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RazorBack Musk Turtle (Sternotherus Carinatus)

The razorback musk turtle is one of the more popular musk turtle species to keep as pets. These musk turtles spend almost all their time in water.

You can normally find them walking on the bottom of their aquarium, which isn’t uncommon for a musk turtle. An attribute that set this species apart from other musk turtles is their size – they are the largest musk turtles.

Razor-Backed Musk Turtle Facts and Information

The binomial name of the razorback musk turtles is Sternotherus carinatus, and they belong to the family Kinosternidae, which includes musk and mud turtles of the Americas.

The S. carinatus also belongs to the genus Sternotherus, which includes other musk turtles. Like other musk turtles, the S. carinatus is carnivorous and has a highly domed carapace (reaching 6.3 inches or 160 mm).

The S. carinatus, which is the largest of the musk turtles, has a straight carapace length of 5.9 inches (150 mm). In comparison, the common musk turtle has a carapace length of 5.5 inches (high), and the loggerhead musk turtle has a carapace length of 5 inches (high).

Sternotherus_carinatus (Razorback Musk Turtle)
RazorBack Musk Turtle (Sternotherus Carinatus)

The carapace of the S. carinatus is brown with black streaks on the edges of the scutes. The carapace has a high medial keel that gives this species its name, as the keel is sharp. The body of this turtle is greyish brown with dark spots.

They have bulbous heads, sharp beaks, long neck, and short limbs. The males generally have longer tails than the females have. The plastron (underside) is small and weakly hinged.

The longest lifespan of this species ever recorded is 29 years. In captivity, they can live to about 20 years. Their lifespan in the wild is unknown.

Comparable species include the common musk turtle and the loggerhead musk turtle.

RazorBack Musk Turtle Diet

Feeding this primarily carnivorous turtle is similar to feeding other musk turtles. In the wild, razorback musk turtles feed mostly on amphibians, carrion, mollusks, aquatic worms, marine crustaceans, and aquatic insects. Other foods they eat include nuts, grains, and seeds. Older, larger razorback musk turtles prefer mollusks such as the Asian clams.

The razorback musk turtles will eat commercially made turtle food such as Mazuri Aquatic Turtle Diet, frozen bloodworm, freshwater fish, cockle, mussels, snails, cockroaches, crickets, mealworms, and earthworms.

This species will also accept duckweed. (Ensure that the food is chopped into small manageable bits.)

Zoo Med Natural Aquatic Turtle Food (Hatchling Formula) is an excellent choice of food for juveniles and babies.

RazorBack Musk Turtle Habitat

RazorBack Musk Turtle (Sternotherus carinatus)
RazorBack Musk Turtle (Sternotherus Carinatus)

In the wild, razorback musk turtles occur in medium to large streams as well as rivers. They can also be found in lakes and swamps. They prefer clear water bodies with rocky or sandy substrates.

As with other musk turtles, razorback musk turtles tend to bask on deadwood. They are native to Southeast Oklahoma, East Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana.

To successfully keep this species as a pet, you need an aquarium with adequate water capacity and water depth. Since musk turtles spend almost all their time in the water, you will need to change the water in the tank regularly (change about a quarter of the water in the tank every two weeks).

The water capacity of the tank needs to be at least 30 to 40 gallons for a single adult male. Water depth needs to be about 8 to 12 inches for adults and 4 to 6 inches for juveniles.

The aquarium can be decorated with aquatic plants, rocks (large), hiding spots, driftwood, and a substrate of river pebbles. The slates of rock that breaks the water surface can act as a basking site, same with an affixed driftwood.

The basking site needs an overhead UVB light. (Check out our review of the best uvb bulbs for turtles for more.)

The temperature of the basking site should be 90 degrees Fahrenheit (85 degrees to the low 90s).

The temperature of the water should be 73 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit. Heat lamps (spotlight), as well as submersible aquatic heaters, can be used to achieve the right temperatures if necessary.

A strong filtration system recommended for tanks twice the size of the turtle’s aquarium is necessary to keep the tank clean. These turtles can be very messy.

If you need help choosing we have a great review of the best filters for turtle tanks you can check out.

RazorBack Musk Turtle Breeding

Razorback Musk Turtle (Sternotherus carinatus)
RazorBack Musk Turtle (Sternotherus Carinatus)

Mating occurs in the spring, and the nesting season stretches from May to June. Nesting may occur earlier in the southmost part of their geographical range.

If you wish to breed them, ensure you provide a nesting box with enough substrate and room for the female to dig in. a good choice is the Exo Terra Soil Mix.

The female lays about 3 clutches of one to seven eggs per season. High humidity and a temperature of about 84 degrees need to be maintained for successful incubation. An incubation medium such as HatchRite Incubation Medium is recommended.

RazorBack Musk Turtle Health

To ensure the turtle is healthy, check to see if

  • The turtle doesn’t have a loss of appetite,
  • The turtle is responsive to stimuli,
  • The skin is free of wounds, sores, blisters and the shell doesn’t have cracks,
  • The mouth is free of any thick mucus and isn’t foul smelling,
  • The eyes can open widely, and it is clear and clean.

Maintain a clean tank, and feed them regularly. You should supplement their diet with vitamins and calcium to allow for proper growth and health.

Ensure that there are no sharp objects that can cause them harm. If the turtle has been wounded or cut, a topical iodine solution such as Betadine solution must be applied to the affected areas with the help of a cotton bud after patting the turtle clean.

If there is any sign of trouble, kindly contact your veterinarian.

RazorBack Musk Turtle Predators

Common predators of this species include raccoons, skunks, birds of prey, bullfrogs, and the largemouth bass. Raccoons and skunks prey on the eggs, while the others prey on the hatchlings and juveniles. The adults may be preyed on by alligators.

RazorBack Musk Turtle Endangerment

The S. carinatus is not an endangered species. According to the IUCN red list, the populations of this species is abundant and stable. Potential risks to the populations include deadwood removal (they bask on deadwood), water pollution, and destruction of their habitats.

Razorback Turtle Care Video Guide


Razorback musk turtles are an easy pet to care for and are great for beginners as well as experienced turtle keepers. This species is comparable to other musk turtles such as the loggerhead musk turtle, and the common musk turtle.

As always, acquire this turtle from a reputable breeder. They are easily found in most turtle pet shops. If you have any questions or comments, feel be sure to leave them in the comment section below.

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Saturday 22nd of May 2021

My bad I can’t figure out how to send a video. Damn , back where I was


Saturday 22nd of May 2021



Saturday 22nd of May 2021

My pet Razorback musk turtle “Maurice”, has been mine since quarter size. He came from a lake in east Texas. I purchased from pet store a pleco, young, small, he and Maurice have been cohabiting for 2 years now. Pleco “good fish” is now 7” Maurice is 3 1/2 “, I want to share a video and would much appreciate some feedback. I need to know if goodfishs’ life is in danger