Adding a turtle to your home can be a great way to gain a new pet that will be with you for years. There are hundreds of turtle types, though, ranging from leatherback sea turtles (dermochelys coriacea) to snapping turtles (chelydra serpentina) and much, much more. With so many options, choosing a pet turtle can be overwhelming.
Each different type and turtle species has its own unique requirements for shelter, food, water source, and even levels of heat and humidity. And, with these amphibians hailing from locations such as New Guinea, the Caribbean, South America, Australia, and even the Galapagos Islands, you'll need to consider whether you can provide the turtle with the right environment here at home.
It is true that some are better suited to life with humans than others, but here are ten different types of turtles that would be happy to live with you.
Types of Turtles as Pets
1. African Sideneck Turtle
These freshwater turtles were originally discovered in eastern and southern Africa. They make great pets because they are most active during the daytime, and are easily acquired since they are not on the endangered species list.
These aquatic turtles have a lifespan up to 25 years, can grow anywhere from eight to eighteen inches long, and have webbed feet.
2. Central American Wood Turtle
Wood turtles are found throughout most of western Mexico all the way to Costa Rica. There are four subspecies of wood turtle, but the ornate wood turtle is most commonly seen in captivity.
Of all the subspecies, the ornate wood turtle lives in the most tropical environments, and is known for its brilliant red striping. These turtles make intelligent and personable pets.
3. Painted Turtle
The painted turtle is the most widespread turtle in North America. They can be found from southern Canada to northern Mexico and from the East Coast to the West. Like many turtles, they are active during the day and hibernate during the winter.
Adult females range in size from four to 10 inches in length; males are generally smaller. In the wild they can live for more than 55 years.
4. Caspian Pond Turtle
Hailing from the Middle East, the Caspian pond turtle is distinguished by its tan or olive with yellow or cream patterning on its shell (also known as its carapace), arms, and head.
Though quick to return to the water if startled, these water turtles are very personable turtles and quickly learn to recognize their keepers.
5. Red Ear Slider Turtle
The red-eared slider derives its name from the distinctive patch of red behind each eye. It is most often found from Illinois to the Gulf of Mexico and from the East Coast to western Texas. It is a strong swimmer and prefers to be around marshes, ponds, and other slow-moving fresh water.
As pets, red-eared sliders can be slow to trust, but become personable with time. They can live anywhere from 50-70 years.
6. Reeve's Turtle
The range of the Reeve's turtle extends across central and eastern China, North and South Korea, Taiwan and Japan.
These turtles inhabit ponds, lakes and small streams, preferring slow-moving or still water with a soft bottom and lots of vegetation. They make excellent pets because they breed well in captivity and mature at a manageable size of about nine inches.
In captivity they can be expected to live for 10-15 years.
7. Eastern Box Turtle
As their name implies, the Eastern box turtle (a subspecies of the Terrapene carolina) is found in the eastern United States. They are very prevalent in North Carolina, where they are the state reptile.
They are slow crawlers, slow to mature, and can live up to 100 years in the wild, though they have much shorter lives in captivity. They can be difficult to keep as pets, as they require high humidity, warmth, suitable substrate for burrowing and access to ultraviolet light, yet they remain a popular choice.
8. Mississippi Map Turtle
The Mississippi map turtle is named for its map-like markings and can be found in the Mississippi Valley down into the Gulf states in most rivers, lakes, and streams. They tend to stay in moving water rather than farm ponds and creeks.
They prefer large, flowing bodies of water like rivers, and are avid baskers. As pets they are easy keepers, but need excellent water quality.
The Mississippi map turtle is a popular pet in the United States.
9. Russian Tortoise
The range of the Russian tortoise includes southeastern Russia, eastern Iran, northwest Pakistan and Afghanistan. Maturing at 8-10 inches, these tortoises are feisty, eager to eat and relatively active for a tortoise. A female Russian tortoise can start to lay eggs when she's just 4.5 inches long.
They are also burrowers, and have a high tolerance for temperature extremes, making them easy to care for and fun as pets. These particular types of turtles can live for more than 40 years.
10. Greek Tortoise
The Greek tortoise (also called the spur-thighed tortoise) hails from North Africa, southern Europe and southwest Asia. They mature between five and eight inches, and can be one of the longest living tortoises; some have been reported living well into their 100s. However, in the wild they rarely live past 20 due to predators.
The Greek tortoise spends much of its time grazing. While they do not like to be held, they do tend to become very responsive to their keepers, and are known for being easy-going, friendly and interactive.
Choosing the Right Turtle for Your Home
If you're considering bringing a turtle into your home, do your research. There is much more to learn about all ten of these types of turtles, and because turtles can live for years, you'll want to make sure that you choose the right species for your home. In addition to these turtles, other types of turtles that are suitable for pets include the mud turtle, green turtle, terrapin, and musk turtle.
The snapping turtle is a recognizable favorite breed, and some people do choose to keep the snapping turtle as a pet. However, this breed requires some extra care and can be a challenge to care for.
While sea turtles like the flatback turtle, loggerhead, leatherback sea turtle, hawksbill, and green sea turtle may be appealing and unique, many of these species are critically endangered. It's best to leave the care and conservation of these sea turtle species up to the professionals.
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This article was originally published August 23, 2019.