You already know that Australia has a variety of snakes, both venomous and non-venomous. You also know that it has dozens of species of lizards. But did you know that the Australian continent is also home to numerous turtle species, many of which you haven’t even heard of?
Fortunately, that’s precisely what we’ll discuss today: the 17 of the most popular turtle species in Australia. Let’s see what you’re missing by not traveling to Australia yourself.
Bellinger River Snapping Turtle
The Bellinger River snapping turtle, also known as the Bellinger River Emydura or Bellinger River turtle, is a critically endangered species of turtle endemic to the Bellinger River in New South Wales, Australia. This species is currently facing a significant threat due to habitat loss, predation, and disease.
This species is small to medium-sized, with males growing up to 8.5 inches and females up to 12 inches in length. The turtle has a smooth shell with a dark green color on the top and yellowish color on the underside. The turtle’s skin is typically brown with black spots or markings. The Bellinger River snapping turtle can be distinguished from other species of turtles by the distinctive yellow stripe on the side of its head and the smooth mouth that looks like a pair of scissors.
The turtle’s diet consists of both plants and animals, as they consume aquatic plants, small fish, insects, and other invertebrates that they can hunt in their ecosystem. This turtle is known to be an opportunistic feeder, which means it will eat whatever is available in its habitat.
The Bellinger River snapping turtle is a shy and reclusive species that prefers to live in quiet, slow-moving bodies of water. They are excellent swimmers and can refrain from breathing for long periods of time. They are also known to bask on rocks or logs in the sun to regulate their body temperature, which is when you’re most likely to spot them in the wild.
Unfortunately, due to habitat loss and degradation, this species is on the brink of extinction. The introduction of feral non-endemic animals such as foxes and pigs has significantly contributed to their decline, more so than human activity.
Brisbane Short-Necked Turtle
The Brisbane short-necked turtle, also known as the Eastern Snake-Necked Turtle or the Common Snake-Necked Turtle, is a species of freshwater turtle primarily found in eastern Australia. It is a popular pet turtle due to its unique appearance and behavior, but it is important to note that it should only be kept as pet by experienced and responsible turtle keepers.
The Brisbane short-necked turtle can be found in a multitude of freshwater habitats such as rivers, streams, lakes, and ponds. They prefer slow-moving or still waters with plenty of aquatic vegetation and basking spots and are particularly known to inhabit urban and suburban areas like lakes and backyard ponds.
The short-necked turtle’s appearance is quite distinctive. They possess short necks with thick and sharp heads that they use to catch prey, such as fish, insects, and crustaceans. Their carapace is flat, almost perfectly round, and usually dark brown, olive, or black with lighter-colored spots or lines, while the plastron is yellow or cream-colored with dark markings. They can grow up to 11.5-12 inches in length.
This reptile’s diet consists of a variety of prey, including fish, insects, snails, and crustaceans, which their natural habitat offers plenty of. They are active hunters, which means that they prefer to stalk their prey rather than ambush it.
This short-necked turtle’s behavior is also fairly unique. They are known to be quite active and curious, and they will often explore their surroundings and interact with their keepers. They will even learn to recognize you and associate you with security and food over time.
Overall, the Brisbane short-necked turtle is a fascinating species that is worth studying and appreciating in the wild. However, if you think about getting one as a pet, you must do your research beforehand to ensure that you can provide the animal with the proper care, housing, and maintenance over the years.
Snake-necked turtles, also known as long-necked turtles or side-necked turtles, are a group of freshwater turtles found throughout Australia, South America, and Africa. They are named for their unique long, narrow necks that they fold to the side, unlike most other turtles that retract them straight back into their shells.
The turtle’s habitat preferences vary depending on the species, but they are commonly found in freshwater environments such as rivers, creeks, ponds, and swamps. Some species can even tolerate brackish water habitats. These are aquatic reptiles that prefer environments with plenty of aquatic vegetation for cover and hunting.
The snake-necked turtles’ appearance varies by species, but they are generally characterized by their long, narrow necks that allow them to reach the prey even in tight crevices and under rocks. Their carapace can range from light to dark colors, often displaying intricate patterns or markings. The plastron is usually lighter in color and can showcase various markings as well. They also have very sharp claws on their webbed feet for catching prey and climbing onto land.
