How to Take Care of Mud Turtle: Everything You Need to Know

Eastern Mud Turtle[/caption]

If you want to have a turtle as a pet, one of the species that should be on the top of your list is a mud turtle. It is known for its small size and minimal care requirements, making it a great choice even for those who do not have a prior experience in taking care of a turtle.

At first look, the mud turtle can be mistaken as a musk turtle. They are quite the same in terms of their physical appearance, but one of the most significant differences is that it is smaller.

Physical Characteristics

On average, the length of a mud turtle is only five inches. Some of them can even be as small as three inches. Their physical characteristics will depend mostly on their type, including the following:

Eastern Mud Turtle

The average size of this turtle is only three to four inches. The shell is smooth and dark, usually olive brown and without markings. The lower shell is hinged and yellow. Inside the legs of the male species, you can see rough and scaly patches.

Mississippi Mud Turtle

The size of this turtle, as well as the shape and color of the shell, is similar to the Eastern Mud Turtle. The main difference is that it has two light-colored lines that are found in its head.

Striped Mud Turtle

Its color is also generally the same as the other species, but the most noticeable physical characteristic is the three stripes with a light color. These stripes run vertically on its shell. These stripes are tan, gold, or yellow.

Yellow Mud Turtle

The biggest difference with the turtles that have been mentioned above is the hint of yellow in its head. This can also be seen in the lower parts of the turtle’s outer shell.


Similar to the musk turtle, the mud turtle defends itself from threats by releasing a foul smell. This comes from their anal glands. However, when they are kept as pets, they often do not release the unpleasant smell, mainly because they are not disturbed by potential predators.

Although they are generally well-behaved and small, do not think that they won’t get aggressive when they are disturbed. Their curved beaks can bite you once they are provoked or threatened.


Mud turtles are known for being semi-aquatic and semi-terrestrial. This means that they can live both in water and on land. Some of their native habitats include ponds and sand bottoms.

At home, they can be housed even in a small enclosure because of their size. Nonetheless, make sure that they have sufficient room to move and swim since they spend most of their time in the water. If you are housing two mud turtles together, a good choice is a tank with a capacity of at least 40 gallons. A bigger tank is better.

Even if the mud turtles do not bask a lot, it is still important to provide them with a place to rest from swimming and for some light when needed. With this, it will be nice if you invest in a product like the Fluker’s Castle Crib Reptile Basking Platform.

To mimic the outside environment, installing a heat source such as the BYB Ceramic Infrared Lamp will help.

The light needs to be turned on for twelve hours every day to supplement the needs of the turtle.

You will also need to install large river stones in the enclosure, which will make the place feel like a natural habitat for the pet. Weekly agitation, however, will be necessary to make sure that the tank remains clean.

Because they spend most of their time in the water, it is also critical to pay attention to the water in the tank. It is recommended that the depth of the water will be at least twice the length of the turtle. It is also important to change one-third of the water in the tank at least once a week. A product like the Zoo Med ReptiSafe Instant Terrarium Water Conditioner

Will help to remove the contaminants that are present.

Food and Vitamins

Mud turtles are omnivorous. However, they consume more of animal matter than plant matter. Some of the staples in their diet include earthworms, freshwater fish, redworms, snails, and insects. Commercial pellets will also make a big part of their diet. They should also be fed leafy vegetables, including dandelion greens and fresh parsley. The key to making them healthy is to provide variety in their diet.

Their food, especially greens, should be dusted with a calcium supplement.  One of the best products that you can incorporate in their diet is the Rep-Cal Phosphorus-Free Calcium.

It contains 100% natural oyster shells, which will provide the calcium that they need.

Health Problems

As long as you take care of the mud turtle, they will enjoy a long life. On average, their lifespan is 50 years. Nonetheless, there are some health issues that should be given attention. Their shell is the first part that will show health problems, especially when the cleanliness of the water is not maintained. Deformity and rotting of the shell are common issues.

Internal parasites, ear infections, and metabolic bone disease can also be apparent if you fail to take care of the turtle. An examination of a fecal sample might be necessary to check for the possible presence of parasites.

Other Tips for Taking Care of Mud Turtle

To ensure the best state of health of the mud turtle, below are some of the most important things to do:

  • Use a submersible or a canister filter. This will ensure the clarity of the water, making it easier to prevent the health problems that have been mentioned above.
  • The right temperature in the tank is important to be maintained, which should be anywhere from 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Do not just drop the food in the tank when it is feeding time as this can create a mess and will affect the clarity of the water. It helps to have a small container such as the Zoo Med Combo Reptile Rock Dish.
  • The ambient temperature of the tank can be increased not only through a basking lamp but also with the help of an under tank water heater. With this, one that might be able to help is the Zoo Med ReptiTherm Under Tank Heater.