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Ultimate Eastern Painted Turtle Care Guide

The eastern painted turtle, a subspecies of the painted turtle, is a popular turtle native to North America. This North American turtle can be found from southeastern Canada all the Appalachian. Its colorful appearance and docile nature make the eastern painted turtle one of the most popular turtles kept as pets.

Eastern Painted Turtle Facts and Information

  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Scientific Name: Chrysemys picta picta
  • Average Adult Size: 4 to 10 inches
  • Lifespan: 30 to 40 years
  • Clutch Size: 10 eggs
  • Egg Incubation Period: 72 to 80 days
  • Food: Aquatic turtle food
  • Tank Size: 75 to 100 gallons (depending on size)
  • Average Temperature: 85°H/75°L
  • UVB Lighting: Needed
  • Average Price Range: $20 to $40
  • Conservation Status: Least Concern on IUCN Red List
  • Other Subspecies: Western Painted Turtle, Southern Painted Turtle and Midland Painted Turtle
Eastern Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta picta) in grassy pebbles near Equus Centre, Annapolis, Nova Scotia, Canada
An Eastern Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta picta) in grassy pebbles near Equus Centre, Annapolis, Nova Scotia, Canada. – Source

The eastern painted turtle (C. p. picta) is the nominate subspecies of the species Chrysemys picta (painted turtles). The average length of the eastern painted turtle is 5 to 7 inches.

The females are slightly larger and are 6 to 7 (14 to 17 cm) inches long. The smaller males are 5 to 7 inches (13–17 cm)  long. The carapace of the eastern painted turtle is olive green to black with a pale reddish stripe down the middle and red marking on its periphery.

These red markings seem painted onto the turtle thus the name ‘painted turtle’. The plastron of this turtle is yellowish and may be potted.

The eastern painted turtle can be found from southeastern Canada to Georgia. In the north, the turtle is usually found in areas close to the Atlantic ocean. In the south, they are found in the coastal lowlands of southern South Carolina and North Carolina, southern Georgia and Florida.

Painted Turtle Habitat

Eastern Painted Turtle at sunset (Chrysemys picta picta)
Eastern Painted Turtle at sunset (Chrysemys picta picta)

The C. p. picta is very aquatic and only leaves its aquatic home when the waters dry up. as they are generally found near the Atlantic ocean, it isn’t uncommon to find them in brackish waters along the Atlantic.

They don’t like fast-moving or deep water, but instead shallow and slow-moving waters such as ponds, creeks, and marshes.

Eastern Painted Turtle Care Sheet

So, how do you take care of a painted turtle? We can break it down into sections for their setup, this is going to be 90% of the work, with the remaining 10% being for feeding (which can be automated using an automatic turtle feeder) and maintenance like changing the filter and the cleaning the turtles tank.


Tetra Aquatic Turtle Deluxe Kit 20 Gallons, aquarium With Filter And Heating Lamps, 30 IN (NV33230)

The C. p. picta is a lively turtle and a strong swimmer as such the more space they have the better. in fact for babies, 10 gallons of water is a must and for adults, 20 to 40 gallons of water is necessary.

You don’t need to acquire a 10-gallon tank for a hatchling. rather feel a 20-gallon tank with 10 gallons of water. for each additional hatchling, add 5 gallons of water, if you plan to have more than one turtle.

A good aquatic tank for the eastern painted turtle is the Tetra Aquarium Reptile Glass Kit. The water in the aquarium needs to be dechlorinated.

Also, the water in the aquarium needs to be filtered continuously. Do this with a submersible canister water filter such as the Marineland Penguin Power Filter.

This ensures the water is always clean and prevents health issues related to dirty water. Additionally, change the water in the aquarium frequent – about a fourth of the water weekly.

A few advantages of outdoor enclosures include exposure to sunlight (which is the best source UVB light), and there is no need to provide a filter.


