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20 Types of Aquatic Turtles for Every Reptile Enthusiast

By Zoe Ström


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Turtles are known for being some of the quietest and most undemanding creatures you’ll ever find, which is why they are considered to be some of the best pets you could find.

While they won’t be anywhere near as cuddly or friendly as your average cat or dog and they do carry more than a handful of diseases, they are still worth considering, especially when you realize that your pet turtle might end up outliving you.

If you do want to get yourself a turtle though you should know that they do require complex housing and feeding which not everyone can afford.

As such, turtles are known for being a fan-favorite option for people that feel like getting themselves an ordinary pug is not enough.

All jokes aside, there are a lot of turtle species for you to go into, with some of them being far superior even to the aforementioned ordinary pets.

This is why for today we decided to bring you a list of the top 20 best turtles you should know.

We will be primarily focusing on aquatic or semi-aquatic species though as these are the ones that make for better pets on the long run. With that being said though, let’s hop right into our first pick of the day:

20. Spiny Softshell Turtle

Spiny Softshell Turtle

There are a total of three different species of softshell in the US, with them being the Florida, Smooth and the Spiny Softshell.

As the name implies though, the Spiny Softshell turtle doesn’t have the hard protective scutes that most other turtles have. Instead, their carapace is a lot more pancakey.

Their noses also notably resemble a snorkel, which is meant to allow them to stay submerged for longer periods of time.

Once they do come up to the surface though they tend to bury themselves in the mud to hide away from any potential predators. They can grow up to be as large as 4ft in length, or 1 meter in total, and as such they are not recommended for owners that only have an average sized pond to keep them in.

19. European Pond Turtle

European Pond Turtle
Photo by Dudva / Wikipedia.org

This is actually one of the most widespread pond turtles you’ll find in Europe, and for good reason too. They are very easy to take care of as you only need to place them in a freshwater pond with a lot of water and a place to sit on and they’ll be jolly no matter what.

If you do want to keep them at home though you will need to invest in a 100-gallon tank to keep them satisfied.

They love basking in the sunlight when the temperature hits the 95F mark, and they are also avid hunting lovers.

They usually grow up to be around seven inches long and they absolutely love eating frogs, fish and insect snacks for a living. The typical European Pond Turtle will also cost you between $100 and $300.

18. Loggerhead Musk Turtle

Loggerhead Musk Turtle

Loggerhead Turtles can be found near rivers, springs, ponds and sometimes even man-made canals. They sport gorgeous brown shells with dark brown spots and are known for having gray-brown skin that can occasionally be spotted.

They live most of their lives underwater and are some of the best options for beginner turtle owners thanks to their small size and friendly demeanors. On top of all of that they’re also some of the most affordable turtles around, with most of them costing around $35 to $50 per turtle.

17. Pink Belly Sideneck Turtle

Pink Belly Sideneck Turtle

If you are on the market for a cute and unique looking turtle, you can’t go wrong with the Pink Belly Sideneck turtle.

Pink Bellies have some of the most looks you’ll ever find in the turtle kingdom, as their shells are pure black, which is contrasted heavily by their bright orange-pink undersides.

You may also spot yellow eye markings around their heads too which make them look quite exotic to say the least.

This added beauty factor does come with one major downfall though, as you will usually have to pay anywhere between $100 and $500 to get yourself a Pink Belly.

16. Wood Turtle

Wood Turtle

Wood turtles have vibrant red stripes on their bodies, which are said to resemble wood panels. There are four different subspecies of wood turtles out there too, with the most popular being the ornate wood turtle thanks to its unique looks.

They are quite easy to take care of thanks to how low-maintenance they are, and when it comes to their temperament, they are generally rather peaceful.

You will need a 75-gallon tank to keep them satisfied though, and you should maintain its temperature around 75F for the most part, with the ambient temperature usually resting between 76 and 86F.

15. Reeve’s Turtle

Reeve’s Turtle

If you are primarily looking for a sociable creature to add to your home, you may want to look into the Reeve’s turtle, because it is by far one of the best choices on this list for that.

While this won’t always be the case, Reeve’s turtles are known for being quite loveable and friendly, to the point where they may even allow you to stroke them, which is quite rare for aquatic turtles.

Still, keep in mind that they are likely to get stressed out if you manhandle them, so always treat them with care and respect as you move them around.

