How Big Do Softshell Turtles Get? [Softshell Turtle Dimensions]

Have you ever wondered How Big Do Softshell Turtles Get? You’re not alone! These intriguing creatures with their flexible and leathery shells have piqued the curiosity of many turtle enthusiasts.

how big do softshell turtles get

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the world of softshell turtles, their sizes, growth rates, and everything in between. So, sit back, relax, and let’s dive into the captivating world of these fascinating reptiles!

How Big Do Softshell Turtles Get?

Adult female softshell turtles average between 24 and 30 centimeters (9 to 11 inches) in length, larger than the males which typically measure 15 to 19 centimeters (6 to 8 inches).

Growth and Size of Different Softshell Turtle Species:

The Mighty Spiny Softshell Turtle

The spiny softshell turtle (Apalone spinifera) is one of the largest softshell turtles in North America. Males can grow up to 9.5 inches (24 cm) long, while females tend to be much larger, reaching lengths of 18 inches (45 cm) or even more.

These turtles have a flattened, disk-like shape and are easily recognizable by their olive or brown color and the unique spines that run along the front edge of their shells.

Florida Softshell Turtle – A True Southern Beauty

The Florida softshell turtle (Apalone ferox) is native to the southeastern United States and has an impressive size range. Males typically grow to around 12 inches (30 cm) long, while females can reach up to 24 inches (61 cm) in length.

Their shells are generally dark brown or black, with a distinctive snorkel-like nose that aids in underwater breathing.

Smooth Softshell Turtle – Sleek and Slender

The smooth softshell turtle (Apalone mutica) can be found in rivers, streams, and oxbow lakes throughout the central and southeastern United States. Males of this species usually grow to about 7 inches (18 cm) long, while females can grow up to 14 inches (35 cm) in length.

Their shells are smooth and olive green, often adorned with subtle markings that allow them to blend in with their surroundings.

Smaller Softshell Turtle Species:

African Softshell Turtle – A Petite Wonder

The African softshell turtle (Trionyx triunguis) is a smaller species native to northern and eastern Africa. Males usually grow up to 12 inches (30 cm) in length, while females can reach sizes of up to 16 inches (40 cm).

They have a flattened, leathery shell with a greenish-grey or olive coloration, which helps them camouflage in their aquatic environment.

Yangtze Giant Softshell Turtle – A Mysterious Marvel

The Yangtze giant softshell turtle (Rafetus swinhoei) is an extremely rare species found only in China and Vietnam.

Due to their elusive nature, size estimations vary, but they are known to reach impressive lengths of up to 39 inches (100 cm) and weights of around 220 lbs (100 kg).

Factors Influencing the Size of Softshell Turtles:

Genetic Factors

Like other animals, the size of a softshell turtle depends significantly on its genetic makeup. Certain genes inherited from their parents can determine the potential maximum size a softshell turtle may achieve.

This means that if a turtle comes from a lineage of larger individuals, it is more likely to grow larger than a turtle with a smaller genetic background.

Environmental Factors

The environment in which a softshell turtle lives can also impact its size. Factors such as water temperature, water quality, and availability of suitable basking areas can influence a turtle’s growth rate.

For instance, warmer water temperatures tend to promote faster growth, while polluted water can stunt their development and even cause health issues.

Diet and Nutrition

Proper diet and nutrition are essential for the healthy growth of softshell turtles. A diet rich in high-quality proteins, vitamins, and minerals will contribute to the overall well-being and growth potential of these animals.

Insufficient or improper nutrition can lead to slower growth rates or even malnutrition, affecting the size they can ultimately reach.

Health and Well-being

A healthy turtle is more likely to grow to its full potential than an unhealthy one. Softshell turtles can be prone to certain diseases or infections, which may hinder their growth.

Maintaining optimal water conditions, providing a balanced diet, and ensuring proper habitat management can help keep your turtle healthy and growing.

What Are Softshell Turtles?

Before we dive into their staggering sizes, let’s quickly cover what softshell turtles are for those who might be unfamiliar with these aquatic oddballs.

