Do Turtles Make Good Pets?

Cuteness may earn compensation through affiliate links in this story.

The question of whether turtles make good pets really comes down to what kind of pet you want. If you want a pet with personality that you can snuggle with, turtles are not really the best for that. Although you can interact with turtles in a variety of ways, they are not like furry pets that you want to hug or frisky pets like rabbits, cats, dogs, or even rats. In addition, turtles are not necessarily low maintenance.

Image Credit: holwichaikawee/iStock/GettyImages

Video of the Day

Although they are not the cuddly sort, turtles do learn to recognize their owners and may swim to the surface of their water when they know their owner is nearby. They say that your turtle may actually come to you when you call him!

How long do turtles live as pets?

As you know, turtles move slowly. This may be one of the reasons turtles live so long! There are a variety of turtle species that are suitable as pets, and they have various lifespans and their life depends on the quality of the care they receive as pets. In general, a turtle should be thought of as a lifelong pet.


If you get a turtle that is not a hatchling, it can be hard to tell the age of the turtle, but there are some tricks for this. If they are given quality care, common pet species such as the red-eared slider might live for 40 years. Mud turtles and African Sideneck turtles can live for 25 to 30 years. In captivity, the lifespan of a box turtle will likely be at most half of what it would be in the wild, which is up to 100 years.

What do turtles eat?

VCA Hospitals explains that turtles can develop a vitamin A deficiency if they are fed an inappropriate diet. Dark green leafy vegetables (the kind your mom probably tried to force you to eat as a kid!) are great sources of vitamin A for turtles. Also good are red, orange, or yellow bell peppers and squash. Vitamin A helps turtles with their eyesight and without it they may develop a serious eye problem.


Beyond needing a variety of veggies, Backwater Reptiles says that turtles also eat a variety of insects. If you think about them being slow-moving land animals that live close to the earth, their enjoyment of earthworms, slugs, waxworms, snails, and mealworms makes a lot of sense. Backwater Reptiles says to avoid things like hamburger or bologna slices and stick to whole foods for the most nutrition. Citrus fruits are not great for them, nor are high phosphorous foods such as fish, seeds, nuts, beef, and beans.

Image Credit: Elena Shvoeva/iStock/GettyImages

How much space do turtles need?

While the actual amount of space does vary depending on the size of the turtle, Reptile Magazine says the bigger the housing, the better. Most people keep their turtles in a glass aquarium, but something like a plastic pool is also possible, as long as it has space for land and water areas. For an aquarium, consider a 30-gallon tank to be the absolute minimum size for small turtles that are between 4 and 6 inches in size. For turtles between 6 and 8 inches, a 55-gallon tank is appropriate.


For turtles measuring more than 8 inches, tanks in the 75- to 125-gallon range are a better choice. Some young turtles will grow, so their housing needs to be able to grow along with them. If you have the room and you really want to give your turtle the posh life, consider installing an indoor-outdoor pond.

What are turtle personalities like?

The website Animal World says that turtles and tortoises have some general personality characteristics. In general, they are quiet, shy, and harmless yet display intelligence. They dislike loud noises, vibrations, and sudden bright lights and will pull themselves inside their shells when these things happen. If they do go inside their shell, it may take them a while before they come out again.


They are solitary creatures who do not need to be with other turtles. Reptiles Magazine says turtles don't seem to care about tank decorations. In fact, they are known to destroy decorations, so maybe just stick to what they need, which is a spot for water and a warm spot for basking.

Image Credit: 49pauly/iStock/GettyImages

Can you train a turtle?

The Turtle Hub talks about how to make your turtle not afraid of you. They say this is a gradual process that requires time and patience. By following this routine you may be able to get your turtle to do some other things. First, make your turtle as comfortable being with you as possible, by not doing things like moving quickly around it. Just like with many pets, you can motivate certain behaviors by using food as a reward.


Bonding with your turtle

The Turtle Hub explains that turtles are not really interactive like cats and dogs. Therefore, the best option for bonding with your turtle is to do the things that make them comfortable. That means moving slowly around them, not interacting with them when they are not interested, and being patient.

Get to know your turtle and know what scares it, what makes it feel comfortable, and what foods motivate it the most. Then you'll be able to make your friendship with your turtle stronger.