They are also very healthy turtles, as there aren’t a lot of diseases that can affect it on the long run and they usually brush off any problems by themselves without any need for professional help.

14. Northern Map Turtle

Northern Map Turtle

Often referred to as the Common Map species, the Northern Map turtles are very easy to take care of, which is why they are so widespread out there.

Their skin is known for its signature yellow stripe pattern, and their shells sport what can only be described as a solid brown palette. If you’re primarily interested in this color scheme, you may want to go for a male Northern Map turtle since they have a lot brighter colors than females.

They are a lot more affordable than you’d think too, with most of them selling for anywhere between $40 and $100 per turtle.

13. Yellow-Bellied Slider

Yellow-Bellied Slider

This is by far one of the most popular aquatic turtle species to own as a pet, simply because of how disease-proof they are and how easy they are to take care of.

On top of that, yellow-bellied sliders are known for being active throughout most of the day, which is quite unique in the turtle kingdom.

They are also quite a bit larger than other species such as the Stinkpot or the spotted turtles, which is why you’ll need to invest into a slightly larger tank or outdoor enclosure.

12. Alligator Snappers

Alligator Snappers

The Alligator Snappers are known for being some of the largest species of aquatic water turtles you’ll ever find, most of them growing as large as 26 to 32 inches long.

They can also weigh as much as 175 to 200lbs, but that’s not all, as they are also quite famous for their powerful snapping turtles.

As such, if you want a menacing looking pet that will scare off everyone that sees it just chilling in its pond, you can always just go for an Alligator Snapper.

But, if you are a beginner turtle owner, you may want to stay far away from the Alligator Snapper, as it can easily take a finger or toe off, if you’re not used to handling them.

11. Chinese Box Turtle

Chinese Box Turtle

Also commonly referred to as the Snake-Eating and Yellow-Margined Box turtle, this turtle species can be found everywhere around Japan, Vietnam, Laos and of course, China.

They are omnivores that have a preference for leafy greens and as such are known for having primarily green diets with a hint of protein in there too.

This is one of the most colorful box species you’ll find, but sadly there aren’t all that many of them out there so finding one at a random shop will not be all that easy.

This also reflects on their overall price tag as most Chinese Box turtles will cost you anywhere between $150 and $700 per turtle.

10. Chinese Softshell Turtle

Chinese Softshell Turtle

As the name implies, most of the time you’ll find this species in China, but at the same time you may also come across them around Thailand, Korea, Vietnam and Japan.

They have a relatively soft shell and are known for being a lot more pancakey than the standard turtles out there.

Because of their soft shell, you will need to dedicate yourself entirely to take care of them and keep their tank clean, which is why this species is not recommended for beginners.

With that being said though, most Chinese softshell turtles will cost you around $40 to $50 per turtle which is quite affordable for most people.

9. Spotted Turtle

Spotted Turtle

Spotted turtles can be found all across the northeastern side of the United States and the southeastern side of Canada.

They are relatively small turtles that only measure up to be around five inches long, and as such they are some of the best pets you could get your hands on if you have a relatively small pond in your backyard.

The spotted turtles are also known for enjoying being handled around a lot more than most other turtles, which makes them great for beginners. They are also quite affordable, with most of them costing anywhere between $75 to $100 per turtle.

8. Diamondback Terrapin Turtle

Diamondback Terrapin Turtle
Photo by Ryan Hagerty / Wikipedia.org

The Diamondback Terrapins are by far some of the most unique and jaw-droppingly beautiful turtles you’ll ever find.

Their shells are usually dark grey or even pure black with a rocky appearance, and their skin is known for being light blue-gray with black spots.

They are saltwater creatures, but interestingly enough they need fresh water to drink. In the wild they are fairly distant and shy but in captivity they do tend to be quite social.

As you can probably expect based on their unique looks alone, the Diamondback Terrapin turtles are quite expensive, with most of them costing around $200 to $450 to buy.

7. Mississippi Map Turtle

Mississippi Map Turtle

This turtle species can be found alongside the Mississippi River System, and it is quite popular thanks to the contour-like lines that pattern its skin.

The Mississippi Map turtle also makes for one of the best pets around, especially so considering the fact that most of them won’t grow to be larger than five inches in length.

They rarely start any problems, preferring to retreat in case a dangerous situation arises, so you won’t have to worry about them attacking you randomly or anything of that sort.

On top of all of that, the Mississippi Map turtle is also quite affordable to purchase, as most of them will cost around $40 to $100 only per turtle.

