I can finally get an aquatic turtle!!

Kaeloni

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I finally talked my husband into letting me get an aquatic turtle! I’ve got a lot of research ahead of me. I would like suggestions on what species would be good for a beginner? I have a short list of turtles that I can get from around here. I’m more interested in adopting but I do want the turtle to not be full grown yet. Seeing them grow is part of the fun. Theres lots of small turtles on Craigslist for rehoming, not a wide variety of species though. Obviously I could order one but it seems like the shipping is way more than the price of the turtle. Thanks!
These are the turtles I could get here.
Razorback musk
Common musk
Pink belly side neck
Northern map
Eastern mud
Red ear slider
 

Reptilony

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I finally talked my husband into letting me get an aquatic turtle! I’ve got a lot of research ahead of me. I would like suggestions on what species would be good for a beginner? I have a short list of turtles that I can get from around here. I’m more interested in adopting but I do want the turtle to not be full grown yet. Seeing them grow is part of the fun. Theres lots of small turtles on Craigslist for rehoming, not a wide variety of species though. Obviously I could order one but it seems like the shipping is way more than the price of the turtle. Thanks!
These are the turtles I could get here.
Razorback musk
Common musk
Pink belly side neck
Northern map
Eastern mud
Red ear slider
Hi kaeloni, musks are much different than the side necks and sliders. It depends on how big of an habitat you can provide. It also depends on what you want in a turtle. Maps are usually more shy than sliders. However, my map is still very fun and I always hand feed him. People who have musks say they never saw them come out of water to bask. However it's best to still give them one basking area. Also you might not be able to handfeed them has they usually stay at the bottom.
 

Kaeloni

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Hi kaeloni, musks are much different than the side necks and sliders. It depends on how big of an habitat you can provide. It also depends on what you want in a turtle. Maps are usually more shy than sliders. However, my map is still very fun and I always hand feed him. People who have musks say they never saw them come out of water to bask. However it's best to still give them one basking area. Also you might not be able to handfeed them has they usually stay at the bottom.

Thanks for the info. I’m looking for a somewhat active turtle. One that is out in the open and swims quite a bit. I don’t really plan on handling it, except when needed. I have a 40 gallon breeder tank right now. I could upgrade later on though. I’m more drawn to the map turtle and red ear slider. I’m worried that my current tank wouldn’t be big enough for a young one. Also, I’ve noticed most people have more than one turtle together. Is that necessary or do they prefer to be alone?
 

Markw84

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@Kaeloni

I think a great choice for you would be a painted turtle. They are a smaller turtle when fully grown and are quite personable and quickly learn to swim actively towards you for food whenever you approach. The Western painted is native to your area and would do very well, but is the largest of the painteds. But a full grown female would still only be about 7" and a male reaches about 5". If you find a southern painted, they max out at about 5"-6" female and 4" male. All painteds are very hardy and personable.

Red-ears get much larger and require a lot of room to do well. I personally feel an adult should not be kept in a tank, but have an outdoor pond. They also are the more aggressive of US turtles and that would be an issue if you ever want more than one turtle.

Maps as mentioned earlier are quite shy and most never really get rid of the flight reflex and will tend to hide more. They are among the best open water swimming of aquatics and really should have a very large pond. They also get much larger as females although the males stay quite small.

The side neck is a more tropical species and would need a heated tank year-round and could never be transitioned to a pond if you ever want to go that way.

The mud and musk turtles are bottom walkers. The do well in tanks. I prefer a more shallower water level for muds, while musk are fine in a full tank. Both should have plenty of fake plants to climb and hide in. They will not be active swimmers, but prefer to stay more on the bottom of the tank.
 

