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Common Musk Turtle

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(18 Reviews)

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Species group: Mud and Musk Turtles

Other common names: Stinkpot Turtle

Scientific name: Sternotherus odoratus

The basics:
Don’t be fooled by this droll little turtle’s alternative name of “Stinkpot”, for while they can release musk when disturbed, pets invariably give up this habit in short order. Small, bold, and very hardy, Common Musk Turtles are perhaps the best semi-aquatic species for most turtle keepers, yet remain overlooked by many…but once discovered, they become instant hits!

The Common Musk Turtle’s huge range extends from the USA’s New England states and Ontario, Canada west to Wisconsin and south to Florida and central Texas.

Common Musk Turtles may be found in quiet, mud-bottomed bodies of water such as swamps, lakes, sluggish rivers, canals, farm and city park ponds, and marshes. They spend most of their time foraging on the bottom. Some populations rarely bask, while in others individuals may climb several feet up sloping trees to do so.


Appearance / health:
Common Musk Turtle’s smooth, oval carapace is gray to black in color, with yellow or white strips marking the head and 2-4 barbels on the chin. Adults top out at 13.6 cm (5.4 in) in length.

Well-cared-for Common Musk Turtles are quite hardy, with captive longevities sometimes exceeding 50 years. Sub-optimal temperatures, an inappropriate diet, or poor water quality can lead to fungal/bacterial infections of the shell, skin, and eyes, and other ailments.

Behavior / temperament:
Common Musk Turtles quickly learn to associate people with food, and will paddle over to beg as soon as someone enters the room. They acclimate well to even quite busy locations, feed readily from the hand, and may even reproduce. Like all turtles, they dislike being handled and will bite when startled.

An adult requires a 20-30 gallon long-style aquarium. Common Musk Turtles are best housed in bare-bottomed aquariums, as gravel traps waste material, and may be swallowed. Commercial turtle docks or cork bark flats work well as basking sites; sub-surface sites should be available as well. Powerful filters are necessary unless the enclosure can be emptied several times weekly. Removing your turtles to an easily-cleaned container for feeding will lessen the filter’s workload. Common Musk Turtles utilize dietary Vitamin D, and so if provided a healthful diet they do not require UVB exposure; many keepers provide UVB as “insurance”, however. A water temperature of 70-76 F and basking site of 82 F should be maintained. 

The natural diet includes fish, tadpoles, snails, carrion, insects, small frogs, shrimp, and some aquatic vegetation. Pets should be offered a diet comprised largely of minnows, shiners, earthworms, and prawn; a goldfish-heavy diet has been linked to kidney and liver disorders.   Duckweed, roaches, crickets and other insects may be used to add variety to the diet.  A high quality commercial turtle chow can comprise up to 50% of the diet. Cuttlebone should be available to supplement the calcium provided by whole fishes.

Males may be distinguished their smaller size, concave plastrons and thick tails. Breeding may occur year-round, and 4 clutches may be deposited annually. Gravid (egg-bearing) females usually become restless.  They should be removed to a large container (i.e. 5x the length and width of the turtle) provisioned with slightly moist soil and sand.  Females that do not deposit their eggs should be seen by a veterinarian, as egg retention invariably leads to a fatal infection (egg peritonitis).  The 1-9 eggs may be incubated in a mix of 1 part vermiculite to 1 part water (by weight) at 78-85 F for 60-80 days.

Written by Frank Indiviglio

sociable, creature, quiet, charm, curious, little, guy, great, personality

deeper, tank, strong, musk, scent, hard, bite, good, hand, washing, good, filtration

basking, lamp, soft, shell, turtle, little, entertainment, value

Member photos

from breeders/sellers

(Breeders and sellers have to jump through hoops to get RightPet listings, literally, we make them do circus tricks. Unfortunately no one has met our high acrobatic standards for this animal yet, but hopefully they will soon!)

from shelters/rescues

(We've had no luck finding any of these frisky fellas so far, even though we've put up wanted posters and everything! But don't worry, we're working on it!)

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