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Mud Turtles

Care Guide for Pet Mud Turtles

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Mud Turtles

Mud Turtle

Photo © Flickr user Kerry Wixted

Pet mud turtles are sometimes kept as pets. They are similar in their care to other aquatic turtles but unlike the painted turtle, red eared slider, and diamondback terrapin, they are semi-terrestrial.

Mud Turtles

  • Name: Mud turtle, Eastern mud turtle, Kinosternon subrubrum
  • Size: Up to five inches
  • Lifespan: Up to 50 years
  • Mud Turtle Housing

    One of the reasons why mud turtles are so popular as pets is because of their small size. Rarely growing to be over five inches long, mud turtles are small and compact aquatic turtles. But despite their small adult size, they still need adequate room to swim and dive when kept indoors.

    A large fish tank that allows your turtle to swim and dive as well as dry dock on land should be provided for mud turtles living indoors. Mud turtles are named so because they like to burrow in mud when they hibernate but you don't have to have a muddy enclosure just because you have a mud turtle. Allowing your turtle to hibernate is not recommended in captivity therefore you do not need to provide mud and need to make sure his enclosure does not get too cold.

    Gravel on the bottom of the tank will stay cleaner than dirt and a floating dock, rock, or gravel built up on the side of the tank should provide your turtle with a dry area to bask.

    Mud Turtle Lighting

    Turtles of all kinds require both heat lights and UVB lights. Heat lights are meant to keep your mud turtle warm and UVB lights help process Vitamin D3 so calcium can be properly absorbed in their bodies. Without both kinds of lighting your turtle will not do very well long term.

    Large heat lights are needed to heat the large enclosures that mud turtles require. Traditional reptile heat bulbs and a separate UVB bulb should be utilized to provide a basking area temperature near 90 degrees Fahrenheit and not let the rest of the enclosure drop below the 70's. The UVB bulb should stay on for a 12 hour cycle and by replaced every six months, even if it doesn't burn out. The invisible UVB rays will run out before the visible light burns out. Mercury vapor bulbs are not appropriate for most mud turtle enclosures.

    Mud Turtle Diet

    Mud turtles are omnivores but the majority of their diet consists of worms, fish, snails and other food typically found in the water. Turtle pellets are a nice additive to their captive diet but dark green, leafy vegetables like fresh parsley, dandelion greens, and other salad greens (not iceberg or romaine lettuce) should be offered.

    A calcium supplement like Rep-Cal should be dusted on the greens at least once a week with food being provided several times during the week.

    Mud Turtle Health

    The most common problem with any aquatic turtle is shell health. Dirty water, incorrect lighting, and an inappropriate diet will lead to flaking shells, shell deformities, and even shell rot.

    Some people become concerned if they smell a foul odor coming from their mud turtle all of a sudden. It is important to remember that mud turtles are closely related to musk turtles and like their relatives, can secrete an awful smelling liquid to scare off predators. Most mud turtles raised in captivity will never use this defense mechanism but it is important to know that they are capable of doing so.

    Other easily avoided diseases include ear infections, vitamin deficiencies, metabolic bone disease, and intestinal parasites. It is recommended to have a fecal sample checked yearly for intestinal parasites and get a check up with your exotics vet.

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