Top 13 Best Beginner Pet Turtles

In a world where several species of wild animals including turtles and tortoises are becoming popular pets, how do you know the best beginner pet to choose from? Nothing to worry! From our list of Top 13 Best Beginner Pet Turtles, you’ll find a turtle species that best meet your needs.

Turtles are fascinating and mind-blowing creatures that you can keep as a pet. This is because they are easy to love, quiet, and undemanding like conventional pets. Furthermore, they have a relatively long lifespan, and you will enjoy a lot of fun moments keeping them.

Turtles are cute creatures and can live both on water and on land. However, owning a pet turtle is not for every household. This is because they are not as interactive as other common pets and may also be carrying diseases.

There is a wide range of turtle species which can make choosing a pet turtle difficult for beginner hobbyists. In this article, we have put up a list of some of the best turtles that beginner hobbyists can keep as a pet.

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Cute Reptiles as Pets

Things to Consider Before Choosing A Turtle As Pet

Here are some things that you can consider as a beginner hobbyist before getting a pet turtle.

Enclosure Requirement

Before choosing a turtle, you need to know everything about their enclosure requirement, from the right lighting to the water filtration system. Most turtles require a lot of space in their enclosure. 

This is because you will need to provide a space where they can swim and a place to get out of the water and bask. As a beginner hobbyist, you should opt for turtle species that are easy to set up their habitat and maintain.

Lifespan

Most turtle species can live for about 20 years or longer in captivity. You should keep in mind that their diet, space, and other needs can easily change as they grow, and you should be prepared for this. 

A beginner hobbyist needs to opt for turtle species with a long lifespan and be ready for a long-term commitment.

Availability

You should choose a turtle that is easy to find as a beginner hobbyist. This is because if a turtle is more available, you can easily learn about the turtle and get help whenever you want.

Hardiness

As a beginner hobbyist, you are likely going to make mistakes when rearing your turtle. This is why it is best to go for turtles that are very hardy and can tolerate the conditions that you put them in.

Size Of The Turtle

The size of a turtle usually determines the care, habitat requirement, and other needs that a turtle will need. Most beginner hobbyists usually opt for smaller turtle species because they require smaller habitats, and it is less expensive to care for them.

Time Commitment

Most turtle species are messy creatures, and having only a strong filter in their enclosure will not be enough. They require daily care to keep them happy and healthy. As a beginner hobbyist, you should research everything about caring for a turtle species before getting it and get ready for the commitment.

Diet

The type of turtle that you choose will determine its diet. Generally, most turtles are omnivores and will eat insects, dark leafy greens, fish, freeze-dried mealworms, etc. However, land turtles usually have a different diet when compared to water turtles.

As a beginner turtle owner, you should research everything about the food requirement of a turtle. You should also go for turtle species that you can easily source for their food.

Health Risks

Before choosing a turtle as a pet, you should consider its health risks. It is believed that turtles can transmit salmonella to humans, which can lead to serious illness. You should avoid getting a turtle for children under five years old or people with low immune systems.

You will also need to maintain good hygiene and wash your hands before and after handling a turtle to avoid health risks.

Best Beginner Pet Turtles

Here are some of the best turtles that are suitable for beginner hobbyists.

Beginner Pet TurtlesSizePrice
Red eared slider12 inches$11- $250
Yellow bellied slider5-13 inches$25 – $75
Mississippi map turtles5- 8 inches$20 – $48
African sideneck turtle6-9 inches$50 – $100
Eastern Box turtle4-6 inches$50 – $400
Three-toed box turtle4-11 inches$40 – $100
Western Painted turtle10 inches$99 – $150
Gulf coast box turtle8 inches$100 – $400
Southern painted turtle4-6 inches$75 – $150
Eastern painted turtle5-7 inches$70 – $130
Common musk turtle3-5 inches$35 – $120
Reeve’s turtle6-9 inches$44 – $64
Razorback musk turtle5-6 inches$25 – $100
Size and price comparison of top 13 best beginner pet turtles
best beginner pet turtles
Yellow-Bellied Slider and Red Eared Slider turtle species

Red Eared Slider

Red-eared sliders, also known as slider turtle, water slider turtle, red-eared terrapin, are among the most popular species of aquatic turtle. This is because they are friendly, sociable, active, and widely available. 

