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Freshwater Turtles

Turtle Care GuideFreshwater turtles are reptiles and are members of the order Testudines. They are cold blooded creatures, protected by a bony and dome-shaped shell (carapace – upper and plastron – lower part) originated from their rib.

A ‘bridge’ connects them at the side of their body. Their feet are club-shaped and webbed.

They may grow up to two meters and live long (about 150 years). But in captivity, they may live longer (even up to 250 years)!  

Sea turtles and Freshwater turtles are the two main categories of turtles. Among them freshwater turtles are smaller in size (a few inches to a few feet of length), lives in ponds, lakes, rivers or sometimes in brackish estuaries.

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Types of Freshwater turtles:

Among the 4 families a few main features are discussed below:

  1. Family Emydidae (common fresh-water turtle) is the largest family (includes almost 1/3rd of all turtle species) of the Northern Hemisphere. They live in the warm regions of southern and eastern Asia, eastern north America and central America.

    Muhlenberg’s turtle, painted turtle, wood turtle, spotted turtle, diamondback terrapins, Blanding's turtle, sliders and many more are included in this family.  

  2. The small Musk or Mud turtles of the family Kinosternidae are commonly found in Eastern United States and indigenous to Americas only.

  3. The freshwater turtles of the family Trionychidae possess soft leathery shells and flat body. Available in Northern Hemisphere.  

  4. The common snapping turtles (common snapper or alligator snapper) of the family Chelydridae are aggressive, large and found in north, northern south and central America. They have powerful jaws. The upper jaw is anteriorly hooked.

    The dark colored (brown/olive/black) shell surface is rough with knobby keels. The jaws snap while closing, hence called ‘snapper’. Their eyes open dorsolaterally.


Freshwater turtles are carnivores but sometimes behave as herbivores. Among animals, they prefer to feed on fish, insects, spiders, crustaceans, snails, clams, leeches, amphibians and their eggs and larvae, earthworms, snakes, flatworms (planarians), other turtles, birds, sponges, small mammals, carrion etc.

The vegetarian foods like duckweed, algae and other submerged aquatic plants and seeds are also eaten by them. They scavenge on decayed matters too.

Mating season:

April to November.


April to July. Clutch size- 6 to 109. Incubation period- 55 to 125 days (depends upon the nest temperature).


Hard-shelled and spherical; diameter-about 2.8 cm; average mass is 11 gm. Hatchlings emerge between August to October.  

Many species of fresh-water turtles are endangered now. Save them before it is too late.

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