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Yellow-blotched Map Turtle Care Guide

If you can find one, Yellow-blotched Map turtle care can be an incredibly unique experience as a turtle owner. These stunning turtles are incredibly rare, and in the wild they can only be found in the Pascagoula River system in Mississippi.

Taking care of one of these endangered turtles can be immensely rewarding. Here is our complete care guide for the Yellow-blotched Map turtle.

Yellow-blotched Map Turtle Facts

  • Experience level: Beginner
  • Scientific name: Graptemys Flavimaculata
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Alternate names: Yellow-blotched Sawback turtle
  • Size and weight: Between 3 and 4 inches for males, between 6 and 7 inches for females
  • Lifespan: Between 30 and 50 years
  • Diet: Omnivorous – mainly insects but occasionally fish, crustaceans, or plants
  • Conservation status: Endangered
  • Books: Map Turtles and Diamondback Terrapins (Herpetology Series) by W.P. Mara
  • Where to buy?: (Florida residents only)

Like some of the other Map turtle subspecies, Yellow-blotched Map turtles are also known as “sawback” turtles because of the sharp saw-like ridges running down the center of their shells.

Because of dangers such as pollution and the destruction of their preferred habitats, Yellow-blotched Map turtles are incredibly rare. They are listed as Endangered.

Yellow-blotched Map turtles can be kept in groups or with other similar turtle species quite happily, and can also be housed in outdoor ponds.

What does a Yellow-blotched Map turtle look like?

Yellow-blotched map turtle (Graptemys Flavimaculata)
Yellow blotched map turtle on black background

Yellow-blotched Map turtles have shells that range from dark brown to olive in color. Each of their scutes have yellow blotch-like markings. They have light or cream plastrons and their skin is covered with bright yellow banded markings.

Along the spine of their shells, Yellow-blotched Map turtles have serrated ridges which earn them the nickname “Yellow-blotched Sawback turtle”. In young turtles and male adults, the first few of these spines have black tips.

Yellow-blotched Map turtles have narrower heads than some other types of Map turtles, which makes them specialized for eating insects.

Where can Yellow-blotched Map turtles be found?

Yellow-blotched Map turtles are incredibly rare and are an endangered species because they are only found in one river region in North America; Mississippi’s Pascagoula river.

What kind of habitat do Yellow-blotched Map turtles inhabit?

Because of their incredibly confined geographical area, Yellow-blotched Map turtles have a very distinct habitat. They like the Pascagoula’s fast-moving current, and prefer sections where the river bottom is sandy, rocky, or made of clay.

What does the Yellow-blotched Map turtle eat?

Yellow-blotched Map turtles are mainly insectivores, but will also eat fish, mollusks, and occasionally plants.

How do Yellow-blotched Map turtles breed?

Yellow blotched map turtles on top of another turtle
Yellow blotched map turtles on top of another turtle

Yellow-blotched Map turtles will perform courting dances while mating, with both the male and female trying to stroke the others head at the same time with their claws. They will face each other to attempt this ritual.

The eggs are usually laid in clutches of five to seven eggs, with between three and four clutches produced each year. Yellow-blotched Map turtles lay their eggs in sandbars and areas where they can burrow.

What predators do Yellow-blotched Map turtles face?

Crows and other scavenging birds will often prey on unprotected Yellow-blotched Map turtle nests. The turtles themselves face threats such as habitat destruction as well as shooting by humans for sport. Nesting females are also prime targets for predators.

Where can I buy a Yellow-blotched Map turtle?

Yellow-blotched Map turtles are extremely rare and are bred in small quantities. They can also be very expensive due to their rarity. Purchasing Yellow-blotched Map turtles is also restricted in several states.

Currently, is able to sell specimens to Florida residents only. Prices range from $400 for hatchlings to $800 for individual adults.

Wherever you buy one, make sure to only buy a captive bred species. Never buy a wild caught, or catch any turtles from the wild.

Yellow blotched map turtle care sheet

Yellow-blotched Map Turtle (Graptemys Flavimaculata) swimming
Yellow-blotched Map Turtle (Graptemys Flavimaculata) swimming in enclosure


Like other Map turtles, Yellow-blotched Map turtles need an aquatic set up. The suggested size for their tank is 50 gallons. If you are keeping more than one specimen, add an extra 20-50 gallons of space for every individual. Females will require more additional space.

Because they prefer faster-moving waters, you’ll need some form of large filtration and current system, such as a spray bar. Something like a SunSun HW-302 or equivalent will work well. This is essential for keeping their water clean and stimulating the right amount of oxygen in the water.

Like most turtle species, Yellow-blotched Map turtles need basking spots. Add these to the small land area of their tank and provide them with some form of ramp to easily exit the water. A log or rock is a good choice.

For the substrate, sand is ideal as it replicates the turtle’s natural habitat. You can also use gravel. Just make sure it is larger than the turtles mouth to ensure they cannot eat it. Rock ingestion can be a very bad thing for your turtle.

