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.
Type of Eater
Size & Weight
10-25 cm / 2 oz.
Bright colored markings
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.
Although each of them has very slight differences, they all exhibit the same type of behavior and look very similar.
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.
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 the males.
The painted turtle has a very wide distribution and natural habitat area; running from the north of Mexico to the south of Canada, and stretching 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 such as bogs, marshes, swamps, and in and around lakes, ponds and rivers.
During the day you might see them basking in the sun, where they come out to warm-up (as they are cold-blooded) and to get rid of any parasites that may have attached themselves to the turtle.
Although they love to come out and bask on sunny days (and stack themselves on each other), they live most of their lives in the water.
As they are diurnal (active during the day) they will submerge themselves on or near the bottom of rivers and ponds to sleep and rest during the night.
Painted turtles are considered omnivores, which means that they consume both plant and animals.
However, as a painted turtle grows older it naturally tends to consume more plants, vegetables and fruits.
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, such as foxes, raccoons, crows, hawks, bullfrogs, and larger fish and turtles.
Special Caretaking Considerations
Much like red eared sliders, as long as they are properly cared for they can make great pets and nearly lifelong companions.
Some essentials include things like deep enough water (needs to be twice as deep as the width of their shell) that is properly heated (75 to 85 F) and filtered regularly.
As painted turtles also love to regularly bask, they will need to be put somewhere outside on sunny days (but free from any roaming predators and a way to escape) or have access to a UAV light that will give them the essential nourishment their body lacks from being indoors.
Also similar to 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!