Skip to Content

Florida Red Bellied Cooter Facts (Florida Redbelly)

Indigenous to southern Georgia and Florida, the Florida redbelly is easily distinguished by its bright red underbelly (plastron). These fairly large turtles grow up to between 8 to 15 inches. Males are 10 inches on average and are noticeably smaller than females (who are 12 inches on average).

Florida Red Bellied Cooter Facts and Information

Florida Red Bellied Cooter standing tall
Florida Red Bellied Cooter standing tall

The Florida red-bellied cooters are also known as the Florida red belly, and are native to southern Georgia and Florida, although they can be found in Texas, and the Virgin Islands, British where they were introduced into the wild.

Biologically, the Florida redbelly is known as Pseudemys nelsoni. They belong to the family Emydidae (turtles) and the genus Pseudemys (cooters). Cooters are a genus of freshwater turtles native to Eastern United States.

These medium to large sized cooters have a red-tinged belly and two cusps on their upper beak. Their distinctive red tint fades are they enter adulthood.

Florida_Red bellied_Turtle

Other distinguishing features include bright yellow stripes that run along their arms, legs, head, and tails. Their shells (carapace) are dome-shaped and wide.

These shells are brown colored with red ‘Y’ markings. While the much heavier female adult weighs around 4 kg, the male adult weighs in at just 1.6 kg. As you can tell, these turtles are brightly colored. That is one of their appeals to many pet owners.

The Florida Red Bellied Turtles Lifespan is around 40 years but can go beyond that.

Florida Red Bellied Cooter Diet

While the young Florida redbelly turtles eat both insects and plant matter, adults are primarily plant-eaters. The diet of these turtles consists mostly of arrowhead, duckweed, and waterweed. They also eat algae.

Keeping the Florida redbelly well fed is not difficult, they eat edible plants such as lettuce, parsley, romaine lettuce, spike rush, spinach, hydrilla, water hyacinth, arrowhead, duckweed, waterweed, and other edible vegetation.

You can also feed them fruits such as strawberries, banana, and melon. Young Florida red-bellied turtles also eat insects. Since younglings are still growing, it is advisable to feed them more protein-based diets.

Foods such as worms, insects, crustaceans, and fish can be fed to the young. Growing aquatic plants is a good way to get adult Florida redbelly eating right.

You can feed the adults every other day, while the youngling can be fed daily to twice a day.

It is advisable to feed these turtle calcium supplements such as cuttlebone.

You can also feed your turtle commercial turtle food. Some popular ones include Gourmet Aquatic Turtle Food, and Fluker’s Aquatic Turtle Medley Treat. These pellets have all the needed nutrients for healthy growth.

Florida Red Bellied Cooter Habitat

Florida Red Bellied Cooter in Grass

The Florida red-bellied cooters live in brackish waters and freshwater bodies. Those located in the southeast of Florida live in rivers ponds and lakes with plenty of aquatic plants, which they feed on. During the day, these turtles bask in the sun.

They prefer areas with a warm climate with temperatures between 90 degrees in summer and 64 degrees in the winter. These turtles are communal.

Both males and females usually bask in the same area. Also, they tend not to defend their territories. Adult Florida redbelly cooters teach the younglings to be social and to bask in a large group.

You can keep Florida redbelly indoors or outdoors. For an outdoor enclosure, the cooters need a water body as well as a substrate composed of fine gravel, sand or medium gravel.

If you plan to house your Florida red-bellied turtle indoors, you need a large tank with a water capacity of 100 gallons or more. You also need a pump and filter system to keep the water clean.

In addition, you should change a third of the water in the tank weekly. The depth of the water in the tank should be between 1 to 2 feet. This will allow the turtle to swim freely.

Florida Red Bellied Cooter basking

Florida Redbelly Basking

The basking spot is essential since these turtles spend a lot of time basking. The basking area needs a heat lamp and a UVB lamp. You can get each separately or you can get a lamp that does both. If the tank is outside or at a window that receives a lot of sunlight, you may not need a UVB light.

For more information on choosing a uvb bulb, check out our best uvb bulbs for turtles review.

However, you must keep in mind that glass (of windows) can block UVB rays from the sun. UVB light helps turtles produce vitamin D3, which is needed for calcium absorption and metabolism. Some turtle keepers prefer to supplement the turtle’s diet with vitamin D3.

The temperature of the enclosure must always be kept at a suitable level. The water temperature must be kept at 71 to 75 degrees, while the basking area has to be between 85 to 95 degrees.

Check out the best heater for turtle tanks review for help in choosing one.

Florida Red Bellied Cooter Breeding

two Florida Red Bellied Cooters

Florida redbelly cooters reach maturity when they reach their full size. This is three years for males and six to eight years for females. Adult females lay between 2 to 7 clutches (7 to 26 eggs) yearly.

Florida redbelly turtles don’t bury their eggs, instead, they lay it away from water bodies they inhabit, sometimes in the nest of alligators who protect the eggs from predators.

Florida Red Bellied Cooter Predators

The primary predators of the Florida redbelly include American alligators (Alligator mississippiensis), lizards and humans who collect them for consumption. The hatchlings and the eggs are also known to be preyed on by tropical fire ants, birds, otters, and lizards.

Florida Red Bellied Cooter Endangerment

The endangered status of the Florida redbelly cooters depends on where they are situated. They are considered imperiled in Georgia; otherwise, they are considered not endangered (least concern) by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature).

Florida Redbelly Turtle In The Wild


As with all turtles, it is best to acquire the Florida red-bellied turtle from a turtle breeder or a pet shop. Wild cooters usually don’t fare well to a change in environment as well as a change in diet.

Wild cooters are also more likely to attack owners. The Florida redbelly is moderately difficult to care for and require proper attention. Although loving beginners can care for them, experienced turtle pet owners will usually do a better job.

If you have any tips or comments about this wonderful turtle, leave a comment below! We love hearing from you!

Click to rate this post!
[Total: 5 Average: 3.6]

Sharing is caring!


Thursday 10th of September 2020

Great info! I have a young Fl Redbelly, trying to get indoor tank set up properly. For some reason, she doesn’t like to bask. Just wants to stay in water...?? Any ideas? I’m going to see if there is related post..

Laurie Gallant

Monday 6th of January 2020

We found a baby red belly in our Florida pool a few months ago. He's doing great and growing so we built him a pond. I'm worried about the water temperature as we've had a cold front and it's gotten down in the mid 40s the past two nights. Is it safe for him to go in that freezing cold water? It is in the sun part of the day.

Linda Cusson

Saturday 12th of October 2019

Question: do native Florida Red Bellied Turtles stop eating on occasion or do they go into some sort of partial hibernation ?