These turtles are generally carnivorous and feed on a variety of prey, like fish, insects, crustaceans, and amphibians. Some species are also known to consume carrion if nothing else is available.
These turtles are known to be active hunters and excellent swimmers. They are also capable of living for several decades in captivity, sometimes considerably more than in their natural habitat, but require proper care and maintenance to thrive.
This is a diverse and interesting group of freshwater turtles that are pretty much found throughout the world. They are uniquely adapted to their environments and have fascinating physical and behavioral characteristics that make them great pets for exotic turtle lovers.
Eastern Long-Necked Turtle
The Eastern long-necked turtle, or the Eastern snake-necked turtle, is a freshwater Australian native. The animal’s name comes from its long, slender neck that can reach up to half its body length.
The Eastern long-necked turtle inhabits freshwater habitats such as rivers, streams, lakes, and ponds. They prefer slow-moving or still waters with plenty of aquatic vegetation and nearby basking spots for a plus of comfort and security.
These turtles possess long and slender necks that they use to catch prey, such as fish, insects, crustaceans, and even mammals when given a chance. Their shell is usually dark brown or black with lighter-colored spots or lines, which is typical for most aquatic turtles. Their plastron is always yellow or creamy with strong dark markings. These turtles are fairly small, as they can only grow up to 9-10 inches as adults.
The turtle’s diet consists of a variety of prey, including fish, water insects, snails, zooplankton, and tiny crustaceans. They are active hunters and use their long necks to strike at unsuspecting prey quickly.
These turtles are quite active and curious, but they prefer to keep a low profile and avoid human contact. They do so with the help of their excellent swimming abilities and impressive agility on land. Even so, they can be tamed with relative ease, which makes them great pets. Especially since they can live for decades in good conditions.
White-Throated Snapping Turtle
This is a more unusual type of snapping turtle, primarily because of its herbivorous diet. The white-throated snapping turtle, also known as the albino Snapping Turtle, is a species of freshwater turtle found in southeastern Queensland but can be found in other Australian aquatic ecosystems as well. The turtle’s name comes from the white markings on its throat and chin, which contrast with its dark green or brown shell.
The white-throated snapping turtle can be found in a variety of freshwater ecosystems, such as rivers, streams, lakes, and ponds. They prefer slow-moving waters with a variety of aquatic vegetation for hiding and eating purposes. Nearby basking areas are also welcomed, although the turtle is fully aquatic and will rarely travel to land.
The white-throated snapping turtle has a large, muscular body and a powerful beak-like jaw with an oversized and wide upper lip. The eyes are very large and bulbous. Their shell is typically dark green or brown with lighter markings, while their plastron is yellow or cream-colored, usually clear of any markings. They can grow up to 16 inches, which qualifies them as medium-sized.
These snapping turtles are fairly unusual in terms of their dietary preferences in the sense that they are exclusively herbivorous. This is surprising to many people who have learned to associate snapping turtles with a carnivorous or, at the very least, omnivorous diet. The turtle will consume aquatic plants, fruits, and algae exclusively, but they still require a varied diet to stay healthy and well-nourished.
Unfortunately, these turtles aren’t known for their friendly demeanor. White-throated snapping turtles are considerably more aggressive than you might be used to and will defend themselves by biting if they feel threatened. They are also excellent swimmers and can refrain from breathing for up to an hour underwater, an ability that is quite useful when looking to evade predators.
You can have a white-throated snapping turtle as a pet, so long as you’re aware of its antisocial behavior and rough personality. This species also requires special living conditions to thrive, which doesn’t qualify it as beginner-friendly.
Northern Snapping Turtle
The Northern snapping turtle, also known as the common snapping turtle or the Chelydra serpentina, is a species of freshwater turtle found in North America. You may be wondering what any of this has to do with Australia, and the answer is nothing. At least, not anymore. This species was once a lot more widespread than it is today, so you can only find it on the American continent at this point.
