5 Common Species of Terrapins that Make Great Pets

5 Common Species of Terrapins that Make Great Pets

Terrapins are great little characters to keep as pets and although you may think looking after them is simple, you'd be mistaken because they need as much care as any other pet. They should never just be placed in their tanks and then forgotten until the next "feeding" time. If you're thinking about getting some terrapins for your children to keep as pets, you need to make sure looking after and caring for these lovely little creatures is a family responsibility and not just something the kids have to do.

All too often children get new pets and love them to begin with but when the novelty wears off, which can be pretty quickly, they soon get bored with caring for their pets. This is just one of the reasons why parents should always be involved, making it a family affair that everyone enjoys. This guarantees the terrapins never get forgotten and their environments are kept clean and interesting for them to live in - bearing in mind that terrapins grow and they may just outgrow their first tank at some point in time. Below are a 5 common species of terrapins that make great pets.

1. The Box Turtle

Box turtles are the most common species of terrapins and they make great family pets. They are small – about 6 inches in length which make it very easy to handle them and the males boast longer tails than their female counterparts. As with other terrapins, box turtles are omnivores and in the wild, they typically live close to the habitat they are born in. One thing they adore is to sunbathe early in the morning and then again in the late afternoon which means you should set up an aquarium light for them to sun themselves when they want to. One thing you need to bear in mind is that box turtles like to hibernate during the winter months.

2. The Red Eared Slider

Red eared sliders are extremely popular to keep as family pets, they're cute with their red markings which go around their ears and also because these little creatures boast very friendly natures. Being semi-aquatic, Red Eared Sliders need to have places they can get out of the water and where they can occasionally sun themselves under a heat lamp when it's turned on – something most terrapins love doing!

Red Eared Sliders are native to the southern states of America where they thrive in temperate waters found in many of the regions. However, there have been claims of a few nests with eggs in them being found on the south coast in the UK although no hatchlings have ever been seen.

These lovely creatures come in a variety of sizes and can be anything from 5 to 12 inches in length with the females being larger than their male counterparts. In the wild they tend to breed close to ponds, lakes and marshlands and as babies, the Red Eared Slider is carnivorous but as they get older they become omnivorous.

3. The Painted Turtle

Native to North America, the Painted Turtle boasts being an aquatic turtle and in the wild can be found in lakes, ponds and marshlands. These lovely creatures get their name from the shape of their bottoms. Their shells are extremely hard offering a great defence when they need to hide away from any dangers.

The can grow to around 8 inches long and have an amazingly long lifespan – if well cared for a Painted Turtle can live up to 30 years. They are more carnivorous than omnivorous which is something you need to bear in mind.

4. Map Turtle

Sometimes called Saw Back Turtles, the Map Turtle as with the majority of terrapins are semi-aquatic creatures more commonly found in freshwater environments. They are native to Canada and Eastern America and were given their name due to their attractive cream coloured markings found on their heads, necks and legs which is very reminiscent of a road map.

5. Diamondback Terrapin

Native to southern and eastern America, in the wild the Diamondback Terrapin lives in rather brackish waters and gets its name from the lovely diamond pattern on their shells. Males grow to around 5 inches long but the females are considerably bigger measuring up to 7.5 inches in length.

Diamondback Terrapins have to be fed a diet of small fish, molluscs, shrimps and crabs. They make great family pets and are fun to keep but like all other terrapins, their environments need to be kept spotlessly clean for them to thrive.

Common Behaviour Among Terrapins

Terrapins are complex little creatures and if you watch them closely it is possible to learn a lot about them which includes the type of mood they are in. Keeping a close eye on them also allows you to see if they are suffering from a painful condition which needs to be treated as soon as possible. Other behaviours to watch out for include the following:

Males Hitting Females

Males may repeatedly hit a female and bite her legs and necks which can look quite dramatic. It is the males way of bringing her into season. If you notice this happening, you might like to think about separating the terrapins in order to prevent any injuries from happening to the female.

Burrowing into the Soil

When the weather starts to get cooler, you may notice your terrapins start burrowing themselves away although if your home is centrally heated and there's a heat lamp on their tanks, they will not burrow because they won't feel the need to hibernate. However, if they burrow when it's warm, this could be an indication they're suffering from a health issue so you should take them to the vet as soon as possible.

Digging With Their Hind Legs

You will often find female terrapins digging at the soil with their hind legs which is an indication she may want to lay eggs. You would need to give her a laying box so her eggs are kept safe. If the male terrapin behaves like this they are usually digging for food. Quite often terrapins will eat a few pebbles which could be an indication they are suffering from some sort of mineral deficiency so you would need to take a look at their diets and make a few changes sooner rather than later.

Swimming Backwards & Forwards in their Tanks

Sometimes terrapins swim backwards and forwards as if they are trying to escape their environments. The first thing you need to check is that everything is okay in the environment and that the water is clean. However, if it's a female behaving like this, she could well be trying to find somewhere to lay her eggs so you would need to create a nesting site for her.


Terrapins are lovely little creatures and they do make wonderful family pets. However, keeping them is not as simple as you may think. Taking care of terrapins should be a family affair and one that everyone enjoys. Some terrapins like the Painted Turtle can live up to 30 years which means you can get very attached to them. But as time goes by, the children might well outgrow their pets which means parents would have to take on the task when the kids eventually leave home unless of course, the kids want to take their pets with them.



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