Reptilony

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Thanks for the info. I’m looking for a somewhat active turtle. One that is out in the open and swims quite a bit. I don’t really plan on handling it, except when needed. I have a 40 gallon breeder tank right now. I could upgrade later on though. I’m more drawn to the map turtle and red ear slider. I’m worried that my current tank wouldn’t be big enough for a young one. Also, I’ve noticed most people have more than one turtle together. Is that necessary or do they prefer to be alone?
Actually you are lucky if they get along. The bigger the enclosure the less chance you have of them fighting. Sliders are less territorial, also musks are usually pretty friendly to each other. If they are together since hatchlings they have much better chance of being friendly to each other or at least to not attack each other. They absolutely don't need a friend tho, turtles are not best friends, they just tolerate each other. In the wild they do their things and only communicate for reproduction. They will all be active, the less active would be the musks. Maps are really good swimmers, better than sliders, they usually live in rivers so they are often fighting the flow while swimming. If you get one I would suggest having a pretty high water flow. A 40 gal is plenty enough for a hatchling, you could even have a 20 gal and it would be fine, however they grow fast, especially sliders, so be ready to upgrade fast. If you would end up with a female slider or map, know that you must almost double water volume as females do get much larger than males. I have a male miss. map so probably the smallest turtle there is besides musks. If you would end up with a female red eared slider, just know that they can get huge, so it's quite a commitment.
 

Kaeloni

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@Kaeloni

I think a great choice for you would be a painted turtle. They are a smaller turtle when fully grown and are quite personable and quickly learn to swim actively towards you for food whenever you approach. The Western painted is native to your area and would do very well, but is the largest of the painteds. But a full grown female would still only be about 7" and a male reaches about 5". If you find a southern painted, they max out at about 5"-6" female and 4" male. All painteds are very hardy and personable.

Red-ears get much larger and require a lot of room to do well. I personally feel an adult should not be kept in a tank, but have an outdoor pond. They also are the more aggressive of US turtles and that would be an issue if you ever want more than one turtle.

Maps as mentioned earlier are quite shy and most never really get rid of the flight reflex and will tend to hide more. They are among the best open water swimming of aquatics and really should have a very large pond. They also get much larger as females although the males stay quite small.

The side neck is a more tropical species and would need a heated tank year-round and could never be transitioned to a pond if you ever want to go that way.

The mud and musk turtles are bottom walkers. The do well in tanks. I prefer a more shallower water level for muds, while musk are fine in a full tank. Both should have plenty of fake plants to climb and hide in. They will not be active swimmers, but prefer to stay more on the bottom of the tank.

I’m really glad that you think a painted turtle would be a great fit for me. We have them all over here and they’re my favorite. On hot days I drive around and save them from getting hit by cars. I always watch them when we go fishing as well. They’re all over the place. I don’t know where to find a captive bred one though. I have seen captive bred Eastern painted turtles for sale.
 

Markw84

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I’m really glad that you think a painted turtle would be a great fit for me. We have them all over here and they’re my favorite. On hot days I drive around and save them from getting hit by cars. I always watch them when we go fishing as well. They’re all over the place. I don’t know where to find a captive bred one though. I have seen captive bred Eastern painted turtles for sale.
I am overrun with young ones right now as they have been hatching the past few months plus ones from that past few years!! However, as you noted earlier, shipping is more than the value of the turtle (about $45 just to ship).
 

Kaeloni

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Actually you are lucky if they get along. The bigger the enclosure the less chance you have of them fighting. Sliders are less territorial, also musks are usually pretty friendly to each other. If they are together since hatchlings they have much better chance of being friendly to each other or at least to not attack each other. They absolutely don't need a friend tho, turtles are not best friends, they just tolerate each other. In the wild they do their things and only communicate for reproduction. They will all be active, the less active would be the musks. Maps are really good swimmers, better than sliders, they usually live in rivers so they are often fighting the flow while swimming. If you get one I would suggest having a pretty high water flow. A 40 gal is plenty enough for a hatchling, you could even have a 20 gal and it would be fine, however they grow fast, especially sliders, so be ready to upgrade fast. If you would end up with a female slider or map, know that you must almost double water volume as females do get much larger than males. I have a male miss. map so probably the smallest turtle there is besides musks. If you would end up with a female red eared slider, just know that they can get huge, so it's quite a commitment.

