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Florida Mud Turtle

Florida Mud Turtle Care Sheet

The Florida mud turtle is closely related to other mud turtles. They are generally simple to care for. As with other mud turtles, the Florida mud turtle prefers to spend most of its time underwater, hardly ever basking.

Once considered a subspecies of the eastern mud turtle, this is no longer so. Analysis show that the Florida mud turtle is a distinct species. Their small size makes them perfect for indoor tanks.

With proper care, expect this turtle to live to be over 20 years. These highly carnivorous turtles prefer animal matter such as fish, krill, clams, bloodworms, and such. However, you should still give them some leafy greens and aquatic vegetation such as duckweed.

Quick Reference Section

  • Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Family: Kinosternidae
  • Scientific Name: Kinosternon steindachneri
  • Other Name: Cow Dung Cooter
  • Average Adult Size: 5 inches (12.7 cm)
  • Lifespan: 20+ years in captivity
  • Clutch Size: 4 eggs (on average)
  • Egg Incubation Period: 50 to 90 days
  • Food: turtle diet (pellets), krill, shrimp, fish, and bloodworms
  • Tank Size: 40 gallons
  • Average Temperature: 90°H/75°L
  • UVB Lighting: Needed
  • Average Price Range: $100
  • Conservation Status: Least Concern on IUCN Red List

Facts and Information

Florida Mud Turtle upside down
Florida Mud Turtle upside down

The Florida mud turtle is known as the cow dung cooter due to the fact that specimens are found feeding on manure. The specific name of this turtle is steindachneri and the species belong to the genus Kinosternon, which includes other mud turtles. The turtle also belongs to the family Kinosternidae.

The Florida mud turtle is a small turtle growing to lengths of 5 inches. The carapace length of an adult of the species is anywhere between 2.75 to 5 inches.

The shell of this turtle is oval, dark, unmarked, and has two movable hinges just as with the eastern mud turtle. However, light-colored stripes can be found around the eyes, the bottom side of the head, and the nose. Among adults, the shell, itself, is dark in color with no keels.

Hatchlings and juveniles however have three longitudinal keels. The underside of the shell is yellowish.

The species is endemic to the state of Florida which most of the wild populations concentrated around Orlando.

Florida Mud Turtle Habitat

The Florida mud turtle is a freshwater turtle and as such can be found in freshwater ecosystems. Expect to find them in ponds, lakes, slow-moving rivers, and swamps. They prefer well-vegetated, sandy-bottomed littoral zones.

Enclosure

The small size of the Florida mud turtle makes them perfect for aquariums. While they can be kept in 25-gallon aquariums, I recommend the larger 40-gallon aquarium.

A glass or transparent PVC aquarium works well for the turtle. However, you can also use large rubber containers like a rubbermaid container. These turtles are excellent communal turtles.

If you plan on keeping two Florida mud turtles in a single aquarium, then a 40 to 50 gallon aquarium will do just fine, though you can always do larger.

The SeaClear Aquarium is a great choice and if you want to go the container route, the 50-gallon Rubbermaid Storage Box is a good option.

Use dechlorinated water for the aquarium. The water also needs to be free of chloramines. Similarly, the pH level and other chemical properties need to be optimal. You can use a water conditioner such as API TAP Water Conditioner for this.

Of course, the water needs to be filtered at all times. Since turtles are messier than fish, the filter needs to be marked for a tank two or three times larger than the turtle tank. The Penn Plax Cascade 1000 Canister Filter works well since it has a 100 gallon cleaning capacity.

The filter mentioned is an external canister 3-stage filter. The filter keeps the water circulating and clean.

You need to change about 30 to 50 percent of the water in the aquarium on a weekly basis.

Substrate

Substrates aren’t necessary although they add to the appeal of the tank. They can however impact the cleanliness of the tank, so you may need to clean the tank more.

While in the wild, Florida mud turtles prefer muddy bottoms, this isn’t advisable for an aquarium as it can severely affect the cleanliness of the tank.

Gravels and pebbles are better choices. There are several to choose from. Large river pebbles with diameters of at least 15 mm (½ inch) are best. This prevents the turtle from accidentally ingesting the pebbles.

Temperature

turtle tank heater

The right temperature range is essential if the turtle is to thrive. The low ends of the aquarium should have temperatures of about 75 F. This should be the temperature of the water.

The basking area should have a temperature of 85 F to 95 F. The ambient temperature of the enclosure should be 75 F to 80 F.

It is always a good idea to equip the enclosure with an aquarium heater. Just ensure that the water temperature doesn’t fall below 70 F.

You can use a thermostat to prevent the water from getting too warm.

For a 50 gallon aquarium, the 300-watts Orlushy Submersible Aquarium Heater is an excellent choice. A 100-watts heater is perfect for aquariums with capacities below 30 gallons.

A basking lamp as well as a basking platform is needed. A ceramic heat lamp is the best option although a mercury vapor lamp also works well.

Every aquarium needs a thermometer. The Fluval Edge Digital Aquarium Thermometer is a great choice if you wish to continuously monitor the temperature of the water.

Lighting

Florida mud turtles need UVB/UVA light to be healthy. This is especially true of pre-adults. UVA/UVB ensures that bone and shell development goes as it should.

As with turtles kept indoors, there are several UV lighting choices available. Cool fluorescent lights such as ReptiSun 5.0 and ReptiSun 10 can be paired with ceramic heating lamps.

