Snapping Turtle Vs Painted Turtle As Pets – Full Comparison

Think you got what it takes to be the next master Splinter of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? Maybe you do, but you don’t know the difference between a Painted Turtle and Snapping Turtle? Here is a full comparison between Snapping Turtles and Painted Turtles and everything that you might need to know!

Including their diet, costs, can you keep them together, are they sociable, who’s more likely to be friends with you, to what size they grow into, and their different needs etc.

“The way of the Turtle, is the way of the Wise” -Master Splinter

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Cute Reptiles as Pets

Snapping Turtle Vs Painted Turtle: Full comparison

Painted turtles are relatively gentler, smaller, and easier to take care of, given their brightly colored shells, when compared to snapping turtles. As the latter has a more temperamental, and aggressive nature, grows larger and heavier, and has a huge tendency to fight back.

But it doesn’t mean snappers are bad turtles! They just need more understanding and love, making it more rewarding in the long run, and the same goes for the painted turtles.

If you’re into shells, scales, and animals that look like moving boxes, but don’t know where to start, then you’ve come to the perfect place! This article presents all that you need to know when it comes to your next perfect turtle, just remember that it’s turtles all the way down!

Snapping Turtle Vs Painted Turtle
Snapping turtle and painted turtle as pets

Appearance

Snapping turtles can be black, brown, or tan in color. They have a long tail and a large, black head, while their necks, legs, and tails are yellowish in color. The mouth of a snapping turtle resembles a hard, bony beak with no teeth.

On the other hand, painted turtles are brightly marked. The color of their shells are black to olive green. The shell bears colorful markings that might be yellow, orange, or a combination of the two and on the underside, the same marks are also visible. This turtle’s head and legs have brilliant yellow patterns.

This means that painted turtles are more colorful in terms of appearance compared to Snapping Turtles.

Shape, Size, Weight

The shape of snapping turtles are tapered. It is broadest at the front, where a mass of muscles supports its robust neck and front legs. 

Painted turtles are oval in shape and have a consistent thickness. They have a smooth shell that ranges in length from 90 to 250 mm and their top shell is rather flat. 

The snapping turtle may grow to be up to 19.5 in and weight exceeding 15 kg (33 lb.) An adult painted turtle may reach a length of 4 to 12 inches where males may weigh up to 300g, while females can reach up to 500g.

Not only are snappers heavier, but they’re also larger compared to painted turtles, so they eat much more too!

snapping turtle
Snapping turtle appearance

Habitat

Painted turtles are one of the most widespread and common turtles that are mostly found living in quiet, shallow freshwaters that have thick layers of mud around North America with populations ranging from southern Canada to northern Mexico. 

Snapping turtles may be found across North America, from eastern Canada and New England to the Rockies, in Mexico and Central America. These turtles prefer slow rivers, fresh or brackish water with muddy bottoms and lots of plants as it allows them to easily hide.

Snapping turtles are mostly found underwater, but painted turtles are more often found basking on dry land, so make sure you have islands or dry areas for your turtles.

Growth Rate And Lifespan

The snapping turtle’s life cycle is marked by a late maturity age and a sluggish reproductive rate, and adults often live a long period in the wild, up to 70 years in most cases. For painted turtles, they have been known to live for 35 to 40 years.

Snapping turtles takes 11 to 16 years to mature, while painted turtles take 6 to 8 years. Turtles that grow fast can produce in a shorter amount of time, therefore compensating for population losses.

Snapping turtles live a longer life compared to painted turtles, making them truly a lifetime companion.

painted turtle in the wild
Photo of painted turtle showing its shell (carapace)

Predators

Adult snapping turtles have very few predators such as coyotes, minks, crows, herons, hawks, owls, raccoons, and bears. In the southern United States, snapping turtles are preyed upon by alligators and alligator snapping turtles. 

Painted turtles will be caught by several predators. Turtles and their eggs will be preyed upon by raccoons, otters, mink, foxes, and other medium-sized predators.

Even with their hard shells, and ability to hide, humans are the number one predators of these turtles that often hunt them for their meat, shells, and scales (On behalf of humans, I’m sorry turtles).

Both painted and snapping turtles have common predators such as raccoons, foxes, and alligators that often feed on the eggs from turtle nests. Their hatchlings are also eaten by frogs, snakes, wading birds, and other predatory fishes.

Active level

Snapping Turtles are typically nocturnal, whereas during the day, they burrow under the mud or sand on the bottom and wait for prey to swim along. They are frequently more active at night, or during dusk and dawn foraging and hunting their prey.

On the other hand, the painted turtle is only active during the day, when it basks for hours on logs or rocks, relying on the warmth of its environment. This turtle needs to maintain an internal body temperature of 17–23 °C (63–73 °F) in order to be active.

