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White Lipped Mud Turtle

White Lipped Mud Turtle Care Guide

White Lipped Mud turtle care can be a fun, interesting experience for an intermediate turtle owner. These beautiful little turtles hail from Central and South America, and are pretty active and engaging.

They also have relatively simple care requirements for an aquatic turtle. They can even be kept alongside other turtles or fish.

Quick reference section

  • Experience level: Intermediate
  • Scientific name: Kinosternon Leucostomum
  • Family: Kinosternidae
  • Alternate names: N/A
  • Average Adult Size: Up to 8 inches long
  • Lifespan: Between 30 and 50 years
  • Diet: Omnivorous – Crustaceans, fish, invertebrates, mollusks, and plants
  • Conservation status: Common
  • Where to buy?: theturtlesource.com, freshmarine.com

Interesting facts about White Lipped Mud Turtles

Unlike most species of turtles, male White Lipped Mud turtles will grow to be larger than their female counterparts. You’ll be able to identify a male thanks to their bigger heads and thicker, longer tails.

Like most other Mud turtles, White Lipped Mud turtles can completely encase themselves within their shells to protect their bodies from predators.

What does a White Lipped Mud Turtle look like?

White lipped mud turtle (Kinosternon Leucostomum)
White lipped mud turtle (Kinosternon Leucostomum)

White Lipped Mud turtles have smooth oval shells that range from black to brown. These have the same distinctive domed back and sloped fronts as the shells of other Mud turtles.

White Lipped Mud turtles have distinctive whitish lips, along with cream skin around their jaws.

The tops of their heads are brown and yellowish in color. They have fleshy barbels on their chins and yellow plastrons. The tips of their tails sport a horned spine.

Where can White Lipped Mud Turtles be found?

White Lipped Mud turtles originate from Central and South America, inhabiting  a wide variety of regions such as Colombia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, north west Peru, and southern Mexico.

What kind of habitat?

White Lipped Mud turtles are mainly an aquatic species. They mainly inhabit slow, still freshwater sources such as marshes and swamps. They prefer aquatic habitats that have silty, sandy bottoms where they can bury themselves if the water level drops.

White Lipped Mud turtles will sometimes walk around on land, or walk along the bottom of their aquatic habitats in the shallows.

What does the White Lipped Mud Turtle eat?

White Lipped Mud turtles are omnivores. They are active mainly at dawn and dusk and will eat crustaceans, fish, invertebrates, mollusks, and sometimes plants. They will also occasionally consume carrion if they find it.

While they can eat both on land and in the water, White Lipped Mud turtles prefer to hunt in the water, feasting on smaller aquatic creatures.

How do White Lipped Mud Turtles breed?

Side view of a white lipped mud turtle (Kinosternon Leucostomum)
Side view of a white lipped mud turtle (Kinosternon Leucostomum)

White Lipped Mud turtles typically breed sometime between August and September, although they can sometimes breed at most times of year.

Eggs are laid under the cover of dead leaves or nests. A clutch can contain between one and five eggs. The eggs hatch sometime between three and nine months later.

What predators do White Lipped Mud Turtles face?

In their native habitats across Central and South America, White Lipped Mud turtles face predators such as snakes, lizards, and birds. Some predators will target the turtle’s eggs, while others will attempt to catch and eat adult White Lipped Mud turtles.

Where can I buy?

White Lipped Mud turtles can be purchased at vendors such as theturtlesource.com or freshmarine.com. The average prices range between $60 for hatchlings and $100 for adults.

White Lipped Mud Turtle Care sheet

White lipped mud turtle in shell (Kinosternon Leucostomum)
White lipped mud turtle in shell (Kinosternon Leucostomum)

Enclosure

Like most other Mud turtles, White Lipped Mud turtles require an aquatic enclosure. As these are relatively large for Mud turtles, a 40 gallon tank is an ample size for an adult.

For two individuals, plump for at least a 55 gallon aquarium. You can also keep them in a pond, but you’ll need to bring them inside if the pond is liable to freeze in winter.

The tank should contain enough water for the turtle to submerge, but not so much that they can’t easily reach the surface. Include some form of ramp to allow them to easily reach the land area of their tank whenever they want.

White Lipped Mud turtles like to poke their heads out above the water to bask. As such, White Lipped Mud turtles will not require a large out of water basking spot. However, it’s a good idea to provide a small land basking area for their occasional use.

A substrate is not strictly necessary, but can help your White Lipped Mud turtle feel more at home. Choose a substrate that won’t float in the water, instead remaining at the bottom of the tank.

Water quality is extremely important for White Lipped Mud turtles as they spend much of their time swimming. A good filter system is mandatory. You’ll also need to regularly change at least a quarter of the water, preferably once a week.

You’ll need to use dechlorinated water in your White Lipped Mud turtle’s tank to ensure that no contaminants enter their water supply. Using a suitable air pump under the water can increase the flow.

Cleaning

The filter system will help to sift waste from your White Lipped Mud turtle’s water supply. Partial water changes will also help keep the water clean.

For more on that check our turtle tank filters guide.

Temperature

Mud turtles don’t usually require water heaters unless the water temperature is going to drop below 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Make use of an aquarium-safe thermometer to keep track of the water temperature.

