The painted turtle (Chrysemys picta) is the most abundant turtle in North America. It has a dark green carapace and there is a yellow, red, or orange stripe pattern on the turtle’s head, legs, arms, and neck.
Its beautiful colors and the docile nature of this reptile make it a very popular pet.
Not sure how to care for a wild painted turtle?
Then stick with us, as in this article, we will discuss everything you must know about looking after a turtle from its enclosure size to the food it eats.
To care for a painted turtle, feed it insects, fish, aquatic plants, and commercial turtle food. Put it in an enclosure that is at least 42 inches wide and 12 inches deep. Pour 20 gallons of water into the tank and keep it between 75 and 80 F. Keep the basking area between 90 and 95 F.
Is it your first time taking a painted turtle home?
Then you will love reading the tips in our complete care guide coming up next. Make sure you check it out.
Table of Contents
How to Take Care of a Painted Turtle
Painted turtles are great pets that will accompany you for decades, as long as you give them the proper care they need. But if you are a first-time owner, you might have some questions about painted turtle care.
Up next in this article, you will find our painted turtle care sheet that will help you set up an enclosure, feed your pet, and even look after hatchlings and young turtles.
Let’s consider these factors in more detail. Dive in!
Life Expectancy of Painted Turtles
Painted turtles are pets for life.
How long can you expect yours to live?
Painted turtles in captivity can live for about 25 years. That’s right, they live really long lives.
If you are considering adopting one, you must ensure you will be able to look after it for its entire lifespan.
Painted turtles in captivity do not need to worry about predators like they do in the wild; even so, their lifespans in captivity are lower than they are in the wild. This is often due to poor husbandry.
Feeding an Eastern Painted Turtle
There is no such thing as a blanket approach when it comes to looking after painted turtles and their diets. To ensure your turtle eats enough of the right foods, you must tailor its diet according to the preferences that each subspecies has.
What must you feed eastern painted turtles?
The eastern painted turtle (Chrysemys picta picta) must eat a mixture of aquatic plants and animals like it would in the wild. This species eats a lot of injured and dead fish in its natural habitat, so you must ensure these make up a large part of its diet in captivity.
This turtle’s diet must also include turtle pellets, as these contain protein and omega 3 and 6 that your painted turtle needs.
Feeding a Southern Painted Turtle
Giving proper care to your southern-painted turtle (Chrysemys picta dorsalis) means feeding it the meals that it would eat in the wild.
What do southern painted turtles tend to eat?
You must feed these turtles a mixture of live plants, such as water hyacinths, and aquatic animals like mosquito fish. The proper diet for southern painted turtles also includes commercial turtle food in the form of pellets.
Feeding a Western Painted Turtle
A western-painted turtle (Chrysemys picta bellii) must eat a mix of turtle-safe plants, vegetables, and aquatic animals. But there is a peculiarity with its diet that is unique to this subspecies that you must observe.
What must western-painted turtles eat?
Their diet must include more animal matter at the beginning of the summer. In the wild, western-painted turtles will eat a diet that consists of 60% insects at this time.
At the end of the summer, you must alter its diet again. This time, 55% of its diet must be plant matter, as it would be in the wild.
During this time, feed your painted turtle more live plants. Offer it red leaf lettuce, water lettuce, and collard greens.
When taking care of a painted turtle at home, you must adhere to these dietary requirements.
Feeding a Midland Painted Turtle
The midland painted turtle (Chrysemys picta marginata) also has specific dietary requirements you must adhere to.
What does it eat?
Midland painted turtles must eat a varied diet that includes animal matter like insects and plants. This subspecies is especially fond of vascular and non-vascular plants such as moss, yellow pond lily, and water weed.
Aside from plants and insects, you must feed midland painted turtles commercial turtle food and give them small helpings of vegetables to consume. They will eat dandelion greens, romaine lettuce, and other leafy greens.
Painted Turtle Enclosure Size
Up next in our painted turtle care guide are the measurements to help you set up the perfect enclosure. For your pet to be happy, it must live in the right-size environment.
How big must your turtle’s enclosure be?
It must measure at least 4 times the size of the turtle and 1.5 times its length. A good size for your turtle enclosure is at least 42 inches wide and 12 inches deep.
Of course, these are just the minimum size requirements. If you have the space for a larger enclosure or even an outdoor pond, by all means, go for it.
The Water Volume In Your Turtle’s Tank
Your aquatic turtle needs enough swimming space.
How much water must you put in its tank?
The average-sized turtle will need 20 gallons of water to swim in.
If you have multiple turtles, you will need to add 5 gallons of water for each new baby turtle. Pour in an additional 10 gallons of water for every new adult.