The Northern snapping turtle colonizes freshwater habitats such as rivers, streams, lakes, and ponds. These ecosystems provide the turtle with shelter and a variety of feeding opportunities.
The turtle’s appearance is quite distinctive, with a large, muscular body and a powerful beak-like jaw. The shell is typically dark brown or black with a rough texture, while the plastron is yellow, as is the case with most turtles. These shelled reptiles can reach 20 inches in length, although 18 is more common, making them one of the largest freshwater turtles in North America.
The diet of the Northern snapping turtle consists of a variety of prey, including fish, insects, snails, crustaceans, and plenty of plant matter. They are active hunters and will often ambush their prey from the bottom of the water, where they prefer to hide most of the time.
These turtles are fairly aggressive and will bite with unexpected speed and force if they feel threatened – a typical snapping turtle behavior. They are excellent swimmers, but can also move fairly easily on land. Their powerful legs, armed with deadly claws, even allow them to catch and consume land animals if given the opportunity.
Overall, the Northern snapping turtle is a fascinating species that is worth studying and appreciating in the wild. However, if you think about getting one as a pet, think some more. These reptiles require a large, spacious enclosure and can be quite aggressive, so they are not recommended for inexperienced or young turtle keepers.
Fitzroy River Turtle
The Fitzroy River turtle is a unique species of freshwater turtle endemic to the Mary River in Queensland, Australia, which explains the turtle’s name. This species is one of the largest and most unusual-looking freshwater turtles in Australia, with several unique physical and behavioral characteristics.
The Fitzroy River turtle can be found in the clear, fast-flowing waters of the Mary River and its tributaries. They prefer rocky or sandy substrates with plenty of aquatic vegetation and basking spots. They are also known to inhabit deeper pools and stretches of rivers with slower currents.
These turtles have large, flattened heads with two small, bright green eyes. Their carapace is either dark brown or dark blue with a rough texture, while the plastron is light brown. They can grow up to 10 inches in length, but some specimens can even reach 17 or more, albeit rarely.
The diet of the Fitzroy River turtle consists of a variety of prey, including fish, insects, snails, and crustaceans, as well as plenty of plant-based meals. These active hunters won’t refuse anything that has some nutritional value for them.
The Fitzroy turtle is known to be quite active and curious but prefers to live a more secluded lifestyle. They tend to explore their environment incessantly, which is why they require vast ecosystems with plenty of swimming space.
Unfortunately, this species is facing several threats to its survival, including habitat loss, pollution, and illegal pet trade. Conservation efforts, such as habitat restoration and captive breeding programs, are essential to ensure the stability of the population. Needless to say, this one isn’t pet material due to the heavy regulations surrounding the species.
Gulf Snapping Turtle
The Gulf snapping turtle, also known as the Apalachicola snapping turtle, is a freshwater turtle species that is only found in a small area in northern Australia. It is a medium-sized snapping turtle species, with adult males reaching lengths of around 8 inches and females up to 13-14 inches at most.
The turtle prefers freshwater habitats such as rivers, streams, lakes, and ponds, generally slow-moving waters with plenty of aquatic vegetation and basking spots. These ecosystems provide the reptile with a variety of feeding opportunities and hiding areas for a plus of safety.
This turtle is quite similar to other snapping turtle species. They possess large, muscular bodies and powerful beak-jaws that they use to consume their favorite…plants. Their shell is typically rough in texture with brown or greenish coloring, while the plastron is typically of the same color, except lighter. An important fact here: the shell is perfectly smooth, with no visible demarking lines, as with most other turtles.
The Gulf snapping turtle’s diet is primarily herbivorous. These turtles consume a variety of plants, bark, flowers, leaves, fruits, and Pandanus roots. However, juveniles may consume insects, worms, and larvae as well for their extra caloric value and the plus of protein.
This species is your typical snapping turtle in terms of behavior. Expect visible aggression and the tendency to bite first and…bite some more later. Naturally, this doesn’t deter people from wanting and keeping snapping turtles as pets.
