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

    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

  2. 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

  3. 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

  4. 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

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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

  9. 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

  10. 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

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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

  14. 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

  15. 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

  16. 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

  17. 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

  18. 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?

  19. 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

  20. 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

  21. 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

  22. 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

  23. 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

  24. 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,

  25. 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.

  26. 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

  27. 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.

  28. 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.

  29. 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

  30. 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

  31. 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

  32. 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

  33. 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

  34. 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

  35. 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

  36. 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

  37. 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

  38. avatar

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

  39. 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

  40. 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

  41. 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

  42. 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

  43. 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

  44. 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

  45. 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

  46. avatar

    Thank you very much. I appreciate your time!!

  47. 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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