Are Turtles Good Pets? [How Hard Is It To Keep Turtles?]

Image of a pet turtle

Most people will agree that turtles are adorable. They’re also fascinating to watch as they swim around in the water and bask on heated platforms. But, are turtles good pets?

Turtles are usually good pets for people who don’t have a lot of time to spend with them. As long as they are fed a healthy diet, and their environment is kept clean and warm, they will live a healthy life. However, turtles are not recommended as pets for toddlers as they carry salmonella bacteria.

For people who are at work or school all day, turtles are actually better suited as pets than cats or dogs. This is because turtles don’t thrive on attention as mammals do. The only time that you are really going to interact with your pet turtle is when you’re feeding it. Other than that, they prefer to be left alone.

Pros And Cons Of A Pet Turtle

ProsCons
Turtles don’t need or want a lot of attention. Perfect for people who are out all day.You won’t be able to interact or hold them much, if at all. Not good for people who like to hold and touch their pets.
Turtles are unique and interesting to observe. It can be relaxing to watch your turtle swimming around in the water.You have to continually monitor and clean their environment. The water needs to be highly filtered and leftover food must be removed.
You can feed them with a variety of insects that you find in your garden. Free food for your pet is rare, but not for turtles.Feeding only pellets to your turtles can negatively impact their health. They need protein in their diet as well.
Some turtles remain very small throughout their lifetime and are therefore easier to care for.Some turtles get very big over a few years and will therefore become very difficult to care for.
Turtles are very cheap and easy to find, sometimes even free with aquariums if you get them from people who don’t want them anymore.Turtles are expensive to look after. Turtle pellets, environment control, and regular cleaning can add up at the end of the month.
Turtles are a long term commitment. Up to 40 years for small box turtles and 80 years for most other larger turtles.
Turtles can carry bacteria like Salmonella.


Are Pet Turtles Friendly?

Turtles are usually not friendly. That’s not to say they are vicious or anything, but they really just don’t care about humans much until it’s feeding time.

In very rare instances, a turtle might show some affection towards their owner and walk up to them to be touched or held.

However, this is extremely rare, and you should keep in mind that this won’t happen if you get a pet turtle for yourself.

Recommended Further Reading:

How Hard Is It To Keep Turtles?

Keeping a turtle fit and healthy is more tedious than it is difficult. What we mean by this is that feeding your turtle every day, monitoring water temperatures, and keeping the water clean (with filters) isn’t difficult. However, the fact that you need to do these things every day means that the amount of time that you will spend looking after your turtle can add up quickly.

Here are the key activities that you will need to carry out while keeping a turtle as a pet…

Provide A Well-Balanced Diet

Baby turtles need to be fed daily with turtle pellets, small insects, and feeder fish.

Finely chopped up leafy greens is also well suited for a baby turtles diet.

Just remove any food from the tank that isn’t eaten within a couple of hours to keep the water as clean as possible.

Related Further Reading:

Keep The Water And Tank Clean

Turtles can eat quite a bit, and what goes in must come out. So with your turtle pooping in the water whenever nature calls, the water can get dirty and unhealthy very quickly. This is why you need to filter the water very well. A good way of making sure you have enough filtration in your aquarium is to install double the amount of filtration required for the water you have in the tank.

In addition to filtering the water, you should also drain 25% to 33% of it every week and replace it with fresh water. Every three to four weeks, you should completely drain your tank and refill it with fresh water.

Water from your faucet will do just fine as long as you add some conditioner drops to neutralize the chlorine. Chlorine is added to recycled water for killing the bacteria, but it will negatively affect your turtle’s health if you don’t add the drops.

Maintain Healthy Water And Basking Area Temperatures

Healthy water and proper basking area temperatures are required for a turtle’s survival because they’re cold-blooded. This doesn’t mean that they literally have cold blood. It just means that they need to heat up their bodies with external heat sources like heat lights.

Basking areas should be heated up to around 90°F and should be completely dry. Your turtle needs to dry off completely when it’s basking to avoid fungal and other health issues.

The water also needs to be heated to 80°F to 85°F to keep your turtle warm and healthy. To warm the water, use plastic or metal water heaters. We suggest this because as turtles grow, they can get big enough to swim into glass water heaters and break them. If your turtle breaks a glass heater inside your aquarium, it will be electrocuted. You can buy aquarium heater guards at most pet stores that will protect the glass from being broken by your turtle.

Related Further Reading:

Are Turtles Good Pets For Toddlers?

Turtles aren’t good pets for most toddlers because:

  • Turtles don’t like to be picked up and handled,and toddlers are all about hands-on interaction with their pets.
  • Turtles carry germs like Salmonella that your toddler can pick up while playing with it.
  • Toddlers like a pet that they can interact with, like dogs. Turtles don’t pay much attention to people unless they’re getting food from you.
  • A toddler will soon lose interest in a turtle after realizing that they can’t play with them. This is a problem considering even small turtles can live for upwards of 20 years.
  • Adult turtles can give a toddler a nasty bite that can lead to serious health implications. If a turtle bites you hard enough to break your skin, you must seek professional medical attention immediately as you may be infected with Salmonella.

Which Turtles Are The Best Pets?

What makes certain turtles better pets than others is their size. It’s much harder to look after a big turtle compared to a tiny one, so the smaller, the better. All the turtles mentioned below can live from 20 to 50 years with good treatment.

Here are some popular types of pet turtles:

  • Box Turtles: These turtles are a good choice as they don’t grow to a very large size (5 to 8 inches), so you won’t have to upsize your aquarium too often as they grow.
  • Red-Eared Sliders: These turtles can grow up to 11 inches. They are one of the most popular types of pet turtles all over the world.
  • Painted Turtles: These are very popular in the United States. They are colorful and grow to around 11 inches.
  • Central American Wood Turtles: They grow to around 8 inches and feed off mostly plants. However, adding feeder fish and crickets now and then will complement their diet very well. These turtles are also known as ornate wood turtles.
  • Caspian Pond Turtles: These turtles grow to around 9 inches and thrive off a well-balanced plant and protein diet.
  • African Aquatic Sideneck Turtles: These turtles grow to around 8 inches and also enjoy a plant and protein-based diet.

Interesting Further Reading:

Parting Thoughts

Turtles can make great pets as long as you don’t expect them to interact with you much. It can be a pleasant experience to watch turtles swim in the tank and bask in the light. However, if you’re more of a hands-on type of pet lover, turtles aren’t for you. This is also why turtles are not recommended as pets for toddlers.