Painted Turtle Facts (Lifespan, Eating Habits, Breeding & More)

The painted turtle is the most abundant turtle in North America. Its range spreads from Canada to Northern Mexico.

What exciting facts are there to learn about the painted turtle?

If you’re ready to discover all the crazy painted turtle facts there are to know about these reptiles, then stick with us, as in this article, we will be telling you them all!

Key Takeaway:

The average lifespan of the painted turtle is between 35 and 40 years. This reptile lives in slow-moving water where there is lots of vegetation and places to bask. It eats aquatic vegetation, insects, and fish. Breeding season begins in March and ends in June. The average clutch size is 5.

Have you ever wondered…

How long do painted turtles live in the wild? What do they eat, and when do they breed?

painted turtle types

We have jam-packed this article full of every fact there is to know about the painted turtle. Check them out next.

Painted Turtle Facts

Painted turtles are the most widely distributed turtles in North America that you will find anywhere from Southern Canada to Northern Mexico. They have beautiful marks on their skin and smooth shells, and this makes them very popular pets.

Let’s get to know them a little better by answering some quick questions about these reptiles.

How long do painted turtles live?

The lifespan of a painted turtle in captivity is up to 40 years. Yes, these reptiles really are pets for life.

What do they eat?

Painted turtles eat a varied diet that contains a mixture of aquatic vegetation and animals. Young painted turtles have a more carnivorous diet and develop a more herbivorous diet when they become adults.

Most painted turtles enjoy eating animals like crayfish and dragonfly larvae. They are also fond of aquatic plants like waterlily and duckweed.

When do they breed?

Painted turtles breed during the late spring and early summer. They nest during the months of May, June, and July.

In this section, we have had a look at some quick-fire facts about painted turtles. While these facts sum up these reptiles as a whole, there is still so much to learn about them when you analyze their different subspecies.

Up next, we are going to provide you with even more details about the 4 different subspecies of painted turtles. There, you will find some of the most interesting facts about these reptiles.

Facts About Midland Painted Turtles

Let’s start the ball rolling by getting to know our first candidate.

The midland painted turtle (Chrysemys picta marginata) lives in parts of southern Canada to northern Georgia and Alabama in the US.

In the more northern areas, turtles hibernate for long periods during the winter. Those that live in Quebec and Ontario often spend many months hibernating each year.

The following facts listed by category will help you learn even more about our favorite reptile, the painted turtle.

Midland Painted Turtle Lifespan

The midland painted turtle, just like other painted turtles, has a long lifespan. If you are considering bringing this reptile home as a pet, you must prepare to take care of it throughout the decades it will live for.

What is the average lifespan of a painted turtle of this subspecies?

The midland painted turtle’s life expectancy is 35 to 40 years in captivity. In the wild, these reptiles also live for about 30 to 40 years.


Just like all painted turtles, the midland turtle likes to eat a mixture of aquatic insects and plant matter.

What exactly is in its diet?

Here are some more specific details of what these painted turtles feed on.

  • Aquatic insects
  • Vascular and non-vascular plants. These include algae, yellow pond lily, waterlily, duckweed, waterweed, and other types of aquatic vegetation.
  • Small fish
  • Frogs

Breeding Season

Female painted turtles of this subspecies take about 6 to 10 years to reach sexual maturity. The males are noticeably faster as they reach maturity by a maximum of 6 years of age.

So, when does breeding begin for this subspecies?

The breeding season lasts a couple of months and the female painted turtle will begin making its nest between May and early July. They usually make these nests in sandy soil that is about 200 meters from the water’s edge.

The female turtles will lay about 8 oval, soft-shelled eggs in the sandy soil, and the baby turtles will emerge from them 60 to 90 days later. If they do not emerge during this time, they will overwinter, and the young turtles will appear in the spring.


No matter its subspecies, each painted turtle’s head has red and yellow markings on a greenish-brown background. They also have a relatively flat upper shell.

What makes this subspecies different from the rest?

Midland turtles have yellow to tan bottom shells. They are clearly marked with a dark, symmetrical pattern that people often refer to as a butterfly mark.

Each turtle in this subspecies has a slightly different butterfly mark. Some are large while others are small.

The butterfly marks also vary in depth of color, with some being rather faint and others more prominent. Yes, the easiest way to tell one painted turtle from the next is to gently turn it over and examine the markings on its undershell.


