Generally speaking, no turtles are not low maintenance pets. However, some species are more care intensive than others. Here is what you need to know.
Are Turtles Low Maintenance?
First things first, turtles are not low maintenance.
Compared to many other types of pets, turtles actually require quite a bit of upkeep, care, and attention. However, that being said, it is true that certain species are quite a bit easier or harder to take care of.
Cutting to the chase, the best low maintenance turtle is the painted slider turtle.
You can read a more in-depth article covering the basics of the painted slider turtle here.
The reasons for choosing this turtle over all-overs in terms of being “low maintenance” is a little lengthy, but to sum everything up:
- You can keep them indoors (an indoor enclosure is almost infinitely easier to maintain than an outdoor).
- They are primarily water turtles (water turtles are easier to care for than land turtles).
- Painted turtles are hardy, in that they do not die easily.
- These turtles are a temperate species of turtle (so that they are not as prone to cold-related illnesses as some tropical species are).
- Are omnivores (again, it is easier to feed omnivores).
- Are smaller in size than many other turtle species.
If you are confused at all why any of these things listed above would make the painted turtle easier to care for, keep reading below for a quick explanation of each.
If you want to know how much time it takes to take care of one, check out my guide on why turtles are easy to take care of.
Turtles You Can Keep Indoors are Better Than Outdoor Species
If you’re a beginner turtle enthusiast, it is traditionally strongly recommended that you get a turtle species that can be placed (and thrive) in an indoor enclosure and not an outdoor.
Basically, as a beginner, with an indoor enclosure there are only a set few things you need to keep your eye on and really do well, whereas, with an outdoor enclosure, you have a lot more variables (some of which are out of your control) that you need to plan and prepare for.
This should make more sense:
An indoor enclosure or tank:
- It doesn’t need as much space as an outdoor.
- It is portable and mobile. As in, you can move everything to another area if you don’t like the set-up or location.
- It is not reliant on the outdoor environment or temperature.
- Far more difficult for turtles to escape from.
- Safe and secure from outside predators.
- It has more visibility, especially with glass tanks.
- Far less expensive than setting up a good outdoor enclosure.
With an outdoor enclosure, you basically need to work with the complete opposite of every one of the above factors.
An outdoor pond is more expensive, far larger, not mobile or movable whatsoever, prone to inclement weather and outside predators. And to top it all off typically it’s a lot easier for your turtles to escape and never to be seen again.
Thus, larger turtle species such as tortoises, some snapping turtle species and others that need to be placed outside are now automatically eliminated as any type of low maintenance turtle.
Basically, what this now means is that the best low maintenance turtles are smaller in size, and are able to be placed indoors.
But that’s not all.
Why Water Turtles are Better Than Terrestrial Turtles
Some species of turtle, such as red eared sliders and painted turtles, spend roughly 75% of their lives in water.
Other species, particularly box turtles, spend roughly half their lives in shallow water, and the other half on land.
So, why would a water turtle be easier to care for than a more land-based turtle?
Essentially, it comes down to this:
With a water-based turtle such as a red-eared slider, all you need for an awesome habitat is a large-enough tank filled to the right level, as well as a basking spot.
Box turtles, on the other hand, are poor swimmers. If you put them into a deep tank filled with water with only a basking area that they will probably have trouble getting to, they may tire out and drown.
Furthermore, with more land-based turtles, you need to be able to not only figure out a way to properly divide up the turtle tank or tub but also get the right type of sediment, as many box turtle species need to be able to burrow.
This then means that box turtles and other land-based terrapins are out of consideration for being a good low maintenance turtle.
Why Omnivores Are Better Than Herbivores
This might not be so intuitive, but the reason is actually quite simple:
It is simply a lot easier to give a turtle a protein-rich diet, supplemented with leafy greens and a few good vegetables than it is to reproduce the plant-based diet that herbivore species rely on in the wild.
This is compounded by the fact that often times turtle owners are ignorant about the macro-nutrient needs of their turtle species. Typically they just give them only protein-rich pellets and a few frozen shrimp.
This is yet another reason why any type of tortoise or herbivore species should be eliminated from consideration.
For a quick guide on the best turtle food brand, click here.
But wait, that’s not all. There’s 1 more reason why the painted turtle takes home the prize as the best overall low maintenance turtle.
Smaller Turtles Are Better Than Larger Turtles
Looking back at our reasons so far, what we seem to be left with, if we are going by turtle species that are easily acquirable, are two types of turtles:
Red-eared sliders and painted turtles.
Red-eared sliders are certainly more popular than painted turtles, but that doesn’t mean they are easier to take care of.
If everything else was equal, the red-eared slider would probably be your best low maintenance turtle choice.
The problem is that not everything is equal, there’s 1 more thing.
A smaller turtle is going to be easier to care for than a larger turtle.
Typically, you’d want the largest enclosure you (and your home) can afford.
This is strictly for the turtle’s sake. Turtles in the wild roam and are not restricted in movement in any form. Thus, a smaller turtle is going to feel a lot less encumbered and restricted than a larger turtle, in the same enclosure.
Moreover, a smaller turtle is simply a lot easier to care for. They require less space, smaller equipment, less food, and fewer needs.
Painted turtles, in particular, the southern and midland species, which can grow from 3.5 to 7″ are significantly smaller than red eared sliders, which can grow to 7-9″ in length.
Painted turtles can also be found across the United States but sliders are limited to the eastern half. This gives painted turtles a bit more range and diversity.
Furthermore, painted turtles typically prefer a bit more of a protein-rich diet compared to sliders. Sliders tend to eat more leafy greens and vegetables as they age. This makes them a little easier to feed.
Your turtles’ size is even more important if you are considering acquiring more than 1 turtle, as if they are males, they may be prone to fighting, biting and all sorts of conflict. Thus, you’d probably need a lot more space than you are willing to provide.
Why Painted Turtles are Less Intensive Than Other Species
So, given all these reasons:
- Smaller size (males grow from 3.5 – 5″ and females from 5 – 7″).
- Omnivore that prefers a more protein-based diet.
- They can thrive in an indoor environment.
- Very popular and inexpensive to acquire.
- Beautiful, vivid colors make them enjoyable to look at.
- Friendly, and often seem to enjoy the company of people.
A really strong case can be made that painted turtles are indeed the best low maintenance turtles!
If you are interested in getting a painted turtle, check out this quick article on how well they work as pets!