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Small Pet Turtles: 7 Tiny Turtles For Pets

Hi there! If you are reading this you are probably a reptile lover, especially turtles. But, let’s face it! The main problem with having a turtle is the large size they are capable of reaching.

Well, to give you a good solution to this problem, we have compiled a list of 7 species of turtles that stay small and what you should take into account when choosing a pet in addition to being very cute!

Diamondback Terrapin

We will start our top 7 with this wonderful species of turtle. Its scientific name is “Malaclemys Terrapin”. There are 7 subspecies within this family and it is one of the largest tortoises on the list. Its size ranges from 5 to 9 inches, depending on the sex of the specimen. In this case, the females can grow to be 9 inches long, while the males rarely exceed 6 inches.

This turtle owes its name to the elegant drawings on its shell, resembling a diamond. The color usually varies between the different subspecies, however, the size is the same in all of them. This species inhabits shallow brackish channels from Cape Pod (Massachusetts), the Florida Keys, and up to the east coast of Texas.

Diamondback Terrapin
Diamondback Terrapin

Temperament and behavior

The diamondback turtle has a fairly docile character. This makes it easy to manipulate and very non-aggressive (although if it feels threatened it can try to pinch you). While the turtle is calm, it likes to enjoy the day in the sun. Generally likes to be accompanied by others of the same species.

Next, we will give you some information so that you can keep this wonderful little turtle at home:

  1. As we have said previously, this species lives in brackish waters. For this reason, we must fill the turtle’s terrarium or aquarium with saltwater (ensuring that the water is at the same density as it lives in nature).
  2. The diamondback turtle lives in warm areas. If this is not your case, your duty will be to buy a water heater or a heat light (The water must be above 70 degrees Fahrenheit). Otherwise, when the cold season arrives, it can die.
  3. It is a carnivorous animal. In nature, it feeds on small fish and shellfish. At home, you can give it turtle pellets, small pieces offish, shrimp, and all kinds of accessible seafood. We must avoid giving chicken meat. beef, or any meat that comes from a land animal.

Reeve's Turtle
Reeve’s Turtle

Reeve’s turtle

To continue our list we have Reeve’s turtle. This species can grow to 6 inches generally. Males are usually smaller than females. Its scientific name is “Mauremys Reevesii”. The natural habitat of this turtle is in China and the two Koreas (North Korea and South Korea).

In addition, there are also records of populations in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Japan, where this species has been introduced by man and has ended up adapting to its new habitat. It is present in rivers, ponds, marshes, and streams with muddy or sandy bottoms. Despite this, it is very difficult to see it in nature because it is so rare.

However, it is very popular as a pet and is also raised on farms for human consumption.

Temperament and behavior

This turtle is not very active, it can usually be seen resting on logs or the shore. Another good thing about Reeve’s turtles is that they are not very scary as they are not afraid of humans. When a person approaches them, it will surely stare at them with curiosity. They are very tolerant and not very territorial animals.

They share their habitat with turtles of the same species or with other species. During the breeding season, it is the only time when the males are somewhat territorial with each other.

Key facts about Reeve’s turtle:

  1. In its youngest stage, this tortoise is carnivorous, but as it grows it introduces plant-based foods to its diet.
  2. In summer, the water temperature should be around 77 degrees Fahrenheit. On the other hand, in winter it should be 52 degrees Fahrenheit. In spring and autumn, we can keep it at 74 degrees Fahrenheit.
  3. The aquarium must have dimensions of about 20 centimeters wide and more than one meter long Depending on the size of the turtle, it has to be adjusted to give it space. It must also have a dry area so that the turtle can sunbathe or put an ultraviolet lamp on this area.
Michigan Spotted Turtle
Michigan Spotted Turtle

Michigan Spotted Turtle

Third, on our list is the Michigan spotted turtle. The scientific name of this species is “Clemmys guttata”, being the only animal of its species (the others became extinct). This tortoise in its adult stage does not grow more than 3 to 4 inches, which, like all the tortoises on this list, makes it the ideal pet. The spotted turtle inhabits the eastern mountain range of the United States.

Another curiosity of this species is that it owes its name to some dots, generally yellow, that give it a unique appearance. Although this is a disadvantage for them in the wild, the reason is that it makes them lose camouflage and it is easier for predators to see them.

