Best Pet Turtles for Beginners

Choosing a pet turtle is a very fun and exciting experience. However, as a beginner you might have a lot of questions. One of the very first things you must decide is to choose what species of turtle you want as a pet.

Having a turtle means you are choosing an amazing and gentle companionship for decades. So, we have gathered some of the best turtle species that pet keepers can pick according to their space and setup.

Best Pet Turtles for Beginners

In my opinion, the three best pet turtles for beginners are red-eared sliders, painted turtles, and musk turtles.

Below I have put together brief descriptions and habitat recommendations for each of these species of turtle. All three of these turtle species are aquatic turtles which will require a tank with a lot of water. It is also essential that you provide a turtle with a basking platform that has access to UV-A and UV-B light.

Red-Eared Sliders

red eared slider pet for beginners

If you want to make an easy choice, then Red-Eared sliders are a great option. They are the most popular species of turtle, and they are readily available in most pet stores. Depending on their size, you can sometimes get Red-Eared sliders for under $20 from a local pet store.

  • They are found in a wide range of environments in the United States, including lakes, streams, and pond. They are aquatic turtles, and thus love to swim.
  • While turtles are easy to take care of, it is important that you get all of the proper equipment for their habitat. If you want to keep them in your home as pets, you should try to get a tank that is at least 75 gallons. This is because most Red-Eared Sliders typically reach an adult size of 8-10 inches.
  • It is important that you maintain a water temperature between 75 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • The basic care of these turtles is quite easy because they are omnivorous in nature. This means you have a lot of flexibility in terms of what you feed you Red-Eared Slider. I would recommend a mixed diet that includes leafy vegetables, protein sources such as crickets/mealworms, and commercial turtle pellets.   
  • Lifespan of red-eared sliders is 30 to 40 years, so be ready for a long-term commitment.  
  • Red-Eared sliders have a great temperament, and are known as a very intelligent species. They are not very aggressive, so you most likely will not have to worry about them biting you.

If you want to know everything that goes into taking care of a red-eared slider, check out my video below:

Painted Turtles

how to take care of painted turtle for beginners

If you have limited space you should consider a painted turtle. They can easily be accommodated in smaller areas due to their small size. While painted turtles technically can reach any size between 4 and 12 inches, they rarely get larger than 8 inches.

You can easily identify them as they have red and yellow stripes that run down the side of their head.

Here are some notable features of painted turtles that will help you in making an informed decision.

  • Painted turtles are aquatic turtles that love to swim. They also prefer warm water.
  • They love to climb on rocks or logs, so it would be a good idea to put some floating objects in your tank.
  • The size of this turtle is rarely larger than 8 inches in length. This means the maximum tank size you would need is 75-80 gallons.
  • You will definitely need to invest in a filter for the tank to help maintain clean water.
  • Although they can eat fruits, the majority of a painted turtle’s diet should be leafy green vegetables.
  • The lifespan of painted turtles is 20 to 30 years.
  • If you have more questions regarding painted turtle care, you can check out my article on the best painted turtle setup.

Musk Turtles

pet musk turtle

Musk turtles are increasingly becoming popular as pets. Let’s know more about them.

  • They prefer to live in the areas with dense vegetation and are naturally found in various swampy regions of the United States, including Florida, Mississippi and Texas. To help emulate this environment, you should make sure you get a water heater that keep the water warm.
  • Musk turtles are great for beginners because they are very small. They usually don’t get larger than 5 inches in length. This means that you can easily keep a musk turtle in a tank that is only 40 to 50 gallons. However, you need to make sure the water is still deep enough so your turtle has plenty of room to swim. If you don’t want a turtle that swims, you should check out my article on the best box turtles for pets.
  • Musk turtles are mostly carnivorous. This means that the majority of their diet should include high-protein, animal food sources. I would suggest mealworms, crickets, and other insects. While you can certainly try to give your musk turtle some vegetables, don’t be surprised if they aren’t interested. You can also feed musk turtles commercial pellets.   
  • Musk turtles are known for being a little more aggressive compared to other turtles. This means you should be a little cautious if you decide to pick them up.
  • The lifespan of these turtles is 10 to 20 years.

The Bottom Line

As a life-long turtle owner, I can guarantee that a pet turtle is absolutely worth it. Compared to other types of pets, turtles require a lot less maintenance. They are also very fun to observe, especially when you have a big enough tank that allows them to comfortably swim around. If this is your first turtle, I suggest you check out my guide on the best turtle tank accessories.

Now that you have a good understanding of the best type of turtles for a beginner, you might be interested in my article on the best tanks for turtles.

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