Overall, the Gulf snapping turtle is an interesting and valuable species that plays a vital role in freshwater ecosystems. However, like many other turtle species, they are threatened by habitat loss, pollution, and other human activities, but this isn’t even the most significant problem. Instead, it’s the fact that this species is only found in one area of the globe and a rather small one at that. So, you may not be able to get this one for a pet.
Irwin’s turtle, also known as Irwin’s river turtle or the Fly River turtle, is a species of freshwater turtle found in the rivers and lakes of Papua New Guinea and northern Australia. This species is named after the famous Australian wildlife conservationist Steve Irwin, who worked to raise awareness about the importance of protecting turtles and their habitats, among other things.
Irwin’s turtle is typically found in slow-moving or still waters, such as rivers, streams, lakes, and ponds, with plenty of aquatic vegetation, food sources, and accessible basking spots. They are known to inhabit both freshwater and brackish water habitats, which stand proof of the animal’s adaptability and hardiness.
In terms of appearance, Irwin’s turtle is a combination of weird and awkward. The reptile comes with a flattened, streamlined shell and large, powerful flippers that make them excellent swimmers. They are usually dark brown or black with lighter markings and a dirty-yellow plastron. The head has a flat forehead but appears bulky and thick. Most specimens also have black and bulbous eyes and black snouts, making them resemble some aquatic pandas.
They can reach 12-13 inches in length, so they qualify as medium-sized.
The turtle’s diet consists mainly of aquatic plants, flowers, leaves, and fruits, but they also consume small fish, insects, and other invertebrates when juveniles. They are known to be opportunistic eaters that will consume whatever is available in their habitat, including carrion.
These active reptiles will often interact with their surroundings and with their keepers and love to explore their ecosystem constantly. They are also excellent swimmers and can hide underwater extremely fast, especially if they feel threatened and need to take cover.
Manning River Snapping Turtle
The Manning River snapping turtle, also known as the Bellinger River snapping turtle, is a freshwater turtle species found particularly in eastern Australia. This species is considered critically endangered due to habitat loss and other threats, making conservation efforts to protect them of utmost importance.
The Manning River snapping turtle is typically found in slow-moving or still waters, such as rivers, streams, and creeks, with plenty of aquatic vegetation and basking spots. They are known to thrive in both freshwater and brackish water habitats with no particular preference.
These turtles come with a flattened, streamlined shell and large, powerful flippers that make them excellent swimmers. The shell is usually various shades of brown with lighter markings, while the underbelly is light yellow with dark markings. These are small turtles, only capable of reaching 6-8 inches in most cases. You can also notice clear yellow bands stretching over the turtle’s face and neck, allowing you to identify the species easier.
The Manning River snapping turtle’s diet is a bit of a mystery because this species is hard to observe and study in its natural habitat. Some suggestions hint at an omnivorous diet, so we’re thinking of a mix of aquatic invertebrates, small fish, algae, and various plants. Just keep in mind that nothing is set in stone.
As you may have expected, these turtles are shy and prefer to keep their distance for the most part. Which doesn’t make them great as pets, especially since they are protected under the law.
Mary River Turtle
The Mary River turtle, also known as the Penny turtle, is a freshwater turtle species endemic to the Mary River in Queensland, Australia. As you may have already guessed. This species is known for its unique appearance and has been listed as an endangered species due to habitat loss and other natural and human-driven threats.
The turtle is typically found in the clear, fast-flowing waters of the Mary River and its tributaries. They prefer rocky or sandy substrates with plenty of aquatic vegetation and some good and safe basking spots nearby.
The reptile’s appearance is quite distinctive, with a flattened, streamlined shell and two small, bright-green eyes. The body and the carapace are very light in coloring, causing the turtle to appear yellow in some cases. They have distinctive, bright-green hair-like algae growing on their heads and, sometimes, shells, giving them a unique and striking appearance.
Mary River turtles consume mainly plants and algae but will never refuse a meal of aquatic invertebrates, frogs, or small fish. Their favorite method of hunting relies on burying themselves in mud and waiting for something to swim above their heads until the right moment comes to strike.
This probably didn’t need writing, but I’ll write it anyway: Mary River turtles are not meant for captivity due to their endangered status.
