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Eastern Snake-Necked Turtle Overview & Care Sheet: Everything You Need to Know

The eastern snake-necked turtle is a peculiar-looking turtle. Its peculiar appearance is down to its long neck which can be almost as long as its shell (about 60% as long as its shell).

The turtle itself can grow up to a foot in carapace length. If you take the length of its neck into account, the species is very long for its size.

This chelonian can be kept as a pet although caring for it can be quite tricky. Acquiring one can also be difficult if you live outside of its geographic range, which is eastern Australia. However, you can acquire other snake-necked chelonians such as the Asian species of the genus Chelodina.

The eastern long-necked turtle is an opportunistic feeder and can be found in a wide variety of aquatic habitats (except seawater). This turtle belongs to the suborder Pleurodira – known as side-necked turtles.

Side-necked turtles cannot retract their head directly back into their shell, rather they can bend their head sideways into their shell. The eastern portion of their name is to indicate that the species can be found in East Australia.

Eastern Snake-Necked Turtle Turtle Facts and Information

Eastern Long-necked Turtle basking on log
Eastern Long-necked Turtle basking on log

Quick Reference Section

  • Experience Level: Advanced
  • Family: Chelidae
  • Scientific Name: Chelodina longicollis
  • Other Names: Common snake-necked turtle, eastern long-necked turtle, the stinker
  • Average Adult Length: 9.84 inches (250 mm)
  • Average Adult Weight: 15.65 – 28.76 oz. (444 to 816 g)
  • Lifespan: up to 50 years

Interesting Facts

Eastern snake-necked turtles are also known as the common snake-necked turtle or the eastern long-necked turtle. As with all other snake-necked turtles, the eastern snake-necked turtle has a long winding neck that it uses for hunting.

The Eastern Snake-necked Turtle (Chelodina longicollis) is listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as a species of least concern.

The species have a very long neck which is common for the subgenus – Chelodina. The neck normally reaches a length of 60 of the CL (carapace length). Females are larger than males and generally inhabit deeper waters.

Similar to musk turtles, the Chelodina longicollis has musk glands. With this, the species can ‘musk’ up their immediate surroundings when threatened. This emission is a foul-smelling fluid. For this reason, this chelonian is also known as the ‘stinker’.

They are prevalent throughout coastal and inland waterways of eastern Australia from the Wilton River to the Murray River and along the southwestern border of New South Wales.

The Eastern Snake-necked Turtle (Chelodina longicollis) is listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as the species of least concern. The wild populations of the species are thought to be doing well, and they are widespread and abundant in their native habitats.

Potential threats to their existence include red foxes, climate change, and habitat change. For now, the eastern snake-necked turtle is a species of least concern.

What does the eastern snake-necked turtle look like?

Eastern Long necked turtle looking at camera
Eastern Long-necked turtle looking at camera

As medium-sized turtles, they have an average carapace length of about 10 inches (250 mm). The carapace is oval with a shallow central groove. Their neck is long and narrow. In fact, their neck length is 60% of their plastron length. As you can see the neck is very long. This feature stands out the most.

In terms of color, their carapace color ranges from light brown to black, and their plastron is lightly colored (cream) with dark seams. Lastly, their limbs and neck are brown.

This turtle looks similar to other snake-necked turtles and can be confused for other species within the same genus – Chelodina.

Where can the eastern snake-necked turtle be found?

Closeup view of Eastern long-necked turtle in Australia with legs retracted
Closeup view of an Eastern long-necked turtle in Australia with legs retracted

The species can be found in Australia specifically in the eastern part of Australia. The species can be found throughout the Murray-Darling Basin. The chelonian’s geographic range starts from the Wilton River found in Queensland to the Murray River found on the southwestern border of New South Wales.

The species can be found in Adelaide in South Australia, Victoria, Northern Territory, New South Wales, and Queensland.

The species are closely related to the Chelodina canni, commonly known as Cann’s snake-necked turtles, and will mate and hybridize with the species in the Styx River drainage area in Queensland. Both species are part of the subgenus Chelodina.

What kind of habitat does the eastern snake-necked turtle live in?

Eastern long necked turtle swimming in tank
Eastern long-necked turtle swimming in a tank

These semi-aquatic turtles can be found in swamps, wetlands, streams, and rivers. They prefer slow-moving water bodies.

