Human petting a turtle on his hands

Can Turtles Be Kept as Pets? Yes, turtles can be kept as pets, but they require specific care and commitment to ensure their well-being.

Turtles are fascinating creatures that can make wonderful pets for those willing to invest in their care.

They are known for their longevity, unique behaviors, and relatively low maintenance compared to some other pets.

However, it’s important to understand their specific needs and requirements.

Understanding Turtle Care

Before bringing a turtle home, check local regulations regarding turtle ownership. Some species are protected, and owning them without proper permits can be illegal.

In the United States, the sale of turtles with a shell length of less than four inches is prohibited due to health risks associated with Salmonella.

Turtle Species

Different turtle species have varying care requirements. Research the specific needs of the species you’re interested in to ensure you can provide the right environment. There are several types of turtles commonly kept as pets:

  • Red-Eared Sliders: Popular for their hardy nature and adaptability.
  • Painted Turtles: Known for their vibrant colors and active behavior.
  • Box Turtles: Terrestrial turtles that need a more land-based habitat.
  • Aquatic Turtles: Require a water-filled environment with a basking area.

Explore our detailed guide on Turtle pet care for more information.

Refer to Wikipedia for more detailed information about different turtle species and their care requirements.

Setting Up the Ideal Habitat

Creating the right environment is essential for your turtle’s health and well-being.

For aquatic turtles like Red-Eared Sliders and Painted Turtles, provide a spacious tank with at least 10 gallons of water per inch of turtle shell, a powerful filter to maintain clean water, and a dry basking area with a heat lamp for thermoregulation.

For land-based turtles like Box Turtles, set up a large terrarium with a secure lid, use soil or a mix of soil and sand as substrate for digging, and include hideouts to help the turtle feel secure.

Learn more about setting up a turtle tank and creating an outdoor pond for turtles.

Diet and Nutrition

Turtles, being omnivores, require a balanced diet of animal protein and plant matter.

Feed them a mix of commercial turtle pellets, live or frozen feeder fish, insects, and leafy greens such as kale, collard greens, and dandelion greens.

Young turtles should be fed daily, while adults can be fed every other day. Be sure to remove any uneaten food to maintain water quality.

Health and Wellness

Turtles can encounter several health issues if not properly cared for, including shell rot, which is a bacterial or fungal infection, respiratory infections due to poor water quality or insufficient basking areas, and internal and external parasites.

Regular check-ups with a reptile-specialist veterinarian are essential for maintaining their health.

Be vigilant for signs of illness such as lethargy, loss of appetite, swelling, or abnormal behavior, and consult a vet immediately if these symptoms are observed.

Read more about how to know if a turtle is sick and what can turtle eat.

Handling and Interaction

person holding a baby turtle

Turtles are not naturally affectionate and generally do not enjoy frequent handling, so handle them gently and only when necessary to reduce stress.

To keep your turtle stimulated, provide enrichment in their habitat with plants, rocks, and hiding spots.

Regularly observe their behavior to ensure they have a safe and comfortable environment.


Turtles can make fascinating pets if you are prepared to meet their specific needs.

Ensure you comply with legal regulations, provide a suitable habitat, maintain proper diet and nutrition, and monitor their health regularly.

With the right setup and attention, turtles can thrive and live long, healthy lives as beloved pets.