Generally kept as pets, mud turtles are easy to care for. These turtles are small and omnivorous. They are called mud turtle as they prefer to live in wet muddy areas such as temporary ponds.
Endemic to North America, there are countless species under the mud turtle genus. However, the most popular mud turtles kept as pets include the eastern mud turtle, Mississippi mud turtle, striped mud turtle, and the yellow mud turtle.
Mud turtles and musk turtles are very similar in appearance and needs. Mud turtles are, however, smaller and have flatter domes.
Table of Contents
Mud Turtle Facts
- Experience Level: Intermediate
- Family: Kinosternidae
- Scientific Name: Kinosternon spp.
- Average Adult Size: 3 to 5 inches
- Lifespan: 30 to 50 years
- Clutch Size: 4 to 6 eggs
- Egg Incubation Period: 2 to 3 months
- Food: Aquatic turtle food
- Tank Size: 25 gallons
- Average Temperature: 85°H/75°L
- UVB Lighting: Needed
- Average Price Range: $6 to $40
As already established the mud turtle is similar in appearance to musk turtles.
The most common mud turtles kept as pets include the eastern mud turtle (Kinosternon subrubrum) or common mud turtle, the striped mud turtle (Kinosternon baurii), yellow mud turtle (Kinosternon flavescens), and the Mississippi mud turtle (K. s. hippocrepis).
They usually reach lengths of 3 to 5 inches, have flat carapaces that are tan, and are generally found in North America.
Mud Turtle Species
1. Red-cheeked Mud Turtle
Check out the Red-cheeked mud turtle care sheet for more information.
2. African Dwarf Mud Turtle
3. Striped Mud Turtle
4. White-lipped Mud Turtle
Check out the White-lipped mud turtle care sheet for more information.
Mud Turtle Care Sheet
Mud Turtle Habitat
Mud turtles can be found in freshwater habitats. They prefer small ponds (both temporary and permanent) with muddy bottoms. As the ponds dry up, mud turtles can be found buried underneath the mud.
These turtles require an aquatic set up. They can be kept in aquariums or koi ponds. The water level in their aquarium need not be high. Additionally, substrates aren’t needed in the aquarium.
The water level in the aquarium should be high enough to cover the turtle, but shallow enough so the turtle can stretch to the surface. The water capacity in their tank needs to be 25 to 40 gallons.
If you are keeping two mud turtles in the same tank, then the water capacity needs to be at least 40 gallons. The Tetra Aquarium Reptile Glass Kit is great for a single turtle, while for two turtles the SeaClear Acrylic Aquarium is a good choice.
You can always find a tank at a pet store where turtles and other aquatic creatures are sold. While a 20 gallon looks huge for a single turtle, the mud turtle appreciates the space.
Since the turtles will need to bask every now and then, you have to provide a basking spot if your aquarium doesn’t come with one. Installing a turtle platform such as the OASIS Turtle Ramp is a way to go. You can also use slabs of rocks or driftwood affixed to the tank.
A water filter is needed to keep the water clean and flowing. The Penn Plax Cascade 600 Submersible Aquarium Filter is a good choice. It works well for both the 20-gallon to 50-gallon tanks. A filter isn’t enough.
Change the water in the tank regularly. Don’t change all the water at once as it can cause the turtle to go into shock. Rather change about a fourth of the water every week.
Ensure dechlorinated water is used to fill the tank. You can dechlorinate tap water using a dechlorinator.
For mud turtles kept outdoors, bring them inside during cold winters especially if their pond freezes over.
Mud turtles don’t require substrates. However, you can lay some down to improve the appearance of the ecosystem and give it a more natural feel.
When choosing a substrate for an aquarium ensure, choose a substrate that doesn’t float or mixes with the water. The substrate should stay at the bottom. Substrates I like include CaribSea Peace River Gravel and Royal Imports’ Large Decorative Polished Gravel River Pebbles Rocks.
In truth, these turtles don’t need water heaters as far as the water temperature doesn’t fall below 70 degrees. Use a thermometer to monitor the water temperature.
Aquarium thermometers can be found in almost all pet shops that sell aquatic pets. One of my favorite thermometers is the Zacro LCD Digital Aquarium Thermometer.
The basking area needs a heat lamp. The temperature provided by the heat lamp should be in the 90s. This heat lamp will not only dry out the turtle as it basks, but it will also heat up the enclosure and ensure the temperatures are right.
I recommend the Zoo Med Aquatic Turtle UVB & Heat Lighting Kit. The kit that comes with the turtle aquarium may also have the fixtures. As such, you may need only the bulbs. You need to get a UVB light bulb and a heat bulb.
UVB light is a must for all turtles including the mud turtle. There are many ways to provide the needed UVB light. If the turtle is housed outdoors, then natural sunlight is more than enough. However, if the turtle is housed indoors, you need to provide artificial lighting. Zoo Med Reptisun 10.0 is the best.
You can also expose the turtle to indirect sunlight. With this, you need to ensure the tank isn’t directly in the path of sunlight. Direct sunlight can easily overheat the aquarium.
Turn the lights off every night to avoid stressing the turtle. The lights in the aquarium should be on for 12 hours and off for 12 hours. The light in the room also needs to be off during the evening and night.
