Last Updated on February 28, 2021 by Cooper Fulton

Types of Pond Turtles

There are tons of different types of pond turtles, but first, an introductory; pond turtles are reptiles with a bony encapsulated shell-like body belonging to order Testudines.Types of Pond Turtles

They may include freshwater, sea-dwelling, extant and extinct species. Turtles are found all over the world in almost every climatic condition.

Some of the types of pond turtles include; red-eared, snapping, side-neck, box, musk, river, yellow-bellied, wood pond, and Japanese pond turtle.

Pond turtles are among the most primitive group of reptiles, evolved millions of years ago. History dates them back to more than 220 million years ago with more than 400 species alive and some highly endangered species.

These are cold-blooded ectotherms, with varying body temperature. These are also classified as amniotes, with a property to lay eggs. Their study is called cheloniology or testunilogy.

Their shell is composed of interconnected bony, a cartilaginous skeleton with two layers:

  • Plastron
  • Carapace

The skeleton is composed of 50 organized and interlocked bones.

The main function of the shell is to protect turtles from predators. Commonly is it is said that a turtle is an animal that has a mobile home attached to its back.

In this article, we will be going over African Aquatic Side-neck Turtles, Box Turtles, Musk Pond Turtles, and many more common pond turtles that are kept around the world.

“See the turtle of enormous girth, on his shell he holds the earth. If you want to run and play, come along the beam today.” -Stephen King


Types of Pond Turtles

Various types of pond turtles can be used as a pet. I’ve written an article about how to care for a pond turtle if you’re interested.

Each of the turtles has certain requirements for water quality and quantity, food, shelter, humidity level, and temperature, etc.

There are three differentiated types of turtles with a specialized name;

  1. Turtle- adapted for aquatic life, possess webbed flipper-like feet, lightweight shell with a streamlined body.
  2. Tortoise- adapted for xeric (land) life, possess round and stumpy feet with strong forelimbs to dig burrows.
  3. Terrapins- adapted for mesospheric (both land and water) life, possess round flippers with light webbed feet, strong forelimbs, and lightweight shells. They are usually found in swamps, ponds, lakes, and rivers.

Red-Eared Slider Turtle

Red-Eared Slider

The red-eared slider is the most common turtle found in North America. It is very hardy and can be found in most ponds, rivers, or lakes.

The red-eared slider is considered to be a medium-sized turtle reaching a maximum diameter of 5-11 inches. The females are always larger than the males which makes them much easier to identify.

These turtles will eat almost anything that is put in front of their face. They are omnivores meaning they will eat smaller fish in a pond and any aquatic plants. To ensure they don’t eat all your pond plants, I recommend feeding them a variety of fruit 1-3 times a week.

Like most turtles, red-eared sliders spend most of their time basking in the sun. If you want to keep these turtles you need to have a safe place for them the spend a few hours in the sun. A few rocks above the water surface will work great as a basking spot.

If you are looking for a hardy turtle that is easy to take care of I recommend a red-eared slider. They are easy to care for and can be a great component of your pond ecosystem.

Snapping Turtle

Snapping TurtleSnapping Turtle

Snapping turtles are another well-known and very common species of pond turtles. They are known for their extreme bite force and deadly fast strike.

The snapping turtle is a very large turtle that reaches up to 45 pounds and 14 inches in diameter. They stay extremely still and wait for a fish to swim by and snap at it.

Even though they are large turtles, they can still swim and even walk at fast paces. They are built to be the ultimate killing machine. Razor-sharp teeth, an extremely hard shell, and lighting quick reflexes.

They like to hide in mud and blend into what is around them. They can become invisible in only a few inches of standing water. A snapping turtle has the bite ability to take a finger clean off so you definitely want to stay away from them.

Snapping turtles are carnivores and only feed on fish, snakes, other turtles, or rodents if they are lucky.

I do not recommend having a snapping turtle in your pond as they will end up eating any fish that swims past its face. While they are very cool animals, they do not belong in recreational ponds.


Box Turtle

Box turtleBox turtleBox turtle

With an influential shell and moderate demeanor; the box pond turtle is a popular pet. It is found in a wide range of climatic conditions.

Pond Box turtle needs to hibernate for 3-5 months out of the year to stay alive, especially in winter.

