How Do Softshell Turtles Mate? (Unveiling the Secrets)

Have you ever wondered How Do Softshell Turtles Mate? These elusive creatures have captivated our curiosity for generations. They’ve left us all wondering with their exotic appearance and mysterious ways. So, how do softshell turtles mate?

How Do Softshell Turtles Mate
How Do Softshell Turtles Mate

The male mounts the female from behind and uses his long claws to grip her shell while aligning his tail with hers. The male then inserts his reproductive organ, called the phallus, into the female’s cloaca to transfer sperm for fertilization.

Stay tuned if you want to learn more about Softshell Turtles Mate further. This article discusses the mating process in detail and provides useful tips for observing it safely.

You’ll also learn about the turtles’ habitat and behavior to appreciate these extraordinary creatures better.

How Do Softshell Turtles Mate?

Although softshell turtles mate similarly to other turtles, some key differences exist. For one, the male will often ride on the back of the female during mating.

This is because softshell turtles have very long tails, making it difficult for them to copulate in the water. In addition, the male will often grip the female’s shell while they mate.

Softshell turtles mate during the spring when the water temperatures are warm, usually between April and late June or early July.

Adult softshell turtles will congregate in shallow waters near the shore, where they will engage in mating behaviors such as head-bobbing and circling each other. After a successful mating ritual, the female softshell turtle will lay her eggs on land.

Pelodiscus sinensis Mating #3 / instagram (se_nc)

Mating Habits of Softshell Turtles

Softshell turtles are unique creatures with some pretty interesting mating habits. For starters, the male and female must be of the same species to mate.

These turtles also have different reproductive organs than other turtles; the male has a pair of penis-like structures called cloacal tubes, while the female has a single opening called a cloaca.

When it’s time to mate, the male approaches the female, gently biting her neck. He then uses his cloacal tubes to insert sperm into her cloaca. The process is pretty quick, lasting only a few seconds. Once it’s over, the two turtles will usually go their separate ways.

Interestingly, softshell turtles can store sperm inside their bodies for several years. This means a female can mate with multiple males and produce offspring from one mating session.

What Do Male and Female Softshell Turtles Look Like?

What Do Male and Female Softshell Turtles Look Like
What Do Male and Female Softshell Turtles Look Like

Male softshell turtles tend to have longer tails than females. This is because their reproductive organs are at the base of their tails.

In addition, males usually have brighter coloring on their heads and necks than females. This is thought to help them attract mates during the breeding season. The claws on the front feet of males are usually longer than those of females.

While these physical traits can help determine the sex of a softshell turtle, the only sure way to know for certain is through DNA testing.

Male Softshell Turtles:

  • Size: Generally, male softshell turtles are smaller than their female counterparts.
  • Tail length: Males typically have longer tails, which often extend beyond the length of their shells.
  • Claws: Their front claws are usually longer and thicker than those of females.
  • Concave plastron: The underside of the male’s shell, known as the plastron, is slightly concave to facilitate mounting the female during mating.
  • Longer snout: Male softshell turtles tend to have a relatively longer snout than females.

Female Softshell Turtles:

  • Size: Females are typically larger than males, with a greater overall body size.
  • Tail length: Their tails are shorter than males’ and do not extend beyond the shell’s length.
  • Flat plastron: The plastron of female softshell turtles is generally flat, allowing them to accommodate eggs during the nesting process comfortably.
  • Shorter claws: Females have shorter and less robust claws than males.
  • Broader body: Their bodies often appear broader and rounder, especially when carrying eggs.

Breeding Softshell Turtles In Captivity

Breeding softshell turtles in captivity can be a rewarding and challenging endeavor. These turtles are relatively easy to breed and care for and can provide many years of enjoyment. However, there are a few things to remember when breeding softshell turtles.

1. Species Selection:

Choose a species of softshell turtle that you want to breed. Different species have different requirements and needs, so consider your budget and the space you have when selecting a species.

2. Substrate:

The substrate in the breeding tank is important for the turtles’ aesthetic appeal and health. Sand or fine soil is recommended, as aquatic turtles enjoy digging in it.

A layer of gravel should be put down before adding the sand or soil substrate to avoid compaction of the substrate from burying too deeply.

3. Temperature:

Softshell turtles require warmer water than other aquatic turtles due to their temperature-dependent sex determination (TSD).

The ideal water temperature range for softshell turtles is between 78-82 degrees Fahrenheit (26-28 degrees Celsius). A digital thermometer should always be used to monitor water temperatures.

4. Lighting:

Softshell turtles typically need 12-14 hours of light daily, with UVA/UVB lighting providing essential UV radiation for healthy shell growth and immune system development.

Place a full-spectrum fluorescent tube bulb over the tank and keep it on a timer to regulate the daylight cycle in 24-hour intervals (12 hours on, 12 off).

5. Breeding:

When the conditions are right, you can encourage breeding between two healthy adult turtles. Males will attempt to court the female, using their plastrons (belly shell) to tap and vibrate against the female’s carapace (back shell).