To spot midland turtles in North America in their natural habitat, you will have to visit places where there are bodies of slow-moving water.

Do painted turtles live in water?

These turtles like to live in water in places where there are fallen trees poking out of the water. Painted turtles bask on these fallen trees and any other partially submerged object.

The most common places these turtles live in are marshes, swamps, creeks, and lakes. You may also find these small animals on the banks of slow-moving rivers.

Facts About Western Painted Turtles

Now let’s find out more about our second candidate.

western painted turtle

The western painted turtle (Chrysemys picta bellii) lives in parts of Southern Canada and the central states of the US. You will also find some populations living in New Mexico and Northern Mexico around the Rio Santa Maria.

Painted turtles hibernate for longer in southern Canada where it is colder with some turtles spending months underwater.

But that’s not all there is to know about this subspecies, so let’s dive a little deeper.

Western Painted Turtle Life Cycle

Western painted turtles live for a long time. They are the biggest painted turtles in the subspecies, and they have a lengthy lifespan.

How long can a painted turtle live?

The western painted turtle can live for up to 40 years. If you want a pet turtle, you must be ready to give it the care it will need for its whole life.


Western painted turtles feed on plants and aquatic insects just like the other painted turtles in this subspecies. But they have a particular schedule for eating certain foods that makes them very unique.

What is their eating schedule?

  • In the early summer, a western painted turtle will eat more insects. During this time, its primary diet (animal foods) will make up 60% of everything it consumes. These will include a variety of insects that it easily finds in the aquatic ecosystems where it lives.
  • During the late summer, the turtle will eat more plants. At this time, 55% of its diet will consist of plants.

Breeding Season

The breeding habits of the western painted turtle are slightly different from those of the other turtles in this subspecies.

To start with, these turtles reproduce less frequently than other painted turtles. But when they do reproduce, they lay lots of oval, soft-shelled eggs.

When do they begin breeding?

The breeding season lasts about 3 months as it starts in March and finishes in the early summer, around June.

A female western painted turtle will lay its eggs a maximum of 150 meters away from the water's edge where it lives. It likes to lay them in loose, well-drained, sandy soil.


Western painted turtles are brightly marked with red and yellow stripes on their heads. This subspecies has a relatively flat upper shell, just like the other turtles.

What makes these turtles different from the others?

The upper shell of this turtle has fine, mesh-like white or slightly yellow lines running over it. This delicate pattern runs almost parallel from the turtle’s head to its tail.

This turtle also has a brightly marked undershell that is similar to that of the midland turtle. But this turtle has red markings on it that spread right to the edges of the shell.

This is the only turtle in the subspecies with markings like this. The bright red pattern is different for each turtle and is sometimes very dark and sometimes light red.

The size of the red splotch also varies from turtle to turtle.


It is illegal to capture painted turtles from the wild and bring them into captivity, but if you want to catch just a glance of this species, you will have to enter its habitat.

Where do painted turtles live?

These turtles like to live in streams and slow-moving lakes where there are plenty of fallen trees for them to bask on. You might even find these turtles on roadside pools and in pasture ponds anywhere from Southern Canada to Northern Mexico.

You will even get a glimpse of this colorful turtle at high elevations of up to 1,800 feet!

Facts About Southern Painted Turtles

Here comes candidate 3 of 4. Let’s find out more about it.

The southern painted turtle (Chrysemys picta dorsalis) lives in the southern and eastern states of the US. These include Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, and other states.

In these areas, turtles hibernate when the winters are very cold.

Up next are some of the other interesting facts about this subspecies.

Life Cycle of Southern Painted Turtle

We admire all painted turtles for their remarkable longevity.

How long do painted turtles live as pets?

Southern painted turtles live for between 30 and 40 years as pets. They need to live in a climatized environment for their entire lives, which is something that prospective owners must take into consideration before adopting one.


Southern painted turtles like to eat a rather varied diet. As juveniles, they eat a more carnivorous diet but adult painted turtles eat a more herbivorous diet.

What exactly is on this painted turtle’s menu?

Here is the typical diet of this subspecies.

  • Crayfish and other aquatic crustaceans
  • Plant foods like duckweed, waterlily, and algae

Breeding Season

If there’s anything cuter than a painted turtle, it’s a baby painted turtle.

So, when do these animals begin breeding?

