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Striped Mud Turtle (Kinosternon baurii)

Striped Mud Turtle Care Guide

Striped mud turtles also known as the Three Striped mud turtle are small aquatice turtles that grow up to have a carapace length of around 5 inches.

These cute little aquatic turtles stay around under five inches and will make an interesting addition to any corner of your home with their unique look. They are also quite beginner-friendly so this is a good option if you are looking for something unique to fill your home’s tank with.

If you are curious as to how you should care for one or just want to learn a little more about these guys, you’ve come to the right place!

Here are some fascinating facts about Striped Mud Turtles as well as care information for first-time keepers:

Striped Mud Turtle Quick Reference Section

  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Scientific Name: Kinosternon baurii
  • Alternate Name(s): Three-Striped Mud Turtle, 3 Striped Mud Turtle
  • Family: Kinosternidae
  • Size: 4 to5 inches
  • Weight: 11 to 12 ounces
  • Diet: Omnivorous
  • Lifespan: 50years

Facts About Striped Mud Turtles

Striped mud turtle (Kinosternon baurii)
Striped mud turtle (Kinosternon baurii)
  • Like its other Kinosternidae family members, it’s extremely small in size.
  • They love to walk on the bottom of waterbeds.
  • They are really tiny as hatchlings, measuring only about an inch in diameter, and will only grow up to 5 inches in size as adults.
  • Striped Mud Turtles and other Mud Turtles have been at the center of a debate about if they should be merged into a single genus. John Iverson’s study on shells and skins of Musk and Mud Turtles shows the difference between them.

Striped Mud Turtle Appearance

These turtles can be distinguished by the three light tan or cream-colored stripes running along the length of their shells and sometimes on their heads.

Their carapace, or upper shell, is usually domed and dark brown with a rust-colored plastron, or their lower shell.

In most cases, males will have a thicker, longer tail than their female counterparts.

Striped Mud Turtle Location and Natural Habitat

Striped mud turtle (Kinosternon_baurii) in the wild
Striped mud turtle (Kinosternon_baurii) in the wilde

Similar to the Common Musk Turtle, Striped Mud Turtles like to dwell in soft-bottomed soils and shallow waters that have slow currents as well as plenty of aquatic plants.

The species of turtle is native to the southeastern United States and can be found in Florida including in the lower Florida Keys, Georgia, North and South Carolina, as well as Virginia, which all have a continental climate.

These turtles tend to stay underwater most of the time and will hardly ever be seen basking. When they are on land, they will commonly dig burrows and search for food in cow waste and dung.

Interestingly enough, some Striped Mud Turtles may even spend up to a month underwater without coming up to the surface. In the summer, they may stay completely submerged in shallow lakes that are beginning to dry out.

While Striped Mud turtles come from diverse geographies and have varying habits, they have all been found to prefer slow-moving or still bodies of water.

They can be found in both brackish waters, freshwater, and saltwater. They prefer to make homes out of marshes, mud or sand beds, and wet fields in waters that have a salinity under 15 parts per thousand. They like cypress swamps and wet meadows as well.

Striped Mud Turtle Diet

Striped Mud Turtles are omnivorous and will enjoy a high-protein diet consuming aquatic animals and insects such as carrion, snails, earthworms, crustaceans, and fish.

Some plant-based foods they eat include algae, palm seeds, and various aquatic plants.

Striped Mud Turtle Lifespan

Like most other turtle species Three striped muds liva long time and have been known to live up to almost 50 years in captivity and about up to 40 years in the wild.

Wild Three-striped Mud turtles will usually mature within the span of 5 to 6 years. However, turtles in captivity have been seen to mature a little sooner than those in the wild.

Striped Mud Turtle Breeding Habits

Female striped mud turtle on white background
Adult female striped mud turtle on white background

Female Three-striped Turtles have an average clutch size of up to 7 eggs.

They can store the sperm that is deposited during copulation for up to a year or more but egg deposits will usually occur every 7 to 8 weeks.

The incubation period usually carries for 2 and a half to 5 months. The temperatures maintained during the incubation period will determine the sex of these hatchlings, as it is with other turtles and reptiles.

It may take around 96 days for the eggs to hatch and the hatchlings to break themselves out to start living their lives out in the world.

Predators of the Striped Mud Turtle

Predators of the Striped Mud Turtle include herons and alligators. While alligators will eat both adult Striped Mud Turtles and their hatchlings or eggs, other threats of egg snatchers include raccoons, opossums, crows, snakes, gars, and even blue crabs.

These egg predation threats have also been heavily rising due to an increase in predator population caused by pollution and humans.

Luckily, these turtles have their very own defense mechanism to deter these predators from getting into their nest site or eating them. They can excrete a foul odor through their anal glands, releasing a scent strong enough to ward off their enemies.

It is important to note that most Mud Turtles in captivity will not use this smelly defense mechanism since they will not usually have the need for it.

Striped Mud Turtle Legality

When it comes to turtles, there are only two states, North Carolina and South Dakota, that ban the buying, selling, trade, and bartering of all species of turtles.

Check out the Department of Environmental Management’s website to see the list of legal species for your specific location, since it really is on a state-by-state basis.

