Pet turtles aren’t the most energetic animals. Despite their appearance, these creatures are sociable, awe-inspiring, and fascinating to watch. Stress reduction can occur just by observing these creatures swim and move around in their natural habitat. Taking care of a turtle teaches children patience and gentleness.
Turtles come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and temperaments. Depending on the species, some can grow to enormous sizes, while others are noted for being more social and less aggressive than others.
Fortunately, several turtle species are appropriate as pets for people who are just getting started with reptile care. In this post, learn about the best pet turtles for beginners and how to choose your new pet turtle.
What Makes A Turtle Beginner-Friendly?
Our list of beginner-friendly turtles should be preceded by examining what qualifies as a “beginner-friendly turtle.” It’s not as simple as it seems, and turtles that are good for beginners tend to have a few characteristics in common:
They Are Sociable
Some turtle types have the character of being reclusive creatures who don’t engage with their owners, while some are quite friendly and like spending time with their keepers. If you want to spend quality time with your turtle, we recommend looking for one that is friendly and social in behavior. It’s a lot more enjoyable if the turtle is safe to handle.
Hardy & Disease-Resistant
Because of their tough exterior, turtles frequently appear to be low-care pets. However, it is not valid for all of them, and many turtle species are susceptible to illness. This is why it’s critical to purchase a turtle species that are disease-resistant and naturally strong enough to avoid infection.
Need Moderate Requirements
Beginners should avoid keeping turtles with special care needs because only experienced keepers can offer these animals specialized care. This is why we only chose turtles with moderate to light requirements, so you won’t have to be an expert turtle keeper to care for your pet correctly.
Require Minimum Setup Time
Many turtle tanks appear to be problems waiting to happen shortly after you buy your pet. But low-demanding turtles exist. We designed our selection to include turtles requiring little setup time, so you won’t have to spend time or money immediately after taking your turtle home.
Best Pet Turtles For Beginners (And Tortoises Also)
We’ve added five more to the list, in addition to the five best pet turtles listed in the video. These turtles and tortoises have simple care requirements and make great beginner pets. If you are looking for a low-maintenance pet that is unique and fun to watch, a turtle may be perfect for you. Just be sure to do your research on the specific care requirements of the species you are interested in before making your final decision.
Eastern Box Turtle
- SCIENTIFIC NAME: Terrapene Carolina Carolina
- ADULT SIZE: 5 to 7 inches long
- LIFE EXPECTANCY: 30 to 40 years in captivity
A large amount of space is required for Eastern box turtles, yet they’re adaptable and can live in or out of doors with the correct habitat. A wet substrate, a shallow pool of water in their habitat, and a UVB basking light are all necessary if they are housed inside.
As an omnivore, box turtles thrive on a high protein diet, especially in the first few years of their lives, when they are most vulnerable. In addition to snails, these turtles consume crickets, earthworms, tiny rodents, salamanders, slugs, fungi, flowers, dandelion, and a wide range of fruits and vegetables.
The shyness of these turtles can be overcome with the correct kind of interactions and minimum handling, but they are not aggressive in nature. They may even come out to welcome you if you have a good treat.
Common Musk Turtle (Stinkpot)
- SCIENTIFIC NAME: Sternotherus Odoratus
- ADULT SIZE: 3 to 5 inches
- LIFE EXPECTANCY: 50 years
Among aquatic turtles, the common musk is among the most popular. Because of their diminutive size, they require less attention than some other pets.
They favor densely wooded places and can be found in Florida, Mississippi, Texas, and other swampy parts of the United States. Make sure you get a warm water heater to assist you in replicating this climate.
Musk turtles are carnivorous. As a result, the bulk of their diet should consist mainly of animal sources of high-quality protein. Mealworms, crickets, and other insects come to mind. Try feeding your musk turtle some veggies, but be prepared for them to reject them. Commercial pellets can also be provided to musk turtles.
Because they can’t swim as well as some other aquatic turtles, you should keep the water level in their tank at a shallow depth. Having a lot of places where they can quickly get out of the water and bask in the UVB light is also essential.
- SCIENTIFIC NAME: Centrochelys Sulcata
- ADULT SIZE: Up to 30 inches long
- LIFE EXPECTANCY: 70 years
All tortoises are quiet and slow, but Sulcata tortoises are huge and docile. They’re also naturally inquisitive, which can work against them. Because of the size, Sulcata tortoises are prone to get caught in places too small for them to escape.
These tortoises make excellent pets since they are calm and easy to care for. They don’t tend to be violent or possessive. However, they should not be handled frequently, especially when they are young and vulnerable.
Sulcata tortoises are grazing herbivores who require a high-fiber, low-protein diet. This can be accomplished by providing a range of grasses and hays and edible weeds and flowers, including dandelions, clover, endive, and cactus pads. Other leafy green veggies in small amounts are also acceptable.