The breeding season lasts for just a few months a year for a southern painted turtle as it begins in late winter and spring and finishes in early summer. A turtle of this subspecies will lay 4 to 20 oval, soft-shelled eggs that will hatch in 6 to 10 weeks and then overwinter and come out of the nest in the spring.

A female will dig her nest in an open, sandy area. She will use her hind legs to build a flask-shaped hole in the ground.


Southern painted turtles have red and yellow markings on their heads that rest on a greenish-brown background. They have olive to black colored shells.

How does this turtle stand out from the others?

These painted turtles are brightly marked with red stripes dividing their marginal scutes. They also have a red or orange stripe that runs straight down the center of their upper shells.


To find these turtles, you will have to observe places with very still water.

Where is the easiest place to find them?

Painted turtles bask on shores and in coves that are next to wetlands, drainage ditches, and reservoirs.

These turtles are often referred to as pond turtles as they like bodies of water with muddy bottoms. This turtle will bury its smooth shell in the mud for extended periods in the winter.

Facts About Eastern Painted Turtles

And last but of course not least, our final candidate. Let’s get to know this turtle.

The eastern painted turtle (Chrysemys picta picta) lives in the eastern parts of North America that stretch from New Brunswick in southern Canada to northern and central Georgia.

In the more northern areas, turtles hibernate for longer, whereas those that live in the south are less likely to hibernate.

There’s so much more to learn about this painted turtle. Keep scrolling.

Eastern Painted Turtle Lifespan

Eastern painted turtles are popular pets in the US.

How long do painted turtles live in captivity?

Eastern painted turtles can live for up to 40 years in captivity. They are pets for life, and their owners must be aware of the care they will need for many decades.


Eastern painted turtles feed on plants and animals as other turtles do. But there is one small difference in how they like to eat their prey.

How do they like their prey?

  • Although they are capable of eating on land, these turtles prefer to eat in water.
  • Most of the small animals they eat are dead or injured. These turtles like easy prey, such as dead or injured fish.

Breeding Season

Turtles are most active when it is time for them to breed.

When do they breed?

For eastern painted turtles, the breeding season lasts from March to late July. Nesting takes place from the month of May.

Eastern painted turtles will look for a place up to 200 meters from the water’s edge to lay their eggs. They dig the perfect flask-shaped hole in the ground for them.

The female turtles will lay up to 11 soft-shelled eggs in the nest. On average, these turtles will have about 5 eggs in their nest.


The heads of eastern painted turtles are covered in red and yellow markings on a greenish-brown background. Their shells are olive to black and display some interesting markings that are unique only to this subspecies.

In what ways are they different?

These painted turtles are brightly marked with red stripes that run around the edges of their shells. The bottom of the shell is yellow and sometimes has gray spots on it.

The upper shells of these turtles often have a pale white line running down the middle of them. The segments on the shells are in straight lines, something that does not occur on any other turtles in North America.

Yes, there is no doubt about it: this turtle is unique.


This is a very abundant turtle in the eastern states of the US and Southern Canada.

Where exactly can you find one?

This subspecies is one of the most aquatic, so you are unlikely to find it on land unless it is basking. Painted turtles bask on the shores of swamps, marshy water, and bodies of water with plenty of vegetation and small fish.

Fast Facts About Painted Turtles

painted turtle facts

Now that you have got to know painted turtles a little better, you are no doubt super keen to find out even more about these fascinating reptiles. And you’re in luck, as up next, we are about to open up our treasure trove of turtle facts that we are sure you will love.

General Facts

Here are some of our favorite facts about the painted turtle.

  • Painted turtles got their name because of the beautiful colors that are on their skin. Many painted turtles are adorned with red and yellow stripes all over their legs, necks, heads, and arms.
  • These turtles have a substance in their blood that works like an anti-freeze. It prevents the turtles from freezing when they hibernate in very cold water over the winter.
  • These turtles can remain underwater for several months at a time. They can absorb oxygen through their skin if their surroundings allow them to do so. They can go into periods of low energy use, so they do not need to eat or come up to the surface of the water to breathe.
  • The painted turtle loves water and will only leave it to bask, nest, and look for a new body of water to live in when there is a drought.

Nesting Facts

Let’s check out some facts about how female turtles nest.

