Texas Map Turtle (Graptemys versa)

Texa Map Turtle (Graptemys versa)

Texas Map Turtle Care Sheet

The Texas map turtle is one of the more popular turtle species kept as pets. They are quite easy to breed and make excellent turtles for beginners. As strong swimmers, the Texas map turtle needs an aquatic setup and a platform to bask on. As their name suggests, they are endemic to Texas and are a map turtle species. As with other map turtles, the Texas map turtle has a keeled and serrated shell.

Quick Reference Section

  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Scientific Name: Graptemys versa
  • Average Adult Size: 3.5 – 5 inches (90 – 125 mm)
  • Lifespan: 30 to 50 years
  • Clutch Size: 2 to 8 eggs
  • Egg Incubation Period: 45 to 60 days
  • Food: Aquatic turtle food
  • Tank Size:  25 – 50 gallons (females require larger enclosures)
  • Average Temperature: 85°H/75°L
  • UVB Lighting: Needed
  • Average Price Range: $30 to $140
  • Conservation Status: Least Concern on IUCN Redlist

Facts and Information

The Texas map turtle is the smallest of all map turtle species. Map turtles belong to the genus Graptemys. Males are smaller than females. Males attain lengths of 2.5 to 4 inches as adults, and females attain lengths of 5 to 8 as adults. Their shell is olive-brown in color with yellow lines on each plate. These lines represent contours thus the name – ‘map turtle’.

As with other map turtle species, the Texas map turtle has a vertebral keel. The species’ underside/plastron is cream in color. The limbs, head, neck, and tail of this species are marked with intricate yellow-orange lines.

The Texas map turtle’s binomial name is Graptemys versa. As already mentioned, the genus Graptemys is made up solely of map turtles such as the Barbour’s map turtle, Texas map turtle, Mississippi map turtle, and, of course, the Texas map turtle.

As evidential by their common name, Texas map turtles are endemic to Texas, in particular, the Edwards Plateau and its tributaries such as the Concho, San Saba, and llano rivers.

Texas Map Turtle Habitat

Texas Map Turtle (Graptemys versa)

The Graptemys versa usually inhabit rivers, oxbows, and lakes with low currents, aquatic vegetation as well as branches and logs to bask on.

Enclosure

The Texas map turtle needs an aquarium. An adult male can be housed in a 25 to 30-gallon tank (two adult males can be housed in a 25 to 30-gallon tank with little to no complication).

An adult female, however, requires a large 50 to 55-gallon tank (two adult females can be housed in a 55-gallon tank). Regardless of size, the Texas map turtle appreciates a large aquarium. I recommend the 55-gallon Tetra Aquarium Kit. They are active turtles that like to move and swim a lot and as such need the space.

As placid turtles, several map turtles can be housed in the same enclosure. For every additional male, increase tank size by about 10 gallons. And for every additional female, increase tank size by about 20 gallons.

The aquarium needs a filter and a pump. The Penn Plax Undergravel Filter – Premium Aquarium is an excellent choice for a filter. It ensures the water is clean and free of waste.

My choice of a sump (submersible pump) is the Marineland Penguin Power Filter. Although this sump is marked higher than the capacity of the enclosure, this helps keep the water free of toxins and waste. Additionally, change a third of the water every week. Use dechlorinated water for the tank.

The enclosure needs a basking spot. A commercially manufactured basking platform such as the Penn Plax Tank Topper is adequate. The tank topper is easy to install and provides enough room for basking. Flat slates also make excellent basking platform. A good choice is the Natural Reptile Habitat Rock.

Substrate

Substrate is not important and is more for human keepers than it is for the turtle. If you must have a substrate, choose materials that are easy to clean and won’t scrap or harm the turtle.

Always keep in mind that cuts, scratches, and scrapes can easily become infected. Some excellent bedding choices include river pebbles such as Exotic Pebbles, coral rocks such as Nature’s Ocean Coral Base Rocks, and aquarium sand such as Imagitarium White Aquarium Sand.

Temperature

A submersible heater helps keep the water temperature at an adequate level. Since the turtle basks, the water mustn’t be too warm. The water temperature needs to be around 75 F. If the water isn’t warm enough, use a submersible heater such as the Orlushy Submersible Aquarium Heater.

The basking spot can use a ceramic lamp or a mercury vapor lamp. The mercury vapor lamp such as the MyComfyPets UV Light produces both UV light and heat. However, it needs to be turned off at night.

The ceramic heat lamp such as Fluker’s Ceramic Heat Emitter doesn’t produce light and can be on for 24 hours every day, keeping the turtle warm at all times. The basking temperature should be between 85 to 100 F. The ambient temperature should be between 80 to 85 F.

Lighting

As the G. versa is a map turtle, specimens need an adequate supply of UVA/UVB light. This allows them to synthesize vitamin D3 and helps them make use of calcium provided in their diet. If you use a ceramic lamp to provide warmth (advantages of ceramic heaters have already mentioned), then you need to provide a separate fluorescent lamp such as the Zoo Med Repti Sun 5.0.