Yellow-blotched Map turtles can also be kept in outdoor ponds. However, if your pond is prone to freezing in colder temperatures, or if the ambient temperature regularly drops below the ideal conditions for your turtle, bring them inside.

Filtration & cleaning

A good and powerful filtration system will help keep the water clean for your Yellow-blotched Map turtle. This should also allow you to spot clean fairly infrequently, about once every two weeks.

The whole tank should be thoroughly cleaned every three months. Use dechlorinated water when filling the tank to prevent your turtle from being exposed to contaminants.

Have a look at our in depth turtle filters guide for more about choosing the right one for your setup.


Yellow-blotched Map turtles need a water temperature of around 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Use an aquarium thermometer to keep track of the temperature. If you live in an area where temperatures regularly drop below this range, an underwater heater will be needed.

See our guide on turtle tank heaters for more about how to choose a water heater.

The temperature for the basking spot should be kept at around 86 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Your Yellow-blotched Map turtle will want to bask fairly regularly, so make sure this temperature is correct.


Along with a basking bulb, you’ll also need to provide UVB light for your Yellow-blotched Map turtle. This will allow your turtle to get adequate Vitamin D3 and other important nutrients which they would usually get from the sun.

See our guide to learn more about the best UVB bulbs for turtles.


Yellow-blotched Map turtles are a cautious species that like plenty of places to hide in the water. Try to provide some areas to explore such as logs or rocks, as long as they are secure enough not to be dislodged and fall on your turtle.

You can also add plants to the enclosure, either living or artificial. This is best done in the underwater section to give your turtle somewhere else to hide or investigate.


As Yellow-blotched Map turtles are mainly insectivores, crickets and worms can be good sources of food. Commercial turtle diets and pellets can also be frequently used. You can also occasionally feed your Yellow-blotched Map turtle cut up strips of fish or crustaceans such as shrimp.

You can also provide some plant material for them to eat. Plants like pondweed or water lilies are a good choice. You can also try feeding them vegetables like kale, mustard greens, or dandelion leaves.

Adults and younger Yellow-blotched Map turtles should be fed as much as they can eat once every two days. Feed hatchlings every other day, as much as they can eat. You should also dust several meals a week with calcium supplements and multivitamins.

Temperament and handling

Yellow blotched map turtle resting with leg over edge
Yellow blotched map turtle resting with leg over edge

Like many aquatic turtles, it’s best not to handle your Yellow-blotched Map turtle if you can avoid it. They are fascinating to observe though, as they bask or explore their enclosure. They are cautious turtles and will probably hide often, but will poke their heads out to see what you are doing.

Over time, your Yellow-blotched Map turtle should become docile enough for hand feeding, but that should be the limit of handling them.

Signs of good health

Looking at the shell of a Yellow-blotched Map turtle will give you a good indication of its overall health. There shouldn’t be any deformities or flakiness to the shell, which can otherwise indicate improper lighting conditions or supplementation.

The eyes of a Yellow-blotched Map turtle should also be clear, and they should be quick to hide if they aren’t accustomed to you. Slow or lethargic turtles may have health problems.

Health concerns

Like many species of turtle, deformities in the shell are common problems for Yellow-blotched Map turtles. This can happen due to either insufficient UVB lighting or inadequate supplementation.

Fungal infections can also occur if your turtle isn’t receiving enough UVB light, and this can be spotted through grayish areas on the shell.

Metabolic bone disease may also develop from keeping your Yellow-blotched Map turtle in improper conditions. Pyramiding may also occur on the scutes of the shell. This usually means the turtle is consuming too much protein. If this begins to occur, adjust your turtle’s diet accordingly.

Lethargic turtles may be suffering from a lack of crucial vitamins such as Vitamin A. Other symptoms include dry flaky skin and reduced appetites.

Video overview about the Yellow-blotched Map turtle

Frequently Asked Questions about Yellow-blotched Map turtles


Like most turtles, there are pros and cons to owning a Yellow-blotched Map turtle.

This species is incredibly rare, which makes them a unique pet to keep if you can get hold of one. You’ll certainly stand out from other turtle keepers.

Yellow-blotched Map turtles are also a joy to watch. They may be cautious, but they are also inquisitive and can quickly become docile. This means you can hand feed them, which adds some interaction between you and your turtle.

Their ideal set up is also relatively simple, especially if you have experience with an aquarium set up. Beyond water filtration, their needs are pretty easy to meet. They can also cohabit with other Yellow-blotched Map turtles or similarly sized turtle species in either a tank or a pond.

However, because these turtles are endangered and rare, they will be difficult or even impossible to acquire. And even if you can track one down, they will be very expensive.

Yellow-blotched Map turtles are also not a good pet if you want to handle your turtles. They should be handled as infrequently as possible and are much better off being observed.

Nevertheless, it can be incredibly rewarding to own and care for a Yellow-blotched Map turtle. However, if you want a considerably cheaper Map turtle, Black-knobbed Map turtles are a good pick. If you want to be able to regularly handle your turtle, a species such as the Red-eared Slider is a better bet.

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