Types of Small Pet Water Turtles

By Dyna Whiting

Turtles are quiet and calm pets with generally very hardy personalities. They aren't as temperature sensitive and are easier to handle than other pet reptiles. Both terrestrial and aquatic pet turtles are common in pet stores, but aquatic turtles have a tendency to be more active, making them more enjoyable to watch. However, with the exception of red-eared sliders, most water turtles prefer not to be handled frequently.

Red-Eared Sliders

Red-eared slider.

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Red-eared sliders are a very popular pet water turtle choice because of their calm nature and hardiness. They are characterized by a distinct red mark near the ear area of the head whereas the rest of the body may vary in color among different hues of green. These aquatic turtles stay relatively small but may grow up to 8 inches in length. Like most other species, red-eared sliders are omnivorous and enjoy both plant matter and a range of insects.

Painted Turtle

A painted turtle.

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Painted turtles are another popular species of small pet water turtles. These turtles are are often seen perched on top of rocks basking under a heat lamp. They are known for their beautiful color patterns on their shells, with various red, green and yellow colors forming unique designs. While these turtles are small, males may grow up to 6 inches while females grow up to 12 inches after several years of a high-quality diet.

Map Turtles

A map turtle.

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Map turtles are named for the swirls on their shells that resemble a map-like pattern. These turtles are a little less domesticated than red-eared sliders and painted turtles so they get very nervous and are easily stressed. They require extremely clean and uncrowded enclosures to minimize any potentially stressful condition. Map turtles only reach an average length of about 4 1/2 inches.

Soft-Shelled Turtles

Soft shell turtle.

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Soft-shelled turtles are a more sensitive species of pet water turtle with an aggressive nature and require more experienced owners. As their name mentions, these turtles have a characteristic soft shell rather than a hard one. They also have unusually long necks that they use to breathe air at the surface without leaving the bottom. These turtles prefer to feed solely on meat in the form of fish, crayfish, crickets, worms or shrimp.

Snapping Turtles

Snapping turtle.

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Potential owners should be wary before purchasing a snapping turtle as a pet. Although they begin tiny and cute at as small as an inch long in length, snappers can grow extremely large at almost 2 feet in length over a few years. Most owners are not able to care for them at this size. Despite this fact, they can make interesting pets when young with their prehistoric appearance and predatory behavior with their food.