A ceramic lamp and fluorescent light combo allow you to keep the turtles warm even when you turn off the lights at night. Alternatively, you can use UV mercury vapor bulbs such as MyComfyPets UV Light, and Evergreen Pet Supplies light bulbs.

Accessories

Accessories to add to the enclosure include driftwood, non-abrasive and non-toxic rocks, Mopani wood, natural cork, and aquatic plants such as Hairgrass, and java fern. This gives the aquarium a natural look. The decorations also provide the Texas map turtles with places to hide.

Feeding the Texas Map Turtle

Texas Map Turtle (Graptemys versa)

Feed the younglings once a day. As hatchlings, they are more carnivorous until they are about half a year old. Foods such as ReptoMin and Mazuri are ideal commercial foods to feed the turtle. Other commercial foods to feed the turtle include Freeze-dried krill and  Zoo Med Natural Aquatic Turtle Food. You can also feed them live food such as mealworms and cricket.

Feed them enough so they have reduced appetite. For the few weeks, you can feed them a couple of ReptoMin pellets. As they grow older, reduce the feeding frequency to once every two days. Because of the shy and fragile nature of hatchlings, do not attempt to move them out of their main enclosure during feeding.

They need to be at least several weeks old before you can attempt to feed them in a separate container. It isn’t necessary to feed map turtles in a separate enclosure; however, some keepers do feed their turtles in a separate container so as not to create a mess as map turtles only feed when in water.

As they grow older, increase the amount the food per feeding. Also, increase the number of greens and vegetables fed the Texas map turtle. Texas map turtles above the age of 6 months can be fed as much romaine lettuce as they will eat (romaine lettuce is mostly water).

Iceberg lettuce should be avoided as it has little nutritional value. Other vegetables to feed them include turnip greens, escarole, kale, green and red leaf, endives, collard greens and so on.

Proteins to feed adults and juveniles alike include snails, blackworms, earthworms, crayfish, feeder fish, crickets, bloodworms, and mealworms. The protein content of the diet should be between 30 and 40 percent.

Feeding the turtle too much protein leads to the pyramiding of the shell. This deformity causes the carapace to look bumpy. Such shells aren’t strong, and they injure easily.

Texas Map Turtle’s Temperament & Handling

Baby Texas Map Turtle (Graptemys versa)

This species is shy and gets stressed when handled. This is particularly true of hatchlings. Additionally, Texas map turtles are fragile. These characteristics make it inadvisable to handle them.

You should only handle them when they are unwell or injured, or you take them out of their main enclosure during feeding. As already mentioned, allow the hatchlings several weeks to settle in and develop a healthy feeding habit before moving them to a separate container during feeding time. The same should be done to any newly acquired turtle. 

Texas Map Turtle’s Lifespan

The Texas map turtle is quite long-lived. Longevity can easily exceed 35 years in captivity. Lifespan in the wild is difficult to determine, although wild specimens may have a lifespan of 30 to 40 years, just as many other map turtle species have.

Common Health Concerns

These are very few health issues to be concerned about. With proper husbandry, these turtles should be okay. Some common health concerns include metabolic bone disease, fungal infection, cuts, scratches, and bruises.

Fungal infection

This is caused by a lack of sunlight or indoor UV light and heating. The basking spot needs to be warm enough to properly dry the turtle. This infection appears as grew blotches on the carapace. A vet can easily treat fungal infections. Also ensure housing conditions are right.

Cuts and bruises

Sharp edges can cause scratches, scrapes, and abrasions. Ensure there are no edges that can harm the Texas map turtle. If you notice any cuts or bruises, thoroughly inspect the enclosure and remove any rough edge and surface. Treat the injuries with Silvadene cream or Acriflavine.

Metabolic Bone Disease

This is caused by calcium or vitamin D3 deficiency. The bones of the turtle become fragile and the shell becomes deformed and soft. To treat this disease, see a vet and correct housing conditions. Vitamin D3 deficiency can be avoided if the reptile gets enough access to sunlight or UV light. Also, increase the calcium amounts fed the turtle. Do this by feeding the turtle more dark leafy greens and commercially produced turtle diets.

Pricing and Availability

Thanks to captive breeding, these turtles are readily available. They can be found in several herp pet shops as well as reptile conventions. There are several breeders in the States. You can find many of these breeders via the internet. Some sites to check out include Snakes at Sunset, LLLReptile, and Turtle Source.

A Texas map turtle specimen should cost between $30 and $140.

Conservation/Threats

The G. versa is not endangered or of any concern. Their wild populations are stable. Additionally, there are no specific threats to the species. However, environmental changes such as pollution and habitat loss can contribute to their decline. On the IUCN Red List, this species has a ‘Least Concern’ status.

Conclusion

This aquatic turtle is quite easy to care for and easy to find. With proper husbandry, they can grow to be several decades old. As they are the smallest of the map turtles, their tank size doesn’t need to be overly large. They feed readily and are active and alert. These characteristics make them wonderful beginner pets to have. If you have any additional information or questions, leave a comment. We’d love to hear from you.

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