The Best Pet Turtles (Top 6)

Best Pet Turtles

Best Pet Turtle

Different people have different expectations when it comes to defining the best pet turtle. Some want a turtle that lives long, while others want a turtle that won’t shy away from attention. Yet still, others prefer a colorful or unique looking turtle. Regardless of what you look for, turtles are among the most popular pets.

While there are 100s of different turtle species in the world, not all of them make good pets. Some grow way too big for domestication, while others may be illegal to own. You need to do your research before acquiring a turtle.

It is also important to know that most turtles are aquatic and as such require an aquatic set up. When housed outdoors, they require a small pond.

When housed indoors, they require an aquarium with a filtration system and submersible pumps. Additionally, a third of the water needs to be changed regularly. This is absolutely important if the water is to be clean and habitable.

Here is a list of the best pet turtles out there. These turtles are trouble-free, easy to care for and gorgeous.

1. Pond Slider (Red-Eared Slider / Cumberland Slider)

Red Eared Slider
Read Eared Slider

Quick Facts

  • Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Scientific Name: Trachemys Scripta elegans/ Trachemys Scripta troostii
  • Common Names: Red-eared terrapin, red-eared slider turtle, red-eared turtle, slider turtle, and water slider turtle
  • Adult Size: 6 to 12 inches
  • Lifespan: 20 to 40 years
  • Average Price Range: $5 to $20

Quick Care Requirements

  • Tank Size:  10-gallon to 20-gallon tank
  • Food: Krill, shrimp, fish, snails, insect / Commercial turtle food
  • UVB Lighting: Needed
  • Ambient Temperature: 75 to 80 F
  • Water Temperature: 75 to 84 F
  • Basking Spot Temperature: 90 F

Both the Cumberland slider and the red-eared slider belong to the same species – pond sliders (Trachemys scripta). Their care requirements are the same, and they look very similar.

As with most turtles, they are long-lived. They grow to between 6 inches and a foot in size. This pond slider can live well into their 60s. With good care, you should expect a pond slider to live to about 40 years. They eat seafood such as shrimp, insects and commercial turtle food.

They are easy to find, easy to acquire, and relatively simple to care for. Additionally, they make very cute pets and do not bite or scratch when touched. For a turtle, they don’t mind being handled much. They are definitely one of the most popular pet turtle species in the world.

They are, however, not the easiest pets to keep and will die if not cared for properly. Because they are super easy to find and are very affordable, many people who aren’t really into reptiles end up acquiring one.

These include kids who beg their parents into getting them one, or people who simply want a pet around the home. Since they live so long, many of such people grow tired of these adorable turtles after some years (it could be after a couple of years or after 10 years) and release them into the wild which is wrong.

For more check out the Red Eared Slider Care Guide

2. Eastern Box Turtle

Male eastern box turtle
Eastern Box Turtle

Quick Facts

  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Scientific Name: Terrapene carolina carolina
  • Common Names: Eastern box turtle
  • Adult Size: 4.33 to 7 inches
  • Lifespan: 40 to 100 years
  • Average Price Range: $150 to $400

Quick Care Requirements

  • Tank Size: 20 gallons
  • Outdoor enclosure size: 4 x 4 ft.
  • Food: Live insects and vegetables
  • UVB Lighting: Needed
  • Temperature Range: 75 to 80 F
  • Basking Spot Temperature: 95 F

The eastern box turtle may just be the most popular box turtle kept as pets. They are called eastern box turtles as they are box turtles endemic to Eastern United States.

Unlike the other turtles in this article, they are not aquatic, and as such need a terrarium, and not an aquarium. You can also house them outdoors; just make sure they cannot escape.

They are quite small and grow to be about 6 inches as adults. They accept whatever food you feed them and as such, you need to be careful about what you give them.

It’s best to feed them live insects, snails, and grubs. In addition to this, feed them vegetables such as romaine lettuce, dandelions, collard greens, and many other vegetables. In all, they are easy to feed and easy to bond with especially during feeding time. All of which makes them excellent pets.

Remember they live long. They have been known to live up to 100 years old. You should expect them to live to be at least 40 years. This long term commitment isn’t for everyone. Apart from their longevity, they are excellent land turtles. If you want a land turtle/tortoise, I recommend the eastern box turtle.

For more check out the Eastern Box Turtle Care Guide

3. Painted Turtle

Painted Turtle
Painted Turtle

Quick Facts

  • Experience Level: Beginners
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Scientific Name: Chrysemys picta
  • Common Names: Painted turtle, skilpot
  • Adult Size: 6 to 8 inches
  • Lifespan: 25 to 30 years
  • Average Price Range: $29 to $80

Quick Care Requirements

  • Tank Size: 15 to 20-gallon tank
  • Food: Commercial turtle food/insects and vegetables
  • UVB Lighting: Needed
  • Temperature Range: 75 to 85 F
  • Water temperature: 75 F
  • Basking Spot Temperature: 95 F

The painted turtle has four subspecies namely the eastern painted turtle, midland painted turtle, southern painted turtle, and western painted turtle.

The subspecies are named after where they are found geographically. These gorgeous reptiles are great as beginners’ pets and can live to be more than 55 (although they generally live to be about 25 to 30 years). As you can see, they require commitment.

They are easy to find and acquire, fun to keep and nice to look at. There are very few turtle enthusiasts who won’t be impressed by this turtle. Feeding them is stress-free as they accept commercially made turtle food.

This is sure to give them all the nutrients they need including vitamin D3. They grow to be just 6 to 8 inches in length, which makes them manageable pets.

There is nothing bad to be said about this turtle. As with all turtles, wash your hands before and after touching or handling them.