Softshell turtles belong to the Trionychidae family, consisting of around 25 species found across North America, Asia, and parts of Africa. As their name suggests, these turtles have a flat, leathery shell instead of the hard, bumpy carapace most turtles rock.

Their pancake-like shells, long necks, and snorkel-like snouts give them an almost alien appearance that might startle you if you’re not expecting it. But don’t let their looks fool you – these peculiar reptiles are pretty incredible creatures.

Sizing Up the Softshell Titans

Okay, enough chit-chat. Let’s get to the mind-boggling dimensions of these shelled behemoths.

The biggest species of softshell turtle is the Asiatic softshell turtle, which can weigh a whopping 350 pounds (159 kg)! That’s heavier than a grizzly bear cub or an extra-large pumpkin. Just imagine trying to lug one of those colossal creatures around.

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But that’s not all. The Asiatic softshell turtle can also measure over 4 feet (1.2 meters) in length from head to tail. That’s longer than the height of many kindergarteners!

Feeling small yet? Brace yourself, because there are a few more jaw-dropping size stats coming your way.

Other Massive Softshell Contenders

While the Asiatic softshell turtle takes the crown for biggest overall, a few other species give it a run for its money in the size department:

  • The Florida softshell turtle can grow up to 2.5 feet (0.76 m) long and weigh over 60 pounds (27 kg). That’s about the size of a well-fed golden retriever!
  • The giant Amazonian softshell (or tartaruga) is a close second to the Asiatic species, capable of reaching lengths around 3.5 feet (1.1 m) and heavyweight champ status over 200 pounds (90 kg).
  • The Indian flapshell turtle might have a silly name, but there’s nothing small about them. These water tanks max out at around 100 pounds (45 kg), big enough to use as a makeshift weight bench.

To illustrate the size range, here’s a handy table comparing a few key softshell species:

SpeciesMax LengthMax Weight
Asiatic Softshell4+ feet350 lbs
Florida Softshell2.5 feet60 lbs
Giant Amazonian3.5 feet200+ lbs
Indian Flapshell2 feet100 lbs

As you can see, these turtles are no lightweights!

How to Care for a Softshell Turtle! (Quick care guide)

But Why Are Softshell Turtles So Massive?

An excellent question! The incredible size of softshell turtles boils down to a few key factors:

  • Diet: Softshells are omnivores who dine on everything from fish, frogs, and crustaceans to aquatic plants and detritus. Their hearty appetites and eating just about anything helps them bulk up.
  • Longevity: Many softshell species can live 50-100 years in the wild. The longer they’re around, the more time they have to grow into giants.
  • Lack of Predators: Adult softshells have few natural predators, especially at their larger sizes. This allows them to live long enough to become full-fledged titans.
  • Conservation Status: Unfortunately, some massive softshell species like the Asiatic are endangered due to hunting and habitat loss. This means their shockingly huge dimensions will become rarer to witness in the wild.

The Biggest Softshell Turtle You’ve Likely Never Heard Of

You know about the Asiatic, Amazonian, and Florida behemoths. But have you heard of the absolutely colossal softshell species from the late Cretaceous period 70 million years ago? If not, get ready to have your mind blown once more.

Satirically named “Brachyopsemys” (meaning “short-faced turtle”) was estimated to measure a jaw-dropping 16 feet (5 meters) long. Yes, you read that right – 16 FEET! That’s longer than a Toyota Corolla and utterly dwarfs even the mightiest Asiatic softshell turtles today.

Roaming the waters of what is now South Dakota and Wyoming, this prehistoric monster was essentially a real-life Gamera (remember that retro Japanese monster turtle?). Thankfully, though, it likely stuck to munching mollusks and stirring up riverbeds instead of laying waste to cities.

With its sheer size and tank-like shell, “Brachyopsemys” was undoubtedly the heavyweight shelled champion of all time. Just let that 16-foot figure really sink in…it’s turtle insanity!

