Exploring the Muddy Waters: 6 Types Of Pet Mud Turtles as Unique Pets

When it comes to keeping aquatic pets, many people think of fish or even the more common reptilian companions like turtles. However, a lesser-known but equally fascinating turtle category makes for unique and intriguing aquatic pets – mud turtles.

These charming creatures are a subgroup of aquatic turtles. While they may not be as popular as their terrapin or slider cousins, they offer an enchanting pet-keeping experience.

In this article, we’ll dive into the diverse world of mud turtles, shedding light on the various types. From their distinct characteristics to their habitat preferences and care requirements, we’ll explore the enchanting diversity of these semi-aquatic turtles, helping you make an informed decision if you’re considering welcoming one of these delightful creatures into your home.

Whether you’re a seasoned turtle enthusiast or a newcomer to the world of aquatic pets, there’s something for everyone to discover in the enchanting realm of mud turtles.

General Information About Mud Turtles

Mud turtles are semi-aquatic turtles that spend most of their time in shallow water bodies with soft, muddy bottoms. They rarely leave the water and prefer to remain submerged in mud at the bottom of ponds or streams.

Mud turtles are characterized by their large webbed feet, which allow them to navigate through muddy terrain effectively. They have flattened shells and heads to allow them to bury themselves in mud, leaving only their eyes and nose exposed.

All mud turtles are omnivorous, feeding on a combination of plant matter like algae and aquatic vegetation and small invertebrates, insects, crustaceans, and even small fish.

Mud turtles are generally smaller species, reaching adult sizes between 4-10 inches, depending on the species. They can live 15-25 years with proper care. Mud turtles are pretty hardy and make good beginner pet turtles if provided with appropriate habitat setups.

6 Different Types of Mud Turtles

1. Red-Cheeked Mud Turtle

 Red-Cheeked Mud Turtle
Red-Cheeked Mud Turtle

Appearance: The red-cheeked mud turtle has a small black shell reaching about 5 inches in length. As the name suggests, it has a distinctive red or orange stripe along each side of its head. The belly is yellow with a black blotch on each scute.

Habitat: This species is found in freshwater habitats across much of Mexico. It prefers calm waters like ponds, lakes, drainage ditches, and slower parts of streams.

Food Habit: Omnivorous, feeding on algae, plants, worms, tadpoles, small fish, and insects.

2. Eastern Mud Turtle

Eastern Mud Turtle

Appearance: The eastern mud turtle has an oval black-to-brown shell reaching 4-5 inches long. The head has yellow stripes, and the neck and legs have thin yellow lines. The belly is yellow with a unique pattern of crescent-shaped black markings.

Habitat: As the name indicates, this turtle is native to the eastern U.S. It prefers shallow ponds, marshes, rivers, and swamps with soft, muddy bottoms and abundant aquatic vegetation.

Food Habit: Eats a variety of plant matter like algae and aquatic plants, worms, snails, crayfish, tadpoles, and small fish.

3. Mississippi Mud Turtle

Mississippi Mud Turtle
Mississippi Mud Turtle

Appearance: The shell of the Mississippi mud turtle is oblong and olive brown, reaching about 5-7 inches in adults. The skin is olive to brown with yellowish stripes on the head, legs, and neck. The belly is yellow with darkened scutes outlined in black.

Habitat: Found in the central Mississippi River drainage, these turtles inhabit ponds, lakes, streams, and marshes with slow-moving water and muddy substrates.

Food Habit: The diet consists mainly of aquatic vegetation, algae, worms, crustaceans, insects, snails, and carrion.

4. Striped Mud Turtle

Striped Mud Turtle
Striped Mud Turtle

Appearance: A small mud turtle with a carapace length of around 4 inches. The shell is black to olive-brown with faint yellow stripes that fade with age. The skin is olive with yellow stripes on the neck and head.

Habitat: Inhabits freshwater habitats in the southeastern U.S. It prefers shallow, slow-moving waters with soft, muddy bottoms like ponds, swamps, ditches, and backwater areas of creeks.

Food Habit: Feeds on algae, aquatic plants, worms, insects, crustaceans, and other invertebrates.

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5. White-lipped Mud Turtle

White-lipped Mud Turtle
White-lipped Mud Turtle

Appearance: A small mud turtle with a bluish-gray, olive, or brown upper shell reaching about 5 inches long. It has a distinctive white upper lip lining. The neck and limbs have thin yellow lines, and the belly is yellow.

Habitat: Found only in parts of northern South America, these turtles live in lowland rivers, streams, ponds, and marshes.

