Painted Turtles

Painted turtles
Painted turtles. Getty Images/Brian E. Kushner

Painted turtles are very popular aquatic turtles but many new owners don't realize how big their new turtle will get and the housing requirements of a water turtle.

Painted Turtles

  • Name: Painted turtle, Chrysemys picta, Eastern Painted turtle, Southern Painted turtle, Midland Painted turtle, Western Painted turtle
  • Size: Four to ten inches long with the males being smaller
  • Lifespan: Over 50 years in the wild

    Painted Turtle Housing

    The painted turtle is an aquatic (water) turtle. It spends the majority of it's time swimming and the rest of the time eating and basking on a dry rock in the sun. The care of painted turtles is much more like a fish in that they need a tank almost entirely filled with water in addition to the reptile lighting set up.

    Full grown painted turtles need plenty of swimming space. The largest tank possible is needed for your water turtle and ideally holds over 100 gallons of water. Gravel built up with larger rocks to create a beach on one side of the tank serves well as a basking area and dry docking station for your turtle or a variety of floating accessories are available at pet stores.

    Water quality is very important to animals that spend the majority of their lives in H2O. Dirty water can cause a number of infections among other things. Good, quality filters are a must for any painted turtle enclosure to keep the water clean, clear, and not smelling.

    Submersible filters like the Cascade Internal Filter and canister filters are your best options for clean water. They should be constantly running to not only provide filtration but also aeration to the water.

    Painted Turtle Diet

    Painted turtles typically eat their food while swimming but some species have been noted to eat on dry land.

    Aquatic turtle pellets are a good staple diet for painted turtles but they should also get some fresh leafy vegetables or plants. Dark, leafy greens like romaine, dandelion greens, fresh parsley should be placed in the water on a regular basis or clipped to the side of the tank with a suction cup clip sold in the fish department. Fresh, chopped apple pieces and freeze dried shrimp can be offered as treats.

    Painted turtles also eat some insects, crustaceans, and fish. Fatty fish like goldfish should be avoided along with larger high protein food like mice. The majority of their diet should be plant based.

    Painted Turtle Lighting

    If housed indoors, UVB lighting and supplemental heat lights should be provided. Painted turtles don't need extremely warm temperatures but will be more active and eat better if kept around 85 degrees Fahrenheit. If temperatures are allowed to drop below the 60's your turtle may become more lethargic, not eat well, and start to go into hibernation. Turtles that are housed outside in warmer months should be brought inside to a warmer environment when the outside temperature gets too cool to prevent hibernation.

    UVB lighting should be provided for 12 hours a day, year-round in the form of a special reptile UVB bulb.

    It should also be replaced every six months since the invisible UVB rays expire before the visible white light does. Painted turtles that are housed outside do not need supplemental UVB lights since they receive natural UVB rays from the sun.

    Painted Turtle Health

    Painted turtles are relatively easy to care for with the proper setup and diet. But they can run into some health issues.

    Intestinal parasites are found naturally in most reptiles, including painted turtles, but they can become a problem if they overpopulate the intestinal tract. Therefore, annual fecal parasite exams should be performed by your exotics vet.

    If water quality is a problem, your turtle can get skin, shell, and ear infections from the dirty water. If too much algae is building up on your turtle's shell or skin, use a soft toothbrush to help keep it clean.

    Ear infections are recognized as large bumps behind your turtle's eye and need to be cleaned out by your vet and your turtle placed on antibiotics.

    Your turtle's beak and nails should be maintained at a good length and may need periodic trimming if they are unable to grind them down in the environment or because there is an underlying health issue causing the excessive growth.

    Without proper UVB lighting and calcium from the turtle pellets, painted turtles will develop metabolic bone disease and shell deformities. If you suspect your turtle has a health issue get him in to see a vet as soon as possible.