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Vietnamese Black Breasted Leaf Turtle (Geoemyda Spengleri)

With an average shell (carapace) length of just 4 inches (11 cm), the Black Breasted Leaf Turtle is among of the tiniest turtles ever discovered. Although native to the forests of southeastern Asia, as pets, these little turtles have found their way into many homes all over the world. They are terrestrial and spend very little time in water.

Black Breasted Leaf Turtle Facts and Information

Geoemyda spengleri – the biological name of this turtle – is endemic to southern China (Hainan Island, Guangxi, and Guangdong), and northern Vietnam (Tam Dao, Quan Hoa, and Quang Nam). It is probable that they occur naturally in Laos and Cambodia although this is unconfirmed. They are also known as the black-breasted hill turtle or the Vietnamese leaf turtle.

The black-breasted leaf turtles get their name from their appearance. Their shell has the appearance of a little brown leaf and their plastron is dark colored.

The color of their shell ranges from yellowish-brown to dark-brown and grayish-black. Three keels (ridges) run down the carapace of this turtle with the middle one resembling the midrib of a leaf.

The most recognizable feature of this species is their eyes. They have large striking eyes with the males have very white irises. Females, on the other hand, have light-brown iris. Additionally, you can tell males from the females by their larger tail, longer carapace, and more concave plastron.

The Vietnamese Leaf Turtle has a lifespan of around 20 years.

Black Breasted Leaf Turtle Diet

Black breasted Leaf Turtle (Geoemyda spengleri)

In the wild, these turtles eat insects, earthworms, snails/slugs, and fruits. They particularly enjoy eating gastropods.

Pet black-breasted leaf turtles will eat live food, fruits, meat, and turtle pellets. They are usually fussy eating and may have different preferences.

Live foods they eat include insects, gastropods, crickets, earthworm, and bugs. They also enjoy pinkie mice, ground turkey, and chicken. Since these turtles prefer fruits to vegetables, they enjoy tomatoes, watermelon, bananas, blueberries, grapes, and strawberries. They have a preference for ripe fruits.

These turtles will also eat commercial turtle food. Feeding them commercially made turtle food can save time and is rather convenient. It is also a great way to ensure they get all the needed minerals and nutrients. This species finds Rep-Cal Maintenance Formula Box Turtle Food with Fruit enjoyable. You can mix the turtle pellets with fruits.

Feeding younglings/hatchlings can be more difficult as they are much pickier than their adult counterparts. They will eat a more protein-based diet. The hatchlings usually accept small worms and insects.

You should feed the adults every other day, and the younglings every day. These turtles can go days and even weeks without eating.

Black Breasted Leaf Turtle Habitat

If you wish to house these terrestrial turtles, you will need a turtle house since they are tiny and can’t live outdoors. We recommend the Zoo Med Tortoise House.

To create the perfect substrate for this turtle, mix equal portions of peat moss, cypress mulch, and organic topsoil. While the mulch and organic soil helps to retain moisture, peat moss (such as Hoffman Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss) prevents the occurrence of mold.

Since they like to hide under leaves, provide leaf litter in their enclosure. This will help reduce stress and keeps them comfortable. For the same reason, it’s important to provide places they can hide.

You can use logs, halves of pots, and such. Without adequate hiding places, they will be more timid, and refuse to eat.

Just as many provide aquatic plants in aquariums; it is a good idea to provide live plants for the enclosure.

In the wild, black-breasted leaf turtles get little sun from under the canopy of the forests. As such, it is debatable if this species needs UVB lamps or not. However, if you decide to get a UVB light for your turtle, ensure you change the bulbs every 9 months.

Black-breasted leaf turtles thrive in humid environments. There are several ways to increase the humidity of their enclosures. You can acquire and use a humidifier or mist the enclosure every day.

The enclosure has to be clean and free of waste. Regular cleaning is therefore important. Some breeders use springtails to help break down waste.

The temperature should be kept cool similar to what is found in the native montane forests of this species. Providing a temperature of 70 to 80 degrees will help your turtle to be comfortable and stress-free. In places where the temperature is low, you can use heat lamps to provide a comfortable temperature.

Black Breasted Leaf Turtle Breeding

Black breasted Leaf Turtle (Geoemyda spengleri) tail shot

While little is known about the mating habits of these turtles in the wild, in captivity, the female lays a clutch (3 eggs) every 38-day interval during a nesting season. Incubation periods are usually 66 to 73 days.

Black Breasted Leaf Turtle Predators

As with many turtles, predation is usually limited to the eggs and hatchlings. The main threat to this species is humans who collect both younglings and adult black-breasted leaf turtles.

Black Breasted Leaf Turtle Endangerment

The black-breasted leaf turtles are listed as endangered by the IUCN red list. It is therefore important that you do not keep wild black-breasted leaf turtles as pets.

When acquiring this species do so from a reputable turtle breeder or pet shop. Their endangered status makes them expensive pets to acquire.

The endangered status is ironically partly down to the pet trade associated with this turtle especially in the Guangdong, Guangxi and Hainan provinces in China where wild black-breasted leaf turtles are collected in large numbers.

Black Breasted Turtle Fitted with Prosthetic (Video Documentary)


Keeping the black-breasted leaf turtles as pets is difficult and thus not recommended to beginners. Even experienced breeders may still have problems raising these turtles, as they are picky eaters, timid, and fragile.

To successfully raise a Geoemyda spengleri requires substantial attention and care.

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