Eastern Mud Turtle

Eastern Mud Turtle

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Eastern Mud Turtle Care Sheet

The eastern mud turtle, also called the common mud turtle, is one of the more popular mud turtles kept as pets. This turtle is lively, hardy and easy to care for.

These small carnivorous turtles are endemic to the United States. They are quite long-lived as well. As such caring for an eastern mud turtle requires long term commitment.

As far as their enclosure is clear and they are well-fed, they should be expected to live for several years with little to no hiccups along the way.

Quick Reference Section

  • Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Family: Kinosternidae
  • Scientific Name: Kinosternon subrubrum
  • Average Adult Size: 3 to 4  inches (7.6 to 10.2 cm)
  • Lifespan: Up to 20 years
  • Clutch Size: 2 to 5 eggs
  • Egg Incubation Period: 50 to 90 days
  • Food: Commercial diet & insects
  • Tank Size: 25 gallons
  • Average Temperature: 90°H/70°L
  • UVB Lighting: Needed
  • Average Price Range: $5 to $50
  • Conservation Status: Least Concern on IUCN Red List

Facts and Information

Eastern mud turtles on a log
Eastern Mud Turtles on a log basking

The eastern mud turtle is known as the Kinosternon subrubrum. As such, they belong to the genus Kinosternon and the family Kinosternidae.

These small turtles grow to be only 3 to 4 inches in carapace length. Their tan to yellowish carapace had no keel to patterns. Their underside is double hinged and is usually brown to yellowish. As with most freshwater turtles, the feet of the eastern mud turtle are webbed. Their chin and neck are usually streaked.

The eastern mud turtle is endemic to the united states, in particular, the southern part. They can be found in southern Florida, west to central Texas, and the Mississippi valley. Although they are primarily southeastern American species, they can also be found on Long Island as well as the New Jersey Pine Barrens.

Eastern Mud Turtle Habitat

These turtles are generally found in ponds, lakes, rivers, and swamps with a lot of vegetation. They hibernate by burrowing into mud especially after the pond or stream they inhabit dries up.


As freshwater turtles, you need to keep them in an aquarium. Since they are small turtles, they don’t require a lot of space. A 25-gallon aquarium should be large enough for the turtle, however, you can house them in a 40-gallon aquarium.

A 40-gallon tank is a must if you plan on housing two eastern turtles in the same tank. For a single turtle, I recommend the Tetra Glass Aquarium, and for two turtles, I recommend the SeaClear Aquarium.

As chlorine irritates the turtle’s eye, the water in the tank must be dechlorinated. Since tap water contains chlorine or chloramines, they need to be dechlorinated using a water conditioner such as the API TAP Water Conditioner. This conditioner not only removes the chlorine/chloramines in the water, but it also detoxifies any heavy metals present in the water.

To ensure the water in the aquarium is always clean, it must be filtered continuously. I recommend aquarium filters such as MarineLand Penguin and SunSun HW-302.

 Lastly, to keep the aquarium water clean, you need to change about a quarter of the water in the aquarium every week. Changing a bit of the water each time ensures the turtle is comfortable.


There are several ways you can maintain the bottom of the aquarium. For first-timers, I recommend a bare-bottom aquarium as this is easiest to maintain.

However, there are several different types of substrates you can use as bedding for the aquarium. It is important that the turtle cannot ingest the substrate used. Some good choices include Royal Imports’ Large Decorative Polished Gravel River Pebbles Rocks and CaribSea South Seas Base Rock


Maintaining the right temperatures ensures the turtles survive and are comfortable as well. The basking area temperature needs to be in the 90s (Fahrenheit).

The air temperature needs to be between 74 F and 81 F. T,[the temperature of the water needs to be around 75 F (anywhere from 72 to 18 F is okay). If the water temperature is too high, the turtle may bask much less.

If the water temperature is low (below 70 F), you need to warm it up using a submersible heater such as the  UPMCT Aquarium Heater. When using a submersible heater ensure the temperature of the water doesn’t get dangerously hot.

To prevent this, use a thermometer, such as the VIVOSUN, to monitor the water temperature and a thermostat such as the BN-Link thermostat to regulate the heater. In many cases, you won’t even need a heater.

When basking, the temperature needs to be high as already mentioned. To ensure the necessary warmth is provided, use a basking lamp (preferably a ceramic lamp).

Regulate the heat output using a thermostat. Another BN-Link thermostat can be used to provide the needed regulation here are well. Monitor the basking spot and air temperature with a Zoo Med Digital Thermometer.


Use the ReptiSun 5.0 or ReptiSun 10.0 to provide the needed UVB light needed for proper growth. As UVB is essential to the production of vitamin D3, which is needed to efficiently use the calcium provided, a good UVB light is needed. There are several UVB lights but you can never go wrong with the ReptiSun.

To emulate the natural environment where the sun is generally up for 12 to 9 hours each day. Ensure the enclosure receives 12 hours of light followed by 12 hours of darkness cycle; strictly maintained every single day without fail.


Basking platforms allows the turtle to dry off and increase their body temperatures. While some aquarium kits may come with a baking platform, most won’t. There are several excellent basking platform choices you can use such as Penn Plax Turtle Tank Topper and OASIS Turtle Ramp,  which are plastic.