Nature's Ocean Coral Base Rock 4-8 INCHES, 20 LBS

Aquariums usually don’t require substrate. Having substrates may not be worth the trouble. However, substrates can add to the aesthetics of the habitat. Natural substrates including coral rocks and large pebbles are great ways to beautify the aquarium, though not required.

When choosing a substrate, ensure it doesn’t float, mix with water easily, and the turtle can’t ingest it.


Fluker's Repta-Clamp Lamp with Dimmable Switch for Reptiles, 8.5",Black

In their natural habitat, the eastern painted turtle is used to cold temperatures. They are known to even swim in frozen ponds. In their artificial habitat, as far as the water temperature is above 70 F, you won’t need to heat it.

With the help of a basking lamp and a thermometer, you can provide the right temperature range for the turtle. the ambient temperature should be in the mid-80s. the basking area needs a temperature in the mid-90s.

To achieve the right temperature for basking, use a heat lamp. A ceramic lamp is great as it doesn’t produce light. As such it can be on even at night. Fluker’s Repta-Clamp ceramic lamp comes with a dimmer which allows you to control the heat produced.

In addition to a heat lamp, invest in a thermometer. This way you can ensure the water and basking area temperatures are right.


It is necessary to provide the turtle with ample UVB light as this allows the turtle to synthesize vitamin D3, which helps prevent shell deformity and metabolic bone disease. The Zoo Med ReptiSun is an excellent choice. Ensure the lights are off during the night.

Exposure to indirect sunlight also helps. Placing the tank in the path of sunlight can lead to the tank overheating. If the tank is placed in a sunlit room, it should be placed away from direct sunlight.


The turtle needs places to retrieve to and hide. In addition to providing hiding spots, these accessories allow you to beautify the enclosure and give it a more natural feel. Driftwoods and aquatic plants should give the turtle several hides. If you plan on having two or more turtles in one aquarium then hiding spots are a must.

Although painted turtles are aquatic, they need a dry surface to rest on daily. This allows them to dry off and also regulate their body temperature. As such, it is necessary to provide a basking platform.

If you acquire a reptile aquarium kit, then it may already come with a basking platform installed. If not, a plastic basking platform is the best way to go.

When installing a basking platform, ensure it can hold the entire turtle with no part of it touching the water. The Penn Plax Reptology Life Science turtle pier is an excellent basking platform.

Feeding the Painted Turtle

Eastern Painted Turtle on rocks

The eastern painted turtle is an omnivorous species that prefers to eat in water. While the painted turtle species feed on both plants and small animals such as aquatic insects, crustaceans, and fish, the eastern painted turtle feeds mostly on dead or injured fish. Out of the four painted turtle subspecies, the eastern painted turtle diet is least studied.

Feeding the eastern painted turtle isn’t difficult as they accept both plant matter and animal matter. As you may have guessed, it is a good idea to vary their diet. This ensures the turtle gets all the needed nutrients and doesn’t become fixated on just one food type.

The best way to feed them is through the use of commercial turtle diets. The diet should have a protein content of 30 to 40 percent, low fat, a high calcium to phosphorus ratio, and vitamin D.

Supplement the turtle diet with plant and animal matter, plant foods to feed the turtle includes lettuce, water lettuce, hyacinth, duckweed, greens such as romaine, dandelion green, and fresh parsley.

They also accept fruits such as apple. Animal matter to feed the turtle includes crickets, mealworms, superworms, trout chow, and any healthy fish low in fat. In addition to this, you can offer freeze-dried shrimp.

Since they prefer to eat in water, their food needs to be chopped into tiny pieces and placed onto the water. Remove any food that is not eaten.

Because dropping the food into the water isn’t the most hygienic, you can use a suction cup feeder to offer food. You can also place their food in a dish such as Fluker’s Reptile Corner Bowl.

Offer calcium and vitamin supplements such as the Dr.Turtle Slow-Release Calcium Block and HERPTIVITE Multivitamin.

Feed adults 3 to 4 times a week and feed juveniles daily.