The Beauty in Their Massive Size

At this point, you’re probably feeling pretty insignificant compared to the giants of the softshell world. But before you develop a complex, remember that size isn’t everything. There’s something beautifully awe-inspiring about these colossal creatures.

Despite their dinosaur-like dimensions and intimidating looks, softshell turtles are actually very gentle giants as adults. They’re not aggressive towards humans unless startled or provoked. Simply admire their enormity from a respectful distance.

More importantly, their incredible sizes and longevity allow softshell titans to play vital roles in their ecosystems over their multi-decade lifespans. By churning up soil, spreading nutrients, and providing food for scavengers upon death, these shelled juggernauts help sustain the balances and cycles of their habitats.

So while they might seem almost comically large compared to their hard-shelled kin, that incredible bigness serves an important ecological purpose. It’s a reminder that even the mightiest, most fearsome-looking species can be an essential part of nature’s masterpiece.

Getting Up Close and Personal (From a Safe Distance)

If this crash course on nature’s heavyweights has you itching to witness a real-life shelled titan up close, consider visiting them safely at a accredited zoo or aquarium’s softshell turtle exhibit. Many have impressively massive specimens on display that will drop your jaw without dropping you into danger.

You could also take a guided tour through places like Florida’s coastal marshes and rivers, where patient guides can help you spot baby and adult Florida softshells sunning themselves on banks and logs. Just be sure to keep a very healthy distance from these muscular, sharp-clawed swimmers.

For the intrepid few willing to take bigger risks, destinations like the Chambal Sanctuary in India offer chances to view the subcontinent’s own colossal specimens from a reasonably safe vantage point. But that’s definitely an experience for well-prepared and knowledgeable adventure seekers only.

No matter how you experience them, gazing upon a true turtle titan in person is an unforgettable experience you’ll be talking about for years. Just try your best not to faint from sheer shell shock.

In Conclusion: The Grand Case of the Shelled Giants

By now, you should have a healthy appreciation for the mind-blowing bigness of the world’s softshell turtles. From the 350-pound Asiatic leviathan and 200-pound Amazonian bruiser to the once 16-foot Cretaceous monster “Brachyopsemys,” these shelled wonders humble us with their sheer enormity.

Yet their massive sizes aren’t just impressive for the sake of being huge. Their longevity and ecological niches make softshell titans truly exceptional creatures deserving of our awe and respect.

So the next time you cross paths with a prehistoric-looking softshell, be sure to marvel at the reptilian giant basking before you. With a bit of luck, you might even witness one of the true colossal specimens in person. Just don’t get too close – no matter how gentle they may seem, startling a shelled giant risks facing a snapping, slashing tantrum no one wants!


What is the largest species of softshell turtle?

The Yangtze giant softshell turtle (Rafetus swinhoei) is the largest known species, with individuals reaching up to 39 inches (100 cm) in length and weighing around 220 lbs (100 kg).

How can I help my softshell turtle grow to its full potential?

To ensure your turtle’s optimal growth, provide a suitable environment with clean water, proper temperature, and basking areas. Offer a balanced diet rich in proteins, vitamins, and minerals, and monitor your turtle’s health regularly.

How fast do softshell turtles grow?

The growth rate of softshell turtles varies depending on the species and environmental factors. Generally, they grow faster in their first few years of life and then slow down as they age.

How long do softshell turtles live?

The lifespan of softshell turtles varies by species, but they typically live anywhere from 20 to 50 years, with some even reaching 80 years under ideal conditions and proper care.

Do softshell turtles continue to grow throughout their lives?

Softshell turtles do most of their growing during the first few years of life. However, they may continue to grow slowly throughout their lives, albeit at a much slower rate compared to their initial growth spurt.

My name is Shayan Mondal, and I am a passionate turtle owner and enthusiast who enjoys sharing my knowledge and experience with fellow turtle lovers. As a proud owner of several turtle species, I understand the importance of proper care, habitat setup, and nutrition for these delightful creatures. This website regularly updates the latest insights into turtle health, diet, and conservation efforts.

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