Common Types Of Pet Turtles And How To Care For Them

What pet turtles need for a comfy, happy home ❤️

pet turtles

Turtles make great pets because they’re fun to care for and are typically pretty laid-back companions. And there are plenty of turtles at rescues who would love to be your new BFF.

If you have your heart set on bringing a turtle into your family, adoption is always the best option. Resources like Petfinder and turtle-specific rescue organizations are great places to start.

Ready to take the plunge? We spoke with Kaitlyn Tullio, a veterinary nurse at DodoVet, to find out everything you need to know about pet turtles.

Types of pet turtles

Pet turtles are usually aquatic — meaning they live in water — but there are a couple types that are land dwellers. Here are a few types of turtles that would make good pets:

  • Red-eared slider (aquatic)
  • African sideneck turtle (aquatic)
  • Western painted turtle (aquatic)
  • Mississippi map turtle (aquatic)
  • Common musk turtle (aquatic)
  • Spotted turtle (aquatic)
  • Yellow-bellied slider (aquatic)
  • Reeve’s turtle (aquatic)
  • Eastern box turtle (land)
  • Wood turtle (land)

Turtles you shouldn’t have as pets

According to Tullio, there are some types of turtles you shouldn’t keep as pets, including:

  • Snapping turtles
  • Turtles smaller than 4 inches long
  • Turtles on the endangered species list
  • Wild turtles

“If you find a turtle in the wild, it is highly recommended that you leave it where you found it,” Tullio said. “Taking it away from its habitat could be detrimental to their well-being and the continuation of their species, [and] in addition it may have the potential to spread disease.”

And when it comes to turtles under 4 inches long, it’s actually illegal to keep them as pets because they can spread salmonella.

What do pet turtles eat?

Turtles are omnivores, meaning they can eat both plants and protein. But different types of turtles will need different foods.

For aquatic turtles, Tullio has two recommendations: Zoo Med Natural Aquatic Turtle Food and Tetra ReptoMin Floating Food Sticks. Both are floating foods, which will be easy for your turtle to snack on at the water’s surface.

Try Zoo Med Natural Aquatic Turtle Food from Chewy for $18

Or Tetra ReptoMin Floating Food Sticks from Chewy for $8

And for land turtles, you have a few options.

If you’re looking for canned food for your box turtle, Tullio recommends Zoo Med Box Turtle Food. It’s made with apples and corn, and has a bunch of ingredients that make it a nutritionally balanced food for your land-dwelling BFF.

Try Zoo Med Box Turtle Food from Chewy for $4

And when it comes to dry food for your box turtle, Tullio suggests T-Rex Box Turtle Dry Formula. It has protein and fruit, so your little omnivore is getting just what he needs.

Try T-Rex Box Turtle Dry Formula from Amazon for $20

Wood turtles often get their protein from more unique sources than pet parents may be used to.

“Wood turtles are omnivores, so their diets must include things such as snails, slugs and earthworms,” Tullio said.

Try Zoo Med Can O’ Snails from Chewy for $5

Or Amzey Appetizing Dried Earthworms from Chewy for $13

“They must also eat some fruits and vegetables,” Tullio said. “Safe choices for them include romaine lettuce, kale, dandelions, boiled carrots, spinach in small amounts, frozen mixed vegetables, bananas, apples, mixed berries, grapes and pears, for example.”

What you need to take care of pet turtles

To give your pet turtle the best life, there are some supplies you need.

A tank

Whether you’ve got an aquatic or a land turtle, you’re going to need a good tank for him to live in.

Try this aquarium from Amazon for $40

A light/heat source

Since turtles are cold-blooded, they need an external heat source to stay warm. There are heating lamps and bulbs specifically designed to give your turtle all the light and warmth he needs, and you’ll want to include one when setting up your tank.

Try this lamp from Amazon for $14

And these bulbs from Amazon for $22

A basking site

A basking site is somewhere your turtle can go to take in some heat and light. For aquatic turtles, this is going to be a spot out of the water where your pet can dry off.

Like this Penn-Plax floating turtle pier from Chewy for $19

Or this above-tank mounted basking platform from Amazon for $54

A water filter (for aquatic turtles)

A water filter is an essential part of any aquatic turtle’s tank. A filtration system is crucial for keeping your turtle’s water clean.

Try this filter from Chewy for $13


To keep your turtle happy, you’ll want to provide him with some things for enrichment, too. Floating treats could be a fun and tasty way to encourage your turtle to swim around and chase down his snacks.

Try Zilla Turtle Chasers floating treats from Chewy for $8

Providing your turtle a little cave to hide in also could make his environment more enriching.

Try this cave from Amazon for $18

Pet turtles can make your heart so happy. So if you’re ready to adopt a turtle and bring a new BFF into your family, now you know exactly what you need to give him the best life possible.

Want access to a vet 24/7? With DodoVet, you can connect via video chat, phone or text with an empathetic veterinary expert who can help you be the best pet parent you can be. Say goodbye to Dr. Google and have all your pet parent questions answered anytime, anywhere. Learn more here.

We independently pick all the products we recommend because we love them and think you will too. If you buy a product from a link on our site, we may earn a commission.