Turtle BreedsSpotted Turtles

Spotted Turtles

Spotted Turtles

The Spotted Turtles, scientifically termed Clemmys guttata, holds the distinction of being one of the tiniest semi-aquatic turtles favored by enthusiasts to keep as pets. Spanning from the Eastern and Midwestern stretches of the United States to the southern tips of Canada, these turtles have carved a niche for themselves in the hearts of many.

Often their captivating appearance, moderate size, and adaptability to both indoor and outdoor environments contribute to their popularity. However, a word of caution: considering a “Clemmy” for a pet is a long-term commitment. These turtles are not only high-maintenance but also have a remarkable lifespan. Some members of this species have been known to celebrate their 50th birthday!

Where They Originate FromSpotted Turtle crawling on the grass

Spotted turtles aka Clemmys guttata, are also called Small freshwater turtles belonging to the family of Emydidae. These are usually found from southern Canada to the southern and central United States. Their distribution pattern is extensive, ranging from regions like southern Maine, Quebec, and Ontario, down the eastern US corridor to Florida, and stretching to central zones like Indiana and Ohio. Notably, there are isolated populations in places like central Illinois, Georgia, North and South Carolina, and even Indiana.

Their preferred habitats are swamps, marshes, woodland streams, and wet meadows. They’re also known to inhabit brackish water streams influenced by tidal movements and even vernal pools and sedge meadows. Their favorite spots typically include areas with soft mud, water lilies, moss, and cattails.

Choosing and Buying

While the appeal of the Spotted Turtle is undeniable, it’s worth noting that they’re rare, and unfortunately, some populations are extinct. Their rarity, combined with their unique aesthetics, often pegs their price higher than that of common turtles. On average, a hatchling may set you back by $99, while young and mature turtles can cost anywhere from $300 to over $1000.

If you’re set on getting one, research is crucial. Always opt for a credible breeder or a reputable rescue organization. Any Spotted Turtle you bring home must be captive-bred, ensuring that the wild populations remain undisturbed. By opting for a specialist breeder who is both passionate and knowledgeable, the chances of you getting a healthily raised turtle are significantly higher.

There are also dedicated rescue organizations that seek loving homes for turtles in distress. Platforms like Petfinder.com can be instrumental in linking you with a turtle awaiting adoption in your vicinity.

Lastly, it’s essential to be aware of regional regulations. For instance, in some US regions, the sale of turtles with a shell size of less than 4 inches is prohibited. This makes acquiring a hatchling Spotted Turtle from most breeders a tad bit challenging.

How To Care For Them

HandlingA person holding a baby turtle

The Spotted Turtle, native to North America, can either grace your indoors or decorate your backyard. However, they show a marked inclination towards flourishing outdoors, especially when they come of age.

An imperative point to remember is that these turtles aren’t ace swimmers. Ensuring they aren’t surrounded by deep waters is crucial; we wouldn’t want our little friends to tire out or worse, risk drowning. Aim for water levels that allow them to comfortably touch the bottom while also reaching the surface. It’s noteworthy that while the hatchlings are more water-inclined, often venturing out only for basking, mature turtles prefer their time out of the water.

Creating a conducive environment goes a long way. Introducing logs and raised platforms not only ensures they get their dose of exercise and enrichment but also provides an essential resting spot. Aquatic and even plastic plants can serve as clandestine spots for our shelled friends. While ensuring ample dry areas for basking is crucial, providing a gradient or a ramp will aid their movement between the wet and dry zones.

Cleanliness is next to godliness, and this holds especially true for their aquatic environment. They feed, play, and spend significant time in the water; ensuring its hygiene is paramount. A shallow-water compatible filtration system is often a lifesaver. Not only does it reduce manual cleaning intervals, but it also guarantees a stress-free environment for the turtles. If you’re using tap water, ensure it’s devoid of chlorine, which can hamper the filtration process and, more critically, impact the turtle’s health.

It’s wonderful to have more than one Spotted Turtle but steer clear of housing males together. Their territorial instincts could lead to aggressive confrontations.

Common Health Issues

Although Spotted Turtles are hardy creatures, they aren’t immune to health concerns. A balanced diet, optimum lighting, heating, and impeccable hygiene are non-negotiables.

Aquatic turtles are susceptible to infectious diseases, which can be mild to severe. A hygienic habitat, coupled with a warm basking spot ensuring complete shell drying, can keep most diseases at bay.

Internal guests, in the form of parasites like nematodes or flagellates, might inhabit even the healthiest turtles. A surge in their numbers or the introduction of disruptive parasites can affect the turtle’s well-being. Symptoms include weight loss, lack of energy, or diarrhea. Annual check-ups with a vet specializing in exotics can nip potential health risks in the bud.

