Types Of Softshell Turtles That You Can Keep As Pets

Do you know the best Types Of Softshell Turtles You Can Keep As Pets? Softshell turtles are a unique and fascinating group of turtles that are increasingly becoming popular pets among reptile enthusiasts.

Types Of Softshell Turtles That You Can Keep As Pets
Types Of Softshell Turtles That You Can Keep As Pets

With their intriguing appearance, including a leathery, flattened shell, long necks, and elongated snouts, they provide a distinctive addition to any home aquarium.

There are 25 species of softshell turtles, out of which 4 are the most beautiful species you can keep at home:

  1. Florida Softshell Turtles
  2. Spiny softshell turtle
  3. Smooth softshell turtle
  4. Spotted Turtle

In this blog post, we will explore the characteristics of softshell turtles, discuss popular species suitable as pets, and offer insights into setting up a suitable habitat, maintaining their health, and understanding the legal and conservation aspects of keeping these remarkable creatures.

What Exactly Are Softshell Turtles?

Before we get into the specific types, let’s cover what makes a softshell turtle a softshell turtle. As their name suggests, these turtles have a flat, flexible, leathery shell instead of a hard, bony one. This allows them to be incredibly agile swimmers and burrowers compared to other turtles.

Softshell turtles also tend to be larger than many other pet turtle species. They have long snouts or “tube noses” that allow them to easily grab prey like fish and crayfish. With their strong jaws, many softshell species are also known to be quite aggressive and nippy.

Most softshell turtles spend the majority of their time in the water and are found naturally in rivers, marshes, and lakes across North America and parts of Asia. They love burrowing in sandy or muddy banks and floors.

Top Pet Softshell Turtle Breeds

Now let’s get into some of the most popular softshell turtle species that make great pets! Here’s an overview:

SpeciesAdult SizeLife ExpectancyAggression Level
Florida SoftshellUp to 24 inches30+ yearsAggressive
Spiny SoftshellUp to 18 inches50+ yearsSemi-aggressive
Smooth SoftshellUp to 12 inches30+ yearsDocile
Chinese SoftshellUp to 24 inches30+ yearsSemi-aggressive

What’s the Best Beginner Softshell Turtle?

For new softshell turtle owners, the Smooth Softshell is probably the best starter species. They tend to be on the smaller side (under 12 inches as adults), have a relatively calm demeanor, and are a little easier to care for than some of the larger, more aggressive breeds.

These turtles get their name from their smooth, flexible shells without any bumps, ridges or spines (unlike some other softshell species). They have an olive green to tan coloration with some darker markings along their shell.

How Long Do Smooth Softshells Live? And How Big Do They Get?

Smooth Softshell turtles live 30+ years in captivity when cared for properly. Their long lifespan means they are a big commitment as pets! As adults, they typically reach lengths of 8-12 inches, with females being slightly larger than males.

While not tiny, Smooth Softshells are a reasonable size for home aquariums or ponds. Just be sure to provide them with enough space to swim freely and haul out to bask as needed.

Florida Softshell Turtles – The Big, Feisty Ones!

Looking for a big, bold softshell species? Then the Florida Softshell might be the turtle for you! These natives of the southeastern United States can reach an impressive 24 inches in length. Their coloring is typically olive to tan with some darker markings on their flat shells.

Be warned though – Florida Softshells have a very high aggression level compared to other softshell breeds. Their strong jaws and tendency to be quite territorial means they are not a good choice for families with young children. They may try to bite when threatened!

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How Much Space Does a Florida Softshell Need?

You’ll need some serious space to house one of these big turtles properly. A minimum of a 100-gallon aquarium or pond is recommended for an adult Florida Softshell. And you’ll need even more room if keeping more than one!

With their size, long lifespans of over 30 years, and aggressive dispositions, Florida Softshells are really best suited for very experienced reptile keepers only. But their bold personalities make them incredibly cool turtles for those willing to meet their needs.

The “Spiny” Softshell From Asia

While not as massive as Florida Softshells, Spiny Softshell Turtles are still a large, semi-aggressive species reaching 18+ inches as adults. They get their name from the cone-shaped bumps and spines covering their flexible, olive to tan shells.

