This is the Breathtaking Painted Turtle main picture
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With their brightly colored markings and wide-range across North America, the painted turtle is one breathtaking turtle. But, I bet you didn’t know this!

About the Painted Turtle

With their brightly colored markings and wide-range across North America, the painted turtle is one of the most common turtles that people come across out in the wild.

There are four types of painted turtle, all of which are essentially classified according to their range; the eastern painted, midland painted, western painted and southern painted turtle.

If you are ever curious about how exactly to identify the different species of painted turtles, I would suggest reading this short, simple article I wrote here:

Common Name: Painted Turtle

Type of Eater: Omnivore

Size & Weight: 10-25 cm / 2oz.

Distribution: North America

Unique Features: Bright colored markings

Next to the red-eared slider, the painted turtle is perhaps the most common type of pet turtle in North America, and as they regularly live upwards of 25 to 30 years, they can make great lifelong companions.

Physical Characteristics

Female painted turtles can reach sizes of up to 10 inches (25cm), although their male counterparts will typically be a little smaller.

Usually, it is quite easy to spot a painted turtle; he or she will have black skin and a smooth, sleek, dark-colored carapace (shell) that is separated by deep lines that make up the different shell sections (called lutes).

Around the edges of its shell and, underneath will be streaks of orange and red lines, which are brightly visible.

The bottom of its shell will usually be a dull yellow or brown color.

An easy way to tell the difference between a red-eared slider and a painted turtle is to look at how much and where any red coloring is on the turtle.

Red-eared sliders will only have a single red streak behind their eye going down their neck.

Painted turtles will be much more colorful, exhibiting streaks of red around their shell and even up to their neck.

Painted turtles also have much flatter shells compared to the dome-type shells that RES’s have.

Much like their RES cousins, you can tell the difference between a male and a female by looking at their claws.

Males will have elongated claws whereas females will have shorter, stubbier claws. Females will also typically be a bit larger than males.

Distribution and Habitat

Painted Turtle content 2

The painted turtle has a very wide distribution and natural habitat area. Their habitat runs from the north of Mexico to the south of Canada. It also stretches from the Atlantic Ocean, covering the entirety of the United States, all the way to the Pacific.

You can commonly find them in any still or slow-moving body of freshwater. Examples include:

  • Bogs
  • Marshes
  • Swamps
  • Lakes
  • Rivers and ponds

During the day you might see them basking in the sun, where they come out to warm-up (as they are cold-blooded). They also do this in order to get rid of any parasites that may have attached themselves to their shells.

Although they love to come out and bask on sunny days they live most of their lives in the water.

Painted turtles in the wild are diurnal. This means that they are active during the night, and inactive during the day. During the night they will submerge themselves on or near the bottom of rivers and ponds to sleep and rest.


Painted turtles are considered omnivores, which means that they consume both plants and animals.

However, as a painted turtle grows older it naturally tends to consume more plants, vegetables, and fruits.

If you have a painted turtle as a pet, I recommend feeding them this vegetable mix.

Some common sources of food for painted turtles:

  • Various plants, vegetables, and fruits
  • Algae
  • Water lilies
  • Dead fish and other animals
  • Earthworms, insects, snails, leeches, tadpoles and smaller fish.

As they are brightly colored and visible they often have to be careful of the variety of predators that hunt painted turtles. Some common predators are:

  • Foxes and raccoons
  • Crows and hawks
  • Bullfrogs, larger fish, and turtles.

Proper Housing and Care

Like red eared sliders, as long as they are properly cared for they can make great pets and lifelong companions.

In order to care for them appropriately, you’ll need some essential equipment, such as:

  • A deep enough tank (needs to be twice as deep as the width of their shell.
  • A water heater that can keep the temperature from 75 to 85 F.
  • A strong enough filter that can clean turtle waste and filter out ammonia.

As painted turtles also love to regularly bask, you can either put them somewhere outside on sunny days (but free from any roaming predators and a way to escape). Or set-up a UV light that will give them the essential nourishment their body lacks from being indoors.

If you are curious about finding out what exactly you will need in a bit more detail, please check out this article I wrote here:

Like their red-eared slider cousins, once they are accustomed to their new environments, they can be quite personable and friendly to humans.  Just be careful as most turtles still like to snap at ‘food-like objects’ (like your fingers) from time to time!


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