Adult Sulcata tortoises are too large to be housed indoors, but if you allocate them to a separate room, it is possible. If you live in a cold environment, you will need to provide them with a warm area. A heated outdoor shed or greenhouse can be a good place for them to live when it’s cool outside.
- SCIENTIFIC NAME: Testudo Horsfieldii
- ADULT SIZE: 8 to 10 inches long
- LIFE EXPECTANCY: 50 years
One of the most common tortoises, Russian tortoises, is a popular choice for pet owners. Most persons with restricted living space can easily accommodate their small size. They are also more aggressive, hungry, and energetic than other tortoise species. Russian tortoises have one of the highest temperature tolerances when they are permitted to burrow.
They have a proclivity for digging into corners and against objects. Tortoises are discouraged from digging out by placing huge boulders under the dirt in the corners. They attempt to go underground in hotter or lower temperatures to protect themselves from the extremes. Building underground hide boxes for Russian tortoises that maintain a more consistent temperature helps keep them from burrowing too far.
The natural diet of the Russian tortoise consists of grasses, twigs, flowers, and some fruits, all of which are herbaceous and succulent. No animal protein is consumed by these tortoises! As feasible to their native diet, high fiber, low protein, and calcium-rich diets are ideal.
They’re excellent first reptiles for newbies as long as they’re correctly cared for. Compared to certain other species of reptiles, these reptiles are pretty easy to care for and can live for decades.
- SCIENTIFIC NAME: Malaclemys Terrapin
- ADULT SIZE: Up to 9 inches long
- LIFE EXPECTANCY: 30 years
The diamondback terrapin turtle is one of the most unusual aquatic animal species. These creatures are native to the southern United States, where the climate is hotter and more humid. This means that their owners will have to keep their enclosures at an average temperature of 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
The olive green turtle with brown markings has a diamond-shaped pattern on its shell. Regarding care, the diamondback terrapin is a pretty easy pet to keep and will thrive on an omnivorous diet. They’ll feel right at home with a little bit of brackish water thrown in!
Most Diamondback Terrapins are carnivores, meaning they’ll eat just about any commercial turtle food you can throw. At least three or four distinct high-quality varieties of foods are recommended. Some fish, frozen crayfish or shrimp, and earthworms should be in the mix. These turtles will love freeze-dried krill or brine shrimp as well.
The bottom of a terrapin’s tank should be made with crushed coral. It can be used as a calcium supplement and a substrate (flooring) for their tanks. Diamondback terrapins enjoy chewing on the coral, which gives them a calcium boost while also wearing down their beaks naturally.
- SCIENTIFIC NAME: Trachemys Scripta Elegans
- ADULT SIZE: Up to 12 inches long
- LIFE EXPECTANCY: 20 to 30 years
One of the most popular aquatic turtle species is the red-eared slider. Compared to some of their cousins, they’re friendlier, more outgoing, active, and readily available.
They can be found in lakes, streams, and ponds across the United States. Swimming is a favorite pastime for these turtles, as they are aquatic creatures.
Even though these turtles are usually housed in aquariums, higher temperatures and better shelter can allow them to thrive in an outdoor pond.
Because these turtles are omnivores, their primary care is relatively simple. To put it another way, you can feed your Red-Eared Slider pretty much everything you want. I’d advise feeding your turtle various foods, including leafy greens, crickets/mealworms, and commercial turtle pellets.
Because of their larger size, consequent feeding requirements, and more extensive housing requirements, these turtles can be more expensive to care for. They are, however, a sturdy and vigorous species that often live to the age of 50 or more with proper care.
African Sideneck Turtle
- SCIENTIFIC NAME: Pelomedusa subrufa
- ADULT SIZE: 6 to 9 inches long
- LIFE EXPECTANCY: 50 years
African Sideneck turtles have large eyes and a fixed smile on their faces, making them appear friendly at all times. These turtles are famous for their distinctive appearance and size, but they demand more time and attention than other turtles.
The anatomy of these unusual aquatic turtles differs from that of other species because of their unusually long necks, which are unable to be entirely retracted within their shells.
The African Sideneck turtle, like most other aquatic turtles, is an omnivore. Because it’s omnivorous, this implies it can consume anything. This creature can eat various foods, including plants, insects, and fish. It is really possible to get more significant vitamins and minerals from pellets than you would from natural food, which makes them a valuable source of nutrition.
Like all aquatic turtles, they should not be handled. They are not known to be aggressive towards humans, but when they are terrified or agitated, they are more likely to scratch and bite to protect themselves.