Appearance and BehaviorSmall turtle full of algae on its shell

The Spotted Turtle is the epitome of beauty in the world of semi-aquatic turtles. The smooth carapace, devoid of a central ridge or “keel,” showcases a beautiful black adorned with up to a hundred yellow spots. The plastron exhibits a yellow or orange-yellow hue, with a black spot gracing each segment. Aging might lead to increased melanism, sometimes turning the entire plastron black. An orange blotch on either side of the head accentuates their appearance. Their dorsal skin is a stark black sprinkled with occasional yellow spots, whereas the ventral side can display brighter shades, such as orange, pink, or even red. Some might even boast a tail with yellow striping.

Their size often boosts their popularity. But remember, their compact form doesn’t translate to easy care. Meeting their housing and dietary requirements is essential for their well-being.

Size and Lifespan

Spotted Turtles are compact and charismatic aquatic creatures, easily identified by their petite size of approximately 3 ½ – 4 ½ inches (9-11.5 cm). Their striking dark shells, adorned with yellow spots, are a distinguishing characteristic. Interestingly, these turtles have a predilection for terrestrial habitats during the warmer months and can often be found ensconced, buried on land. An intricate aspect of their lifecycle is their late bloom into sexual maturity, which they attain between 8-10 years of age. When given the right conditions and care, these turtles can grace your life for up to 25 years.


The Spotted Turtle, scientific name Clemmys Guttata, possesses an enchanting carapace that stands out due to the yellow-spotted markings. Juvenile turtles usually start with a modest number of spots, but as they journey to adulthood, their carapace can become a canvas for over 100 spots. These endearing yellow marks aren’t just confined to their backs; they gracefully extend to their face and neck areas as well.

Sharing a kinship with the Common Musk Turtle in terms of size, the Spotted Turtles are diminutive. They reach their full potential, size-wise, between four to six inches when they come of age.

An intriguing aspect of these turtles is their dimorphism, which becomes pronounced with age. Determining the gender of your Clemmys Guttata transforms into a straightforward task: the females proudly display a reddish chin, in contrast to the males with their dark, black ones. Furthermore, the males boast a tail that is not only longer but also more robust. Although they reside in both water and land realms, don’t mistake them for Olympic swimmers. These turtles, preferring the shallower parts of a water body, aren’t celebrated for their swimming prowess.

In terms of temperament, Spotted Turtles are a delightful mix of curiosity and alertness. Their agile movements often become a visual treat. However, it’s essential to recognize and respect their space. Like many of their aquatic brethren, they can be sensitive to excessive handling, which might stress them. Enjoying their presence from a distance is the best approach. But, if there’s a genuine need to handle them, ensure it’s brief and gentle. As a health precaution, always remember to wash your hands post any direct contact. A point to note is that there’s a minor possibility of aquatic turtles being carriers of the salmonella bacteria.

Housing Cooter Turtles

Enclosure Size

Contrary to popular belief, larger doesn’t always mean better, especially when it comes to accommodating Spotted Turtles. Given their modest maximum size of approximately 6 inches, these turtles don’t demand sprawling spaces. For young ones finding their fins in the world, a 20-gallon aquarium offers an ideal setting. However, as they grow and evolve, one might find the need to graduate to a 40-gallon tank, affording the turtle the luxury to stretch its legs and have a good swim around.

The congenial nature of Spotted Turtles makes them excellent tankmates. If you’re envisioning a community setting with multiple turtles, you’re on the right track! However, ensure the enclosure scales up with the number of residents. Aim for a tank capacity ranging between 75 to 125 gallons, contingent on the turtle count. Remember, tight spaces can spark territorial disputes, and with insufficient room to roam, your pets could end up at loggerheads.

But it’s not just about the sheer volume of the tank; the depth of its water plays an equally vital role. Given that Spotted Turtles are not Olympic swimmers, plunging them into profound depths could spell trouble. Seasoned turtle enthusiasts recommend keeping the water level restrained, not exceeding a 6-inch depth. For the little hatchlings, even this might be too ambitious. Aim for a depth that lets the turtle comfortably saunter along the bottom while keeping its head effortlessly above water.

While the lure of an outdoor habitat, replete with natural elements, can be enticing, it comes with its own set of challenges for Spotted Turtles. Creating a makeshift pond might seem like a feasible idea, but the logistical challenges – erecting fences, draping with chicken wire to fend off potential predators, and other safety measures – might outweigh the advantages. Given the petite stature of Spotted Turtles, it’s worth considering if the outdoor venture justifies the effort. Perhaps, sprucing up their indoor space with more naturalistic elements might be a more pragmatic approach.