Food Habit: The diet consists mainly of plant matter like algae and aquatic vegetation and worms, small crustaceans, and mollusks.

6. Yellow Mud Turtle

Yellow Mud Turtle
Yellow Mud Turtle

Appearance: The yellow mud turtle has an oblong, smooth olive to brown upper shell reaching around 5 inches long. The skin is olive-gray to brown with yellowish stripes on the head, neck, and limbs. The belly is yellow.

Habitat: Native to the southeastern U.S., It inhabits shallow, slow-moving wetlands with soft, muddy substrates like ponds, marshes, swamps, and backwaters of creeks.

Food Habit: Feeds on algae, aquatic plants, worms, crayfish, snails, insects and other invertebrates.

Mud Turtle Care For Beginners:

Mud turtles can make for unique and personable pet reptiles but have specific care requirements. As semi-aquatic turtles, mud turtles need a habitat setup with aquatic spaces for swimming and a dry basking area. The water should be dechlorinated and filtered, with a soft, muddy bottom.

Heat, UVB lighting, and proper calcium/vitamin supplementation are essential. A varied diet of commercial turtle pellets, feeder insects, earthworms, greens, and thawed frozen foods will help keep mud turtles healthy and active.

Handle mud turtles gently and deliberately, avoiding dropping them, which can crack their shell. With their simple, engaging nature and unique appearance, mud turtles can make for entertaining pets when their fundamental habitat and nutrition needs are met.

Mud Turtle Care Sheet

Caring for pet mud turtles requires setting up a suitable aquatic habitat and providing proper diet and health maintenance.

Here is a detailed mud turtle care guide:

Mud Turtle Containers

  • Tank Size: 20-gallon long tank minimum for one mud turtle, 10 gallons per additional turtle
  • Water Depth: Water should be 2.5-3 times deeper than the turtle is tall
  • Land Area: Provide a dry basking area taking up about 20-30% of the tank surface
  • Substrate: Fine gravel or large aquarium sand for aquatic areas, coconut fiber or reptile bark for land
  • Hiding Spots: Provide logs, rocky caves, or clay plant pots for hiding and resting in water
  • Filters: Use a high-quality external canister filter rated for 2-3x total water volume
  • Water: Dechlorinated, with pH 6.5-7.5; partial water changes 25% weekly

Temperature and Lighting

  • Day Temp: 75-80°F; provide submersible aquarium heater
  • Night Temp: Can drop to 70-75°F at night
  • Basking Area: 95-100°F; provide overhead heat lamp
  • UVB Light: Needed for shell health; provide UVB bulb 12-14hrs/day


  • Water Area: Fine gravel or large grain aquarium sand, 2-3 inches deep
  • Land Area: Coconut fiber, cypress mulch, or reptile bark bedding
  • Nest Box: Provide a humid nest box with sphagnum moss for egg-laying


  • Plants: Provide live or silk plants for added security; research turtle-safe species
  • Ramp: Needed for easy access to land area from water
  • Turtle Dock: A floating platform for basking above water


  • Commercial pellets or sticks: Offer turtle-specific formula soaked in water
  • Live foods: Offer feeder insects, small fish, earthworms
  • Greens: Dark leafy greens like kale, collard and mustard greens
  • Proteins: thawed frozen shrimp, krill, bloodworms, beef heart
  • Supplements: Calcium and vitamin supplements 2-3 times weekly
  • Feeding frequency: Juveniles daily, adults 2-3 times per week

Mud Turtle Temperament & Handling

  • Mud turtles generally have calm, docile personalities compared to other turtle species.
  • They may initially be shy, but most warm up to become interactive pet reptiles.
  • Handling should be done slowly and gently to avoid stress; support the complete underside of the shell.
  • Overhandling can cause undue stress; limit handling sessions to 15 minutes max.
  • Never pick up mud turtles by the tail, which can cause spinal injury
  • Supervise young children as mud turtles are delicate; avoid dropping, which can crack the shell
  • Wash hands before and after contact to prevent transfer of bacteria between turtle and human
3 Things You NEED To Know Before Buying A MUSK Or MUD TURTLE


Mud turtles are unique, fully aquatic pet reptiles that bring a little piece of the pond or swamp indoors.

Their small size, engaging nature, and simple care requirements make them viable reptile pets for beginners ready to provide the proper aquatic setup.

The average pet owner can keep healthy, thriving mud turtles with appropriate habitat design, including both land and water areas, attentive maintenance, a varied diet, and responsible handling practices. When properly cared for, most species live 15-25+ years, providing many year

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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