Species group: Painted Turtles
Other common names: Painted Turtle
Scientific name: Chrysemys picta picta
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
Sparky - Roadside to Pondside
Sparky was a turtle that we found on the side of the road where there was an accident and he had lost his mother. Growing up in the country I wanted to get him before anything happened to him because I knew a hawk might come and snatch him away. I had a 10 gallon aquarium in which I established his first home but eventually bought a longer 20 gallon aquarium for him. For a turtle he was pretty friendly and my children adored him. He had a personality that I never thought turtles would have, he would get excited whenever we would bring him lettuce and stretch his neck as far as he could.
I had a lot of issues with algae growing on his shell and gave him weekly baths as a friend of mine owned turtles and told me she had to clean their shells too. He loved to sit under the heat light on his rock. The water changes were frequent and maintaining the proper balance was a little hard. I would take him to my dad’s pond as he got bigger because I know how big they can get and I was not sure I could keep him too much longer. He loved romping around in the grass and getting exercise. He ate mostly turtle pellets and greenery from the fridge.
I wanted him to be able to return to the wild because that is where he came from so we kept him until he was big enough to go into my dad’s pond, there were always other turtles bathing in the sun on the sides of the pond. We did not end up keeping Sparky but when we took him to the pond there were three others sitting on the large rock that comes up out of the side of the pond and to this day there are now four turtles, one being Sparky, that are laying in the sun in the summertime. We can tell it is him as the stripes on their sides are all different.
As for owning a turtle, I do not believe this is something a small child can manage on their own. You have to have the proper habitat for them to stay healthy and if not they can get very sick. Their shell needs proper care if their habitat is not just so. I think if you want to get a turtle as a pet you should do some research and make sure it is something you are willing to maintain. They are cute, fun to play with, but not like a dog or a cat. We were never bitten by our turtle, he was pretty friendly. Make sure too that your children clean their hands as they are carriers of salmonella..
From jowadek Mar 2 2014 6:46PM
From findiviglio 53 days ago
Research and Patience Needed
One of my most vivid childhood memories is when I found a tiny turtle in my backyard. (Based on the old photos I have + my location, I believe it was an Eastern Painted Turtle.) I had only ever seen frogs and toads wander through my yard, so I immediately fell in love with the little guy. My parents agreed to let me keep him temporarily to see if he would work out as a pet.
In the end, putting him back in the wild was the best choice for everyone, and although I was devastated at the time, as an adult, I definitely think it was the right idea.
First, wild animals belong in the wild, and turtles are no exception. Removing an animal from its natural habitat (and possibly its family) is disruptive to the animal, and could jeopardize the animal's health if it's still nursing.
Second, if you obtain a turtle from a breeder or other legitimate source, do your research first. Are you ready to feed your pet bugs? (We fed ours ham from the deli.) Can you afford to take your pet to a vet specializing in reptiles? (Didn't cross our minds at all.) Do you know what temperature and humidity your pet's environment needs to be? (We had no idea.)
There's a lot to learn and think about before owning a turtle that simply isn't as obvious as owning a dog or cat. Researching turtle behavior, supplies, and regularly costs is key, and will help determine whether a turtle is the right pet for you and your life style.
In my case, a turtle just didn't fit into my life, but that doesn't mean turtles aren't good pets with the right owner..
From steelecrayon Nov 16 2015 11:25PM