Never underestimate the power of sunlight, or at least, its artificial counterpart, for your turtle. Vitamin D3 isn’t just for humans. Turtles, too, rely on it to metabolize calcium effectively. A deficiency can catapult them into a series of health woes. Thus, it’s imperative, especially for those turtles ensconced indoors and shielded from natural sunlight, to have a dedicated UVB lighting source stationed above their basking zones. It’s not just about illumination; it’s about recreating the nourishing embrace of the sun within the confines of an enclosure.

Temperature and Humidity

When we talk about temperature and humidity, A content Spotted Turtle prefers its water temperature to be in the snug range of 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Should you opt for water heaters, exercise caution: ensure they are submerged at all times. Dry, exposed heaters can become overheating nightmares, potentially jeopardizing your turtle’s health.

The domain above the water is equally significant. The basking area, where your turtle retreats for sun-like warmth, should emulate a summer day, with temperatures flirting between 90 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Beware of allowing temperatures to nosedive. An unanticipated cold snap might send your turtle into hibernation, a state fraught with risks unless you’re a seasoned turtle lover.

Substrate and Decoration

While Spotted Turtles can adapt to stark, barren habitats, why settle for the minimum? Introducing substrates not only elevates the aesthetic appeal but also offers a touch of natural comfort. While classic choices like dirt, soil, and mud might be reminiscent of their wild habitats, they can be tedious to maintain. Medium-sized gravels emerge as the practical choice, delivering both form and function. Do keep the turtle’s exploratory nature in mind: it might occasionally sample the substrate, so ensuring non-toxicity is paramount.

The decor isn’t merely about beautification. Strategically positioned smooth rocks, interspersed with aquatic plants like duckweed, water hyacinth, and honeysuckle, can transport your turtle to a world reminiscent of its natural habitat. These plants don’t just please the eye; they are a reservoir of oxygen and serve as snack options for your hungry turtle.

Food and Water

At heart, Spotted Turtles are carnivorous gourmets. Variety is the spice of their life, and a menu boasting shrimps, worms, crickets, and occasional delicacies like cooked beef can keep them enthused. Surprisingly, their palate isn’t restricted to meat. Many exhibit an affinity for fruits, leafy greens, and aquatic plants like Duckweed. Commercial turtle pellets can supplement this varied diet, offering essential nutrients like calcium fortified with Vitamin D3 – a boon for those who lead an indoor existence. If your turtle enjoys the sun outdoors, consider adding calcium supplements sans Vitamin D3 or even treat them to a Cuttlefish bone.


Spotted turtles, with their unique markings, have caught the fancy of many turtle enthusiasts. However, breeding these species isn’t straightforward work and requires an understanding of their natural life stages and cycles. Typically, spotted turtles come of age and are ready for reproduction when they are around 7 to 10 years old.

Spring, particularly from March to May, heralds the mating season for spotted turtles. In their natural habitat, these months are rife with mating activity, predominantly in aquatic environments. If you’re contemplating breeding spotted turtles, aligning with this natural rhythm increases the likelihood of success. While the process might seem intriguing, it can be stressful for these creatures. Mating gone awry can even be fatal. Thus, breeding for commercial purposes, especially without the appropriate licensing, is strongly discouraged.

For breeding to commence, ensure both the male and female turtles are healthy and of breeding age. The male, in his bid to woo the female, may engage in nipping or even mounting her. But nature has its checks and balances – the male can only proceed if the female indicates receptiveness. Once the mating act is completed, separate the pair to prevent undue stress.

A gravid (pregnant) female spotted turtle gets into nesting mode within a couple of months post-mating. As an owner, your task is to provide her with a conducive environment to lay her eggs. A nesting box, filled with loose soil, becomes imperative. On finding a suitable spot, she will deposit between 3 to 8 eggs, cover them up, and then, true to her instincts, never return.

Nature has its way of nurturing life, but in a captive environment, recreating those conditions is challenging. The next phase of post-egg-laying is incubation. In the wild, ambient temperature and pressure take care of this. In captivity, however, you’ll need an incubator. These machines simulate the conditions needed for the eggs to hatch, and in about three months, you should have young spotted turtles emerging.


Irrespective of whether you’re breeding them or not, the well-being of spotted turtles is important. Central to this is maintaining cleanliness. While spotted turtles are resilient, cleanliness goes a long way in ensuring they remain disease-free. Regularly cleaning their enclosures, providing them with clean water, an apt diet, and the right lighting and heating setup ensures their longevity and health.


Breeding spotted turtles is a beautiful journey to understanding the delicate processes of nature. But,  there can be no compromise when it comes to ensuring the turtles’ safety, providing the ideal environment for them, and protecting their health.

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