Painted Turtle Care Guide: How to Take Care of a Painted Turtle?

 The painted turtle is one of the most common wild turtles in the United States, and these tiny turtles are often kept as pets. They are becoming popular pets in the United States due to their brightly colored markings from which they get their name and their relatively low maintenance requirements. That said, these animals are still a huge responsibility to take care of, and not all states allow keeping them as pets.

Painted Turtle Care Guide: How to Take Care of a Painted Turtle?
Painted Turtle Care Guide: How to Take Care of a Painted Turtle?

 If you're considering adopting a painted turtle as a pet, read on for detailed information on how to properly care for these animals, interesting facts about them, and more!

Types of Painted Turtles

 There are four subspecies of the painted turtle (Chrysemys picta) found in North America, each found in its own region.

1. Eastern Painted Turtles

 Eastern Painted Turtles have a black carapace, or carapace, edged in red, and their bellies, or "plastrons," are bright yellow. They also have yellow and red lines on their black skin. They can grow up to 7 inches in length.

2. Midland Painted Turtles

 The Midland Painted Turtle looks a lot like the eastern version, but it has a dark colored area on its belly and the patterns on its shell are different. Their natural habitat begins in Ontario, Canada, along the Mississippi River to Alabama and Tennessee. When fully grown, they measure roughly 7 inches long.

3. Western Painted Turtles

 The Western Painted Turtle has an olive-green shell and a dark belly. They are found throughout Canada, the United States and Mexico. Western Painted Turtles are the largest of the painted turtle species, reaching around 8 inches in length.

4. Southern Painted Turtles

 The Southern Painted Turtle has a yellow-orange stripe running down the middle of its shell and a yellow belly. They can normally be found in the Mississippi River region and in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Missouri. They are the smallest of the Painted Turtles, reaching around 6 inches in length as adults.

Painted Turtle Tank Setup

Painted turtles need a facility that meets their biological needs.


 Since the painted turtle lives in and near bodies of water like rivers, streams, and ponds, your painted turtle habitat must have water. A good rule to follow is that the water depth should be at least twice the width of the turtle's shell. For example, for a turtle with a 6 inch shell, you should have water at least 12 inches deep. You should also have a good filter to keep the water clean.


 No substrate is required for the bottom, but if you want rocks or sand for aesthetic purposes, make sure the pieces are too big for the turtle to try to eat and swallow.


 Your turtle will also appreciate plants, living or fake, to hide in. However, painted turtles tend to destroy living plants, so be prepared to replace them.

Hiding places

 In the wild, a painted turtle will swim underwater and find places to hide, and it will need a similar place in its aquarium. You can create an underwater hideout using rocks, driftwood, or use a pre-carved cave purchased from a pet store. Make sure they can't get trapped in the hiding place, as this could lead to them drowning.

Area for lounging

 Your turtle will need an area to leave the water and bask in, which can be a basking platform, or you can use rocks or driftwood. You will also need a basking light in this area to help them regulate temperature. Painted turtles will stay out of the water for several hours, but in general they shouldn't stay out of the water for more than six to eight hours.


 Your tortoise will need daily light to stay healthy, including light that provides ultraviolet radiation in the form of UVB. This light is separated from the heating element which can also provide light. You should run the light on a regular day/night cycle, with the light off in the evening.


 Each "region" of the tank should have a different temperature in the tank. The water should be around 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit, which may require you to have a submersible heater in the tank. The lounging zone should be around 85 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit. The rest of the tank, which is ambient air above the water and away from the resting area, should be around 80 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

Tank size

 Painted turtles like to swim, so they need a tank large enough to move around in the water. A baby or small turtle should have a tank with at least a 15-20 gallon tank with 10 gallons of water. If you have two or more small turtles or baby turtles, you should add five gallons of water for each additional turtle. For adult turtles, you should have a tank that can hold at least 20 gallons of water for one turtle and add an additional 10 gallons per turtle, plus extra space for their non-water activities.

Tank type

 If your painted turtle has access to enough water, space, and a place to bask, it can survive in a regular glass aquarium or even a strong plastic bag. As long as it is regularly cleaned and filtered and has a mix of shady and sunny areas, they can also thrive in an outdoor pond.


You should plan to clean your tank at least twice a week or more often if you have multiple turtles in the tank. You should also do a 25% water change weekly.

Food for painted turtle

 Painted turtles are omnivores that need a varied diet to stay healthy. You can feed them turtle food or commercially made trout food and supplement it with small feeder fish (but not goldfish), mealworms, earthworms, crickets, snails , freeze-dried krill, freeze-dried shrimp and waxworms.

 Provide your painted turtle with healthy plants, such as parsley, dandelion greens, romaine lettuce, red leaf lettuce, collard greens, apples, berries, carrots, duckweed, water lettuce and water hyacinth. If you decide to give them lettuce, do not give them iceberg lettuce, as it has no nutritional value for them. You can also add ground beef heart or cooked bland chicken for variety. A calcium block should also be added to their reservoir for mineral supplementation.

 An adult turtle needs to be fed every two to three days. Turtles can be very messy because they must eat with their heads in the water. Although this causes the turtle more stress because it is handled more frequently, some turtle keepers feed them in a separate tank.

What do baby turtles eat?