For more check out the Painted Turtle Care Guide

4. False Map Turtle

False Map Turtle
False Map Turtle

Quick Facts

  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Scientific Name: Graptemys pseudogeographica pseudogeographica
  • Common Names: False map turtle
  • Adult Size: 4 to 10 inches
  • Lifespan: 30 to 50 years
  • Average Price Range: $5 to $50

 Quick Care Requirements

  • Tank Size: 25 gallons
  • Food: Commercial aquatic turtle food/insects and vegetables
  • UVB Lighting: Needed
  • Water temperature: 75 F
  • Ambient temperature Range: 80 to 85 F
  • Basking Spot Temperature: 85 to 90 F

This is another north American aquatic turtles. G. p. pseudogeographica is the nominal false map turtle subspecies. The other false map turtle subspecies include the Mississippi map turtle (G. p. kohnii). They are called map turtles because of the lines that run down their bodies and shells which resemble contour lines.

These turtles are simply gorgeous. The contour lines, and raised saw-like back set them apart from other turtles. In terms of care, there couldn’t be an easier turtle to care for.

They are relatively small even for a small turtle. The females are much bigger than the males though. While the male does well in a 20 to 25-gallon aquarium, a large female needs a 75-gallon tank.

They eat insects and veggies as well as commercial turtle food. Apart from the small setback of having to acquire a large aquarium for the potential female, they are hardy turtles and super easy to care for.

While they may not be as long-lived as other turtles, expect them to live to be 33 years. Make sure you are ready to care for a turtle before getting one. Additionally, if you must abandon one ensure you find a suitable home for it.

For more check out the False Map Turtle Care Guide

5. African Aquatic Sideneck Turtle

African-Sideneck-Turtle
African Sideneck Turtle

Quick Facts

  • Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Family: Pelomedusidae
  • Scientific Name: Pelusios castaneus
  • Common Names: African mud turtle, African sideneck turtle, African aquatic sideneck turtle
  • Adult Size: 7 to 11 inches
  • Lifespan: 25 to 50 years
  • Average Price Range: $30 to $50

Quick Care Requirements

  • Tank Size:  40 gallons
  • Food: Fish, chicken, snails, and greens/ commercial turtle food
  • UVB Lighting: Needed
  • Temperature Range: 80 – 85 F
  • Water temperature: 75 F
  • Basking Spot Temperature: 95 F

The African sideneck turtle is such a unique looking pet. This sets it aside from other common pet turtles that normally originate in North America.

Their shell has the appearance of that of a land turtle. Also, they have cute little smiling faces. They grow to between 7 and 12 inches and usually live for a few decades (30 years). Although they aren’t that big, they require a large tank to be comfortable.

Their diet is quite different from other turtles. While it isn’t advisable to feed North American turtles meat, the African sideneck turtle eats meat. It eats cooked chicken, beef heart and fish.

Also, feed them greens such as collard greens and romaine lettuce. As an adult, the African sideneck turtle prefers to eat a lot of leafy green vegetables. Another excellent way to feed it is by using commercial turtle food.

The positives of this marvelous turtle are its cute smiling face and its unique appearance. Additionally, they are relatively easy to care for. Lastly, they don’t hibernate as American turtles do. They are active all year round.

On the other hand, they are less common and more difficult to find than American turtles.

In all, the African sideneck turtle is one of the best pet turtles you can keep.

For more check out the African Sideneck Care Guide

6. Razor-Backed Musk Turtles

Razorback Musk Turtle
Razorback Musk Turtle

Quick Facts

  • Experience Level: Beginners
  • Family: Kinosternidae
  • Scientific Name: Sternotherus carinatus
  • Common Names: razor -backed musk turtle
  • Adult Size: 6 inches
  • Lifespan: 20 years
  • Average Price Range: $35 to $100

Quick Care Requirements

  • Tank Size: 30 gallons
  • Food: Crustaceans, fish, bloodworm, and insects/ commercial aquatic turtle diet
  • UVB Lighting: Needed
  • Water temperature: 73 to 78 F
  • Temperature Range: 75 to 85 F
  • Basking temperature: 90 F

Musk turtles are small turtles. Even the razor-backed musk turtle, which is the biggest, grows to be just 6 inches in length. Also, unlike other turtles mentioned in this article, musk turtles are carnivorous.

They eat ails, fish, bloodworms, mealworms, and many other foods. However, they can be fed aquatic turtle diets such as Mazuri Aquatic Turtle Diet. They grow to be 20 years, on average. For a turtle, this is quite a moderate lifespan.

They don’t require large aquariums although, a large aquarium provides more comfort and ensures the turtle is least stressed. I recommend a tank which is about 30 gallons large. Feeding them is also really simple as they accept commercially made aquatic turtle diet.

You can supplement this diet with mealworms, bloodworms, crickets, snails, fish and many more. They are also easy to find. You can find them online from reputable breeders and even at pet stores. They also live relatively peacefully alongside other pet turtles in the same tank.

The only negative when it comes to razor-back musk turtles is their shyness. These cautious turtles will take some time to get used to you and their environment. They are more of display pets and do not appreciate being held.

For more check out the Razorback Musk Turtle Care Guide

Conclusion

When you acquire the best pet turtle, care is easy. Additionally, turtles are fun to watch and are companions for life. While their longevity is a positive to many reptile enthusiasts, it can also be a negative.

When it comes to dogs and cats, 10 years means old age. Not for turtles, a 10-year old turtle is still young, as most can and will easily live to be 30 years or more.

Some like the eastern box turtle can even grow to be 100 years. As such, if you plan on keeping a turtle, be prepared for the commitment. If you have any comments on what you think is the best pet turtle, we would love to know. Kindly leave a comment below.

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