Eastern Painted Turtle

Save as favorite

Avg. Owner Satisfaction


(47 Reviews)

Species group:

Other common names: Painted Turtle

Scientific name: Chrysemys picta picta

The basics:
This aptly-named beauty is one of the world’s most colorful turtles. The Eastern Painted Turtle’s needs are similar to those of the more commonly-kept Red-eared Slider, but it is a smaller (although just as active!) creature, and therefore a much better choice for most turtle enthusiasts.

The Painted Turtle, comprised of 4 subspecies, has the greatest distribution of any North American turtle. The Eastern Painted Turtle ranges from southern Canada south through most of the USA east of the Mississippi River to South Carolina. Released pets have established feral populations in Florida, California, Spain, Germany, Indonesia and the Philippines.

Eastern Painted 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 much time basking on partially-exposed logs and rocks and, except when nesting, rarely travel far from shore.

Appearance / health:
Eastern Painted Turtle’s smooth, oval carapace is olive to black in color, with bright yellow or red borders between the scutes and red marks along the edges. The plastron is yellow and the black skin is adorned with red and yellow stripes. Females reach 7 inches in length; males usually top out at 4-5 inches.

Well-cared-for Eastern Painted Turtles are quite hardy, with captive longevities approaching and sometimes exceeding 50 years. Metabolic bone disease is common in animals that are not provided with ample calcium and/or UVB exposure. Females without access to a suitable nesting site may retain their eggs. 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:
Eastern Painted 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 30 gallon long-style or larger aquarium. Commercial turtle tubs or wading/koi pools are ideal, especially if multiple turtles are kept. Eastern Painted Turtles are best housed in bare-bottomed aquariums, as gravel traps food and waste material, and may be swallowed.

Eastern Painted Turtles need a dry surface on which to rest and bask. Commercial turtle docks and “tank toppers”, or cork bark flats (wedged between the tank’s sides or affixed with silicone) work well.

Powerful filters are necessary unless the enclosure can be emptied and cleaned several times weekly. Even with filtration, regular partial water changes are essential. Removing your turtles to an easily-cleaned container for feeding will lessen the filter’s workload.

Painted Turtles require a source of UVB radiation. Mercury vapor bulbs broadcast UVB over greater distances than do florescent models, and provide beneficial UVA radiation as well. A water temperature of 72-80 F and basking site of 90 F should be maintained.

Eastern Painted Turtles begin life as carnivores but increasingly consume aquatic plants as they mature. The natural diet includes fish, tadpoles, snails, carrion, insects, frogs, shrimp, and aquatic vegetation.

Pets should be offered a diet comprised largely of whole animals such as minnows, shiners, earthworms, snails, crayfish and prawn, along with kale, dandelion, collard/mustard greens, and other produce. Duckweed, super mealworms, 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. Spinach and various cabbages have been implicated in stone formation, and a steady goldfish diet has been linked to kidney and liver disorders. A cuttlebone should be available to supplement the calcium provided by whole fishes.

Males become sexually mature when approximately 2-4 years old and 3-4 inches in length; females at age 3-5 and 5 inches in length. Mature males may be distinguished their unusually long front claws, which are vibrated against the female’s face during courtship, and their longer, thicker tails. Breeding often occurs year-round.

Gravid (egg-bearing) females usually become restless and may refuse food. They should be removed to a large container (i.e. 5x the length and width of the turtle) provisioned with 6-8 inches of slightly moist soil and sand. Gravid females that do not nest should be seen by a veterinarian, as egg retention invariably leads to a fatal infection (egg peritonitis). It is important to note that females may develop eggs even if unmated, and that pets may deposit 3-5 clutches each year; a single mating may result in fertile eggs being produced years later. The 5-15 eggs may be incubated in a mix of 1 part vermiculite to 1 part water (by weight) at 80-86 F for 55-80 days. Males are produced at low incubation temperatures and females at high; 83-84 F usually yields both sexes.

Written by Frank Indiviglio


entertaining little turtles, easygoing breed, great reptile pets, amazing little personality


constant cleaning, wild-caught painteds, strict handwashing, nasty bacteria, smell, high waste animal


water turtle sticks, good basking spot

Eastern Painted Turtle Behavior Tip

Eastern Painted Turtle

From steelecrayon Nov 16 2015 11:25PM


Member photos