Feeding the Eastern Mud Turtle

The eastern mud turtle can be said to be primarily carnivorous as they feed almost exclusively on animal matter. They are known to feed on amphibians, reptiles, fish, eggs, carrion, arthropods, mollusks, insects, worms and aquatic crustaceans.

They consume a wide range of animals which are smaller than they are. In water, they eat clams, snails, crayfish, shrimp, carrion, fish and vegetation (such as leaves and algae). During the dry season, the common mud turtle buries itself in mud and feeds on ticks, spiders, insects, and earthworms.

When it comes to feeding the eastern mud turtle, the safest bet is commercial aquatic turtle diets. A good diet should provide the needed nutrients including vitamin A, D3, and calcium.

Some of the best turtle diets include ReptoMin Baby Turtle Formula Sticks (for hatchlings & hatchlings),Exo Terra Aquatic Turtle Hatchling Floating Pellets (for hatchlings and juveniles), Mazuri aquatic turtle diet, TetraCichlid Sticks, Fluker ‘s Aquatic Turtle Diet. Zoo Med Gourmet Reptisticks Floating Aquatic Turtle Food, TradeKing Dried Mealworms, and Zoo Med Natural Aquatic Turtle Food.

Supplement the commercial turtle diet with greens such as dandelion greens, collard greens, salad greens, and parsley. Dust the greens with a good calcium supplement such as Rep-Cal once a week.

Alternatively, you can feed the turtle insects such as crickets, mealworms, earthworms, superworms, and any other insects that they will accept. They also accept shrimp, feeder fish, pieces of chicken, tilapia and even raw lean beef.

If you feed them this instead of commercial turtle diets you still need to provide the vegetables mentioned. Also dust the vegetables with calcium supplements since they can eat on land, offer the food dusted with calcium on a plate on the dry part of the aquarium.

Feed the eastern mud turtle commercial turtle diet/animal protein every other day. Offer as much as they can eat until they show a reduced appetite. Greens can be fed them every day.

Eastern Mud Turtle’s Temperament & Handling

As with other aquatic turtles, it isn’t advisable to handle the eastern mud turtle. Although they are not aggressive, they may bite when they feel threatened.

Their sharp beaks can deliver painful bites. They should only be handled when necessary. Similarly, as with small turtles, the eastern mud turtle may carry salmonella. Wash your hands properly before and after handling any small turtle.

While it is necessary to provide a basking spot, the mud turtle doesn’t bask frequently. They spend almost all their time at the bottom of the tank.

Eastern Mud Turtle’s Lifespan

The common mud turtle lives for several decades with a lifespan of 30 to 50 years. As they can live for that long, dedication is a plus when caring for the turtle.

If you cannot care for the turtle anymore, it is important to find a new keeper rather than releasing it into the wild. It may struggle to adapt to the wild. Also, captive turtles released can become an invasive species if the place isn’t in their geographical range.

Common Health Concerns

Healthy eastern mud turtles have smooth shells that show no odd bumps, or signs of flaking. Additionally, a healthy mud turtle has clear eyes and skin that shows no signs of infection and irritation. Common health problems include poor shell health, infections, vitamin deficiencies, and cuts & bruises.

Shell Problems– If the turtle isn’t fed a well-rounded diet with all the needed nutrients, they can develop shell deformities. Similarly, overfeeding can lead to deformed shells.

Other shell problems include shell rot and flaking shells. Maintain a clean enclosure with clean water and adequate UVB lighting. Feed the turtle a well-rounded diet, ideally a quality commercial aquatic turtle diet. If shell problems are persistent see a herp vet.

Infection – Freshwater turtles can suffer from infections especially if their enclosure is unclean. Infections can manifest as bumps on their ear, and skin.

Nutrient deficiency – Vitamin A deficiency can lead to respiratory problems, while vitamin D3 deficiency can lead to metabolic bone disease. Prevent these issues by providing the turtle with all the needed nutrition. A good commercial turtle diet should contain all the needed nutrients and minerals. You can also provide the turtle with nutrient supplements.

Cuts and bruises – Cuts and bruises can be caused by sharp edges or an aggressive housemate. Treat injuries with betadine solution and get rid of whatever causes the injury.

Pricing and Availability

It is best to adopt a mud turtle from a reputable breeder. Several keepers also capture them in the wild. I advise against this as wild turtles can find it difficult to adapt to captive life. Also, they may be infested with parasites and carry infections. With a reputable breeder. The turtle will be a healthy one which was raised in a captive habitat.

Mud turtles cost a few dollars to about $50.


The eastern mud turtle is considered to be of Least Concern by the IUCN. Their population is said to be stable and the turtles are abundant throughout their geographical range.


As a popular turtle species, the eastern mud turtle is relatively easy to care for. You need to provide a large enclosure with a powerful filter. This ensures that the water quality is high.

A clean aquarium helps prevent several health problems. Additionally, the eastern mud turtle needs to be fed a primarily carnivorous diet with all the needed nutrients.

As with any pet, it’s necessary to schedule checkups with your local herp vet. This ensures they are healthy and can live a long happy life. If you have any comments, kindly leave them. These can include additional information and questions.

About the author

Brock Yates

Brock Yates has a passion for educating people about turtles & tortoises. He manages several websites and has a goal of getting everyone the best and most accurate information to help them with their turtle & tortoise care.

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