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Midland Painted Turtle

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Species group:

Other common names: Painted Turtle

Scientific name: Chrysemys picta marginata

The basics:
“Painted” only begins to describe this beautifully-colored turtle! The Midland Painted Turtle’s care is similar to that of the Red-eared Slider, but it is a smaller creature, and therefore a much better choice for most turtle enthusiasts.

The Midland Painted Turtle ranges from southern Quebec and Ontario, Canada, southeast to Tennessee and Virginia, where it may be found in quiet, mud-bottomed swamps, lakes, rivers, canals, farm and 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:
Midland 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 top out at 25 cm (10 in), with males being smaller.

Well-cared-for Midland Painted Turtles are quite hardy, with captive longevities sometimes exceeding 30 years. Metabolic bone disease is common in animals that are not provided with ample calcium and/or UVB exposure. 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:
Midland 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, and feed readily from the hand. Like all turtles, they dislike being handled and will bite when startled.

Housing:
An adult requires a 30-55 gallon long-style or larger aquarium. Commercial turtle tubs, koi pools, and cattle troughs may also be used. Semi-aquatic turtles are best housed in bare-bottomed aquariums, as gravel traps food and waste material, and may be swallowed.

Midland Painted Turtles need a dry basking site. Commercial turtle docks or cork bark flats wedged between the tank’s sides work 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.

Painted Turtles require a source of UVB radiation. A water temperature of 72-80 F and basking site of 90 F should be maintained.

Diet:
Midland Painted Turtles begin life as carnivores but increasingly consume aquatic plants as they mature. Pets should be offered a diet comprised of minnows, earthworms, snails, prawn, duckweed, crickets, kale, dandelion, and other produce. Commercial turtle chow can comprise up to 50% of the diet. Spinach, cabbage, and a steady goldfish diet have been linked to various disorders.

Breeding:
Males may be distinguished their unusually long front claws and their long, thick tails. Breeding often occurs year-round.

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. Gravid females that do not nest should be seen by a veterinarian, as egg retention invariably leads to a fatal infection (egg peritonitis). 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.

Written by Frank Indiviglio

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