Peninsula Cooter Turtle Care

What is the best way to care for a peninsula cooter turtle?

Do peninsula cooter turtles make good pets?

Understanding the housing and dietary needs of the peninsula cooter turtle is vital to ensuring your pet lives a long and healthy life.

Without proper habitat maintenance and a well-rounded diet, the peninsula cooter turtle would be more susceptible to disease.

This care sheet will provide information about the care of the peninsula cooter turtle, including the best habitat, optimal diet, and common illnesses affecting the species.

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Peninsula Cooter Turtle Native Habitat, Lifespan, and Appearance

The peninsula cooter turtle is found in the waters throughout Florida, so they are used to a hot and somewhat humid environment.

Peninsula cooter turtles grow very large, and while this turtle species adapt well to living in captivity, it will require a substantial habitat to stay happy and healthy.

Healthy peninsula cooter turtles will live up to 30 years or more with the proper food and environmental conditions.

The bell-shaped carapace, or upper shell, of the peninsula cooter turtle is usually olive green, light green, and yellow with circular markings in alternate colors.

The plastron is a solid yellow or tan color, and the head and legs are generally the same colors represented on the upper and lower halves of the shell.

The peninsula cooter turtle’s feet have sharp claws for digging and a thin webbing between the toes for swimming.

How Do You Create The Best Habitat For Your Peninsula Cooter Turtle?

Since peninsula cooter turtles spend their lives on both land and in the water, you will need to provide these same accommodations to your turtle in captivity.

The habitat will need to include a body of water and an area of land large enough for the turtle to turn around on.

Another option is to use a floating shelf, allowing the turtle to have a dry place to climb onto whenever needed.

The enclosure should also include a variety of plants, both natural and artificial, for decoration.

The use of submersible or floating plants gives the turtle places to hide underwater, giving the animal a sense of security.

What Is the Best Size of Habitat for a Peninsula Cooter Turtle?

Peninsula cooter turtles are only around 1″ inch (2.5 cm) in length when they first hatch from an egg, and a whole group of hatchlings will do just fine in a 10-gallon enclosure.

They will quickly outgrow this initial habitat, and once a peninsula cooter turtle is an adult, it will need a much larger enclosure capable of containing both land and water.

The recommended size of an enclosure for an adult peninsula cooter turtle should measure around 48″ inches (1.2 m) wide, 24″ inches (60 cm) deep, and 12″ inches (30 cm) tall at a minimum.

If you are able to dedicate more space to an enclosure for your turtle, this is preferred.

The more swimming and basking space you are able to offer your peninsula cooter turtle, the better.

If you live in a warm, temperate climate, it is even possible to create an outdoor habitat with a pond for your turtle.

What Is the Best Temperature and Humidity of a Peninsula Cooter Turtle Habitat?

The ambient temperature of a peninsula cooter turtle habitat should be around 80° degrees Fahrenheit (27°C).

Having a temperature gradient with a warm basking spot is also an essential component of the turtle’s habitat.

Use a basking light to raise the temperature of the spot to range from 85-95° degrees Fahrenheit (35° C).

The water temperature should be between 70-75° degrees Fahrenheit (24° C), and if it drops any lower than this, you should use a submersible water heater to bring the temperature back up.

You will also need to provide a UVB light in the enclosure for your peninsula cooter turtle to synthesize vitamin D3 properly.

Without an adequate amount of D3, the turtle would not be able to metabolize calcium properly.

This lack of calcium will lead to diseases such as metabolic bone disease or shell rot.

Since the peninsula cooter turtle comes from a swampy environment in the wild, it requires high humidity levels of at least 70% within its captive habitat.

Invest in a good hygrometer to monitor the humidity levels closely.

The area of water within the semi-aquatic environment should do an excellent job keeping humidity levels high as long as it is not evaporating too quickly.

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What Foods Should Be Included In A Peninsula Cooter Turtle Diet?

The peninsula cooter turtle is mostly herbivorous, especially as adults.

Juveniles, however, are known to eat insects and small fish, and it is not uncommon for this trait to carry on into adulthood.

Acceptable protein for an adult peninsula cooter turtle includes crickets, dubia roaches, and small locusts.

Adult turtles enjoy a diet of aquatic plants such as water hyacinth, water lettuce, duckweed, and anacharis.

They will also do well with vegetables such as: 

  • Carrots 
  • Spinach 
  • Zucchini
  • Dandelion 
  • Turnip
  • Mustard
  • Collard Greens

A commercial turtle pellet food is also a great addition to the peninsula cooter turtle’s diet to ensure it receives all of the nutrients it requires.

A healthy adult peninsula cooter turtle will eat every other day.

To ensure optimum nutrition, especially when it comes to calcium, you should dust your turtle’s food with a quality calcium and multivitamin supplement once or twice per week.

This extra dose of calcium and other vital vitamins and minerals will complement the nutrients the turtle is able to synthesize from the UVB lighting naturally.

How Should You Care For The Water In A Peninsula Turtle Habitat?

Peninsula cooter turtles spend most of their time in the water, and it is essential to keep this water clean and warm.

Because of their high-protein diet, peninsula cooter turtles will make quite a mess in the water, so you will need to install a strong water filter.

A good water filter will keep the water clean and will only have to be checked every two weeks.