Native to Asia, these turtles have an extremely long lifespan in captivity, often exceeding 50 years with proper care! Their size, dispositions, and longevity means they are an advanced pet best left to experienced turtle owners.

Do Spiny Softshells Make Good Pets?

With such a huge commitment required, Spiny Softshells are not typically recommended as pet turtles for most people. Their aggression levels can also make them quite nippy if not handled properly.

However, those with the ability to provide an appropriate setup and meet their unique care needs may find Spinies to be very personable and interesting softshell pets. Just be sure you know what you’re getting into with this feisty Asian species!

The Smaller (but Still Mighty) Chinese Softshell

On the larger side of pet turtles but not quite as big as Florida Softshells, Chinese Softshell Turtles can reach up to 24 inches long. Their olive green shells have a leathery texture with some small tubercles (bumps) along the front.

Like other large softshell species, Chinese Softshells have pretty strong dispositions and should only be considered by experienced reptile owners. They are known to be quick, powerful swimmers that can be semi-aggressive at times.

Why Are Chinese Softshell Turtles So Popular?

Despite their size and care requirements, Chinese Softshells have become a very popular pet turtle, especially in Asia where they are captive bred in large numbers.

Their unique looks, smart behaviors, and relatively calm temperaments (for a big softshell) all contribute to their popularity.

With proper housing like a large indoor pond or aquarium, handling, and diet, Chinese Softshells can make very rewarding reptile pets. But again, they are not recommended for novice turtle keepers or those looking for a truly docile species.

Tips for Keeping Softshell Turtles

No matter which softshell turtle variety you choose to keep as a pet, there are some general care requirements to be aware of:

  • Large aquatic setups are a must – Whether it’s a big indoor aquarium or outdoor pond, you’ll need to provide lots of swimming space and dry basking areas. Their space requirements increase as they grow too.
  • Powerful filters are critical – Softshell turtles are very messy and you’ll need excellent mechanical and biological filtration to maintain water quality.
  • Proper heating and basking areas – As reptiles, softshell turtles need warm water temps (75-85°F) as well as a hot, dry basking spot under a heat lamp.
  • Feed a varied diet rich in protein – In the wild, softshell turtles eat fish, crayfish, frogs and other meat sources. Replicating this carnivorous diet is key.
  • Provide hiding spots – Dense planted areas, caves, or even PVC pipes can allow your softshell to feel secure.
  • Handling should be minimal – Due to their dispositions, most softshell turtles do not make great “pet” pets for frequent holding and interaction.
Top 12 Best Turtles and Tortoises for Pets

The Perfect Softshell For You

From the small and docile Smooth Softshell to the massive and feisty Florida Softshell, there is an incredible range of softshell turtle personalities and sizes available in the pet trade. But they all require very specific setups, care, and commitment from their owners.

I hope this guide has helped educate you on some of the most popular pet softshell breeds out there. Now you can decide if one of these unique turtles is the right fit for your home and experience level.

With their quirky looks and behaviors, softshell turtles really are fascinating reptiles to keep!

Read More information ” Are Softshell Turtles Endangered? [ The Harsh Reality]

Some FAQs:

What is the smallest soft shell turtle?

The smallest softshell turtle is the spiny softshell Turtle (Apalone spinifera), which typically grows to a maximum size of 8-12 inches.

Do softshell turtles live in freshwater or saltwater?

Softshell turtles typically inhabit shallow, slow-moving parts of freshwater rivers and streams. Some species may also spend time in brackish water habitats.

How long do soft-shell turtles live?

Softshell turtles can live for decades, reaching an average of 25-30 years in the wild. 

What do soft-shell turtles eat?

Softshell turtles are omnivores and feed on various aquatic invertebrates, small fish, frogs, and carrion. They may also consume algae, berries, seeds, and other plant matter.

What is the cutest turtle in the world?

This is subjective, but many people find small species like the yellow-bellied slider (Trachemys scripta scripta) among the cutest turtles.

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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