They are suitable for beginners because they are hardy species and can live for about 50 years under optimal care. They also grow to a decent size of about 12 inches long. However, you will need to provide them with a large tank with adequate areas for basking. 

Red-eared sliders are considered messy turtles, and you will need a good water filtration system in their tank. You can house your red-eared sliders both in an indoor or outdoor pond.

Yellow-Bellied Slider

This is another popular slider species suitable for beginners. This is because they are hardy, colorful, entertaining, and easy to care for. You will find them in a wide range of colors, from green-yellow to black.

You can identify them by the bold stripes that line their head, neck, and shell. Yellow-bellied sliders can grow to about 5-13 inches long, and you will need a 100-gallon tank to house them. Furthermore, they can live between 30-40 years under optimal care.

Mississippi Map Turtles

The Mississippi map turtles are a small species of tortoise suitable for all kinds of hobbyists. They are great swimmers and prefer living close to permanent bodies of moving water and also in lakes. 

They are called map turtles because of their shell’s scute lines that look like a topographical map. They also have a unique and attractive look due to the yellow lines found on their head and legs. 

Mississippi map turtles are personable turtles which makes them perfect for beginners. They become motivated by food, and you will see them swimming to their owner for treats. Furthermore, males usually grow to about 5 inches while the female can reach 8 inches long. 

This makes it easier to house them in a standard aquarium in your home. They can live for about 40-50 years under optimal care.

an African Side-neck Turtle and the Mississippi Map Turtles
An African Side-neck Turtle and the Mississippi Map Turtles

African Side-neck Turtle

The African sideneck turtle, also known as the African helmeted turtle, is a popular turtle due to its unique appearance. They have long necks that cannot retract fully into their shell. They are small-sized turtles and can grow to about 6-9 inches long.

Although they are small in size, they need a large tank of at least 75 gallons because they love swimming. African sideneck turtles are curious turtle species if you don’t force interactions with them.

This makes them perfect for beginner hobbyists as they don’t hide when their owners come to observe them. African sideneck turtles can live for 20 years or longer under optimal care.

Note: They have a complex care requirement for some turtle species. They are best for beginners ready to put in the time.

Eastern Box Turtle

The eastern box turtle is one of the most popular box turtle subspecies. They are perfect for beginner hobbyists as they are hardy creatures and are widely available. Eastern box turtles have four toes on their back feet and are available in a wide range of colors.

They are small-sized turtles and can grow to about 4-6 inches long. However, you will need to house them in a 50-gallon tank to keep them happy. Furthermore, they have a long lifespan and can live under optimal care for about 25-50 years.

Although eastern box turtles do not like frequent handling, they have fun personalities that you will love.

Note: The eastern box turtle is suitable for beginner hobbyists that are ready to learn about their dietary needs.

Three-Toed Box Turtle and Eastern Box Turtle
Three-Toed Box Turtle and Eastern Box Turtle

Three-Toed Box Turtle

This turtle species is named three-toed box turtles because of the three toes found on its hind legs. They look similar to Gulf coast box turtles and are commonly found along the Mississippi river valley. They usually have orange and red patterns and are available in different colors.

Although three-toed box turtles are quite shy creatures, they will warm up to their owner after getting used to them.  They usually grow to about 4-11 inches long, and you will need to house them in an outdoor pen. However, you will need to provide them with shallow water for soaking.

Three-toed box turtles also love digging, and you will need to keep them in a spot where they can dig the ground. However, they can live for about 15-20 years under optimal care.