You should still perform weekly water changes and monitor the ammonia and nitrate levels in the water to avoid any issues, even with a powerful water filter installed.

Before adding any water to your turtle’s enclosure, you should always treat it to remove the chlorine and other trace elements commonly found in tap water.

The chlorine and other trace elements in the water will cause issues with your water filter and affect your turtle as well.

The water temperature should be at a steady temperature range between 75-80° degrees Fahrenheit (27° C).

A water heater should be used to heat the water to the proper temperature.

When it comes to the power output of water heaters, a general rule of thumb is one watt will warm one liter of water.

If your turtle’s habitat is larger than three feet wide, it is wise to invest in two small water heaters.

A small water heater placed at each end of the water will ensure an even and stable water temperature.

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What Are Some Common Illnesses In Peninsula Cooter Turtles?

The peninsula cooter turtle is known as a hardy species and is the perfect turtle for new reptile owners.

Despite its hardiness, peninsula cooter turtles are still prone to certain illnesses, although many of these diseases are preventable with proper care and habitat maintenance.

Physical Injuries

Bruises, cuts, and shell injuries are common concerns if these injuries become infected.

If you have multiple turtles in the same enclosure, be sure to monitor them for any signs of aggression closely.

If you discover one of your turtles bullying the other, you will have to move both turtles to separate enclosures.

Also, be aware of any sharp objects in your peninsula cooter turtle’s habitat they might come into contact with or crawl over, as these objects have the potential to cause injury.

Even if a cut or abrasion is minor, it will become a major problem if it becomes infected.

Shell Rot

Fungal and bacterial infections of any injuries will lead to shell rot, which has the potential to be fatal if proper treatment is not administered at the first symptoms.

Symptoms of shell rot include peeling scutes, white pits in the shell, and red sticky discharge.

Treatment requires strong doses of antibiotics, usually under the supervision of a veterinarian, and the recovery is quite lengthy.

Proper habitat maintenance will prevent these fungal and bacterial growths from forming and becoming dangerous.


Internal parasites are difficult to deal with because they spread so quickly among turtles.

Wild peninsula cooter turtles usually ingest parasites from infected prey or dirty water.

Parasites are usually not an issue if your turtle has been captive-bred and is not wild-caught, however.

Calcium and Vitamin Deficiencies

Supplements, especially calcium, are vital to the health of a peninsula cooter turtle.

Without enough calcium, the turtle will leach the mineral from its bones, ultimately leading to metabolic bone disease.

Metabolic bone disease causes crippling bone deformities, and as there is no cure, it is often a fatal disease for reptiles.

To avoid this painful disease, be sure to provide your peninsula cooter turtle with a UVB lamp so it will be able to metabolize vitamin D3.

D3 is an essential nutrient for the proper absorption of calcium, and without this vitamin, a turtle will develop a calcium deficiency.

Calcium and D3 powder supplements may also be added to the turtle’s diet by sprinkling some of the powder onto its food before every feeding.

What is the Behavior and Temperament of the Peninsula Cooter Turtle?

Peninsula cooter turtles are very laid-back animals, and they spend most of their time in the water.

Even though they are large turtles with an average length between 12-16″ inches 41 cm), they are very excellent swimmers.

When they are not in the water, the peninsula cooter turtle will bask on land to dry out and warm its body.

Unlike most other reptiles, peninsula cooter turtles are not solitary animals, and they will happily share their habitat with other turtles.

These turtles will even thrive in small groups as long as the enclosure is large enough.

While they are not known to show any aggressive behavior, you should still monitor your peninsula cooter turtles for any signs of bullying or fighting to be safe.

As long as you have the extra space and are committed to the care requirements and time involved, the peninsula cooter turtle makes an excellent turtle for first-time turtle owners.

What Are The Breeding Habits Of The Peninsula Cooter Turtle?

Before you decide to keep a male and female peninsula cooter turtle together in the same enclosure, you should consider what to do if they breed.

Females reach sexual maturity between 5-7 years, and males reach sexual maturity at 3-4 years old.

The breeding process will happen naturally, without any encouragement from you, as both turtles are healthy.

The female will need to have access to a nesting box where she will lay her eggs.

The box has to be large enough for the female to turn completely around, and the substrate should be deep enough for digging.

Once the female peninsula cooter turtle lays her eggs, they will need to be incubated at a temperature of 84° degrees Fahrenheit (29° C).

The eggs will also need to stay humid, so it is best to keep them in a small, sealed box on a bed of moisture-rich substrate.

There are commercially available hatching substrates specifically designed to keep the eggs humid.

After about 60 days of incubation, the eggs will start to hatch, and the babies will emerge.

The female peninsula cooter turtle will lay between 12-20 eggs per clutch, and she is capable of having up to 3 clutches per year.

Eggs are usually laid in May or June, and they will hatch in the late summer or early fall.

Final Thoughts

While peninsula cooter turtles are a larger turtle species, they are hardy animals with a laid-back personality, making them a great turtle for first-time reptile keepers.

These turtles can thrive indoors and outdoors as long as they are provided with warm temperatures, a healthy diet, plenty of space, and access to water for swimming.

With proper diet and habitat maintenance, the peninsula cooter turtle will live a healthy and happy life.

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