Different Types of Turtles for Pets – How to Choose the Perfect One for You

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Do you want to own pet turtles but don’t know where to start? Keep reading to find different types of turtles for pets and what you need. It’s beginner-friendly, we promise! Turtles can make great pets. They are calm and require as much physical therapy as other pets. However, with the variety of species, it can be tricky, especially for budding reptile owners, to choose the best fit and care for one properly. 

If you want to add a little dome buddy to your family, knowing which species and their specific needs will make the decision and new journey much more manageable. In this post, we will discover the best turtle types for pets and how to care for them so they can live long, very long, happy lives!

10 Beginner-Friendly Types of Turtles for Pets

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Do Turtles Make Good Pets and Why?

Overall, yes, turtles do make great pets! They are often friendly and low-maintenance, but here is a deeper look at why turtles do and don’t make good pets:

What Makes Turtles Good Pets?

  1. Friendly – Turtles have curious and calm demeanours, making them easy to interact with. They can also form bonds with their owners and enjoy being hand-fed veggies and fruits.
  2. Independent – Turtles are generally independent pets; they don’t need much interaction or physical attention like dogs and cats. This is great for owners needing more time for long or frequent bonding sessions.
  3. Lifelong Bestie – Turtles, like tortoises, live for a long time, making them perfect for people looking for a lifelong companion.
  4. Allergy-Free – Turtles Are a Great loophole for those who suffer from pet allergies or asthma. It is rare to be allergic to turtles or tortoises.
  5. Playful – Depending on the type of turtle you have, some species can be very playful and active. Aquatic turtles love to entertain themselves and will do silly actions like slide down or jump off rocks into the water. It is entertaining and captivating to watch these little guys play.

What Makes Turtles Tricky Pets?

  1. Salmonella – Turtles pose a risk of carrying bacteria, most commonly Salmonella. This can also affect their water and anything else they touch. Get your turtle checked out by a vet as soon as possible, as they may show no symptoms but can still carry bacteria. 
  2. Cute, not Cuddly – Turtles are gentle and laid back for the most part, and many owners who adore animals tend to want to cuddle and show them affection. Turtles, on the other hand, prefer looking more than touching.
  3. Challenges – Although turtles themselves are easygoing enough, their care can be a bit more complicated. Caring for a turtle comes with its demands, like caring for any reptilian pet. 
  4. Popular Snack – Like most animals, turtles face many potential threats. That’s why it’s best not to leave juveniles or smaller turtles outside. Birds, foxes, raccoons, fire ants, and many other predators could be waiting around the corner for an easy snack.
  5. Commitment – As we mentioned, turtles live for a long time, and while this is excellent news for a lifelong friendship, there is a chance they may outlive you. So it’s essential to consider this and prepare accordingly. 

Top 10 Types of Turtles for Pets

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1. Wood Turtle:

Wood turtles make friendly and hardy pets with the proper care. They are more complex to accommodate than aquatic species. However, they make better outdoor pets than indoor ones, as they need quite a large enclosure.

2. Reeve’s Turtle: 

These friendly little guys are perfect for owners who don’t need more time to prepare for a very long commitment. They are aquatic and do not need a huge enclosure, and with the proper handling and patience, they even enjoy some gentle pets.

3. Yellow-Bellied Slider:

These are popular turtles and are easy to buy from reputable breeders. They are larger and are active during the day, making them fun to watch. Yellow Bellies are hardy, a big part of their appeal, especially for new owners.

4. Spotted Turtle:

These little guys share a common trait with musk turtles and are one of the smallest species allowed to be kept as pets, so if you are in the market, they are a great choice when browsing tiny turtles for pets. Be prepared for a commitment; they can live for up to 100 years but are relatively low maintenance. They enjoy shallow water and a balanced diet of meat and leafy greens. 

5. Common Musk Turtle:

These tiny turtles make great pets for owners on the run or those starting their reptile journey. They are low-maintenance and enjoy shallow swims and basking in their UVB light. However, be careful when handling them, as they can sometimes release a foul smell, hence their nickname “Stinkpot”.”

6. Mississippi Map Turtle:

With good care, these turtles can become hardy and healthy pets. They don’t require less space or a long commitment; their life expectancy is around 30. They also have a unique dorsal fin on their shell, giving them the nickname “Sawback”.

7. Western Painted Turtle:

These beauties have fascinating markings on their back, making them great to watch as they swim around. Although they aren’t enormous, they require a sizable enclosure with filtered water and easily accessible basking light. 

8. Eastern Box Turtle:

These attractive little guys prefer wetter enclosures with moist substrate and a shallow pool. They could be susceptible to respiratory infections if they get too dry or cold. With gentle and minimal handling, it’s a joy to watch them come out of their shells

9. African Sideneck Turtle:

With an anatomy different from that of other aquatic turtles, the African Sideneck is an interesting pet. Their necks can fully extend and contract in their shell. Be aware of small turtles for pets; these guys love to swim and often require tanks of around 75 gallons.

10. Red-Eared Slider:

Although known for their messy nature, these turtles are more pleasant and friendly than some aquatic cousins. They tend to be indoor pets but can also thrive in an outdoor enclosure with the right equipment and care.

Tips for Beginner Turtle Owners 

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  1. Before getting your new turtle, ensure that you have the tank of the correct size and that it is set up correctly.
  2. Remember that most turtles are omnivores, but some may need more protein in their diet, and others need more greens. Do research or ask the vet about your specific turtle’s diet requirements.
  3. Mimic your turtle’s natural habitat in their enclosure. Understanding whether you have a semi-aquatic, fully aquatic, or terrestrial turtle is vital in creating the right home for it.
  4. Handling can vary depending on the species. In general, turtles aren’t very fond of frequent handling, and some types do not like it all. Be gentle and patient, and always pick them up only sometimes.
  5. Some turtles can carry illnesses, such as Salmonella. It is essential to have your new turtle checked out and be consistent with their health check-ups and yours. 
  6. Make sure you get your turtle ethically. There are many turtle mills and illegal trading, especially in the reptile department. Rescue or source your turtle from a reputable breeder.

How to Properly Care for Your Turtle

  1. Stick to a proper feeding schedule tailored to your turtle’s needs; do not skip meals. 
  2. Ensure they have adequate water on land in their enclosure, as many turtles can only swim for short periods in shallow water or are mainly terrestrial.
  3. Clean their water regularly, especially if they prefer to eat underwater. Their water can quickly become a breeding ground for bacteria, harming your pet and yourself.
  4. Do frequent self-checkups. Regularly check for fractures, deterioration, growths, or unusual injuries in your turtle’s shell.
  5. Turtles, especially those often in the water, don’t typically need baths or cleaning. But it is always a good idea to check for algae growth and gently clean it off. During shedding, they may need a unique little soak. 
  6. Baby turtles must be fed twice daily and have different requirements than adults. If you choose not to get an adult, ask your reputable breeder or vet how to care for your species as younglings properly. 


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Turtles are calm and fascinating pets. Understanding that there are different species not only to choose the correct type of turtles for you but also to know their specific requirements. Choosing the right pet turtles for you is essential. Some require more intricate care, and some don’t, so learning and deciding which pet will best suit your lifestyle is always a good idea.