Painted Turtle’s Temperament & Handling

The eastern painted turtle can be housed with other painted turtles and turtle species with similar enclosure needs. They are generally peaceful and have no issues cohabitating. Territorial aggression can arise if the habitat is not big enough or doesn’t have enough hiding spots.

The eastern painted turtle doesn’t need human contact and affection like other truly domesticated animals do. Frequent handling can be detrimental to their well-being, as handing stresses the eastern painted turtle. The turtle may even retaliate by biting and scratching.

The only time to handle an eastern painted turtle is when you need to move it (such as when you need to clean the enclosure or move it to a new home), or when you need to inspect it for health issues.

Additionally, wash your hands properly after handling an eastern painted turtle.

Painted Turtle’s Lifespan

Among turtles, the painted turtle can be said to have a short lifespan. However, as a pet, the C. p. picta is still a long-lived subspecies. Expect a painted turtle to live to be 35 to 40 years. Since they require long term care, a lot of consideration and deliberation needs to go into selecting the eastern painted turtle as a pet.

Common Health Concerns

As the eastern painted turtle is an active and energetic animal, it is quite easy to spot an unwell eastern painted turtle. Signs to watch out for include wounds on shells and skin, asymmetrical or irregular growth, loss of appetite, excessive basking, frothing or gaping at the mouth, inability to enter water, swollen eyes, and sunken eyes. The best vet for the turtle is one that specializes in reptiles and exotic pets.

Parasites – Parasites are commonly found in turtles that aren’t captive bred. Similarly, they can be found in turtles bred and kept in unsanitary conditions. It isn’t uncommon to discover that a newly acquired eastern painted turtle has parasites. After receiving an eastern painted turtle as a pet, have a vet perform a fecal parasite exam. This should be followed with annual checks.

Hypovitaminosis A – A lack of vitamin A can lead to hypervitaminosis A. symptoms of this condition include nasal drainage, raw skin, swollen eyes, and stomatitis. prevent hypervitaminosis A by feeding the turtle a balanced diet. supplement the turtle’s food with vitamin supplements.

Vitamin D/Calcium deficiency – To synthesize vitamin D, the turtle needs adequate exposure to UVB light. this can be difficult in an indoor setup. similarly, the turtle may not get the recommended amount of calcium in the diet. both of these deficiencies lead to a metabolic bone disease which causes the bones and shell of the turtle to become deformed.

Pricing and Availability

As eastern painted turtles are popular pets, they are readily available. These subspecies are usually most common on the market from may to september as they are bred in spring and summer. As commonly bred turtles, their prices are generally low and accessible.

Eastern Painted Turtle For Sale

Expect to pay between $20 to $50 for the eastern painted turtle.


The C. p. picta are not endangered. According to the IUCN, this species is of Least Concern and their populations are stable.

Common Questions

Are Eastern painted turtles good pets?

Yes, Eastern painted turtles can make good pets for the right owners, as they’re known for their vibrant colors and relatively sociable nature, but they require proper care and a suitable aquatic environment.

Can you hold a Eastern Painted Turtle?

While they can be handled for necessary activities such as tank cleaning, Eastern painted turtles, like most turtles, generally do not enjoy frequent handling as it can cause them stress.

How big does the Eastern Painted Turtle get?

Eastern painted turtles typically grow to be between 5 and 7 inches in shell length when fully mature.

Do Eastern painted turtles need water?

Yes, Eastern painted turtles are aquatic turtles and require a tank filled with water for swimming, along with a dry basking area for sunning themselves.

What is the price of a painted turtle?

The price of a painted turtle can vary, but they typically cost around $25. Always ensure you are purchasing from a reputable breeder or pet store that is selling captive bred species.


As the most popular subspecies of the most widespread turtle species in North America, the eastern painted turtle is easy to find. Caring for them is easy, and even a starter should be able to care for this turtle with little to no problem. These colorful and active turtles are a joy to watch. If you have any questions or extra information, kindly leave a comment.

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