Having A Terrapin As A Pet – A Complete Guide

Terrapin As A Pet

A terrapin is a small species of turtle that mostly live in water. Terrapin is derived from torope that belongs to the Algonquian language. They are not able to form a taxonomic unit so may not be related to the generic division of animals. 

Why do people mostly get confused about turtle, tortoise, or terrapin?  These all have hard-shelled eggs and laying reptiles belong to the chelonian order of taxonomy. Though they can differ in shape in bodies still they all have to depend on certain living conditions.  

People in different parts of the world use several names to talk about turtles. “Turtle” is most widely used as the famous creature that spends most of its life around the water. 

Turtle is referred to as sea animal in some regions of the world as they rarely leave the beach. Other than this, most turtles like to stay in lakes, ponds, and freshwater.  

On the other hand, when talking about “tortoise” it is usually referred to as a reptile who likes to spend time on land. Tortoise eats shrubs and grass, they don`t have webbed feet as most aquatic animals have. 

Now, what about “Terrapins”? They are turtles and likely to spend time on both land and water, mostly swampy or brackish water. The meaning of the word ” Terrapin” is actually ”  a little turtle” according to Algonquian Indian language. We can say terrapin is a type of turtle and this cute little creature is kept as a pet in many regions of the world.  

Best Turtles For Beginners

People have different expectations while adopting pets so to define the best pet turtle for beginners we have to see their basic features. Some want a turtle with a long lifespan while others want a unique colored body and attractive design. Turtles are available in 100 different species but not all of them can be kept as pets. Some are too big in size and some are illegal to own as a pet. If you are at beginner’s level to adapt pet you must have to look upon their individual features. Let’s talk about the most famous turtles that are preferred to be kept by beginners.   

Eastern Box Turtle

Experience level: Beginner

Scientific Name: Terrapene Carolina Carolina

Family: Emydidae

Common Name: Eastern Box Turtle

Life span: 40-100 years

Size: 5-7 Inches

Price Estimate: $150-$400

Eastern box turtle is one of the most popular turtles among pet’s enthusiasts around the world. They are not aquatic so it is not mandatory to arrange an aquarium or terrarium for them rather you can house them outdoor. Be careful as they sometimes try to escape in corners. They can grow to 6 inches as an adult and would happily accept different kinds of meals. You have to decide about the reasonable quantity as they will not have control over that. 

Insects, snails, and grubs can be ideal plans for their dietary requirements. Few vegetable dandelions, collard greens, and romaine lettuce are full of minerals to hydrate them. They are the sweetest pet to stay calm during feeding time. they will not resist a change of taste or smell that makes them excellent pets to be kept by beginners. 

Painted Turtle

Experience level: Beginner

Scientific Name: Chrysemys picta

Family: Emydidae

Common Name: Painted Turtle, Skilpot

Life span: 25-30 years

Size: 6-8 Inches

Price Estimate: $29-$80

Experience level: Beginner

Painted turtle has four main types known as the midland painted turtle, western painted turtle, southern painted turtle, and eastern painted turtle. This sub-division is done according to their geographical location. These beauties can live even more than 55 years, for average they have a 25-30 years life span. 

Painted turtles are fun-loving and socialize with the entire family members. They are quite an interesting animal to adopt a pet for beginners. They would happily like to eat commercially prepared food and feeding them is easier. 

Turtles mostly take an ample intake of vitamin D3 from sunlight still require these elements in their diet. Nothing is challenging about these beauties rather you need to be a bit careful about your hygiene when handling them. 

False Map Turtle

Scientific Name: Graptemys pseudogeographica pseudogeographica

Family: Emydidae

Common Name: Eastern Box Turtle

Life span: 30-50 years

Size: 4-10 Inches

Price Estimate: $5-$50

This beautiful creature seems smaller in size than other turtles. The female is bigger than the male ones. Both of them need an approximated capacity of 25 gallons of the aquarium to live with ease. 

These are famous as map turtles due to contour lines on their bodies. 

Razor Backed Musk Turtle

Experience level: Beginner

Scientific Name: Sternotherus carinatus

Family: Kinosternidae

Common Name: Razor-backed Musk Turtle

Life span: 20 years

Size: 6 Inches

Price Estimate: $35-$100

What Is Diamondback Terrapin Turtle

Turtles live in fresh or marine water and are habitual to stay in coastal environments. They can better live in salty water because they have glands near their eyes to flush out extra salt from bodies. 

