Pig-Nosed Turtle Care Sheet

Pig-Nosed Turtle

Scientific Facts

Common Name:Pig-Nosed Turtle
Scientific Name:Carettochelys insculpta
Life Span:
Size:70 cm and 30 kg of weight
Habitat:Freshwater areas
Country of Origin:Southern lowlands of New Guinea and Northern Territory, Australia

Physical Description

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The pig-nosed turtle is also known as the fly river turtle and the pitted-shelled turtle. This is a species of turtle that is listed as endangered species by the IUCN.

The pig-nosed turtle is native to the water areas of northern Australia and southern New Guinea. It is the only surviving member of the Carettochelys genus and subfamily of Carettochelyinae. Many extinct species were described over the years around the world.

This turtle is not like the average turtle that you are used to seeing. It does not have the traditional appearance of a freshwater or saltwater turtle. 

It has flippers for feet that look like marine turtles. It has a nose that looks like a pig’s nose. The nostril is found at the end of a snout. This is where it has derived its common name. 

The carapace is colored olive or grey and has a leathery, luxurious texture. The belly is cream-colored, which is one common characteristic it has inherited from some turtles. Male pig-nosed turtles have longer and narrower tails. This turtle can grow to 70 cm in carapace length and may weigh more than 20 kgs. 

Compared to the soft-shelled species of the Trionychidae family, the pig-nosed turtle has a dome-shaped carapace with a bony appearance under its skin than a flat plate. The plastron is solid and is connected to the shell using a bony bridge compared to a soft cartridge. 

Life Span

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Pig-Nosed Turtle has three stages of development: hatchlings, juveniles, and adults 


Baby pig-nosed turtles are born ready and hungry. These will feed on almost any kind of food as long as it can fit this in its smallmouth. The shell of a hatchling is smooth, with markings that are easy to see and a spine along the middle of the shell. The feet are flat and webbed, so these make it easier for the young turtles to move in the sand, pebbles, and rocky substrates.


Juvenile turtles are larger and have a lighter shell. The spine on the turtle’s shell is easily distinguishable, and the color usually starts to darken as it becomes older. The feet become larger, and the webbed areas give it the ability to move well in water. 


Adult pig-nosed turtles have leathery skin, larger shells, and more-pronounced noses. The feet are larger, and this allows this turtle to swim farther and deeper. There is little known about the life of adult pig-nosed turtles in the wild because this threatened species is found mostly in captivity. 

It was once believed that the pig-nosed turtle is very rare. There is a decline in the population of more than 50% in just 30 years (from 1981 to 2011). These turtles are protected under local laws, Indonesia’s Law No. 5/1990 on Natural Resources and Ecosystems Conservation. But despite this, the smuggling of pig-nosed turtles still occurs. 

It was estimated that around 11,000 turtles were taken from smugglers and were released to an area near Wania River, a Papua Province in Indonesia in 2010. In 2009, more than 10,000 pig-nosed turtles were also taken from smugglers and were released in an area near the Ottawa River in Lorentz National Park. 

In 2013, more than 650 pig-nosed turtles were intercepted in an Indonesian airport in 2013. These turtles were supposed to be taken to Hong Kong.  

Eating Habits

Pig-nosed turtles are classified as omnivorous, which means that this will eat insects, small animals, and plants. These turtles may prefer more plants in their diets with wild species preferring fruit and leaves over insects. Pig-nosed turtles also eat mollusks, crustaceans, and other small marine creatures.  

Sleeping Habits

A Pig-Nosed Turtle will sleep in the daytime or anytime it wishes. during the evenings. Compared to other turtles, this species can stay underwater for a short while because it can hold its breath longer. After eating, these will find a comfortable spot and sleep as much as it can. 

In an outdoor enclosure, adult males living in the same area may sleep side by side. These turtles may bask together and sleep together. Just like other turtles, the pig-nosed turtle may sleep for a long time but not hibernate. This is why this turtle needs a safe and suitable enclosure. 


Pig-Nosed Turtles can live on land as well as in shallow waters where aquatic plants are found. These may also thrive in wetlands to avoid possible predators that are common in wetlands. Grasslands or areas near water are mostly used as a shelter.  

To keep a Pig-Nosed Turtle in captivity, consider an outdoor enclosure with a small water feature. Add water plants in the pool so that your turtle/s can feed. You may also add feeder fishes to mimic this turtle’s natural environment. But if you can’t place your turtle outdoors, build an indoor enclosure with a water feature. Spot check water all the time because turtles may poop in the water. 

Development, Reproduction, and Breeding

Pig-nosed turtles reach their mature stage at 18+ years for females and 16 years for males. Females will lay their eggs during the dry season and will choose a good spot along the river banks. The sandy banks make the perfect and safe place to lay eggs. 