Apart from when they bask, they prefer to stay at the bottom of the water bodies they inhabit. If the water in their habitat dries up, they leave or estivate.

Estivation involves burrowing into fallen foliage on the forest floor near shrubs and logs.

What does the eastern snake-necked turtle eat in the wild?

Eastern long necked turtle swimming in tank with plants in background
Eastern long-necked turtle swimming in a tank with plants in the background

The species is carnivorous and feed on a wide selection of animals. This is especially true when there are limited food resources in the ecosystem. As mentioned earlier this turtle is an opportunistic eater (scavenger).

In addition to this, it is an ambush predator. As such, the species uses a strike and gape action to catch its prey. The chelonian lowers its hyoid bone creating a vacuum that sucks the prey into its mouth.

The foods that this turtle mostly eats include plankton, crustaceans, tadpoles, fish, aquatic invertebrates, and carrion. It will eat terrestrial insects if it gets the chance to catch some. The species can be classified as an insectivore, a piscivore, and a scavenger.

The species migrates to other habitats if there is intraspecific competition with other snake-necked turtles.

How long does the eastern snake-necked turtle live?

Australian eastern long-necked turtle getting rained on
Australian eastern long-necked turtle getting rained on

While the species can live up to 50 years, the average life span for the chelonian is 30 to 37. According to ADW, the average lifespan of the species is 31 to 37. This is the average lifespan of the species both in the wild and in captivity.

The species is not as common in captivity as other turtles such as sliders and cooters, there is limited information on their lifespan in captivity. However, the lifespan in captivity is estimated to be approximately the same as the lifespan in the wild.

One factor that significantly shortens the lifespan of this species is the move to more permanent water bodies during the dry seasons. The turtles that make this move may not be able to cope with the competition in these larger water bodies and end up dying in large numbers.

Females are able to adapt much better than males are able to because of the females’ bigger physical size. Also, individuals that live in wetland habitats usually have longer lifespans than those that live in permanent water bodies.

How many eggs does the eastern snake-necked turtle lay?

Eastern Long-necked Baby swimming in a vegetated tank at Princess of Wales Conservatory
Eastern Long-necked Baby swimming in a vegetated tank at Princess of Wales Conservatory. – Source

According to ADW, nesting females lay about 8 to 24 eggs per clutch in late spring to early summer each year. In Australia, this is around October to December. Nesting females lay one to three clutches within the year. Females nest at the banks of the water bodies they inhabit.

The eggs incubate for three to five months (120 to 150 days) before hatching. This is around January to April.

The eggs are about 2 cm wide and 3 cm long and weigh about 6 or 7 grams. Hatchlings are particularly vulnerable with large numbers becoming prey for fish and birds.

These chelonians are slow to mature. Females mature when they are 10 to 12 years old. Males mature faster and reach maturity at age 7 to 8 years.

What predators do the eastern snake-necked turtle have?

Group of Australian Dingos
Group of Australian Dingos

The chelonian has a number of predators. These include dingos (Canis lupus dingo), white-breasted sea eagles (Haliaeetus leucogaster), Australian ravens (Corvus coronoides), goannas (Varanus), water rats (Hydromys chrysogaster), and red foxes (Vulpes vulpes).

Foxes prey on the species the most. These prey on their eggs and juveniles.

To defend itself against predators, the turtle releases an offensive-smelling fluid that is yellowish. The species will also retract into its shell. Lastly, the chelonian will snap at the intruders.

Is it legal to keep the eastern snake-necked turtle as a pet?

In Australia, it is legal to keep Chelodina longicollis as a pet. However, it is important to follow the correct processes before acquiring a specimen.

In Victoria, the Chelodina longicollis is protected by law and requires a license to acquire from a wildlife dealer or a pet shop. This also applies to other states in Australia. For individuals, you require a private wildlife license. In order to acquire a wildlife license, you need to apply for one.

If you are outside Australia, it is important to check with local wildlife authorities to make sure that it is legal to keep exotic/foreign turtles as pets. Wildlife laws defer from one country to another.

In the United States, Chelodina longicollis can generally be kept as pets. However, you must check with your local wildlife authority as the turtle isn’t endemic to any part of North America.

