Home | Frank's Creatures | The Common Musk Turtle – My Choice for Perfect Pet Turtle, with Notes on Relatives

The Common Musk Turtle – My Choice for Perfect Pet Turtle, with Notes on Relatives

Frank’s musk turtleAs a boy working for an animal importer in NYC, I was much taken by the first hatchling Common Musk Turtle (Sternotherus odoratus) I encountered.  The minute, jet-black beast, much smaller than a baby Red-Eared Slider, was irresistible.  Last month that very same turtle turned 46 (please see photo).  So I am, of course, partial to the species, but there are actually very good reasons to keep this fascinating turtle and its relatives.


This turtle rarely exceeds 4 inches in length (record: 5 3/8 inches); males average 3 inches.  The highly-domed carapace is olive-brown to black and often algae-coated.  The plastron is small, leaving a good deal of flesh exposed.  The skin is gray to black, and there are two yellow stripes on the head and a pair of sensory barbels (fleshy protuberances) on the chin and throat. 

Musk Turtles bear glands that can emit a foul-smelling secretion designed to deter predators.  Fortunately, captives quickly abandon this habit.


The Common Musk’s range extends from southern Ontario and Maine to Florida and west to southern Wisconsin and central Texas.  It is one of the few turtles still to be found within NYC.


The highly aquatic Common Musk Turtle favors the slow-moving waters of swamps, canals, farm ponds and river edges, but occasionally occurs in fast-moving streams.

Oddly, they sometimes climb trees to heights of over 6 feet when basking, aided by their small size and mobile legs (the plastron is much reduced).  Musk Turtles sometimes surprise people by dropping into boats passing below basking sites!


Musk TurtlesEgg-laying occurs from February through June, depending upon the latitude, with mating concentrated in the spring.

The average clutch contains 2-5 eggs (range 1-9); 4 clutches per year may be produced in the southern part of the range.  The eggs are deposited in a shallow nest (muskrat lodges are favored in some areas), within decaying logs, or below leaf litter.  Several females may share 1 nest site.

The incubation period is 9-12 weeks; the tiny hatchlings measure ¾ of an inch in length.  Sexual maturity is reached in 3-5 years for males and 5-11 years for females.


Although reported to eat plants on occasion, the Common Musk feeds mainly upon crayfishes, fish, carrion, insects, leeches, tadpoles and snails.

Hatchlings, vulnerable to predation due to their small size, are consumed by bullfrogs, fishes, giant water bugs, raccoons and other creatures.

Captive Care

As turtles go, Common Musks are quite simple to care for.  Reptomin can comprise 50-60% of the diet, with the balance being supplied by other commercial aquatic turtle foods, earthworms and minnows.

While Musk Turtles occasionally bask, they differ from many other turtles in not requiring UVB light to synthesize Vitamin D.  Along with Snapping, Soft-Shelled and certain other aquatic species, they can apparently obtain sufficient Vitamin D from their diets.
Staurotypus triporcatus

Other Mud and Musk Turtles

The 26 Mud and Musk Turtle species (Family Kinosternidae and Staurotypidae) share a common body plan and general behaviors, yet show an astonishing range of adaptations to diet, habitat and predators.  Among them we find both North America’s smallest turtle and brutes with jaws capable of crushing a finger.  Very few receive attention from hobbyists or zoos, yet nearly all are hardy and can be bred in captivity.  I’ve had the good fortune of keeping 15 or so species…following is an introduction to some of my favorites.

Note: All Mud and Musk Turtles can deliver painful and, in the case of the Mexican Giant Musk, dangerous bites.  Many calm down in captivity, but extreme caution is always necessary.

Mexican Giant Musk Turtle, Staurotypus triporcatus

This 15-inch-long turtle shares its habitat with several crocodilians, and has developed an extremely thick shell (and, some say, a pugnacious disposition!) in response.  It ranges from Veracruz, Mexico to Honduras, and is known locally as the Guau.

A Giant Musk under my care at the Bronx Zoo is now in its 70’s, and has lost none of its willingness to bite when handled.  Notoriously difficult to pair up, captive-bred animals have only recently become available.  It is a mollusk specialist, easily crushing clams and smaller turtles in its massive jaws…mine even made short work of hard-shelled snails known as Periwinkles.

Flattened Musk Turtle, Sternotherus depressus

This smallest of North America’s turtles is a mere 3 – 4.5 inches in length, and lives only in northwest Alabama’s Black Warrior River.  Unlike its relatives, all of which sport high, almost “tortoise-like” carapaces (most pronounced in the Razorback Musk Turtle, see photo), its upper shell is extremely flat.  Some believe this adaptation assists it in hiding from its many predators.

In nature this species hybridizes with the Loggerhead Musk, S. minor.
Eastern Mud Turtle

Mud Turtle, Kinosternon subrubrum

Four subspecies of Mud Turtle have been identified, with the eastern race being endangered in several states.  Now bred in captivity, this droll little turtle is an excellent choice for novice turtle-keepers.

The Eastern Mud Turtle often frequents brackish waters…in NY, it is known only from salt marshes and tidal streams.

Narrow-Bridged Musk Turtle, Claudius angustatus

This most unusual turtle is only rarely kept or bred.  Although but 5 inches long, its jaws are incredibly wide, and it can reach further back with its neck than even the Common Snapper.  Some speculate that this arrangement helps them to catch frogs, which are common in the shallow, weedy ponds they inhabit.

This is a “hands-off” turtle – I’ve had 30-year captives that remained as aggressive as the day they were collected.  Despite that, they do well if provided whole fishes, snails, crayfishes and earthworms.  Their pugnacious nature complicates breeding – I’ve yet to find a compatible pair.

Striped Mud Turtle, Kinosternon bauri

Striped Mud Turtle
Sporting a lightly-striped, olive-brown carapace, the Striped Mud Turtle (please see photo) inhabits swamps and canals from southern Georgia to the Florida Keys.

This turtle appears regularly in the trade…perhaps because, unlike its largely aquatic relatives, it frequently travels overland.  It has been bred in captivity and makes a fine pet, although those I’ve kept tended to burrow into the earth for extended periods (wild specimens aestivate during droughts).

Further Reading

Video of a “droll” young Musk Turtle hunting.

Natural History of Musk and Mud Turtles.

Loggerhead Musk Turtle Hatchling image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Nichole Buchmann
Eastern Mud Turtle image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by LA Dawson

Staurotypus triporcatus image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by LA Dawson


  1. avatar

    I have a baby common musk, about 4 months or so. When I aquired him he was no bigger than a dime, now he is about an inch around. He was doing really well, ate like a champ, etc, but the past few days he is refusing to eat, and his activity has slowed dramatically. He even just floats around, not moving, to the point where I think he is dead, but then he moves. My question is, do captive musks go into a hibernation-type state in the winter, where everything slows down, or is he sick? Any advice you could offer would be greatly appreciated.

    • avatar

      Hello Traci, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks for your interest in our blog. Temperate-zone turtles often do slow down their feeding in winter, even if kept warm; but in my experience musks usually continue to feed and behave normally, except sometimes in the case of wild-caught adults.

      A sudden change in temperature could spark this as well…what is the water temperature at this point?

      Floating about is cause for concern, and may indicate a bacterial infection (gas released by the bacteria) or another problem. Cool temperatures (60’s) while fine for healthy musk turtles during winter, can bring on problems if something else is stressing the immune system. I now keep common musks at 75F all winter, after pneumonia almost killed an adult that had done fine for years at 64F.

      A vet visit is your best option. Please let me know if you need help in locating an experienced reptile vet.

      Good luck and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  2. avatar

    Hi Frank,
    Thanks for the quick response! The water temp right now is 73F. I’ll try raising it, as per your advice, and see if that makes a difference.

    Thanks again,

    • avatar

      Hello Traci, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks for the feedback. Unfortunately, temperature is not likely the problem, as 73F is well-within their active range. I suggest you have the turtle examined by a vet…please let me know if you need help in locating one.

      Good luck and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  3. avatar

    Hello Frank,

    Excellent article! If you recall that musk turtle I got last year-he’s still around and now about double the size he was when I first got him. I was curious about your above comment on temperature. The previous year I simply fed him less and allowed the temperature to drop to 60 degrees. That is how he is currently being kept at the moment. I’ve heard 60F referred to as a “death zone” in some literature-too warm to hibernate, but too cold for proper immune system function. Would it be reccomended to simply put the little critter outside and chill to, say, 50? Or bump up the temp as you are doing now?


    • avatar

      Hello Joseph, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks for the kind words. I haven’t had too much opportunity to test out the 60 F rule, but have always thought that it made sense for most temperate species. Common musks, spotted turtles and snappers seem to be exceptions, but these have such wide ranges that it still is a bit chancy. Animals originating the southern part of the range would likely not have the tolerance of those in the North, as has been shown for Carolina Anoles (north to south Fla) and, I believe, Eastern Box Turtles. Hibernating turtles in captivity is possible at 50 F or less, but risky. Unless needed for breeding (even then a less even drop often suffices) I would keep your turtle warm for the winter.

      A Happy and healthy New Year to you and yours, Frank Indiviglio.

  4. avatar

    Dear Frank,
    Hello again. I’m sad to report that the little guy didnt make it. I was all set to bring him to the vet tomorrow too. I think he may have had an infection of some sort. When I had found him, he had a small amount of damage to his shell, right behind the base if his neck, and possibly a small cut or abrasion on the ajoining skin. It seemed to have been healing beautifully, then within the past week (around when he stopped eating) the area of skin that was a little damaged started to turn red, followed by it starting to look like a bubble. It was also discolored (purple-ish). So I’m guessing that could have had something to do with it. If you’d like I can send you a picture. Maybe you can identify what that was. Let me know.
    So thanks for your advice. Happy New Year.


    • avatar

      Hello Traci, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Sorry to hear the bad news; I wouldn’t be able to ID the exact organism involved fro a photo, but a bacterial infection was almost certainly involved. I may have been incubating for a long time – this is possible when turtle receive good care and their immune systems are working well. But a stress of some sort – temperature change or an opportunistic fungi or another bacteria species, can depress the system and allow the pathogen to get the upper hand.

      Unfortunately, it’s difficult to treat a young turtle…even in zoos losses can be high.

      Please let me know if you need anything in the future, and check in when you have a chance; I post new articles 2-3 times each week.

      Happy New Year, Frank Indiviglio.

  5. avatar

    Dear Frank,
    I received a musk turtle for Chirstmas and he is the sweetest thing. However, I have never kept a musk turtle before and would like to make sure I get his habitat set up correctly. I have 2 sliders and 2 box turtles currently and I understand the musk is a wader which I have never dealt with before. I am worried about how I should create a habitat that allows him to bask and to wade…I want to do what is best for him because I would like him to reach 40+ years old!!
    Can you help?

    • avatar

      Hello Rae, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks for your interest in our blog and the kind words.

      Musk turtles walk along the bottom and are not strong swimmers, but they do occur in both deep and shallow water. The trick to keeping them in deep water (as you might a slider) is to provide “structures” they can use to reach the surface, so that they need no swim all the time. I’ve found driftwood attached to a slate base, as sold for tropical fish tanks, to be ideal. Best to buy from a pet store rather than online, so that you can choose gently sloping pieces.

      It’s important also to provide a place for the turtle to rest that is submerged, but within “neck-reach” of the surface. Musks will rest often on these, and tend to sleep there as well. Driftwood works well, or you can wedge cork bark against the tank’s walls, just below the surface. Smooth rocks/inverted clay flowerpots can also be used, but they cut down on usable tank space.

      I prefer the above to very shallow set-ups (i.e. water just barely over the turtle’s head, as they are more comfortable with deeper water available and more space to move about in is a plus.

      Not all will actually leave the water to bask, but always provide the option. Turtle Docks work well for smaller individuals; heavier adults are best given a Turtle Pier or piece of driftwood that breaks the surface.

      Good luck and enjoy for decades to come! Please keep me posted and let me know if you need more info.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  6. avatar

    Im pretty sure i have a pair of common musk turtles, i recently bought them from a pet shop, but there were no identifying tags or otherwise. they were in a tank with some sliders and so i have been caring for them as such on spec, but would like to get it right. Whats throwing me is the sheer amount of contradictory descriptions. I’ve seen alot of photos tagged common musk with completely smooth shells, but mine have 3 very prominent ridges. they are identical to this photo http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Sternotherus_odoratus.jpg is this a common musk?
    any help would be greatly appreciated.
    all the best

    • avatar

      Hello Eoin, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks for the most interesting post..you raise a very good question.

      The photo is a Common Musk, Sternotherus odoratus. The distinguishing feature is the presence of barbels (tiny sensory “bumps” or protrusions from the skin) on the chin and throat; in all other musk turtles, they occur only on the chin.

      The keels are interesting…most Common Musk Turtles have only 1 that is distinct, with the others being reduced or absent. But some specimens have 3 very distinct keels, as in photo. They will flatten out as the animal ages. Loggerhead Musk Turtles, S. minor minor have 3 distinct keels but lack the throat barbels and distinctive facial stripes of the Common Musk (they are also only rarely seen in the pet trade.

      Net descriptions range from excellent to useless, as you’ve seen; the Audubon or Peterson Field Guides are useful resources…and of course you can always write in, I enjoy “detective work”!

      Well, I’m glad you are interested in these turtles…so many unique species. Please see this article for more on other mud and musk turtles.

      Please let me know if you need further care info.

      Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  7. avatar

    Hey eoin again. Thanks for the quick response. Since finding this blog ive been treating Prometheus and Bob(claymation series from when i was young. very funny) as common musk turtles (i think…… i am new to turtles). I’ve left their main basking area slightly submerged, ive re-directed the filter so the flow in the tank leaves the majority of it fairly slow moving. ive also increased the volume of water in the tank (i was initially worried they would drown as they didnt display any aptitude for swimming, prefering to walk along the bottom stretching their necks to breath rather than swim to the surface). Overall the boys seem delighted with all the extra swimming space. Prometheus has taken to sitting in the upper branches of a plastic plant when resting, and Bob, oddly as he is more shy prefers the higher flow area of the tank although this could be a size thing. bob is slightly smaller and the water heater is in that area. These guys are brilliant and id recommend them to anyone. full of personality and great fun to watch. They dont seem to like being handled (although at meal times they swim to my hand for transport to their feeding bowl) prometheus has done his stink gland thing in my hand to emphasise his displeasure (thought it was just gas before i found out i had a musk turtle). Very entertaining for those in the room, however i was less than impressed, that smell would knock ya, very surprising from something so small.
    If you have time Frank i have a few additional questions.
    1) im in Ireland and at the minute daylight is only from about 9 am until 4:30pm and at that its fairly overcast. ive read the musk is a nocturnal turtle and so doesnt need to bask in the same way as other species. do these guys need a UV lamp.
    2) They are about the size of a matchbox. How much and how often do i feed them
    3) i read they naturally grow algae on their shells. do i need to physically clean them? this seems to really stress them (biting, stinking etc). if i do how often.
    4)the underside of bobs shell is yellow with some brown colouring (stains?) toward his rear. But on the other guy its almost all that brown colour and only yellow on the edges. is this normal, or is it dirt, infection? they show no signs of illness, lively responsive, feeding well.
    Thanks a million for your help. Im very glad you posted this blog as i was really having trouble identifying these little guys. not very common at all in the irish pet trade it appears.
    All the best.

    • avatar

      Hello Eoin, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks for the feedback; glad it is working out. Nice names…we have a Prometheus Moth here, check out a photo on net, they are quite impressive.

      Oddly, they are not popular here in the US either…not sure why. They are among our most common turtle in many states…I’ve even found them in park ponds in NYC! Interesting to know that they have found there way into the trade in Ireland, thanks.

      Good idea to move them when feeding…helps greatly with water quality; as you sat, they do not enjoy handling; they usually stop musking in time, but mine will still bite, after 41 years, if I take to long in transferring her.

      In time you can try adding a completely dry area – driftwood attached to a base, sold for use in tropical fish tanks, works well if you can find it. They will cling to the wood below the water and some will leave to bask. Suction cup platforms are useful also.

      They do not need UVB, but be sure to provide a varied diet, lots of whole fishes, earthworms and a good quality commercial pellet do that they get enough Vitamin D; a UVB bulb might be good as insurance, but not necessary.

      Normal light cycles, short in winter, longer in summer and average room temps are fine, as they are native to temperate areas in N America. Some populations are nocturnal, probably where they are disturbed, but in other areas they are out by day. Captives usually become active by day.

      Feeding depends a lot on temperature, but they are very adaptable and adjust their metabolisms according to supply. Hatchlings eat often when kept at 25 C or so – you can feed every other day, or small meals each day, or large meals 3x week – I vary the routine, and have never had any problems.

      No need to remove algae unless they have a problem such as a shell injury. The colors you describe are most likely natural variations.

      I hope yours live for many decades, and that you breed them in time. Please check in with updates or any questions when you can,

      Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  8. avatar

    Hello – I have a new baby turtle(maybe three months old) and from the descriptions and pictures he may be a baby musk, but doesn’t have very distinct yellow stripes on his face (or her face) – but there is some yellow on the face and around the edge of her back (shell – sorry I am learning and don’t know all of the “right” words for the body parts yet)… I have been giving him box turtle pellets and dried bug/ veggie mixture (added to water so it is soft) – but he doesn’t seem to eat much. His favorite time is spent in a “turtle bath” when we put a little bit of warm water in the bottom of a dish and add a couple of drops of vitamins (bottle vitamin liquid for birds – another site recommended this for cloudy eyes) and he will play in that water and drink that water – he loves it 🙂 Which is why I started researching what type of turtle he is again – because everything I read about box turtles didn’t sound like this. Know I am thinking a change of environment and diet may be necessary. He/she is so sweet and I really want to provide the best care.

    Do you have any websites you would recommend for me to make sure this is a musk turtle – can I send you pictures? I will go home and look at the chin/ throat today, but it is so little it may be hard (it is under a quarter in size – and that is bigger than he was when he came in). Any advise you can share with a novice would be greatly appreciated – this little turtle has stolen the heart of my family and we are definitely hoping for 40+ years together 🙂

    Thank you,

    • avatar

      Hello Jennifer, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks for your interest in our blog. It is very important that you identify the turtle accurately, as the needs of each vary greatly. It may be one of the musk turtles, as few other hatchlings are as small as you describe. Most are in the Sternotherus, here is a link to photos of each species (click twice on each). Please feel free also to email photos to me at findiviglio@thatpetplace.com.

      Once we identify the turtle, we can discuss care

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  9. avatar


    @jennifer- Above are photos of my baby musk turtles(sorry cell camera is rubbish) I hope they help in identifying yours . Frank is great, the little guys couldn’t be happier since I started following his advice, you have come to the right place:)

    • avatar

      Hello Eoin, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks so much for taking the time to send the photos, and for your kind words! I’m glad to hear that your turtle is doing well; hope spring is coming to Ireland soon, tired of winter here…

      Enjoy and please keep me posted,

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  10. avatar

    Thank you both – I have emailed a few pictures to Frank… I think she may be a her – the tail is shorter. She was a rescue – the people who took her in found her outside their office in the middle of a strip mall with egg shell still on her – they feared for her with all of the birds, cars, snakes and other dangers around (not to mention humans who could have stepped on her).

    I will try to get some better pictures out as soon as I can take them… she’s a little camera shy 🙂

    • avatar

      Hello Jennifer, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks…I looked at the photos and it is a common musk turtle. Please let me know if you have enough info to set up the aquarium and provide a proper diet, or if you need any help. Where was the turtle found?

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  11. avatar

    Hi! Just as an update we have changed the environment (added a little rock dish as a mini pond (since she is so tiny still) and she LOVES it. She spends most of the day in the water and then crawls onto her rocks occasionally. She also LOVES her new food! We bought some of the RepMine (spelling?) food for aquatic turtles and she is actually eating… she looks forward to being fed – it is so cute!

    Thank you for your help and great advise!


    • avatar

      Hello Jennifer, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks very much for the update…glad the turtle is now feeding.

      It would be best, however, to set the turtle up in an aquarium with 3-4 inches of water and basking area (basically an entirely aquatic habitat with a dry basking area). Despite the small size, they are capable swimmers. A sloped plastic ramp makes an ideal land area as it is smoother on the plastron than rocks, does not take up swimming space and is easy to climb. A submerged smooth rock or driftwood, situated so it is within an inch or so of the surface, should be added as another resting spot.

      A water bowl alone is not sufficient – waste products build up and the small size of the area will restrict movement and impede growth.

      Reptomin is great as base diet. Be sure to add small whole fishes (i.e. guppies)…very important as a calcium source. Earthworms, blackworms, dry prawn and crickets should be given on occasion as well.

      Good luck and please let me know if you need further information.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  12. avatar

    Hey there, my name is Robert. I have questions about my tank set up! Let me know if you can see any problems with this:

    I purchased two young turtles last month (turtle 1 a bit smaller than a quarter, and turtle 2 about the size of dime) for 200 dollars. (I live in canada; they are rare here.)

    I took them home too their 55 gallon aquarium. I filled the tank filled with 15 inches of water. The water temperature is 81 degrees cosntant. They have a floating land area which they sometimes use. (the common zoomed suction cup land thingy) Air temp 70-80 deg room temperature. I was told that they do not need a heat light, is this true?

    I have a t5 48 inch long light fixture with a zoomed light bulb and a regular aqarium light bulb for athetics. I keep 20 cardinal tetras in the tank, they eat the turtle waste and do not “seem” to bother the turtles. Also there are lots of tall plants so the turtles spend most of their time about an inch or two under water. They seem to like eating on or at least chewing on Anubias. Non toxic… as far as I know.

    Anyways they are both eating, but I have a problem! One of my turtles has grown about half a centemeter since I got it; it’s scales are now slightly seperated and very well defined. It is a veracious swimmer and comes running at me everytime I get near the tank… he “seems” healthy. He’s showing rapid growth. He is now twice the size of the other turtle. On the other hand the second turtle (dime sized one) is growing very slowly and the scales on his shell were overlapping heavily when I got him… they still overlap quite a bit and it is hard to tell if he is growing at all. He also eats about 1/3 the food the other one eats… He tends to stay at a deeper water level, sometimes even venturing to the bottom. However he is very innactive most of the time… he just grabs onto a plant and floats for hours. This worries me slightly.

    The big turtle loves eating nutrafin pelets with vitam d3… the second one has eaten them once but generally will not touch them. The only thing he will eat is bloodworms and krill. I am very worried that these foods do not provide the nutrition level he needs. How can I get him to eat a more balanced diet!!!! please help!!!!

    ~Robert (yes I actually spent 200 dollars on two musk turtles… they ussually go for even more out here…. so I do worry about their health quite a bit lol)

    • avatar

      Hello Robert, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks for your interest in our blog. Sounds like you are on the right track…a 55 will allow them to grow to adult size, good choice.

      Your temps are fine…you might try putting a 25-40 wt incandescent bulb over the basking ramp, or above the plants where they stay, in case they want to bask…many do not, but good to give them the option. Most I’ve kept have tended to leave the water when temps topped 80 F; however 81 is ok, my temps routinely top that in the summer. Drop it to 75-78 if they do start to stay on land often.

      Plants are a good idea in deep tanks, musks tend to use them as “ladders”..otherwise, hatchlings (yours are likely 6 months or so of age) they expend too much energy surfacing for air. Odd that they are eating Anubius, I’ve not run into that, thanks for the observation; it is fine, used as a food for painted and other turtles.

      Fishes are good to have in the tank; Corydoras cats/weather loaches very good scavengers as well. Turtles may chase them in time.

      Growthrates/activity levels vary a great deal; adult females are quite a bit larger than males, but I’m not sure that differences in growth show up so early (probably not); you might try moving the smaller one to a bucket (add plant cover) for feeding. Krill is good as up to 25% or so of the diet, but try to get both to eat small whole fishes (guppies, minnows, goldfish on occasion but not solely) and earthworms. Live blackworms, sold as tropical fish food, are great. All 3 of these usually tempt reluctant feeders. Avoid live Tubifex. If the Nutrafin is formulated for fishes, then I’d suggest switching to Reptomin as a basis of the diet. Trout chow, if available, smells very “fishy” and usually attracts them…it is also a good staple despite being formulated for fish. It’s hard to tell if an illness is involved based on what you describe; but if the turtle is feeding then it is likely fine. You can keep them hungry to encourage them to try new foods; no danger at all to skip a few days.

      As for the price…well, I spent $30 for a skunk (in 1969!) and now they are running all over parts of NYC, including upper Manhattan, so who am I to judge! However, Common Musks are native to parts of Canada (they range into Ontario) so it does sem a bit odd. That being said, they may be with you for many decades, can be bred, and are very interesting to watch, so….

      Keep track of their growth rates if possible…despite the “common” part of their name, not all that much work has been done on them. Because they are in such a large tank, you have a great opportunity to learn much about their behavior, breeding and growth rates.

      Please let me know if you need any further information. Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  13. avatar

    lol the water is actually about 20 inches deep not 15!…. I checked. Is this too deep? They spend almost all their time in the top 5 inches.

