mud and musk turtle care sheet

Mud & Musk Turtle Care Sheet

Mud and Musk Turtle general care sheet. (Striped Mud Turtle Kinosternon baurii, Common Musk Turtle Sternotherus odoratus, Razorback Musk Turtle Sternotherus carinatus, Whitelip Mud Turtle Kinosternon leucostomum, etc.) Additional research may apply.

mud and musk turtle care

Intro to Mud and Musk Turtles

Mud and musk turtles are a group of turtles native to the Americas known for their very small size compared to other species of turtles. Most species reach full size at 4-6 inches, while species like the Razorback musk turtle reach full size at 6-8 inches. Either way, expect a tiny turtle! These turtles are often looked at as one of the best solutions to people who want a turtle, but not the size of most species. Sliders and other larger species tend to take the spotlight, but as people become more aware and responsible pet owners, these tiny turtles are more and more sought after. The main difference between mud and musks is their plastron (belly). Mud turtles have a wide plastron that has hinges that allow them to almost enclose themselves inside their shell. Musk turtles on the other hand, lack that. They tend to have a much thinner plastron appearing more like the plastron seen on snapping turtles. 

caring for mud and musk turtles

Mud and Musk Turtle Care

Being such small turtles, husbandry is quite easy. A 40 gallon aquarium is enough for 1 to 2 turtles for life, and an additional 10 gallons should be added for each turtle. Muds and musks can be hit or miss with tank mates of the same species, so keep an eye on them. Always pair turtles of similar size and feed separately to avoid competition. They’re also not the best swimmers, as they spend most of their day scampering riverbeds looking for snails and mollusks. With that said, babies should be kept at a water depth about the length of your index finger, and can be upgraded to about half the height of the aquarium as they age. Make sure to provide plenty of cover and obstacles like wood and plants for the turtles to grab onto in order to swim up for air. Like all turtles, muds and musks need a UVB light and basking area where they can completely dry off and thermoregulate. The mid 90s are a stable basking temperature, and water temperature can be room temperature (mid 70s to 80 degrees). Filtration can be done using an internal filter in smaller aquariums or a canister filter in a larger one with bi-weekly water changes. It’s best to use a filter rated above the gallons of the tank, as turtles are messy creatures compared to other aquatic life. So if you’ve got a 10 gallon tank, go for a filter rated for 20-30 gallons. These turtles can be shy, so don’t worry if you don’t see them come up to bask much. Sand is a great substrate because it allows them to partake in their natural behaviors, as they dig into it looking for mollusks and other small crustaceans. Their diet consists mostly of said mollusks and crustaceans, but they are not picky with their food. Pellets, insects, and cut fish are other great things to feed them.

how to care for mud and musk turtles

Mud and Musk Turtles For Sale in the Pet Trade

Muds and musks are widely available, with many people working with them extensively due to their practicality and small size. There are many different species, and they all come in different shapes and colors. Striped mud turtles are known for having three vibrant stripes going down their shell, and razorback musk turtles have an almost prehistoric shell, with raised scutes along their back. Some species may not be as affordable as the conventional slider or cooter, but the higher upfront cost is warranted as they are a much more practical animal to keep overall. 



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