Eastern Snake-Necked Turtle Care Sheet

Eastern long-necked turtle, Chelodina longicollis, from Canowindra in New South Wales Australia
Eastern long-necked turtle (Chelodina longicollis) from Canowindra in New South Wales Australia

The eastern snake-necked turtle can be a bit difficult to take care of but as with most turtles, the setup is the most demanding aspect of their care. Once you have successfully set up the enclosure, the rest of the care should be routine. 

Eastern Snake-Necked Habitat (Turtle Tank Setup)

Tank setup includes setting up the enclosure, the ramp, the substrate, the filtration system, and the substrate.

Enclosure (Tank)

Adult eastern snake-necked turtles are best housed outdoors. However, if you want to keep them indoors, ensure the tank you acquire is large. The length of the tank should be three to four feet (36 to 48 inches). The Tetra 55 Gallon Aquarium is a good choice. Once they are 3 years of age, you may want to move them outdoors if you can.

After the pump is sorted out, you need to create a basking spot for the turtle. This is a dry flat surface above the water which is easily accessible. The turtle can dry out at the spot. This helps stop the development of fungal infections. Some excellent choices include the OASIS Turtle Ramp and the JIH Natural Basking Rock (these are flat natural rocks that can be piled up to create a basking spot).

Cleaning

Before we look at the right substrates, let us take a look at water maintenance. The pH level of the water needs to be between 7.5 and 8.2. This is slightly alkaline. Correct pH level with marine aquarium buffer if necessary.

Additionally, you need to add aquarium salt to the water.

Add one cup of salt mix per 13 gallons of water. Test the water quality regularly with a marine test kit such as the API TEST STRIPS to ensure it’s right for the eastern snake-necked turtles.

Also, the water needs to be changed regularly (twice a week). Change about a quarter of the water at a time so as not to shock the turtle.

An excellent water conditioner to use for the aquarium is the API TAP Water Conditioner.

Substrate

Although the substrate isn’t important when it comes to aquariums, it has its benefits.

For instance, coral rubble can be used to help buffer the pH level. The substrates used shouldn’t float, also they shouldn’t impede the job of the filter and pump used to keep the water clean.

Filtration

Of course, a pump and a filter are a must. This keeps the aquarium’s water moving, oxygenated and clean.

Turtles excrete in the water so it’s important that it is clean at all times. Get a pump marked for use with a water capacity twice the water capacity of the enclosure.

I recommend the Marineland Penguin Power Filter.

Temperature

Temperature requirements are exacting when it comes to the care of this species. You have to ensure that you get the measurements right.

Water Heating

As a temperate climate species, the water needs to be quite cool.  While in their native habitat, they are no strangers to water temperatures of 54 degrees Fahrenheit, it is best if the aquarium water’s temperature is slightly higher.

The water temperature must be 61 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit. This is within range of most homes, and as such an aquarium heater is rarely needed.

However, if the water temperature is consistently low, you can invest in an aquarium heater that has a guard to prevent the turtle from accidentally getting burnt. A good option is the Hitop Adjustable Aquarium Heater.

Use a thermometer such as the Zacro LCD Digital Aquarium Thermometer to monitor the temperature of the water.

Basking Needs

Ensure the aquarium never receives direct sunlight as this will cause the inside of the glass tank to heat up. Glass is not a good insulator.

The aquarium can be placed adjacent to the window. This way, it receives a lot of indirect sunlight.

Provide a basking light as well with a temperature of 72 to 79 F. There should be no hot spots, and the heat provided should be evenly spread.

Also, the lamp needs to be out of the turtle’s reach, and the reach of any water splashes.

If you’re using a lamp that also provides white light, the lamp needs to be turned off during the night. The Zacro 60W Reptile Heat Lamp is perfect for the required heat provision.

A good thermometer for the basking spot is the Zoo Med Labs Digital Thermometer. This will ensure that you can monitor the basking spot temperature at all times.

Lighting

Just like any turtle, the eastern snake-necked turtle needs UV light to be healthy.

UV facilitates the production of vitamin D3 which is important for bone development and healthy growth. While the best source of UV light for indoor enclosures is indirect sunlight, it can be supplemented with UV light lamps.

The light lamp used should be able to provide both UVA and UVB. It is best if the light is fluorescent and produces no heat. It can be used in conjunction with the heat lamp.

This way the heat lamp can be on all the time. If you use a lamp that produces both heat and light, the lamp needs to be off during the night. The drop in temperature can be uncomfortable (although harmless in most cases) to the turtle.