    • avatar

      Hello Robert, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks for the feedback. I’ve not seen problems with them, but hatchling snappers, which share a similar swimming style/habitat, decline in condition when kept in deep water. Watch that they are using the plants and not continually paddling about.

      Typically they are bottom dwellers…perhaps lower water to 4-6 inches for awhile and see if this improves the situation, allows the smaller one to grow because it is not expending so much energy. They will bask and rest at the surface, but should spend most of their time walking along the bottom. You will still be giving them plenty of room, and can increase depth in time.

      Please let me know if you need any further information. Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  14. avatar

    Hello Frank,

    thank you for the fast response. I really appreciate you sharing your experience as this is the first turtle I have ever kept. I wanted a turtle for years but would not settle for anything less than a musk turtle lol.

    Anyways I have some more questions and observations that I would like to share with you if that is okay. When you mentioned disease as a possibility I got a shiver down my spine as I saw a few red flags before purchase.

    The conditions the pet store kept them in were a little alarming… a small 10 gallon with about 15-20 turtles! They were literally crawling on each other. The tank was 90 percent land and had a mountain of smelly krill which did not look exactly fresh. He said it was the only food they ate. I will keep a sharp eye on them. Is there anything I should be looking out for disease wise?

    Seeing as how the smaller turtle is much less active than the bigger turtle I worry a bit. I do catch him moving/swimming everyday and he is eating everyday. Just much less than the larger one. He usually 1/4 as the big turtle and swims about half as much. However he does venture onto the bottom sometimes, something my larger turtle will never do.

    Can you overfeed turtles? My large one literally gorges himself on food, eating 8-9 food items the size of it’s head.

    Their color patterns are also quite different, the small one has spots/strips with a light brown, almost yellow, and slightly spiky shell. The larger one does not have spots or stripes on neck (only it’s face). It’s shell and skin are very dark, almost black. Does color provide any indication of sex/health? He also has a smooth and highly doomed shell. Are these differences just due to size?

    After reading your post I put the small turtle in a sandwich box and fed him dusted 2 week old crickets. He seems to like eating these. Are crickets a good option to vary their diet?

    I was wondering if you knew how to sex a musk turtle? Is it possible to sex them at this size?

    I didn’t know they were capable of floating. This comes as a big surprise to me; when mine stop swimming they sink or grab onto a plant. They tend to spend 70- 80 percent of their time hanging onto plants a few inches underwater, usually plant stem. They seem reluctant/ scared to swim to the bottom, especially my large one. The larger one will never climb/swim deeper than 12 inches. Should I be concerned about this behavior?

    I would love to lower the water, however I have a problem. Because of my hang on filter, when the water level is lowered the splash causes strong water flow… my pond becomes a river. It seems to bother the fish and the turtles have a hard time swimming. Any suggestions on reducing the splash from the filter?

    Also another observation I’ve noticed is that they like to dive! They seem to enjoy climbing on the floating land which has a ramp and sticks about an 1.5 inches out of the water and jumping off in a dramatic way. Sometimes the larger one jumps into the water backwards and kicks off was his back legs. He sinks about 10-15 inches, often with his back legs tucked in before he flips right away up. Then swims right back to his floating land to do it again! They seem to make a game out of this. Once the larger musk turtle starts the smaller one begins to follow. The smaller turtle follows the big one around sometimes and they are usually near each other. Even though they have a big tank they usually near each other and always sleep together.

    My turtles also seem to hate being handled out of water… they get really scared when I take them out of their tank. Surprisingly they are very interactive with with me when I clean the tank, especially the big one. They swim around my hand/arm excitedly and seem to allow underwater handling. If I scoop one up underwater it grips on to me and looks right up at me in a curious way and often climbs around my fingers,poking its head in and out of it’s shell looking for food. If I take them a few inches out of water they jump off my hand after a few seconds. They also seem to have become much stronger swimmers since I got them, I feel that this is a good sign.

    They are very fast learners and know exactly when feeding time is. They will actually get so excited around feeding time that if you go near the tank they swim right up and furiously kick against the glass. Trying to get to you. It’s always funny watching them try to push each other out of the way as they follow around my finger. It is really quite amusing.. I will definitely switch up their diets. I’m also planning on adding a small heat light tomorrow.

    According to a somewhat outdated biology book I have from grade 11 mud turtles are very aggressive, and males will kill each other. Is this true for musk turtles?

    I hear they are native to Canada, but I have looked and looked and never found any while herping.

    Thanks again, – Robert.

    • avatar

      Hello Robert, Frank Indiviglio here.

      You are asking all the right questions, and hitting many points that most folks miss…a think you have a bright future as a turtle owner.

      The pet store situation you describe is, unfortunately, common. Most turtles carry some form of Salmonella…generally it does them no harm unless they are sick with something else…crowding can be stressful, but as your turtles are feeding they are probably fine (feeding usually stops when they are ill)…however, you should take precautions to safeguard your own health when caring for any animal. Always wash your hands well, and never clean items used with animals in sink used for food preparations. You can read more about precautions here.

      Color and marking vary greatly, so what you’re seeing is just normal differences among individuals. Crickets are a good food item; almost any insect will be taken; majority of the diet should be reptomin or a similar food, earthworms and small fishes.

      Cork Bark can be wedged between the sides of the tank, below the filter outflow, to cut down on current (as you noticed, they do not do well in fast currents, good point). There are also a number of submersible filters that can be used in very low water levels.

      Great observations on diving etc…diving is an escape response, and most turtles that bask are very good at it. It could be a form of ”practice”,…young birds and mammals do so, but we know little about the process in reptiles. Save as regards what looks like play…several zoos have reported that turtles seem to do this, but we do not understand much about it; please continue to watch and take notes – anything you learn could be of great value. As you’ve seen, they are very good at predicting feeding times; actually turtles have well-developed learning abilities, and again we need more info. You might like this article on Tortoise Learning Abilities.

      Musk hatchlngs are not comfortable out of water…almost every local predator eats them – bullfrogs, large fish, other turtles…even giant water bugs, so they tend to be shy and hide. Interesting that yours stay together – perhaps safety in numbers, but there are no real studies on this…good op for you to add to what we know.

      As for aggression, adult males sometimes fight, and pairs are hard to keep together as the male will continually harass the female by trying to mate (true for many turtles). Sex cannot be determined until they are fully grown..until then they should do fine together. Some species are extremely aggressive – Mexican Giant Musk Turtles are about 14 inches long, and almost impossible to breed as they fight so much; please check out my article on other musk/mud turtle species.

      They are very hard to find in the wild, even in places where they are common. I have only found them by seining through weeds along the shoreline…mostly young ones.

      Well, I think you have some interesting times ahead!

      Please let me know if you need any further information. Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  15. avatar

    My tetras are showing signs of ick. Can turtles catch this parasite? Are their any medicines I could use that will not hurt the turtles?

    I want to lower the water in the tank but I have a hang on filter. The filter creates lots of water flow when the water is lowed. Do you have any suggestions to fix this problem?

    • avatar

      Hello Robert, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks for the note; amphibians can contract ick but turtles do not seem to get it. Standard tropical fish medications are usually fine to use with turtles, but I am just going by experience…no real tests have been done. I have used Acriflavine, which is a fish medication, to treat fungus in turtles, and have had good results.

      You can use cork bark or a submersible filter to cut water flow…please see last comment for product links,

      Please let me know if you need any further information. Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  16. avatar

    The larger turtle also has a different looking face with noticeably larger proportioned eyes. Do you think there is any chance it has an eye infection? Also it is getting fat, is this going to hurt the turtle?

    Thanks again!

    • avatar

      Hello Robert, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Eye infections usually show up as puffiness around the eye – it appears swollen, and often the turtle cannot open the eyes…please let me know if this is what you think is happening.

      Sorry, I missed the feeding question in your earlier post…turtles can get overweight, but its usually more of a problem with adults…young ones tend to put it into growth. However, you can cut back to 3-4 food items, and skip 1 or 2 days each week; turtles will always “act” hungry, but it is good to give them a few fast days. Also 81F is a bit on the high side…it is ok, but speeds the metabolism; if you have a heater, lower if to 75-76. Even in the southern part of the range, the turtles are not often in 81 F water (they can move to deeper water to cool off)

      Please let me know if you need any further information. Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  17. avatar

    Just an update for you…

    I took your advise and lowered the water, it’s now at 14 inches deep. I ended up just adding a small zoomed land dock directly under the filter flow. This has reduced water flow quite a bit as it crashes down on the dock and flows off rather than hitting the water at full speed. The tank now has 300 percent filtration.

    I also measured the tank and it is actually 42 long x 18 wide x 20 high. I believe that makes it a 90 gallon.

    ~ Sorry for spamming your blog, and thanks for the advice~ Robert

    • avatar

      Hello Robert, Frank Indiviglio here.

      You came to a variation of the same solution I sent (cork bark)..good job! 90 gallons is quite a mansion for them…I think it is an ideal situation. Not spam at all! I wish more folks would show such interest in their animals…I’m going to save your questions as examples for others to follow…please also keep me informed on your observations. This is what I have always been involved in and enjoy..never hesitate to write in, ok?

      Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  18. avatar

    Hi Frank,

    Thank you answering my questions! I re-posted some of the same questions because I thought I had lost them/did not get saved somehow lol.

    I guess they were just w8ting to be approved. After a quick visit to my local vet I did a massive water change and lowered the water temp down to 77 as advised. I then went on to treat my larger turtle with eye drops. The vet sold me generic tortoise/turtle eye drops that have a weak lubricant/disinfectant as well as a dose of vitamin A. My local vet advised me to do this as preventative measure. This was no easy task because the dropper was the size of it’s face! I had to push out a tiny amount of solution (1/4 of a drop?) and then gently touch that gob to each eye.

    I removed the fish that were infected with ick and put them in a hospital tank for now, they seem to be doing better.

    Great suggestions, I will definitely follow through on all of those! (especially the feeding routine for my little fatty lol) So basically you have to keep the water cooler and keep their basking spot warmer right? Is 85 def okay for their basking spot?

    ~Thanks again, I’ll keep you posted.

    • avatar

      Hello Robert, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Eye drops are a good idea; I’m glad you took the trouble to find a good vet.

      Yes, cooler water and basking about 85 is good…this lets them thermoregulate – change from warm to cooler.

      Please let me know if you need any further information. Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  19. avatar

    Hey Frank, just a quick update for you on my musk turtles.

    The musk turtle’s eyes looked much smaller this morning! I’m very confident the vet gave me the correct advice. 🙂 Water quality is ammonia 0, nitrate 0, nitrite 15… I wonder how he hurt his eyes… I hope it’s not the water. Is there a specific ph/gh they like to be kept at? If so I do can purchase buffers and test kits for those. I saw a chemical today at petsmart that supposedly hardens turtle shells. Is this a good supplement to put in the water? Any ideas on how my turtle hurt his eyes? I’ve been watching carefully trying to figure out how it happened. I actually moved my kitchen table up to the tank and set up and observation desk lol… my girlfriend wasn’t too pleased about that when she came home. 🙂 Musk turtles are so fascinating, I can watch them for hours and continuously have new things to write down in their log.

    Thanks again, Rob

    • avatar

      Hello Robert, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks for your feedback. Eye infections can occur in many ways, generally via bacteria that are always present in the water and attack at the right time. Ph is not very important for musk turtles (more so for softshells)…as long as it is not very acidic or very alkaline, you’ll be fine. 7 is good to aim for, but not critical as with fish and amphibs.

      No need to use water-based supplement. Provide then with lots of whole fishes and krill, which is a more effective way of adding calcium to the diet.
      Please let me know if you need any further information. Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  20. avatar

    Oh I forgot to mention feeding my last post. I got turtle pellets, I made sure to get the one that had fish as the first ingredient. The small turtle hates pellets as it cannot chew them up hard.. So I soaked them in water for 5 minutes and then hand fed him half a pellet at a time. After about 10 minutes with him in his feeding container he accepted the pellets!!! He will not eat fish! I pre-killed a baby guppy and he would not accept it…. perhaps the fish was too big/wrong kind? Any thoughts?

    • avatar

      Hello Robert, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks …soaking is a good idea, releases scent and easier to break up. Musks invariably take fish in time, and it becomes a favorite. It may be too small to attract attention…adult guppies fine; it’s good for them to tear into their food, keeps the beak/jaws from becoming overgrown. Keep the turtle hungry for a few days and see what happens. A live fish in among some dead ones may attract the turtles attention as well.

      Anything new takes time – if you ever to introduce new foods to a toddler, you’ll wish they were as easy as turtles!

      Please let me know if you need any further information. Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  21. avatar

    Hi, Frank,

    Okay so I thought of a feeding routine, let me know what you think. Whole krill twice a week, fish 3 times a week, a few pellets every other day, and one day with no food.

    I have three questions for you:
    Are cuddle bones a good idea? Are feeder gold fish okay to use? What is your opinion on mixing turtles species? I was thinking that maybe when my turtles grew to about 2 inches I would add a map turtle or perhaps a female razor back musk turtle. If mixing turtle species is okay what type of turtle would you recommend? ( I want to take advantage of my expensive lighting by adding a basking species in the future)

    Let me know if you need any photos/videos of my tank for your blog!

    • avatar

      Hello Robert, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Good questions. The schedule is very good. I would add 1 more fast day every week or so, no need to be too regimented on that…skip a day after most of the fish feedings, as they take longest to digest. Add insects, earthworms, etc when available.

      You can leave cuttlebone for them to chew; not all turtles will, and I’ve not found it necessary, but can do no harm.

      Goldfish can be used, but only on occasion, maybe once each 10-14 days. A steady diet of goldfish has been linked to several nutritional diseases in Mata Mata turtles; not fully understood. Minnows and shiners, if available, are best – they are raised in outdoor ponds, consume a varied diet and so very nutritious. Guppies, platies and such fine also.

      Mixing is ok in some circumstances; best not to add turtles from another continent, as micro-organisms they carry may be rather harmless to themselves but deadly to related species (similar to tourists getting sick by drinking water in a foreign country). Most basking species will be more aggressive feeder, so you’ll need to monitor food intake of all. Maps are wonderful, many interesting species, but best to get adults that can be sexed. Males of most species top out at 5 inches, females may reach 12+; could work, but might be crowded – also large turtles tend to tear up a tank, hard to keep clean. Same for Painted turtles – males average 5 inches, females larger. Spotted Turtles are small (both sexes similar, 4-5 inches), bask, but can be quite expensive (some breeders successful now, so prices may drop). Bogs even smaller, but hard to find as captive bred, and expensive. Razorbacks very interesting, but same habitat as common musks.

      I’ll let you know if I need photos in future, thanks,

      Please let me know if you need any further information. Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  22. avatar

    Hey man I just got a baby common musk turtle a couple days ago and I just wanted to know if all this sounds good to see if im on the right track. The temperature of the water is about 75 F, hes in a 20 gallon with water low enough for it to reach its neck to the surface and plenty of plant cover. I also have another question, when i got him/her its shell looked like it may be in shed. what should it look like if it is in the process of shedding? if you could answer these questions i’d really appreciate, thank you.

  23. avatar

    Hi frank.
    Eoin here again. Prometheus and Bob say hi. Im in the process of upgrading their habitat to a bigger Tank. See if i can burn off some of that energy so they wont be so inclined to playfully disfigure anyone attempting to handle them : ). Quick question. Under gravel filter? Worth the Expense? They tend to make a real mess of their substrate given enough time so its that or more regular gravel cleaning. Or can you suggest an alternative i havent thought of. Thanks for you time. Love the blog.

    • avatar

      Hello Eoin, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks for the update; nice to hear from you again. My musk has been with me since hatching 41 yrs ago, and still bites on occasion!

      Gravel complicates cleaning a bit where turtles are concerned, although it is nice, especially with smaller animals., An undergravel filter won’t lessen gravel-cleaning chores (you’re using a siphon-based cleaner, I’m assuming?); if anything, you may need to do it a bit more. Wastes are sucked down into the filter bed and detoxified (ammonia –nitrite-nitrate), but fine sediment remains and should be periodically removed. Reverse flow systems are available, but with these it is best to use a standard filter as well. Turtles produce a great deal of waste – a UG can handle it once well-matured (stocked with bacteria); I’ve done it, but it takes time. Best to seed with gravel from a matured tank, or try adding bottles aerobic bacteria. The nice thing about them is that there are no filter mediums to change, only gravel cleaning, which must be done anyway.

      Feeding the turtles in another enclosure – bin or bucket – helps a great deal. Please see this article.

      Also useful are ovation submersible filters or similar models, or the Zoo Med Turtle Cannister.

      Please let me know if you need any further information. Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  24. avatar

    We have a musk turtle for over a year now. He has stayed the same size ( a little bigger than a quarter)
    Is it possible for him to be some type of dwarf?


    • avatar

      Thanks for your interest in our blog. The is a species, the Flattened Musk Turtle, that reaches only 4 inches in length, but they are not common in the trade. Assuming yours is a common musk, it should have grown a bit. Please send me some details on diet, tank size, temperature etc. and write back with some ideas. Please see this article for info on other types of Musk Turtles.

      Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  25. avatar

    Thanks Frank,
    He lives in our tank (40 gallon) with water in 75-78 range. We have the UV light on 4-5 days a week. (he shares the tank with a painter turtle) Both these guys were about the size of a quarter when a year ago. Of course the painter is now the size of a palm and the musk is still the size of a nickle-quarter. (maybe increased up to 1/2 inch)
    We typically feed variety of commercial turtle food (including dried shrimp, crickets, pellets, and some minnows during summer months. (we live in Michigan area)
    hope this helps.

    • avatar

      Hello Lisa, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks for the feedback. Your set-up and diet sound ideal (I’m assuming the pelltets are designed for aquatic turtles). Earthworms are a very good item to add.

      Perhaps the painted turtle is out-competing the musk; maybe getting most of the food, or more of the fish and other items that spur quick growth? I’ve had trouble keeping painteds with musks, small snappers, spotteds and other slow feeders. Try moving the painted to a plastic container/bucket for feeding – it should adjust quickly – and feed the musk in its aquarium. This will help with water quality also.

      A half inch growth is perhaps a bit slow, but not cause for concern; musks grow more slowly than painteds; males mature at a far smaller size than females and may grow slower as well (too early to determine sex, however).
      Please let me know if you need any further information. Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  26. avatar

    Hi Frank! Last time I saw your artical talking about GoldenShiner can be fed as bait, but I am confused wheather this kind of fish can be used as a bait for Mata.

    I read an artical about Thiaminase. Gold fish, Cyprinidae, Corydoradinae, and Crucian Carp have lots of Thiaminase, and does not recommend to feed our turtles. However, GoldenShinner is the family of Cyrinidae. Is it ok to feed our turtle with them?

    On the otherhand, Swordtail, Platyfish, Molly, Tetra, and Cichlids is much safer.

    Please let me know if I am wrong. Thanks for your time.

    • avatar

      Hello Eric, Frank Indiviglio here.

      You raise an excellent point, thanks. Actually, a co-worker of mine uncovered the goldfish problem many years ago. We are not sure if Thiaminase is the actual problem, but matas fed a steady goldfish diet usually die after 5 years or so….many zoos have now confirmed this. Shiners and other minnows are related to goldfishes, but are fine as a long-term diet; also, as you mention, typical aquarium species, especially those from S. America. Try for as much variety as possible. I have seined for fish in Mata mata habitat – a single pull of a 6 foot net can yield dozens of fish species, so they likely are adapted to a very varied diet (but field studies are lacking, unfortunately…maybe a project for you someday!?).

      Please see this article on Goldfish diets and related topics (the huge Mata I’m holding in the photo was purchased at a food market in Guyana or Surinam, I forget which at the moment).

      Please let me know if you need any further information. Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  27. avatar

    Hi Frank!
    Yeah! I have interest in reptiles, It’s cool to examine creatures in the isolate place, but Taiwan is too far away from the US. So sad haha…

    • avatar

      Hello Eric, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Yes…I think it’s both good and bad that the world is so big and complicated!

      Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  28. avatar

    Hi frank, I have two stink pots, I have had them about 2 years and think they were probably 6-12 months when I got them, I’m pretty sure I have a male and female, I had to seperate them a while ago as the male was super aggressive trying to mate with female and made her shell bleed!! They are ok now and back together. She has rapidly grown lately and I’m wondering if she is pregnant? Is there any way to tell for sure and how long is the gestation period? She was smaller than the male and is now bigger in a short space of time :/
    If she is, do I need to change the tank for her? I have scooped all the small gravel to one corner to form a ‘beach’
    Thank you
    Lisa (England)

    • avatar

      Hello Lisa

      Thanks for your interest. Aggression is a common problem, making it very hard to keep pairs together long term. In captivity, mating behavior seems not to be controlled by the seasons, so you’ll need to keep an eye on them year-round; fighting unrelated to breeding can occur as well.

      If you can arrange it, the best set-up is to position a plastic sweater box or similar container, with one side cut mostly away for access, within the aquarium. Silicone adhesive is useful if you cannot wedge it in, or balance it on a gravel beach. Add a few inches of topsoil and some dead leaves, and keep slightly moist. An overhead light, to warm the area, may help, but is not always necessary. You can also place her in a plastic storage container/garbage can with soil, etc., but this may stress her – usually works best when female in restless and obviously searching for a nest site. They often deposit the eggs (2-6) on or close to the surface, w/o digging very much. She may use the beach you describe.

      It’s difficult to know if eggs are present; size is not an indication (females get quite a bit larger than males, in general; males have a concave plastron and a longer, thicker tail). Developing eggs can sometimes be felt if you prod with a finger along the body cavity near the rear legs…takes practice, and is difficult with small species. A radiograph by a vet will show them, but is only necessary if turtle is restless, trying to lay, not feeing, etc. Oxytosin injections will cause her to pass the eggs. Egg retention can be fatal, but musks tend to pass them even w/o a suitable nest site.

      She may also drop them in the water…do not discard if this happens, as they can take some submersion; send a note if you find them and we can discuss incubation.

      Gestation is difficult to judge, as most turtles can store sperm and also seem able to delay egg-formation/laying if conditions are not right; also always a chance of an un-noticed mating, prior to the fighting. It’s often given as 30-45 days, but not very helpful in my experience.

      There are some turtle tubs (i.e. by ZooMed) that provide swimming and nesting areas; most are large, but can be very useful if you plan on keeping them long-term; let me know if you need product links.

      The eggs are very hardy and often hatch (we can discuss set-up); the hatchlings are tiny, and great fun to raise, so I hope it works out.

      Please let me know if you need any further information. Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  29. avatar

    Thank you for your fast response and for all the info. I’ll let you know if she lays any eggs! 🙂

    • avatar

      Hello Lisa

      My pleasure…I look forward to hearing about the eggs!

      Please let me know if you need any further information. Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  30. avatar

    Hey Mr. Idiviglio,

    I wanted to know if you knew of any good sites that sell Musk turtles? Especially ones with cheap shipping, the best I could find was under $20. Or, even better, adoption sites where I can get one for free. Actually, any place where I can get on for free would be good.

    Since these guys stay pretty small I figured they’d be a good Back to Turtles Project, along with my monitor. Been years since I’ve had turtles. Thanks

    Cheers, Alex

    • avatar

      Hi Alex,

      You can check here for adoptions: http://www.turtleforum.com/forum/upload/index.php?s=b9cd927c43acfb8cca2f9596d3666806&showforum=89; if you go to the site’s homepage, you’ll also find classified/for sale ads. Local herp societies usually have adoption services as well.

      Re price, best not to look for the cheapest animals, as they will likely be wild caught. Also not a good idea to skimp on shipping – you’ll want the seller to use the fastest and most efficient carrier. Shipping problems/losses are common when one tries to save money on shipping. In any event, I’ve never seen any shipping method priced below $20.

      Please keep me posted, enjoy, Frank

  31. avatar

    Well, as it turns out, there aren’t any Musks for adoption at that forum, but there is one at the local reptile store (the last place I looked). What would be the “further details” about their captive care?

    Cheers, Alex

    • avatar

      Hi Alex,

      The info in this article is generally applicable, with a few changes:

      Musks do not need UVB, although it will do no harm.
      Water temperatures can be lower if desired – 72-75 is fine
      They do not need plants or vegetables in the diet

      Please let me know if you need more information, Best, Frank

  32. avatar

    Hi, thank you for providing so much wonderful information about musks! I have a hatchling about 1 1/2″ that escaped from his tank sometime over the weekend (do to the filters suctions not holding and causing the filter to lower so he could climb out). He was found on Monday (today) morning and put in his tank, but just seems very sluggish. He wont eat the pellets he usually loves, but would go for the frozen bloodworms, though he didn’t eat as much as he would normally. Today he mostly sat on the bottom and kind of looked like he was sleeping. He also seems to be going to the surface for air every 5-10min or so, which is way more often than he used to. He is usually VERY active during he day, and I am concerned that he may have gotten an URI from being out of the water for a couple days in a not so warm room (maybe around 70 f or less). How long would it take his little body to warm up after being back in his water (80f)? I left his heat lamp on tonight just in case, but he never sticks more than his head out of the water, even though he could if he wanted to. I don’t want to over react, but I don’t want to ignore warning signs either. I checked him over and all his limbs move fine, he swims fine, and I don’t see any damage to his shell from the fall (2-3ft, depending on where he “jumped” from). I did notice when I picked him up after he had been in the water about 2 hours, he didn’t “fight” me like he normally does (struggling to get away), he just tucked himself in his shell, and opened his mouth (he has never done this, not that I pick him up very often). Was that a defensive mechanism or was he having trouble breathing? When he is in his tank, I don’t notice any open mouth breathing.. Sorry this is a bit rambling, I just don’t want to leave out anything that may be important. Thanks for any input you can give me.