Western Painted Turtle

The western painted turtle is suitable for beginners looking for a turtle with a distinctive and attractive appearance. You will surely find their detailed shell markings mesmerizing. However, they are a shy turtle species and do not enjoy frequent handling.

They usually grow to about 10 inches long and can live for about 50 years under optimal care. However, you will need to house them in a large tank or outdoor space with a good water filtration system to keep them healthy.

Note: western painted turtles love eating while swimming, and it is best to feed them with food that they can easily lift out of the water.

Gulf Coast Box Turtle and Western Painted Turtle
Gulf Coast Box Turtle and Western Painted Turtle

Gulf Coast Box Turtle

Gulf Coast box turtles are commonly found along the North American gulf coast and Texas. They usually have a brown color, and their shells are covered with a wide range of yellow or red patterns. 

You can identify them by their dark brown heads, usually spotted, and they have red eyes. They can grow to about 8 inches long, and you can house them in an outdoor pen. They have a long lifespan and can live for about 25-50 years under optimal care.

Note: it is difficult to care for gulf coast box turtles, and they are suitable for beginners that want to learn the complex care requirements of turtles.

Southern Painted Turtle

Southern painted turtles are commonly found in the central United States from Illinois to Louisiana. They usually have a dark green to black color with a bright red dorsal stripe. Furthermore, they are considered the smallest species of the painted turtle.

They can grow to about 4-6 inches long, making southern painted turtles a perfect pet for beginners looking for small turtles. They also have a docile temperament and require lower maintenance, unlike other painted turtle types.

They can live for 25-45 years, and you can house them in a 40-gallon tank.

Eastern Painted Turtle

The eastern painted turtle is quite similar to the southern painted turtle, and they both have the same shell color, but it has a yellow or red border. They originate from New England, Canada, and the US. Eastern painted turtles sometimes possess a red dorsal stripe on their body.

They are a hardy turtle species which makes them a perfect pet for beginner hobbyists. Eastern painted turtles have friendly temperaments and can adjust to a wide range of captive environments. 

They usually grow to about 5-7 inches long, and you can house them in a 40-gallon tank. They can live for around 25-30 years under optimal care.

Common Musk Turtle

Common musk turtles, also known as stinkpots, are among the most popular aquatic turtle species. They are small in size, usually about 3-5 inches long. They are a perfect beginner reptile as they have less intensive care requirements.

However, they do not do well with handling as they are feisty and usually release a foul and musty odor when threatened. Furthermore, they are not a strong swimmer like other aquatic turtles, and you should ensure the water in their enclosure is not too deep.

Common musk turtles have a long lifespan and can live for over 50 years under optimal care.

Reeve's Turtle and Razorback Musk Turtle
Reeve’s Turtle and Razorback Musk Turtle

Reeve’s Turtle

Reeve’s turtle, also called the Chinese pond turtle, is considered among the most sociable turtles listed here. Unlike most aquatic turtles, they sometimes enjoy being stroked if you can be patient with them. However, handling can be stressful to them, and you should only handle them when needed.

They have similar care requirements to the red-eared slider but don’t need a large enclosure. They are small in size, usually around 6-9 inches long. However, they don’t have a long lifespan and can live for about 20 years under optimal care.

Razorback Musk Turtle

Razorback musk turtles are commonly found in the southeastern part of the United States. They are usually brown or green, and you can identify them by a high shell creating a ridge along their spine. Furthermore, they are perfect for beginner hobbyists due to their uniqueness, small size, and easy-care level.

Although they are not aggressive turtles and do not bite, they are not that good with handling. They usually grow to 5-6 inches long but are still the largest species of musk turtles out there. You can house them in a 30-gallon tank and can live for 20 years in captivity.

Wrapping Up

Turtles are mind-blowing and unique pets suitable for beginner hobbyists looking for a unique pet experience. You will surely enjoy lots of fun keeping them, and you will learn how you can be a responsible owner.

Turtles are available in a wide range of species, and you will surely find one that suits your lifestyle.