 If you have hatchlings and juvenile turtles to feed, you can purchase commercially made foods that are specially formulated for the young. Omega One makes pellets for juvenile turtles and Zoo Med offers a natural formula for aquatic turtles. Both choices are suitable for young turtles.

 They can be fed a juvenile diet until the babies reach 2 inches in length, then they can switch to adult food. You should also supplement a baby painted turtle's food with the same small feeder fish, worms, insects, and plant matter that you feed adults. Baby turtles, unlike adults, must eat every day.

Painted Turtle Health

 If housed in the proper environment with a healthy diet, a painted turtle can live up to 50 years, although your turtle is more likely to live 20-30 years. If you are considering getting a painted turtle, it is important to ensure that there is a veterinarian experienced with reptiles and turtles in your area in case your turtle becomes ill. Common signs of illness are swollen eyes, bubbles produced by the nostrils, wounds, labored breathing, lack of appetite, and difficulty swimming or moving.

Should you take care of a painted turtle?

 Painted turtles can make great pets, but they're not the best choice for beginners or people with limited time, as they have high demands on their care. They are also not a good choice if you have someone in your home with a weakened immune system, elderly people, or very young children due to the risk of salmonella.

Painted turtles and salmonella

 Owners of painted turtles should be aware of the risk of salmonella transmission. All turtles are at risk for salmonella, which can cause mild or severe, life-threatening illness in humans. You should always wash your hands thoroughly after handling a turtle, as well as touch any part of its habitat, such as when cleaning the cage and after meals.

 Remember that any part of the turtle or turtle's habitat can become contaminated, so it's important to keep your turtle in its tank in addition to good hygiene practices for yourself. If you allow your turtle on a piece of furniture or a kitchen counter, clean and disinfect the area to eliminate any risk of salmonella contamination.

Common health issues

With the right environment and diet, painted turtles can be kept relatively easily, but they are not immune to health problems.

- Parasites: Intestinal parasites are found naturally in most reptiles, including painted turtles, but they can become a problem for your turtle if they overcrowd the intestinal tract. Your exotics veterinarian should perform fecal parasite examinations every year.

- Infections: If water quality is an issue, your turtle can pick up skin, shell, and ear infections from dirty water. If too much algae builds up on your turtle's shell or skin, use a soft toothbrush to keep it clean. Ear infections due to poor water quality will present as large bumps behind your turtle's eyes and will need to be treated by your veterinarian.

- Hypovitaminosis A: When a Painted Turtle does not receive a proper diet, it can develop a lack of vitamin A in its body called hypovitaminosis A. Swollen eyes, raw skin, stomatitis, and nasal drainage can all be symptoms of this trouble.

- Metabolic Bone Disease: Painted Turtles will develop metabolic bone disease and shell deformities in the absence of adequate UVB lighting and calcium.

If you think your turtle has a health problem, have him see a veterinarian as soon as possible. Your turtle can live a long and healthy life with your assistance.

Handling Your Painted Turtle

 One of the reasons painted turtles don't necessarily make the best pets, especially for young children, is that they dislike being handled by people and are shy creatures. Because they are slow moving and generally docile, people often don't realize how stressed a turtle can become when picked up. It is important to handle your painted turtle as little as possible and to limit handling to times when you need to do so to provide care or clean its aquarium. You should try to handle them as little as possible in order to reduce their stress as well as the chance of contracting an illness.

Do painted turtles bite?

 Because these turtles don't like to be handled, they can become defensive if they feel threatened. This means they can scratch, kick and bite people if they are scared. They have also been known to urinate on people and other predators when scared.

Painted turtles and hibernation

 Painted turtles that live in the wild will hibernate, what reptiles call brumation, in winter underwater. They protect themselves by burying their bodies in the muddy bottom of bodies of water. If you keep painted turtles in your outdoor pond, they will do the same, although the pond needs to be deep enough not to freeze to the bottom, and They will require a hole in the ice for air.

 Painted Turtles kept indoors do not need to hibernate and will not attempt to do so, as their bodies will only begin to hibernate when the temperature begins to drop.

Are painted turtles legal as pets?

 Painted turtles are legally owned as pets in the United States, although specific regulations may vary from state to state. Arizona, Georgia, Oregon, New York, and Rhode Island have restrictions on owning or selling painted turtles. Local governments may also impose limitations, so be sure to check with your county and city governments to see if owning this species is prohibited there.

 Additionally, the size of the turtle impacts whether you can buy it legally or not. You cannot purchase a painted turtle 4 inches long or less under federal law. This law was enacted because these small turtles are more likely to spread salmonella than larger ones.

Where to find a painted turtle?

 Painted turtles can be found at most reputable pet stores that sell reptiles, as well as hobby breeders and turtle farms. Painted turtles can be purchased for around $20 to $40 on average. If you're looking for babies, you'll have the greatest selection from May to September, although they can be found all year round.

 Many large animal sanctuaries that house reptiles also get painted turtles from time to time, so it's wise to check your local sanctuary first. Never take Painted Turtles that you have caught in the wild. They won't adjust to domestication well, and the stress will be bad for their wellbeing and lifespan.


 Owning a painted turtle is a wonderful experience, and these docile animals are generally easy to care for. That said, they are harder to keep than many other turtle species, don't like to be handled, and have extremely long lifespans, making them a huge liability to bear.

 If you're looking for a docile, quiet pet that doesn't require your constant attention, the beautiful painted turtle is a great choice and will keep you company for years to come!

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