Reeves’ turtles, despite hailing from Asia they are a common and popular species in the herping hobby. These turtles may look drab compared to other species, but they have extremely fun personalities and will be active within their tank.
Reeves’ turtles are inquisitive, exploring the depths of their enclosure before drying out on their basking spot. Their ease of breeding also makes them an attractive prospect for turtle breeders. They need both water and land areas in their tanks.
In this Reeves’ turtle care guide, we’ll cover all the ins and outs of caring for these charming turtles.
Reeves Turtle Facts
- Experience level: Beginner to Intermediate
- Family: Geoemydidae
- Scientific name: Mauremys reevesii
- Other names: Chinese Pond turtle, Chinese Three-Keeled Pond turtle
- Adult Male Size: 4.5 to 6 inches (11.5 to 15 cm)
- Adult Female Size: 4.5 to 9 inches (11.5 to 23 cm)
- Average Lifespan: 10 to 20 years
- Average Price Range: $45 to $80
Reeves’ turtles are named after the 18th Century English naturalist John Reeves.
Reeves’ turtles are a social species and will often bask in communal groups. This means that a group of these turtles can be successfully housed together with relatively few territorial disputes. Males and females can be mixed together as long as their behavior is monitored.
Reeves’ turtles are divided into regional and morphological variations throughout their range, with separate populations in countries such as China, Japan, and Vietnam.
Reeves’ turtle played a huge role in ancient Chinese divination, and their plastrons are still used heavily in traditional Chinese medicinal techniques today.
What does a Reeves’ turtle look like?
Reeves’s turtles have a somewhat drab appearance compared to other exotic turtle species. Their slightly rectangular shells have three keels and are typically black to brown to olive green. They have cream-colored plastrons with dark brown or gray flecked markings. Reeves’ turtles have various amounts of pale mottled patterns on their heads.
How big do Reeves’ turtles get?
On average, most Reeves’ turtles will reach around 6 inches in length. Males are typically smaller than females, usually measuring between 4.5 and 6 inches while females can reach up to 9 inches.
Where do Reeves’ turtles live?
Reeves’ turtles originated in China but have since spread throughout Asia, colonizing countries such as Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and Vietnam.
What kind of habitat do Reeves’ turtles need?
In their native regions, Reeves’ turtles typically inhabit slow-moving waters such as ponds, rivers, and streams. They may also choose wetland habitats that are close to rice paddies, especially when these areas flood due to rain. Any habitat must have a soft substrate and lots of aquatic plant species.
How long do Reeves’ turtles live in captivity?
Reeves’ turtles will usually live for 10 to 15 years in captivity, but some individual specimens have been known to reach 20 years.
What do Reeves’ turtles eat?
Reeves’ turtles are mainly omnivorous, although the adult diet places its emphasis on vegetation while a hatchling/juvenile will feed more on meat. In the wild, these turtles will eat small amphibians and fish, insects, and mollusks such as worms as well as aquatic plant matter.
How do Reeves’ turtles breed?
In the Northern Hemisphere, the breeding season for Reeves’ turtles starts in the spring and lasts until mid-summer. In most years, two clutches of between two and six eggs will be laid. But in good years, the number of clutches can increase to three or four.
Females construct nesting burrows in soft mud or sand substrates and deposit their eggs. These will incubate for between 50 and 90 days before hatching.
What predators do Reeves’ turtles face?
Reeves’ turtles can be predated by larger mammals and reptiles in the wild such as birds, raccoons, or snakes. In domestic situations, they should be protected from animals such as cats.
Reeves Turtle Care sheet
While they are aquatic turtles, Reeves’ turtles aren’t actually great at swimming in deep water. They need a land area for basking alongside their water area, with easy access in and out. For an individual, a 40 to 50-gallon tank will provide plenty of room.
The water depth in the tank should be at least 1.5 x as long as the turtle’s carapace length, but no more than three times as long. So for a 6-inch turtle, the water depth should be between 9 and 18 inches. An individual adult turtle should have around 20 gallons of water to swim around in. always use distilled or safely-treated water to protect your turtle from unforeseen chemicals.
