Types of Pet Turtles (23 Species)

Like most reptiles, turtles need a lot more in-depth care than other types of pets. Some require outdoor enclosures, need UVB lighting, UVA lighting, and heat. Some types of pet turtles can be very delicate, and without the proper environment, they will become ill. Others are much hardier and can adapt to their environments more easily. There are almost 400 known species of turtles, all very unique. In the following list we’ll look at 23 species of turtles, and whether or not they make good pets.

Take note because some of the following potential pet turtles are for advanced reptile owners only, or shouldn’t be pets at all. Let’s have a look!

23 types of pet turtles

1. Eastern box turtle

The Eastern box turtle is a subspecies of the common box turtle. They are not the easiest pets to care for and can live 50-100 years. Box turtles are omnivores and will eat a wide variety of foods. If you are interested in bringing a box turtle home, you should look into buying from a breeder.

They will typically be a much healthier animal, which will stop those from taking turtles right out of the wild, endangering their species. Box turtles can be hard work, but they can make a delightful pet.

2. Northern map turtle

image by USFWS Midwest Region via Flickr

Northern map turtles, also referred to as saw back turtles due to the saw-shaped spines going down their back, are cool-looking turtles, but do they make good pets? Northern map turtles can make good pets after they have a proper habitat set up.

Like other reptiles, they require UVB lights which can get expensive, a basking spot, and just overall a consistently warm enclosure. They will also, being semi-aquatic, need a water source. Northern map turtles will live between 15-20 years.

3. Red-eared slider

Red-eared sliders are one of the most popular turtles to keep as pets, and can live up to 30 years. They are semi-aquatic, and they do require a significant water source and an excellent water filter.

These sliders are a hardier turtle and can handle a certain amount of improper care while you are learning and getting them set up correctly, but they will need a large enclosure, they will need heat, and heated water. If you are willing to give the care a red-eared slider needs, you will not be disappointed. They are intelligent and very curious animals.

4. Central American wood turtle

The Central American wood turtle is about 8 inches long and is thought by some to be one of the smartest types of pet turtles. You can keep this turtle inside, in a large enclosure or a decently sized outdoor enclosure. Just make sure they have access to water because they are semi-aquatic. Turtles like these are a big commitment because of care and their very long life span, possibly living over 50 years.

5.Western Painted Turtle

image by USFWS Midwest Region via Flickr | Public Domain

The western painted turtle is native to North America, being one of the most common turtles. They are a magnificent species of turtles and are the only painted turtle with a painted plastron, making these turtles stand out. Remember, they are water turtles so that does make them a bit more high maintenance.

They do need to be able to come on to land like all semi-aquatic turtles. Their enclosure should be big enough to give them adequate space to swim and bask/ walk around. The western painted turtle is a long-time commitment. With proper husbandry, they can live to be 50 years.

6. African sideneck turtle

African sideneck turtles are omnivores, and a good portion of their diet, like a lot of semi-aquatic turtles, will require live fish and other live animals. They need at least 75 gallons and a platform to get out of the water to bask. They do have a shorter life span compared to other turtles living around 20 years. Sideneck can be great for beginners.

7. Caspian pond turtle

The Caspian pond turtles can live up to 50 years, grow to between 7-10 inches in length, and are semi-aquatic. Caspian turtles will need a proper water filter, and they will need UVB and heat. If not appropriately held, they can bite, they don’t really enjoy being held, but they can still be quite enjoyable as a pet.

8. Russian tortoise

image by margaretglin via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Russian tortoises full-grown are only between 6-8 inches long, making them the perfect size for pets. They are herbivores and will require regular veggies and fruit. You can also supply a high quality commercial tortoise diet. They can live a very long time and will need a decent amount of space. Depending on your climate, they can live in a well-created outdoor enclosure.

9. Sulcata tortoise

image by The Reptilarium via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Sulcata Tortoises are a favorite among turtle lovers. They can reach 24 to 30 inches in length, and weigh up to 100 lbs. Sulcatas are lovely pets, but they will require a considerable space due to their size.

Sulcata tortoises are big diggers and should be provided a way to dig, but also safety measures should be put into place if you are keeping them outside to make sure they can not escape. Since these turtles can live very long lives up to 70 years or longer, it is recommended to adopt an older tortoise that someone could no longer care for.

10. Reeve’s turtle

image by coniferconifer via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Reeves turtles are semi-aquatic, so they do require a lot of swimming area. These turtles are reasonably active and can give you hours of enjoyment. They do need a decent space and will live up to 20 years. Reeves turtles can make great pets for first-time beginners because they are a little easier to care for than other turtle species.

11. Greek tortoise

Greek tortoises can make excellent pets, since they are easy-going and have a charming demeanor. However, they are a very long commitment, possibly being passed down to a relative at some point. They can live up to 130 years, some reports saying up to 200 years. It may be a good idea to adopt a greek tortoise to help give an older tortoise a home. They are herbivores and require fresh greens and veggies. They do stay relatively small, only reaching lengths of 10inches or smaller.

12. Common snapping turtle

Common snapping turtles are pretty intimidating, especially if you’ve had any dealings with snapping turtles. Their large size and their ability to bite down and not let go might make you think twice about a snapping turtle, but surprisingly a lot of people do keep snapping turtles.

They are fascinating animals and unique. A lot of turtles are a pleasure from a distance type of pet anyways. A snapping turtle requires a lot of space, proper care, and caution. Common snapping turtles are very flexible and can reach further than most turtles. Common snapping turtles can live up to 30 years.

I would say avoid a snapping turtle as a pet, there are better options out there.

