9 Types of Turtles That You Can Keep as Pets

Last Updated on February 16, 2019

There are so many options that choosing a pet turtle can be overwhelming. Each different turtles type has its own unique requirements for food, shelter, water source, and even levels of heat and humidity.

Having said all of this, given the right person and the right commitment turtles make beautiful, fascinating, and enjoyable pets. The first steps to good aquatic turtle ownership are to research the species available and the care required of each species. While the basics of aquatic turtle care are similar for all species, potential owners need to review the specific details on housing and feeding for the particular species in which they are interested prior to purchase.

For beginners, the hardier species of aquatic turtles are recommended, such as red-eared sliders, cooters, mud and musk turtles. Keep in mind that sliders and cooters will reach a mature length of over 12 inches while mud and musk turtles are about half that size. Map and painted turtles, as well as some of the less common species, are a bit less hardy as pets. Softshell and snapping turtles have a reputation for being large, aggressive, and generally more difficult to care for so they are not good for beginners.

Beyond providing a proper environment and diet for aquatic turtles, they do not need a lot of attention, although regular interaction may result in a tame and sociable turtle. In any case, they are lovely and if properly cared for should provide years of enjoyment.

It is true that some are better suited to life with humans than others, but here are nine different types of turtles that would be happy to live with you.

1. Painted Turtle

Painted Pet Turtle
The painted turtle was named Michigan State Reptile in 1995.

Painted turtles are one of the most attractive varieties of pond turtle native to North America. They are found from southern Canada to northern Mexico and from the East Coast to the West. Like many turtles, they are active during the day and hibernate during the winter.

Adult females range in size from four to 10 inches in length; males are generally smaller. Painted turtles are adaptable and you can house them in virtually any suitably sized tank.

Painted turtles have been known to live as long as 50 years in captivity, so they can truly be lifelong companions.

2. Red Ear Slider Turtle

Red Ear Slider Pet Turtle
© CJ Groth Photography – Key West Photos: A red-eared slider turtle

The red-eared slider is named for the red-line running behind its eyes and the sliding motion it makes as it slips from a rock into the water. It is most often found from Illinois to the Gulf of Mexico and from the East Coast to western Texas.

Full grown adults can reach 12 inches in length, with females usually being the largest in size. Red-eared sliders are omnivores. Pet red-eared sliders will feed on just about anything you give them.

As pets, red-eared sliders can be slow to trust, but become personable with time. They can live anywhere from 50-70 years.


3. Reeve’s Turtle

Reeve's Pet TurtleReeve’s turtle is the smallest member of the genus Mauremys, one of the largest genera of the Old World turtle family Geoemydidae. Their range extends across central and eastern China, as well North and South Korea, Taiwan and Japan, where they inhabit lakes, ponds and small streams.

These turtles inhabit ponds, lakes and small streams, preferring slow-moving or still water with a soft bottom and lots of vegetation.

They make excellent pets because they breed well in captivity and mature at a manageable size of about nine inches. They are lively and active turtles, so you should provide them with as much room as possible.

Reeve’s turtles have been known to live for over 20 years in captivity. Know more about Reeve turtle here

4. Eastern Box Turtle

 Eastern Box Pet Turtle
Eastern Box Turtle: Becky Burdette Photography

Found in the eastern United States, they are very prevalent in North Carolina, where they are the state reptile.

They are slow crawlers, slow to mature, and can live up to 100 years in the wild. They require high humidity, warmth, a suitable substrate for burrowing and access to ultraviolet light. This makes them difficult to keep as pets, yet they remain a popular choice.

Unlike water turtles, the box turtle has a domed shell and feet that are not webbed. They get their name from their hinged shell that allows them to pull their whole body inside and close up tight like they are hiding in a box.


5. Mississippi Map Turtle

Mississippi Map Pet Turtle

The Mississippi map turtle got its name for its map-like markings and can be found in the Mississippi Valley down into the Gulf states in most rivers, lakes, and streams.

They are aquatic turtle and tend to stay in moving water rather than farm ponds and creeks. They prefer flowing bodies of water like rivers and are avid baskers.

As pets, they are easy keepers but need excellent water quality. There are smaller water turtles that don’t require such large habitats.

The Mississippi map turtle is a popular pet in the United States. They are known to live up to 30 years. Find more about Mississippi Turtle here

6. Russian Tortoise

Russian Pet Tortoise

The range of the Russian tortoise includes southeastern Russia, eastern Iran, northwest Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Maturing at 8-10 inches, they are small, making them easy for most people with limited space to keep. They are also feisty, eager to eat and more active than some other tortoises.

Russian tortoise is also burrowers, and have a high tolerance for temperature extremes, making them easy to care for and fun as pets. They tend to dig into corners and against objects. Placing large rocks under the soil in the corners helps prevent tortoises from digging out. They can live for more than 40 years.

Know more about these turtles here

7. Caspian Pond Turtle

Caspian Pond Pet turtle

You can distinguish Caspian pond turtle by its tan or olive with yellow or cream patterning on its shell, arms, and head. They have habitat throughout Saudi Arabia, Israel, Iran, Eastern Europe, Turkey, Crete, Cypress, Yugoslavia, and Bulgaria.

Caspian pond turtle are fast-growing, and they do need a lot of space, so if you do not have a lot of room to give them or you are too busy, they are not the right breed for you.

Though quick to return to the water if startled, they are very personable turtles and quickly learn to recognize their keepers.

These turtles are highly adaptable and make their home in the many brackish and freshwater bodies of water throughout their wild range.


8. Central American Wood Turtle

Central American Wood Pet Turtle

Wood turtles are found throughout most of western Mexico all the way to Costa Rica. There are four subspecies of the wood turtle, but the ornate wood turtle is most commonly seen in captivity.

Of all the subspecies, the ornate wood turtle lives in the most tropical environments and is known for its brilliant red striping. These turtles make intelligent and personable pets. Here is a video of Tumbleweed the Central American Wood Turtle from Oakland Zoo. A Central American Wood Turtle can live 20 years or more in a zoo setting.

9. Greek Tortoise

Greek Pet Tortoise

The Greek tortoise (also called the spur-thighed tortoise) hails from North Africa, southern Europe, and southwest Asia.

They mature between five and eight inches, and can be one of the longest living tortoises; some have been reported living well into their 100s. However, in the wild, they rarely live past 20 due to predators.

The Greek tortoise spends much of its time grazing. While they do not like to be held, they do tend to become very responsive to their keepers and are known for being easy-going, friendly and interactive.

What do pet turtles Eat?

The kind of pet turtle you have will determine what you should feed to your turtle. Generally, they are omnivorous, so you should include these in their daily diet:

  • Feeder fish and/or insects (freeze-dried shrimp or krill, crickets, superworms, rosy red minnows, and even pinky mice)
  • Commercial pelleted food
  • Fruits and vegetables (leafy greens)


Indeed, turtles are interesting pets, but …..

you should understand that these animals carry salmonella. Always wash your hands after handling a pet turtle. Homes with very young children, elderly or immune-impaired individuals should not consider owning a pet turtle.

If you’re considering bringing a turtle into your home, do your research. There is much more to learn about all nine of these turtles, and many other turtles that could thrive with a human as well.

Turtle can be used as the alternative to Fish in Aquaponics. You Can check our detailed study on Using Turtle in Aquaponics: Good or Bad?


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