues than some species. Clean water, good lighting and an appropriate ᴅɪᴇt is still absolutely essential though to prevent fungal ɪɴfᴇᴄᴛions and deficiencies developing.
3. Western Pᴀɪɴted Turtle
A Western Pᴀɪɴted Turtle could appeal if you want a turtle that is distinctive and attractive to look at. They have detailed sʜᴇʟʟ markings.
Although they aren’t big, these aquatic turtles need a large tank or outdoor space, a good water filtration system and basking lights to help maintain a warm temperature. Their housing needs are similar to that of the Red-Eared Slider.
They can be quite shy and aren’t turtles that will enjoy frequent handling.
Because they like to eat while swimming, selecting food that can be easily lifted out of the water if it isn’t eaten is a good choice to help keep the tank clean for longer.
4. Eastern Box Turtle
Eastern Box Turtles need a lot of space, but they’re adaptable and, with the right housing, they can live in or outdoors.
They prefer a humid environment, need a shallow pool of water in their enclosure, a moist substrate, and they will need a UVB basking light if they’re kept indoors.
If their environment is too cold and dry, it can lead to them more easily picking up respiratory ɪɴfᴇᴄᴛions.
These turtles can be shy, but they don’t tend to be ᴀɢɢʀᴇssɪᴠᴇ, and with the right gentle interactions and minimal handling, you can start to see their personality come out. They may even be tempted out to greet you if you have a tasty tidbit.
5. African Sideneck Turtle
These unique little aquatic turtles have distinctive long necks that can’t be retracted fully into their sʜᴇʟʟ, and their anatomy differs from traditional water-based turtles.
Because of their unique appearance and size, they’re often a popular choice, but they have more complex care requirements than some other turtles.
African Sideneck Turtles water needs to be kept very clean and requires weekly changing. A good filtration system, however, facilitates less frequent changing.
Despite their small size, they enjoy swimming and need a large tank, ideally at least 75-gallons. They need suitable basking platforms with UV lights for them to lie under and the temperature should never drop below 70 degrees. This is one of the reasons that they’re best kept indoors.
They also need a fresh and varied ᴅɪᴇt to prevent Vitamin A and D3 deficiencies.
Sidenecks can be curious turtles that, if you don’t force interactions, won’t scuttle away to hide when you come to observe them.
6. Red Eared Slider
Red Eared Sliders are one of the most popular of all the aquatic turtle species. They tend to be friendlier and more sociable than some of their relatives, they’re pretty active, and they’re widely available.
These turtles are generally housed indoors, but with the right shelter, cleaning and warmer temperatures, they can also do well in an outdoor pond. As they mature, it can be easier to provide them with the space they need outside.
Red Eared Sliders can grow to a decent size, and their tank will need to be large and have adequate areas for basking. It will need UV lighting and a good water filtration system. These guys are known for being rather messy!
Their size, subsequent ᴅɪᴇtary needs, and larger housing requirements mean they can be more expensive to look after than some turtles. With the right care, though, they’re generally a hardy and healthy species that frequently surpasses 50 years of age.