    • avatar

      Hi Mishele,

      Thanks for the kind words. The immune system can become depressed when they are chilled, but 60-70F shouldn’t cause any problems, as they routinely remain active at such temps in the wild. They are quite aware of their environment, and subject to stress when things change (hard to imagine with reptiles sometimes, I know, but a real concern, documanted by blood tests, hormone levels , etc) The turtle may just need time to adjust…at that size,, they are on the menu of many predators, and so are generally shy (until well adjusted to captivity). Plants etc. to hide below may be useful, and don;t worry about feeding too much – digestion and all may take some time to re-adjust to higher temps; disturb as little as possible.

      The combination of rapid temperature changes and stress can depress the immune system, but I’ve not sen this in common musks. If the animal does not come around in time, or declines in condition, a vet visit would be in order. Pl keep me posted, and let me know if you need further info, good luck, best, Frank

  33. avatar

    Hi Frank;
    I’d like to know if your 4…3(?) years old Sternotherus is ok and It’s amazing that a tiny turtle like that, lived so long.

    Also I would like to know if you let her (I guess) hibernate for winters or not. Thank you and sorry for my english.. I’m Italian.

    • avatar

      Hi Giulio,

      Thanks for your interest. The turtle is now 43 years old; when I last checked, there was one aged 51 at the Philadelphia zoo; we’re nor sure how long they can lice. Several American Box Turtles have been documented as living for just over 100 years.

      I do not put the turtle (yes, female) into hibernation, as this can be tricky in captivity. In the past, temperatures were allowed to drop to 20 C or so in winter, but she once developed a respiratory infection (immune system slows down in col weather); I now keep her at 25C in winter, room temps (warmer) in summer. best regards, Frank

  34. avatar

    Hi Frank
    I have got to say, reading all these comments has been very useful 🙂

    I’m planning on getting a turtle (i’m 18), but i have realized a big turtle will get out of hand. But Musk turtles seem to be quiet small, with the ideal size of 4 inches. I am very much wanting a turtle, it was a spontaneous decision and now with all the turtle research i’m doing i’m growing more and more confident i want a turtle pet. and a small musk turtle seems perfect.
    My questions are:
    a) From what i’ve said is a musk turtle a good idea for size or is there another turtle i should look at, and if a musk, what kind of musk? (I want the smallest turtle i can get).
    b) I live in Brisbane, Queensland Australia and idk how easily i will be able to find a musk turtle in pet stores and i was wondering what your advice would be if i wanted to find one, or a different small turtle in Queensland.
    All help would be very appreciated 🙂

    • avatar

      Hi Luke,

      Thanks for the kind words. I always recommend common musk turtles as they are “extra hardy”, but with the exception of the Mexican Giant Musk, all related species (and the mud turtles) are quite small, and most do well in captivity. You can read about some of them, including the Mexican, here (the 70 year old individual I mention in the article came from a zoo in Australia).

      Australia has quite strict rules regarding the importation of foreign animals, so it may be difficult to find a musk turtle. Contacts there tell me that the most commonly seen turtles in the pet trade are some of the snake-necks (Genus Chelodina), especially the Eastern Long-Necked Turtle; they are hardy but very active and most get large…they need more space than other large turtles; those I’ve kept were always in motion. Perhaps there is a local turtle interest group near you?…such folks will have information on locally available species, or may even have breeders among their members. I can’t think of ay off-hand, but if you have trouble finding group let me know and I’ll check my contacts, best, Frank

  35. avatar

    Hi Frank,

    At what age (size) could I expect our common musk turtles shells to smooth out? We recently aquired two that are about 2″ – 2 1/2″ and the person I had got them from said she had them for atleast two years. I’m concerned that they may be stunted or a little behind in growing.

    We have had them for just under a week and I love these little buggers. We also have a rescued RES that we ador as well.

    Any advice greatly appreciated!

    • avatar

      Hi Rich,
      I’m not sure what you mean by smooth out, but at that age they should be larger. However, turtles can re-start the growth process once fed correctly and given ample room. Please let me know if you need any info on diet, etc.

      Enjoy, Best, Frank

  36. avatar

    I just meant to ask what age their shells normally went smooth and flat and the juvenile ridge’s disappear.

    They are both small for their age in my opinion as I expected them to be much larger than when I picked them up. I have them in a 20 gallon quaranteen tank and I’m working on an indoor pond around 55-60 gallons for future.

    I just hope they aren’t stunted.

    • avatar

      Hi Rich,

      I’m not sure about the ridge timing; they may begin growing normally in time- no hard/fast rules, unfortunately. Small whole minnows, earthworms, Reptomin, freeze dried shrimp, and trout chow work well as basis of diet.

      Pl keep me posted, Best, Frank

  37. avatar

    Hello Mr. Indiviglio,

    May I ask where you got your musk turtle? As of right now I’m still looking for one of my own. I don’t think there’d be many stores selling them 40 years ago so I’d guess field collected, but I could be wrong.

    Also, a long shot here but, have you any experience in keeping Esox americanus, the American pickerel? Thanks!

    Cheers, Alex

    • avatar

      Hi Alex,

      I was aged 12 or so, working for a well-known NYC animal importer and pet store operator at the time; it came in as a hatchling and was given to me by the owner (my pay was more often an animal, animal food, or lunch as possessed to cash!). The operation was one of a handful based in NYC; they became well-known in both the pet trade and zoo world..Trefflich’s, for example, supplied most US zoos…there one could see baby elephants, giant anteaters and such – in a typical tenement building in downtown Manhattan! (the book Jungle for Sale is worth reading if you are interested). Fang and Claw, on 14th street was owned by an old friend of mine, Aldo Passera, who passed recently…he collected animals in W. Africa in the 60’s, worked at the Bx Zoo…I saw my first Surinam Toad, complete with embedded eggs, there. quite alot going on then. US Native turtles of all kinds were sold…most collected, but some of the more common ones were mixed in with sliders on the large turtle farms in the southeast where they bred. Yellow headed sidenecks and other Podocnemis spp. would often show up in shipments, mixed in with red eared sliders and various map turtles…they were priced .50 to $1 more than the natives!!!

      US FW and marine fishes are great favorites of mine…but I don’t have much company! I’ve kept the red-finned subspecies and also grass pickerels. Both need lots of room, quiet surroundings..I housed them in tanks planted heavily with Vallisneria and other grasses; they fed on live minnows, platies, mollies, shiners. I understand from friends at public aquariums that some accept dead prey in time. Do you keep this or similar species?

      Here are a few short articles on US fishes: http://bit.ly/1cDCDjd, http://bit.ly/12woh2q

      Best, Frank

  38. avatar

    I have heard of Jungle for Sale many times before, I’ve been meaning to read it but haven’t gotten around to doing so. Interesting to hear about the animals being sold back then. Too bad there isn’t near as much variety these days. The prices now for exotics seem off the charts compared to then as well.

    The species I seem to keep finding is the grass pickerel, a shame since I hear that the red finned is actually more colorful and stays a bit smaller. Currently I don’t keep any fish, just reptiles. Last time I emptied a tank was a couple years ago, but I’m trying to get back in the game.

    Also does Newts and Salamanders contain detailed info about Tiger Salamanders and their care? I’ve been trying to find it as an ebook but only lately have I realized that it doesn’t come in that form! So now I’ll shop for the paperback edition.

    Lastly, do you know how temperate species like the tiger salamanders and the pickerels cope with summer time weather? The reason why I can’t get the fish right now is because I’d have to keep the tank outside and since most of the info I’ve read about them says the water temps should be around the low to mid 70s I fear that it would get too hot. Thanks for the info!

    Cheers, Alex

    • avatar

      Hi Alex,

      I have price lists featuring black footed ferrets for $35 (1967), etc….good and bad, of course; but zoos, city kids like me, etc would never have been exposed without, and some of us learned, hopefully contributed. You’ll also like “Confessions of an Animal Collector”, “:Raymond Ditmars: His Exciting Life with….”, Zoo Quest…lots more, let me know when you need titles.

      The first edition has more info on tigers, but is out of print; maybe on amazon; but second also has quite a bit; this article on Spotted Salamanders (it has 2 Parts) is largely applicable.

      I’ve not had much luck keeping any native salamander for long periods at above 72-74F; an aquarium I consult for also experiences losses related to heat. I keep mine in a cool basement. Some tiger species/sub sp. get into very warm habitats, but I believe they are deep down in burrows, tunnels left by rotting roots etc most f the time. Pickerels are associated with warm water habitats, but again they likely move offshore when stressed. I increased aeration during the summmer, when temps went into 80’s, do not recall long term effects, sorry. One public aquarium I know of keeps then in circulating water from below ground, always at 56F..they do well, but not sure that is necessary. Might be worth a try, perhaps shift to sunnies, other hardier species if need be. Best, frank

  39. avatar

    Hi Frank,
    You seem like the wealth of knowledge I’ve been searching for. I have what I just found out is a Common Musk. Actually 2 Common Musks. The older one is somewhere between 3 and 4 years old. My brother and nephew found her in South Florida when she was just a hatchling, (& named her Tuck). There she was kept in a dish about 15 inches in diameter and 4 inches deep for well over a year. I believe that stunted her growth, as she had not grown much when I took custody of her 20 months ago. Up until last week, she has been living happily, (I assume), in what I think is approximately a 10 gallon. At last measurement in December she was 4.25 inches. She is normally active, eats as much as you throw out and bullies another tiny turtle in the tank. Last week I left her outside in a baby pool for a couple of days because she had damaged the little guy’s shell so badly. Then I switched and put her back in the tank and the little one outside. Since then she has been very lethargic, doesn’t eat and sleeps all the time. I took her to the vet on Wednesday. Basically, the vet was not much help. She said Tuck appeared to be healthy. And of course she is active when a finger is being jabbed in her flesh. The tank is about 75 degrees. She ate a little chicken today, but she seemed to have trouble seeing or finding it. Any advice you can give would be much appreciated. Thanks in advance.

    • avatar

      Hello Nora,

      Thanks for the kind words.

      A change from the large to much smaller enclosure could throw the turtle off feed, although you’d usually see escape behavior, paddling about etc. if that were the case. There’s always a chance that the smaller turtle picked up an infection from the wounds (can occur beneath shell plates, and be hard to detect); possibly this could be passed on the the larger animal. General-practice vets usually give opinions such as you describe; pl let me know if you need a reference to a reptile specialist, I have some lists. Check that the temperatures are not spiking at times when you may not expect them to, this can depress appetite. Musks generally become obese in captivity…limit for for awhile as an experiment; be sure diet is based on small whole fishes, a quality aquatic turtle dry food, earthworms. Cooked chicken etc only on occasion, not an ideal food. Be aware also that herons, raccoons, rats, black racers and many others will take small turtles from unenclosed pools.

      Pl let me know if you need further info, Best, Frank

  40. avatar

    Hi Frank
    Just acquired my first ever musk turtle. He’s quite small at about 1.5 inches. I have him in a 215 litre tank. He has all the requirements, floating dock, rock docks, elodea vegetation, big resin wood branch, heater, internal filter, d3 light.

    My concerns are for best water quality. Since getting the internal filter (suitable for 400 ltr) I am now thinking to get an external canister filter as well. In terms of size of filter, when they say get at least double for the size of tank, does this mean the AMOUNT OF WATER WITHIN THE TANK or the actual tank size. Obviously with the little musk turtle I’m not filling the tank up very high, so does the filter need to be based on the amount of water or tank size.

    I have been reading the web for days on care of musk turtles. Perhaps I have read too much because the advice differs from one place to another.

    My other concern is the salmonella thing. Obviously I do good hygiene with washing hands etc but if some water from the tank splashes somewhere, will there be salmonella in that splash lurking around for months?

    About feeding. Some say take him out of the tank and feed him in a container, others say he needs to forage and walk about on the bottom to find the food. It’s a big tank for such a little guy and I’m concerned he won’t find the food. I have managed to put some pellet directly in front of him and he’s eaten it ok.

    Do I have to find fresh earthworms from the garden or will he get benefit from dried ones?

    Sorry for all the questions but I need definitive answers now from an expert. Too many different personal opinions out there!

    • avatar

      Hello Yasmin,

      Thanks for the kind words and vote of confidence.

      Musk care is fairly straightforward; a common musk in my collection is now 44 yrs old, and I’ve worked with many other species at the Bx Zoo…all did very well, some breedingm, some in their 50’s now.

      A simple filter will do; feeding outside of the aquarium will help immensely in keeping water quality in good shape, as will frequent partial water changes (you can do this while feeding, pl see article below). Earthworms are an ideal food, so long as they are collected in pesticide free areas; or you can purchase and breed, etc. Be sure to include a wide variety of other foods as mentioned in the article…small whole fish and Reptomin or a good turtle chow are especially important.

      You can also put some food in the tank from time to time, to let him forage./…blackworms (sold for tropical fish), guppies, etc…the sense of smell is keen, the turtle will find them.

      Salmonella can survive on some surfaces for several hours, and you are wise to consider. It is simple to avoid problems with proper hygeine…do not clean turtle items where food is prepared ., etc. Please see this article for details, advice from the CDC.

      Here are articles on water quality and other musk and mud turtles.

      Enjoy and please keep me posted..greta questions, others will appreciate also, so write in anytime, best, Frank

  41. avatar

    Hi frank, we recently bought two common musk turtles from our local pet store. We were told they were both female (we asked as we were concerned about fighting). They shared a small tank with 2 razorbacks and 2 much larger turtles. Unfortunately I don’t know how old but could find out. One is larger than other and has longer fatter tail & smaller has shorter thinner tail. Is this just age difference or gender difference? The reason I ask is the smaller one has taken to biting the larger one on occasion. It seems to be when she is foraging for food or when she gets in her way. They recomended the interpet reptile pod but since reading all these posts I’m concerned this is much too small. It is a 60cm 64 litre tank. We went with what was recommended to us but I don’t want to happy unhappy or unhealthy pets. Could the reason she’s snapping is tank is too small? Is this normal? Also the larger turtle doesn’t seem to be eating today? The smaller is eating fine, very active, swimming & exploring. The larger seems very skittish and stays mostly in the corner or standing up against plants or on legs. She pulls her legs in if the other comes near her and curls her tail in also. I’ve noticed her kicking her back legs n shaking head a couple of times too. As I said we were told they were fine to home together and weren’t advised of possible separation. Also tank & size etc was what was recommended. I assumed they would know best. I really want then to be happy and healthy and you’re help would be much appreciated.


    • avatar

      Hi Ashley,

      The tank is much too small for all but hatchlings….they might get by in a tank that is 2x that size, but 3x would be ideal. males are smaller in size than females, and males have a longer, fatyter tail. But these differences are only definitive when the animals are full grown, and it helps to have seen the sexes together. the plastron of mature males is also somewhat concave, to assist in mounting the female.

      Agression often arises when the animals are moved to a new tank…this can occur even if they coexisted in the past (new territory available, no other animals to influence behavior, etc). Unfortunately, females will fight females, and males will harass females when trying to mate. Biting is a normal pat of courtship, but in an aquarium,injuries are likely, as the female cannot get away..this can happen even in a much larger tank.

      It does not sound like mating is involved, however..if that were so, you would see continued attempts at mounting. Standing as you describe, pulling in legs etc are all signs of stress.

      Unfortunately, aggression can continue in a larger tank. Adding plenty of driftwood and other sight barriers may help, but turtles re very persistent…musks generally do better alone. the tank you mention would be tight quarters even for a small adult male, and too small for a single adult female.

      Please let me know if you need more info, best, Frank

  42. avatar

    Hi Frank, thanks for you’re swift reply. I thought the tank was too small after all the other posts. Very frustrating that they recommended it. I thought they would have correct knowledge and would give correct advice on tank & care. I wish I’d found you’re blog first. I’m so worried about the larger turtle. She does seem subdued and stressed and quite unhappy to be honest. And I’m worried about her getting injured. I noticed her biting herself earlier. Both are very distressing. We have space for larger tank which I will sort asap but not for two so I’m unsure where to go from here? We only brought them home monday and I feel horrible her being in there scared and stressed. Any further advice would again be appreciated

    Thank you


  43. avatar

    Hi frank.

    Thank you so much for you’re swift reply. I thought the tank was too small after reading all the other posts. Very frustrating that they recommended it. I trusted that they would provide correct advice on tank size and care and we did ask if we should only home one. I really wish I had found you’re blog first.

    I’m so worried about our larger turtle. She does seem very subdued and distressed and quite scared and I’m worried about her getting injured. I notice earlier that she was biting her own back leg! Her being bit and biting herself are really not nice to see. We have space for a larger tank which I will sort straight away but we really don’t have space for two. I really wish I’d known this beforehand. I’m unsure where to go from here? We only brought them home Monday and I feel horrible her being in there stressed and frightened. Should I contact the pet store and discuss with them? Any further advice would again be appreciated.



    • avatar

      Hi Ashley,

      Unfortunately it’s very common for pet stores to provide inappropriate advice..sad, since the proper care of most species offered for sale is well-established.

      Musk turtles do bite to remove dead bit of skin, etc. however, the animals should be separated.

      I’m not sure how useful the pet store will be. In my experience (USA), the owner/staff will usually stick by the advice given. Where are you located…there are a number of turtle interest groups that offer adoption services, etc…I could check if you wish.

      In case useful: Plastic sweater boxes, storage boxes, etc can be made into musk turtle enclosures; easy to dump and fill, lightweight, portable.

      Best, Frank

  44. avatar

    Hi frank,

    I am located in Jersey, Channel Islands (uk) . I understand they need to be separated and would like to do so as soon as possible to prevent any injury to our larger turtle. We have a jspca on the island but I understand if we take a pet to them we would not be able to adopt a pet in future. This may be my only option though. I don’t want to advertise one in case they are homed with another turtle and the same thing happen (even though I would be sure to stress not to) I want to do what’s best for the little guys but having a seperate tank is just not an option at the moment due to space.

    Can you explain a bit more about the enclosures you mentioned please. I’m not exactly sore what you mean .



  45. avatar

    Hi frank, just a little update. I’ve spoken to pet store this morning and explained the situation and they’ve said we have two options. We could leave for a couple of days n see if situation changes or they said we could take one of the turtles back. I’m unsure about waiting as I don’t want to risk the larger turtle being hurt. She did agree with you though that it would most likely continue. I feel so bad about taking one back but I don’t really see any other solution. Do you agree this would be best and to do this today rather than wait? If they had explained this was a possibility then I think we would only have homed one to begin with. Also what size tank would you recommend for adult female common musk and what and how often should I feed? I don’t really trust the information I’ve been given already. I’m going to purchase some proper literature about turtle care and will get onto acquiring a larger tank asap. Also will female turtles lay eggs?

    Thanks again for all you’re help.

    Regards, Ashley

    • avatar

      Hi Ashley,

      Sounds like a good option; hopefully they will provide proper care advice to the next owner.

      An adult female would need a tank of app. 60 cm x 30 cm, 1/2 filled with water. Larger is always better if space permits. Feeding depends upon age, temperature, type of food etc. Musk turtles will always appear hungry, but easily become obese in captivity. The diet should be as described in the article..based upon Reptomin or another good turtle chow, small whole fishes essential for calcium and other nutrients, earthworms; dried prawn also excellent. If you feed every-other-day, meal size can be slightly smaller than the turtle’s head size. Smaller is you feed more often, but be sure to include some fasting days each week. best to feed in a seperate enclosure, as described here to ease strain on the filter.

      Unmated Females may produce unfertilized eggs, but this is not common in musks. Mated females can produce fertile eggs long after mating. Some species retain the eggs if not given a suitable nest site…this causes a fatal infection if not attended to by an experienced vet. However, musks usually drop eggs right in the water if a nest site is not provided.

      Please keep me posted, best, Frank

  46. avatar

    Hi again frank.

    Thank you so much for all of you’re help. I really do appreciate it all.

    We returned the smaller turtle to the pet store this afternoon. Although we would rather have not had to return any of them we just didn’t have the heart to return our bigger one. After all the stress she’s had over the past few days we thought if she stays with us we know she’ll be safe now and there will be no other turtles. I was worried they would put her back into same tank as before and she would be scared to death!

    She seems so much more lively already. She’s eating again and has come out of her corner to explore and swim and she seems much more relaxed. We’ve decided to call her Heidi as she likes to hide in her plants and cave and pokes her head out now and watches us.

    The tank we have is 64cm by 30cm and 64 litre, it is halfway full with basking platform, 2 small plants, small rock and little structure with ledges and cave which she loves. We are looking into getting larger tank as soon as we can. She is appx 4 inches in length and I’m unsure of age. I was so worried earlier I forgot to ask! They gave us pellets and frozen food and dried fish (she doesn’t seem to like the fish). The only reason i asked was because I noticed her kicking her back legs. Also last question! She sometimes sits with her mouth open at the bottom of the tank. Is this normal?

    Again thank you so much for all you’re help and advice.


    • avatar

      My pleasure, Ashley.

      Both behaviors are normal…musks seem to spend much time removing dead skin…not sure why they gape; it can be a sign of respiratory distress in others but rarely so in musks.

      Be sure to see the info on diet in article and my last response. Small whole fishes (minnows, guppies, shiners) are critical…no musk will refuse if kept hungry for awhile. Goldfish ok on occasion, but not as a steady (possibly linked to liver/kidney probs). Pellet should be one of the major brands..Reptomin, ZooMed products etc…I believe sold in UK; time-tested, used in zoos.

      If you do not have a filter, be sure to do frequent partial water changes, and feed outside of tank; do not use gravel, bare bottom tank best.

      Pl keep me posted, enjoy, Frank

  47. avatar

    Hi frank,

    Sorry to be a pest but just a quick question about water changes. We originally had an internal filter but after one day replaced with a fluval external filter. Does this mean we don’t have to do partial water changes then? If not then how often should we do full tank and filter clean? If we do still need to do partial (lets says 25% at a time) do we need to re-treat water with tap safe to remove chlorine etc?
    We are now going to switch to feeding out with tank in separate enclosure as you suggested and we were told gravel was ok but can remove this and either leave empty or replace with sand.

    Thanks again


    • avatar

      Hi Ashley,

      Very good questions…please post as often as you wish, others benefit as well…partial water changes should always be done, regardless of filtration. Ammonia builds up quickly’ turtles produce quite a bit of waste; very hard for a filter to keep up. 25% 1-2 x week is a good starting point, but many variables. One useful option is to scoop out a quantity and transfer to the feeding tub each time you feed; replace with fresh water. With reg partials and a good filter, you can largely avoid full tank cleaning.

      Chlorine and chloromines do not bother turtles, may even keep bacteria, etc. down (harmful to fish, amphibians, however). Unless different chemicals are used in UK, no need to remove. I’ve never removed for turtles in zoos or private collection.

      Substrate will be swallowed…musks will eat it even if no food is present (they do this in wild, perhaps taking in small invertebrates in the process); while they process it find in natural habitats, in captivity blockages can result. Also, any type of substrate vastly complicates hygiene….wastes become trapped (most are semi-liquid and not visible to eye), harmful anaerobic bacteria establishes in gravel bed, etc…other than in huge zoo exhibits with under gravel filtration, substrate is a very bad idea (sorry to say – but you may want to run all your pet store’s advice by me before buying anything further!).

      Enjoy, Frank

  48. avatar

    Just a quick question about food for the musk turtle. I’ve read about feeding shimps (prawns). Should these be the uncooked grey ones, or cooked pink ones? If feeding crickets, do they have to be live ones? I ask this because I saw a box of tiny sized crickets in the pet store but they looked dead, i.e. not jumping about.

    Many thanks

    • avatar

      Hi Yasmin,

      You can use either, but with raw you have more hygeine concerns, spoilage, etc. Salt water prawns best used as occasional meal in any event. freeze dried are more nutritious, as the whole animal with internal organs, is used, and much easier to store, etc; This brand generally supplies fresh water species, which are a more natural food. Whole minnows will provide organs, bones, etc, so no need to worry too much about whole prawn.

      Do not buy dead crickets…spoilage, bacteria etc set in quickly.

      Best, Frank

  49. avatar

    Just bought some medium crickets (proper live ones) and fed Myrtle his first one. He ate it straight away. Also bought some minnows which I will put in a smaller tank where I have one little African Dwarf frog. A bit of guidance on how many crickets, minnows to feed him please!

    Also, I bought the reptile delice, like a pate in a shallow tub. I gave him a bit which he ate, and the rest I have put in the fridge. Any idea how long it will keep in the fridge???