6. Mata Mata Turtle

Mata Mata Turtle

This is by far one of the most unique looking species on this list, and it is all thanks to its one-of-a-kind leaf-like appearance.

Most Mata Mata turtles are red, brown or green, and as you can see from the picture here, they also have ridges on their shells which resemble an alligator’s.

Do keep in mind however that this is one of the biggest pet turtles you could get your hands on, since most of them can get as large as 1.5 feet in total.

The Mata Mata turtle is also known for not being the best swimmer around, which is why you’ll most often find them hiding near the bottom of the water instead of swimming around carefully.

Interestingly enough, when buying a Mata Mata turtle, you will always have to flip a coin on whether you’ll be paying an extravagant price tag or if you’ll be paying the equivalent of a happy meal for them.

This is because, depending on which seller you go for, you may need to pay anywhere between $20 and $500 for your Mata Mata turtle.

5. Red-Eared Slider

Red-Eared Slider

While the name of this species is a bit counterproductive, since turtles don’t actually have ears to begin with, the Red-Eared Slider does get its name from the two red patches that they have on either side of their head.

They are known for being some of the most expensive and luxurious pet turtles you could find, especially so considering just how hard they are to come by and how hard they are to take care of.

They can also live up to be around 70 years old, which means that if you are going to invest in a Red-Eared Slider, you’ll pretty much start a race on which one of you will have to bury the other. Our bet goes to the turtle too, don’t worry.

4. Razor-Backed Musk Turtle

Razor-Backed Musk Turtle
Photo by TheSerpentarium / Pinterest.com

Being a musk turtle, the Razor-Backed Musk turtle will release a pungent odor whenever it feels threatened, which in itself is quite horrid until you realize that that’s its only means of defending itself.

As such, you can look past this slight inconvenience, knowing that this means that owning one of these turtles will never result in you getting hurt in any way, shape or form.

Not that you would need to worry in the first place, since Razor-Backed Musk turtles are by far some of the most peaceful and easy to take care of turtles on the market.

3. Caspian Pond Turtle

Caspian Pond Turtle

Caspian Pond turtles are known for the unique tan patterns that you can see on their skin and shells. They are originally from the Middle East, although their numbers have started to dwindle down a bit lately due to habitat loss.

If you will decide to bring one over to your pond though, you should go for a captive-bred turtle as this will prevent further losses to the species.

They can live up to be around 40 years old or so, and while they do enjoy being manhandled, you may get bitten every now and then if you don’t treat them the way they want to be treated.

2. Eastern Box Turtle

Eastern Box Turtle

The Eastern Box is by far the most popular box turtle you’ll ever find. This is because they are readily available most everywhere you go, and on top of that they are also very adaptable to captive housing.

They love to be handled around and they tend to befriend their owners pretty much overnight which makes them perfect for beginners.

They are also known to love playing with toys and as long as you can afford to pay for their nutritional needs, you will pretty much gain a lifelong friend when purchasing yourself an Eastern Box turtle.

1. African Sideneck Turtle

African Sideneck Turtle

The African Sideneck turtle is known for its distinctive long neck which can’t be fully retracted back into its shell.

They are medium creatures though, but strangely enough, you will still need to invest in a fairly sized tank for them to live long and happy lives in. So, even though they are quite small, always aim for at least a 75-gallon tank.

They are very curious creatures that will easily befriend their owners and are known for always standing their ground when you approach them, which means that you will never have to force interactions with them.


types of aquatic turtles
Photo by Sandy Karreman / pixabay.com

Turtles make for some of the most unique and adorable looking pets you’ll ever see. But what many people don’t realize is the fact that even though they are quite low-maintenance creatures, they are not to be taken lightly.

A single turtle can live up to be at least 50 years old, so if you do end up going for a turtle, just know that you are hereby signing a lifelong contract, that states that you will commit yourself to take care of it from now until you’re gray and old yourself.

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About Zoe Ström

Zoe always had a soft spot for furry, fluffy little creatures, and she had a menagerie of adorable pets including hamsters, guinea pigs, and rabbits. Her love for these little animals shines through in her writing, which often features lovable and relatable small pet characters. When she isn't busy crafting heartwarming tales, you can find her spending quality time with her own beloved pets or volunteering at the local animal shelter. Learn more about The Pet Savvy's Editorial Process.

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