When the offspring have completely developed, these will continue to remain inside the eggs in a state of hibernation. It will wait till conditions are right to emerge from the shell. The hatchling will be triggered to come out of the egg when these are flooded by a quick reduction of humidity which is common in times when a heavy storm is near,

Environmental triggers also help signal that it is a good time to get out of the shell. A hatchling that’s moving the egg results in vibrating all the eggs in the next and this also triggers hatching. Having a universal trigger compared to waiting for the stage to pass means that all the hatchlings will come out of the shell at the same time. Also, hatching at the same time gives strength in numbers. This means that there will be more turtles helping dig out of the ground as well. 

Common Health Problems

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Pig-Nosed Turtle may suffer from the following health issues. 

Shell Problems

Shell problems are due to bacterial or viral infections and fungi. If these are overlooked, the shells can crack, and the turtle may suffer from fractures. Females may suffer from shell problems after mating too aggressively. Be mindful of a bleeding, abscess, and poor healing whether the shell problem happened weeks or months ago.


Abscesses are swelling or growth in any area of the turtle’s body. The most areas for abscesses are the eyes and the opening of the ear. One of the most common causes of abscesses is vitamin A deficiency. Increasing vitamin A levels can help improve skin health and prevents the development of abscesses.

Respiratory Infections 

Pig-Nosed Turtle can also suffer from respiratory conditions because of bacteria and due to vitamin A deficiency. Signs are open-mouth breathing, wheezing, poor appetite, and lack of energy. Discharge from the nose is another sign that your pet needs medical treatment as soon as possible.

Vitamin A Deficiency

Vitamin A deficiency results in skin changes, poor appetite, swelling of the eye and ears, respiratory conditions, and lethargy. Feed your turtle a vitamin A-rich diet or provide supplements.


Symptoms like diarrhea and weight loss may be due to intestinal parasites. Roundworms are very common in turtles, and this must be addressed ASAP to prevent complications. When it comes to parasites, turtles don’t show any symptoms until it’s too late.

Turtle injuries 

Pig-Nosed Turtles may be kept in an outdoor enclosure. But as it moves around an outdoor enclosure, it can be prone to many kinds of accidents. Your turtle may fall, may suffer from serious injuries or any injury that results in bleeding. If these happen, take your pet to the vet quickly. 

If you see the injury on the eyes, nose, or the head and there is bleeding, visit the vet. If your turtle suffers from vomiting, loose stools, or blood in stools, you must prevent dehydration, loss of blood, and other metabolic problems by taking it to the vet fast.

Preventing Illness

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Prevent illness by maintaining tank cleanliness. Clean the water and food dishes and change the water inside the tank once every week. For tank water for swimming, use a powerful water filter to efficiently clean it. Remember to change or clean the water filter often. 

A good disinfectant and warm water will help clean the tank for your pet. Remove any food remnants in the tank and remove poop at once. 

Since pig-nosed turtles are endangered, you need to provide extra care for your turtle. Take it to the vet for regular checkups. Do this frequently when your turtles, especially when in their hatchling phase. 

And most of all, always maintain the best temperature inside the tank to prevent illness due to incorrect temperature and humidity. Always monitor the temperature, humidity, and water quality inside the enclosure.  


The pig-nosed turtle has the following behaviors. Learning about these behaviors will help you get to know your pet better.

Are not completely aquatic species

It was once thought that the Pig-nosed turtles are marine turtles, possibly due to their leathery skin and their webbed feet. Actually, this turtle may live, swim and feed in water and it may also live temporarily on land.where it spends time foraging for food on vegetation. This is evidenced by this turtle’s wide variety of fruits and vegetables that it can live on land as well.  

Aggressive turtles

According to breeders and some studies, the pig-nosed turtle is aggressive. It is unknown still what causes a turtle’s aggressive nature. Some say that it is territorial, while some say that it could be due to poor exposure to human handlers. 

More territorial in captivity

In line with the turtle’s aggression, it is thought to be more territorial when in captivity. It can fight other turtles for the domain of an area, and this can lead to wounds, abrasions, and cuts. The territorial nature of this turtle is seen before breeding and even during breeding. Experts also say that it is more territorial in captivity because it lives near other pig-nosed turtles.  

Exhibit some form of social structure

When pig-nosed turtles live together, you can see some kind of social structure starting with the dominant male. Usually, the most aggressive or the biggest male leads the pack.

Turtles can also drown

Turtles like the pig-nosed turtle can remain underwater for a very long time but may also drown. Turtles need to come up for air to breathe, but if for any reason they cannot, they can drown. 

If you suspect that your turtle has drowned, never turn it upside down because you can kill it. There may still be air left inside their lungs. Doing this may reduce their chance of living. To revive your pet, place it on a flat surface, and perform turtle CPR. 

Hold its two front legs and push these in and pull these out the body or shell. Doing these, again and again, can remove fluid in the lungs. Water will come out of its mouth and nose. Take your pet to the vet at once.


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The pig-nosed turtle is native from the freshwater streams, rivers, and lagoons of the Northern Territory of Australia. It is also found locally in New Guinea, where it lives in smaller streams and rivers.