Painted Turtles are mostly found active at morning, basking on logs, dry areas, and even on top of one another. At nighttime, they sleep on bottoms of marshlands, ponds, freshwater, or on nonmoving and submerged objects like rocks.

This means that you’ll most likely see your painted turtle compared to a snapping turtle (That is if you sleep early of course).

Personality and Defense Mechanisms

The Missouri Conservation Department, and other turtle conservatories recommend handling the shell towards the tail while picking up a snapping turtle to avoid being bitten. Snappers will not retreat inside its shell, preferring to fight back aggressively.

When opposed to snapping turtles, painted turtles have a kinder temperament. Although a frightened painted turtle may attempt to bite, its primary response is to withdraw itself back inside its shell.

This is why snapping turtles are not for beginners, and big families especially with little children.

Diet

A snapping turtle in the wild loves insects, crayfish, fish, earthworms, amphibians, small animals, and birds, according to the Missouri Conservation Department and other reptilian researchers. Aquatic vegetation makes up a third of its diet.

A painted turtle on the other hand will consume both plants and meat. As a pet, Both turtles thrive on a diet of leafy greens, bananas, and apples, as well as minnows, snails, guppies, and tiny quantities of cooked chicken and beef.

Remember that given that Snapping Turtles grow larger, they will tend to eat more over painted turtles,so a diet plan must be properly considered.

Feeding painted turtles [source: Snake Discovery]

Brumation

Due to ice covering their habitats in the north, some snapping turtles do not breathe for six months onwards. By pulling their heads back and making gas exchange possible through their mouth and throat these turtles may get oxygen for that duration.

In the winter, Brumation, a period of dormancy similar to hibernation, is practiced by Painted Turtles. These turtles don’t breathe via their lungs during brumation, they use their butts instead (what a weird way to breathe, turtles), and this process is called cloacal respiration.

Painted turtles undergo brumation in the mud at the bottoms of marshes, lakes, and slow-moving streams. While some snapping turtles do not undergo brumation as they have extremely high tolerance to the cold.

Mating

The breeding season for Snapping turtles ranges from April to November and are most active in mating throughout the summer months. Painted turtles, on the other hand, start from late spring to early summer, particularly from March to mid-June, with the peak breeding season in April. 

Male Painted Turtles achieve sexual maturity between the ages of 3 and 5. These turtles engage in a lengthy, and intricate mating ritual. They make eye contact with the opposite sex and display their large front claws.

A mating behavior akin to all turtles which is most evidently observed in male snapping turtles are their aggressiveness. As they coerce female snapping turtles to submission for them to mate that can result in injuries and wounds on the female turtle’s shell.

Female painted turtles take longer sexual maturity, (6-10 years) and are larger in size and in the early summer females lay 4 to 15 oval, soft-shelled eggs, in a flask-shaped hole. For female snapping turtles, they usually fight back but eventually become submissive.

Snapping turtles start courting by facing each other and shifting their heads from side to side. Mating begins when the male mounts the female and adjusts his tail beneath hers such that the cloacal openings touch.

A unique courtship ritual done by snapping turtles is when they meet face to face, courtship starts. He then uses his front claws to brush her face and neck, a move that is reciprocated by a receptive female. This process multiple times until the female swims to the bottom, where they copulate.

If you want to breed your turtles, make sure that you have sufficient space, and volume of water.

Reproduction

For both turtles, their mating system is polygynous where a male can have multiple partners and depends on their dominance towards other male turtles.

Female painted turtles dig their holes in light, sandy soil with plenty of sun exposure. In 60 to 80 days, the eggs will hatch. Hatchlings who hatch from eggs laid in the middle of the summer stay in the nest until early spring.

On the other hand, female snapping turtles will travel considerable distances in search of a suitable location to dig a nest and lay their eggs and have been discovered up to a mile away from the nearest water source.

Turtle hatchlings make their way out of the nest on their own making them self-sufficient practically right away. They cover the opening and leave once the eggs are deposited.

Fun fact: The temperature of the nest tells which gender the turtle hatchlings are: Males for colder temperatures, and warmer temperatures for females.

Click here for more information about turtle reproduction

Required Take Care

One way to keep your turtles happy is by providing simulated habitat in their nature when setting up their house in captivity. Knowing the correct humidity, heating, lighting, and tank size will help to make it easier.

Enclosure Size

A 10-gallon aquarium would be enough for both snapping and painted turtle hatchlings, but a 120-gallon turtle tank is the recommended size that adult snapping turtles need, and a 100-gallon for adult painted turtles.

