What Type of Turtle Should You Own?

There are hundreds of different turtle types and each have their own unique requirements. Some are more suited to a life with humans than others, so some research is needed to find what the best types of turtles for pets are with the space you have available, and the care that you can provide.

Do be aware that there is legislation in place on the size and type of turtle that you can keep as a pet. So that means it is essential to check local laws before adding one to your family. We recommend getting in touch with your local humane society or turtle welfare association for advice.

Best Types of Turtles for Pets

As said before, not every turtle can be a pet because each species has different requirements and some need to remain in the wild. Here are three types of turtles that make great pets.

Mississippi Map Turtles

Named after their map-like markings, they can be found in rivers and lakes around the Mississippi Valley and right down into the Gulf states. They prefer flowing water and love to bask in the sun. This is one of the easier turtles to keep as a pet, but they do need excellent water quality to thrive.

Caspian Pond Turtles

These types of turtles come from the Middle East and can be identified by the tan, yellow and cream patterns on their shell, arms, and head. These guys can startle quickly but they also quickly learn which people bring them food!

Reeves Turtles

They come from the Asia region where they like to live in slow-moving or still water. This variety breeds well in captivity, and they mature to a manageable size of around 9 inches.

What to Know About Turtle Care

Land-Based Turtles

Turtles depend on the surrounding air to increase or decrease their body temperature. That means that when kept as pets, they need a year-round warm area of 80F to 85F and then a cooler area, which allows them to cool down as required. This usually means they need a large outdoor space with 24-inch walls and then an insulated, heated house.

Daily clean water is essential, but make sure it is no deeper than 3 inches to prevent accidental drowning. The water also needs to be in a container large enough for the turtle to bathe in, as this allows them to eliminate waste.

Water Turtles

While an outdoor pond is the best option, an aquarium may be suitable for younger turtles. The tank will need to be one half to two thirds full of water with a dry platform above the water line. This then creates a basking spot, which is a favorite pastime for most turtles!

The tank needs to be five times the length of the turtle, so that means that a 10-inch turtle needs a tank at least 50 inches long. Then, the water depth needs to be five times the shell height. So, if it is 3 inches, then the water needs to be at least 15 inches deep.

A heater will be needed to raise the water temperature, along with a UVB bulb and a heat bulb to keep the basking spot between 90F and 105F.

How to Go About Feeding Your Turtle

Turtles are omnivores, so that means that they eat both animal-based food and vegetation. Dry turtle food should be a main source in their diet. You can then add in a mixture of treats such as earthworms, beetles, and crickets with a range of fruit and vegetables.

Turtle Health Concerns

Vitamin A Deficiency

This often occurs in turtles when they are fed a meat-only diet or a poor-quality commercial diet. The lack of vitamin A causes changes in the skin and in the mucus-producing glands of the mouth, eyes and upper respiratory tract. Symptoms include a loss of appetite, the swelling of the eyelids and ears, and respiratory infections.

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Infections are common in aquatic turtles. This is because bacteria and fungi are often a part of their normal living environment. However, when bacteria enters a part of the body where it should not be, then infections can develop. Shell infections can be spotted when there is discoloration and areas of softness begin to form.


These are common health problems for turtles, and these include ticks, mites and worms. If infected, you will see a change in both energy levels and appetite. When there are external parasites such as ticks or mites, then you may spot them on your turtle’s skin.

Pros of Turtles as Pets

There are pros and cons to owning any type of pet, but let’s take a look at the pros of owning a turtle.


Turtles can live for decades. The Box Turtle, for example, can reach a grand age of 100 in the wild!

Unique Personalities

Just like other pets, turtles all have their own personalities, with some being more outgoing than others. However, the more time you spend with your turtle, especially hand-feeding treats, the quicker they will learn to come running when they see you coming.

Cons of Turtles as Pets

When taking a look at the cons of a pet turtle, they tend to revolve around health issues and upkeep.

Salmonella Risk

Salmonella is not just an illness that comes from food; turtles and other reptiles also carry salmonella bacteria, and this can easily be transmitted to people. While salmonella usually results in a few days of fever and diarrhea, some people end up in a hospital with complications that can be life-threatening. Children and senior citizens are amongst those who are most at risk.

Selling Small Turtles Is Illegal

Selling turtles that have shells less than four inches long was banned back in 1975. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) believe that this is has been the most effective way of reducing turtle associated salmonellosis.

Turtles Need a Lifetime of Specialized Care

Many people see turtles as low-maintenance pets, however, they need special attention throughout their lives, which may span several decades. Lighting, temperature control and water filtration systems are all needed for a turtle to remain healthy.

Conservation Concerns

Many turtles are collected from the wild to meet the demand of the pet trade. Sadly, this is having a severe effect on the populations in the wild. Vast numbers of turtles die before they can be sold and those who do survive are often severely stressed and ill. Avoid encouraging this trade by adopting rather than buying a pet turtle.