Western Painted Turtle
- SCIENTIFIC NAME: Chrysemys picta bellii
- ADULT SIZE: Up to 10 inches long
- LIFE EXPECTANCY: Up to 50 years
A Western Painted Turtle might be right for you if you’re looking for an eye-catching and unique turtle. The modest size and hardiness of Western Painted Turtles make them an excellent choice for budding herpetologists looking to expand their families. Their shells are covered in intricate patterns.
A large tank or outdoor area, a sound water filter system, and basking lights are necessary to keep these aquatic turtles warm. Comparable to the red-eared slider, they require similar dwelling requirements. Because these reptiles are native to the Pacific coast of North America, they prefer warm environments with sand or rocky bottoms and plenty of high-up basking areas.
Adult painted turtles have bright shells ranging from red, orange, and yellow to deep browns and blacks, depending on where they live! With age, the color of a painted turtle’s shell darkens to match that of an adult, but the stripes on its back remain bright yellow. Because of their reclusive nature, they aren’t turtles accustomed to being handled frequently.
Choosing food that floats and can be readily removed out of the water if not eaten is a smart decision to help maintain the tank clean for longer because they prefer to eat while swimming.
Mississippi Map Turtle
- SCIENTIFIC NAME: Graptemys Pseudogeographica Kohni
- ADULT SIZE: Females up to 10 inches and males up to 5 inches long
- LIFE EXPECTANCY: 30 years
Mississippi Map turtles get their name from the lines and patterns on their carapace that look like map contour lines. In the Mississippi Valley, from Illinois and Nebraska to Mississippi and Texas, you’ll find these turtles in rivers and lakes and major streams.
They are also known as the “Sawback” turtle because of the unique dorsal fin that runs along with their shell. They don’t necessitate as large an enclosure as some of their aquatic turtle cousins, making them a good option for folks with limited space requirements.
While swimming, map turtles devour their food. Map turtles can be fed with aquatic turtle pellets as a primary diet, but they should also eat fresh, green vegetables and plants. Regularly add dark, leafy greens like romaine, dandelion, and fresh parsley to your water. You can feed your turtle fresh, chopped apple pieces and freeze-dried shrimp as treats, but they should not make up a significant portion of its diet.
In a society of turtles, Mississippi map turtles are amicable, but females tend to be more dominant since they grow twice as large as males. Limit the number of females housed together when raising multiples.
- SCIENTIFIC NAME: Clemmys Guttata
- ADULT SIZE: 4 to 6 inches
- LIFE EXPECTANCY: More than 50 years
The spotted turtle is one of the smallest kinds of aquatic turtle that can be kept in captivity, making it an excellent choice if you’re short on room. As a bonus, their speckled shells make them attractive to look at and allow them to dwell indoors or out.
This freshwater fish can be fed various foods, including live fish, frozen brine shrimp, and even vegetables, and it will thrive. As a matter of fact, this is one of the few turtle species that has been successfully maintained on a diet high in plants!
As your spotted turtle grows older, determining its gender becomes easier. The male has a black chin, while the female has a reddish one. The tail of the male is also longer and thicker. Although semi-aquatic, they are not noted for their swimming abilities and prefer to stay in the shallows.
Overhandling can upset Spotted Turtles, who are naturally curious, alert, and active creatures. It’s preferable to avoid any outside distractions while watching them.
Spotted turtles are semi-aquatic and like a combination of aquatic and terrestrial settings, so keep this in mind when it comes to caring for them. Your spotted turtle will thrive on a balanced diet of live and frozen foods and time spent in the basking spot.
What’s The Difference Between A Tortoise And A Turtle?
Here are some crucial differences between these reptiles if you’re unfamiliar with them.
Environment: Turtles spend most of their time in the water, whereas tortoises spend most of their time on land.
Shell Form: Tortoises’ shells are typically big and domed. They could also be carrying bombs. Turtles have a flatter shell, which allows them to move more quickly. Tortoises, on the other hand, have thicker shells.
Limbs: Tortoises have tiny, curved legs that bend at an angle. Turtles’ webbed claws assist them in swimming.
Diet: Tortoises are primarily herbivores who feed on a variety of plants. Most turtles are omnivores, meaning they eat plants and animals such as insects and fish.
Life Expectancy: Tortoises can live for hundreds of years. With proper care, some domesticated species can live as long as 70 to 80 years. Domestic turtles have shorter life spans, ranging between 20 and 40 years.
You may want to read: Painted Turtle VS Red Eared Slider – Which One Is A Better Pet?
Now that you’ve learned about the best pet turtles for beginners, you can decide if you want to have one for yourself. However, you should not limit your considerations to the type of turtle you intend to purchase. When planning a budget for your new pet, don’t forget to include things like a crate or tank, lighting, a clean swimming hole, fresh water, and food.
Which species of turtle or tortoise would make the ideal pet for you? It is essential to know what kind of shelter they will have. Let us know what you think by leaving a comment below!