    Thanks again

    • avatar

      Hi Yasmin,

      Crickets are good as a treat, but without supplementation (feeding for several days) they are not all that nutritious; earthworms superior.

      Best not to keep minnows with dwarf frog…most will be carrying parasites; usually not transferable to turtles, but can become established in frog tank. If minnows thrive they will out-compete frog for food.

      Use several minnows as soon as you buy (may need to kill first) and freeze the rest; use as a meal 1-2 x week.

      I’m not familiar with the paste product, but wouldn’t store anything similar for more than 3-5 days.

      Please send me some specifics on your diet if you wish, and I” make suggestions if needed .

      best, frank

  50. avatar

    Thank you so much for the advice on feeding. I really could do with a daily/weekly regime to indicate what to feed each day as a guide. I have the following foods at the moment:

    ReptoMin dried food:
    1. Mini sticks
    2. Mini Krill
    3. Baby Shrimps

    He has eaten one whole live minnow, I have frozen the other five.

    I have a box of live medium crickets which I can feed some lettuce. They have grub food and gel water. Shall I bother with the crickets or get rid of them?

    I have repto delica snack. This says its daphnia and vitamins.

    Finally I have frozen cubes of daphnia and frozen cubed bloodworms.

    I will try and find some earthworms, but given the above, can you give me a rough daily/weekly menu? That would so helpful.

    Thank you

    • avatar

      Thanks for the feedback.

      I’m assuming you are referring to these products:


      Reptomin food sticks can make up 50-60% of the diet. May be easier to buy the sticks separately, as you’ll use them faster than other.

      The prawn/shrimp can be used once weekly or so.

      Repto treat is good for an occasional snack; package should have storage details; sorry I do not have any on hand to check.

      Minnows 1-2 x week.

      Daphnia fine as treat; same re bloodworms, not useful for bulk of diet.

      You can freeze live crickets and use as snack; Earthworms good but not vital. Reptomin, freeze dried shrimp / prawn, minnows and various treats can make up bulk.

      Other basic diets/turtle chows can also be added to replace reptomin on occasion.

      Turtle’s head size gives a rough estimate of an appropriate volume of food per meal. Many variables affect diet…temperature, age, food type etc., but no need to worry; they adjust metabolism, within reason, to diet. Main problem is obesity, as pets expend so little energy. Youngsters put excess into growth, so you can be a bit more liberal. You can feed every-other-day (head size portion) or smaller near-daily meals, or 3x week. Reduce if temps drop in winter.

      Pl let me know if you need any info, enjoy, Frank

  51. avatar

    Hi frank, me again!

    A few days ago I noticed a film on top of the aquarium water. I did a full tank clean and water change and treated with tap safe as advised to do. Now 2 days later its returned. It’s only on top of water surface and rest of tank looks clear, it looks oily and purplish in colour. Sort of like petrol in water. I have a fluval filter with water flow apps 3 inches from surface and other pump about same from bottom of tank.

    Any ideas what could be causing this & Is it anything to be concerned about? Also any tips on getting ridof it & stopping it from coming back.



    • avatar

      Hi Ashley,

      Nothing jumps to mind based on what you’;ve written; certain foods produce an oily residue once digested…some types of trout/turtle chow, fish themselves on occasion; add any new ornaments or rocks? Try some partial water changes..also, a brine shrimp net is very useful for skimming off surface deposits as well as droppings, etc. Pl let me know if you need more info, best, Frank

  52. avatar

    Hi frank, me again!

    We’ve been doing what you suggested and feeding her in separate enclosure, leaving her for 20 mins after also. I’ve moved the filter up so that it moves the surface of the water more and breaks it up so hopefully it will now go through filter instead of just lying on top. It does obviously affect the movement of water in tank as in its not still anymore. Is this ok to do. I’m wondering of its possibly the tap safe causing it but a friend of ours uses too & isn’t having this problem. Wondered of getting an oxygen stone may help also.



    • avatar

      Hi Ashley,

      Disturbing the surface is always a good idea…encourages beneficial bacteria as well; as long as turtle can swim w/o difficulty, that is fine. No need for an airstone. As for tap, I’d worry more about your health than the turtles..they adjust better than us! But seriously, that would be rare….run some into a pot and let it set for a time if you are concerned. It may be from the waste turtle is producing…leaving in the feeding container is very useful, but waste will still be deposited in tank….much of this is liquid/semi-solid, and will not be visible to the eye, best, Frank

  53. avatar

    Hello Mr. Indiviglio,

    I have finally succeeded in obtaining a pair of three striped mud turtles. Would care for them be similar to musks temperature and diet wise? I have heard that this species likes to bask a whole lot more than musk turtles so that’s one difference. What water level would you recommend I use?

    Also, I noticed just now when I fed them that they can be pretty messy eaters so I’m looking for good scavengers/bottom feeders to eat up all the debris they leave behind. Do you have any recommendations? I could easily get a group of corydoras or snails (I assume the likely-hood of the snails being eaten is high but what about the corys?) but I was hoping you might know of any native N. American species that that would fit the bill. I’m trying to have it as a natives only setup. Thanks!

    Cheers, Alex

    • avatar

      Hi Alex,

      Glad to hear…

      Care is similar….Reptomin can be used as a base diet, along with dried shrimp, various insects and small whole fishes. They need somewhat warmer temps than common musks – 76-80 F, with a basking spot of 88-90. Arrange part of warm spot over a partially submerged resting area. Set up is similar to common musks….a dry area should be provided, but they may not emerge to bask; they wander quite a bit on land at certain times, and aestivate during droughts. Wandering may be tied to an internal clock of sorts, but I’ve seen it at varying times of the year.

      There is no way to keep up with waste management by using snails or fish; in any event, all will be eaten or harassed. Partial water changes, good filtration and feeding the turtles in a separate enclosure are the ways to go. Please see this article for more info.

      Watch pairs carefully…aggression can break out even after long periods of peaceful co-habitation.

      Pl let me know if you need anything, best, Frank

  54. avatar

    What heater and filter would you recommend? I’m planning on using the 100W Tetra Aquatic Reptile Heater but I’m not sure if it will get me up to 80F. Also, I’ve been looking at a lot of filters including the Zoo Med canister but I’ve heard bad reviews about it and the ExoTerra F350 but I cant find any reviews about it. So right now it’s between a SunSun canister and PenPlaxx Cascade internal filter. Any other recommendations or input would be appreciated.

    • avatar

      Hi Alex,

      A 100 wt should do it, but this will depend on winter room temps and tank size; pl send specifics if you need more info.

      I’ve had good luck with the Zoo Med canister…takes a bit longer to change out than others, but worthwhile. Needs to sit next to, not below, the tank. Supreme ovation also very good, easy to change medium. Here’s an article with links to products But difficult for any filter will do the job alone…need partial water changes, and best to feed outside of tank. Best, Frank

  55. avatar

    I was actually considering the Ovation because it was so small, cheap and powerful relative to other internals but I wrote it off since I’ve never heard of the brand and thought it wouldn’t be able to keep up with turtles. Thanks to your recommendation it’s the front runner again.

    My only problem with the Zoo Med is that there is no space next to my tank for it and sadly they discontinued the side hanger for it.

    Thanks for the help! I appreciate it.

    Cheers, Alex

    • avatar

      Glad you are considering it; Ovations receive very little attention these days, but actually it was the first submersible to be introduced on the market in the uS, in the early 1980’s; improved a bit since then but basic design remains the same. Outperforms most others, and a great bargain as you say. Outflow can be directed straight up or at any angle, so even with largest model you can avoid strong currents. Suction cups powerful, withstand most turtles. Let me know if you need anything, best, Frank

  56. avatar

    How long would it be before I would need to clean the filter? And how often should I change the water for the tank? Right now I’m filling the tank to about 6 inches with water so that should be around 15 gallons.

    Also, I’ll be using sand as a substrate so do you have any tips on keeping it out of the filter? I’m concerned that no matter what kind I buy it would still get clogged up a lot or even have the impeller damaged. Thanks.

    Cheers, Alex

    • avatar

      Hi Alex,

      No way to judge w/o seeing how tank operates, etc…average is once /month. Leave some old substrate in the filter when you change, so that beneficial aerobic bacteria will re-populate. If you feed outside the tank, scoop water from the tank and use in the feeding container. Add fresh water back to the tank. Otherwise, you’ll need to experiment with frequency.

      I never use substrate other than in huge zoo exhibits or for softshells. Complicates cleaning and water quality maintenance immensely, clogs filters and is swallowed by most species, potentially leading to blockages. bare bottomed tanks always preferable.

      Best, Frank

  57. avatar

    Hi, I have a 1 year old (approx) male musk that we released into our approx. 200-250 gal pond about a month ago. We thought he got out and would never see him again, but we saw him in there a few nights ago and he looks healthy. there are a lot of rocks and plants in it for him to hide and there are fish, so he has had access to some food (that the koi dont eat). I need to know the best way to prepare him for hibernation. We live in the foothills of N. Calif. We get some snow, but very rarely does the temp. go below zero for more than a few hours, so anytime we wake up to frozen ground and water containers, they are thawed by the afternoon. I have heard that they hibernate in sand in the water and I could fill a bucket with sand and put it on the bottom, but I don’t know how far below the surface it should be. We just built the pond this summer so I have no idea if it will even freeze over (there is a little waterfall to keep the water surface disturbed). What do we need to do to keep him happy during the winter. Thanks for your advice, Mishele

    • avatar

      Hi Mishele,

      It’s difficult to overwinter turtles outdoors…oxygen requirements need to be considered in addition to site, temperature, etc (they absorb oxygen through the cloaca during hibernation). Far safer to set him up in a small aquarium or plastic storage container indoors until spring. Please let me know if you need info on how to go about that…relatively simple for a small musk.

      Best. Frank

  58. avatar

    Hello Mr. Indiviglio,

    Do mud and musk turtles like relatively deep water? I just raised it to six inches and being only around an inch long they seemed to have to swim a lot to reach the surface. Are they particularly good swimmers, or even like swimming for that matter? Thanks for the info.

    Cheers, Alex

    • avatar

      Hi Alex,

      Good question, thanks for raising. They are not great swimmers…walk along the bottom and tend to use structures such as sunken branches and plants to reach the surface. Constant swimming can drain their resources…hatchling snappers, which also occupy shallow or weed-chocked waters, sometimes die when kept in deep tanks. I’d lower to 4-3 inches, and add driftwood, artificial plants etc. They like to rest on wood that reaches to just below the surface, so that they can breath but remain mainly underwater.

      Older animals do better in deeper tanks, but still need structures and should not be forced to swim too much. My adult common musk is in 6 inches of water.

      Best, Frank

  59. avatar

    Thank you for your quick response to my question about hibernating. How do I go about setting up an indoor hibernation tank? I have another musk a few months younger that is currently in a 20 gal tank inside. Can they hibernate together? Also, what kind of oxygen requirements do they have and how do they get met? there is a small waterfall in the pond that keeps the water moving and aerated. And, when should I do this and for how long? Thanks, Mishele

    • avatar

      Hi Mishele,

      Sorry for the delay…I missed your comment somehow.

      I meant that it would be easier to keep the turtle active indoors during the winter. Hibernating outdoors, or indoors in a cool basement, is risky. Please let me know your indoor temps when you have time…normal room temps may be fine, or you’ll need at most a small basking light or water heater; best, Frank

  60. avatar

    Hi frank. Been following the blog since 2011 and keep finding new and interesting posts on this thread. Keep up the outstanding work. So my two musks are almost 3 years old and growing slowly but steadily, Bob the more aggrssive feeder has outgrown his brother Prometheus who started out the larger but is more shy. Ive just moved the pair to a large storage bin until i can afford a something bigger in the aquarium department. The bin is enormous and they reallyenjoy the room. (They could use the exercise ; ) )
    My question is this, i always feed in a seperate container and noticed once they have had their fill both but especially bob exhibit escape behavior so as an experiment i let them out on the floor of the apartment. Bob seemed to really enjoy his romp around the sitting room and now almost seems to expect it at feeding times., so
    1 is this normal
    2is it harmful should i discontinue the practice
    3 if its normal any suggestions on rigging a dry area to a plastic tub as they have always resisted basking areas before chosing instead in typical musk fashion to cling to sub surface areas.
    Thanks for your time
    All the best

    • avatar

      Hi Eoin,

      Thanks for the kind words, much appreciated.

      Musks always try to escape a new enclosure once they have finished feeding…mine does so even after 44 years!

      Wandering on the floor is likely just an attempt to find a new spot to settle down, etc…hard to relate it to natural behavior, as captivity changes so much of what they do, but it’s not usua for wild muskd to wander on land except when forced to by drought, aggression etc. Exercise in water, as with the large tub (they are great options…we use modified versions (cattle troughs) in the Bx Zoo in our holding areas) would be preferable.

      Seeding the tub with small live foods (blackworms, amphipods, small fish) will encourage activity, esp. if some driftwood etc is put in to break up area, etc. This new feeder is also designed to encourage activity…might be worth looking into.

      They do prefer sub-surface sites as you mention; mine will come out occasionally…either on a sloping piece of driftwood that extends out of the water or on this turtle pier. Seems a “ladder” of sorts helps (driftwood attached to a slate base works well also); wild specimens are said to climb well into sloping trees, although I’ve never seen this personally.

      Enjoy and pl let me know if you need anything, best, Frank

  61. avatar

    Hi Frank,
    My 8 year old son was looking for Leopard frogs, rat snakes and fish when he found the tiniest turtle I have ever seen in my life! We were backpacking at Frontenac Provincial Park on the weekend near Kingston, Ontario. I thought it was a newly hatched Painter turtle so I told him he could keep it as a pet. On our way home, we stopped by the pet store to buy food and price items for his habitat. To my surprise the staff informed me that it was a musk turtle or stinkpot. They also told me that they are an endangered species and should be returned to the wild. One of the other staff members told me that I should turn the turtle immediately and that people are not allowed to take wildlife from the park! We are planning to return to the park in the next month and I felt so badly about taking an endangers species that I told my son that we were going to have to return it to the wild. He burst into tears and wouldn’t let me tuck him in to bed.
    If I hadn’t seen your article, I would have returned the turtle to it,s natural habitat very soon. Should I keep the turtle or return it? Also, they recommended feeding the turtle frozen blood worms but he has not eaten anything so far. He is about the size of a twoonie.
    Your opinion would be greatly appreciated.

    • avatar

      Hello Deborah,

      The musk turtle is protected in Ontario (see here)

      However, release should be soon; in 1 month, it will likely be too late for the animal to find a hibernation site.

      Frozen blackworms are not adequate as a sole diet. Small whole fishes and the other items mentioned in the article should be offered. Newly caught individuals are often shy and reluctant to feed; hiding spots are essential. Individuals caught this late in the season are often in “hibernation mode”, and may not feed even if kept warm, indoors. Not an ideal situation…a captive-born individual, of this (if available) or a related species would be a better choice;

      If you’ll be keeping it for awhile, water should be only a few inches deep, with floating plastic or live plants to rest on and a dry basking area.

      Please let me know if you need more info, best, Frank

  62. avatar

    Hello Mr. Indiviglio,

    Recently I have noticed a rather large amount of minuscule, white, worm-like creatures in my turtle tank. They seem to be on everything and are especially visible on the glass. A quick search online seems to show results calling them either planaria or “detritus worms”. If they are planaria they don’t seem to look like any I’ve seen. Do you know what they could be?

    The articles and forum posts say they shouldn’t be a problem for the muds but I’m still concerned. Over the weekend water circulation slowed down quite a bit and scum even developed over 2/3 of the water surface because I over filled the filter with media. I emptied it a bit yesterday and circulation seems to be back to normal now with all the scum gone. Some of those posts also say the bloom is because of the lack of oxygen from poor circulation or maybe overfeeding. Is there any way to get rid of or at least limit the creatures? Thanks!

    Cheers, Alex

    • avatar

      Hi Alex,

      They usually turn out to be nematodes or flatworms (planaria & others, and are generally harmless. No way to ID visually, as there are thousands of species of each, all similar. You can remove many by scraping the glass with a razor blade and then running a brine shrimp net through the water. They usually do not establish themselves for long, seem not to breed and reproduce. Eggs can enter in a wide variety of ways, some may even survive processing and be introduced via commercial pellets. I don’t know of any general rules as to oxygen needs, etc…much variation among species, but good filtration may limit food sources, etc. Please keep me posted, best, frank

  63. avatar

    Hi Frank. Thank you for the advice on the calcium. I have tried minnows, but I can’t keep going back to get them because no-one sells them as feeder fish! I also found it a bit gruesome to be honest. I was told by local reptile store guy that frozen whitebait is a good option. I have been giving him tiny bits of this every few days and he loves it. Just checking that the whitebait is OK in your opinion. He is certainly a thriving little turtle. He also gets the ReptoMin turtle menu which includes the sticks and mini krill and baby shrimps. He also likes a tiny bit of sinking carnivore pellet. I tried dried earthworms but he didn’t go for that. Will try and find some live ones now that we are getting some rain again!

    • avatar

      Hi Yasmin,

      Thanks for posting here. Whitebait (at least here in US) is a marine fish…OK in small amounts, but freshwater specie are better. If you need to rely on fish markets, try tilapia, trout, catfish etc. But main value of fish is bones and internal organs; bones of human-sized fish usually too large, and organs are generally removed before sale. Guppies can be used while turtle is small, if these are easier to obtain; or an inexpensive tropical..platies, etc. Small goldfish are ok once every other week…long term sole use linked to health probs (liver) in other turtles. Not definite, but best to limit. You can’t really think in terms of gruesome, etc, as small whole fishes are the most impt part of the diet for semi-aquatic turtles; long term health, shell/bone development severely impaired in most cases if they are not provided. The freeze dried shrimp are a good CA source; you can by separately also, to up intake. Until you get a good source of fish, use them often, and add cuttle-bone to tank..CA needs very high until adulthood. Any type of canivore pellet fine on occassion, earthworms excellent but collect from an area not sprayed with pesticides.

  64. avatar

    Thanks for that info Frank. On Amazon Uk and other sites they sell live worms for reptile food. It is called (Dendrobaena) Reptile Live Food. Are Dendrobaena worms the same as earthworms?

  65. avatar

    Sorry, one more thing. Can I chop up the live earthworms and freeze them if I buy a tub of them?

    • avatar

      Hi Yasmin,

      “Chopping earthworms”..happy to see you are past the gruesome concerns! Seriously, they do not freeze well as I recall. They will live for a month or more in a refrigerator; cover the substrate they arrive in with moist paper towels, or dump soil and re-pack in damp sphagnum moss. They remain somewhat active, so keep closed, or they will wind up in your food. The styro cooler-type containers they are often shipped in let in enough air, no need to ventilate further. Best, Frank

  66. avatar

    Hi Frank

    You will be proud of me. I found little earthworm in the garden, washed it and fed it to my turtle! He was so happy and ate it with much enthusiasm!

  67. avatar

    Just came across an interesting article on the web stating:

    “The North American common musk turtle (Sternotherus odoratus) is a pretty ordinary sort of turtle except for one thing newly discovered by Austrian scientists: it can breathe through its tongue, which allows it to remain underwater for months”.

    Common musk turtle breathes through its tongue

    • avatar

      Hi Yasmin,

      Very interesting, thank you; I believe this has been documented in 1-2 other species as well, perhaps painted Turtles. But generally used when they are hibernating, or are forced to remain submerged to avoid predators (i.e. when pursued). I’m not sure why the article claims that musk turtle do not rise to the surface for air (they do)…I’m guessing this is an error that was made when the article was summarized, and that the original would have the correct info (this happens quite a bit).

      I’ll keep an eye out for more, thanks again, Frank

  68. avatar

    I recently got a pair of Eastern Musk turtles and was told they need shallow water. I have them in a 20 gallon long aquarium with a depth of about four inches of water. The problem I’m having is their aquarium an algae problem I have never seen with any of my other turtles. It is a thick dark bubbly looking, and will peel of the log. Everything in their aquarium was new when I set it up. I have been reading your blog and it says I can keep them with my sliders, which have a 55 gallon aquarium with a dock above the tank. How can I fix their tank and how can I move them into the tank with my sliders?
    Any help you can give would be appreciated.

    • avatar

      Hi Cheryl,

      They can take deep water if there are easy ways to the surface…driftwood mounted to slate bottoms, etc. However, in a 55 gallon with sliders there could be problems…competition in feeding, bites, etc. Also, water quality would be difficult to maintain, and the\y would be crowded. Algae enters aquariums in many ways, hard to pin down sometimes; breaking tank down, cleaning with table salt may be useful if entry was a one-time event. Please let me know if you need further information, Best, Frank

  69. avatar

    I am heading to the pet store for new gravel and decor for their aquarium and will be taking it totally apart and starting over. Will let you know how it goes. Thank you for your help.

    • avatar

      Hi Cheryl,

      Thanks for the feedback; gravel complicates tank hygiene.., very difficult to effectively filter a turtle tank when gravel is used.; bottom dwellers tend to swallow as well. Other than where absolutely necessary (some softshells; zoo exhibits) I use bare-bottomed tanks and feed in a separate enclosure. Further info here. As algae does best in nitrogen-rich water, doing so may help limit algae as well. More on mud and musk turtles. Please keep me posted, enjoy, Frank

  70. avatar

    Hi Frank,

    Just an update on the aquarium. Tore it down and washed it with salt. Raised the water level a little, added a few small fish and a couple of plants. Removed the uvb light and started turning it off at night like I do for our sliders, so far no more algae. If I need to in the future I will remove the gravel.


    • avatar

      Hello Cheryl,

      Thanks for the update…the tank looks very good. The UVB bulb will not harm the turtles, just not necessary if they are getting a balanced diet. Yes, I’m guessing the gravel will give you problems in time, it’s a magnet for waste products, bits of food, etc (try to feed outside tank) if possible. Watch also they they are not rooting around in it too much, possibly swallowing pieces…musks tend to swallow foreign objects when hungry. Keep an eye on the plant as well…if there is a cotton-like filler around the roots, they may eat that. Peace lillies grow well with roots in water, leaves above..no need to add soil to pot for them. Turtles may chew at roots and leaves, however. Enjoy and please keep me posted, best, frank

  71. avatar

    Hello Mr. Indiviglio,

    My three striped mud is now about 2-3″ and around 1.5 years old. Assuming they’re similar to musks, how old or large would they be to be considered adults? Also, is there any way to sex them? If so would the long nails/tail method used for sliders and relatives apply? Thanks!

    Cheers, Alex

    • avatar

      Hi Alex,

      Wild ones mature at appx. 3 inches in length; method used to measure is straight line as opposed to over the curve of the carapace. Easiest way is to place turtle on paper, and make a mark at beginning and end of carapace, then measure from mark to mark (in zoos, field, etc, a calipers is used). Captive maturation will vary, depending on diet, temperature, etc,

      Males have longer, thicker tails and an area of thickened scales on the inner thigh. The plastron is noticeably concave in males of many mud/musk species, but perhaps not as much in 3-stripes. The nails are not longer (males do not use them in courtship, as do sliders, painteds, cooters).

      Enjoy. Best, Frank

  72. avatar

    Hi frank i have a 4foot by 2foot tropixal fish tank i have 2 silver sharks 1 pink kisser and 5 neon tetra. My problem is I have got a musk turtle i have had him nearly 2years he has now started to eat my other fisb in the past 2 weeks he has eatten 1 pink kisser 2 coreys and a massive silver shark, he has a very good diet of turtle food and bloodworm pellets, i really am stuck on why he is behaving like this i doont want to get rid of my turtle but at the same tine i dont want to get rid of my fish can you help me please.

    • avatar

      Hi Sonia,

      Unfortunately, it’s impossible to keep musk turtles with fish…even if they are well fed, there is an instinct to hunt them when they are close by. They sometimes co-exist for awhile, but once they begin to fish they will not stop. best to set the turtle up in another aquarium..please let me know if you need more info.

      Re diet, small whole fishes (minnows, shiners) are important foods for musk turtles…Calcium deficiencies can take a long time to appear, but they are a risk if the turtle is not getting some whole fish in the diet.

      Best, Frank

  73. avatar

    Unforantley frank i have had to give my turtle over to a family friend who has already got two turtles in his tank wit no fish in. im very upset at rhis but your website and feedback has helped really appricate the fact you replied to me thank you very much. sonia

    • avatar

      Hi Sonia
      Thx for the kind words; Let me know if you or your friend need anything in the future; be sure to watch carefully when you introduce the turtles, as aggression is common when individuals or species are mixed. Best, Frank

  74. avatar

    Like you, I was mesmerized by an acorn-sized baby Razorbacked Musk Turtle I first encountered in a local pet store, in 1960, when I was a child. I purchased him for the grand sum of less than $1. I still have him now, in 2014, and he is still going strong. I have no doubt he will probably outlive me.