If you’re keeping a group of these turtles together, each subsequent turtle after the first one should add an extra 10 gallons to the overall water level. A pair of Reeves’ turtles should have about a 75-gallon tank, although for a larger group you could use something like a stock tank or a Rubbermaid container.
A land area should be provided to allow your turtle to get out of the water and warm up under a basking lamp. Create a gradient so that your turtle can easily leave the water. Flat rocks, logs, and commercial basking platforms are all good choices for this part of the tank. Reeves’ turtles are prolific baskers, so this needs to be a point of emphasis for keepers.
Reeves’ turtles eat aquatic plants, so only place live aquatic plants in the tank if you’re prepared to replace them regularly. Artificial plants work really well with this species.
Somewhere where the Reeves’ turtle can hide underwater is always a good addition, such as an arrangement of rocks or an aquarium cave.
Recommended basic products
Here’s a list of recommended basic products to create a great setup for your Reeves’ turtle:
- Tank: SeaClear Aquarium
- Water heater: Aqueon Pro Adjustable Heater
- Water conditioner: API Tap water conditioner
- 2 Water thermometers: Vivosun aquarium thermometers
- Combo UVB/UVA (heating) Lighting: Zoo Med PowerSun UV UVB (160 watts)
- Light Fixture: Zoo Med Wire Cage Clamp Lamp
- Timer: Zoo Med Timer
- Thermometer (basking spot): Exo Terra Thermometer
- Laser thermometer for setup and spot checks (optional): Etekcity Lasergrip
- Filtration: SunSun HW-404B (525gph filtration)
- Automatic Feeder: Zacro Automatic Feeder
Even though they like slower-moving waters, Reeves’ turtles still need clean water in their habitat. This is achieved through a combination of filters, water changes, and cleaning.
The aquatic section of the tank should be cycled by a good-quality filtration system. As these turtles are small, a submersible or canister filter can work well as long as they can’t damage themselves if they swim into it.
As with any aquatic setup, use a filter that can process at least three times the water capacity of your tank. So for a 50-gallon tank, you’ll need a filter that can cycle 150 gallons. Partial water changes once a week will also be required to keep the tank clean. Change about a quarter to a third of the water each time.
Once every month or so, it’s a good idea to empty the tank and give it a thorough cleaning. This prevents the buildup of harmful bacteria. Not using a substrate in the tank helps keep things much cleaner.
Reeves’ turtles tend to be messy at mealtime, and if you’ve got live plants in the tank they will create a mess with these quite often. When it’s time to feed your turtle, consider scooping them out and feeding them in a separate container with a shallow amount of water.
Having a substrate in an aquatic tank is not strictly necessary. While some owners might like the naturalistic look, using something like sand or gravel can be more trouble than it’s worth.
Sand makes it much harder to clean the tank efficiently, while gravel that is too small can easily be swallowed by turtles, causing impaction.
Your Reeves’ turtle will be perfectly happy if you use a bare-bottom tank with no substrate. However, if you really want to use something to make the tank look more natural, consider getting some large flat rocks to put along the bottom of the water area.
These look great and can be easily removed and cleaned from the tank without the risk of impaction.
When housing an aquatic turtle, keepers need to keep track of three main temperatures; the ambient air temperature, the water temperature, and the basking spot temperature. Several thermometers can be used to track these various readings.
The water temperature for a Reeves’ turtle needs to be kept at around 70 to 80ºF (21 to 26.5ºC). If your room doesn’t create this temperature naturally, then a small submersible water heater can be used to achieve the correct levels.
Ambient air temperature should remain between 75 and 85ºF (24 to 29.5ºC). For the basking spot, a Reeves’ turtle needs temperatures of 85 to 95ºF (29.5 to 35ºC). These temperatures reflect the warm, humid conditions of a Reeves’ turtle’s natural environment in Asia.
In aquatic turtle tanks, the humidity needs are typically provided by the water area of the enclosure. However, you can use a hygrometer to make sure that humidity levels stay at around 70 to 90% humidity inside the tank. High humidity is especially important for hatchlings to support healthy growth.
Reeves’ turtles need both a basking lamp and a UVB bulb. Both can be housed in the same fixing above the basking area, or combined into one light in the form of a mercury vapor bulb.
