how to care for a Florida Red Bellied Turtle

The Florida Red Bellied Turtle, also known as the red bellied cooter, is one of the most popular freshwater turtles in North America. Their bright color makes them stand out among other breeds, making them a truly fascinating turtle to have.

Florida Red Bellied Turtle

The Florida Red Bellied Turtle originates from the southeastern region of the United States. They are mostly found in rivers, swamps, and ponds. The majority of the population lives in Georgia and throughout the Florida peninsula.

Physical Appearance:

This species is famously known for their red plastron, which is the bottom part of the turtle’s shell. Sometimes the plastron can be orange.

The carapace (top part of the shell) of this turtle is typically black or brown, but may have a couple streaks of yellow or red. The edges of the carpace are usually a yellowish color. There skin is usually dark gray with a lot of yellow stripes. This is not to be confused with the yellow bellied slider.

Florida Red Bellied Turtle baby

These turtles can come in many different colors and patterns, including striped, spotted, and albino.


Females are typically around 9 inches, while males are 10 inches. Males and females look alike except for the fact that males have longer tails, which are up to twice the length of their shell. Males also have thicker tails than females.

Early life:

Unlike other aquatic turtle species, Florida Red Bellied turtles usually don’t dig a nest for their eggs. Instead they usually just lay them in dry land away from the water.

Florid red bellied turtle hatchlings are about 1 inch long when they emerge from their eggs. They stay near shore until their shell is about 3 1/2 inches long, then they move into the water and follow a typical omnivorous turtle diet of fish and vegetation.

Can you have a Florida Red Bellied Turtle as a pet?

Yes, you can certainly have a Florida Red Bellied Turtle as a pet. They are one of the most popular pet turtles and are not too much work to keep as a pet in captivity.

However, it is important that you set up the proper environment in order to keep them happy and healthy.

If cared for properly, a Florida Red Bellied Turtle can live up to 50 years in captivity.

How to care for a Florida Red Bellied Turtle:


For starters, you will definitely need a large tank for a Florida Red Bellied Turtle. This is not only due to their large size, but also because they are a very aquatic species that like to spend a lot of time swimming. In the wild they prefer deep bodies of water, so you should try your best to have a lot of water in your turtle tank.

At the very least, your tank should be at least 75 gallons. If you plan on getting two Florida Red Bellied Turtles, you must get a tank that can hold at least 120 gallons. It’s also important that your tank has a lot of depth (ideally at least 2 feet) so that your turtle has plenty of area to swim.

I strongly suggest that you put a filter in your turtle tank, and also do a water change at least every other week.

Some houses are not able to accommodate large tanks. If you happen to have a small pond in your backyard, this is also a great option for a Florida Red Bellied Turtle. I would suggest that you keep the turtle in a tank until its at least 3 inches long so that is has a better chance of survival in the pond.

Basking spot

While Florida Red Bellied Turtles love to swim, they also spend a lot of time basking. In the wild, they typically do this on logs or rocks above the water. In your tank, it is best to set up a dry area of land that your turtle can bask from. Make sure that the land is easily accessible from the water.

If your tank is big enough, you can also put in large sticks or small logs. I would also suggest this rock basking spot that can be attached to the side of the aquarium.

Florida Red Bellied Turtles need access to both UVA and UVB light. There are many combo UVA UVB lights that you can buy for a good price on amazon. Make sure that the light is around 6 inches from the place where your turtle basks.


One of the most important aspects of caring for a turtle is maintain the proper temperature. You must make sure that the water and basking spot are both at a healthy temperature for your turtle.

Since Florida Red Bellied Turtles live in warmer climates, they need a warm tank. The water temperature should be around 70-75 degrees fahrenheight. I strongly suggest you get an underwater heater in order to maintain this temperature.

The basking spot for a Red Bellied Turtle should be around 85-95 degrees fahrenheight. This should not be hard to maintain if you have a good turtle heat lamp. I suggest that you keep a thermometer in both the water and near the basking spot so you can make sure the temperature is right.

One of the most common pet turtle diseases is respiratory illness, which is usually caused by a tank that is too cold.

What to feed a Florida Red Bellied Turtles

Florida Red Bellied Turtles are omnivores, so you should feed them a combination of both plant and animal food sources. I personally recommend feeding it vegetables once a day, and then protein/animal sourced food every other day. To learn more, check out my article on how much to feed a turtle.

Since Florida Red Bellied Turtles love to swim, you could also put small fish (less than an inch) in your tank for your turtle to eat. This can also help them stay active and healthy.

You can also feed a Red Bellied Turtle a wide range of insects, such as crickets, bugs, and worms.

Are Florida Red Bellied Turtles good pets?

Yes, Florida Red Bellied Turtles are great pets and very sociable. After they get comfortable with you, it is usually not a problem to pick them up. They are also very good swimmers, so they are fun to watch and observe in a tank.

As long as you have the proper setup, they do not require a lot of work.

Where to buy a Florida Red Bellied Turtle?

If you live in Georgia or Florida, there is a chance that your local pet store sells Red Bellied Turtles. However, your best bet would be to order one online and have it shipped to you. At the time of this writing, you can buy Florida Red Bellied Turtles from Myturtlestore.com and Theturtlesource.com.

Both sites sell Florida Red Bellied Turtles for around $40.