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What's the difference between
turtles and terrapins?

Turtle Care GuideEssentially, there is no difference between turtles and terrapins unless you travel outside of the United Kingdom.

The term ‘diamondback terrapin’ is applied across the board to mean the brackish water reptile.

Apart from that, the term terrapin is used in the United Kingdom to mean almost any kind of pet turtle while the term ‘turtle’ usually refers to sea-turtles which are not normally kept as pets.

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Is a turtle the right pet for you?


Many people get confused about whether turtles are amphibians or reptiles, considering that many turtles are happy moving both in water and on land.

Let’s clear it up once and for all: turtles are reptiles. Some are fully aquatic (sea or oceanic turtles or freshwater terrapin), some are semi-aquatic (turtles, sliders, painted turtles) and some are fully terrestrial (known as box turtles in the United States and tortoises everywhere else). Remember, tortoises cannot swim very well at all and will drown if put in deeper water.

Semantics aside there are some differences in shell structure, limbs and sizes and so forth. Fresh or brackish water terrapins have webbed feet and softer shells than sea turtles, which have probably the hardest shells in the reptile world.

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Turtle Book with GuaranteeFurther, most turtles that you own as pets, including the tortoise (box turtle) and slider, will have a more domed shell than other varieties such as the painted turtle or the diamondback terrapin.

All living turtles, tortoises and terrapins belong to the crown group ‘Chelonia.’

So if it is a reptile, has a shell and you can’t tell exactly which class it is just go ahead and call it that ‘chelonian critter.’

If it’s about two meters long and weighs almost a ton, it is most likely a sea turtle. If it’s smaller with a distinctive diamond or pentagonal pattern on its back then it’s a diamondback terrapin. If it’s smaller, green with red markings on its neck, it is most likely a red-eared slider.

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Is a turtle the right pet for you?


The Internet is a great place to look up all the different kinds of turtles and tortoises and choose one that is just right for you if you’re looking for a pet. Once you know the basics of looking after your ‘chelonian monk’ they make great pets, being utterly absorbing and fascinating.

They make no great demands on your time and affection and so can be peaceful and relaxing to be around. Go ahead and try it in this busy, demanding world – you can always return it to the breeder, pet shelter or pet shop you got it from if it doesn’t work out between you.

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