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Scorpion Mud Turtle (Kinosternon Scorpioides)

Scorpion mud turtles, distinct from their African counterparts, find their roots in the diverse habitats of the Americas. While they may not sit atop the popularity chart of pet choices, there’s an unexplored charm to these aquatic creatures that makes them endearing pets for the discerning enthusiast.

Boasting a rugged resilience that lets them thrive in various conditions, scorpion mud turtles exhibit an inquisitive nature that never fails to entertain. Their playful demeanor brings a sense of joy and liveliness, enhancing the pet-keeping experience beyond measure. These traits, collectively, shape the scorpion mud turtles into exceptional companions for those willing to delve into the unique realm of turtle care.

However, their distinct needs and care requirements set them apart from more common pet turtles. This guide aims to shed light on the various aspects of caring for a scorpion mud turtle, highlighting what it takes to provide them with a fulfilling and healthy life. Whether you’re a seasoned pet owner or a budding turtle enthusiast, this comprehensive insight into the world of scorpion mud turtles is bound to enhance your understanding and appreciation of these fascinating creatures.

Scorpion Mud Turtle Facts and Information

The binomial name of the scorpion mud turtles is Kinosternon scorpioides. The Kinosternon s. belongs to the genus Kinosternon which includes other mid turtles endemic to the Americas.

This species also belong to the family Kinosternidae which includes mud and musk turtles. Mud and musk turtles prefer slow-moving water with muddy substrates and the Kinosternon scorpioides is no exception.

The subspecies of this species are K. s. scorpioides (Scorpion mud turtle (subspecies)), K. s. abaxillare (Central Chiapas mud turtle), K. s. albogulare (White-throated mud turtle), and K. s. cruentatum (Red-cheeked mud turtle).

Among kinosternids (mud and musk turtles), this turtle’s size is medium to large. It has a carapace length of 3.6 inches to 10.6 inches. Although females may be slightly larger than males, differences in size are mainly determined by geography.

Males have larger prehensile tail while females have larger plastrons and a more domed carapace. The coloration of the Kinosternon scorpioides varies and ranges from tan, olive or brown to black. They underside/plastron has two hinges.

Articulated Plastron of a Scorpion Mud Turtle (Kinosternon_scorpioides)

The skin coloration of this turtle ranges from nearly black to brown to gray with yellow, red or orange vermiculations on their neck and head. Vermiculation patterns and colorations are specific to subspecies of this turtle.

While the exact lifespan of this species is unknown, they are long-lived. In fact, in captivity, they are known to live up to 44.7 years.

Scorpion Mud Turtle Diet

Scorpion Mud Turtle Head (Kinosternon_scorpioides)

The scorpion mud turtles are predominantly carnivorous and generally feed on insects, reptiles, and amphibians found in their locality. They usually eat aquatic insects, annelids, small fish, amphibians such as frogs and tadpoles, earthworms, guppies, redworms, minnows, mollusks such as snails, and crustaceans.

They also scavenge for carrion, bird eggshells, and snake scales. While they prefer to eat in water, they don’t shy away from doing so on land.

You can feed them commercial aquatic turtle food such as Masuria Aquatic Turtle Diet. However, it is important that you complement this diet with treats such as shrimps, earthworm, mealworm, feeder fish, insects, crustaceans, and other invertebrates. You can also supplement their diet with pieces of raw lean beef, pork, chicken, and tilapia.

As with other musk and mud turtles, the scorpion mud turtles prefer to feed in water, since this can leave their aquarium quite dirty, you can feed them a separate container.

Scorpion Mud Turtle Habitat

Scorpion Mud Turtle Sitting in Grass

In the wild, the Kinosternon scorpioides can be found in all sort of temporary, semi-permanent and permanent aquatic environments. The species prefer isolated ponds, and backwater to channels of big rivers. Although less common, they also occur in rivers and streams.

Populations of the Kinosternon scorpioides have been recorded in Central America specifically south-southeastern Mexico, Belize, Honduras, and Nicaragua. In South America, they can be found in Columbia, Bolivia, northern Peru, Brazil, and northern Argentina.

As with kinosternids, if you wish to keep the scorpion mud turtles as a pet, you need an aquatic set up. This can be a pond or an aquarium. If you are keeping these turtles in a pond, you must bring them inside for cold winters.

It is important that the water level of this turtle’s aquatic enclosure is high. The water needs to be clear and deep enough to cover the turtle completely. A water capacity of at least 40 gallons is best. You can keep more than one scorpion mud turtles in a single tank since they are nonaggressive towards each other.

The tank needs to be decorated with under-water sceneries, ledges, branches, driftwood, and even aquatic plants – either fake or real. It is a good idea to also have retreats in their aquatic enclosure.

In the wild, these turtles occasionally bask. This depends on the water temperature. If the water temperature is close to their ideal body temperature, they rarely bask.

When kept in a turtle enclosure, they occasionally bask. As such, it is important that you provide them with basking spots. Large slabs of slate that breaks the water surface provide effective basking spots.

LaBrinx Designs Narrow Hanging Turtle Ramp - Aquatic Reptile Basking Platform

Commercially produced turtle basking platforms such as the LaBrinx, and decorative driftwood affixed to the side of the aquarium also serve as ideal basking spots.

The water needs to be oxygenated and clear so the aquarium needs a pump and filter.

The temperature of the water in the aquarium needs to be 70 to 75 degrees while the temperature of the basking spot needs to be 90 degrees. It is also important to provide a UVB light over the basking spot.

Scorpion Mud Turtle Breeding

Little is known about the reproduction habits of this species. However, females are known to lay between 5 clutches of 1 to 8 eggs each reproduction season. The sex of hatchlings is determined by temperature.

Scorpion Mud Turtle Predation

There isn’t much information on the predators of this species. It is possible that raptors, owls, large cats, and coyotes prey on Kinosternon scorpioides. Coyotes also prey on the eggs and the juveniles.

Other natural predators of the juveniles may include iguanas, vultures, birds of prey, and cats. Since the scorpion mud turtles are naturally carnivorous, they are prey on several animals already mentioned.

Scorpion Mud Turtle Endangerment

The Kinosternon scorpioides is not an endangered species. They are considered to be of least concern. However, the main threat to the survival of this species is the destruction of their natural habitats.

Scorpion Mud Turtle Swimming Around (Video)

What size tank does a scorpion mud turtle need?

A scorpion mud turtle requires a tank of at least 40 gallons in size to comfortably accommodate its needs and ensure a healthy living environment.


The scorpion mud turtle is a hardy turtle that is easy to care and requires very little attention. However, it is important to keep the aquarium they live in clean. The water has to be clear and deep. When the water is unclean, they may develop skin infections.

Due to their easy going nature, they make excellent pets for novice turtle keepers. Acquiring the scorpion mud turtle is not difficult as they are readily available. The Red Cheeked Mud Turtle subspecies is particularly popular. If you have any comments, kindly leave them.

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Ethen Watson

Thursday 7th of July 2022

Hi there, 4 month Scorpion Mud Turtle owner.

I just have concerns with him. I have him by my window, so I always find him basking in one spot: under some driftwood. Should I be concerned with his lack of movement?


Monday 3rd of May 2021

I got one and wanted to make sure he or she was okay. There looks to be a skin irritation on the neck. Same day I got him from the market. May I send this picture somewhere to see?

Teresa O'Donnell

Tuesday 28th of July 2020

need to identify water turtle: 7 inches length, has three dorsal ridges down running down back, raised yellow spots on chest, legs.