Providing several hiding spots is a great way to make the turtle feel safe. If the turtle feels unsafe, it gets stressed up. This can impact its feeding habits negatively. Hiding spots can also double as decorations. Driftwood and aquarium plants (both fake and natural plants) offer good cover.
Feeding the Mud Turtle
We refer to mud turtles are omnivorous however they feed almost exclusively on animal matter. Unlike other turtles, mud turtles feed both on land and in water, although they forage and hunt in water the most.
These turtles eat anything smaller than they are. These include amphibians, reptiles, fish, eggs, arthropods, worms, crustaceans, and mollusks. Besides this, they also occasionally eat algae and leaves. They really aren’t picky eaters.
The best and easiest way to feed them is to offer commercial turtle food. They readily accept these. For hatchlings, you can offer hatchling formula such as the Exo Terra Aquatic Turtle Hatchling Floating Pellets.
For adults, you can offer Tetra ReptoMin Floating Food Sticks. Regardless of this, still offer mud turtles fresh parsley, collard greens, dandelion greens, and other dark green leafy vegetables.
Alternatively, you can offer them earthworms, crustaceans, crickets, mealworms, feeder fish and shrimps. This can be supplemented with tilapia, chicken, pork, and raw lean beef.
Dust the vegetables fed them with a calcium supplement once a week. Feed hatchlings every day and adults about three to four times a week.
Mud turtles are messy eaters, because of this, some keepers have separate enclosures for feeding. However, it is important to keep in mind that mud turtles don’t like to be handled.
Mud Turtle’s Temperament & Handling
While they are small and cute turtles, they are not the most docile or friendly. Handling them can result in bites. This happens when they are nervous or scared.
As such, it isn’t the best idea to pick them up. Additionally, you need to be wary of salmonella when it comes to small turtles such as the mud turtle. Wash your hands before and after handling them.
Because of the probability of them carrying salmonella, mud turtles are not ideal pets for young children. However, older children and teens should be able to take the needed precautions.
Mud turtles hardly bask. Regardless, you need to provide a basking spot and a heat lamp.
Mud Turtle Lifespan
Although mud turtles aren’t as long-lived as land tortoises, they still have a long lifespan. They can grow to be 50 years. Before you adopt one, you need commitment.
Also, if you cannot care for a captive mud turtle anymore, try to find it a new home. Captive-bred turtles may find it difficult to survive in the wild. Similarly, they can become invasive species.
Common Health Concerns
Mud turtles are strong reptiles that hardly ever suffer from health problems. Regardless of this, you need to watch out for changes in behavior and appearance which may signal poor health.
As with other turtles, shell problems such as flaking shells, shell deformities, and shell rot can occur. Poor shell health is usually down to inadequate UVB lighting, inadequate nutrition, and unclean water. If these conditions are corrected, but the problem persists, see a veterinarian.
Cuts and bruises
Sharp edges or an aggressive tank mates can cause cuts and bruises. Although mud turtles are sociable reptiles, an aggressive turtle may attack and hurt other turtles.
This can cause bruises and cuts. Provide separate housing for aggressive turtles. Treat cuts and bruises with topical solutions such as betadine solution.
Lack of proper nutrition can lead to several problems such as respiratory problems, swollen eyes, and even metabolic bone disease. To prevent this, feed the turtle a balanced diet.
Good quality commercial turtle diets have all the needed nutrients. Also, supplement their diet with calcium and vitamin supplement powder.
A healthy mud turtle should have smooth shells that show no sign of bumps or flaking. A healthy turtle’s eyes are clear and their skin show no sign of infection.
Pricing and Availability
Mud turtles are readily available, especially in North America as they are endemic to the region. Popular mud turtles found in pet stores include striped mud turtle, and eastern mud turtles also referred to as common mud turtles.
Mud turtles cost between $25 to $50. Adopting from a reputable breeder is the best way to ensure you get a healthy specimen.
Mud turtles are not an endangered species. Popular species such as the eastern mud turtle, the striped mud turtle, and the yellow mud turtle have the least concern statutes on the IUCN Red List. Overall, the mud turtle populations across North America are stable.
Mud & Musk Turtle Comparison Video
How big do mud turtles get?
Mud turtles typically grow between 3 to 5 inches in length, depending on the species. They are generally smaller compared to other turtle species.
Do mud turtles need land?
Yes, mud turtles do need land as part of their enclosure for basking and resting. However, they spend a significant portion of their time in water.
Can mud turtles live on land?
While mud turtles can spend time on land and will need a basking area in their enclosure, they are primarily aquatic and need access to water to swim and feed.
Do mud turtles need deep water?
Mud turtles are more adapted to shallow water rather than deep water. Their enclosure should include an aquatic area that is deep enough for them to fully submerge, but not so deep that they struggle to reach the surface.
As one of the more popular turtles kept as pets, mud turtles are easy to care for and are an interesting species. To properly care for mud turtles, ensure their enclosure is also clean and their water is clear.
Dirty water can cause skin infections. They even make excellent pets for novices. Popular mud turtle species include the eastern mud turtle (K. subrubrum), the striped mud turtle (K. baurii) and the yellow mud turtle (K. flavescens). If you have any comments, kindly leave them. Thanks.
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