15 Best Pet Turtles That Stay Small

15 Best Pet Turtles That Stay Small

Finding the best pet turtles that stay small can be a challenge, but it’s worth it when you find the perfect one for you. Ready for a completely new pet experience? Come explore our selection of fascinating turtles in all shapes and sizes – perfect companions no matter what your lifestyle is. Take the plunge today and find an aquatic friend you’ll cherish forever.

15 Best Pet Turtles That Stay Small

1. Red-Eared Slider Turtle

Red-Eared Sliders are a remarkable species of turtle that can reach up to 12 inches in length, although they generally stay closer to 8.

They’re also known for being one of the most active turtles, so if you’re looking for a pet that will keep you entertained, this is the turtle for you. Red Eared Slider turtles have a long and incredible journey. Previously native to North America, today these fascinating creatures can be found far beyond their original home in ponds and lakes all over the world. 

Boasting vibrant red markings near their eyes that resemble earpieces of slider glasses, they are truly captivating. While they are most commonly found in shades of green and brown, some turtles may also have yellow or orange patterns on their shell.

Before getting a Red-Eared Slider Turtle as your newest companion, take the time to learn about them. They have their own special needs and considerations that need to be taken into account for successful ownership.

First, they require a spacious enclosure with both land and water areas. Additionally, it’s important to note that these turtles are known for being escape artists, so be sure to choose an enclosure that has a secure lid.

2. Eastern Box Turtle

The Eastern Box Turtle is another great option for those looking for a small pet turtle. These turtles stay relatively small, only reaching about 6-8 inches at maturity. Eastern Box Turtles make great pets for the newbie reptile owner, as they’re both charming and simple to look after.

They originate from woodlands in America’s eastern states – think of leafy glades close by streams and picturesque ponds. These turtles get their name from their unique shell, which is box-shaped and has a hinged bottom that allows them to close up tight when they feel threatened.

Not only are they incredibly captivating and intriguing creatures but their diet consists of the most delicious treats insects, snails, earthworms, and even berries. When it comes to feeding your new turtle companion there’s no shortage of options.

First, they need a spacious enclosure with both land and water areas. They also require UVB lighting to help them stay healthy.

Additionally, it’s important to note that these turtles are known for being escape artists, so be sure to choose an enclosure that has a secure lid.

3. Musk Turtle

Musk turtles are small reptiles that are found in eastern North America. Female musk turtles may be small, but they’re mighty. These aquatic reptiles have a striking look: sleek dark shells with elegant light spots. They usually inhabit freshwater habitats like lakes and ponds, though sometimes can also be detected in brackish waters too. 

Musk turtles are also notable for their climbing ability; they can often be seen basking on logs or rocks. When kept in captivity, they should be housed in a tank with a tight-fitting lid to prevent them from escaping. 

4. Painted Turtle

The painted turtle is a small but mighty reptile, native to North America. Though they only grow to be about 5-6 inches long, they have a lifespan of 20 to 30 years (and sometimes even 50!).

From the Atlantic to the Pacific and from northern Canada all the way down to Mexico one can find these amazing turtles in slow-moving freshwater environments. It is truly a sight to behold. 

Painted turtles get their name from their bright and colorful shells. The top shell (or carapace) can be yellow, green, or brown, with red, orange, or yellow stripes running down the sides. The bottom shell (or plastron) is usually yellow or orange.

Painted turtles are excellent swimmers and often bask in the sun on logs or rocks near the water’s edge. These turtles are omnivorous and will eat just about anything, including insects, worms, fish, frogs, and plants. So if you’re ever near a body of slow-moving water, keep your eyes peeled for a painted turtle.

To ensure proper care, experts recommend providing it with at least a 30-gallon tank that is three times the length of its shell and filled to twice as deep. Giving them plenty of room for swimming.

5. Mud Turtles

Mud turtles are small, semi-aquatic reptiles found in the southeastern United States. They get their name from their habitat preference; they’re often found in muddy waters near ponds and streams.