In simple words, the oblong turtle is a snake-necked turtle on steroids. Also known as the Indian tent turtle, this is a freshwater turtle species found in southern and southeastern Asia. They are quite a sizeable species, with adult males reaching lengths of around 12 inches and females up to 15 inches or even slightly more.
This turtle is popular in aquatic ecosystems like rivers, streams, lakes, and ponds, as they prefer slow-moving or still waters with plenty of aquatic vegetation and food and basking spots. They can also inhabit urban areas such as suburban lakes and backyard ponds.
Oblong turtles are quite distinctive, with a flattened, elongated shell, a massive flat head, and an even more impressive neck. These turtles are very dark, usually dark brown or black, with a slightly lighter plastron. The shells are usually oval-shaped and rather small when compared to the turtle’s overall body and neck.
These turtles are carnivorous, so expect them to feed on a variety of aquatic invertebrates, amphibians, and small fish. Their long neck and powerful jaws allow them to catch anything that swims nearby via lightning-fast strikes.
This species is relatively docile and doesn’t mind human contact so long as they have time to adapt to it. You can only keep these ones in captivity starting as babies, as adults will have a difficult time adapting to their new setup. Keep in mind that these turtles are notoriously difficult to care for in captivity, and you may require a special permit, depending on the region you live in.
New Guinea Snake-Necked Turtle
The New Guinea snake-necked turtle is primarily found in the rivers and lakes of New Guinea and parts of northern Australia. This species is known for its unique appearance and long, flexible neck, as is the case with all snake-necked turtles.
This species inhabits a variety of freshwater habitats, such as rivers, streams, lakes, and ponds, with slow-moving waters, plenty of aquatic vegetation, and sufficient nourishment and protection. They are typically known to lurk around the muddy or sandy bottoms where they feel safer and more protected.
New Guinea snake-necked turtles stay faithful to the standard snake-turtle appearance: long, flexible neck that can reach up to twice the length of their shell, a brown or black shell, and visible shell markings. The only area that separates these turtles from other snake-necked species is their skin color. New Guinea turtles are darker than other species, with some coming with black skin covering the neck, head, and limbs.
The turtle eats mainly aquatic invertebrates and small fish, with everything in between. As opportunistic feeders, they won’t refuse anything that holds any nutritional value, mainly because they can’t afford otherwise. Life is tough for snake-necked turtles, despite their adaptability and overall hardiness.
These active and peaceful turtles prefer to keep it to themselves and avoid human contact. They can, however, thrive in captivity so long as you have the right setup for them.
With this species, we’re getting into the ‘Really Weird’ territory. The pig-nosed turtle, also known as the Fly River turtle, is a freshwater turtle species found in the rivers and lakes of northern Australia and southern New Guinea. This species is unique in its appearance and behavior, to say the least, and is considered an important cultural and ecological species in its native regions.
The pig-nosed turtle is typically found in slow-moving or still waters, such as rivers, streams, and lagoons, that are generally rich in aquatic vegetation. They are known to inhabit both freshwater and brackish ecosystems, where they look for food almost throughout the entire day. That is, where they’re not basking in the sunlight on the shore.
The turtle’s appearance is quite distinctive if we were to use a conservative expression. These reptiles come with flattened, streamlined shells and large, round snouts that resemble a pig’s nose. They are usually brown or dark blue with lighter coloring than other turtles. They also have powerful flippers and can grow up to 30 inches in length and weigh up to 50 pounds, making them some of the largest freshwater turtles in the world.
Pig-nosed turtles eat mostly aquatic plants, but they also consume small fish, insects, and other invertebrates once in a while. They prefer an herbivorous diet, as this provides them with all the vitamins and minerals they need on a daily basis.
These reptiles are generally peaceful and reclusive and prefer to avoid human contact than stick around. They are also known to migrate over long distances up and down river systems to find suitable breeding and feeding grounds. The last part disqualifies them as viable pets, unfortunately.
Red-Bellied Short-Necked Turtle
We’re now moving on to a smaller species, the red-bellied short-necked turtle, which populates eastern and northern Australia. This species is quite popular for its unique appearance and behavior, making it a great choice for experienced and beginner pet owners.