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It may take several courting attempts before mating successfully occurs. If eggs are produced, they should be immediately removed from the tank and incubated in a separate container until they hatch.

6. Temperature and Lighting:

The temperature and lighting conditions are essential for successful hatching when incubating softshell turtle eggs.

The temperature should be maintained at 77-81 degrees Fahrenheit (25-27 degrees Celsius), and the eggs should not be exposed to direct sunlight or UVB lighting during this process. Softshell turtle eggs typically take about 70-90 days to hatch.

7. Stimulating Breeding Conditions:

Softshell turtles may require additional stimulation to prompt breeding, which can be as simple as a change in water temperature or adding floating logs and plants that the turtles can hide beneath.

More importantly, ensuring that your turtles have plenty of space in the tank or enclosure to reduce stress levels is crucial.

8. Nesting Site Provision:

 Once the turtles have mated, the female may require a nesting site to lay her eggs. A shallow box filled with damp sand or soil can be provided to serve as a nesting area for the female.

9. Age and Health:

Softshell turtles can live for many years, so it is important to ensure that you have two healthy adults before attempting breeding. Turtles under three are considered too young for breeding, and turtles over ten should be carefully monitored as they approach breeding age.

10. Patience:

Breeding softshell turtles can be challenging, and it may take some time before you have a successful mating. Be patient and follow these steps carefully to ensure your softshell turtles thrive and produce healthy offspring. Good luck!

How to Choose a Good Breeding Pair?

When it comes to choosing a breeding pair of softshell turtles, there are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind.

  • Health And Fitness:  Look for signs of good health in both turtles, such as clear eyes and nostrils, a shell free from cracks or bacterial infection, and no visible signs of injury. Turtles raised in captivity are generally better suited to breeding than their wild-caught counterparts.
  • Age: Look for an adult pair at least three years old. Younger animals may not be mature enough to breed successfully.
  • Sex: Make sure you have determined the sex of the turtles before you purchase them – male softshells tend to have thicker tails than females, and differences in size may also be present. Softshells can be difficult to have sex with, so it’s best to get advice from an experienced reptile keeper before choosing.
  • Temperament: Turtles with calm temperaments are often better breeders than those who are more aggressive or skittish.
  • Genetics: When possible, choose turtles from a reputable breeder who has bred for healthy genetics and can provide information about the turtles’ parents or relatives. This will help ensure that any offspring produced will be healthy and well-suited for breeding down the road!

Cross-Check These Factors Before Breeding Softshell Turtles

Before you breed softshell turtles, there are a few things you need to take into account. Here are some factors to cross check:

  1. The species of softshell turtle: There are many different species of softshell turtles, so make sure you know which one you have before breeding.
  2. The age of the turtles: Softshell turtles reach sexual maturity at different ages depending on the species. For example, the common flat-backed softshell turtle takes about nine years to mature, while the Chinese soft-shelled turtle takes up to 15 years.
  3. The size of the turtles: Size also varies between species, with some reaching up to 2 feet in length and others only reaching around 6 inches.
  4. The sex of the turtles: You’ll need one male and one female for breeding. You can usually tell males and females apart by looking at their tails – males will have longer, thicker tails than females.
  5. The turtles’ health: Breeding stresses an animal’s body, so both turtles must be healthy before attempting to mate. This means they should be well-fed and free from any diseases or parasites.
  6. The environment of the turtles: Softshell turtles are particularly sensitive to changes in their environment, so make any adjustments to temperature, lighting, water quality, or other environmental factors slowly and with caution.
  7. The presence of compatible mates: Softshell turtles are quite social animals and are more likely to breed if they have a compatible mate. It’s best to introduce the turtles slowly and allow them to get used to each other before attempting breeding.
  8. The availability of nesting areas: If you want your softshell turtles to lay eggs, they will need access to appropriate nesting areas like sandy beaches or moist soil. Please make sure these are available for the turtles before breeding them.

Ideal Mating Ratio Of The Softshell Turtles

The ideal mating ratio of softshell turtles can vary depending on the specific species and ecological factors.

Softshell turtles tend to exhibit a polygynous mating system, where males mate with multiple females during the breeding season.

It is widely believed that the ideal mating ratio for softshell turtles is one male to every three or five females. This ensures that there is enough competition among the males for the females’ attention and prevents inbreeding.


There are many different species of softshell turtles, and each has its unique mating rituals. In general, male turtles will compete for the attention of a female by trying to impress her with their size, strength, and stamina. The female will then choose the mate that she feels is best suited to father her offspring.

Once a pair has been selected, the male will mount the female and use his long claws to grip her shell. He will then Position himself over her and insert his long tail into her cloaca.

The two animals will remain in this position for several hours as they exchange genetic material. Once they have finished mating, the turtles will go their separate ways, and the female will begin incubating her eggs.

I hope this has given you a better understanding of how softshell turtles mate. While the mating rituals can be complex, they are necessary for the survival of these species.

Understanding their behavior is important for wildlife conservation efforts to ensure they remain protected and thrive in their natural habitats.

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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