  75. avatar

    I have had my Musk for about a year now, or almost. I have had her in a glass bowl with small smooth rock, and one larger flat rock, also an decorative bridge, and have felt guilty that she didn’t have more room, so yesterday I went out and bought an aquarium 15 gal. I rinsed all the aquarium substrate (Nati8onal Geographic brand), used Reptisafe 3 teaspoons, had everything set-up, and put “Tilly” for the night. she seemed very anxious, and crawled around the bottom like crazy. This morning when I got up 7:30 am. she was upside down on her back!! I thought she was dead!! But she wasn’t, she went upright, then again later this am she was again in this state, but uprighted herself again. Just now I found her again in this state, now I have taken her out, and placed her back in her old bowl, and her head is fully out of her shell, and she is lethargic! Have I nearly killed her??? I need your help Frank please!! I pray I haven’t done her harm, in feeling guilty byt giving her a bigger home!!?!!

    • avatar

      Hello Lisa,

      Lots of variables, but was the water deeper in new tank? They are not good swimmers, so in deep water they need “ladders” to the surface, suchh as sunken driftwood, rocks below surface etc. Was turtle upside down on land?..could be trying to climb out. If upside down in water, and still lethargic, should be seen by a vet..let me know if you need help in locating a reptile experienced vet.

      Best to avoid gravel etc…they can swallow while feeding, and also greatly complicates cleaning, water quality. No need for retpisafe with turtles…wondering if animal had some reaction to this? (no evidence I know of, just speculating..product is fine for amphibians, not needed for turtles).

      They do become stressed by sudden change…a shelter in shallow water can be useful.

      First make sure turtle is not ill, let me know and then we can talk about setting up the new tank, okay? Best, Frank

  76. avatar


    I just got a baby musk turtle last night from a family friend for my four year old son. Unfortunatly, he tried to bite me already. He was going out of his way with his whole neck out trying to bite me. Although he is a baby and very small, I don’t know what to do about this bc like I said he is for my four year old. Any tips? Yes I’m scared of a baby turtle lol!

    • avatar

      Hello Heather,

      A musk that I received as a hatchling in 1969 will still try to bite me if annoyed..it’s in their nature! They do become very responsive, swimming out to meet owners for food etc., but like most turtles do not enjoy being picked up, touched, etc. More importantly, their are some very important guidelines that you should be aware of when keeping reptiles in a home with small children…I had them at your son’s age, as does my nephew now, but precautions are necessary. please see this article and the link therein (to the CDC website) and contact your doctor if you have any concerns. please let me know if you need further info, enjoy, Frank

  77. avatar

    Turtles in general do not like to be handled. This is an easy fix-Just refrain from picking it up. This is your opportunity to teach your son that all animals have “limits”, and that they have no personal interest in being “nice” to us. They are their own creatures that have evolved for millions of years before we ever descended from the trees. I have a lot of turtles and other reptiles. Most of them do not appreciate handling. In fact, IMO, none of them probably do. Some just are more tolerant than others. And I do not see any point in having any animals if my objective is to thwart their natural behavior and defenses. I like reptiles. Its the only type of animal I keep.Owners of high-maintenance endotherms like dogs and cats, often ask me why I would love animals that don’t love me back. My response is to ask them why they would want pets that only “love” them because they were specifically BRED to behave like that, rather than of their own “free will”. I am very good at having normal social and physical relationships with my social equals from the Hominid species. I do not require that from animals, nor do I consider it very desirable. My feelings about reptiles and wild animals in general, can be summed up in two sentences: It’s not about how they feel about me, or react to me. It’s about how I feel about them. I have several captive-bred Greek and Hermanns Tortoises. They have come to recognize me as Food God. They free range the back yard during summer and have a bountiful pasture and vegetable garden to graze, but they still follow me around the yard soliciting treats. They have a lot of personality in a small package. They don’t try to bite, but I rarely try to pick them up. This might be a better choice for you. My musk turtle, after over 50 years, does recognize me as food god as well, and swims/walks over to me from inside his tank, but he still tries to bite when I remove him from the tank to clean it.

    • avatar


      Thanks for your thoughts. Since reptiles became nearly mainstream pets, I’ve noticed a trend towards treating them as one might a dog…well-meaning but misguided, as this exposes both pet owner and pet to danger, and interferes with proper care; happens even among zookeepers these days. I think Bill Haast summed it up nicely “You can have a snake for 30 years, but leave the door open once ans iit’s gone…and it’s not coming back unless you have a mouse in your mouth”!”

      As you say, once folks learn to appreciate their animals true natures, and understand their needs, all have a much better experience.

      Best, Frank

  78. avatar

    Thanks guys! You’ve been very helpful. I probably should have come on here before I got him. Now I’ve spent a lot of money on a turtle I was told was friendly and would be perfect for my son. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea:(

    • avatar

      Hi Heather,

      Thanks…it’s a great choice as a pet; it will eat in front of your son, etc..entertaining to watch and feed; main thing is to be aware of the health concerns. From pers exper I can say that introducing children at his age is a wonderful thing, much different than a dog or cat..they learn to observe, appreciate small things, see animals as other than little people in fur coats, etc.

      Let me know if you need anything…since advice you’ve rec’d may bot be reliable, feel free to send info on diet, set-up, filter etc. if you need me to check, best, Frank

  79. avatar

    Hello Frank,

    First allow me to begin by singing your praises for creating such a site as this. The web is full of opinions and amateur pet keepers who mean well, but whom confuse matters when there are so many different opinions for a gal like me to follow, so it is a relief to research you and find you really do know your stuff and are so willing to share. My question to you is also sent to your other box in FB, and says that I have rescued either an Emperor or an Asian Scorpion, have housed it in a 20 gal, seems maybe to be 7-9 months old, but I’m not sure if it’s an Emp or an Asian and I’d like to get it a friend, knowing thanks to you that they are social creatures. Is it possible, Frank, to house an Emp and an Asian together, as knowing not which I have now, if I order one it may or may not be the same breed. Thanks luv,

    Kelly and Klaus (my scorpion and name of the lead singer to one of my fav bands, the Scorpions 🙂

    • avatar

      Hi Kelly,

      Thanks for the kind words, much appreciated. They are somewhat social in the wild, but introducing 2, even of the same species, can be difficult in captivity; best to buy as a pair or group. Two of different species would fight and kill/eat one another. They do not in any way need company (barely even for breeding..as females can store sperm for months to years!) so no need to worry about that. best, Frank

  80. avatar

    Wow, thank you so very much for such a quick reply and such accurate, and well heeded on my part, advice. I’ve ordered some wax worms to try to tempt my little friend into eating. I think I understand that some can go for months on a fast, much like my G. Rosea tarantula (drives me insane in that I am Scottish and feeding things is a happy hobby of mine 🙂 and am not sure if this is the case, if it’s getting ready to molt, or if it has been too stressed by the pet shop conditions (HAD IT UNDER A 100 UV BULB WITH A DIRTY SPONGE FOR DRINKING, NO WATER TO SPEAK OF, AND SUBSTRATE THAT WAS CEDAR CHIPS ABOUT 1/4 INCH DEEP AND ABOUT 9 MANIC DEPRESSIVE CRICKETS RUNNING TO AND FRO AMONG THE LITTLE HIDE THAT WAS IN THERE 🙁 )

    • avatar

      Hi Kelly,

      Yes, Scottish mindset might not work with a scorpion! They are very aware of surroundings, take time to settle in; too many insects running around will stress them, as you surmised; here’s an article on general care; others linked under further reading; pl keep me posted, enjoy, Frank

  81. avatar

    Thank you so much for your reply. I will let you know how my little buddy fares. Thank you again for the work that you do to keep these fascinating creatures a part of our empirical paradigm 🙂


  82. avatar

    Hi. Thanks for your advice on musk turtle housing. My female common musk laid about six eggs a week ago after retaining the eggs for a long period of time because I did not provide her with a nesting site in the beginning. I do not have a male common musk turtle and I read that the eggs will be infertile without a male. I have not had her very long and not sure if she had been previously been with a male. I have been using a homemade incubator that I set up to incubate the eggs hoping they will hatch. I basically just put the eggs in a small plastic container

    filled with slightly damp vermcilite plant soil and covered the containerand placed in a tank filled with about four inches of water and used submersible heater in the water. I got the idea from a Youtube vodeo. I just wanted to know if it is possible that the eggs could be fertile and hatch under these conditions. Also the eggs feel solid and have white spots in the middle of them.
    of them.

    • avatar

      Hello Shaun,

      Good to hear about this.

      Most turtles can store sperm, sometimes for years, so it’s always a good idea to incubate. The set-up you describe sound fine, let me know the temperature when you have time. Keep eggs only half-buried, open lid once daily to allow air exchange; don’t worry about feeling eggs, white spots etc..handling leaves oils which can clog pores, and nothing to be done if they are infertile anyway. I hope they hatch, the youngsters are about hte most amusing little turtles one can imagine! best, Frank

  83. avatar

    Hi. I have placed a thermometer in the incubator tank and it reads about 90 degrees but the water temperature does not feel that warm to me. I have also placed thermometer outside the tank with a temperature lobe inside of the tank to measure the ambient temperature of the tank. The thermometer has been reading around 88 degrees. It is quite warm inside of the tank because I have covered the top with a towel to keep the humidity in. I have also placed a thermometer in the plastic contai hiner with the eggs and soil and it
    reads around 79 degrees.

    I have another question. The container that I have used is small. It is about five inches long and currently holds seven eggs. Ihqave cut hold in the top of the lid but I was worried that if the eggs hatch the hatchling turtles would not have any room to move around or have enough air to breath. I wanted to know if I should use a larger container so that the hatchlings will have enough room. Thanks

    • avatar


      The eggs should hatch at 79 F, but 82 or so would be a bit better.

      The hatchlings are tiny, and do not move for a day or so while they absorb the remainder of the yolk, but a slightly larger container would be good. Do not turn the eggs if you move them, and handle while wearing un-powdered latex gloves, or transfer substrate and eggs as one unit.

      They need very little oxygen…in a sealed container a daily check is enough to assure their air supply,

      Enjoy, Frank

  84. avatar

    Hi Frank.
    The web site is great, very informative. I have two common musk turtles, they are approx 2 years old now. Lately we have noticed that the shell is starting to peel. We had a ramp in the tank and they didn’t seem to like it so we now have driftwood in the tank, but the will climb over to on move them around the tank or under it rather than then bask it. I have both a heat lamp and a UV lamp on in the tank.
    Can you tell me is the shell peeling due to them not basking?
    I was told to feed them everyday when we got them, but since they are older is this still correct to do?
    I appreciate your feed back. Thank you

    • avatar

      Hi Sharon,

      Thanks for the kind words, much appreciated.

      They rarely bask, altho wild ones will on occasion, perhaps to discourage leeches. Peeling scutes is normal..similar to other reptiles shedding, but it follows no pattern, and may occur in some turtles, not in others. Reddened areas, or many scutes peeling all over the carapace and not being replaced, indicates a bacterial infection, commonly known as “SCUD”. It’s rare in common musks.

      No need to feed daily, always good to have a few fast-days. But room for experimentation, as you can vary meal size, type etc. They get obese easily…you’ll see lots of flesh hanging over the small plastron if this happens. They will always appear hungry…primed to eat as much as they can, as often as they can , so don’t let them guilt you into overfeeding! Enjoy, pl keep me posted, Frank

  85. avatar

    Hi Frank,
    Thank you so much for your prompt reply. I am relieved that the peeling is normal, as there is no reddened areas, and they are very active especially the bigger of the two. I will watch their diet too.
    Kind Regards

  86. avatar

    Hi. I currently own a adult female common musk and two spotted turtle hatchlings. I had a question related to housing them. I am currently housing the musk in a 38 gallon tank. I am currently housing
    the hatchling spotted turtles in 54 liter Rubber cement mixing tub that I bought at Home Depot. I also have another 38 gallon tank that I was planning on moving the spotted turtles to when they get older. I was thinking that it will be abnle to house the two a year or two until they grow larger. Also do you think that these setups will be large enough to house the three or should I use a larger aquarium such as a 55 gallon tank. Thanks.

    • avatar

      Hi Shaun,

      A 38 will be fine for 2 adult spotteds; however, if they turn out to be a pair, you may need to split, as some males ciontinually harass females. Housing with musk may work, but again a male of either species may attempt to mate with anything of the right size or shape, same species (or sometimes sex) or not; captives sometimes do so regardless of season, injuring females by biting, stressing etc.

      best,. Frank

  87. avatar

    Hello Frank,

    I wrote you a while back regarding my Musk Turtle found floating in our pool, she was a tiny little thing and when I scooped her up out of the pool, she clutched to my fingers with her tiny claws, so thankful to be out of the water. Poor baby!! I had her for a while in a bowl, before someone was finally able to put a type on her (I do not even know if it is a “her” or a “he”, as I do not really know for sure what to look for, other than you can’t really tell for a while, she’s at least a year old now I believe, as she was maybe an 1.5 when I found her. Kinda has a rounded rear-end, but her tail seems normal in size, to me? Anyway, once I knew what type of turtle she was, I got her into a 20 gal aquarium. She is just a joy to watch, she recognizes me, and does the turtle dance – she knows when it’s time to eat! I read how I should offer her fresh fish, so I went out and bought her a baby guppy two days ago, as I figured smaller was better, 1st time eating a fish? Well I put it in her tank, two days later, this fish is still in there with her, no evidence of even attempting to eat it? To the effect that now I am feeling sorry for the fish, and wondering should I feed it…lol, the fish that is??!! When I put it in, Tilly, never spotted it, as it was so small, and I think she thought, hey I am the only one roaming this tank, so had no idea the fish was there. But last night I know she spotted it, the fish is quite fast and was staying out of the spotlight for the past couple of days, now it feels comfortable with Tilly, so wondering, will she finally eat it? Perhaps this is her tactic to lure the fish into thinking it’s safe, then kapow – ya know? LOL!! Anyway, thought I’d share this story, as silly as it might sound to some, I have a soft heart for all animals, but reading how important it was for the turtle, I went out on a limb to bring her some goodies, and she hasn’t even taken a bite yet….maybe she isn’t partial to guppies??

    Well have a great day Frank!!

    • avatar

      Hi Lisa,

      Thanks for the update, and congrats on a fine job!

      Males have a noticably concave plastron, to assist in mounting females, but this will only be evident on adults.

      Whole fish should be a regular part of the diet, offered weekly; best source of calcium and micro-nutrients. You can use larger fish ..minnows, if available, as the turtle will use claws/jaws to break up. Goldfish best avoided, or use sparingly.

      They are not good at catching fish. You can humanely euthanize by refrigerating for awhile until fish becomes inactive, then briefly freezing. Fish goes into a hibernation-like state in frig; expires as temperature drops; no pain, etc.

      Please let me know if you need anything, enjoy, Frank

  88. avatar

    Hi. My two hatchling spotted turtles are both female as well as the adult female common musk turtle. I was planning on housing the two spotteds in a one of my 38 gallon tanks and the common musk turtle in my other 38 gallon tank. You previously stayed that the two spotted turtles could be housed in a 38 gallon tank but according to the gallon per inch rule for turtles I should probably only house one since most spotted turtles grow between 4 to 5 inches as adults. I just wanted to know if you follow the gallon per inch guideline for your tiurtles and if you think that I will neee another or larger tank for both spotters. Thanks.

    • avatar

      Hi Shaun,

      Always a good idea to provide as much space as possible, but a 38 will be fine; I’m not aware of any rule…too many variables between species etc for any general rules.

      Hatchlings cannot be sexed accurately, but you’ll have plenty of time before they become sexually mature and any potential problems develop.

      Enjoy, best, Frank

  89. avatar

    Hi. The reason that I thought the spotted hatchlings are both female because the person that I purchased them from stated that he incubated his eggs at higher temperatures to be female.

    If they are incubated at higher temperature is their a chance that they could be male?

    • avatar

      Hi Shaun,

      Good…you’ll have a much better chance of getting females in that way. There is some room for error, temps where both sexes can be produced, but odds are in your favor if it was done correctly. Best, Frank

  90. avatar

    Hi. My female leopard gecko has been laying eggs and I watched her lay one tonight. They come out very soft the opposite of when my turtle laid her eggs. The turtle eggs are very hard. I just wanted to know if you tell me the reason for this.

    • avatar


      Leopard geckos and related species produce eggs that are somewhat pliable at first, but they harden up quickly (although not as seemingly “brittle” as are many turtle eggs); there’s lots of variability among reptiles..for example, sea turtle eggs, which may drop 2 feet into the nest hole on top of others, are also soft and pliable at first. Good luck with them, Frank

  91. avatar

    Hi. My female common musk turtle has laid about seven eggs. She struggled at the beginning to lay eggs because she did not have a nesting area. I soon found that her plastron had turned pinkish and started bleeding. I then filled a ten gallon container wih sphagnum peat moss soil. I pit her in the box and she burrowed under the dirt and later I found three or four eggs. I continue to pit her in the box for long periods of time but she will no longer lay any more eggs and her plastron still has a pinkish color to it and I suspect that she has more eggs to lay and is still retaining them. Do you know why she is not laying her eggs and have any ideas to help her lay her remaining eggs.
    Should I keep her in the container filled with sphagnum moss until she lays them?

    I have a second question regarding the musk turtle and water depth. Right now I have the musk turtle in very shallow water because she seems to prefer it. I have read that musk turtles can swim in as many as twelve inches of water. The musk turtles that I have had have not felt comfortable in deeper water. They seem to prefer very shallow water and like to walk and forage for food on the grounds surface. You stated that you owned a common musk turtle for a long time. I just wanted to know what was the water depth that you used. I currently have mines in only three and a half inches of water and she seems to be fine with it. I also have a floating logwoth holes that she sleeps in and isused for basking.

    • avatar

      Hi Shaun,

      7 is an average-to-large clutch, but they can have as many as 9-10. No accurate way to tell if she’s retaining, other than via radiograph by a vet, which is quick and accurate. Best to leave in the nest box for now. Bleeding, redness should be addressed by a vet, however, in case an infection sets in (not sure where the bleeding originated?).

      They forage in shallow water most of the time, walking rather than swimming much. Deep water is fine if there are structures they can use to get to the surface…driftwood, etc..constant swimming is not good for them. I generally keep them in 4-6 inches of water, but lower or deeper works as well.

      Please keep me posted and let me know if you need anything, Frank

  92. avatar

    Hi. I have some more questions regarding my common musk turtle. I just wantted to know how long do you recommend she stay in the nesting box to lay her eggs. How many hours a day do you recommend. Also she has been strictly eating wardley shrimp pellets for bottom feeding fish. She won’ t touch the reptomin or Mazuri pellets that I feed my other turtles. The back of the fish food says that it has 30 percent protein.Every once in awhile she will eat a night crawler but does not particularly like them. I have had a few older turtles who do not like worms. I also had a female older Central American Wood turtle who would not eat worms at all. I found that to be odd since most turtles love worms. Do you have any ideas why these two turtles don’ t enjoy worms. Also do you think that the shrimp pellets and worms are an adequate diet for her? Also the musk turtle seems to be nocturnal. I have never had a turtle that was nocturnal. She is not very active during the day. I have found her to be active sometimes at night. I have read that common musk turtles are nocturnal. Do you know if all mud and musk turtles are nocturnal?

    I also have another questions regarding my female leopard Gecko. I have just created a place for her to lay her eggs She usually just lays them on the floor of the tank or in one of her hides. I used a container and cut a entry hole in the front for her to climb inside. I used sphagnum peat moss as the substrate. So far she does not seem interested in going into the box. I am worried that I am that the sphagnum peat moss is the wrong substrate to use diue to Leopard Geckos being desert animals.Do you think that this substrate is good for Leopard Gecko egg laying or should I try something different. I saw someone of YouTube who used coconut fiber as substrate and I thought that the sphagnum peat moss was similar.

    • avatar

      Hi Shaun,

      great points, thanks for raising.

      No set guidelines for the nest site, but the eggs should all be laid within several days of the first. leave her in for 4-6 hrs if this is not stressful; She may be finished…generally will start feeding, not act restless if there are no more eggs..but see a vet if you are unsure.

      Some populations (wild) are very active at night, others by day…it may have to do with the season, food source, etc. they seem able to forage at all times. Mine are diurnal. Other species vary greatly..here’s an article on some others.

      Sphagnum has been used successfully, but coconut husk resembles earth/sand more in composition, so may as you suggest be more attractive to some individuals.

      Best regards. Frank

  93. avatar

    Hi. When I look at buying a new pet I always prefer pets with long lifespans. I usually stay away from animals such as hamsters and mice because they only have average lifespans of about two years. I like to feel that I can grow old with an animal and have it along time.
    This is the reason that I am attracted to turtles and tortoises. Also for a small animal Leopard Geckos have a long lifespan. I have read that they can live as long as 20 years.

    I am very fascinated with Chameleons but they have a shorter lifespan to my likings. I have read that they only have an average lifespan of five years. I just wanted to know if you have an idea of why two similar sized reptiles such as Chameleons and Leopard Geckos have such a big gap in their average longevity and lifespan. Thanks.

    • avatar

      Hi Shaun,

      Different species evolve varying lifespans in response to pressures from the environment, competitors, predators etc. You’ll see trends, such as most turtles being long-lived, but size in general is not usually a controlling factor…I have a 5 inch long Red Salamander that is in it’s mid-30’s, whereas other species of similar size might live only 5 years or so. Some mature early, breed often and have large litters, others take different breeding strategies, even in the same group. Also, we have very few detailed studies of free living reptiles, as regards their longevity..most is based on captive animals. Chameleons tend to be very difficult captives…they may live longer in the wild, and there may be some long-lived, unstudied species. Conversely, leopard geckos likely rarely live as long in the wild as they do in captivity. Best, Frank

  94. avatar

    Hi. I have mentioned to you I that I have two spotted hatchlings and adult common musk turtle. I was thinking about getting a 55 gallon tank for all three. Do you think that this will work out or would the two 38 gallons tanks that I have them in work better.

  95. avatar

    Hi. I have been noticing lately tiny thin worms swimming around my tank. I have done some research on them and many websites have said that they feed on leftover food. My tank is not perfectly clean and had a lot of leftover food and waste on the bottom of it. I am using a30 gallon long tank with a zoo med canister filter rated for up to 30 tanks. The water seems to look clear but their is a lot of debris on the floors of the tank. I was thinking to solve this problem by feeding the turtle in a separate container. I just wanted to know if you know anything about these worms and if they are harmless or not. Thanks

    • avatar

      I always feed outside the tank when possible..even in large well-filtered zoo exhibits, this is the best way to go (I use bare bottomed tanks when possible also). Please see here.

      They are usually a species of harmless nematode…no way to be sure w/o an expert’s ID, but generally not a problem.

      Best, frank

  96. avatar

    Hello Frank. Really like you site. Very informative. I would like to relay my situation by you to see what you think. I have a little female muskie that I’ve been keeping in a small pond outside. She started to lay eggs in the water so I later made a place for her with sand and water and she just insisted on staying in the sand. She also was digging as to lay more eggs, but nothing was happening. I finally took her to the vet, but he said he did not detect any eggs. So he gave her a shot of calcium and I warn water soaked her for two days. At the end of two days, there was quite a bit of what looked like the inside of an egg. Yolk color.
    She has still been eating and she is still pretty frisky. However, she doesn’t seem to want the sand now. I’ve been so concerned that there is still stuff inside that will endanger her. Do you think that she just needed to pass that stuff? The next step is an x-ray, but I don’t have a lot of money to spend. This is the second time I have taken her to the vet in the past month. Don’t want to loose the little critter either. Have not had a chance to read all the questions and answers here, but hope to get to that soon. Lotsa good stuff. Thanks so much.

    • avatar

      Hello Shirley,

      Thanks for the kind words.

      They will sometimes drop eggs in the water even if a site is available…good idea to incubate, as females can likely store sperm, and eggs can take some submersion.

      Yolk-like material is not a good sign, as unshelled or under-developed eggs that remain in the turtle always give rise to egg peritonitis, which is usually fatal. The infection can take time to affect the turtle, so it may act fine for a time. The animal may have passed all and be okay, but a radio-graph etc would be your safest option; mention the material to the vet also, as an antibiotic may be a good idea even absent symptoms. Please keep me posted, good luck, Frank

  97. avatar

    Thank you Frank for answering so quickly. So, ok, I guess I’ll see If I can scrape up the funds to get that x-ray and antibiotic. Will let you know how that all turns out. Shirley

    • avatar

      My pleasure, Shirley. It’s worthwhile, since once the infection gets going it will be difficult to reverse. Once cured you can look forward to many years with her…I have one aged 45, and some I cared for in the zoo (related species) are in their 60’s! Best, Frank

  98. avatar

    Hi. I have been sprayig my turtles eggs several times a day with a spray mister bottle. I just wanted to know if this is okay to do.

    • avatar

      Hi Shaun,

      That’s not ideal…a more effective method is outlined in this article. You can use the 1:1 ratio mentioned, by musk eggs are tough so you can also get by w/o weighing, etc. Add water until the substrate (vermiculite is best) just barely sticks together when squeezed by hand. Then proceed as described. A warm spot in the house…closet in south facing room etc will suffice, usually no need to set up an incubator. Please keep me posted, frank

  99. avatar

    Hi. I am not great with math and do not fully understand your water to vercimulite ratio. I currently have a container filled with about two to three inches of vercimulite. I was wondering if you can give me the answer in terms of spoons or how many spoons of water should I use.

