How Big Do Painted Turtles Get?

Painted turtles make excellent pets, but they require a great deal of love and care to maintain. Given proper diet, lighting, and exercise they can live for an extended period in captivity.

These aquatic turtles can be found throughout North America, preferring ponds, lakes and slow-moving rivers. Typically they nest in flask-shaped cavities in sandy or slightly moist soil near water at sunny locations. Females lay 2-20 eggs that hatch after 76 days.

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Painted turtles are peaceful creatures that live in ponds, marshes and slow-moving streams throughout North America. They enjoy basking in the sun or swimming in the water – ideal conditions being a shallow pond with a muddy bottom and plenty of structure for them to rest on (such as rocks or logs) should they get tired from swimming.

They have remarkable cold tolerance, being able to hibernate underwater or in mud for months at a time during winter in order to maintain their internal body temperature. To do this, they make energy at a slower rate without using oxygen in anaerobic respiration – an aerobic chemical process.

Four subspecies of painted turtles exist, each distinct in its morphology and habitat use. The western painted turtle is the largest subspecies and can be found throughout much of Oregon.

This species’ carapace measures up to 25 cm long (Ernst and Lovich 2009), is distinguished by a notched upper jaw and red markings on its marginal scutes. The vertebral scutes and pleural scutes of the shell are aligned in a straight line while their plastron is disaligned from one another, creating reticulate melannism.

They typically breed between March and mid-June, with males laying 1 to 23 eggs in a nest made of loose soil and twigs. The female uses her hind feet to dig the nest which she then places on an open surface within about 200 yards of water. Once laid, the eggs hatch after around 10 weeks.


Painted turtles can be found in a variety of water environments, such as ponds, marshes and slow-moving streams. They prefer calm waters with a muddy bottom and plenty of basking spots for resting.

These turtles are ectotherms, meaning they get hot in the sun and cool off in shade. Captive painted turtles will do best in large water sources with plenty of places to bask, as well as underwater vegetation for cover.

Omnivorous creatures, they eat a wide range of foods such as insects, fish, frogs, salamanders and birds; they even consume carrion.

These turtles are most active from March through November in the wild. Mating and nesting occur early spring. Males search for females by scooting between aquatic habitats; once they locate her, he initiates courtship by gently massaging her head and neck with his foreclaws.

When young, painted turtles feed on both plants and animals alike. They have the capacity to detect moving prey more easily than stationary ones, so they often ambush their food by striking into a plant with their head or limbs. Sometimes they use their forefeet to tear apart food into chunks before chewing it up in their mouths.

Painted turtles tend to live a long life, with some individuals reaching thirty or forty years old. Their primary threat comes from nest predation by raccoons which have been observed raiding eggs and hatchlings in the wild.

In the United States, there are two subspecies of painted turtle: western painted turtles are found in western and northern regions, while eastern painted turtles live further east. Where these two subspecies overlap, intergrades may take place.


In the wild, painted turtles feed on a variety of animals and plants such as fish, frogs, slugs, tadpoles, snails, and crayfish. When kept in captivity they can be fed crickets, worms, bull minnows, fruits and vegetables.

Omnivores, they eat both plants and meats alike. Furthermore, they possess a keen sense of smell as well as the capacity to communicate through touch.

Painted turtles primarily subsist on fish and insects in the wild, though they will also consume plants. These foods supply them with all the essential nutrients for optimal growth and development.

These omnivores can be difficult to care for, so you need to ensure they get the proper foods in order to remain healthy. Here are some of the best food options for painted turtles:

A balanced diet for your turtle should consist of plants, vegetables and proteins or meats. You should feed your turtles at least two times a week to help them remain at an ideal weight and prevent future health issues.

It is also essential to make sure the water your turtles drink is clean. Dirty water can lead to a variety of health issues for them.

Additionally, ensure your turtles get enough calcium. This is essential for their bone development and overall wellbeing.

If you want to give your turtle some fruit as an occasional treat, do so only occasionally. Eating too much fruit can make it hard for them to digest and could lead to their becoming overweight.


Male and female painted turtles exhibit physical distinctions such as the shape of their plastron, longer tails, and shorter claws.

The plastron is the bottom shell that protects turtles from predators. Male turtles usually have a concave plastron, while females typically have flatter ones.

Other distinguishing features between male and female are their color tones. Females usually exhibit more pinkish and lighter tones than their male counterparts.

A painted turtle’s size can be an indicator of its gender. They typically reach seven to eight inches long in the wild.

They may have a longer snout than females, though this difference is subtle. With careful observation, however, you’ll notice it.

Another gender-related cue is the cloaca, or opening at the end of the tail. Males usually have it higher up near their tip while females have it closer to the shell.

With this in mind, it is easier to tell the difference between a female and male painted turtle. A female may have a larger nest and lay more eggs while the male does not.

Wild female foxes dig their nests with their hind feet in soft sandy soil within 200 meters of water, using both feet. Here they lay 4 to 15 oval, soft-shelled eggs.

Male painted turtles use their claws to hold onto a female’s shell during mating. Additionally, they will stroke her head and neck to encourage her to release sperm into her oviduct (fallopian tube).


Painted turtles make great pets, but they require special care. Not only are they more difficult to keep than other turtle species, they don’t enjoy being handled, and have exceptionally long lifespans – making them a huge responsibility.

Turtles require a large enclosure to thermoregulate, explore, and hunt safely. Therefore, it’s recommended that they be housed in an aquarium or pond. If you opt for indoor tanks, make sure the room is completely watertight and leak-proof.

A painted turtle’s enclosure must provide a warm basking spot where they can warm up. A submersible heat lamp, halogen light or water heater can meet their heat requirements and should be provided in the enclosure to maintain temperatures between 80-85 degrees Fahrenheit.

Ectothermic (cold-blooded) turtles like painted turtles require external sources of heat to regulate their body temperature and keep themselves healthy. To warm up in the wild, these reptiles often climb out of the water and bask on logs or rocks.

You can achieve this in captivity by providing them with a variety of aquatic plants and meat-based foods. Popular options include romaine lettuce, cantaloupe, banana, kale, mango, and strawberries.

You can provide them with insects and worms to complete their diet. Additionally, you could supplement their food with commercially produced turtle pellets.

When handling your turtle, it is essential to wash your hands before and after doing so. Doing this helps avoid the spread of Salmonella bacteria which can lead to serious illness in humans.

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