Regardless of your choice, it is essential to place the aquarium in a room that receives a lot of sunlight. Artificial light is easily weakened and refracted by the water where the turtle spends most of its time.

Good artificial light sources include Zoo Med Reptisun, Zoo Med Aquatic Turtle UVB & Heat Lighting Kit, and Zoo Med Aquatic Turtle Lighting Combo.

I also recommend a UVB/UVA test card. These are to test the strength of your UV light lamps.

Test the bulbs once you install them and you replace them every 6 months. The strength of the UV radiation reduces over time. As such it is essential to replace the bulbs frequently.

Lastly, I recommend having a timer for your lighting setup. The turtle needs 6 hours of light and 6 hours of darkness.

A timer will automatically turn the lights on and off every day. The BN-LINK 7-Day Heavy Duty Digital Programmable Timer is an excellent timer.

The timer can also work with your heating setup as well.

Accessories

Hornwart - Close up view in tank
Hornwart – Close up view in tank

Accessories are as much for humans as they are for turtles. They decorate the enclosure and give it a natural look. They also provide the turtle with places to hide.

Hiding spots are essential to the health of the turtle. When housed outside, plants are a must. For indoor enclosures, you can use either live plants or artificial ones.

Here are a variety of live plant options that are complimentary for turtle tanks.

Eastern Snake-Necked Turtle Feeding

As a carnivorous species, the eastern snake-necked turtle only eats animal matter. In the wild, their diet consists of fish, tadpoles, crustaceans, plankton, carrion, and aquatic invertebrates.

Overfeeding is one of the major problems when it comes to eastern snake-necked turtle care. Overfeed them and the scutes of the shell will grow abnormally and lead to deformities and a weak shell. Feed adults twice a week and about 5 to 10 bite sizes per feeding session. The hatchlings should be fed daily while the young feed every other day.

While they prefer to eat in water, some do eat on land. Feed them commercial food such as Aquatic Foods Inc. Freeze Dried Krill, and Freeze-Dried Bloodworms. You can also feed them a diet of equal portions of prawns (soaked for an hour to remove salt, if it’s salted) and feeder fish.

Other food choices include crickets, mealworms, roaches, and other insects. Fish such as goldfish are also a good choice.

Since they prefer to hunt for their food. Provide live food every now and then. This way they can exercise.

One way to ensure they get all the needed nutrients is to offer calcium and vitamin supplements weekly. Also, feeding them insects caught outside can be detrimental to their health as they may contain parasites.

Recommended Basic Products

Temperament

Although it is a ‘display pet’, the eastern snake-necked turtle is gentle, docile, and friendly. As they are curious, they interact eagerly with people.

When they are hatchlings, they will become familiar with the keeper and rush toward their human to be fed whenever their human enters the room.

They will even accept food from your hands. Before holding them ensure your hands are clean. After handling them, properly wash your hands.

Common Health Concerns 

As with any species, there are common health issues that are to be expected regardless of the care given. However, with proper husbandry, the eastern snake-necked turtle will live a full life free of any serious health issues.

Cuts and bruises – Cuts and bruises can be caused by sharp edges and rough handling. Carefully inspect the aquarium and ensure there are no sharp objects that can harm the turtle. If you notice cuts and bruises, it is best to treat them as soon as possible using a topical medication such as betadine.

Infection – Cuts and bruises can lead to infections when not treated properly. Signs of infections include white fluffy growth usually found around the tail, eyes, and claws, and whitish-gray (or red) patches on the shell.

Have a herp vet diagnose the turtle if you think the turtle may be infected. To help prevent infections, ensure the aquarium is clean and hygienic. Also, ensure the turtle has enough space to bask and that the basking lamp provides the needed warmth.

Metabolic Bone Disease – This is usually caused by nutrient and mineral deficiency in specific vitamin D3 and calcium. Supplementing the turtle’s diet and providing adequate access to sunlight is the best way to prevent MBD.

Sloughing is not an infection although novices may confuse it with an infection. Sloughing is the shedding of the shell and skin.

P.S: It is important not to clean the algae which usually grows on the back of the turtle. While it has no benefit to captive turtles, attempting to clean the algae can lead to needless injuries which can lead to infections.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where can I find an eastern snake-necked turtle for sale?

