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You are here: myPetSmart.com > Pet Care Library > Articles > Water Turtles

Water Turtles


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Traits & behavior

They eat insects, worms and small fish, as well as certain plants and vegetables.

This means that they are active during the day and sleep at night.

With proper care, your turtle could live to be more than 30 years old.

Things to remember

Always supervise children when they're observing your turtle.

It's best to only handle your turtle when necessary, such as when cleaning the habitat.

Water turtles need an environment that has both areas for swimming, and dry land areas.

Food safety

  • Insects - Remove uneaten insects from the habitat at the end of the day; do not allow to remain in habitat overnight
  • Vegetables - Fresh foods require their own dish and should be removed from the habitat after four hours to prevent spoilage

Safety & cleanliness
Please remember that all pets may bite or scratch, and may transmit disease to humans. Keep your pet's home clean and wash your hands before and after handling your pet or cleaning his home. Infants, young children, pregnant women, people with compromised immune systems, and the infirm or elderly are at greater risk of infections and should use caution when in contact with the pet or its habitat. Consult your doctor for more information.


Crickets, worms & fish
Aquatic turtles eat mostly live insects, like "gut loaded" (feed the insects a special supplement so they have extra nutrients) crickets, mealworms, waxworms or comet goldfish.

Offer 1-2 teaspoons of dark leafy greens like kale, collard greens or mustard greens 3-4 times a week.

Prepared food
They will also eat canned, pellet turtle food and frozen/freeze-dried fish food.

Feeding frequency & amount
Feed juveniles daily; adults 4-5 times a week. Offer an amount that can be consumed within five minutes, once or twice daily.

Calcium dust
"Dust" the insects with a calcium supplement twice a week -- ask an associate for details.


Signs of a healthy water turtle:

  • Clear, alert eyes
  • Solid, normal-appearing shell
  • Eats normally
  • Breathes easily

Things to watch for:

  • Red streaks in droppings for more than two days
  • Decreased activity
  • Soft or cracking shell
  • Eating or drinking less; weight loss
  • Swollen joints
  • Swollen eyes; discharge from the eyes, nose or mouth

If you notice any of the signs above, please consult an experienced Reptile Veterinarian as soon as possible.


Your water turtle needs a home with land and water areas. You can create this environment by:

  • Furnishing the terrarium with a water dish large enough for full-body soaking
  • Creating a divided terrarium with a water side and a land side. Be sure to create a gradual incline that allows your pet to get in and out of the water easily. Use a small filter to help keep the water clean, and a submersible heater (if needed), to keep the water at the right temperature.

An underwater filter is a good idea to help keep the swimming water clean.


  • Day - Maintain a daytime temperature between 75-85° F
  • Basking - Provide a basking spot lamp to create a localized basking area of 90-95° F
  • Night - Maintain a nighttime temperature between 70-75° F
  • Water - Place a thermometer near the basking area, and a aquarium thermometer in the water

Live aquatic plants like anacharis add a natural look. Plants can also be added in the land area.


LightingUse a daytime UVA/UVB fluorescent bulb for approximately 12 hours of light per day to help maintain shell structure.

Use coarse aquarium gravel to create an incline land area; clean it weekly with an aquarium gravel vacuum to avoid bacterial growth.

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