The Care of Common Musk Turtles as Pets: A Guide

Common Must Turtle in Water

Due to their size and relatively simple maintenance requirements, common musk turtles, often referred to as stinkpots or Eastern musk turtles, are a frequent option for pets. They are a species of water turtle native to eastern North America.

They may emit a terrible, musky stench when they feel threatened, earning them the nickname "stinkpot." These turtles may be little, but they may live to be 30 to 50 years old, and they are also capable of becoming feisty. They are not something that ought to be undertaken carelessly.

Breed Overview

Common Names: Common Musk Turtle, Eastern Musk Turtle, Stinkpot

Scientific Name: Sternotherus Odoratus

Adult Size: 3 to 5 inches

Life Expectancy: Up to and even over 50 years

Common Musk Turtle Behavior and Temperament

Due to their little size, the common musk turtle is one of the most well-known aquatic turtle species. However, you shouldn't undervalue the level of care that they need. Stinkpots are a simple species to sex since the males have larger tails with prominent spikes. Rarely do they reach a height of more than 5.5 inches.

Their carapace (top shell), which is often brown, grey, or black, is extremely dominant in young turtles but flattens out as they become older. In addition, they have two prominent yellow stripes that extend from the snout to the neck, however these can also deteriorate with time.

They do spend the most of their time in the water, but because they are not great swimmers, they prefer to stay in the shallows. They may be more active at night because they are inherently nocturnal.

Their powerful, repulsive, foul-smelling stench that they may release from their scent glands when they feel threatened is how they got their moniker. They are also renowned for being fairly feisty and have been known to bite and scratch when they feel uneasy. They can also more easily capture their target because to their long, flexible neck.

All turtles should be treated gently and respectfully. If you have to touch the stinkpot, you should take extra precautions to make sure you are not on the receiving end of a severe bite. It may be easier to pick them up by grasping the back of their shell.

Aquatic turtles run the danger of carrying Salmonella germs. After handling them, wash your hands immediately. If you have kids, you'll need to keep an eye on interactions to make sure they don't be enticed to eat with their hands before washing.

The stinkpot is an aquatic turtle that is best observed rather than having lots of physical contact.

Housing the Common Musk Turtle

The stinkpot will require an appropriate tank that will enable them to swim easily. They don't require deep water or a substrate (like gravel) at the tank's bottom, in contrast to several aquatic breeds. Additionally, this makes cleaning the tank simpler. You may use a medium-sized gravel if you want your tank to seem more nice. So that the turtle can reach the tank's bottom and yet extend to the surface without always having to paddle, the water should be shallow.

They don't require as large of a tank as some of their relatives from bigger species. Since turtles are an active animal, it is generally still advised to have a tank made to accommodate at least 30 gallons for each turtle. You must keep an eye out for the male being overly eager and pestering the female if you decide to house a male and a female together. You should be prepared to separate them if this occurs. It is not advisable to house two men together.

Even though the stinkpot spends the most of its time in the water, you need still make sure you have spots that are suited for them to emerge from the water so they may rest and bask. It is uncommon for them to spend extended periods of time sunbathing outside of water since they rapidly become dehydrated. It also provides more options for enrichment and exploration by providing structures for basking and plants for support.

To maintain a clean habitat for the turtle, a water filter made for shallow waters is required. Without it, you would have to clean the tank excessively frequently by emptying it. A robust filtration system is advised since stinkpots might be dirtier than some other turtle species due to their high-protein diet.

You should nevertheless properly clean the tank at least once every few months, and occasionally even more frequently, even with an effective, continuously operating filtration system. To make sure the water does not become unhealthy for your turtle that be in, you may buy kits to test the water's degree of cleanliness.

Whenever you are putting new water into the tank, you should ensure that this is dechlorinated. The chlorine from tap water can impact on the efficiency of the filter and the health of your turtle.

If you have dogs or cats, make sure that you have an appropriate cover for the tank to keep your turtle safe.


They should have a warm location to give them the option, even though they don't frequently sunbathe; the temperature in these regions should be approximately 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep the water at a temperature of around 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Be very careful to prevent water from evaporating and exposing if you are using them to maintain this temperature. Your turtle may overheat as a result, which is potentially harmful.


It is advised to use UVB lighting to make sure your turtle is receiving adequate amounts of vitamin D3, which is necessary for healthy calcium metabolism. Although this is frequently added to commercially available pellets, lighting will guarantee that they stay in better health if they do not receive enough from their feed. However, it should be noted that compared to other turtles, the common musk turtle has a higher capacity for vitamin D3 synthesis.

Food and Water

The common musk turtle would consume a variety of water fish and insects in the wild. Despite occasionally eating some algae, they are predominantly carnivorous. Giving them a variety food while they are in captivity will assist to guarantee that they stay content and healthy. Commercial turtle pellets are a fantastic option to feed together with high-protein items like earthworms, crickets, fish, and shrimp. Although some stinkpots could also like munching on leafy greens, don't take it personally if they do.

Common Health Problems

Most people think of the common musk turtle as a small, healthy animal. However, like with other aquatic turtles, there are some health issues they might encounter that are important to be aware of. A few of these are:

Hypovitaminosis A: This occurs when your turtle's food is deficient in vitamin A. It might cause respiratory problems and eye edema, which can cause further concerns. This may be prevented by making sure your turtle is provided a balanced diet and cured by giving them a vitamin supplement. If you can locate a pellet they like, you can make sure they receive a healthy balance.

Aquatic turtles are susceptible to a variety of infectious diseases, which can range in severity. Making sure your turtle lives in clean water can help to reduce the likelihood that a problem will arise.

Even healthy aquatic turtles occasionally have parasites like nematodes or flagellates living inside of them. Their health may be impacted if their population is too large or if they acquire parasites like tapeworms from another host. You can see symptoms like diarrhea, tiredness, or weight loss. This can assist to guarantee that things are maintained under control by setting up a yearly fecal examination through an exotic specialized veterinarian.

Choosing Your Common Musk Turtle

When searching to purchase a stinkpot turtle, it is crucial to find a reputable breeder or rescue group. To protect the survival of the natural populations, your turtle should be captive-bred.

A statute in the United States forbids the selling of turtles with carapaces less than 4 inches. This implies that the majority of breeders will not have a stinkpot hatchling available.

Instead of merely visiting a regular pet store, it is typically preferable to visit a small-scale specialist breeder. A trustworthy professional will frequently offer far greater expert assistance in addition to having additional assurances about the turtle's origin and upbringing.

Why not think about adopting an orphaned common musk turtle? There are several organizations that rescue reptiles and amphibians, as well as certain specialized turtle rescue groups. Using is an excellent overall place to start your search.

Similar Species to the Common Musk Turtles

If you are interested in finding out about other aquatic turtles and their suitability for living in your home, you may wish to consider:

Or, you can check out our other profiles to help you choose your next pet.


"Pet Turtles: Cute But Commonly Contaminated with Salmonella. US Food & Drug Administration.", "Disorders and Diseases of Reptiles. Merck Veterinary Manual." ;