The eastern snake-necked turtle is relatively difficult to find. It is not as common as other pet turtles such as cooters and sliders. They are also quite difficult to care for and maintain. These turtles are carnivorous and feed exclusively on animal foods. They are still available from several breeders although their prices are quite steep compared to other turtles.

In Australia, you can check Kellyvillepets.com and in the US you can check turtlesandtortoises.com.

Before you order this chelonian, you should ensure that you can legally have the turtle as a pet. In Australia, you may need a license.

How much is an eastern snake-necked turtle?

The eastern snake-necked turtle can be expensive to acquire. This is because the species is quite difficult to get depending on where you are based. These turtles are quite common within their geographic range and as such are quite affordable for this reason.

Outside the united states, the species can cost you as much as $2000. This is for adult females.

How do eastern snake-necked turtles mate?

The mating system of C. longicollis is polygynandrous as such the females of the species mates with several males and the males also mate with several females. As with most aquatic turtles, mating takes place in an aquatic environment.

The male starts by mounting the female from the rear. He will then align his plastron over the female’s carapace. Females may break free of the males and the males may retreat. Once the male’s plastron is adjacent to the female’s, mating begins.

During mating, the male bobs the head and touches the female’s cloaca with his own. The male does this so as to line up his barbels with the female’s barbels.

Unlike many other turtles, the mating behavior of C. longicollis isn’t complex.

C. longicollis may hybridize with Canni’s snake-necked turtles (Chelodina canni). Since the geographic range of the two species hardly overlaps, hybridization is uncommon.

How much do eastern snake-necked turtles cost?

The eastern snake-necked turtle can be expensive to acquire.

This is because the species is quite difficult to get depending on where you are based. These turtles are quite common within their geographic range and as such are quite affordable for this reason.

Outside the United States, the species can cost you as much as $2000. This is for adult females. Since the turtle is quite rare outside of their geographic range, you will need to pay a lot to acquire one.

Other snake-necked turtles are generally much cheaper and will cost less than $300.

Are eastern snake-necked turtles illegal?

Although they are not illegal, you need to be careful before acquiring them. In Australia, it is legal to keep Chelodina longicollis as a pet. However, it is important to follow the correct processes before acquiring a specimen.

In Victoria, the Chelodina longicollis is protected by law and requires a license to acquire from a wildlife dealer or a pet shop. This also applies to other states in Australia. For individuals, you require a private wildlife license. In order to acquire a wildlife license, you need to apply for one.

If you are outside Australia, it is important to check with local wildlife authorities to make sure that it is legal to keep exotic/foreign turtles as pets. Wildlife laws defer from one country to another. In the United States, Chelodina longicollis can generally be kept as pets. However, you must check with your local wildlife authority as the turtle isn’t endemic to any part of North America.

What fish can live with eastern snake-necked turtles?

These turtles are piscivores and as such feed on fish. You cannot keep fish with these turtles as they will try to eat them. Eastern snake-necked turtles are opportunistic feeders and aren’t picky about the fish they eat.

Conclusion

This peculiar semi-aquatic turtle may be a challenge to care for but its inquisitive and gentle nature makes them a great pet to have.

While they can be kept in an aquarium, adult eastern snake-necked turtles do best in an outdoor enclosure with a pond. This gives them adequate access to sunlight and gives them a lot of space to explore. Regardless of your enclosure of choice, this turtle is sure to entertain and delight any turtle enthusiast.

In all, this freshwater chelonian is friendly, gentle, calm, and interactive with humans, they can be challenging pets to care for and require a lot of attention.

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Donna

Tuesday 16th of July 2019

I rescued an eastern long neck hatchling after a flood here in northern Australia. My baby is six months now an grown quite a lot. Has been in fish tank till now but am looking for information on his care as he grows. Tank, Enclosure etc. Your babies out for excersise. Curious as to where they live and how they will be housed in the future.

Asa

Tuesday 16th of April 2019

i have a pet baby eastern painted turtle will the snake neck eat it or not cause i don't want my baby eastern painted turtle to die

aleke michael

Saturday 6th of October 2018

please i will like to get turtle dung i will really appriciate it if i get please i really need it

Susi Peniamina

Saturday 25th of April 2015

Just found a snake neck turtle on the road and wandered if i could get some info on how to look after it.

Pls reply on the above email.

Thank you