The basking area for your White Lipped Mud turtle will need some form of heat lamp to mimic the sun. The basking temperature should be around 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

Lighting

White Lipped Mud turtles will also require a UVB bulb to help give them the essential nutrients they would usually get from basking. Something like a Zoo Med Reptisun 10.0 is ideal.

You can check our UVB guide for more on that.

Put your lamps on a 12 hour day/night cycle to help replicate a natural environment for your White Lipped Mud turtle. You will also have to turn off any lights in your turtle’s room during the night cycle.

If you are keeping your White Lipped Mud turtle in a pond, they should get enough natural light for their requirements.

Accessories

Providing some secluded hiding places for your White Lipped Mud turtle is a good idea. While not especially skittish, they will feel safer if they have somewhere to hide.

A collection of rocks or logs can be a good set up. Make sure that they cannot be dislodged or fall on your turtle.

White Lipped Mud turtles like underwater vegetation in their natural habitats, so including some plants in their enclosure can be a great choice. Artificial plants can also be used.

Feeding

As omnivores, White Lipped Mud turtles aren’t particularly fussy when it comes to food! A diet of chopped strips of fish or meat, commercial turtle pellets, mollusks, and crustaceans and insects will go down well.

Do not overfeed your White Lipped Mud turtles. If you have hatchlings, you should feed them once a day. Feeding adults twice a week is more than enough. 

However, you can offer them a selection of fresh dark greens and vegetables every day. Collared greens, dandelion greens, and fresh herbs like parsley will work fine.

To ensure that your White Lipped Mud turtle gets adequate supplementation, one helping of vegetables per week should be dusted with some form of calcium supplement.

Most types of Mud turtle are notoriously messy eaters. To prevent mess from building up in their enclosure, you can move your White Lipped Mud turtle to a separate feeding enclosure if you wish. Otherwise it’s likely you’ll have to spot clean their enclosure after feeding time.

Temperament and handling

Plastron of a white lipped mud turtle (Kinosternon Leucostomum)
Plastron of a white lipped mud turtle (Kinosternon Leucostomum)

Most Mud turtles don’t like to be handled often, and White Lipped Mud turtles are no different. Transferal to a separate feeding enclosure should be the main times they are handled, but it’s best to leave them alone if you can.

However, just because you shouldn’t handle them regularly, doesn’t make White Lipped Mud turtles boring pets! They are very active and can be fascinating to watch as they swim around or walk along the bottom of their tank.

When feeding your White Lipped Mud turtles, don’t let your fingers get too close as they can nip you by mistake as they lunge aggressively for their food!

White Lipped Mud turtles are good-natured and engaging reptiles. When they see you approach, especially with food, they can perk up and react to your appearance.

White Lipped Mud turtles can be kept in groups alongside other similarly sized Mud turtles, and will also happily share their aquarium or pond with fish, as long as they are too big too eat.

Signs of good health

To choose a healthy White Lipped Mud turtle, look for a specimen that has a smooth carapace, without any shedding or strange bumps.

These turtles should be quite active in the water, and sluggish individuals may have health problems. Clear, clean eyes are also a good indicator of a healthy turtle.

Health concerns

Insufficient lighting conditions or poorly filtered water can cause problems for your White Lipped Mud turtle.

These problems will be most noticeable in their shells, which may flake or show deformities if not correctly cared for. Other health concerns include ear infections, metabolic bone disease, or infection from parasites.

Often, many of these problems can be easily fixed by making sure your White Lipped Mud turtle has the right lighting, diet, and water filtration.

How to tell the difference between Mud an Musk turtles

Below is a really simple breakdown of how you can tell the difference between mud and musk turtles. It comes down to looking at their plastrons.

Frequently Asked Questions about White Lipped Mud Turtles

How big are White Lipped Mud turtle set ups?

40 gallons will be the minimum size for a single adult White Lipped Mud turtle. If you have two individuals, get at least a 55 gallon aquarium. You can also house your White Lipped Mud turtles in an outdoor pond. However, if it is likely to freeze during winter, you’ll need to keep them inside during the colder months.

Conclusion

If you’re looking for a Mud turtle to keep as a pet, White Lipped Mud turtles can be an incredibly rewarding experience. However, they may not suit every keeper. Here are the pros and cons of owning a White Lipped Mud turtle.

Perhaps the main plus for owning one of these turtles is that they are relatively uncommon as pets, so you’re definitely likely to stand out from the crowd. White Lipped Mud turtles are also really fascinating to watch, and are relatively active.

White Lipped Mud turtles can also happily be housed with other similarly sized Mud or Musk turtles, and can even live comfortably alongside fish in your pond or aquarium.

If you are no stranger to aquatic turtle set ups, then White Lipped Mud turtles are a relatively easy species to house and take care of. They don’t need heated water in most cases, and have very basic needs.

However, there are some cons to having White Lipped Mud turtles as pets. They don’t like to be handled often, which can take away some of interaction if that’s what you’re looking for.

White Lipped Mud turtles, like other Mud turtles, are also pretty messy! This is especially true when they are eating, which can be a negative for some turtle owners.

But overall, White Lipped Mud turtles are a fun, unique, interesting pet turtle species. If you do want a pet turtle that you can handle without stressing the turtle out, a Red-eared Slider may be a better choice.

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