Mud turtles are wily creatures, easily spotted by their striking black and brown shells with bold yellow stripes down the neck and legs. These water dwellers gracefully traverse waterways with webbed feet designed to propel them through the murk of a river or lake bottom.

Male mud turtles are usually larger than females and can reach up to 7 inches in length. In the wild, mud turtles can live for up to 30 years. Owning turtles as pets can be a unique and rewarding experience.

They are renowned for their gentle personalities and require an enclosure that offers both dry areas, such as land and aquatic regions in order to thrive.

6. Spotted Turtles

The unique and captivating spotted turtle is a small species of reptile visible in Southeastern Canada and the Northeastern United States. This eye-catching critter has an unmistakable black or dark brown shell adorned with gorgeous yellow-cream spots. Spotted turtles are relatively small, measuring just 5 inches long.

Despite their size, they are eye-catching creatures that make popular pets. Spotted turtles can be a great addition to the right home, but it’s important for potential owners to do their research first.

Proper care and attention including special diets, housing conditions, and more will ensure these little reptiles remain healthy and live up to 30 years in captivity.

7. Reeve’s Turtle

Reeve’s turtles are a small species of turtle that is found in China and Vietnam. They get their name from their distinctive shell, which is raised in the middle and looks like a dome.

Reeve turtles are dark-brown or black with yellow stripes on their necks and legs. With their vibrant colors and docile personalities, Reeve turtles make for enchanting pets. Although relatively small reaching a maximum of 6 inches in length males are usually larger than females. 

To ensure your turtle’s well-being, however, it is important to provide the correct diet and housing conditions needed for optimal health. For those who are willing to put in the effort, owning a Reeve’s turtle can be a rewarding experience.

8. Map Turtle

Map turtles are a unique species of turtle native to North America, boasting distinctive shells adorned with map-like patterns in shades of brown, black and green. Though small at only 4-10 inches long (with females being larger than males). These remarkable creatures can make for quite the conversation piece. 

Although there are a variety of map turtle subspecies from the Mississippi Map Turtle to False and Common varieties they all live by remarkably similar rules. 

These semi-aquatic reptiles, who spend part of their time on land and in water alike, share almost identical habits despite looking ever so slightly different. 

So while they may come with unique names attached, when it comes down to caring for them you’ll find that each type has quite an extraordinary amount in common.

These creatures thrive with a varied diet of both vegetation and prey, needing basking spots for warmth alongside places to hide away. By understanding the basic needs of these turtles, you can provide the care they need to thrive.

9. Wood Turtle

Wood turtles are one of the most widespread turtles in North America, and they can be found from southern Canada all the way down to the southern United States. These turtles are fascinating species, weighing up to 2.5 pounds and measuring between 5-9 inches long.

They have an adaptive lifestyle during the warmer months. They take advantage of nearby streams, babbling brooks, or other aquatic habitats where they feast on invertebrates.

As winter arrives however wood turtles journey overland in search of terrestrial havens to keep them warm until springtime returns again. In the fall and winter, they move to forested areas where they eat a variety of fruits, leaves, and seeds.

Wood turtles are generally shy and retiring creatures, but they play an important role in their ecosystems as both predators and prey.

10. Bog Turtle

The bog turtle is a small but mighty creature, measuring in at just 3 to 4 inches. The bog turtle has a distinctive orange or yellow head patch, which helps to identify it from other turtles in the area.

This patch is sometimes divided into two parts, making the bog turtle even more unique. As its name suggests, the bog turtle is most often found near bogs or marshes, where it feeds on insects and other small invertebrates.

The bog turtle, once a common sight in wetlands across the eastern US, has been facing an alarming trend. Their population is diminishing as increasingly rare wetland habitats disappear.

As a result, efforts are underway to protect this special turtle and ensure that it remains a part of Connecticut wildlife for years to come.