Temperament and behavior

They are quite active reptiles. Although we can notice a clear difference in those turtles that are in captivity to those that are in the wild. The former are more docile and even accept the food in hand directly without escaping.

What do we need to know when having it as a pet?

  1. The diet of this animal is entirely omnivorous. It can feed on multiple things. In the wild, it does so from vegetation, larvae, snails, and even small fish. At home, you can feed it with feed for turtles, vegetables, fruits, and larvae. In the case of wanting to give it meat you must ensure that it is white meat.
  2. The temperature of the terrarium where you have it should be between 22 and 27 degrees.
  3. The terrarium should have a dry area where you can bask. You must also provide an ultraviolet lamp if the sunlight does not shine directly.
Mississippi Mud Turtle
Mississippi Mud Turtle

Mississippi Mud Turtle

The fourth place on the list is occupied by this peculiar turtle. Its scientific name is “Kinosternon Subrubrum” and it belongs to the Kinosternidae family. The Mississippi Mud Turtle is from the United States and is distributed from the states of Connecticut and Illinois to the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, from Florida to Texas. Its color is greenish-brown and even yellowish.

Temperament and behavior

Generally, this species of turtle that stays small is shy around humans. Its bite makes scissor-like cuts. Despite this, it is harmless since it does not tend to bite people (unless it is bothered more than necessary).

Things to keep in mind when deciding to adopt this species:

  1. This turtle is omnivorous. At home, you can feed it with worms, grasshoppers, and even earthworms. As a vegetable source, you can offer it pumpkin, lettuce, grated carrot. It will also accept commercial food for turtles.
  2. For our turtle to be happy we will have to maintain the temperature of its water at about 70 degrees Fahrenheit more or less.
  3. The enclosure where we are going to keep the animal must be large since it is used to traveling in its natural habitat. In addition, we must provide a dry part so that it can sunbathe, or failing that we will put an ultraviolet lamp.

Bog Turtle
Bog Turtle

Bog Turtle

Its scientific name is “Glyptemys Muhlenbergii”. This turtle is worthy of being on this list since its size is around 3 or 4 inches. This turtle lives in the eastern United States, it is exactly found in the state of Vermont, in the north, in the south of Georgia, and the west of Ohio.

Mainly prefers to live in calcareous wetlands, swamps, swamps. These places provide both humid areas and land areas. A very peculiar characteristic about the bog turtle is that it uses mud to protect itself and hide from predators. Its head is dark brown or black and the skin on its body is also dark. It has two yellow, orange, or red spots on the sides of its neck.

Temperament and behavior

This turtle is quite shy at first, and the first thing it will do when it sees something unusual is to hide in its shell. When it is cold the turtle will stay in the water. Normally in its natural habitat, it tends to bury itself in mud or hide in the undergrowth.

Males tend to be aggressive towards other males of the same species. On the other hand, females can also show aggressiveness to defend their nests.

The most relevant things you must know to care for a bog turtle are:

  1. This little animal is omnivorous. In nature, it feeds on small insects, worms, slugs, snails, frogs, and other small vertebrates and invertebrates. At home, it can be fed a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, meat, liver, chicken hearts, and turtle food.
  2. The water temperature should be maintained between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
  3. The aquarium for this little turtle must be larger than 40 gallons and we must also provide a dry area where it can sunbathe or put an ultraviolet lamp.

Red-eared Slider
Red-eared Slider

Red-eared Slider

We must emphasize that the red-eared turtle is the largest compared to the others on the list. Its size ranges between 6 and 12 inches. It is one of the most common pet turtles. Its scientific name is “Trachemys Scripta Elegans” and it is distributed throughout the southeastern United States and northeastern Mexico.

In its natural habitat, we can find it in swamps and shallow freshwater areas. Different colors and shades can be seen in the shell of red-eared turtles with stripes and spots scattered throughout the shell, allowing them to camouflage themselves in nature. When they are small, they are usually leafy green but as they grow they darken until they become dark green or brown.

Temperament and behavior

This turtle has an elusive character since they will try to flee as soon as we touch them. This is not to say that they hate us, it is simply their nature. In addition to this, they are very curious and will try to explore every corner of the house if they manage to escape from their enclosure.

