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If you are thinking of picking up a painted turtle as a pet, then read no further because this may or may not change your mind!

The Painted Turtle as a Pet

The painted turtle is one of the most common pet turtles in the United States, and around the world. In fact, with the exception of the red-eared slider, it probably is the most common pet turtle.

How to Purchase a Painted Turtle

Currently, it is expressly illegal to purchase any turtle or tortoise in the United States that has a shell of less than 4″ long.

What does this mean?

This means that you cannot purchase a baby turtle legally.

This law is known in the pet turtle circle as the “4 Inch Law“. While there is a lot of disagreement and debate about whether or not it is effective, the law was really introduced to limit over-breeding. It was also enacted in order to limit the many communicable diseases that turtles often have.

If you can’t purchase a hatchling or baby turtle, does that mean you can catch one in the wild?

Unfortunately, you probably shouldn’t.

  • Wild pet turtles often have lots of bacteria (and sometimes) diseases that you would be bringing into your house. This would be especially dangerous if you have any children.
  • Wild pet turtles are often not accustomed to being around humans.
  • Wild pet turtles are often not accustomed to the change in their diet that happens when they are caught.

Does this mean that you can’t purchase one?

Of course not! Lots of pet stores, as well as breeders, sell them.

The good news is that although you can’t purchase them when they are still young they are quite inexpensive to purchase from breeders and stores.

They can easily be bought or purchased for less than $20 or $30 (if you are in the United States, your price may be more expensive the further away you are).

What You Will Need to Take Care of Painted Turtles

Painted turtles are popular pets for a few reasons.

  • You can easily find them. For instance, they can be found in many slow-moving sources of water such as rivers, creeks, ponds, marshes, and lakes.
  • Their bright colors. These not only make them beautiful but also easy to spot.

Because these animals are so easy to distinguish and they are found everywhere, naturally many people are going to want to keep them as pets.

But those aren’t the only reasons people like to keep them.

The average life-span of a painted turtle is between 25-30 years, given proper care and a good environment. Some of lived even longer, upwards of 50 years! This means that more than likely one is going to stay with you for a long time!

They also do not grow to excessively large sizes.

This is particularly important for turtle hobbyists who do not want to or are able to, set-up very large 100 gallon+ tanks, or outdoor enclosures.

This is a big problem with certain species because as a turtle grows larger you will need to accommodate it by providing for a larger tank (keeping in mind the 10 gallons per inch of turtle shell rule).

You should also make sure you feed them a balanced diet. Below are my favorite options for painted turtle food:

You should experiment with a range of different pellets, insects, and vegetables if your painted turtle stops eating.

How big do painted turtles get?

A fully-grown painted turtle will be about 6-7 inches in length, which means that you will need at least a 60 to 70-gallon tank (if you only keep one). Female painted turtles tend to be larger than the males.

Fortunately, a 60 to 70-gallon tank is very easy to obtain and maintain.

What You Will Need to Take Care of a Painted Turtle

In order to properly care for these turtles, your turtle habitat will need the following:

The Temperament of the Painted Turtle as a Pet

Having the correct pet painted turtle habitat and supplies is one thing, but what about their temperament? If you want to have a painted turtle as a pet, you probably want one that is at the very least, docile and easy to handle.

The great thing is that generally speaking painted turtles are usually not very aggressive.

The most important thing you can do to ensure that your painted turtle does not go off the frizzes is to adequately provide it with a safe, nurturing and spacious environment.

The spacious part is important because painted turtles are avid swimmers and love to be in the water.

Make Sure They Have Plenty of Water

As aquatic turtles, they typically will spend around 75% of their lives in the water.

This means that your tank can be nearly filled to the top with water, giving them ample space to swim, dive and roam. How much water is enough? Generally, you want the water to be at least as deep as they are long, so 7 to 8 inches deep would be the minimum. However, as these turtles absolutely love swimming, you should ideally give them as much water to swim in as possible.

Make Sure They Are Able to Bask

A basking platform is also necessary, as these turtles need a spot to get completely out of the water to rest and dry off their shell, to prevent fungus and other harmful diseases.

If you have or want to have multiple painted turtles, the best thing you can do to make sure they do not become aggressive with each other (or you) is to ensure that they have plenty of space to roam about. Especially to swim.

How to Handle a Painted Turtle

Unlike other species of turtle, they are not prone to biting people. Just don’t stick your finger in their face as if it was a piece of food. Sometimes they may grab onto it by mistake!

When it comes to physically-handling them, as in picking them up and moving them about, please be aware that this is intensely stressful for turtles. Try to keep this to a minimum.

If you must pick them up, the proper procedure is to scoop them up from underneath so that their shell and legs are sitting in your hand. This will let them feel nice and stable.

Picking them up by their shell gives them lots of stress and anxiety. As their shell is an extension of their body. This would be similar to if someone picked you up by your ribs!

Turtles are not domesticated animals like dogs or cats. They are not ‘used to’ the presence of humans in the same way that a dog is. Often times a human abruptly walking into a room where a turtle resides will be quite stressful for it. This is more so true when these turtles are exposed, laying on their basking platforms.

As such, try to keep any handling to a minimum. And as always, remember to wash your hands before and after, as turtles can often carry harmful diseases and bacteria, such as salmonella.

That being said, if you end up getting a painted turtle as a pet, you will almost assuredly not regret it, as they are quite docile and fun to be around. Compared to other types of turtles, they are very friendly, especially when they are swimming.

Hopefully, this short article cleared up any questions or concerns you may have had about painted turtles as pets. They truly are some of the best turtles to care for and maintain.

Check out this article to learn more about living with uncommon indoor pets.

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