    I thought that misting the substrate would be effective because it only slightly wets the substrate and eggs and does not dampen it. You also mentioned that I do not need to buy a incubator for the eggs and keep them in a warm area of the house. I am currently using a method of incubating the eggs that I saw on YouTube. I have filled aquarium with water and using a submersible water heater. I have placed two bricks in the water and placed the container with the eggs and the substrate on two bricks and drilled holes in the top of the container for ventilation. I have placed a towel over the aquarium to hold in the humidity. The water temperature in the tank is about 88 degrees. Do you think that this method will work. Thanks.

  100. avatar

    Hi. I am curious to how intelligent Leopard Geckos really are. I have been doing some research on reptile and lizard intelligence and learned that Monitors are probably the most intelligent of all lizards. My two leopard geckos seem to be very intelligent and alert. They are great escape artist and know how to climb out of any box and they have a fear of height which I have not seen in any other species of reptiles. They always plan their jumps from a long distance. Turtles for example do not do this. They just go into the edge of something and just fall off. Do you think that this could be related to instinct from the wild or intelligence. Thanks for any ideas.

  101. avatar

    Hi. I have a common musk turtle that might be very old and does not like night crawlers. I have seen this before in older turtles. I also had a female central American wood turtle who would not eat worms at all. I have read that many older turtles become more vegetarians as they get older and become less carnivores. I just wanted to know if this is true of some older turtles. I just rarely see a turtle who does not like worms.

    • avatar

      Hello Shaun,

      Many semi aquatic turtles, i.e. sliders, cooters, map and painted turtles take more and more plant food as they mature; some Asian species…giant river terrapins, painted terrapins – become almost wholly herbivorous. Central Am Woods vary greatly re this; I’ve not seen any general trends (please see this article). Musks, snappers, softshells remain largely carnivorous throughout life, but individual preferences vary. I had common musk that stopped taking nightcrawlers, and others that took certain earthworm species but rejected others. best, Frank

  102. avatar

    Hi. I just cleaned my common musk turtle tank and want it to remain clean. I plan to start feeding the musk turtle in a separate container. I also have a small planty fish in the tank. I have been dropping fish food in the tank everyday. I just wanted to know if I should feed the fish in a separate tank also or should I move to the fish to its own tank. Thanks

    • avatar

      Hi Shaun,

      No need to worry about the fish…it’s the volume of food and broken leftover bits that make turtles tough on filters…many defecate soon after feeding, so try leaving it in the feeding container for 20 min or so once the meal is finished. Best, Frank

  103. avatar

    Hi. Should I continue to feed the fish in the tank? Thanks

  104. avatar

    Hi. I saw an ad on Craigslist for s forest hingeback tortoise. I am interested but I live in a small apartment and most tortoises require a lot of space. I just wanted to know if you know anything regarding the care of these tortoises. Thanks

    • avatar

      Hello Shaun,

      Interesting animals but they need a good deal of space…I’d say 4′ x 5-6′, high UVB levels, strict attention to diet. Please let me know if you need more info, best, Frank

  105. avatar

    Hi. I marked down on a calendar July the 4th as the first day that I incubated my first turtle egg. When do you think that I should look out for them to hatch? Thanks

    • avatar

      Hi Shaun,

      Incubation period is typically 60-90 days, but hydration, temperature affect this greatly There also seems to be a good deal of individual variation among the females…cases of much longer period, to over 200 days, have been recorded. i hope all goes well, Frank

  106. avatar


    Hi. I have tried to attach a photo of my common musk turtle setup. Please let me know if you can see the photo and if it is a suitable setup for musk turtles.

    • avatar

      Hi Shaun,

      Both look ideal. In cooler weather you might put a small (40 wt or so) incandescent bulb above the log…not all musks will bask, but good to provide the opportunity. Mine have never done so in summer, however. best, Frank

  107. avatar

    Hello again. Just wanted to update you on the little muskie that seemed to be having trouble laying eggs. I took her for the x-ray and there was nothing showing up as far as any egg matter. He said she was clean. Looks like the calcium and warm water soak did the trick. I had him give her the antibiotic though, just to be on the safe side. I did also take the eggs she laid and secured them outside in a place where I felt a musk turtle would be likely to lay them. I’ve had a few box for many years that live out doors year round and have had some hatch-lings from them. ( I separated them though. Don’t want a lot of turtles.)
    I was wondering if there is a way to help prevent this kind of thing from happening again with a musk turtle.

    • avatar

      Hello Shirley,

      Glad to hear all is well.

      No way to prevent them from developing eggs, and no pattern to it..some produce eggs several times each season, others never, others will lay for a year or 2…skip a decade, then begin again – they follow a rhythm that we do not understand! Enjoy, Frank

  108. avatar

    Hi. You started that use a water to soil ratio when keeping turtle eggs.
    I have atta he’d a YouTube video of a egg laying process. Please let me know if this is similar to what you were discussing.


    I do not have a gram scale like discussed in the video.

    • avatar

      Hello Shaun,

      If you do not have a gram scale, the slightly moist mix we discussed will do nicely…they are quite hardy, as long as reasonably moist and warm. best , frank

  109. avatar

    Hi. I have been question that I have always wanted to know. Why do feeder fish sold at pet stores seem to die quicker than fish that are not sold as feeder fish. For example every time I buy a rosy minnow or gold fish that are sold ad feeder fish they die whenever I do water changes or are introduced to new tank water than what they were already in. I accidenly got a baby platmy fish in my tank and when I first put it in the water it did not die like the feeder fish. I just wanted to why feeder fish do not adjust to water temperature changes like non feeder fish. Thanks

    • avatar

      Hi Shaun,

      They are not worth much to the dealers, and so shippers/buyers do not adjust them slowly to new water each time they are switched – from rearing pond, to truck/plane – to store etc. This stresses the immune system, so a further change often kills them. Also, they are raised in crowded conditions, fed poorly, generally kept in unclean holding tanks that are not well-filtered or chilled (both do best in rather cool water). Sellers spend more time and effort on fish that are worth more and will be expected to live. Best, Frank

  110. avatar

    Hi. I have started to notice some mold on one of my turtle eggs. The egg still feels hard. I just wanted to know of this still a fertile egg and has a chance to hatch.

    • avatar

      Hi Shaun,

      Difficult to say, as species of mold involved and other factors come into play. You can brush off with a q tip but avoid handling more than necessary, testing firmness etc as there’s not much you’ll be able to do to change what’s going on. Best, Frank

  111. avatar

    Hi. If the egg is still firm and hard do you think that the egg is still fertile even though it has mold on it?

    • avatar

      Hi Shaun,

      Firmness is not a clear signal either way; no need to check; best to let the eggs incubate to term unless they are decaying, emitting a foul odor, etc. best, Frank

  112. avatar

    Hi. I am still confused to how much water I should use to moisten the eggs. The eggs are in a 7 inch by six inch plastic container with half of it filled with vercimulite. I have been spraying the substrate and sides of the container and don’t know of this is moisture.

    • avatar


      The only accurate way to measure water volume is to weigh and set up as described in the article, If that was not done, you can estimate by squeezing a bit of substrate between your fingers…it should stick together a bit, but not shed water when squeezed. Again, musk eggs are hardy…if they are overly-dry they will begin to become dented of shriveled in appearance. But if you want an accurate measurement of water: substrate ratio, you’ll need to buy a gram scale and set up as described earlier, best, Frank

  113. avatar

    Hi. You mentioned before about taking the top off of the container and letting the eggs get air once a day. I just wanted to know for how long should I do this everyday? I think this might help prevent the eggs from molding.

    • avatar

      Hi ,

      Just a few seconds…the time it takes to look over the eggs; it’s mainly to allow air exchange for developing turtles…more important as hatching time hears…it will not likely affect mold growth, unfortunately.

  114. avatar

    Hi. I just read this site http://www.austinsturtlepage.com/Care/caresheet-stinkpot.htm and added ten inches of water to my adult female stinkpot musk turtles tank. I this a good depth for the turtle or do you think that it is too deep for musk turtles?

    • avatar

      Hello Shaun,

      That is fine, or even deeper water, as long as they have an easy way to the top that lets them walk to the surface, or rest below the surface…..sunken driftwood, rocks , platforms leading to basking sites etc. Constantly swimming from bottom to top is not good. I find it easier to use shallower water, but deeper can work if they are set up properly, best, Frank

  115. avatar

    Hi. How shallow is the water that you use? Do you still own your common musk turtle?

    I was considering using deeper water because I wanted to put aquarium rocks in the tank and find that they often get in the turtles way. I was think that if I used deeper water in the tank that the turtle will be able to swim over the top of them.

    • avatar

      I have a common musk that is 45 years old..several other species I cared for at the Bx Zoo (Stauroptypus, etc) still going strong in their 60’s. I use 4-5 inches of water. Turtle docks and platforms, or cork bark wedged between glass, generally preferable to rocks…allows swimming space below, and not abrasive to the shell…musks have a reduced plastron, and so rocks are best avoided. best, Frank

  116. avatar

    Hi. I am currently using rocks in my spotted turtle enclosure. Do you think that this is okay for them. I am also considering I using large pieces of gravel because I think that it makes the tank look more natural. Do you recommend using gravel as a substrate?

    • avatar

      Hi, I never use gravel other than in zoo exhibits; even there, with great filtration,. it’s almost impossible to maintain decent water quality as gravel traps visible as well as invisible (ammonia) pollutants. Turtles sometimes swallow surprisingly large stones as well, best, frank

  117. avatar

    Hi. I have another question relating to egg incubation. I just wanted to know why it takes so long for the eggs to hatch and what is going on inside the egg during the duration? Thanks

    • avatar


      Not so long…some tortoise eggs can take over a year to hatch during especially dry periods! It’s species-specific, but the female’s health, clutch size, temp and moisture all play a role in modifying. The fertilized embryo grows into a small turtle, so that it hatches ready to survive..with shell, heart, lungs and all intact. Best, Frank

  118. avatar

    Hi. I cut open one of the eggs that I found that was soft and infertile. Some yellow yolk like substance came out. Do you know if the yellow substance is the embryo.

    Also I have read that it takes between 65 to 86 days for common musk turtle eggs to hatch. I have calculated that my turtles egggs will hatch sometime between Sept 7 and to the beginning of October. At this stage do you think that the embryo in the eggs have grown into a turtle yet. Thanks

    • avatar


      As mentioned, best to leave the eggs…no way to judge fertility by cutting into them,. unless development is obvious. Other than via ultra-sound or radiograph, there’s not an accurate means of determining how far along development is. Better to leave them as is, nothing you can do in any event if they are infertile, best, Frank

  119. avatar

    Hi.Today I decided to wet the vermiculite substrate that my turtle eggs are in with water and drain the vermiculite with a strainer. Do you think that this is a good idea to help keep the substrate moist?

    • avatar

      Hi Shaun,

      You shouldn’t really be manipulating very much, moving eggs etc…once substrate is damp in the manner mentioned earlier, it should need little attention if in a moist incubator. The only precise method is via weighing all…otherwise, keep slightly damp and disturb as little as possible. best, Frank

  120. avatar

    Hi. I am concerned with my female common musk turtle. She is not very active and just lays in the floating log that I have in her tank. When I first adopted her she did not have a place to lay her eggs and I found her plastron bleeding. After laying about seven eggs she still has a reddish line straight down her plastron. I am concerned that she migjtmnhave more eggs to lay and put her in a container filled with spoil so That she can lay them. Currently she is not laying any more eggs. My main concern is the reddish tint on her plastron. Another concern I have is that often find some worm like objects in the floor of the tank and worried that they might be parasites.

    • avatar

      Hi Shaun,

      7 is a large clutch but still worth having her checked…reddened areas and listlessness is typical of an infection, especially as it occurred after egg-laying. This will not improve w/o vet care, and is generally fatal if untreated. Pl let me know if you need help in locating a reptile vet, best, Frank

  121. avatar

    Hi. I once took two turtles to a vet but the vet was for birds and small animals. They were not specifically a reptile vet. The turtle actually laid eight eggs but one was soft and infertile. I would love for you to locate a vet. I live in the Washington, DC area and do not know many reptile
    Vets where I live.

    Every once in a while I see these dead looking worm like structures in the bottom of the tank. It looks like dead night crawlers that can from the turtles stool or thay she threw up. They are pink in color. I am also concerned that she was caught in the wild by the previous owner. I have read that the old turtles have many parasites and do not do well in captivity.

  122. avatar

    Hi. I have read from a musk turtle sight that musk turtles need caves and other underwater enclosures to feel comfortable. I saw some examples of pvcp pipes used for underground enclosures and decided to try one out. I know that you mentioned that rocks were not good for musk turtles. I just wanted to know if PVCP pipes work for common musk turtles.

    Also I have tried feeding my musk turtle in a separate container to keep the tank cleaner. I filled the container with about one inch of water but cannot get her to eat in the separate container. I just wantedto know jhow large is the container that you feed your musk turtle in aandhow much wlater do you us?

    • avatar


      PVC is fine, but I use half pieces rather than a pipe…too easy for the animal to get stuck inside if an intact pipe is used.

      3-4 inches of waterusually works well…they take time to adjust; you might try floating some plants on surface for cover. keep the animal hungry for awhile and it will feed there in time, best, Frank

  123. avatar


    Hi. I have tried to attach a photo showing the decor in my musk turtles tank. I have a largee pieceof drift wood in tthe tank but do not know where to place due to the other decor in the tank. I just wanted to know if you have any ideas to where I shouldplace tthe drioft wood in the tank or should I remobe it somthay the tank will notbecome too crowded.

    • avatar

      Hi Shaun,

      I’m not able to see the photo…site may be blocking it; turtle should have some clear space to move about on the bottom a\s well as a place to rest, Best, Frank

  124. avatar

    Hi. I just have a question relating to how many times a week should I feed my musk turtle and how much?

    • avatar

      Hi Shaun,

      many variables..age, temp, food type, but they adapt to a wide range of feeding schedules. Every-other-day is typical..use an amount of food about equal in size to the head. Or you can feed more often, smaller meals..but good to have a fast day or 2 each week. They always act hungry, and easily become obese in captivity. best, Frank

  125. avatar

    Hi. I am using Turtle Clean 501 External Canister Filter for up to 30 gallons. I just wanted to know if this sufficient filtration for one common musk turtle and a 30 gallon long tank with four inchesof wwater. The filters GPH is 79. If not I can also use it along with a Tetra filter Whisper filter that has 125 GPH.

  126. avatar

    Hi. While opening the container that I is holding my turtle eggs I discovered some yellow yolk coming from one of the eggs. Do you know if this is a sign that it is about to hatch or does it mean that the egg is infertile?

  127. avatar

    Hi. You were exactly right about the egg being infertile due to the yolk ozzing out. I went to touch the egg today and it just cracked open with yolk. Does this mean that the rest of the eggs are bad as well?

    • avatar

      Hi Shaun,

      The cracking is from the pressure of gasses released by bacteria during decomposition…egg may or may not have been infertile, but this does not mean that others are bad as well. Best, Frank

  128. avatar

    Hi. I just wanted to know if you can send me pics of your common musk turtle enclosure so that I can get some more ideas. Thanks

    • avatar

      Hello Shaun,

      I’ll be away from the tanks for awhile, but my basic set-ups for common and most other musk turtles are extremely simple…a 30 gallon aquarium, 4-6 inches water, bare bottom, Ovation 700 filter or similar, turtle dock or platform, submersible heater and incan bulb during winter, broken clay flowerpot or similar as a shelter; I add driftwood etc for small individuals, or if deeper water is used. Pl let me know if you need more info, best, Frank

  129. avatar

    Hi. Do you use fake or live plants in your musk turtle tanks?

    • avatar


      I do not use plants except sometimes for hatchlings, or in zoo exhibits ;; hard to keep live plants with most turtles, as they often tear-up or displace them, sample when hungry etc. Best, Frank

  130. avatar

    Hi. Yesterday I bought some take fern plants. Is that okay to use?

    • avatar

      Hi Shawn,

      Ferns are terrestrial, although some can live in damp soil; they would not survive immersion in water, however, and the turtle will trash them. Some folks suspend small hanging baskets etc from the tank rim, and place potted plants in these for effect. Peace lilies can survive with the roots submerged, but you’ll need to pot them, and replace soil with gravel..they will not grow much, but will survive, best, Frank

  131. avatar

    Hi. I decided to hand the ferns from the top of my tank using siuction cups. Do you that this looks okay?
    I have tried to attach pics of it. Please let me know if you can see it. Thanks.

    • avatar

      Looks good Shaun; I wouldn’t use the curved PVC, however…too easy for animal to wedge itself inside. A larger piece cut lengthwise, or a broken clay flowerpot w/o sharp edges, would be preferable. Best, Frank

  132. avatar

    Hi. I thought thayt the curved pvc pipe was a good idea a dark hideout.
    I have attached another pic of a PvP pipe. Do you think that this is closer to what you find suitable? Or do you think that the log in the pic is enough of a hideout and I do not really need the PVP pipe. I also removed the plants as they seem to make the tank look more crowded.

  133. avatar

    Hi. Do you think that I should keep the suspended ferns in the tank?

  134. avatar

    Hi. I am currently running a Zoo Med 501 Turtle Clean Canister filter for up to 30 gallon tanks. I have been running the filter for about two months. I just wanted to know when I should replace the carbon media bag or is it okay just to rinse it off. Thanks

    • avatar

      Hi Shaun,

      I generally replace media each month, but this varies with size of turtle, whether fed in tank or out, etc. In crowded tanks or those where turtles are fed in tank, filter made need a rinse after 2 weeks, then a change. Be sure to use temperate water when rinsing the biological filtration medium, so that you do not kill off the beneficial bacteria. best,. Frank

  135. avatar

    Hi. I was wondering if their is a way that I can make my own filter media bags. I have heard of people doing this on YouTube. I think that it is expensive to have to keep replacing the filter bags once a month and thought that making my own would be cheaper. The bags cost seven dollars at the pet store.

  136. avatar

    Hi. I just wanted to know how long you have owned your common musk turtle and if it is female. I also wanted to know if your common musk turtle has ever laid any eggs. Thanks.

  137. avatar

    Hi. Is the common musk turtle the same hatchling turtle that you stated in a blog that you saw as a young boy in the pet store.

    • avatar

      Hi Shaun,

      Yes…A female I still have today came to me as part of my “salary” as a kid,…I was paid mainly in surplus animals and food, …learned quite a bit though! best, frank

  138. avatar

    Hello Frank. hope all is well with you.
    I had a couple of questions I would like to run by you. First. A woman I know who lives next to a small body of water, told me that when bubbles come to the surface of the water, that this is turtles that are making them. Is this true?
    Also, I have been keeping my muskie outside in a small pond (125 gals.) during the day for the summer. Temp ranges from 70 -80 from morning to night. I bring her in at night though. I need to set up an over winter place for her and I just want to make sure it’s the right setting. I thought I would use a dark color plastic container that is 23 x 17 inches and keep the water low. Some fake greens to hide in and something to climb on to if needed. (never see her out of the water though.) I have not used anything for the pond to keep it clean since I feed her in a 30 inch pool which I clean every feeding and I have 3 different pond plants to help with the water condition In her pond. Do I need a filter etc. for the indoor housing? Could you tell me exactly everything I should have for her. I do recall a few things you mentioned in previous posts. Sounds like low water and possibly no heater?
    Also, Been giving her an aquatic turtle food that is frozen fish, veggies, worms, krill and assorted vitamins. Is this sufficient for her along with the Reptomin and freeze dried shrimp I give her? The fish is pollock.
    Thanks so much for being there for us. It’s a real blessing to have someone who is so willing to help us take better care of our little creatures that we love and enjoy. Shirley

    • avatar

      Thanks for the kind words, Shirly, much appreciated. Sounds like a great summer situation for the turtle. Indoor housing as you describe is fine. If the tconatanier can easily be dumped/cleaned then no need for a filter. Room temps suffice, but I always add a water heater to keep at 73-74, as they are a bit more susceptible to bacterial infections etc at lower temps. But I have kept some at 68-72 w/o incidence. Diet sounds fine..the turtle will also be eating many drowned insects when outdoors. I would add small whole minnows or similar once each week or 2..best source of CA and micro-nutrients. Please keep me posted, enjoy, Frank

  139. avatar

    PS. Do you have any feedback as far as the bubbles in the stream? I have seen these bubbles in the water, but I don’t see turtles for as many bubbles that come up. Would you know what they are? Also, since putting her in a separate bin to feed, how often should I change the water in her tank? And, is it necessary to put oxygen into the water at all? Thanks.

    • avatar

      Sorry, Shirley, forgot to add…

      Bubbles can be from any number of sources..turtles and other creatures may release but there is also a good deal of gas, byproduct of bacterial decomposition, below the mud of all lakes, swamps etc…animals moving over mud will disturb and release, can also occur naturally as gas works it’s way up through the substrate. Let me know what you see, Best, Frank

  140. avatar

    It’s so odd because, I have been by the stream in the spring and in the summer and fall, and I never see the bubbles until the end of the summer. That’s what makes me wonder about them being turtles. There are quite a bit of them at times.

    • avatar

      Hi Shirly,

      There is a concept in FW ecology known as “turnover”…in spring and fall, chemical and temp changes cause water from bottom to rise, etc..I don’t recall if this affects gas etc, but likely does. In small streams even highly aquatic turtles would likely be visible at some point, if you are there often enough, but it’s a possibility…can be due to burrowing invertebrates also…insect larvae, aquatic worms, best, Frank

  141. avatar

    Hi Frank. Meant to mention something else. Hope that’s ok on this site since it is a boxy question.
    I have had a box turtle from hatch ling for about 15 years now. I just noticed that underneath is slightly pink, and there is a reddish area on his skin on either side of his tail. What might this be? Is it time for the vet? Shirley

    • avatar

      Hello Shirly,

      Best to check, as reddened skin can indicate an infection…certain ones do not impair overall health for some time, then cause a rapid decline as they strengthen, hope all goes well, Frank

  142. avatar

    Yes, I decided to make an appointment. It’s for Monday morn.
    That’s interesting. so then not actually from the turtles.
    Thanks for the info. Will let you know how my box does. shirley

  143. avatar

    Hi Frank. Hope all is well. My apologies for taking so long to inform on how things turned out with the boxie. The vet looked at him and said he didn’t see anything that would indicate there is infection. He felt that the pink on the bottom was nothing unusual. I don’t know. Are there other reasons for this on a box turtle?

    • avatar

      Hi Shirly,

      Always best to play it safe if pink/red color is involved…there can be color changes over time; I’ve not seen what you describe, but if the turtle is otherwise healthy just keep an eye on it. If the area spreads gradually out from original site, I’d suggest a second opinion. best, Frank

  144. avatar

    The entire bottom is slightly pink tint. Some pink in skin also. I never saw it in just one spot. He seemed to think it might be from something the turtle was eating or whatever. I after felt like he was looking for an infection as in a cut or abrasion. The turtle seems pretty strong but it’s hard to say as far as eating goes since the weather has changed. Shirley

    • avatar

      Hi Shirley,

      Hard to say, but does not sound like an infection or related..what temps do you use in winter?…you may be able to keep turtle more active, and immune system functioning at higher level, with a temperature change. Best, Frank

  145. avatar

    Thank you Frank.
    I have another little situation with my little muskie. I have been using a small toddler? wading pool to feed the turtle over the summer. I would take her out of the pond and put her in the little pool with food and leave her for 2 or three hours. It never seems to fail. No matter how long she is in the feeding pool, she seems to wait till I put her in her housing to eliminate. (little stink-pot) I was really hoping not to have to clean the (aquarium) out so much. Am I doing something wrong? Any suggestions? Ty, Shirley

    • avatar

      My pleasure, Shirley,

      They often eliminate within 30-60 min (this would be the remains of earlier meals) but there are no set rules..many variables and individual differences. Feeding outside the aquarium will still ease cleaning, eliminating food residue. A brine shrimp net swished across the aquarium’s bottom (best to use no substrate) will also be useful.

  146. avatar

    Hello Frank
    I have two musk turtles two months old one of them has both eyes swollen and he is listless.I have bought zoo med repti turtle eye drops .Is there anything else I can do?

    • avatar

      Hello Srish,

      The drops are only to relieve irritation etc….the animal should be checked by a vet to determine if an infection is present and an antibiotic is needed. Please let me know if you need help in locating an experienced vet, best, Frank

  147. avatar

    Hello Frank.
    I’ve been wondering about a few things concerning the water/ musk turtle.
    I see that the box turtles are out and about when I go out in the morning, even though
    it has been in the 50s and 60s during the night for some time now. Days are 60s and 70s.
    Obviously they aren’t ready to hibernate just yet. But I was wondering what the conditions
    need to be in order for a water turtle to hibernate. How do THEY know when it’s time?
    Does the water get to a certain temp before they do. And what if it were to get cold in
    the early fall and then warm up to say in the 70s and 80s during the day for weeks. Would they
    surface again? Just wondering what the conditions would be for them to burrow and what
    brings them back out in the spring? Thanks.

