Species group: Mud and Musk Turtles
Other common names: Stinkpot Turtle
Scientific name: Sternotherus odoratus
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
Lovely small turtles, however extremely messy and high-maintenance
I originally added these two musks to a fish tank I had with a small handful of fish.. The musks will try to catch the fish so DO BEWARE - a few of mine did disappear but it acts as a great activity for the turtles.
They need a large setup, and it is recommended to have an area of which they are able to exit the water and bask in the warmth of a lamp with UV (their shells will soften otherwise which leads to a number of health problems).
In terms of eating, what I would do to try and minimise mess was to feed them in a separate container - they are VERY MESSY eaters and will fly bits everywhere around the tank which can cause the tank to get very dirty very quickly.
In terms of excrement the turtles would poop a lot, but it's very liquidy which means the water can fog and become dirty rather quickly, a lot of money should be spent in order to obtain the proper filters and cleaning equipment for your tank.
They make great visual pets - they're not able to be handled as such, mine would try and nip me if so, however they were often quite shy and so when picked up they would retreat into their shells for a little while. For me they were relatively expensive to maintain -the filters required have to be extremely good.
I really did enjoy watching them swim around, they are unbelievably cute - and almost quite clumsy in the way they swim. They knock into things all the time, and poke their heads in and out all the time. Wonderful little things :) You just need the patience to spend most of your time with these creatures cleaning up after them! ;).
From lauren_lou Aug 4 2015 5:34AM
From findiviglio 270 days ago
Musk Turtles - Are they are easy to keep as you think?
I owned musk turtles for 3 years. I had never owned reptiles before, but I thought that musk turtles would be a welcomed change, and pets that would be easy to keep, lovely to hold and beautiful to watch.
My experience was very different.... For the first few weeks, I had assumed that the turtles hiding away constantly was just a matter of getting used to their tank, but after a while I began to realize that, no matter what I tried, the turtles simply wanted to sit in a dark space away from human attention.
The hardest thing about keeping these pets is the cleaning. Don't let the small, cute, turtles deceive you! They make a HUGE amount of mess, and a small tank filter will fill up in a day or two, meaning that you have to change all of the water in the tank. I found that I had to change the filter daily and replace all of the water at least once a week.
So, should you keep musk turtles? Yes, if you have alot of time on your hands and don't mind putting in alot of cleaning work for animals that you rarely see. No, if you're looking for pets that you can hold and love..
From magpiemags2 May 17 2015 3:03AM