common musk turtle xl
This is the Stunning Common Musk Turtle main picture
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The common musk turtle, otherwise known as the stinkpot, is very popular and one of the best turtles for novice turtle enthusiasts to take care of.

About the Musk Turtle

The stinkpot, or common musk turtle, is a great choice for beginner or novice turtle enthusiasts as it:

They often live up to 30 to 50 years in the wild, so they make great lifelong pets.

  • It stays small.
  • It is very hardy and it doesn’t succumb to disease or illness easily.
  • They are relatively easy to take care of.
  • Common Name: Common Musk Turtle
  • Size: 2 – 5 inches
  • Distribution: Eastern to mid-United States
  • Unique Features: Can emit foul smell


The common musk turtle, or stinkpot, is one of the most easily identifiable turtles in the wild.

Firstly, they are very small turtles, only 2 to 5 inches in size. ​

Their carapace (or shell) is usually a dark brown or black color, sometimes with a dark hue of green thrown in. Often times, their shell is partially covered with algae. This in part because they spend almost their entire lives in water. ​

Their shell is very narrow (looking at it from the front) and tall, rather than wide and flat like other turtles.

The stinkpot’s skin is often a dark brown or black, mottled with bits of dark green. ​

They often have a greenish color stripe above and below their eyes and have very stout noses. ​

Another way to easily identify them is by their plastron (underside of their shell). Unlike most other turtles, they have a lot of exposed skin around their plastron (see pic).

​As their name suggests, and like their cousins, the mud turtle is capable of, they are able to secrete a very foul, orangish looking substance from the edges of their shell. This substance is meant to help ward off predators.

But fear not, because typically captive musk turtles do this far often (if at all), and it’s not nearly as strong as say, a skunk’s!

If you are interested in other speices of musk turtles, check out my article on razor backed musk turtles.


In the wild, the musk turtle can be found in most parts of the eastern United States up into lower Canada. ​One of the most common types of musk turtle is the eastern musk turtle.

They are most commonly found in very shallow, slow-moving bodies of waters. Streams, small rivers and ponds with plenty of green vegetation are the ideal resting spots for them.

They typically live almost their entire lives in the water, hence the green algae that often forms on their shells. ​

Many people claim that, relative to other turtles such as painted and red-eared sliders, they do not seem to bask as much. ​

Instead, the wild musk turtle often prefers to come out of the water and forage at night. They are usually nocturnal!

They are not a threatened or endangered species (although they are listed as threatened​ in Ontario), however, raccoons, fishing lines, water pollution, and road hazards are their biggest threats.


In the wild, stinkpots are omnivorous opportunists, meaning that they will typically eat whatever they can. Because they are small and not very powerful, they usually are not able to catch fish.

Instead, their three biggest sources of food tend to be; insects, ​mollusks and aquatic vegetation. Insects tend to be around 50% of their nutrient intake.

Insect larvae, crayfish, very small amphibians and anything else that wanders into their path can also sometimes wind up inside their stomachs.

In captivity, however, their diet changes.

They tend to love munching on aquatic turtle food pellets, crayfish, earthworms, crickets and shrimp. They tend not to eat vegetation, even when offered (despite this, you still should offer). 

Special Caretaking Considerations

A minimum 30-gallon tank space is recommended for each musk turtle you have.

Furthermore, because these turtles live in shallow water, it is recommended that the water level be somewhere between 10 inches and 2 feet.

Like other turtles, proper lighting, underwater heating, and filtration are all recommended.

Musk turtles don’t typically sit on the bottom of tanks, and instead like to climb on objects in the water, so any type of driftwood, underwater caves or water vegetation will probably be greatly appreciated!


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