11. Diamondback Terrapins

Terrapins are small, hard-shelled turtles that are native to the eastern United States. Male turtles may max out at a mere 5.5 inches, but their female counterparts can easily grow to be over double that size. They are commonly found in coastal marshes and can live for 25 years in the wild. 

In addition, their shells are fragile and can be easily damaged by boat propellers. Terrapins are facing a concerning population decline, leading to the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service labeling them as a “species of concern”.

Females of this species have broader jaws than their male counterparts, making for an intriguing contrast between genders. They also lay up to 200 eggs per year, which makes them an important part of the marsh ecosystem. 

12. Florida Softshell Turtle

Female Florida softshell turtles are larger than males, averaging 24 to 30 centimeters (approximately 9 to 11 inches) in length. Males of this species are typically shorter, measuring only 15–19 cm (6–8 inches) in length. 

Male and female Florida softshell turtles have much longer tails than females; females have short tails that barely extend past the shell, whilst males have significantly larger tails.

The natural Florida softshell turtle’s longevity is unknown. However, softshell turtles reared in captivity can survive for more than 20 years. This is one of the reasons why many turtle fans prize it.

13. Yellow-Bellied Slider Turtle

The yellow-bellied slider turtle is a captivating pet, growing to only 8 – 10 inches in size. With males generally being smaller than females. They’re easy to tell apart with the signature bright yellow or orange stripe running along their bellies. They make wonderful companions for any home and are sure to bring joy and color wherever they go.

As these yellow-bellied slider turtles mature, the vibrant stripes on their shells may become a bit more subdued. Found in freshwater habitats from Texas to Maryland, you can find them skimming across ponds and lakes or lazily meandering down slow-moving rivers throughout the southeastern United States. They are excellent swimmers and can stay underwater for long periods of time. 

14. Eastern Painted Turtle

The eastern-painted turtle is a small but mighty creature, measuring in at just 4 to 6 inches. Despite its size, this turtle is an important part of the ecosystem. The eastern-painted turtle has a distinctive shell that is brightly colored and patterned.

This shell helps to protect the turtle from predators and the elements. The eastern painted turtle is found in ponds, lakes, and slow-moving rivers throughout the eastern United States. However, these turtles can live for many years and require a large enclosure.

15. African Sideneck Turtle

Despite their name, African Sideneck turtles are not particularly fond of having their necks handled. However, they are generally easy to care for and thrive in captivity. African Sideneck turtles are a joy to behold, sporting adorable facial expressions that seem to spread cheer wherever they go. 

Growing between seven and twelve inches long, these small reptiles can be found in freshwater rivers and lakes across Africa and Madagascar as well as in pet stores all over the world making them accessible to admirers near or far.

If you’re thinking of getting an African Sideneck turtle, be prepared to provide them with a large tank or pond, as they need plenty of space to swim and bask. 

Benefits Of Small Turtles?

There are many benefits of keeping small turtles as pets. Small turtles are easy to care for and don’t require a lot of space. In addition, small turtles can live for many years and make great companions.

A smaller aquarium will equate to lower maintenance costs, including electrical costs to power filters and lights. Smaller tanks also tend to have fewer issues with algae growth.

This makes them ideal for children or for adults who might not be able to lift a larger turtle. Small turtles can be held and petted, which can provide a lot of enjoyment. They can also be taken out of their tanks for short periods of time, which makes them easy to take with you on trips or to your office.

If you’re searching for a lifelong companion who won’t require too much work or attention, consider the advantages of owning a small turtle.

With their simple needs and hardy nature, these shelled pals make delightful additions to any family. These turtles can make great companions and can provide years of enjoyment. 


Owning small turtles as pets can be an enjoyable and rewarding experience. Not only are they conveniently easy to take care of, but their size allows for a low-cost setup with minimal space requirements. With just the right amount of attention, these little critters will make excellent companions.

Small turtles can also make great companions and can provide years of enjoyment. So in the end we hope this article helped you in some way to understand better why a small turtle might be the perfect pet for you.

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