Malaclemys terrapins are known as diamond terrapins due to their distinctive bodies. They belong to the Emydidae family which includes 50 species in these genera.

There are 7 subspecies of diamondback terrapins:

  • Carolina, M.t.centrata
  • Taxes, M.t.littoralis
  • Ornate, M.t.macrospilota
  • Northern, M.t.terrapin
  • Mangrove, M.t.rhizophorarum
  • Mississippi, M.t. pileata
  • Eastern Florida, M.t.tequesta

The diamondback turtles have a natural diamond-like pattern on their backshells. This shape and concentric circles make them distinctive to identify in the grass. 


If you are interested to buy a male or female terrapin you should know that they experience sexual dimorphism. Females are a bit larger than males. Males can grow as an adult till 13cm maximum while females can grow till 19cm in length. 


Few turtles can tolerate brackish water so these animals have natural habitats in coastal areas. The Gulf of Mexico in the United States has a variety of turtles living for many years on the seaboard. They like to live across salty marshes, mangroves swamps, lagoons, and tidal creeks. You have to remember that they need access to freshwater sources for drinking purposes.  

Diamondback terrapins are listed as vulnerable animals during 2018.  They are at a higher risk of extinction in the wildlife’s immediate future.  The destruction of the coastal habitats is the main reason threatening their development and commercial harvesting process.

 Once they were known as the main ingredient In the Turtle soup which remains quite popular during the end of the 19th century and prolongs towards the 20th century.  Many states in the US are trying to increase their population through harvesting.  Terrapins are harvested for trade and consumption purposes especially for the Asian communities living in Asia.

Diamondback Terrapin Care

The tiny little creature likes to live in social groups.  Diamondback terrapins are found off spending time with other turtles.  You have to make sure that you are providing ample space for them.  An overly crowded place with various Turtles can put them into an aggressive mood due to less space.

 You can keep them in a fish tank why a large waterproof container can also be good for housing diamondback terrapin.  If the owner tries to switch them from and salted water to brackish it can cause health problems for the pet.

 They don’t need terrible hot water,  just the lukewarm water which can keep them away from cold works best.  At night Islamic heater emitter can maintain the ideal temperature of the water but you have to make sure about the ambient temperature at their closure that should be around 80 Fahrenheit.

 This aquatic turtle required UVB spectrum lights. these lights are specifically made for turtles to bask in their rays. A 12hours exposure to light is mandatory from almost 12 inches of distance. 

What Do Terrapins Eat

If you own a terrapin, you must know what kind of diet is suitable for them. Terrapin is not an animal that can eat anything you provide to them. They have their own nutritional needs and a pet owner has to take responsibility for that. Relying on the same kind of food substance can cause severe vitamin and mineral deficiencies in the body of this tiny creature. 

 Terrapins are omnivores by nature; they would like to eat animals and plants while being living in captivity. There are several food options available for them that can feed your pet according to his body requirements. 

Since terrapins are not uncommon to be kept as a pet so that most of the companies are producing special diets for them. Dried floating sticks can be considered as a good pick for a terrapin as it is full of nutrients to keep your pet healthy. Remember that these commercial foods are a bit expensive deal but they can prove beneficial to make an ideal plan for your little one. These supplements have a long shelf life and full of essential vitamins to become a healthy choice for your terrapin. Keeping the prepared food handy will save you from extra efforts to prepare meals many times a day. Giving one formulae diet always is not beneficial for them, you have to make several combinations that can fulfill their vitamin requirement. So not to rely on a commercial diet only, make some other food items to satisfy hunger and provide energy.

Terrapin Care

How Do I Know My Terrapin Is Doing Well?

Understand that having a terrapin and keeping it healthy is vital to enjoying a strong bond with your little beauty. Cleaning, feeding, and taking care of emotional needs is vital but besides that, you have to monitor their health conditions. As a terrapin owner, you have to frequently keep a notice for various signs of a healthy pet. 

  • Terrapin has bright eyes. Their shells have natural sparkle and look strong without cracks. The beak closes symmetrically. In case of any visible change in the body of the turtle, you have to be vigilant. 
  • Healthy ones are quite active to move freely. Unexplained lethargy can be a sign of some serious issue. Straining limbs indicate health problems or the beginning of something serious in the body. 

When To Take My Terrapin For A Medical Exam?