Snapping turtles don’t swallow food on land but painted turtles do, this is why a basking area of dry land or a small island that will serve as dry docking station is also required for both turtles to receive proper heat and UV rays.

 Lighting, heating, humidity requirements

Our pet dinosaurs need light too! The basking area requires suitable heat-inducing lights provided by incandescent or fluorescent lighting with a power modified depending on the height of the enclosure size. 

Snapping turtles generally require a basking area of 90F and humidity level of around 80 F-86F. Their water temperature should be between 75F-78F for adults, but for hatchlings they need 78F-80F.

In contrast, a painted turtle requires a higher temperature for their basking area which is 85F-90F and air temperature of 80 F-85F. Their water temperature should be around room temperature or even cooler which is at 68–72F

For heat lighting, both turtles need a 50-watt bulb to maintain the recommended heat levels.

 Note: Snapping Turtle Hatchlings need a water heater that is 50-watts for their 10-gallon tanks, while Painted Turtle Hatchlings don’t.

Suitability: Best for Whom?

One of the most delightful pets is a peaceful painted turtle. On the other hand, a temperamental snapping turtle, which has a tendency for snapping at a lot of things, is not. In addition, the snapping turtle is way larger than the painted turtle creating more difficulties to manage.

Since painted turtles are typically mild mannered, and easier to take care of given their calm and non-aggressive nature, these turtles are more suitable for first time caretakers, novices, and breeders. Especially if you have youngsters in the family.

Snapping turtles on the other hand require more caution given their tendencies to be hostile and fight back when mishandled which makes them not for novice breeders or pet keepers.. On top of that, snapping turtles produce more sound that can be generally disturbing or irritating.

Take a lot of thought in choosing your next family friend, snapping or painted turtles both require a lifetime commitment.

Costs

So, you’ve decided to walk the path of turtles and decided to nurture a mini dinosaur. Here’s the costs of both turtles.

TurtleCost
Baby Snapping Turtle$15-$25
Adult Snapping Turtle$20-$150
Baby Painted Turtle$15-$30
Adult Painted Turtle$20-$140
Table showing price for baby and adult snapping and painted turtle

The prices of turtles generally depend on a lot of factors, namely: age, size, gender, type, breed, season, location of the pet store, location of your residence, availability, and stock etc. Which is why it is recommended that you visit your local pet shop and keep in mind…

Owning a turtle can be very expensive from the enclosure size, maintaining their habitats and diet, and keeping the optimal temperature for them. Which is why owning mini dinosaurs sure is fun, but it is a lifetime commitment too, you wouldn’t want your turtles to live a bad life wouldn’t you?

Ability To Keep In Groups

Did you know that a group of turtles are called “A bale of turtles?” Probably not, because they’re not necessarily an interactive species. Although not totally sociable animals, painted turtles are sociable and can live in groups with other turtles and other species that have comparable housing requirements.

Though both sexes are capable of territorial or dominating characteristics, as long as ample space and hiding places are available, this behavior is rarely severe enough to cause significant injury. But painted turtles are known for basking in large groups.

Note: Since painted turtles are not domesticated creatures who thrive on human affection and interaction, they should only be handled in emergency situations.

On the other hand, snapping turtles are solitary, which means that they usually live alone. Many turtles can be found in a small area, but their interaction is limited to either aggression or domination among individuals, particularly, males.

The number of turtles living in the same area is dependent on the amount of food available, it’s best to keep your snapping turtles to one per enclosure to avoid interspecies aggression.

Can You Keep Snapping Turtles And Painted Turtles Together?

Have you ever heard of the saying “Turtles of the same shell come together”? No? Well there isn’t one. Since turtles may co-exist, but not necessarily cohabitate. Meaning to say, even if they’re the same species, they won’t get along well.

Keeping them together as hatchlings sure, but it’s not a good idea to keep your two turtles together as they approach sexual maturity. When the time comes, one of them, most likely the snapper, will try to assert dominance over the other.

Another thing to consider is the total enclosure size and what they eat. As snappers can really grow big your painted turtle might not appreciate living in an enclosed space. There’s also a tendency for them to fight over food.

As your turtles grow older and larger, it will become more dangerous, and you wouldn’t want to find your painted turtle losing a limb or being injured and eventually dying. Build that tank already, for your other turtle’s sake.

Wrapping Up

Taking care of a turtle, or any pet no matter the species, breed or type, is a lifelong commitment. It’s like having a new baby, but it sure would be rewarding, and fun. Just remember to always be ready for whatever your turtle might need, especially their personalities since turtles live for a really long time.

There are many things to consider when taking care of a turtle such as enclosure size (which might be the most expensive), their diets, and their personalities. So, go for snappers if you want a challenge! or perhaps you might want a mild painted turtle instead.