Mud Turtles are one of the smaller species of freshwater turtles. Although the species is native to the eastern united states, the turtle has become very popular with pet owners. This is due to the Mud Turtles’ small size and overall ease of care. The turtle is very compact, so you don’t need a large fish tank compared to the more common pet turtle the red-eared slider can reach 12 inches. The mud turtle has a varied diet that is easy for the average pet owner to feed and requires only a 40-gallon tank.
Types Of Mud Turtles
Mud turtles are native to bodies of water from Texas to New York. Over the years, they have become very popular as pets. This is due to their small size, only ever-growing to be around 4 inches long. Three different types of Mud Turtle can be found in the wild. Those turtles are:
Eastern Mud Turtle
The eastern mud turtle is only 3-4 inches, making this one of the smaller turtle species. This turtle is known for having a smooth dark brown shell with no pattern. It also has a spine on top of its tail and rough scaly patches on the insider of its legs. The turtle also has 11 marginal scutes or plates than the 12 traditionally found on turtles. The lower shell of the eastern mud turtle is yellow or brown with 11 plates.
These turtles are found in long island, southern Florida, Texas, north up the Mississippi valley, and southern Illinois.
Mississippi Mud Turtle
The Mississippi mud turtle has two light-colored lines on the side of its head. The lines can be thin or thick and can sometimes be difficult to see. The Mississippi Mud Turtle is often found in shallow, stagnant bodies of water such as swamps or ditches. These turtles are not strong swimmers and bask more often than the traditional mud turtle.
Striped Mud Turtle
The striped mud turtle is easy to identify due to the three colored stripes running down its shell. These stripes can be yellow, tan, or gold. This turtle also has a yellow coloring on its head, side of the neck, and throat. The color extends from the shell along the side of the turtle’s neck and under the chin. The yellow mud turtle only grows to be about 3-4 inches in length.
Although these turtles don’t live as long as some other turtles, such as the tortoise, they still live an impressive 30-50 years. These turtles will hit adulthood within 5 to 6 years. Many people own mud turtles as pets, so it’s important to know the commitment you are getting yourself into if you are to purchase one of these turtles.
When mud turtles are in the wild, they will eat fish, flies, and aquatic vegetation. In captivity, a mud turtle will eat a more varied diet and often has pellet turtle food.
The mud turtle is found in Long Island, Florida, Texas, the Mississipi Valley to southern Illinois, and southwestern Indiana.
The mud turtle is a semi-aquatic freshwater turtle that often leaves the water during the summer. They are typically found in marshes, ponds, wet ditches or fields, and on offshore islands. These turtles usually prefer shallow water with a soft bottom. This is due to them not being the strongest swimmer out of the turtle species. Although the mud slider enjoys being on land, the turtle hardly ever basks. They will spend most of their time buried in the mud, under leaves, or lying on the floor of a shallow body of water.
Mud Turtles As Pets
Due to their smaller size, the mud turtle has become quite popular, as they only grow up to 4 inches in length. This turtle makes a great pet for an older child, but you may want to avoid giving a mud turtle to a younger child. The mud turtle is known to bite and requires an intermediate care level, making this pet not well suited for small children.
Although these turtles are small in size, that doesn’t mean they are friendly. Mud turtles are known for having attitudes with their owners and will often try to bite their owners if they feel you are too close to them. You really don’t want to handle this kind of turtle unless you absolutely have to, such as cleaning out its tank etc.
Mud turtles are similar to a musk turtle as they both release a terrible smelling liquid designed to scare off any predators trying to eat them. It will be rare that your mud turtle does this, but do know it can happen. Many people find themselves cleaning the tanks excessively, trying to find the source of this smell, but don’t worry, it’s just your turtle’s defense mechanism!
There is a common theme that inexperienced turtle owners have, and that is they assume since the turtle is small, it doesn’t require much space. In fact, these little guys need plenty of room to swim! You will want to give a juvenile mud turtle at least a 20-gallon tank that is half dry land and half water. Once a turtle hits adulthood, you need to upgrade your tank to at least a 40-gallon fish tank. These turtles do enjoy hiding under leaves and digging holes in the ground, but they also enjoy swimming around in the water. A general rule of thumb for turtles is the bigger the enclosure the better.
Your turtle would also enjoy some floating items in the tank, you can add things such as floating pieces of wood, logs, or even a commercially sold floating dock. These make for great areas for your turtle to hangout on and get out of the water.
When you fill your turtle’s tank with water, you want to make sure the water you are using does not have any chlorine traces. A simple way to dechlorinate water is to use one of the many water dechlorinators on the market. These will dechlorinate water and remove any heavy metals that can be found in the water.