You must not completely fill the tank with water but rather leave enough of an air gap for the turtle to have plenty of room for basking. (More about that in a mo.)
The painted turtle is a cold-blooded animal that will regulate its body temperature by spending time in a basking spot in the wild.
How can you set up a basking spot for your pet-painted turtle?
Start by partially submerging sturdy objects in the water. These could be large logs or a big flat stone.
The items you submerge must be big enough and solid enough for the turtle to climb on them and sit on them with ease.
Next, set up the UVB lighting. A UVB bulb will replicate daylight, help dry your turtle off, and help it get the UV it needs.
The basking area must reach 90 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit for your turtle to feel comfortable.
The water temperature must be between 75 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. This way, your painted turtle can cool off in the water and then warm up again in the basking area as and when it needs to.
To heat up the water, use a submersible water heater. Monitor its temperature constantly using a thermometer.
Accessories Inside the Tank
Part of learning how to care for a wild painted turtle involves accommodating the inside of its enclosure to match its natural habitat.
How do you care for a painted turtle? What must you put inside the enclosure?
To make the enclosure look even more like a home, it will need a mixture of live and fake plants. The basking site and the plants will give your turtles something to hide behind when they want to take cover.
A canister-style filter is also essential for both indoor enclosures and outdoor ponds, as it will help to keep the water cleaner for longer.
Painted Turtle Health
Painted turtles can potentially live for 2 decades in captivity, but many, unfortunately, do not live that long because of illness.
What must you do to keep your turtle healthy?
The painted turtle is prone to shell rot and other illnesses affecting the turtle’s shell. These commonly occur because the turtle is not getting enough vitamin D.
To prevent this from happening, you must ensure your painted turtle gets enough calcium in its diet. Do this by sprinkling calcium powder onto its food and by putting a calcium block into its water.
You must also ensure that your UVB lighting is working properly and that your turtle’s basking spot is hot enough.
Painted turtles will become unhappy if their enclosures are too small. Make sure your turtle has enough room to move around.
If your pet looks unwell, you must take it straight to a vet who specializes in the care of painted turtles or other exotic animals.
It is best that you get a care plan, as veterinary bills for painted turtles are often expensive. You must take your turtle to the vet at least once a year for a checkup.
At this checkup, a vet will examine your turtle for signs of weight loss. It will take a fecal sample to test for the presence of parasites.
How to Care for a Painted Turtle Hatchling
There is a big difference when it comes to taking care of adult-painted turtles and young-painted turtles. That’s why up next in this section, we will go through some of the most essential details of baby-painted turtle care.
When your baby-painted turtle first hatches, you will not need to feed it for the first few days. This is because hatchlings are born with their yolk sac attached, which they need to absorb nutrients from.
Once your mini-painted turtles have finished absorbing their yolk sacs, you will be able to give them their first meals.
But what should they eat?
Hatchling painted turtles eat a very carnivorous diet. They will enjoy eating small fish and insects more than they will plants.
While they are still young, they will need feeding 3 to 4 times a day.
Enclosure Size for Hatchling Painted Turtles
Hatchling-painted turtles are very small and cute. The average hatchling painted turtle size is about 1 inch long and less than an inch wide.
If you are breeding freshwater turtles, you will need to provide them with the right size enclosure.
What is the best enclosure size for hatchling painted turtles?
It must measure at least 4 times the size of the baby turtle and 1.5 times its length.
Bear in mind that hatchling-painted turtles grow very quickly. So a tank that was a good size for them when they first hatched may soon be unsuitable for them in a couple of months.
So captive-bred babies are best housed in a tank that is a good size for adult painted turtles.
Water Volume for Hatchling Painted Turtles
These aquatic turtles love swimming even when they are babies. Because of that, they must have the right water level in their enclosures.
How much water do they need?
Just one painted turtle needs 10 gallons of water to swim in. You must add 5 gallons more for each additional hatchling.
Do remember that these are just minimal requirements. If you are able to house your turtle outdoors in a pond or a bigger tank, do so.
The Best Painted Turtle Care
Painted turtles are exotic animals that can live for up to 25 years in captivity. But like most reptiles, they need special care in order to stay healthy.
Thanks to this article, we have seen what the right care for your turtle means. It means feeding your turtle a diet of plants, insects, and turtle pellets. It also means putting it in a large enclosure with at least 20 gallons of water to swim in.
You must also provide your painted turtle with a basking platform and some aquatic plants to eat and hide behind.
Did you find this article interesting?
At Oddly Cute Pets, we always strive to provide you with the best articles about painted turtles, map turtles, red-eared sliders, and other popular freshwater turtles. For more guides on feeding and looking after other reptiles, check out our website.
Thanks for reading!