  • An annual exam is mandatory for a pet`s wellbeing. A veterinarian can plan a detailed check-up to find any underlying health condition. you can proceed in the following steps
  • Take an appointment and research that your selected doctor can treat reptiles as well. Many veterinarians are experts to deal with cats and dogs but not turtles so you might have to search for settling an appointment. 
  • Your vet will monitor the weight and height of your terrapin. The doctor will perform a detailed medical check-up and likely will ask to send a few samples for elevation. Don`t get worried about this as this a part of a medical examination. 
  • You should have a detailed discussion with your doctor about the behavioral changes in the routine of your pet. Better to acknowledge the vet about eating habits and living conditions of your terrapin. The helpful tips of a doctor can prove beneficial for your terrapin`s well being

How To Recognize Any Health Issues Of My Terrapin?

  • Common diseases occur in turtles like bacterial infections, respiratory problems, and parasites. you should know about the possible signs to indicate for these medical conditions. 
  • A flaky and waxy shell is not a good sign in a turtle. it might be indicating parasites or vitamin D3 deficiency. If you notice these kinds of changes in shell ask for medical help, don`t wait for annual check-ups in this situation. 
  • Any sore or lesion in the mouth is alarming. Talk to the vet about it and other related symptoms. 
  • Upper respiratory infections usually come with coughing, wheezing, and discharge from the mouth. 
  • Unexplained weight loss and loss of appetite along with bloody stools call for urgent medical attention. Not to get late to reach out to a doctor and discuss all this in detail. 

Pet Turtle Lifespan

When talking about turtles’ life spam the answers can be elusive. However, a pet owner should understand that with better living conditions terrapins can live for decades. They can stay for longer as a valuable family member but with care and attention towards medical problems. Not even a scientist can pin down the exact life span of an animal; it all depends on geographical, social, and environmental conditions.

A turtle has an average of 20years of life span with normal living conditions but the circumstances and health conditions count here. A pet living in a dirty container for longer will have a strong tendency to catch the disease. Ideal feeding and dietary habits with regular filtered water can prove crucial for the pet turtle to enjoy a longer life.  Other climatic factors are less compelling in the case of pet breeding as their housing is dependent on their owners.

How To Care For A Pet Turtle


Feed your terrapin with a healthy diet as they are omnivores so need lots of plants and animals. 

  • Most pet stores sell pallets for the terrapins. In case you have any ambiguity about the feeding habit of your turtle, ask the storekeepers for recommendations. 
  • Tuna and oily fish are considered a favorite diet of terrapins. They might like to eat worms, chicken, and other forms of meat also. 
  • Vitamin enriched supplements are available in stores to promote a healthy lifestyle for your beloved pet.  In case of any health issue, you have to further consultation from specialists. Making changes in diet plans can prove beneficial to add a variety of vitamins and minerals to your pet`s diet. 

Managing Daily Care

  • Terrapins are timid and shy by nature. They can get aggressive if you will touch them frequently. so the pet owners have to be careful about this natural instinct of the animal. 
  • Never touch a terrapin if he seems a bit aggressive, they can harm you in this anxious state of mind. Terrapins can bite hard and can cause serious injury although it is not so common still caution is warranted. 
  • It is okay to touch or pet your turtle. In fact, you have to hadnle him for cleaning and feeding purpose. However, be in conntect when necessary they can`t be cuddly as a cat or dog or niether expect them to be. Respect their solitude and too much of handling can disturb them 


Keep the living space clean and free of debris. The tank need regular cleaning and change of water. Terrapin tend to spread food in nearby spaces or inside their tank, remove food particles frequenty to give your pet healthy hosuing. You can use small pickers to pick up the litter from the tank, this can keep the water cleaner for a long time. 

How To Take Care Of A Baby Turtle

Tortoise are easy pets to raise at home, they are not much difficult to handle.  Taking care of an adult and a baby turtle is not much different. for the babies, you have to take extra care to save them from outside dangerous elements.  It is extremely important to identify the special needs of a baby Terrapin. 

You can select a plastic storage container that should not be too high.  A Shallow container is a good indoor habitat for baby Turtles.

If your turtle is not having direct exposure to UV light then arrange a lamp to provide him lightly.  Daily an 8 to 12 hours exposure to UV light is necessary to keep your turtle healthy.

 To maintain the proper humidity level you must have to check the water temperature of the terrapin container.  It should be within 22 degrees Celsius till 29 Celsius. 

  You must have to soak your baby’s turtle in lukewarm water for 15 to 20 minutes once a week.  It is very important to keep your body hydrated.  Make sure the water is shallow and doesn’t reach above the chin of the terrapin. 

