How to choose the right turtle for you

red eared slider

By Mary Beth Miller

If you’ve decided to add a turtle to your family, congratulations to the reptile family!

But all joking aside, it’s important to know how to choose the best turtle for you. You can’t just choose a turtle based on their looks or availability. Turtles come in all shapes and sizes, with different living environments and dietary needs that you will need to be prepared to accommodate.

The best way you can pick the ideal turtle is by taking some time to learn about the different species of turtles. We have all the tips you need to know in order to choose the perfect turtle companion.

Considerations When Choosing A Turtle:

Before you add a turtle to your family (be sure to check out your local reptile rescues or adoptable animal apps like Petfinder), ask yourself the following questions:

  • What temperament would I like to see in my turtle?
  • How big would I like my turtle to get?
  • Is the appearance of my turtle important to me?
  • Do I have the means to accommodate the needs of my turtle?
  • Do I need a permit or license to keep a turtle in my location?
  • Am I prepared to provide a safe, high-quality, species-appropriate home for the lifespan of the turtle?

Once you have answered these questions, you can begin your search for the perfect turtle companion. The following turtles are perfect for turtle owner beginners (click on the links for more detailed information about each species):

Red Ear Slider Turtle  – The most popular species of turtle in the world! The red ear slider can grow up to be 11 inches in size and are omnivores, meaning they eat both plants and meat. The red ear slider is a sun bather and requires special lighting, as well as a place out of water to bask. 

Caspian Pond Turtle – The Caspian pond turtle or the striped neck terrapin, can grow to be nine inches in length and is perfect for owners over 12 years of age. These turtles are omnivores that require both plant vegetation and meat to fulfill their dietary needs. The Caspian is a semi-aquatic turtle, meaning that his enclosure will require both water and land.

Painted Turtle – The painted turtle is well named, displaying an array of colors. The painted turtle is medium sized, growing to about seven inches in length. This turtle is an omnivore, is semi-aquatic and is ideal for teenage to adult ownership.

Painted Wood Turtle – Not to be confused with the painted turtle, the painted wood turtle can be found in Central America—which is why it also referred to as the Central American wood turtle. This turtle is semi-aquatic, but can only swim in shallow water, and requires large sun basking areas in captivity. This species of turtle is an herbivore, meaning they eat plant based material. However, this turtle does eat the occasional worm or insect that enters his tank.

African Sideneck Turtle – The African aquatic sideneck turtle is primarily an aquatic turtle, but they do require a small land area to bask. These turtles can grow up to eight inches in length and are omnivores.

No matter which type of turtle you bring into your home, make sure to follow up with an exotic veterinarian who specializes in reptiles to ensure your turtle is getting everything he needs. The lifespan of the average captive turtle can be 20-50 years (or more!), and the quality of the living environment has a direct impact on their longevity. Turtles make excellent pets, with distinct and wonderful personalities; the more informed you are going into the relationship, the happier your turtle will be!



mary-beth-miller-pawedinMary Beth Miller is a registered veterinary technician from southeast Iowa. She works in a large/small animal veterinary clinic and also volunteers at the local Humane Society, Emergency Animal Care Center, as well as the Iowa Parrot Rescue. Her passion lies in helping save the lives of animals. MaryBeth has three dogs, a Siberian husky named Rocky and two rescue dogs named Sambita and Nina.

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