Thank you for clearing that up. I think that goes for most reptiles. They do better alone. I’m hoping for a male. Do they have to be mature before the gender can be determined? I would LOVE to see a pic of your miss. map turtle! They’re so cute! I was told they can’t be shipped here (Montana.)
 

Kaeloni

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I am overrun with young ones right now as they have been hatching the past few months plus ones from that past few years!! However, as you noted earlier, shipping is more than the value of the turtle (about $45 just to ship).

That’s awesome! Do you have eastern, western or both? My kids would be so excited to have a painted turtle. We caught a young one wandering around our campsite last month. Usually I don’t bother them unless they are at risk of getting run over. My kids were so mad that I let it go.
IMG_8515.jpg
 

Markw84

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That’s awesome! Do you have eastern, western or both? My kids would be so excited to have a painted turtle. We caught a young one wandering around our campsite last month. Usually I don’t bother them unless they are at risk of getting run over. My kids were so mad that I let it go.
View attachment 250719
I have mostly westerns. They are the most colorful. A couple of my females seem to have some southern painted mixed in and I consider hybrids, so I get some hatchlings that have reduced plastron markings, a bit more of a dorsal stripe, and stay smaller.
 

Reptilony

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Thank you for clearing that up. I think that goes for most reptiles. They do better alone. I’m hoping for a male. Do they have to be mature before the gender can be determined? I would LOVE to see a pic of your miss. map turtle! They’re so cute! I was told they can’t be shipped here (Montana.)
Yes they have to be mature. However I could tell mine was a male very early. With maps you will hear plok! as soon as they see you coming while sliders will watch you careless. It doesn't mean they won't come to you swimming, they're just very shy baskers. Painted are very pretty, if you can get a captive born that'be great!
 

Kaeloni

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I have mostly westerns. They are the most colorful. A couple of my females seem to have some southern painted mixed in and I consider hybrids, so I get some hatchlings that have reduced plastron markings, a bit more of a dorsal stripe, and stay smaller.

Can I see them?! What do you feed them? In the wild I see them eating fish guts, dead crawdads and gross things like that. What would the ideal setup look like? Is a tank heater needed since they live in colder water? Are baby turtles as fragile as baby tortoises? Sorry I ask so many questions. I like to be prepared.
 

Markw84

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Thank you for clearing that up. I think that goes for most reptiles. They do better alone. I’m hoping for a male. Do they have to be mature before the gender can be determined? I would LOVE to see a pic of your miss. map turtle! They’re so cute! I was told they can’t be shipped here (Montana.)
I Don't agree. Most aquatic turtles do better in groups. It encourages better feeding. They also use group basking as a way of better avoiding danger. They actually seek out other turtles to bask together and prefer to touch or even be on top of other turtles. They become a multi-headed lookout! One sees danger - they all drop in the water. With ample room and plenty of prime basking spots around, you will find in my pond and in the wild, the turtles will choose to climb out to bask where other turtles are already there, instead of an unoccupied spot. Even when mating, a group of males will chase a female and it seems to encourage better breeding activity than a single male. I have never seen any aggression or behavior to drive off a "competitor" with any painted, map, or cooter. You will see it with some spotted turtles, and with Razorback musk. Sliders can be aggressive, but in my opinion, it is overaggressive mating behavior, as they try to subdue a female (even not the same species!) not attempts to drive another off.

I have raised hatchlings in every combination of single, twos, threes and more. In every case, the single did the poorest.
 