If you want to have more than one you must bear in mind that they can show some aggressiveness between them, especially if they are males.

The main vital characteristics of this turtle are:

  1. These tortoises are also omnivorous in their natural habitat When they are young (0 to 3 years old) they prefer foods high in protein. In this phase, they feed on small crustaceans and fish, as well as worms and crickets. When they are older they prefer plant foods.
  2. The temperature of the water in your pond should be between 75 and 84 degrees Fahrenheit since they live in tropical climates.
  3. The terrarium of this turtle must be at least 1.20 meters long, with an area with water and another dry so that it can sunbathe. As with the others, if you do not have direct sunlight you will have to provide an ultraviolet lamp.

Common Musk Turtle
Common Musk Turtle

Common Musk Turtle

In this last position, we have one of the smallest turtles on the list, since its size is between 2 and 4.5 inches. Males are usually a bit larger than females, and their spots and stripes are more colorful (usually ocher and yellow). Its scientific name is “Sternotherus Odoratus”. It belongs to the Kinosternidae family.

Its range is in the eastern third of the United States, the northeastern regions of Mexico, and the southeastern regions of Canada. We can find the Common Musk Turtle in rivers, streams, creek canals, ponds, swamps, muddy bottom lakes, and temporary rainwater stagnations.

Temperament and behavior

The musk turtle is mostly nocturnal, and can sometimes display aggressive behavior if disturbed.
Besides this, this turtle has two pairs of glands, located under the small marginal shields of the back, which in case of danger or produce a dense and yellowish discharge with a strong and unpleasant odor.

As in the description of the previous ones, we will show you the most relevant for its care:

  1. This turtle is omnivorous. In nature, it feeds on small fish, some invertebrates, and aquatic plants. It is also capable of eating carrion. At home, we can feed it with lettuce, carrots, small pieces offish, worms, snails.
  2. The water should be between 72 and 78 degrees Fahrenheit.
  3. The minimum size for this little girl’s aquarium should be greater than 20 gallons. You must also provide a dry area where it can sunbathe or where you have the ultraviolet lamp.
Generalities of turtles that stay small
Generalities of turtles that stay small

Generalities of turtles that stay small

As you can see in this list, you have different options when choosing a small turtle. Although there are some smaller than others, we have to take their requirements into account and choose the one that best suits our home, not the one that is the smallest.

If small turtles are adorable in and of themselves, with these advantages they have (compared to the larger ones), they will make you fall in love with them even more!

Benefit 1 – Less maintenance required

Being smaller turtles than others we are used to, they will have fewer cleaning requirements. The reason for this is that they have less debris than larger turtles and will take longer to make their aquarium dirty.

Watch out! This does not mean that they do not have needs that we have to satisfy. Simply that meeting those needs takes less work.

Benefit 2- They are easier to feed than other animals

Unlike many animals close to this species, such as lizards, snakes, and other reptiles, turtles are very easy to feed as they have a very voracious appetite and it will be easier to adapt them to certain foods.

Benefit 3- They are not annoying animals

Something that many people agree with is that turtles make a great pet in the fact that we will hardly even know they are there. They are not very noisy and annoying animals, and that is a plus.


Well, to finish we will touch on a very decisive issue for many people who are considering adopting one of these turtles. If what worries you is the cost of the animal or its maintenance, we must inform you that it is not as expensive as many people think. Make no mistake, this does not mean that it is free, but most people can afford it.

The price of these turtles themselves is usually not expensive. Depending on the area in which you live, it will have a price and another but generally, they are quite cheap pets. Another advantage that these turtles have is that thanks to their size, their maintenance is not excessively expensive either.

The reasons for this are that they do not need large spaces to live in and in addition, they need less food and maintenance than other larger turtles.

If you had doubts about whether to have a turtle, I hope this article has helped you to decide. In my opinion, they are the ideal pet for all types of people and also do not require great effort in their maintenance.

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About Grace Hocker

Hi, my name is Grace and I am a pet lover. Ever since 5 years old, I've owned some sort of pet from Bearded Dragons to Rabbits. I have dedicated my life to helping pets, and am here to help you get the best for your pet!