Like other reptiles, Reeves’ turtles need daily exposure to UVB light to produce vital nutrients such as Vitamin D3, which allows them to absorb the calcium needed for healthy bone structure. UVB bulbs need to be replaced every six months to provide the optimum amount of UVB.
Any lights used in the enclosure should be kept on a 12-hour day/night cycle to replicate the passage of a natural day.
To create a more enriching environment for your Reeves’ turtle, you can add a few accessories into the tank. Basking platforms in the form of flat rocks, driftwood, or specially-made basking ramps are an essential accessory.
It’s also a good idea to provide artificial or live aquatic plants in the tank, although live plants will likely be quickly chewed up by these turtles. Another vital accessory is some form of underwater shelter to give your turtle somewhere to hide.
This can be as simple as a large aquarium cave ornament. You could also use an arrangement of rocks, but make sure that these can’t collapse and hurt your turtle.
Reeves’ turtle setup video
Reeves’ turtles are omnivores and need a varied diet of both protein and vegetation to stay healthy. In the wild, they will eat small amphibians or fish, insects, and worms along with plant material.
In captivity, the foundation of a good diet can come in the form of commercial turtle pellets. To make the healthiest choice for your turtle, pick a product that has around 30 to 40% protein content, as little fat as possible, plenty of Vitamin D, and a calcium-phosphate balance of 2:1.
To supplement this dietary staple, use insects such as crickets, dubia roaches, or mealworms along with plenty of vegetables. Avoid high oxalate foods such as spinach. Things like romaine and water lettuce or aquatic plants like duckweed work really well.
Here is a list of common foods that are great for your Reeves’ turtle:
- Aquatic snails
- Black Soldier Fly larvae
- Canned snails
- Catfish diet
- Collard greens
- Commercial turtle pellets
- Dandelion greens
- Dubia roaches
- Small feeder fish
- Mustard greens
- Romaine or red-leaf lettuce
Supplements are also key to a healthy diet. Gut load any feeder insects to make them as nutritious as possible and cover them with calcium supplements once per week.
Feed your turtle every few days with as much food as it can eat in a few seconds. This helps to prevent obesity, which can be a surprisingly common problem for captive turtles.
It’s a good idea to feed your Reeves’ turtle in a small tub to prevent too much mess from accumulating in the main tank. This makes cleaning up after mealtime nice and easy.
Temperament and handling
Are Reeves’ turtles good pets?
Reeves’ turtles are some of the most charismatic and inquisitive pet turtles available despite their lackluster appearance. They can be really fun to watch as they swim around their enclosure, exploring the various features and are especially entertaining in groups.
That said, as aquatic turtles it’s advised to only handle them when necessary. When picked up, they will squirm and will try and bite or scratch. These aren’t the type of pet that you can handle regularly, which may make them unsuitable for children who may grow bored of just watching them.
Reeves’ turtles can also be quite messy when eating, especially if there are live plants in their enclosure. To mitigate this, feed them in a separate container outside of the main tank.
Signs of good health
Getting a healthy specimen gives you the best possible start when keeping a Reeves’ turtle. Because they breed well, you should be able to find plenty of registered captive breeders. When going to look at the turtle, check for the following signs that can indicate potential health problems.
A healthy Reeves’ turtle should have a nice, smooth shell. If there are any strange bumps or if the shell looks like it’s pyramiding, this can be a warning sign of Metabolic Bone Disease. A flaking shell is also indicative of serious health conditions.
Make sure that the turtle is alert and has eyes that are clear and bright, with no clouding or mucus around the eyes or nostrils. Picking up the turtle should make it squirm and try to get away, which is a healthy response. The turtle should also be active and energetic in its enclosure.
Always ask to watch the turtle eat. Healthy specimens should be eager for food, so if the turtle is reluctant to chow down it could mean that it has a serious health problem.
Despite their small size, Reeves’ turtles are fairly robust as long as their required conditions are met. That said, they can fall prey to various health concerns like any other species of turtle. Here are a few of the main ones to look out for.
Metabolic Bone Disease is a common and debilitating problem for turtles. This happens when the turtle doesn’t get enough UVB light, making it unable to efficiently produce the Vitamin D needed to absorb calcium. This causes the bone structure of the turtle to deteriorate and grow abnormally.