    • avatar

      Hi Shirley,

      Great questions…hibernation is turning out to be much more complex than we believed it to be. Temperature is a factor…below certain temps all become inactive, but this varies by species (snappers move under ice, on occasion, musk turtles are active at low temps also, etc). Circadian rhythms control activity as well, and this can confuse matters…i.e. wild caught adult box turtles may not feed in winter even if kept warm, but young born in captivity do not slow down; gharials I cared for refused food for 3 months at Bx Zoo even though kept very warm,….refusal coincided with winter in their home range. CB young feed year round.

      Captivity or other un-natural conditions affects these rhythms…for years I cared for an utdoor pond exhibit which was fed by city water supply…water stayed at 48 F…painted turtles hibenated all winter…sliders came ut to bask on sunny days even in mid-winter..water temps did not change, sio they must have been responding to sunlight filtering through water.

      In wild, animals can be caught off guard by unusual weather and wind up freezing etc..not common, as the body rhythms seem to act a s a control, over-riding the effects of unseasonable weather, but it does happen.

      Sorry I cannot give you definite answers….we have a lot to learn! best, frank

  148. avatar

    Hi Frank.

    I have read that the box turtles have a certain range that they stay within and that is
    why it is not good to relocate them. Do the musk/water turtles have the same habit?
    And I was also wondering about feeding the muskie guppies and minnows. Are these
    the fish they eat in the wild? I was just asking because I was wondering what the equivalent
    of these would be to give to the turtle. My muskie ( Uggy ) just watches them swim around.
    Ty. Shirley

    • avatar

      Hi Shirly,

      Musk turtles tend to stay within the same range (pond, etc) as well, relocation always tricky, especially as concerns location of suitable hibernation sites.

      minnows, guppies are a good diet for them, I’ve kept several species of musk turtle for decades using these. They are not good at catching live fishes…best to stun or pre-kill. Whole fish are an impt food..if not accepted, keep the turtle hungry for a week or so; I’ve not known any to reject long-term. Enjoy, Frank

  149. avatar

    So if the fish is dead the musk will go after it? Do I just put the fish in water in the frig?
    Thanks. Shirley

    • avatar

      Yes, they generally take dead fish; individuals vary, so skip a few meals if it refuses at first. Frig will slow fish down; quick-freeze, w/o water, kills humanely (torpor/hibernation state entered); best, Frank

  150. avatar

    Hello Frank, and thank you for all the expert advise.

    I think my muskie might be over-weight. She got pretty thin when she was going
    through the egg laying stage, but now it seems she is a little chunky. I guess I over
    did when she wasn’t eating much at that time. Not sure how much to give her and
    what can I do to get her weight down a little? Thanks.

    • avatar

      Hello Shirley,

      They almost always get heavy in captivity, very effective at storing food (and convincing owners they are starving!)..evolved to eat as much and as often as possible. Insert a few fast days each week; an amount equal to appx size of head will fill the stomach; no set rules otherwise, as temperature and type of food play a big role, but offer variety…fish, worms, commercial chow, best, frank

  151. avatar

    Hi. I was thinking about using cement mixing tubs that are sold at Home Depot as enclosures for my turtles. I mainly own shallow water species of turtles such as spotted turtles and a common musk turtles. I am currently housing all the turtles in a 30 gallon long tanks. I just wanted to know your opinion to whether or not I should keep them in the setup that I have now or if it is a good idea to try the cement mixing tub setup.


    • avatar


      We used cattle troughs for a variety of turtles in zoo holding areas…these and cement mixing tubs allow more space than most tanks; cement tubs should work well for shallow water species, assuming you can dump/clean, filter or fit with drains. I often use plastic storage boxes at home as well. best, frank

  152. avatar

    Good Morning.
    Just wanted to ask. Would a piece of oak tree be ok to use for the muskie to climb on?
    And also, should there always be a place for the female musk to lay eggs, or is that
    more for spring time? TY

    • avatar

      Hi Shirley,

      Oak is fine if unsprayed with pesticides, washed etc but it usually leaches tannins into the water , leaving a brown tint..lowers pH as well…not sure if this a=is a concern in a small tank (probably not); cork bark or mopani/java wood are easier to use in my exper; driftwood attached to a slate base, as sold for aquarium use, is also good.

      Difficult to keep a nest site always available unless they are housed outdoors…gravid females usually become restless, and tend to drop eggs in water in not able to nest. If space permits, a site is the safest way to avoid egg-binding, but I’ve not seen problems in common musks, enjoy, frank

  153. avatar

    Hi. Thanks for the info. I have had a small piece of cork in the water which seems to be shedding
    small pieces and is also discoloring the water some. I asked my husband to cut a one inch round off
    the end of a section of a newly cut tree from out back. I guess I can use it for now until I get something better.
    So should I just let the turtle lay the eggs in the water, or should I wait till she does and then make a
    nesting place?
    Sorry so many questions. Never had a water turtle before and have gotten so much wrong info from
    other sources. Shirley

    • avatar

      Hi Shirley,

      Great notes..pl don’t hesitate to write in,’

      If newly harvested, cork bark may leach a bit..usually clears up with soaking. Driftwood attached to a base is great, but you need to check stores for right height, angle, rather than order online. Or you can use a turtle dock or turtle pier…the pier also provides a sub surface rest site…suction cups dislodge easily, but there’s ways around that. Might be better to use a dead branch from outdoors…any sap etc that remains in live branch wil leach into water.

      Main concern re eggs is that female does not retain;pets can lay at any season. Of course, great to have eggs dropped in nest, so you can incubate…not much matches a hatchling musk! Here’s a related article. Enjoy, frank

  154. avatar

    Hi. I am currently housing my musk turtle in a 30 gallon long tank. I also brought a couple of cement mixing tubs from Home Depot. I just wanted to know your opinon to which you feel will work better and give the musk turtle more space. Thanks.

    • avatar


      Either is fine,…my common musk has lived and bred in a 30 long for for 45 years, so that works! Tubs often provide more options in terms of adding an egg laying site etc., depends n your own plans, preferences, enjoy, frank

  155. avatar

    Hi. I thought that the tubs would work better because they are shorter and wider rather than tall and long like aquariums. I think that shorter and wider is better for turtles than long and narrow.

    I will be placing the tubs on the floor but would rather raise them a little higher so that they do not become too cold. I just wanted to know if you have any ideas for creating or using something that they can rest on.

    • avatar


      Tubs are very useful..we rely on them in behind scenes areas at zoos. You can use typical aquarium heaters if need be. Many musks will use resting sites just below the surface, so be sure to add driftwood, etc. Commercial ramps are one option, but these may not stick to the sides of the tub (I’ve not tried). Cork bark is excellent but is best kept stable rather than floating…you can use silicone to fasted to sides if need be. Very smooth rocks can be used, but these use up swimming space, best, Frank.

  156. avatar

    Hi. The only problem that I have with the cement mixing trays is that I cannot seem to find anything that they can rest on and I am worried about the cold. I would rather they be higher because the floor can become very cold. I have seen people build frames around them which raised them higher.

  157. avatar

    Hi. I just wanted to know how many musk turtles do you have now? I also wanted to know what type of filter you are using for the one that you previously mentioned . I am currently a small duetto submersible filter for my musk turtle.

  158. avatar

    Hi frank

    I have common musk turtles I’ve had them for nearly a week . What is the best water depth and for them as I’m new to having them there is enough for them to put there head out without to much energy but what concerns me most is they love the uvb light off when I put it on the try and dig them selfs in the corner, I switch it off and out they come I don’t understand as shop said we need it or there go lethargic and soft shells and die ?? I really want them to be in a natural enviorment as possible.

    • avatar

      Hi Emma,

      Yes…best to keep the water at a depth such that they can reach the surface w/o the need for much swimming – stretching the neck up with feet on bottom, or a bit higher. You can use deeper water if you provide driftwood etc below the surface, to act as ‘ladders”.

      It’s common for stores to recommend UVB for all, but several aquatic species such as musks, softshells, snapping turtles etc do fine without. Most turtles need UVB in order to manufacture Vit D3 in the skin, but musks can utilize dietary D3. But they must have a good diet, with plenty of D3 and Calcium – please write in with details of their diet if you wish. UVB will not harm them, but many avoid bright light as you describe. Best, Frank

  159. avatar

    Hi. I have two questions. The first one is regarding feeding my musk turtle. I try to feed her in a separate container so that I can keep the tank clean. The problem is that she refuses to eat outside of her tank.
    I know that she is hungry because she constantly hunts and searches for food when inside of her tank. I just wanted to know if I should keep trying to get her used to eatting outside of her tank or If I should feed her where she feels the most ccomfortable. She seems to want the ability to hunt for her food and cannot do that outside of her tank.

    My second question is whether or not it is a good idea to place my reptile tanks near a window. I don’t have much space and thought that a good place to put my Leopard Geckos is by one of my windows.The only concern that I have is that the window can get drafty and have also noticed that my gecko’s activities level has slowed since it has started to get cooler.

    • avatar


      It’s best to keep the turtle hungry for awhile…common for them to be stressed by movement, but all adjust in time, and a fast will do no harm. Try adding floating plastic plants or similar as cover in the feeding container, may lend sense of security. i always feed outside of the tank when possible.

      Window locations can have a strong effect on temperatures..hot and cold. I see the same at my place. Take temperatures at night…you may find a surprising dip. attaching insulation to the back glass wall may help, but probably best to move if that is an option, Please let me know if you need anything, Frank

  160. avatar

    Thank you for that information frank. Yes there normal diet is just plain frozen blood worm which I intend to get them some fresh minnow on some occasions to as treat cuz I read that In natural enviorment they will chase there pray but I feed them as much as they will eat i tend to not over feed them but some times there not interested and just run from one side to the other. I can handle them perfectly without biting and they don’t get stressed, I can’t tell the diffrence if there male or female as splash is bigger and has a longer tail and splish is smaller with a smaller tail so I’m not sure if there both sex or vice versa

    • avatar


      My pleasure, Emma.

      Impt to understand that minnows are a vital part of the diet, and best source of calcium…use weekly. They often cannot catch – if so, you can chill in frig to slow down, or euthanize before feeding. Reptomin or Zoo med turtle chow can be used as basis of diet; also freeze-dried shrimp or krill, occasional fresh shrimp, earthworms if available, crickets as occasional treat. Bloodworms are okay as a treat/snack, but are not at all useful as a main part of the diet.

      Cannot be sexed until adult….the plastron of a male will be noticeably concave, to assist in mounting female when mating. males sometimes harass females and must be separated if in breeding mode.

      Enjoy, Frank

  161. avatar

    Hi. I have a couple of spotted turtles that I am not sure of the sex of. I do know that they hatched from the same clutch. I just wanted to know if turtles from the same clutch will mate and it is common for animals from the same clutch and who are related to mate and breed.


    • avatar


      Yes, they will breed. Mature males have a noticeably-concave plastron; that of a female is flat. It’s always best to breed unrelated animals, especially if you do not know the history of each – if the animals you have are already inbred, there will be a greater likelihood of genetic-based problems in their offspring.

  162. avatar

    Hi. I just wanted to know if you can tell the sex of spotted turtles early on. I have three spotted turtles who are six months or younger. One is showing the characteristics of being female. It has orange around its chin while the other the other two have white or gray chins.

  163. avatar

    Hi. I recently purchased three spotted turtles from a friend. My friend swears that they will be female because he incubated them at 90 degree temperatures. He used a homemade incubator to incubate the eggs. I feel that the turtles could turn out to be male because temperatures are likely to fluctuate using a homemade incubator.
    Do you know if turtles can turn out to be a different sex even if they were incubated to be a certain sex?

    • avatar


      Don’t bet the farm, as they say (or used to say)! But seriously, there are windows of time where a slight change in temperature can make a difference, areas of overlap where both sexes can be produced, etc…survival strategies that assure mixed sexes in wild nests, etc. Some breeders are quite good at this, but with a homemade incubator there would be a greater chance of error. best, frank

  164. avatar

    Hi Frank,
    Emma again my turtles are doing exactly perfect now but except one thing. splish keeps snapping at splash it only happens in the morning and for the last two days its just on one occasion when feeding time but never later on during the day?

    • avatar

      Hi Emma,

      It’s very common for them to show some aggression at feeding time; usually not too serious, but if you have a pair the male may constantly chase the female and bite at her during mating attempts, and they may need to be kept apart. Be sure to vary the diet as we discussed last time. Best, frank

  165. avatar


    First of all sorry for my English. This is not so good.
    I have a one year old male common musk turtle and I would like to bring two femail turtles. I found 2 females who are 2 years old. I would buy them from one of my friends. My tank is 100l. I would like to ask that can I keep together these 3 turtles if they are not similar ages? I scare that they can be agressive with each others. I would feed them separate from each other outside the main tank. And what do you suggest if it is possible to live together what is better: to buy 1 or 2 femails? Thank you in advance

    This blog is excellent! You help so many people to keep their turtles well. Thank you for it 🙂

    • avatar


      Thanks for the kind words.

      Males often chase females with constant mating attempts…this may stress them, prevent feeding, and cause injuries, as mating involves some biting about the head. Hard to predict if or when this will happen, as much depends on season, age, condition, temperatures, etc. Two might be better…to split male’s attention, but you should be prepared to separate them. best, Frank

  166. avatar

    So for the past year I’ve been doing nothing but watching the teenage mutant ninja turtles (all cartoons, all movies, all everything, because I’m reliving my youth. I’m 28 btw). And when my boyfriend introduced me to his dads pet turtles I realised that these were exactly the pets I wanted (I have two cats whom I love already).

    I have been reading up as much as I can about musk turtles and tank sizes and everything I will need, I’ve been bothering the people at my local pet store constantly about them and all the information they could impart. The result being that I am picking up my new musk turtles (4 of them, and guess their names lol), and all the tank setup on Wednesday the 3rd.

    However, I still have some more questions, and you all seem so knowlegeable on here that I hope you can help me find the answers.

    1. I have specifically had the pet store order in a tank that the representive of the company assures me is big enough for four adult musk turtles. Do I need to sort of partition the tank, to allow each turtle their own territory? ie. should they all have seperate basking areas etc to help prevent agression.

    2. Is one heat lamp sufficent for a large tank and does it need to be positioned directly over a basking area? if it does would I need to have more than one for multiple basking area’s?

    3. Tank cleaning, how often does the tank need to be cleaned and where is the best place to keep the turtles while I do so. In relation to this also, do I need to wait until the tempreture of the water and the tank reaches normal levels before putting them back in.

    4. I’ve read that a lot of people feed their musk turtles seperately from the tank to cut down on the uneaten food dirting the tank. Is this something I should look into doing? If so, should I feed all the turtles at once or singly?

    5. I would really love to have a little waterfall feature in the tank, but the lady at the petstore said that she had never heard of waterfalls in a turtle tank before. Online I ave found mentions on it. So I was wondering if it would be harmful to the turtles (as they are so small) to have a waterfall feature.

    6. Live plants, is it better to have them grown on wook in the tank, and when cleaning, would I need to remove these? Would there be anything specific I’d need to do with them to ensure they survived the cleaning process etc intact?

    and 7 (until I come up with more questions). How are you able to find a vet that looks after small turtles? We do have a vets that I take my cats too, but I have a feeling they may not deal with very small animals. I live in Newry Norther Ireland.

    Thank you very much for all your help.

    • avatar

      Hello Madeleine,

      Great that you are looking into these matters.

      It can be hard to keep several together, especially mixed sexes…males tend to harass females with mating attempts. Best to have plastic storage bins/sweater boxes available as emergency housing. They tend not to bask on land, but dry areas should be available…how many depends upon how well they get along. A simple aquarium water heater can be used to warm the water.

      Aquariums can be difficult to empty and clean..especially with 4 turtles. if you feed in the tank, you’d be doing this several times weekly. Always best to feed outside tank…fill feeding container with water from tank, so that you’ll be doing a partial water change as well. In all likelihood you’ll also need a powerful filter. Watch as you feed them…no way to predict if all can be fed together, you’ll need to experiment as individuals vary widely in behavior. Be sure tank is bare-bottomed – no gravel . Please see here for more on this.

      Water fall and similar functions rarely work out well…musks are like bulldozers, and will trash just about everything you put in. Best to keep simple so as not to complicate hygiene, etc.

      Very hard to keep plants with turtles…they uproot and tear at them, sample when hungry (even carnivorous species)

      Unfortunately I do not have any vet contacts in N. Ireland. Try contacting the Tortoise Trust...based in the UK, members may have links to local vets. Local reptile groups, turtle/tortoise societies may be useful also. Your regular vet may be able to provide a referral as well.

      Please keep me posted, best, frank

  167. avatar

    Hi. I have just completed an indoor pond that I made for my turtles. After completing the pond I lined it with polyethylene plastic film that I bought at Home Depot and filled it with water. I filled the pond half way
    with water. I decided tthat the water was too high but before I could lower it I found my small spotted turtle swimming frantically in it. He was hiddden in one of the floating logs that I put in the pond and I did not know he was in their. I immediately took him out of the pond and lowered the water. I put him back in the pond and he seemed fine.

    The next day I found the same turtle dead. I decided to do some research on the internet and learned that the polyethylene plastic that I used a liner for the pond could be toxic to aquatic species of animals.
    I don’t want to lose any more turtles and fear that the polyethylene plastic film could be toxic to my turtles. I decided to try the polyethlene plastic because it was less expensive that most pond liners.

    My question is whether you think that my turtle died due to stress from being in too deep water the previous night or due to the toxicity of the plastic.


    Yesterday I found the same turtle dead

    • avatar

      Hi Shaun,

      I’m not familiar with poly/toxicity, and I’m guessing that materials used vary, but that is one possibility. The turtle would not have behaved normally after being moved to shallow water if it was overly-debilitated due to the stress of swimming…such can be damaging, but other than for hatchlings it usually takes quite a bit of time, best, Frank

  168. avatar

    Hi. I was looking at the body of the turtle and discovered that his eyes looked very red. Do you think that their is a possibility that he was allergic to the plastic?

  169. avatar

    Hi. I started to wonder if the turtle died from organ failure. I was always concerned about him because he seemed significantly smaller than the other two spotteds that I have and came from the same clutch. He also had an irregular line down the bottom of his plastron. It appeared to be a birth defect or deformity and I was concerned about that.
    Do you think that a birth defect or his smaller size are possible reasons for his death?

    • avatar

      Hi Shaun,

      Unfortunately, when a reptile dies without any very apparent cause, there is no way to ID the reason without an autopsy performed by a pro…even then the answers may escape up; death can be from any of hundreds of possibilities. An irregular line is not indicative of a deformity internally, and growth rates typically vary widely among individuals without any ill effect. Best. Frank

  170. avatar

    Hi. I just purchased a zoo med powersweep powerhead.The box states that it has270 GPH. I just wanted to know if I can you it as a filter. Thanks.

    • avatar

      Hi Shaun,

      It’s a good product, but is not designed to function as a filter per se. I’ve not tried using it alone, but pre-filters on filter heads are generally meant to keep fine debris out of the motor, rather than to actually clean the water as would a typical filter. Filter heads are usually attached to undergravel filter tubes, so as to drive water through the gravel bed. They can also be used on some sponge filters, but turtles tend to eat these. Their other use is as wave-makers in marine tanks. Let me know if you need more info, best, Frank

  171. avatar

    Hi i was wondering if there is a way that i can use the zoo med powersweep powerhead to build a custom made underwater filter?

    • avatar

      Hi Shaun,

      Not that I know of, unfortunately…turtles generally eat bits of sponge filters; undergravel filters can be very effective if used properly, but difficult where turtles are concerned. Best, Frank

  172. avatar

    Hi there Frank,

    I’ve had a read of your blog and you definitely seem to know your stuff!! I’m having a couple of issues with my four year old musk turtle…

    The first issue is that he has lived with my friend for the past two years (we bought him jointly at university and she has recently given me full custody!) and came back to me in November 2014. It appeared that he went on a hunger strike and was refusing to eat anything for a good week or so. He now eats very occasionally, maybe 2-3 times a week maximum. I haven’t changed his diet, he is still on the frozen blood worms (which he now appears not to touch) and we occasionally give him small prawns or small scraps of meat like ham. I am wondering how often to feed him or whether it is worth changing his food??

    Also today a second problem has arisen.. It appears that he has something wrong with his left eye? It is as though the inner eye lid won’t open so now it looks like there’s a sort of white film over his eye. I got him out to take a closer look and he did manage to open the eye fully once or twice, but then it closed up again. As I said I think it must be an inner eye lid as it is white and not his skin colour if you know what I mean? I’ve read a few posts on your blog about potential eye infections and swelling but I’m not sure whether this is the same thing?? Any advice you could give me would be great as I’m getting worried about the little guy 🙁



    • avatar

      Hi Josephine,

      Thanks for your interest and the kind words. Please let me know what temperatures you mantain, day and night, as that will effect appetite.

      The diet you describe is not appropriate long-term; they can live for years in a malnurished condition, but will eventually become ill and expire. Feed as described for semi-aquatic turtles in this article (ignore the info re greens…that is for sliders, maps turtles, etc). A high quality commercial food and small whole fishes (minnows) are essential to long term health, but the other items mentioned should be offered as well.

      Eye problems can be related to infections, a Vitamin A deficiency, or other concerns. As it has not been on an ideal diet, a vet visit is in order, to make sure the problem is not more extensive than an eye injury or infection. Please let me know if you need help in finding an experienced vet.

      Best regards, Frank

  173. avatar

    Hi Frank, thanks so much for getting back to me.

    The tank is heated and kept at a constant temperature of around 23-24 degrees Celsius.. I think that’s around 73-75 in Fahrenheit?

    Thanks for the advice about the diet… Would you recommend the reptomin food for him then? I have asked the question about potentially changing his diet in a few pet shops in my area but they seemed to be lacking knowledge on turtles and just said “he will eat when he’s hungry”!! I’m glad to talk to someone who actually knows what they’re talking about.

    If you think that reptomin is the way to go then could you perhaps offer any advice on it? Ie how often etc to feed him etc? And as for the minnows.. I wouldn’t know where to actually get those from? Can you get them from pet shops?

    Also, regarding his eye issue, I have just returned home and found that both his eyes are perfectly open and alert! There is no noticeable swelling either. However, I had already booked an appointment at the vets for Monday so I will still take him anyway for a full check up. The vet I am seeing is apparently a specialist in exotic pets and reptiles so hopefully he will be able to advise me further.

    Sorry for all the questions! I really just want to look after Taz properly now he is in his permanent home 🙂

    Thanks again,


    • avatar

      Hi Josephine,

      My pleasure.

      Reptomin is a good choice..combine with one of ZooMed’s staple foods as basis of it’s diet.

      Minnows and goldfish are sold as “feeders” at pet stores here in USA (not sure where you are)…you’ll likely need to stun, slow down via refrigeration, or pre-kill (freezer is one option…they become dormant, then expire). Goldfish ok on occasion, but long term use linked to liver probs in other species. Or you can use platies, mollies or other cheap tropical fish. The bones are a necessary source of calcium, internal organs provide nutrients missing from other foods. Bits of meat, fish are not the same as whole animal, and always avoid processed meats (for you and the turtle! 🙂

      You can order earthworms online if not available, add freeze dried prawn etc.

      Frequency depends upon many factors..very individual. They always appear hungry when in good health, become obese easily. A meal roughly the size of the turtle’s head every 3rd day, or smaller more frequent meals, is a good starting point.

      Temps okay, but warming to 25-26 C may spur ap[petite. Can also provide a 50 wt bulb over resting site – many do not leave water to bask, but it may warm up in the area, at the surface.

      Write in as often as you wish, please keep me posted.

      Good luck at vets, happy, healthy New Year, Frank

  174. avatar

    Hi Frank, thanks for getting back to me.

    The tank is heated and kept at a constant 23-24 degrees Celsius, which I think is around 73-75 in Fahrenheit?

    I’ve read the article above regarding food – would you recommend that I feed him reptomin? I’ve never seen them before but could probably get them on the Internet. Are they pellets? Also as for the minnows and small fish, can you buy them from local pet stores do you know? I’m not really familiar with that at all!

    When I’ve checked on Taz this evening his eye is now open and he seems as bright as ever! I had already booked an appointment at the vets for Monday so I will still take him anyway for a health check as you recommended. I found a local vet who specialises in exotic pets so hopefully he can let me know if there are any underlying problems.

    Thanks so much for your help! Any further advice on feeding would be greatly received 🙂

    Thanks again,

  175. avatar

    Sorry for the two comments frank! It told me at first that my comment hadn’t posted so I had to write it again! Apologies 🙂

    • avatar

      That’s okay..I need to read and then post the comments..you can imagine what might get through otherwise! Please keep me posted, let me know if you need help finding foods.

