Turtles can make excellent pets for teens and adults who are willing to do their homework and follow health and safety guidelines. Certain species of turtles make much better pets than others. Despite popular belief, turtles are not low-maintenance pets.
Turtles are very beautiful and interesting animals, and this has lured many into bringing these exotic pets into their homes.
Just like when getting any other type of pet though, you should do your research before signing yourself up for caring for a turtle.
So do turtles make good pets?
We will explain all you need to know about turtles before you get one as your new pet.
We will also be listing all of the best turtles for first-time turtle owners and explaining some of the turtles’ pros and cons. Keep reading!
Do Turtles Make Good Pets for Young Children?
Turtles and tortoises are not recommended pets for small children.
Salmonella bacteria are commonly passed from turtles to people. Young children are more at risk for infection than healthy adults.
In addition, pregnant women and the elderly are also at a higher risk of infection. These individuals should avoid handling turtles and tortoises as well.
If you have a turtle in a home with someone that is at a high risk of developing a salmonella infection, it is important to be extra careful and practice good hygiene after handling your turtle.
This will prevent you from spreading this infection to a high-risk individual with your hands. Having a turtle as a family pet is not always a good choice depending on your situation.
Is Having a Pet Turtle Expensive?
There are some things that you will need to get for your new turtle or tortoise before you bring them home.
This includes items for their terrarium and their food. In addition, you may need to consider some other costs that occur later on such as vet visits.
Of course, your turtle or tortoise will need a safe place to live. A turtle’s habitat is their home so you need to make it nice for them.
The ideal turtle habitat will feature a large tank with enough room for your pet to explore.
Also, turtle tanks require UVB lighting (ultraviolet light) and a heat source to make sure the water is the correct temperature.
Turtles and tortoises have different tank requirements.
Turtle tanks should have a large water area for your turtle to swim in and a land area for your turtle to climb and walk around on.
It is also very important that your turtle habitat always has clean water. For this, you will need a good water filtration system or you will need to be doing water changes several times a week.
In addition, you will need to keep an eye on the water’s Ph levels. You will also need to keep both the air and the water at the ideal temperatures, which can be monitored with thermometers.
Although you will still need to keep a tortoise’s enclosure clean, it requires less maintenance than turtles.
For tortoises, you will need to keep their terrarium clean and ensure that they have clean water in their water bowl. Also, you will need to keep the temperature inside of the tank at the correct level.
However, you will not need a water filtration system for a tortoise habitat.
Most turtles eat things like leafy greens, small fish, and insects. However, commercial turtle food is also available.
Meanwhile, tortoises have a vegetarian diet that mostly consists of vegetables and some fruit. However, every species of turtle and tortoise is different.
As a result, it is crucial that you look into your pet’s specific dietary requirements for their age and species. Good nutrition is the best way to avoid health problems.
Turtle Health Issues
Although your pet turtle will not need to go to the vet as much as a dog or a cat would, you will likely still need to make the occasional visit.
This is because turtles and tortoises can be prone to some illnesses such as respiratory infections and shell infections.
In addition, turtles are prone to carrying salmonella, which can be passed on to humans.
This is why it is crucial to always handle good hygiene when taking care of and handling your pet.
Is Caring for Turtles Time Consuming?
Turtles and tortoises are not low maintenance pets.
Turtle habitats require regular cleaning and care. Turtles must also have their water changed multiple times each week.
On the other hand, turtles and tortoises do not need to be fed every day. Feeding them around five times a week is a good idea according to the experts.
However, you should always follow the specific requirements for your turtle or tortoise’s species and age. If you are unsure, ask your vet.
Best Pet Turtles
Every species of turtle and tortoise is different, and they often have different care requirements. As a result, some species are more suited for beginners than others.
Small turtles generally make better pets as they are easier to care for. Male turtles are often smaller than females, so that may be a consideration for you.
Best Pet Turtle Species
Common Musk Turtles
Common musk turtles are great for first time turtle owners because they only tend to reach 4 to 4.5 inches in length.
Unlike many other species of turtles, male Common musk turtles are actually larger than females.
As a result of their small size, a 20-gallon tank is suitable for one Common musk turtle. A 40-gallon tank is large enough for a pair of Common musk turtles.
The tank will need enough water so that your turtle’s hind feet can touch the bottom of the while still being able to stretch up to breathe air.
You will either need a good filtration system or do frequent water changes to keep their water clean.
A basking area and thermometers will also be required so you can have a way to raise your turtle tank’s air, basking, and water temperatures in needed.
What Do Common Musk Turtles Eat?
Common musk turtles most often eat insects and other protein sources that live in and around the water. This includes various worms, flies, and small snails.
However, these turtles also eat some aquatic plants, and it is also acceptable to mix commercial turtle food into their diets as well.
Eastern Box Turtle
Eastern box turtles are great for beginners because of their smaller size and relatively simple care requirements.
These turtles simply need a large water bowl to soak in, a basking area at around 85 to 90 degrees, and a ‘hide’ at both ends of their tank (one on the basking side and one on the cooler side).
In addition to these requirements, Eastern box turtles need a substrate that they can burrow into and an air temperature between 75 and 80 degrees.
Like both the Eastern painted turtle and Red eared slider, Eastern box turtles are omnivores.
It is recommended that this turtle’s diet is made up of mostly protein from insects such as crickets and various worms. However, the rest of their diet should be vegetables and fruits.