13. Alligator snapping turtle

image by Bonner Springs Library via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Alligator snapping turtles are one of the heaviest freshwater turtles in the world, weighing up to 175lbs. They also live a very long time, up to 100 years. These turtles probably are not what you think of when you think pet turtle. That’s because like common snapping turtles, they don’t make good pets.

Alligator snapping turtles can be very dangerous and would not make great pets for beginner or even intermediate reptile owners. It’s probably best to leave this species to the pros. For experienced turtle keepers, alligator snapping turtles may become more docile with time and patience.

14. Yellow-Footed tortoise

Yellow-footed Tortoises make lovely pets and are adored among turtle keepers. Some, saying this is the best as far as pet tortoises go. The yellow-footed tortoise is beautiful and is known for having a great personality. They do require a large enclosure and a place they can soak. These tortoises will grow to 16-35 inches and weigh 25-35 lbs. The yellow-footed tortoise can live to be 60 years.

15. Red-footed tortoise

Red-footed tortoises, like yellow-footed tortoises, are also a favorite. They are beautiful and will need a large indoor or outdoor enclosure. If inside, they will need UVB. They will also need water and very high humidity between 70-80%, and heat. If you plan to bring home a tortoise, enclosure size and climate should be considered. They are very hardy, and when cared for properly, they can live for 50 years. They are a long-term commitment, but they are worth it.

16. Blanding’s turtle

Blanding’s turtles are a really neat turtle. They are semi-aquatic and will require room to swim. The Blanding’s will be about 7-10 inches. They are omnivores and love plants and live fish and insects. Blanding’s turtles are fascinating and always look like they are smiling, which gives them a unique trait. Blanding’s turtles can live 75+ years. They are a long-term commitment and will require a bit of work, getting the proper husbandry set up and maintained, but they are worth it.

17. Hermann’s tortoise

image by Andrzej S via Flickr | Public Domain

Hermann’s tortoise is a fantastic tortoise. They are a smaller species of tortoises. They stay between 5-8 inches but have been known to reach 11 inches. Hermann’s tortoises are small, but they still require a decent size enclosure, and they will take advantage of the entire area provided to them. They need a nice water area that will need to be cleaned daily due to bacteria, and they tend to relieve themselves in water, like most turtles. The Hermans do make great pets and can live for 30 years.

18. Chinese softshell turtle

image by Dennis Jarvis via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

The Chinese softshell turtle is indeed a unique-looking turtle with its elongated face and long nose. They live their lives almost completely underwater. Softshells don’t like to come out very often, and they can go up to 7 months without air during brumation. They do require a platform, but it doesn’t need to be very big. Softshells do require heat and UVB lighting and a sound filtration system because of their soft shells.

These turtles can have bacteria problems that can affect their health and need pristine and non-stagnant water. Chinese softshell turtles are not social and should be kept alone. The Chinese softshell turtle can live for 25 years. There is a bit more to their care, which should be considered when getting a softshell.

For the reasons mentioned above, Chinese softshells do not make the best pets.

19. Galapogos tortoise

If you are looking for a sizable prehistoric dinosaur, the Galapagos tortoise might be for you. They can live 80-120 years, but they can weigh more than 500lbs. These giant dinosaurs even seem to love affection, even though they say reptiles don’t enjoy our affections.

The Galapagos tortoise will require a vast area and a permit since it is an endangered species. Owning a Galapagos tortoise can be thoroughly enjoyable, but it is a big decision that should not be taken lightly. This is one you definitely want to check local laws to make sure they are legal to own where you live.

20. Fly river turtle (Pig-nosed turtle)

image by Jin Kemoole via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Fly river turtles reach approximately 30 inches and weigh 60lbs or more. Requiring a giant aquarium. They will need lots of room to swim and move through the water. They don’t do well in stagnant water and will require a good water flow. Fly river turtles are terrific pet turtles but are recommended to those who’ve had experience with turtles.

21. Northern red-bellied cooter

image by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region via Flickr | Public Domain

Northern red-bellied cooters are semi-aquatic turtles and stand out with their gorgeous color and pattern. You will need a sound filtration system, UVB and UVA light sources, and heat to keep one as a pet. A Northern red-bellied cooter can live up to 50 years, so they are a long-term commitment and delightful one.

22. Pancake tortoise

image by Rob DiCaterino via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Pancake tortoises are flat like a pancake, giving them a unique appearance compared to other tortoises. They are fairly easy to handle, and their care is relatively easy as tortoises go. They do stay smaller, only reaching sizes of 6-7 inches, and live 20+ years. The pancake tortoises are very hardy and do make great pets.

23. Leopard tortoise

Leopard tortoises are magnificent looking animals. These turtles get their name from the patterns on their shell. This species can make a great pet as far as giant tortoises go. They will need a large area and access to water. Leopard tortoises can live up to 100 years, and full-grown can get up to 18 inches.

24. Indian star tortoise

image by kuribo via Flickr | CC BY-SA

Indian star tortoises are beautiful and have a uniquely marked shell. They have star-shaped patterns all down their shells, which is where their name comes from. Indian star tortoises can live up to 50 years and be between 7-12 inches full grown.

The Indian star tortoise does like to dig and will require a deep substrate. They will also require water access, but their enclosure doesn’t need to be as large as some turtle species. If you are up for the long-term care of this beautiful animal, they are worth the effort.

Important: Native wild animals are protected by state and federal laws. Keeping a wild-caught animal of any type as a pet, is illegal in most places. Make sure to get your pet from a trusted breeder or pet shop. Some of the species in this list may be for advanced reptile owners only.

Robert from ReptileJam

Hey, I'm Robert, and I have a true passion for reptiles that began when I was just 10 years old. My parents bought me my first pet snake as a birthday present, which sparked my interest in learning more about them. read more...