Growing up in Indiana, I had the unique experience of observing and keeping Painted Turtles as pets. Over the years, I’ve developed an enduring fondness for these beautiful and intriguing creatures. Today, I’m here to share my insights on why painted turtles make excellent pets and what their care involves.
If you’re from the US, you probably see these turtles in your local lakes and rivers. They’re often one of the first species to show up in spring, and in some areas, logs and other basking spots are completely covered in them during sunny spells.
What you might not be aware of, however, is that they are now being bred in captivity in growing numbers, and can make excellent pets…
Why Painted Turtles make good pets
Painted turtles are captivating creatures, with their vibrant markings and calm demeanor. In fact, I can’t really think of anything cooler than a turtle with red markings. Painted Turtles aren’t the only ones to have this, but certainly are some of the brightest ones.
Here are a few other reasons why they make good pets:
- Easy to Care for: Once you’ve set up a proper tank, maintaining a comfortable environment for your painted turtle is relatively straightforward. With turtles, you need to get two main things right: their diet, and their lighting. If you do this, they are trouble-free captives.
- Long lifespan: Painted turtles can live for over 20 years with proper care. This means they can become lifelong companions for those ready for the commitment.
- Educational: Keeping a painted turtle can be an educational experience, especially for children. It offers lessons on responsibility, life cycles, and nature.
- Active during the day: Painted turtles are diurnal, which means they’re active during the day. This makes observing their behavior easier and more enjoyable. They also become reasonably tame, so they won’t automatically jump into the water every time they see you.
Painted Turtle Tank Requirements
Setting up a proper environment is crucial for your painted turtle’s health and happiness. Here’s what you’ll need:
- Tank: A large, glass aquarium is ideal. Alternatively, you now get open enclosures that are much like a miniature indoor pond (much more fun – but less practical).
- Water and Land Areas: Painted turtles are technically semi-aquatic, so they need both a swimming area and a dry basking area.
- Heat Source: A heat lamp for the basking area helps maintain the right temperatures.
- UVB Light: This is essential for your turtle’s shell health.
- Filter: A good filter keeps the water clean, reducing the need for frequent water changes. My preference is for canister filters, but there are plenty of others that work.
- Substrate: Sand and large, flat stones work well as a substrate for the tank. Make sure the water is deep enough so your turtle doesn’t hit the bottom when it dives in! Also, I avoid brightly-colored pebbles, as some turtles try to eat them.
Are Painted Turtles Aquatic?
Hobbyists consider Painted Turtles to be aquatic species because they spend most of their time in water, and only stray from bodies of water to lay eggs.
That said, you could say that they are technically semi-aquatic, given that they spend so much time out of the water basking. In fact, dry land is essential for them. Without a basking area they will either drown from exhaustion, or get an infection of the skin or shell.
If you go to a pet store and see Painted or other pond turtles in a tank without water, that is a big red flag! Do not buy from somewhere like that.
Painted Turtle Tank Size
The tank size for your painted turtle will depend on its size. A general rule of thumb is 10 gallons of tank space for every inch of the turtle’s shell length. All-in-all the largest you’d expect a ‘Painter’ to get would be around 8in (20.3cm).
Therefore, for an adult painted turtle that can reach up to 8 inches in length, a 80-gallon tank would be suitable.
That might sound like a lot, but these turtles are quite active. Restricting the size of the enclosure could result in distress or poor health.
Do Painted Turtles Hibernate?
In the wild, painted turtles usually hibernate from October to March, depending on the weather. In captivity, however, hibernation is not necessary and can be risky if not properly monitored. With a controlled environment that maintains consistent temperatures, your painted turtle can remain active all year round.
How Big Do Painted Turtles Get?
The size of a painted turtle depends on its subspecies, but generally, they can reach up to 6 or 7 inches in length, with females typically being larger than males. A lot of resources tell you they get much larger, but they are quoting record sizes, rather than average sizes. In general, it would be considered highly unusual for any Painted Turtle to reach more than 8in (20.3cm) in length.
Check out the table below:
|Subspecies of Painted Turtle||Average Size|
|Eastern Painted Turtle (Chrysemys p. picta)||4.5-6in (11.5-15.2cm)|
|Midland Painted Turtle (Chrysemys p. marginata)||4.5-5.5in (11.5-14cm)|
|Southern Painted Turtle (Chrysemys dorsalis)||4-5in (10-12.5cm)|
|Western Painted Turtle (Chrysemys p. belli)||Up to 8in (20.3cm)|
Do Painted Turtles Bite?
Painted turtles are generally non-aggressive and don’t often bite. However, they might bite if they feel threatened or are not handled correctly. Always remember to handle your turtle gently and respectfully.
It is worth noting that these turtles are social in certain circumstances only. If you are limited on space, it’s better to keep one alone, rather than risk it fighting with a cagemate.
Painted Turtles for Sale
When considering buying a painted turtle, it’s important to purchase from a reputable breeder or pet store to ensure the turtle has been properly cared for and is in good health.
Are Painted Turtles good pets? Conclusion…
In conclusion, painted turtles are fascinating pets that can bring a lot of joy. With the right care and attention, they can thrive and provide their owners with a rewarding and educational experience. Remember, owning a pet is a commitment, so be sure you’re ready for the responsibility before bringing a painted turtle home.
FAQ related to Painted Turtles as pets:
Is it OK to keep a wild painted turtle?
It is never a good idea to keep a wild turtle. Some of them may adapt to captivity, but it’s still not a great idea to take one from the wild. Though Painted Turtles in particular remain common, there is growing pressure on their populations from human development. If you want to keep one, it’s more ethical to buy a captive-bred animal.
Is it OK to pick up a painted turtle?
It is OK to pick up a Painted Turtle if it is crossing the road and in immediate danger. You should pick it up with both hands and carry it to the side of the road it was headed towards. If find one in your lawn, it is advisable to not handle it, as it might be getting ready to lay its eggs.
Do painted turtles like to be handled?
Painted Turtles don’t really like or dislike being handled. Wild ones will thrash their legs and try to escape, but captive ones just kind of get used to it. After a while, they become tame and recognise you as a “food bringer” rather than a threat.