  176. avatar

    Hello sir, just had a quick question. I have a baby stinkpot musk and was just wondering what a good feeding schedule would be? Something I can follow. Like how frequent to feed and when to mix up meats and comercial food. I have a pretty basic idea already, but i’d like something specific I can stick to.
    Thank you so much

    • avatar

      [one_fifth_last]Hi Michael,

      Sorry for the delay, your post slipped by me.

      There’s a huge variety of schedules that will work, and much depends on temperature and diet and individual growth rate. But in general a meal the size of the turtle’s head every day, with 2 fast days each week will work fine. You can add extra fast days some weeks, cut back as turtle grows. Be sure to provide small whole minnows once weekly at least…pl let me know if you need more info. Great choice, enjoy, Frank

  177. avatar

    I have 2 questions and sounds like you’re the guy to answer them. I have just spent a couple of hours reading over all the posts and I am impressed by your knowledge, kindness, and patience!
    I have two Leopard geckos that are somewhat new to our house. We got them after my ten year old daughter expressed an interest in getting a lizard (knowing full well I was going to be responsible for them ). I have never owned a reptile before and have always had cats and dogs as pets. We absolutely love or geckos! They are so fascinating to watch and I was even more surprised by the fact they have their own differing personalities. I am concearned about the size of one of them however. They are in separate enclosures now so that I can closely monitor their eating habits since I have noticed the size difference between the two. I believe one is female and the other male. I got them from a large chain store in September. The male was smaller than the female from the start and doesn’t appear to have grown much at all, while the female has grown quite a bit and is changing her color and markings. They each have an aquarium with the mesh screen cover, a moist shed box, small container of calcium, water dish, and a fake piece of log for a dry hide. Their temps are kept between 80 and 87 on the basking side. I was told they were only a few weeks old when I got them they were between 3 and 4 inches. They eat crickets dusted with calcium and meal worms. I feed them daily since they are still young. The male hunts, eats, poops, sheds, and is active yet he is still so small. His tail isn’t plump but it’s not real skinny in proportion to his body either. Is it possible that he is I just small? I’m concerned since he’s so much smaller than the other and I think his tail should be fatter too.

    Also, I have a 55 gallon aquarium with a tetra fauna viquarium inside. I have about six inches of water in about 2/3rd of the tank and have the other third as the land/basking area with the waterfall from the viquarium filter. I would like to get two male 3 stripe mud turtles, preferably juveniles for this set up, does this sound sufficient enough set up for that? I also have the uva/uvb and heat lamps as well as water heater. I have been slowly working on putting together this set up and am going to the Los Angeles reptile show this weekend and would like to get the turtles there. Being in California and most breeders so far away, I am nervous to order them to he shipped.

  178. avatar

    Also I should note that the female is on a reptile carpet and the male on paper towels since he would get his teeth caught in the fibers of the carpet when hunting his crickets.

  179. avatar

    Hi Frank,

    Found this blog to be highly informative, have already learned a great deal from the wealth of knowledge and advice you have kindly passed on to others.

    I have recently acquired a pair of common musk turtles from family members who could no longer accommodate them. I have them set up in a 4 foot 65 gallon aquarium. This tank has two ‘daylight’ fluorescent tubes designed to encourage plant growth providing a very bright light and I was wondering if this would affect the turtles negatively at all?

    Also, I have observed the smaller of the two on more than one occasional resting directly on top of the larger musk! Is this common, and do you know the reason for this behaviour?


    • avatar

      Hello Mark,

      Thanks for the kind words.

      The light shouldn’t bother the turtles….most individuals do not bask often (they do not need UVB if fed properly) and some prefer darker aquariums, but most adjust quite well.

      They are not social (watch for biting etc if you have a pair) but will rest on whatever is near; some of the painteds, sliders will pile up upon one another on logs etc when basking.

      En joy and let me know if you need anything, Frank

  180. avatar

    Hi Frank,

    How have you been? I hope your holidays went well. It seems that every online care article and forum members state that musk turtles, snapping turtles,etc. need UVB light. I know sometimes people go overboard and parrot information that is excessive and not necessarily true but how do you know for certain that musk turtles do not require UVB lighting? They also do well enough at room temperature to not require heating, correct? What other turtle/tortoise species do well without UVB lighting apart from musks and snapping turtles? Thanks!

    • avatar


      All is well, thanks..a happy, healthy new year to you also.

      Musk and mud turtles, snappers, softshells, mata matas and other highly aquatic species utilize dietary D3 and hence do not need UVB exposure. Heliothermic species (those that bask regularly) manufacture D3 in the skin, in the presence of UVB of the proper wavelength. This is long-established info, ignore folks who arere-hashing and re-inventing the wheel. Common musk turtles and a large number of others in the family Kinosternidae have been bred through many generations for many decades in private and zoo collections w/o UVB; longevities of 40-80+ years common. They must be given a proper diet, so as to have access to D3, Calcium, etc, but this is a simple matter for most..whole freshwater fish, high quality commercial foods etc. are needed; please see diet notes in article or let me know if you need more info. Common musks do well at water temps in mid 70’s; lower in winter is ok, but I prefer to keep them warmer, since infections taking hold during cool temps can be serious. A basking light creating a warm spot may be used by some individuals, but is not necessary unless air temps are unusually cool. Best, frank

  181. avatar

    Hello Frank,

    Thanks for your response. I could not find any forum thread since 2011 where the posters would mention that musk turtles, snappers,etc. did not need UVB lighting. In fact, many would vehemently disagree when the topic would be brought up and state that their musk turtles bask every now and then which I suppose in their minds justified the use of UVB lighting. Others would make comments such as their turtles were more active or ‘happier’ with UV lighting than without even if it wasn’t really necessary. Those are subjective comments, however, aren’t they? Your 45 year old musk turtle has never had UVB lighting, has he?

    • avatar

      Hello Malik,

      The internet is a great tool when used properly, but very basic info as to turtle biology, natural history, is often lacking in pet-care “experts”. There really is no point in weighing opinions on certain matters , ie. Vitamin D synthesis, ..any doubts as to such can easily be put to rest with a good herpetology text (as you can imagine, not many newcomers take this important step!).

      Musks and even alligator snappers will bask on occasion as a means of regulating temperature, and to cause leeches and other external parasites to dislodge/die. Reptiles that can utilize either dietary or skin-synthesized D3 (i.e. some chameleons, see here) will bask more often when dietary D3 is lacking. We do not know, as far as I’ve seen, if Kinosternids can synthesize D3 in the skin; many species are highly aquatic and rarely leave the water, as is also true for many common Musk populations. Fortunately, as mentioned, we do know that their D3 and Ca needs are simple to meet in captivity via proper diet. Best, Frank

  182. avatar

    Thanks for your swift reply! I hope I’m not bothering you with my possibly trivial questions since you’ve already hammered home the point but does your 45 year old musk turtle have UVB lighting or has he ever?

    • avatar

      Hi Malik,

      I’d be rather foolish to write as I have if I’d given the animal UVB exposure, wouldn’t I! But seriously, more important than my experience raising a single animal w/o UVB is, as mentioned, my and other herpetologists experiences with numerous individuals of this and many related species over many decades, and an understanding of their basic biology as it effects Vitamin D synthesis. Best, Frank

  183. avatar

    Hi frank,

    I have four musk turtles.
    Two of them are much older and really dark (I got them in GA), Frank and Fran,
    And the other two, one is a teen shall we say I’m not sure how old he is but he is definitely younger than Frank and Fran, and he’s from TX and he’s greenish, his name’s Tiny. And I have a baby who is also from GA he’s a little bigger than a quarter, his name’s Clyde (though I can’t tell his gender yet).
    My question is about mating and egg laying.
    Frank and Fran having been mating on and off for a while now and I was wondering what is the easiest thing to do for Fran as far as creating a nesting area and incubator? Have you bred your turtles before?
    What did you do? I don’t have a lot of money so I’m wondering what’s the cheapest way to go about it but still have everyone come out happy and healthy?

    • avatar

      Hello Jenna,

      It’s difficult to tell when female musks are ready to lay….not all will go off feed and become restless, as do other turtles. If you notice this, try removing the turtle to a nesting area as described in this article. Musks tend not to dig deeply, sometimes dropping eggs almost on the surface.

      Some females will deposit the eggs in water if a site is not provided. Egg retention not too common with this species. Eggs can take some submersion, so try incubating any you find in water.

      A reptile incubator is the best option. In summer, eggs can be incubated in a container in a warm room, but best to use an incubator. Plans for home-made models are available as well if need be.

      Enjoy and please keep me posted, Frank

  184. avatar

    Ok thank you! If you have a link you recommend for making your own incubator I’d be very thankful.

    • avatar

      I’ve used aquarium heaters in a covered 20 gallon fish tank with several inches of water hot water warms air), way back before incubators were available, but there are better methods out there now. here’s one; many other ideas will show up on a Google search also. Most would seem to require lots of monitoring in order to hit correct temperatures. Enjoy, Frank

  185. avatar

    Hi Frank,

    I have a few quick questions that I’m having a hard time finding answers for. My family and I became adopted parents to a musk turtle a year ago. We live in central Florida and found him on our pool deck last February. It took us a while to find the right set up for him. Nitro has been in a 10 gallon tank for the last nine months or so and he’s a very happy active boy. Our family decided to get another turtle so he could have a playmate. We purchased a yellow bellied slider from a breeder. We put him in the tank with Nitro and things were fine. However our little guy got sick and passed away a few days ago. I found out the water in the tank was too cold. We have since gotten another slider however when we put it in the tank with Nitro, Nitro got very aggressive with Crush. Crush is now in a small habitat for hatchlings. My question is – is there a way to introduce them slowly to one another? I don’t want to have to take care of two tanks keeping up with one is enough. Any help you could give would be greatly appreciated.

    • avatar


      It’s often very difficult to introduce 2 turtles of the same or different species, even in large aquariums…territoriality, feeding aggression etc; also, males will try to mate with almost any species of suitable size, which leads to biting etc. In any event, a 10 gallon will be too small for a musk (you didn’t mention species?) as it matures, so it would not be wise to add another, especially a fast-growing slider that will need a 75-100 gallon aquarium as an adult. They also need ample UVB exposure, which is not necessary for musk turtles, and a different diet.

      Turtles are not in any way social, and so do fine when kept singly.

      Please send details re temps, diet etc if you feel that feedback would be useful, best, Frank

  186. avatar

    Thank you so much for your feedback and for a very informative site. When we got Nitro I was told he was a mud turtle and have since learned that mud turtle/musk turtle are the same thing. He has always had a UVA and UVB bulb over his tank. I was told he needed both when we first found him and brought him to the pet store. I didn’t realize till reading your blog that they didn’t need the UVB. We have always fed Nitro in a separate bowl so his tank stays cleaner. His diet has graduated from turtle pellets to a diet consisting of both pellets and shrimp. We were feeding the other slider in a separate bowl so they wouldn’t fight for food. We had the first slider for about 4 weeks before it died. Nitro had actually accepted Jeff and had not been aggressive with him until right before Jeff died. When we got Jeff from the breeder I had explained that I had a one year old mud turtle and wanted to make sure they would be compatible before I purchased him. We have been keeping the tank around 79degrees Fahrenheit. I knew that eventually I would need to upgrade the tank to a bigger one once the turtles got older. Thank you again for the information. I guess this happens a lot. I was led to believe that they would be fine together.
    This picture is when Nitro was about a month old. http://i993.photobucket.com/albums/af53/amjrraul/20140315_131225_zps2rpxbvum.jpg
    This picture is when Nitro was about four months old
    This last picture Nitro was about eight months old

    • avatar

      Hello Michelle,

      Thanks for the kind words.

      Mud and musk turtles are placed in the family Kinosternidae….related, but the 25 species differ in appearance and, in some cases, in care needs. Yours appears to be a Common Musk Turtle, the species described in this article.

      Co-habitation varies greatly, but easiest in very large enclosures with lots of cover etc., and always becomes difficult when males mature.

      UVB will do no harm.

      Please see the notes on diet. A good quality pellet (Zoo Med, Reptomin) is fine as the basis of the diet, but small whole fishes are essential as a source of Calcium and other imtp nutrients. Minnows, shiners best; goldfish should be used sparingly (steady diet linked to liver ailments in other species). Turtles are not very good at catching fish, so you may need to pre-kill or stun; should be used at least once weekly.
      Yes, misinformation very common, unfortunately.

      Please let me know if you need more info, best, frank

  187. avatar

    My stinkpot keeps scratching its eye and underneath it. A few weeks ago its eye started to become swollen and I changed the water and washed down the tank properly. It has gotten better after that but not completely. I have a UVB and UVA light provided for it and I keep the tank clean. It still continues to scratch its eye and now it has a red spot underneath it. What do you think could be the problem of that and how can I get rid of it? Do I buy eye drops? Take it out of the tank for a while? Use more purifier for the water? Please help.

    • avatar

      Hi Staci,

      What you are seeing is caused by an infection (bacterial, or perhaps fungal); over the counter drops, changing water etc will not be effective. You’ll need to see a vet, most likely an antibiotic will be prescribed. Please let me know if you need help in locating a local experienced vet; best to take care of this soon, as it will worsen in time. best, Frank

  188. avatar

    Could you please help with finding a local vet. I live in Lawrenceville, GA (metro Atlanta)

  189. avatar

    Hello! it’s been a while since I’ve dropped by here, but I have a question that I hope you can answer.

    So, I have five turtles, four musk turtles and one map turtle (Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello, Michelangelo and Oogway). They all get along great, no fighting that I’ve witnessed and the tank is big enough for all five of them to have space when they need it. Obviously when they get bigger I’ll be upgrading to a bigger tank, or orking out how to create a safe bridge between 2 mor more tanks depending.

    Now, my question is about feeding.

    I feed them outside the tank i a seperate container (all five in the one). I add enough food for all of them and I watch them while they feed to ensure they are all eating and there are no fights, they are all actually really good, they take whatever food they want, swim to an empty part of the container, eat it and then come back for more, no fighting, no snapping, and no food stealing.

    I’ve been reading up, and a lot of places say that turtles will beg for food and will eat everything they are are fed. So I am confused by my turtles behaviour. They never beg for food (I feed them at the same time more or less everyday when I can), and when they eat they have maybe 2-3 pellets, or dried fish, or veg, or whatever I give them (I vary it a lot) and then stop. I leave them in the container for about half and hour.

    I know I put a little extra in every feeding to prevent them fighting over food, but I find it fascinating that they stop after 2-3 bits.

    Also, of my four musks (I’ve had them since december), only one of them is showing any sign of growth, Raphael is now nearly a cm bigger than his brothers, the others have all grown only about 2-3 mm since I got them. Is this normal?

    • avatar

      Hello Madeleine,

      Their behavior shows they are getting enough food…there’s no need to feed daily, and most people do not, so after a day or 2 you tend to see them actively seeking food. Best to fast them for 1-2 days each week…they use very little energy in captivity, and easily become obese.

      Growth rate varies among individuals, and also with age, type of diet and temperature. Please send some specifics re that and I’ll check, best,. Frank

  190. avatar

    Cool. At least I know.

    I was told when I get them that they were between 2 weeks to a month old, so I was operating under the “feed them daily until they reach 6 months and then feed them every other day” rule. Maybe that’s wrong?

    As to specifics on my turtles.

    like I said, I was tld they were between 2 weeks to 1 month when I bought them, they were about 1.5-1.7 cms across at the shell and about 2-2.5 cm long. Oogway (the map turtle) was about 3-4cm all the way round.

    Oogway has grown maybe a cm since I got her (I think it’s a her anyway), and is much bigger than the others, understandably. I am not too sure how old she is.
    Raphael, the biggest of my four ninjas, is almost 3cm long and about 2.1cm wide.
    Leonardo, Donatello and Michelangelo are about the same size at 2-2.5 cm long and 2cm wide.

    That’s only an estmate as they squirm a lot when I try and measure them. They are very active little things, and very fast moving when they want to be. lol.

    Oogway and Michelangelo are the most active both inside and outside the tank (Mikey more so). Raphael is very activate out of the tank, Donatello slightly less so and Lenonardo is very sedate both in and out of the tank (from what I’ve observed anyway)

    • avatar


      There are many ways to raise…feeding 3x week, most days etc; all fine within reason, but insert at least 1 fast day per week.

      Map turtle cannot be sexed until mature.

      At their size, growth will be by tiny increments, as you see.

      Diet and temperature, and for the map turtle, UVB exposure, are more important than actual growth rate. Feel free to send along details if you wish, best, frank

  191. avatar

    Thanks. I’ll have to start feeding them only a few days a week instead.

    I feed them a mix of

    Supa turtle food (the dried fish variety)
    freeze dried blood worms (as a treat)
    fresh fruit and veg (chopped apple, red lettuce, round lettuce and grated carrots)

    I vary it.

    I have the water temp at 23 degrees, a UV bulb and a heat lamp. Ii’ve seen all of the basking occassionally and I have two filters in the tank.

    I’ve had the ninjas since december and Oogway since february.

    • avatar


      23 is fine, if basking site is warmer, but you could raise to 24-25 if you wish.

      Important to include small whole minnows in diet..without whole fish (esp the bones) calcium deficiencies usually develop over time. Best, Frank

  192. avatar

    The links that you sent me mostly only specializes in cat and dogs and the ones that do specialize in reptiles are too far away. What do I do because of that?

    • avatar

      Hello Staci,

      Unfortunately I do not have other listings; if the reptile vet offices cannot refer you to someone closer, try calling the reptile department or veterinary department of the nearest zoo – zoos sometimes maintain contacts with local offices. Search also under Turtle Society and Herpetological Society in your state…these groups generally maintain lists of reptile experienced vets. I hope all goes well, Frank

  193. avatar

    I have a 2.5 in musk turtle…i was wondering if its normal that he only ate one minnow and MAYBE a feeder shrimp (i dunno if he ate it or if it burried itself in The sand) in the last 8 days…

    • avatar


      Please send some info re water and air temperature, as this will influence appetite. A food item approximately the size of the turtle’s head generally fills the turtle…digestion rate will be affected by temperature, type of food consumed, and age. Best, frank

  194. avatar

    Hello Frank,
    I read your site with great interest. I have had a female musk turtle since July, 1994 and she is doing very well. We have her in a 65 gallon tank. For many years she shared the tank with a red eared slider (male) but after 20 years of peaceful coexistence, he started attacking her relentlessly and they had to be separated. It was hard to maintain both turtles and I was going to get him a 150 gallon tank, but my vet said it wasn’t nearly big enough, and he had another client who had a huge outdoor pond – so the slider went there instead.

    For many years I had thought the musk didn’t need a heater as I was told they like cold weather – hence she was sluggish and didn’t eat well. THe vet recently diagnosed her with septicemia and she was treated – and the vet has since checked her and given her a clean bill of health. I was surprised to hear from the vet that turtles are extremely hard to maintain in captivity and he was surprised that I had 20 year old turtles!

    Now I clean the tank partially twice a week and use a heater, as well as a basking platform heated to 75 degrees (although she never uses the basking area). She’s now perky and eats well, and she’s a joy to watch – even after 21 years!

    I give her frozen aquatic turtle food and frozen bloodworms from Petco and occasionally earthworms. What do you feed your turtles?

    I was wondering if she would be better off with a mate in the tank? I think she’s thrilled to rid of the bullying from the slider and I think she’s probably happy enough as she is. I don’t want to expose her to another aggressive male turtle and it seems easier to keep the tank clean without another turtle, anyway. But what’s best for musk turtles, in your opinion? Is your turtle living alone? Also I read that the musks have lived up to 56 years in captivity. Do you know how long they live?

    I thought the slider was a charming pet – lively, alert, and beautiful – but in recent years he became very aggressive. He was not well suited for indoor living. I was stunned when the vet said even 150 gallons wouldn’t be a big enough tank for him!! It makes me sad to see all the young turtles for sale in the pet stores as I don’t think the pet stores highlight the high level of care and unusual housing that these animals will eventually need. Maybe it’s good for the musks that they look drab – then they are spared the neglect that so many turtles suffer via the pet trade!

    I am originally from Staten Island but now live iN San Diego. I hope to return to NY one day with my husband – and turtle and other pets!! They’re more like relatives than pets after so much time together.

    Best regards,


    • avatar

      Hi Helen,

      Thanks for the kind words and congrats on the good work with your turtle.

      Those I’ve had, incl. the old female, did fne at room temps also…but 1 year she also came down with an infection, so now I also heat…seems the immune system does not function well at temps below 70F or so; they do fine as long as not exposed to any pathogens.

      Captive record is as you say…no long term wild studies that I knwo fo.

      Your vet is correct re slider..very active, not suited to tank life; this is why they are established in dozens of countries outside of their natural range..I’ve seen them in Venezuela, Japan, Canada, Mexico…

      Turtles are not social, best kept alone…pairs almost never work out long term,..males always try to mate, which involves biting…in confines of a tank, injuries are common. Sliders will attempt to mate with just about any turtle..or, lacking that, any oval shaped object!…which is likely what happened in your case.

      Enjoy and please keep me posted, frank

  195. avatar

    Thanks so much for your quick response. I have a picture of my turtle but I don’t know how to download it to this site. Are you familiar with the Petco frozen turtle food? When I took the turtle to the vet he said her beak was overgrown and she had some deformities in her shell but if she’s eating and moving around, not to worry about itl. I thought the frozen food would help her beak and I feed her five or six cubes a day. What do you feed your turtle? I’m not sure how much is the right amount. Do you think a 65 gallon tank is adequate? I enjoy your posts very much. By the way she lives with two male opaline gouramis and seems completely indifferent to them. They’re about three or four years old. We used to have a dwarf gourami but after about three years he disappeared. I think maybe he died and the slider ate him? Nobody else in the tank is talking.

    • avatar

      Hi Helen,

      I’m not familiar with tat food; Aqua Max trout chow is ideal for keeping the beak trim, and provides good nutrition…introduce slowly, but in time can serve as 50% or more of diet. Whole minnows are essential in preventing deficiencies, esp. Calcium. Pre-killed (via freezer) is generally simplest way to offer. A 65 gallon tank is fine. Good to skip meals 1-2 days per week—they always look hungry, but pets gen. get far more than they need. The info in this article is applicable (ignore noes re greens, etc)..has links to other useful commercial turtle foods that should be added to diet. I’ll send a link to AquaMax chow later today. Best, frank

      • avatar

        Hi Helen,

        You can order Aqua Max Trout Chow here (click on store)..available on Amazon also, but gen in large bags only.

        If beak remains overgrown, best to have it trimmed…simple via dremmel, if vet is experienced; let me know if you need a reference to a local vet, best, Frank

  196. avatar

    Thank you very much. I appreciate your time!!

  197. avatar

    Hello Frank,

    Today I rescued 2 terrapins that were being offered as freebies on a free stuff website. As a child until teen, I successfully had turtles for years, giving them to the New York City Aquarium when I moved abroad. So I felt compelled to take on these 2 little creatures as I wanted to see them cared for properly.

    Searching the internet, I’m sure these are stinkpot turtles. I’ve been reading up on how to best care for them. My question is how do I clean their tank? As a kid, my red-ear sliders only had a plastic turtle tank, then a plastic dog bed to live in. These little turtles came with a whole tank set-up – large fishtank, filter, heater, water conditioner, UV light, gravel & ornaments. I’m out of my depth here! I’m happy to clean them every two weeks, but how do I manage this with all that gravel? I’ve only known the simple pick up tank & dump water out & refill with water from the faucet!

    thanks in advance!

    • avatar

      Hi there,

      Your turtle tank should be filled 3/4 of the way with water, and have some kind of land area, or floating dock that they can climb out to and bask on. The space should be permanently fastened directly underneath the heat and UVB lights. The heat bulb should be strong enough to get their basking spot up to about 90 degrees. The water heater should be set at about 78 degrees. Honestly, as far as gravel goes, I would just leave it out and have a bare glass bottom. Turtles have been know to ingest aquarium gravel which can results in digestive blockages.

      Depending on what kind of filter and UV sterilizer it that you have, the setup can differ. If you need specific help, or a walk through in setting it up I recommend giving our store’s fish supplies department a call at (717) 299-5691 ext 1206. They will be able to walk you through setting up your specific filter.


About Frank Indiviglio

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Being born with a deep interest in animals might seem unfortunate for a native Bronxite , but my family encouraged my interest and the menagerie that sprung from it. Jobs with pet stores and importers had me caring for a fantastic assortment of reptiles and amphibians. After a detour as a lawyer, I was hired as a Bronx Zoo animal keeper and was soon caring for gharials, goliath frogs, king cobras and everything in-between. Research has taken me in pursuit of anacondas, Orinoco crocodiles and other animals in locales ranging from Venezuela’s llanos to Tortuguero’s beaches. Now, after 20+ years with the Bronx Zoo, I am a consultant for several zoos and museums. I have spent time in Japan, and often exchange ideas with zoologists there. I have written books on salamanders, geckos and other “herps”, discussed reptile-keeping on television and presented papers at conferences. A Master’s Degree in biology has led to teaching opportunities. My work puts me in contact with thousands of hobbyists keeping an array of pets. Without fail, I have learned much from them and hope, dear readers, that you will be generous in sharing your thoughts on this blog and web site. For a complete biography of my experience click here.
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