Mercury vapor lamps such as TEKIZOO Sun Lamp and  Evergreen Pet Supplies Mercury Vapor Bulb are also good options.

The lights need to be on for 10-12 hours daily. Change the bulbs every 6 months as they weaken severely over time.

Accessories

Although Florida mud turtles, as a species, don’t bask much, it is still important to provide basking platforms under the UV and heat lamps. Basking ensures that the turtle can dry off and raise their body temperature.

There are many several ways to create basking platforms but the easiest way is to install commercially available plastic turtle basking platforms such as the Penn Plax Turtle Basking Platform

Feeding the Florida Mud Turtle

Florida Mud Turtle with mouth open
Florida Mud Turtle with mouth open

Florida mud turtles are omnivorous and feed on a blend of animal matter and plants although they tend to lean heavily towards animal matter.

They tend to feed on mollusks, worms, anthropoids, eggs, fish, crustaceans, reptiles, and many more. Mud turtles will eat any animal that they can fit in their mouth. They also feed on foliage as well as algae.

In captivity, it is advisable to feed mud turtles a mix of different foods. That way, the turtle isn’t fixated on just one food type. Most prefer to feed turtles commercial turtle food.

Hatchling formula for hatchlings and juvenile and regular for adults. There are many brands on the market so finding one shouldn’t be tough.

I recommend the Exo Terra Aquatic Turtle Hatchling Floating Pellets for hatchlings and the Fluker’s Aquatic Turtle Buffet Blend Food for adults. Sequoia Aquatic Turtle Medley Food, which is a mix of freeze dried shrimp & mealworms, is also a good choice.

Other foods to feed them include shrimp, crustaceans, chicken, fish, lean beef, and insects such as bloodworms, earthworms, mealworms, and many more.

You can offer them leafy greens such as romaine lettuce, kale, collard greens, dandelion, fresh parsley and many more.

They can eat aquatic plants such as duckweed, water hyacinth, arrowhead, waterweed and other edible aquatic vegetation.

You should supplement the turtle’s diet with calcium and vitamin D powder such as Rep-Cal Calcium Powder with Vitamin D3 (Phosphorous-Free).

Feed the turtle plant matter everyday and animal matter every other day.

Florida Mud Turtle’s Temperament & Handling

These cute tiny turtles can be vicious when handled. They will bite when scared or nervous. In addition to this, the turtle may carry salmonella regardless of how clean their enclosure is.

This is to be expected with turtles. As such, wash your hands properly before and after handling the turtle.

Florida mud turtles can be kept in community enclosures.

Florida Mud Turtle Lifespan

While not as long-lived as other turtles, you can expect a captive Florida mud turtle to live beyond 20 years with proper care. Mud turtles are known to even live beyond 30 years, so be prepared for a commitment.

Common Health Concerns

An annual checkup with a herp/exotic vet can help ensure that your turtle is always healthy. In addition to this maintain a clean enclosure with adequate lighting and heating.

Also feed the turtle a well-balanced turtle diet. This will help prevent 99% of all health issues that the species experience.

Intestinal parasitesparasitic infections can be a serious issue that can lead to death. Symptoms include vomiting, weight loss, diarrhea, dehydration, and passing of undigested food.

Intestinal parasites can only be treated by a vet. Treatment includes praziquantel or fenbendazole for tapeworms and flukes, metronidazole for protozoans, and fenbendazole for nematodes.

Metabolic Bone Disease MBD in turtles is caused by vitamin D3 and/or calcium deficiency. Early signs include soft shells and abnormal limb development.

To prevent this, ensure that the turtle acquires the needed calcium and vitamin D through diet and UV light exposure. When noticed early, serious life threatening developments can be corrected. For serious cases of MBD, see a vet.

Nutrient deficiency – As mentioned earlier, vitamin D and calcium deficiencies can lead to MBD. while vitamin A deficiency can also lead to respiratory problems.

Injuries – Injuries are inevitable. To prevent cuts and bruises ensure there are no abrasive surfaces or sharp edges in the enclosure.

Also treat any superficial cuts or brushes with betadine solution. With very serious injuries such as dog bites, visit the vet.

Pricing and Availability

Do not capture wild specimens. If you wish to keep a pet Florida mud turtle, acquire one from a reputable breeder. These turtles are quite popular. They can be found at reptile expos, also known as reptile shows. Many herp pet stores also have these chelonians. Online sites can also help you find reputable breeder.

Expect to pay a minimum of $100 for a captive bred specimen. Depending on the size, prices can be as high as $350 or more.

Some reputable sites include the Turtle Source and Turtles and Tortoises.

Conservation/Threats

The Florida mud turtle is not a threatened species. The species has a Conservation status of Least Concern on the IUCN Red List. Unlike the striped mud turtle, the florida mud turtle isn’t a protected turtle in the State of Florida.

Conclusion

Although not as popular as the eastern mud turtle, the florida mud turtle is still a beloved species in florida. Endemix to the panhandle, they can be found in slow moving water bodies.

The Florida mud turtle is a cute little turtle which is relatively easy to care for. Just like other mud turtles, the Florida mud turtle hardly ever bask.

Regardless of this, make sure to provide a basking platform and basking lamps. As the Florida mud turtle is a tiny turtle, they don’t make the best pets for young children who may be tempted to put the into their mouth. However, this turtle is perfect for older teens and adults.

If you have additional information or questions, leave a comment below.

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