In some states, you may need a license or permit to sell or partake in the reptile trade. Some states may even require you to have a permit just to keep them and you will always want to keep paperwork in order to prove that they are capture born (CB).

Check out our article about the legality of the turtle trade to learn more.

Where to Find Striped Mud Turtles for Sale

There are many places online and reputable sites that sell captive-bred turtles.

The reason why you want captive-bred or commercial turtles is due to the ability to choose your turtle, the fact that your species choices won’t be limited to local or native species, you’re not involving in the depletion of the wild population, and captive-bred turtles will already be acclimated to captivity.

Striped Mud Turtle Care

Striped mud turtle in the Florida Keys
Striped mud turtle in the Florida Keys

Enclosure

If you are looking to create the perfect Striped Mud Turtle tank setup, we have some tips and advice for you.

Since these guys are aquatic and usually grow to around 5 inches or smaller, so you’d think they could live in a tiny space. However, they really like having a lot of room to swim around and really thrive, which is why we recommend you get at least 10 gallons of space per inch of the turtle.

You should give your turtle a minimum of 20-gallons in order for them to live happily in their enclosure with plenty of room to swim and play. They like relatively shallow waters since they aren’t the best swimmers but will sometimes seek comfort underwater.

When they are hatchlings, you can definitely keep them in smaller tanks, but a hatchling will most likely be happier growing in a large forever home that they can swim around in.

These turtles also like a medium-sized land area so depending on how you are planning to create your basking area, maybe check out the tanks that have an included sectioned-off area for their land area as well.

However, some owners might not want to look into fixated tanks since not all turtles will like the same things. Some prefer different depths and basking in different types of areas; you might want to wait and see before investing in something that is more permanent than optional.

Cleaning

Striped Mud Turtle on carpet
Striped Mud Turtle on carpet

Aquatic turtles are messy and will produce a lot of waste that will dirty their water. If you want to keep your aquatic turtle tank clean, we have some advice for making your life a little easier for maintaining a tidy tank.

First off, you don’t want cleaning your turtle’s tank to be a chore, so make it easier on yourself by installing a filter to their tank. A canister filter will be more efficient in comparison to the usual aquarium filters since they have a larger water filtering capacity.

Check our turtle tank filters guide for a complete guide on what to buy with product recommendations.

A powerful water filter is a prudent investment as it allows for adequate oxygen levels as well as keeps the water clean and clear.

Generally, you should clean the media of your canister filter at least once every two months.

In order to maintain a healthy environment for your aquatic turtle, make sure that you are removing any uneaten food and waste from the bottom of their tank. At least once a week, you should dedicate time to use a long-nozzled, BPA-free siphon to remove any debris in their tank.

Leaving these leftovers and waste at the bottom of its tank can cause a spike in ammonia and harmful bacteria which are toxic to your turtle. They can lead to illness or other health issues and can possibly kill your pet.

Try to vacuum your aquarium substrate with a siphon about three to four times per month.

We also recommend that you get a home water test kit to check for pH, nitrates, and nitrites.

Another thing that can help maintain your turtle tank is aquatic plants, particularly the floating kind. Since floating plants have direct access to CO2, they will absorb fewer nutrients in the tank.

Aquatic plants will absorb ammonia as well as unwanted nitrates. However, some turtles see aquatic plants as a snack rather than a tank-cleaner. Mud turtles will not make lunch out of water lettuce, so we recommend trying that.

Besides plants, you can also add algae-eating shrimp or fish. Unfortunately, they will eventually become a snack for your turtle as well.

You should also be sterilizing your water with a UV water sterilizer in order to prevent free-floating pathogens, which can cause stinky, murky water. This cannot be done through your turtle’s UVB basking light; you must purchase a separate light for this job.

You can use your UV water sterilizer about once a week, but make sure to do so after feeding.

You should be performing dechlorinated water changes every other week. You don’t want ammonia or nitrates to be building up in your turtle’s home, and filtration systems will not do the job, so a quick fix would be to change their water.

You must dechlorinate your tap water before you put it into their tank. Some people might think that chlorine or chloramine is good for the tank since it kills bacteria, right?

Well, yes it will kill the harmful bacteria, but it will also kill the much-needed bacteria that will work on the ammonia and nitrate levels for you. This is why dechlorination is important in your water change.

You can do this by simply adding a water conditioner into your tap water and letting it sit for about half a day. Then do a 30 percent water change when it’s ready.

Do this every other week and you’re good to go!

Substrate

Two striped mud turtles in an enclosure
Two striped mud turtles in an enclosure

For Three-Striped Mud Turtles, you have the option of river rocks, sand, gravel, or crushed coral as a substrate.

Crushed coral is fine but some owners are concerned about their turtles eating it. Luckily, crushed coral can be considered a calcium source for them as well.

Many owners also worry about these bottom-dwellers eating their sandy substrate or small pebbles, which can cause impaction. See our guide on prolapse in turtles for more on that.

A lot of owners go with sand because it offers better footing for these bottom-crawling turtles and they seem to prefer it. Hatchlings may partially bury themselves in it and most adult turtles just seem to like to walk on it more than other options.