At this time they confine themselves to their uniquely hatched, specialized, and divided shell until spring arrives.

In this period, digestion stops, heart rate slows down, eye moment ceases, and metabolic functions cease down partially or completely, threatening the survival of pond turtles.

It is a highly complicated captive pet but still, it is the most common and loved pet among other pond turtles.

Box pond turtle needs to have a well-protected, moderate temperature, and south-faced pond with tree roots, grassy mounts, and mossy stones.

A snugging, tightly protecting and properly fenced area is crucial in this fragile period to hide from predators and consumers.

This type of environment is provided by an average backyard. In the case of an aquarium or box ensure soft dirt enough to allow digging and masking.

Even soft hay or straw at the bottom with enough oxygenated holes and silver can help them to get fresh air and maintain the reproductive and complete cycle.

Providing warm habitat is mandatory. After hibernation, plenty of food, water, and sunlight will help pond turtles to recover fast from weak hibernation.

Box pond turtles eat a variety of foods like vegetation, fruit supplement, worms, and small invertebrates.

Vegetation and animal food should be balanced in their diet. Water doused food, carrots, earthworm, dandelions, berry, lettuce, and mushroom are delicious for box pond turtles.

They should be provided with food in different rows at different intervals.


Musk Pond Turtle

Musk Pond TurtleMusk Pond TurtleMusk Pond Turtle

Musk pond is also called stinkpot because of its foul and musky odor persuading against predators.

It is also one of the best-known pet pond turtles. Musk pond turtle is found in a shallow watercourse, slow current water bodies, wetlands, climbing logs, shorelines, woody debris, basking on fallen leaves, and ponds.

They like muddy areas and sandy land. They undergo hibernation under mud logs sometimes.

Musk pond turtle or stinkpots are a small species with blackish, brownish, greenish, and greyish color variants.

They possess a dome-shaped shell with a size of 5-14cm and 600g weight. Longer tails of male musk pond turtle separate it from its female partner.

Their head elusively resembles a triangular pointed snout-like snitched beak.

Its outer shell (Plastron) is small, offering protection to its legs. Musk pond turtle has a tiny tongue roofed with tiny bud-like papillae, aiding the turtle to breathe easily underwater.

These turtles become active in warm water and cold water led them to hibernate.

Spring is the breeding season for musk pond turtles. Female musk turtle lays 2-16 hard-shelled ovate- elliptical eggs under the shoreline debris or in shallow burrowing holes.

They may share their nesting sites. One-inch-long turtle hatch from the eggs at the end of summer with a life span of more than 50 years.

Their shared nest can easily be targeted by their predators before their birth. Crows, vultures, hawks, and falcon are their potential predators.

After hatching the musk pond turtle has to reach the water as soon as possible.

This time can be threatening as raccoons and their predators can approach them before entering the water body.

Irritation can provoke them to bite otherwise they are non-aggressive turtles.


Yellow-Bellied Turtle

Yellow Bellied TurtleYellow Bellied TurtleYellow Bellied Turtle

Yellow belly pond turtle is a warm freshwater dwelling turtle.

It is also called slider or yellow belly terrapin with the scientific name Trachemys script elegans.

Yellow-bellied pond turtle has a life span of 25-100 years.

Its female partner is larger in size (8-13 inches) than its male partner (5-8 inches).

Yellow belly pond turtle requires the proteinase diet to grow and develop well at an early age.

They prefer meat as a source of protein. Amphibian larvae, snails, mollusks, small fish, crustaceans, worms, and daphnia are their favored food items.

However, upon maturity, they prefer a herbivorous diet comprised of vegetables, plants, and algae.

They love swimming in warm water, basking in the sunlight on logs.

Although yellow belly pond turtles are social animals, they still can bite you, making your fingers sore.

To make the pet a well-filtered system is important as they produce much waste.

A large aquarium or pond is required for yellow belly pond turtles as it needs a large area to exercise and independent space for basking.

For multiple turtles, one needs to customize the setup as the best choice.


African Aquatic Side-Neck Turtle

African Aquatic Side-neck TurtleAfrican Aquatic Side-neck TurtleAfrican Aquatic Side-neck Turtle

These are freshwater turtles, active at day time with a life span of more than 25 years. Their shell size ranges between 8-16 inches. It is the most commonly known pet pond turtle.