The red-bellied short-necked turtle is typically found in slow-moving or still waters, such as rivers, streams, and ponds, with vegetation, plenty of aquatic food, and easy access to the shore for regular basking. They are also found near urban areas rich in lakes and backyard ponds in some cases, which often brings them in contact with humans.
These turtles are quite distinctive, with flattened, oval-shaped shells and short, broad necks. The shell is usually a mix of brown and red with red or orange outlines, while the plastron is red or orange. They have a pointed snout and webbed feet with sharp claws. Most specimens are black-skinned with yellow or orange bands covering the area above the eyes and on the chin.
The diet of the Red-bellied short-necked turtle consists mainly of aquatic invertebrates and plant matter, but they will eat whatever they can find in their ecosystem. They are generally easy to feed in captivity, which is why they’re so popular in the turtle trade, among other things.
These turtles are harmless to humans and qualify as generally docile and friendly. While they tend to live solitary and reclusive lives, they’re not easy to scare, so they shouldn’t stress out in captivity. They are also known to bury themselves in the substrate or hide in vegetation when threatened, so make sure that their tank setup allows for that.
The saw-shelled turtle, or the narrow-bridged saw-shelled turtle, is a freshwater turtle species found primarily in Australia and some parts of Southeast Asia. This species got its name after the serrated edges that make its shell resemble a saw blade.
This exotic turtle is typically found in slow-moving or still waters, such as rivers, streams, and ponds, with easy access to food, shelter, and nearby basking areas. They are rather shy, so they prefer to stay close to their safe space, even when traveling on land.
The saw-shelled turtle’s appearance is quite distinctive, with a flattened, oval-shaped shell decorated with serrated edges and a long, pointed snout. The shell is usually dark, black in some cases, with visible demarcations that follow the pattern of the serrated edges. They also possess short feet, an even shorter neck, and black skin as far as the eyes can see. The plastron is a standard yellow, as is the case with most turtles.
This species is a carnivore, so it consumes everything that moves. Or doesn’t. This includes tadpoles, small fish, crustaceans, insects, frogs, and even the toxic cane toads. Only a few turtle species are capable of the latter feat, and this one is one of them.
These are active and joyful turtles overall, but they prefer to avoid human contact, or any contact for that matter, for the most part. They can live healthy and happy lives in captivity, so long as you keep them in the ideal conditions. Just make sure you get your turtle from qualified breeders instead of collecting it directly from the wild.
Western Swamp Turtle
We’ve finally reached the last entry on today’s list, the Western swamp turtle, also known as the short-necked turtle. This freshwater turtle species is endemic to the southwestern region of Australia and is considered critically endangered due to habitat loss and other threats. So, treat it nicely!
The Western swamp turtle is typically found in temporary wetlands and swamps that are filled with water during the winter months and dry up during the summer. They require shallow, muddy waters with plenty of aquatic vegetation and basking spots. These turtles are very shy due to their small size, so they prefer to hide to increase their chances of survival in a predator-infested ecosystem.
These turtles have oval-shaped shells and a very short neck with a flat and thick head. The color varies between dark and light brown to black, depending on the specimen. They have short webbed feet with thick and rugged scales and sharp claws. The shell also comprises protruding sections, somewhat similar to those of a snapping turtle, just not as extreme.
These turtles are primarily carnivorous and specialize in consuming insects, small invertebrates, worms, and anything else they can salvage from their aquatic ecosystem. They sometimes hunt on land, too, except they prefer not to because it’s too exhausting.
These turtles are very small, up to 6 inches at most. So, it’s natural for them to be shy and reclusive, hiding behind the vegetation and burying in the substrate when threatened. Naturally, you can’t trade or keep these as pets due to their endangered status and the Australian laws guarding them.
If you’ve made it this far through my turtle article, you’ve now realized the enormity and diversity of the Australian semi-aquatic ecosystems. There is a multitude of turtle species to encounter in the wild, many of which want to quarrel with you. Just be mindful of the reptiles’ well-being when interacting with them, and keep in mind that many of them are protected under the law.