If you spot irregular bumps on the skin or signs of pyramiding, your turtle may be experiencing Metabolic Bone Disease. Other indications of this condition include eye irritation or strange open cuts on the skin.
Respiratory infections can also become a problem if the humidity and temperature of an enclosure are too low for a Reeves’ turtle. Symptoms include lethargic movement, nasal mucus, watery eyes, and an unwillingness to eat food.
Parasites and bacteria may also cause these symptoms and can be indicated by tiny worm-like creatures in the water of the tank. Regularly change and filter the water to reduce the likelihood of this.
While swimming around a tank that has any rocks or equipment with sharp corners, Reeves’ turtles may accidentally harm themselves, causing small cuts or scratches. Avoid sharp edges in the enclosure whenever possible, as cuts can become infected quickly in poor water quality.
Communal groups of Reeves’ turtles may occasionally squabble, but not usually enough to cause injuries. If one or more individuals are fighting repeatedly and causing damage to other turtles, remove them from the enclosure.
If your turtle seems to be suffering from any of these symptoms, take them to a specialist vet right away.
Breeding Reeves’s turtles
One of the main reasons for the popularity of Reeves’ turtles is that they are relatively easy to breed. If their environmental needs are met, these turtles will breed readily, especially as they do so well in communal groups.
The breeding season typically runs from spring until mid-summer, with the potential for between two and four clutches each year of about two to six eggs each. Once your turtles mate, it only takes one or two months for females to be ready to lay their clutch.
You can check females to see if they’re carrying eggs by holding them vertically. Then, carefully check the opening between their hind legs and the bottom of their shell (the inguinal cavity). If eggs are present, these will feel like small bumps inside the cavity. Be extremely gentle to avoid harming the female or the eggs.
The female will be ready to lay once she loses her appetite and begins basking extremely frequently. You may also notice her repeatedly attempting to escape the enclosure. It’s time to find a nesting spot.
In a secure garden, you can let your female walk around outside to find her own nesting spot. Alternatively, you can provide a nesting enclosure with some damp sphagnum moss. Incubators can make it difficult to control humidity and temperature, so a nesting box works well.
Keep this egg enclosure at a temperature of between 80 and 85ºF (26.5 to 30ºC). The eggs will need to incubate for around 50 to 90 days before hatching.
Reeves’ turtles hatchling care
Once you have some hatchlings, they need to be kept separately until they’re large enough to have an adult enclosure. There are some key differences between adult and hatchling care for Reeves’ turtles.
House the hatchlings in a 10-gallon tank. The water level should only be a few inches deep, with about five gallons of water in the tank. Keep the water and ambient temperatures a few degrees higher than suggested for adults, close to the incubation temperature. Hatchlings will also need high humidity levels.
Hatchlings also eat more meat in their diet than adults, although commercial turtle pellets can still be used. When feeding hatchlings insects or earthworms, cut these up into small pieces for easier digestion. Feed babies once per day and administer calcium and Vitamin D supplements once or twice per week.
Frequently Asked Questions about Reeves’ turtles
Are Reeves’ turtles aggressive?
Reeves’ turtles aren’t known for their aggression, either when being handled or when being housed with other individuals. While some will have the odd squabble, they shouldn’t have large-scale fights. If this does occur, remove the aggressive individuals and house them separately.
When picking up a Reeves’ turtle, they will try to escape and may resort to attempted biting or scratching. But other than that, these turtles aren’t aggressive.
How often should you feed a Reeves’ turtle?
Adult Reeves’ turtles should be fed once every two or three days with as much food as they can eat in a few seconds. Hatchlings should be fed once per day with a more meat-based diet, again for as much as they can eat in a few seconds.
Well, that brings us to the end of this Reeves’ turtle care guide. These aquatic turtles make fantastic pets because they’re so fun to watch as they explore and swim around their enclosures. They can also be housed in communal groups.
While they might not be the most attractive species in the world, they more than make up for it with their personality. However, they might not be great pets for kids as they shouldn’t really be handled too often. But for beginner or intermediate reptile keepers who have some experience with fish tanks, they can be a great pet.
If you enjoyed this care guide, feel free to leave a comment down below and discuss Reeves’ turtles with us!
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