They are named side neck as they can turn their head to the side and fold it under their upper edge of the shell. They are found in dark brown, tan, grey, and black shades.

These are hardy and curious, so they can be aggressive until proper settlement and adaptation. Patience is required to understand these types of turtles.

A Side-neck pond turtle requires a simple enclosure with fewer decorations and some gravel. They love swimming and basking, therefore a large horizontal aquarium is best for these turtles.

Dark leafy greens, salads, frozen vegetables, sun-dried treats, insects, mealworms, and litter is their food.

They require 8 inches of filtered water and their aquarium should be able to hold 60-100 gallons of water depending upon their size. Eagles, Falcons, and carnivorous birds can be a threat to side-neck pond turtle


River Cooter Pond Turtle

River Cooter Pond TurtleRiver Cooter Pond TurtleRiver Cooter Pond Turtle

Eastern River Cooter Pond turtle is a freshwater, herbivorous turtle. It is found in coastal marshes, rivers, ponds, and lakes.

It can be found basking on fallen leaves, rocks, logs, etc. but quickly returns to water.

Its preferable freshwater habitat makes it difficult to be studied by scientists.

Their shell is slightly dome-shaped. Their dorsal layer of the shell is olive to brown in color with creamy- yellowish marking variants.

Older male members have a darker skin color than female members and younger ones.

Although the male tail is larger than the female, the big female size also differentiates them from their male partners.

Missouri river cooter (Pseudemys concinna matter), Hieroglyphic river cooter (Pseudemys concinna hieroglyphica, Rio Grande Cooter (Pseudemys concinna gorzugi),) and Mobile Bay Cooter (Pseudemys concinna mobilensis) are different subspecies of cooter pond turtle.

Cooter pond turtles feed on aquatic grasses, algae, plants, and crustaceans as their herbivorous nature.

They have a tooth-like cusp which is found at the upper jaw in the mouth. This helps a cooter pond turtle to chew herbs.

Fresh vegetables are recommended, bread, chocolate, refined candy, or other sugary food, and milk or a milk product is likely to be avoided.

It can be hazardous for cooter pond turtles. Cooter pond turtle sinks in water to mate with its partner in spring.

After mating female partner digs sand near the water body and lays 12-20 eggs that hatch in 45-60 days. Falcons, muskrats, raccoons, and alligators are their potential predators.   


Ornate Wood Pond Turtle

Ornate Wood Pond TurtleOrnate Wood Pond TurtleOrnate Wood Pond Turtle

It is a freshwater pond turtle. Ornate wood pond turtle lives in a variety of aquatic habitats.

It escapes from the habitat with fewer resources.

Ornate woody pond turtle lives with a life span of more than 30 years, with an adult size of 5-8 inches.

Ornate woody pond turtle has a variety of shell patterns. It can have a bombastic shell.

It is a well-tempered sociable and intelligent pond turtle that can be easily fed by hand.

A woodland and forest habitat near a water body is preferable for ornate woody pond turtles. Tropical-subtropical habitat is the ideal zone for these turtles.

At its deepest point, the swim area should reach about as high as the top of the turtle’s shell.

The enclosure’s temperature should be between 75 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit, with a basking area in the middle. Cool enclosure to room temperature at night, but remain above 60 degrees.

Thermometers should be placed in the water, about two inches over the surface of the dry area substrate and in the basking area.


False Map Pond Turtle (Sawback Turtle)

False Map Pond TurtleFalse Map Pond TurtleSawback Turtle

The false map pond turtle is given the name false map because of a false map-like pattern found on its shell.

It is also referred to as a Sawback turtle. False map turtles are stereotypically submissive and they don’t bite at all.

Their life span follows 20-30 years with larger body sizes. Females are however few inches still larger than male partners.

A False Map Turtle possesses a dorsal shell layer carapace that has varies in color from brownish green to olive.

Yellow marking with dark borders showcase is also characteristically found.

On the contrary, the upper layer of shell- plastron can range between yellow to cream color.

The juvenile members of the false map pond turtle possess dark lines dashing down along the seams and forming a unique pattern on the plastron.