Another important aspect of any mud turtle enclosure is proper filtration. You want a filter that can handle at least double the water in your tank. For example, if you have a 40-gallon, you want a filter that can handle 80-100 gallons of water. This will keep your tank clean, and keep your turtle healthy. You will also appreciate the filter keeping the smell of your turtle tank to a minimum.
When adding any type of substrate to your mud turtle tank there are a few things to consider. First, if you are a new owner you may consider keeping the bottom of the water bare. This will allow for easy cleaning, but you will lose the aesthetic appeal of the tank.
If you’re looking for something to add a nice look to the water you will want to use some sort of river rock stones. These are great because your turtle cannot accidentally swallow them.
For the dry land area of your tank, you might want to consider using a mix of commercial sold eco-earth and dry leaves. You don’t want to add mud to your tank because this may make the turtle want to go into hibernation. Your turtle can hide easily in piles of leaves, and won’t end up going into hibernation. One of the positive things about eco-earth and these leaves is they will maintain a good level of humidity within the tank, so the turtle won’t feel too dry. This will encourage the turtle even more to hangout on land.
For most reptiles, especially turtles any enclosure needs to have a UVB light. These lights will help your turtle process vitamin D3, so its body can properly absorb calcium. A UVB isn’t required if your turtle is in an outdoor enclosure and receives natural sunlight. However, if your mud turtle is indoors, you will want to have a UVB bulb to mimic the effects of sunlight. Your UVB lighting should stay on a 12 hour light cycle similar to the sun. This will increase the overall health of your turtle. Remember, even if a UVB bulb still turns on technically, it does not mean it is still useful. You want to change the UVB bulb in your mud turtle’s enclosure once every six months, if not earlier.
Heating Your Mud Turtle Enclosure
Mud turtles do not like cold temperatures, so keeping your tank at the proper temperature is very important. Like any reptile, if conditions end up becoming too hot or too cold, your turtle will not eat. The reason behind this is because reptiles rely on heat for digestion.
You will want a heat bulb, so your turtle can bask on land. The bulb should make the area about 90 degrees, this will also help heat the ambient temperature of your turtle’s enclosure. You want the overall temperature of your turtle’s enclosure to be 80 degrees when the turtle is not hibernating, and the water should maintain a temperature of 70 degrees. Although mud turtles rarely bask, it is important to give them the option. Basking will help dry out the turtle’s shell as well as help prevent any fungal or parasitic infections. The heat also helps your turtle digest and stay healthy overall.
Pet Mud Turtle Diet
Mud turtles are a carnivorous species of turtle capable of eating various invertebrates, small feeder fish, insects, tadpoles, frogs, and crayfish crustaceans, mollusks, smaller amphibians, and flies. Mud turtles will also eat certain vegetation such as algae or other aquatic plants. Feeder fish are among the most common types of live food pet owners seem to feed to their mud turtles. They are cost-effective, usually, you can get a dozen of them for a little over a dollar. The best part about feeder fish is if you dump a dozen of them in the tank, the mud turtle can eat them as they please throughout the day.
If feeding live food to your mud turtle seems like too much of a task, then you would want to consider something like commercial turtle food. This food comes in pellets and is nutritionally sound, and since Mud Turtles are omnivorous they won’t have any issue eating them. However, you will want to give your mud turtle a varied diet of food and mix in greens to help them live a long, happy life.
Mud turtles like most turtles, prefer to eat their food in the water. In the wild this is fine, but in a turtle tank in your home, this can cause bacteria to grow within the tank if you’re not careful. Make sure you are skimming out any old food that is floating around, and always check that your filters are functioning properly.
Selecting A Mud Turtle As A Pet
When choosing a Mud Turtle as a pet, you need to keep in mind a few things. First, do not take a turtle out of the wild and put them in your home. It may be illegal, depending on where you live, to keep a wild-caught turtle, but beyond that, you don’t want to remove a turtle out of the wild population and negatively impact their numbers. Although turtles have large clutches of eggs, very few of those hatchlings will actually hit adulthood. The chances were already high that the egg would not hatch due to animals such as raccoons and snakes eating turtle eggs often, so taking a turtle out of the wild really goes against the species’ overall survival rate.
You want to get your Mud Turtle from a pet store if possible, you want to make sure the turtle has a smooth shell and no flaking. Another critical health sign is to make sure the turtle has clear ears and no cuts.
Mud Turtles can make fantastic pets if you are able to meet the needs required for their habitat. They stay small, don’t need a lot of space, and are rather docile. Just make sure you don’t handle them unless you absolutely need to because these little guys get nippy!