Kaeloni

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I Don't agree. Most aquatic turtles do better in groups. It encourages better feeding. They also use group basking as a way of better avoiding danger. They actually seek out other turtles to bask together and prefer to touch or even be on top of other turtles. They become a multi-headed lookout! One sees danger - they all drop in the water. With ample room and plenty of prime basking spots around, you will find in my pond and in the wild, the turtles will choose to climb out to bask where other turtles are already there, instead of an unoccupied spot. Even when mating, a group of males will chase a female and it seems to encourage better breeding activity than a single male. I have never seen any aggression or behavior to drive off a "competitor" with any painted, map, or cooter. You will see it with some spotted turtles, and with Razorback musk. Sliders can be aggressive, but in my opinion, it is overaggressive mating behavior, as they try to subdue a female (even not the same species!) not attempts to drive another off.

I have raised hatchlings in every combination of single, twos, threes and more. In every case, the single did the poorest.

That’s good to know. I’ve never seen anyone own a single turtle. That’s why I was curious. All of my other reptiles have to be kept alone.
 

Markw84

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Can I see them?! What do you feed them? In the wild I see them eating fish guts, dead crawdads and gross things like that. What would the ideal setup look like? Is a tank heater needed since they live in colder water? Are baby turtles as fragile as baby tortoises? Sorry I ask so many questions. I like to be prepared.

I like to start them on tubifex (or bloodworms). The live wiggling stimulates feeding to get them started. I then add a good pellet to give them a week or so to start seeing it as food. It has the best balance nutritionally and the D3 and calcium. I use the Reptomin BABY formula the first year. I also add other good quality small pellet food. At first they often don't take the pellet until it softens and sinks and they find it scavaging around the bottom. The frozen cubes of tubifex worms are also a handy way to feed without concern for the worms going bad too quickly. Along with the pellets, it works well as the pellets add the better nutritional value. As they get a little size, I will feed mealworms I gut load with opuntia and mazuri tortoise pellets. They love them as treats. I buy 5000 at a time from rainbow mealworms online. But I feed lots of turtles.

I start hatchlings in a fairly small tank with about 4" of water and stuffed with fake plants for them to climb on and hide in. I want to get them feeding well for about two weeks or so. Then I put them in a larger tank that would be more what you would set up. Here's a 40 gal breeder tank I use in my office. I have a fluval 206 cannister on it. In a larger bulk setting, I do not use a substrate - just bare bottom as a substrate will quickly trap uneaten food and waste and the filter cannot work as efficiently as all the waste is not directly going to filter. In my office, I like to see a substrate for aesthetics. I also like to see and encourage the behavior of the turtles picking through the small rocks to hunt for food. I mainly use this tank for first year spotted turtles. There are 12 in there now but I have also put in a dozen painted for now as well. I let the algae grow in the rocks at the bottom for them to pick through as well. I simply have to vacuum the bottom small rock substrate every month or so. The filter does fine with this routine. There is a T5 full spectrum fluorescent over the full tank in the hood. A low wattage incandescent and compact fluorescent UVB (gasp!!) in the two dome fixtures over the basking platform. This gives a very good basking location for both on the dock and for floating in the plant nearby. I do heat the water in the cooler months to the mid 70's°.

hatchling tank.jpg

Hatchlings basking.jpg
 

Reptilony

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I Don't agree. Most aquatic turtles do better in groups. It encourages better feeding. They also use group basking as a way of better avoiding danger. They actually seek out other turtles to bask together and prefer to touch or even be on top of other turtles. They become a multi-headed lookout! One sees danger - they all drop in the water. With ample room and plenty of prime basking spots around, you will find in my pond and in the wild, the turtles will choose to climb out to bask where other turtles are already there, instead of an unoccupied spot. Even when mating, a group of males will chase a female and it seems to encourage better breeding activity than a single male. I have never seen any aggression or behavior to drive off a "competitor" with any painted, map, or cooter. You will see it with some spotted turtles, and with Razorback musk. Sliders can be aggressive, but in my opinion, it is overaggressive mating behavior, as they try to subdue a female (even not the same species!) not attempts to drive another off.

