A Manual for Taking Care of Pet Mud Turtles

Mud turtle

Eastern mud turtles, which are native to ponds in the Eastern United States from Texas to New York, are well-liked as pets in large part due to their little size. Mud turtles are that seldom exceed five inches in length. They are also tiny and compact. They are semi-terrestrial, unlike some of their cousins, although they have similar care needs to other aquatic turtles.

Mud turtles seldom bask, unlike many other reptiles, notably aquatic turtles. Instead of trying to soak up the sun, they spend the majority of their time wandering, hidden behind foliage, or sitting on the bottoms of tiny ponds. Mud turtles are definitely not a good pet for younger children, while they could be suitable for older kids who can take good care of them. Their caretaker has to be an intermediate level builder of tanks and terrariums since they require both land and aquatic habitats.

Species Overview

Common Name: Mud turtle, Eastern mud turtle

Scientific Name: Kinosternon subrubrum

Adult Size: Up to 5 inches

Life Expectancy: Up to 50 years

Mud Turtle Behavior and Temperament

Despite how adorable they appear, don't think that these small turtles will be tame and sociable. Mud turtles tend to be grumpy and will bite if they feel threatened or uneasy with their curled beaks. This is only one of many reasons not to handle a pet mud turtle until absolutely essential.

Some people get worried if they suddenly detect a bad stench emanating from their mud turtle. Mud turtles are related to musk turtles, and they both possess the ability to ward off predators by secreting a foul-smelling liquid. Owners should be aware that while most mud turtles kept in captivity never employ this defense strategy, mud turtles can and do emit a musky odor.

Housing the Mud Turtle

Even though they are little as adults, these turtles require enough space to swim and dive when housed in an aquatic terrarium. At least one fish tank with a land portion and a water portion should be available. Your turtle will be able to swim and dive while still having space to move about and dig burrows on dry ground. Ensure that the depth of the water is twice their length. A 50-100-gallon tank is recommended for a female turtle.

The water side of the tank will stay cleaner if the bottom is made of gravel rather than muck, and a floating dock would be a nice addition. However, to build a double-decker habitat for the land area, think about adding a second tank and setting it on its side atop the water tank's rim. To prevent your turtle from accidentally falling out of the enclosure and onto the floor, build a secure ramp that connects the higher and lower levels in the middle of the arrangement. To prevent your turtle from swallowing the mud turtle, utilize a big substrate.

Although mud turtles are so named because they enjoy burrowing in mud during the winter, you don't always need to keep your turtles in a muddy environment. Despite the turtle's name, it is not required to give mud since encouraging your turtle to hibernate in captivity is not advised. The turtle can bury itself in the dry area of the terrarium with just moist leaves and soil.


Make sure that no area of the ecosystem becomes very chilly. All turtle species require both heat and UVB lighting. Large heat bulbs that are intended to keep your mud turtle warm heating up the entire cage that mud turtles utilize. To keep the habitat at a water temperature of 74–78 degrees Fahrenheit, conventional reptile heat lamps and a separate UVB bulb should be used. Between 78 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit should be the ambient tank temperature.


In order for the turtle's digestive tract to adequately absorb calcium, UVB lamps assist in the production of vitamin D3. Every 12 hours the UVB bulb should be lit, and it should be changed every six months. It will exhaust its capacity to produce intangible UVB photons even if it doesn't burn out before the visible component of the bulb burns out.

Food and Water

Although mud turtles are omnivores, worms, fish, snails, and other creatures commonly found in ponds make up the majority of their diet. Every other day, provide a single protein-rich meal till fullness. Pellets for turtles are a good supplement to their diet in captivity.

Feed them as much dark green, leafy vegetables as they will consume, such as fresh parsley and dandelion greens; additional salad greens (not iceberg or romaine lettuce) should also be provided fresh daily. For hatchlings and three times a week for adults, give calcium supplements. Throughout the week, food should be offered multiple times. Feed one protein meal every day as well (can be insects, snails, worms, or small fish).

Mud turtles are notoriously messy eaters, therefore some owners build a separate sub-enclosure (such a clear, floating plastic box) for their pets to eat in, even though it's not recommended to touch mud turtles regularly. Just be aware that you might require some cleanup time after feeding if you don't want to relocate them to a feeding place.

Mud turtles spend a lot of time in the water, despite the fact that they are not particularly adept swimmers. To help keep the water in your turtle's tank clean and aerated, use a submersible or canister filter. Turtles require to stave against diseases and infections. Use multiple filters to keep the water clean. Every two weeks, wash the rocks in the tank with diluted bleach, run water over them to remove the bleach, and then put the tank back within the enclosure.

Common Health and Behavior Problems

Taking your turtle in for a yearly checkup with an exotic pet doctor is always beneficial. Poor shell health is the most evident health issue with any aquatic turtle. Flaking shells, shell abnormalities, and even can be caused by dirty water, bad lighting, and a poor diet.

Ear infections, vitamin shortages, metabolic bone disease, and intestinal parasites are among the other disorders that are readily treated. Again, enhancing the water quality, overhead lighting, and feed of your turtle should be sufficient. Check your mud turtle's feces for intestinal parasites once a year; they are typically expungable with the right deworming medication.

Be mindful of the association between aquatic turtles and Salmonella if you want to keep a mud turtle as a pet for a youngster. Children naturally want to pick up and play with turtles because they are cute, but doing so might put them and anybody else handling them at risk for Salmonella infection. Since they are less likely to wash their hands after coming in contact with an aquatic turtle, children are regarded to be the group most at danger.

Choosing Your Mud Turtle

Mud turtles should have smooth shells with no signs of flaking or unusual bumps. Their eyes should be clear, and their skin should not show any signs of irritation or infection. 

Your best bet is to get your mud turtle from a reputable breeder; do your research before you make your selection.

Similar Species to the Mud Turtle

If you're trying to decide which aquatic turtle is the best fit for you, here are some species that are similar to the mud turtle:

You can also check out other profiles of that can be your pet.


"Common Diseases of Aquatic Turtles. VCA Hospitals.", "Salmonella Outbreaks Linked to Small Turtles. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention." ;