Greek Tortoises make good pets and are a popular choice for certain turtle lovers. Although they don’t really enjoy being held they can display some signs of friendliness.
How Long Does a Greek Tortoise Live?
Remember, we said a Greek Tortoise is a great pet for ‘certain’ pet owners? Well, that is because the lifespan of a Greek Tortoise can be 50 to 100 years!
Definitely, something to think about before you add one to your family.
Mississippi Map Turtle
Mississippi map turtles are one of the most popular aquatic turtles to have as pets. They are found in the wild throughout the southern United States.
Like the other turtles on this list, Mississippi map turtles are omnivores and eat both insects and plants.
Due to their aquatic nature and being strong swimmers the Mississippi map turtles need room to do just that.
Unlike other turtles, they tend to be very sensitive to pH levels, and you will need to keep a close eye on this to stay within safe tolerances.
You can do this by purchasing a water test kit and testing your Mississippi map turtle’s tank water’s pH levels on a regular basis.
Mud turtles are native to North America and are widely known for being popular pets.
They come in a wide variety of types, are small, and relatively easy to take care of making them one of the most common species of pet turtle.
Popular Mud Turtles include:
- Eastern Mud Turtle
- Mississippi Mud Turtle
- Striped Mud Turtle
- Yellow Mud Turtle
Painted turtles are amazing for first time turtle owners because their care requirements are extremely similar to other common types of slider turtles.
They are omnivores, which means that they eat both protein such as insects and small fish along with various plants.
Their tank requirements are very easy to accommodate as well when it comes to turtles.
They require a basking area that is at around 90 degrees Fahrenheit, an air temperature of around 85 degrees, and a water temperature of 77 degrees.
Painted turtles prefer to swim in shallow water, so a 20-30 gallon tank is suitable for one male painted turtle.
Red Eared Slider
The Red-eared slider is yet another turtle that is great for beginners.
Like painted turtles, red ear sliders are omnivores, and they eat a combination of insects, small fish, and vegetables. Of course, you can also mix commercial turtle food into their diets.
However, Red eared sliders tend to need more water for swimming than some of the other turtles on this list, and they require about 10 gallons of water per inch in length.
Red eared sliders typically reach nine to 12 inches in adulthood.
For those who are looking for a cool, beginner friendly pet without the hassle of water changes the Russian Tortoise is just for you!
These tortoises do not become overly large, and they are fairly easy to care for.
Russian tortoises have a vegetarian diet, and they mostly eat things like greens, leaves, and flowers.
These tortoises will also need a water bowl so that they can stay hydrated. It is recommended that you either have a 50-gallon plastic storage bin or a 100-gallon habitat with a heat lamp.
You should have a thermometer to ensure that your tortoise enclosure is at the proper temperature.
A Spotted Turtle is one of the smallest turtles that are kept as pets and has distinctive round yellow spots on its outer shell.
They usually grow to less than five inches in length.
The North American wood turtle is known for being a great pet for the beginning turtle owner.
They have a nice personality, tend to not be aggressive, and even seem to enjoy being held (maybe). We should note it is best not to handle your turtle unless needed.
Wood turtles can weigh between one and three pounds and grow to five to eight inches long.
Things to Keep in Mind When Getting a Pet Turtle
Before you adopt and bring home your first turtle or tortoise there are some things that you should keep in mind.
These include where you are getting your new pet from and whether or not your new turtle or tortoise is legal for you to own.
Here are some things to keep in mind when getting a pet turtle.
Where to Buy a Pet Turtle?
Pet turtles (or tortoises) are available from a turtle breeder, from a local pet store, or online.
This is the most popular choice to find a pet turtle because reputable breeders tend to be much more knowledgeable about the types of turtles that make good pets.
They will also give you much better information about your new pet’s proper care requirements.
In addition, purchasing a turtle or tortoise from a reputable breeder will increase your chances of adopting a healthy animal with a decent temperament.
Wild Turtles as Pets
You should never keep a turtle or tortoise that was caught in the wild as a pet.
Wild turtles tend to not be as tame as captive-bred turtles. They are not recommended for beginners.
Are Pet Turtles Legal?
Some areas have made certain species of turtles and tortoises illegal or require permits for them.
This is because some species have become invasive in certain areas after their owners released them into the wild.
As a result, you will need to do your research on the laws in your area and make sure that your new pet is legal for you to own.
Good Pet Turtle Names
If you are going to have a pet turtle you need to give it a great name! Here is a list of popular pet turtle names.
Related Turtle Questions
What is a Land Turtle?
Land turtles, known as tortoises, live on the land and not in water. They normally have a very long lifespan with some being known to live 200 years!
What is a Freshwater Turtle?
They are an important part of a good environment and natural habitat.
What is a Sea Turtle?
Sea Turtles are large animals that live in the saltwater oceans.
Different Sea Turtle species can weigh up to 500 to 1500 pounds and swim at 20 miles per hour.
What is the Best Pet Turtle?
There is no set answer to this question. The best pet turtle for you will be based on your particular situation and desire.
Turtles and tortoises can make great pets for anyone who is willing to put in the work that is required for properly caring for them.
Remember though that turtles have long lifespans and will be part of your family for many years.
Many different species are great for beginners such as the Painted turtle, Red eared slider, Eastern box turtle, Mississippi map turtles, and Common musk turtles.
If you would rather a land-dwelling animal, Russian tortoises are a great beginner animal as well!