  • The female turtle uses her hind legs to dig nests. During this process, the painted turtle’s feet will dig through mud and sand for about 4 hours to make the perfect flask-shaped hole in the ground.
  • In the early summer, some females will begin to leave their habitats to build nests. At this time, it becomes common to see dead turtles on the road as they are often hit by cars as they travel to and from their nests.
  • Every turtle has a very smooth shell that acts as a shield for the animal. This smooth shell is made up of the turtle’s ribs, pelvis, sternum, and other bones.

Population Facts

Take a look at some facts about the impressive population of these reptiles.

  • Painted turtles are the most common turtles to have as pets in the US.
  • Painted turtles are the most common turtles in the state of Illinois, US.

Baby Turtle Facts

Here are the most adorable facts about turtles and their babies.

  • Young turtles grow rapidly when they are juveniles. At this stage of their lives, they will grow about 1.2 cm every year. Once they reach sexual maturity, however, their growth spurt will stop, and they will only grow about 0.1 cm a year.
  • The sex of the baby turtles depends on the temperature of the soil at incubation. Low temperatures produce males, and higher temperatures produce females.
  • The hatchling-painted turtle has a larger head, tail, and rounder shell in proportion to the adult. Its eyes are also larger in proportion with the rest of its body.
  • Hatchlings begin feeding on their egg yolk when they hatch from their eggs. If they emerge from their eggs before the winter, they will begin eating solid food after about 7 to 10 days.

Turtle Threat Facts

Here are some facts about some of the biggest threats to the turtle population. You will also get to know their conservation status.

  • The painted turtle has many predators. These include northern river otters, raccoons, foxes, crows, and even water scorpions. A common snapping turtle or a water scorpion will attack a young turtle, whereas a raccoon will attack an adult.
  • Human activities impact painted turtles. This happens when they are hit by cars when they are more mobile, when breeding season begins, and while females dig nests and leave the water. This often results in dead animals on the sides of the road.
  • The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) identifies animals considered vulnerable. The painted turtle, however, is plentiful in the wild and is, therefore, on the least concern list.

FAQs About Painted Turtles

Painted turtles are unique, interesting creatures, and there are so many things to learn about them.

Do you have some questions about this reptile species?

Then check out some of the answers to the web’s most asked questions.

Can I Pick Up a Painted Turtle?

Turtles are not affectionate animals like other pets and do not look for human contact. They do not like it when you hold them.

There is a link to turtles and salmonella, so you must wash your hands thoroughly after you touch your turtle. You must also wash them after feeding your pet and after cleaning out its enclosure.

Are Painted Turtles Hard to Care for?

These turtles are easier to care for in some ways than your average pets, as they do not need your attention and will entertain themselves. They are easy to feed and do not need grooming.

But turtles are more difficult in other ways as they must live in a controlled environment, which you must constantly monitor. It can often be difficult to tell when a turtle is sick, and getting hold of the right treatment so it can get better is expensive.

Finding a vet that specializes in exotic turtle care is often challenging.

What Do Painted Turtles Do?

These turtles are most active in the morning. They get up at sunrise and immediately start basking for a few hours.

After that, they enter the water and start foraging. Throughout the day, a painted turtle will bask about 3 times for roughly 2 hours at a time.

The other two basking times occur at midday and then in the early afternoon.

Painted turtles are diurnal, so they are not active at night. At night, they go underwater where they rest on a log or a ledge of some sort and sleep.

These turtles only break their routine when it is time to breed. Then they will move about in the water and even explore new bodies of water to look for a mate.

The females will look for the best place to bury their eggs. In the north, these reptiles will hibernate during the coldest months of the year.

The Painted Turtle In a Nutshell

The painted turtle lives in water all year round and ducks and takes cover when the water it lives in becomes agitated, or they see something threatening. Because of this, it is tricky to observe this reptile in the wild and find out more about it.

Thanks to this article, we have learned lots of exciting facts about the painted turtle. It is the turtle with the largest range in North America that spreads from parts of Canada all the way to Northern Mexico.

There are 4 subspecies of painted turtles that have olive to black shells and yellow and red stripes on their faces, legs, and arms. These turtles like to eat plants and aquatic insects, and they live in slow-moving water.

Did you find this article interesting?

At Oddly Cute Pets, we always strive to provide you with the best articles about turtles, lizards, snakes, and other small animals. For more information on how to feed and look after your painted or other pond turtles, check out our website.

Thanks for reading!

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