Before you put the sand into the tank, make sure to rinse it well first and then place a bowl at the bottom of the sanded tank while filling it with water to keep it from getting cloudy. You can also use your siphon to remove debris from the top of your sand at the bottom of your tank.

You will see a lot of owners also going for the gravel and large rock options as well. But they may use sand in the land area with a large basking rock embedded in the middle.

Again, it can vary depending on your turtle, but you will need to gauge, do your research, and see what might be best for your turtle.

The water levels in their tank should be anywhere around 25 to 40 gallons and the substrate should be around 2 inches deep. One inch should be just fine for their land area if provided.

Temperature 

You want to keep your turtle’s water between 71 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit for adults and around the 80s for hatchlings. You can do this by using an immersion heater and keeping an eye on the thermometer.

Keep their basking area around the high 80 to low 90s in Fahrenheit.

See our guide for aquarium water heaters to learn more on what to choose and what to watch out for.

Lighting

Three striped mud turtle on white background
Three striped mud turtle on white background

Their basking area should be out of the water in a place where they can be completely dried off under a UVB lamp.

As we just mentioned in the temperature section, you don’t want your turtle’s environment to go below 70 degrees. This means that you should have both UVB light as well as a heat source.

A low-watt red heat bulb should do the trick. There are also submersible heaters on the market that can be great if you have gravel substrate.

You can either buy a turtle dock for your turtle to bask, or create your own basking spot.

Accessories

You want to make it so that your turtle can climb from the bottom of their tank to the top with minimal swimming, if possible.

You should give your turtles multiple depth options by setting up a shallow-water platform, a land area, as well as a basking area. You can use acrylic logs, driftwood, various-sized rocks, and tall plants that go from the bottom of the tank to the top of the water, giving them various depths.

You can create their land area by putting an over-the-water pan with some sand and good drainage about 2 inches over their water with a bridge they can climb up onto from the water onto the platform.

Depending on what your turtles seem to prefer, play around with basking areas and see which ones they feel more comfortable with. As mentioned before, there are tanks that have dedicated land areas available on the market as well so you can check those out.

Some turtles will prefer to bask, whereas some might burrow in their substrate. It really can vary from turtle to turtle.

Feeding

In their natural habitat, they are mostly opportunistic omnivores with a strong preference for protein.

In captivity, you can give them pesticide-free small feeder grasshoppers, crickets, earthworms, guppies or small fish hatchlings, feeder fish, bloodworms, krill, snails, and small shrimp or crayfish.

While they will eagerly gobble up fresh, protein-based foods live, you should also occasionally offer your turtle some healthy greens like Romaine lettuce, water hyacinth, duckweed, and any vegetation-based commercial turtle pellets like these from Zoo Med.

As for their feeding schedule, you will want to gauge how they eat their first year of life. Once they are six months old, you can switch from pellets and earthworms daily to only feeding them every other day as they mature more.

When they are at least half a year old and you are feeding them every other day, watch their habits closely and adjust according to their growth and appetite.

Remember to provide calcium supplements and Vitamin D3 if they are indoors. Vitamin D3 will be needed if you are not providing UVB lighting.

Temperament

Owners have reported these turtles to be outgoing and active. While they aren’t the best swimmers, they can be seen walking around and interacting with their surroundings, making them entertaining to watch.

They are semi-terrestrial and may not be able to get along with other tank mates. Housing females together and giving them multiple hiding spots can lessen the likelihood of territorial behavior.

If you want to house your Mud Turtle with other species of turtles, just make sure that they are around the same size as them to make them feel less threatened.

Handling

We do not recommend that you try to handle these turtles since they can be quite skittish, causing them to snap or try to bite you. You should avoid trying to hold them or pick them up unless it’s absolutely necessary.

Striped Mud Turtle FAQ

Striped mud turtle on white background
Striped mud turtle on white background

How big do Striped Mud Turtles get?

This species of turtle usually have an average carapace of around 4 inches and may grow up to 5 inches, but that’s about it. Because they’re small, this is why people find them to be great and cute pets.

Do Striped Mud Turtles bite?

Yes, a Striped Mud Turtle can bite if they are provoked or feeling threatened.

They are quite skittish creatures in general, so try your best not to put your hand near them unless absolutely necessary.

They have curved beaks for mouths, which can give you quite a nasty bite.

Are Three-striped Mud Turtles friendly?

They are very active and adorable, making them seem friendly, but they can be a little grouchy at times.

Some may be comfortable with hand-feeding and might even approach you to beg for food, but this does not mean that they will not bite your finger if they get the chance.

Conclusion

All in all, the Striped Mud Turtle can be a great option for those looking for a small aquatic turtle with a spunky personality that is entertaining to watch.

They are a little messy, but if you maintain their tank well, they can be a cute and rewarding pet to have.

It can be very fun to watch them feed as they are eager eaters and may even interact with you by begging for food when they see you.

We recommend you check these guys out if you’re looking for something beginner-friendly with a personality and that is aesthetically pleasing.

Let us know in the comments below what you think about these little turtles!

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