In captivity, an indoor enclosure measuring 8 x 4 foot is perfect for a home, but only two adults can fit in this space. Males and females are kept apart and are only introduced when it’s near breeding time. 

Use mulch as substrates. Male and female enclosures are the same, but the females must have a nesting box that is placed under a basking light.

When turtles are kept outdoors, the enclosure must be at least 12 x 20 feet for a small group. Use timber to build the walls of this enclosure. There should be no gaps because your turtle can escape. Build a small enclosure that will serve as the turtle’s home. This must be easily accessible so the turtles can move in and out quickly. 

Place this outdoor pen in an area where there are lots of suns in your backyard and in well-drained soil. Areas that have water and are soaked after a rain is not a good area for an enclosure. 

Lighting and Heating

A full-spectrum UV lamp and a basking heating lamp inside the tank is the best way to provide good heating and lighting. You’ll find many types of lamps and heaters, but the best one has to be an incandescent light. Since this can give good lighting and will also make the area warm enough for your turtle. 

The lighting must be adjustable with temperature adjustments and height adjustments to create the most comfortable living area for your pig-nosed turtle. 


Use a reliable filter to continuously clean tank water. The tank water can easily become dirty if you have more than one turtle inside it. A battery-powered backup filtration system is a good alternative in case of power outages. Some water filters are reusable/washable while some are disposable, but no matter what type you have, make sure to perform maintenance regularly. 

Tank Accessories

Keep the turtle enclosure clean and should have a simple design. Avoid décor that can injure your pet. As much as possible, a turtle tank needs only water, soil, sand, and a few rocks where the turtle can sit and bask. 

On the other hand, females with eggs need more loose soil in the tank or enclosure to help her lay her eggs. Use safe materials as hides and keep one under the lamp and another one at the back, far from the light. 


Always keep the tank clean to avoid the spread of dangerous parasites, which can make your pet sick. Small turtles can spread Salmonella, which is a dangerous bacteria that can cause diarrhea, vomiting, and dehydration in humans. To avoid this, clean the tank regularly, very important, especially if you have more than one or two turtles.

There are several good disinfectants to clean the tank well. There are also natural and commercial products for cleaning. You may also clean warm water and always rinse the tank well before use. For an enclosure outdoors, brush the floors and walls of the tank and rinse it with a hose. Wash your hands and wear protective gear as you clean the enclosure. Also, everything must be dry and ready before you place your pig-nosed turtle inside the tank.

Availability – Where to Get One?

Pig-Nosed Turtle is a rare, endangered species and is not available even in exotic pet shops and pet stores near you. 

We strongly advise not to buy one as a pet to discourage the illegal pet trade. Instead, adopt a turtle from a friend or rescue one from shelters. Adopting a Pig-Nosed Turtle will cost nothing, and you’re helping efforts to save this creature by not supporting the illegal pet trade. 

How to Care for a Pig-Nosed Turtle?

Here are some techniques on how to care for a Pig-Nosed Turtle

  • Constantly monitor the temperature and humidity of the tank or enclosure. Keep the tank’s temperature at the best levels using a reptile lamp, especially if there is no sunlight. 
  • Guarantee your turtle’s health by taking it to a vet regularly. Do this more often when your pet is ready to lay eggs and for pets that are sick or suffering from a medical condition.  
  • Monitor your pet for any problems such as respiratory, gastrointestinal, and shell conditions. If you have a new turtle, don’t immediately place it inside the tank where you’re turtles are. Place it under quarantine to rule out any diseases. This should remain in quarantine for a few weeks before you allow it to join your turtles.
  • When handling a Pig-Nosed Turtle, wash your hands before and after to avoid the spread of Salmonella and other dangerous diseases. Pig-Nosed Turtles may be affected by parasites, so avoid spreading this to other pets. 
  • Pig-Nosed Turtles may be allowed to roam the yard or outdoors as long as you protect it using a small cage or screen. If you want to let your turtle remain outdoors, carry a portable lamp, water, and food.
  • Always feed your turtle the right kind of food to prevent deficiencies and infections. Your vet can help you with the ideal type of food, depending on your turtle’s developmental stage.

FAQ Section

What do pig-nosed turtles eat?

Pig-nosed turtles will eat plants and small animals. It will mostly eat plants in the wild, but in captivity, you should create a varied diet for your pet. 

How long do these turtles live?

It is unknown as to how long pig-nosed turtles live. Some say that it can live longer in captivity because these are properly cared for. In the wild, these are only victims of indiscriminate poaching and trade. 

Where do pig-nosed turtles sleep?

Pig-nosed turtles will sleep in enclosures on land. It will locate a safe and comfortable spot near a light source where it can sleep. In the wild, it will look for a safe place where it can hide and sleep.

Can you tame a pig-nosed turtle?

Little is known about the pig-nosed turtle since only a few breeders have managed to care for this turtle. But most of these breeders agree that they have witnessed that this turtle can be tamed and may even follow its handler.     

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