 Feed your baby turtle with a combination of leafy greens,  cactus flower, and sometimes fruit.  Don’t skip the meat and vegetables because they also have to fulfill the nutritional requirement of a growing pet. 

 Babies turtles are not much trained for swimming,  so keep a strict check on the level of water. The water level in the aquarium has a range of 6-8cm that is not in the danger zone for these tiny creatures.   

How Long Can Turtles Stay Out Of Water

Well, this question is quite elusive to answer in a single-digit figure however it depends on the various climatic and geographical features.  Not much adopted to breathe underwater so they can’t stay there for quite long. 

Half an hour is the estimated time for a turtle to stay out of water.  They have a greater tendency to stay inside the water for more time.  Freshwater Turtles have to lay eggs on the land so they can climb over the rocks to bask In the Sunlight. 

 In the cold climatic Areas where the temperature falls below 7 degrees, Celsius reptiles usually move into a hibernating state.  They will move under the land to stay there for the whole winter. 

 Other than the outside temperature the oxygen requirement is also a dynamic feature to predict the estimated time of a turtle to stay in the water.  You have to make sure that your pet has access to a sufficient oxygen supply.  You can work to improve it by reading external filters, air stones, and waterfalls.  The situation can get worse in the winter so it is vital to take care of the oxygen sources during winter Times. 


It is referred to as a special enclosure made for the pet terrapins. Terrapinarium looks like an
island kind of space where terrapins mostly sit to bask in the sunlight. Before thinking of
adopting a terrapin, make sure you have ” Terrapinarium” available at your place. It has a glass
body; hence the transparent look of the aquarium helps to see things.

The terrapin house must be roomy and more oversized than his size. The enclosure’s average
size can be 18 x 12 x 4 (inches), which can be bigger as your pet grows in size.
In the winter season, terrapins feel sluggish, so they need a higher temperature to stay active.
The aquarium heater can maintain the required heat range of 75-80F that is essential to keep
them happy and joyful.

Remember that water filters are not only enough to clean the terrapinarium thoroughly.
Removal of solid waste and food particles is mandatory to keep the environment fresh and
healthy for the pet. Use siphon or net to clean the water regularly.

Turtles Setup

Take a gallon that can contain 10 gallons of water per inch of the turtle. The container should have the capacity to carry around 20-gallon for hatching turtles. 

Arrange the basking lights to provide an ample supply of UVA/UVB rays. 

The basking area can be filled with stones, plastic, and rocks. 

Good quality water filters to keep food particles and debris away.

Plastic containers can be an alternative to aquariums which don’t need a lid.

Comfortable bedding material can keep the turtle relax to move and rest in water. 

Before making a turtle living space at home you need to double-check the size of your pet and the container, size matters. A narrow space can limit the movement of terrapin to encourage an aggressive attitude in your pet. Tank decoration accessories should not be having a feel of pointy or sharp edges. Pebbles’ size must be large enough so the turtle will not try to swallow them.

Freshwater Aquarium Turtles

Turtles are semi-aquatic animals, which means they live exclusively in water and never like to live on land. They have to come out of the water to lay eggs. 

 If you had the decision about adopting an aquatic water turtle as a pet you need to know no previous aspects about their habitat.  A large pond can be the best living place for the aquatic Turtles.  Provide them with plenty of locks so take and bask in the sunlight.  They will like to move and walk around the bushes and grass. 

Adopting an aquatic turtle is only possible if you are living in an area that is breeding them.  In case you don’t have sufficient space to construct a pond you can go for the option of a tank or aquarium.  It is vital to remember that every type of aquatic turtle species has different requirements for breading.  You have to research sufficient sources before bringing any creative turtle at home.  Before and preparations will help you to keep the pet in the best health conditions.

What Do Turtles Drink

This is a common misconception about aquatic animals that they don`t need to drink water. Infect they soak water from their skin but still they have to drink water for the proper working of organs. 

While keeping a terrapin, it is vital to make arrangements for providing them clean drinking water. They usually gulp water during swimming which can detoxify their body but still, they have access to fresh drinking water. 

Use a container that has a lower height and it would not be a problem for the turtle to move his neck for sipping. Water refreshes their bodies, although they are not thirsty most of the time rather you have to take care of their drinking capacity. Better to make a schedule for that, like during 4-5 times a day you can provide drinking water to the turtle that will be a kind reminder for your loved one pet. 

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