I have raised hatchlings in every combination of single, twos, threes and more. In every case, the single did the poorest.
Mark, Im talking about a captive situation where a turtle is introduced to another, im talking about different species and not siblings. I agree that turtles in the wild almost always climb on the same basking spot and all jump when one does. I have seen turtles bite off the skin of another when introduced and heard others describe such aggression. In a situation where turtles cannot go away from the other, it can easily be seen has aggresion by both, in the wild they can go away anytime they want. Sorry for having not being precise enough, I did not mention in which situation you may be lucky that your turtles behave friendly to another, I was talking about keeping them in an aquarium. This is just my experience but my map has always been kept alone and ate everything in sight since it was 1 months old.
 

Kaeloni

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Mark, Im talking about a captive situation where a turtle is introduced to another, im talking about different species and not siblings. I agree that turtles in the wild almost always climb on the same basking spot and all jump when one does. I have seen turtles bite off the skin of another when introduced and heard others describe such aggression. In a situation where turtles cannot go away from the other, it can easily be seen has aggresion by both, in the wild they can go away anytime they want. Sorry for having not being precise enough, I did not mention in which situation you may be lucky that your turtles behave friendly to another, I was talking about keeping them in an aquarium. This is just my experience but my map has always been kept alone and ate everything in sight since it was 1 months old.

My turtle will have to be in an aquarium indefinitely. I live on a 1 acre lot and my house is over 3,000 square feet with a large back porch. My yard is really small with no room for a pond. I have no problem having a larger aquarium when needed though. Does that mean I need to stick with a single turtle? If I had 2 and they didn’t get along I’d be in big trouble. My husband didn’t want me to have 1 aquarium. 2 is out of the question.
 

Reptilony

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If I was in your position I'd only get one. If you would have a big pond you could have a whole bunch of them but for limited space in an aquarium, you don't want it overcrowded. If you get two hatchlings in a big aquarium with good space considering what species it is, it might be fine, but again, nothing tell you it will always be fine and you won't know their sex yet(males can be harrassing sometimes). Sometimes a turt bite the other ones tail for whatever reason and it causes this turt to retract it's tail all the time because it's scared(not a fun scene to watch). Anyway....Im not trying to scare you, it's just that if you have limited space my opinion is that you should stick with one(It will be perfectly happy).
 

vladimir

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My turtle will have to be in an aquarium indefinitely. I live on a 1 acre lot and my house is over 3,000 square feet with a large back porch. My yard is really small with no room for a pond. I have no problem having a larger aquarium when needed though. Does that mean I need to stick with a single turtle? If I had 2 and they didn’t get along I’d be in big trouble. My husband didn’t want me to have 1 aquarium. 2 is out of the question.
If you intend to keep them in aquariums it is possible you would need one aquarium per turtle, depending on how they get along. If you can absolutely not have two aquariums, it would be safer to stick with one turtle just from my experience. I think @Markw84 has a lot more experience than I do though
 

Kaeloni

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If I was in your position I'd only get one. If you would have a big pond you could have a whole bunch of them but for limited space in an aquarium, you don't want it overcrowded. If you get two hatchlings in a big aquarium with good space considering what species it is, it might be fine, but again, nothing tell you it will always be fine and you won't know their sex yet(males can be harrassing sometimes). Sometimes a turt bite the other ones tail for whatever reason and it causes this turt to retract it's tail all the time because it's scared(not a fun scene to watch). Anyway....Im not trying to scare you, it's just that if you have limited space my opinion is that you should stick with one(It will be perfectly happy).

You’re not scaring me. I appreciate the information. I want to be prepared. I’d hate to get 2 turtles and have it not work out. I’m going to work on setting up my turtle tank and keep researching. I’m not in a hurry. I’ve wanted a turtle since I was a little girl catching them in ponds.
 

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