These dark lines resemble a backward L shaped area at the top back of the eyes

The false map pond turtle is a creature of flowing water and it requires an aquatic environment with good and proper filtration.

The female partner can obtain comparatively a bigger size which makes things a bit more challenging demanding a bigger tank.

These false map pond turtles are skillful swimmers, but they still demand logs or other things in the environment to rest and bask.

Basking ensures them proper rest, healing, and shell maintenance.

Map pond turtles, in general, seem to be more susceptible to the disease, wounds, and shell damage than other pond turtles like painted and slider pond turtles.

A false map pond turtle requires large tanks to be kept as a pet.

A high water level is favored to allow them to swim and maintain the high aquatic nature of these pond turtles.

These pond turtles love filtered and freshwater with a flat surface to bask easily.

The temperature of the false map pond turtle is usually maintained by basking or swimming practice.

A high-quality UVB light with a night stimulating timer can minimize sunlight and maintain temperature ideal for basking. The addition of some aquatic plants to the pond can maintain high levels of oxygen in the water.


Japanese Turtle (Japanese Pond Turtle)

Japanese TurtleJapanese TurtleJapanese Pond Turtle

Ishigame is the Japanese pond turtle that can inhabit freezing fast-flowing ponds and streams along with man-made irrigation ditches, canals, and lakes.

It is also called a Japanese stone turtle as its shell resembles stone.

A remarkable adaptation of the Japanese Pond turtle involves its ability to hibernate at the bottommost of ponds and streams.

In the lowermost layer of water, they don’t breathe but absorb oxygen actually from the water using their tail.

As apparent by the name, the Japanese pond turtle is innate to Japan, particularly Kyushu, Shikoku, and Honshu. They are also prevalent pets, especially in Japan. 

This pond turtle belongs to the family Geoemydidae and is scientifically described as Mauremys japonica. Japanese Pond turtle has an average lifespan of 20 years.

The Japanese pond turtles vary moderately in size among their family Geoemydidae.

The lower layer of shell-carapace follows about 20 cm/7.9 inches of length among an adult female, while about 14 cm/5.5 inches among the male members as the smaller ones.

Carapace shows the color variation of stony, greyish, brownish, dark brown, or even blackish tone, while their heads follow olive-brown color.

A single ridge that serrates at the back end of the shell is an obvious feature. Both the male and female have tails, although males have longer tails.

Finally, these pond turtles possess orange lines on both sides of their webbed limbs.

Wild Japanese pond turtle favors eating adult frogs, fish, larvae, shrimp, crayfish, crabs, aquatic insects, earthworms, water weeds, algae, and even fruits and vegetables.

They also eat lettuce, green pepper, cabbage, green beans, spinach, and shredded carrots alongside fruits like melon, plums, strawberries, and grapes.

The Japanese pond turtles can eat in the water and on the dry surface or both. They can be fed easily with a variety.

Japanese pond turtles live in fresh ponds and streams with varying temperatures.

They can easily survive the cold temperatures of freshwater bodies. They have the ability to quickly acclimate to fast-flowing water.

The most interesting feature is that Japanese Pond turtles are strong swimmers.

A Japanese Pond Turtle needs a large aquarium with at least 50 gallons of water and 50 sq. ft in size.

This turtle species spends most of its time in the water so the large area is best suited for its adoption. Gravels and other decorative items can be added at the bottom.

A good rule of thumb for tank size states 10 gallons of water for every one inch of Japanese pond turtle is required.

Although the Japanese pond turtle employs most of their life span time in the water, they do need to bask.

So the basking area can be maintained to be large enough for the Japanese Pond Turtle to maneuver and access easily. UVB light can also help to provide basking.

Japanese pond turtles are well-adapted to cold temperatures, but you still need to maintain a nice environment for them.

The temperature of the water should be around 77 degrees Fahrenheit while the temperature of the basking area has to be around 80 Fahrenheit, at most 85 degrees.

Japanese turtle mating season starts in September and ends in April the following year.

The female lays up to four clutches of eggs per year with each clutch consisting of three to eight eggs depending on the size of the female.

As with many aquatic turtles, the Japanese pond turtle is more predator than prey. They usually prey on fish, fronts, aquatic insects, mollusks, tadpoles, and other small amphibians.