Spotted Turtle Care Sheet

Scientific Facts

Common Name:Spotted turtle
Scientific Name:Clemmys guttata
Life Span:More than 20 years
Size:3.1 to 4.7 inches
Habitat:Swamps, bogs, fens, wet pastures, woodland streams, and marshes
Country of Origin:North America

Physical Description

Two drawings of a spotted turtle that show both the top (carapace) and bottom (plastron). The claws are long and the turtle is dark in color

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Spotted turtles, as their name implies, small turtles with a spotted appearance. Their carapaces can be 3.1 to 4.7 inches long. These upper shells are smooth and not marked with a keel or central ridge.

The females are a bit bigger than males. It is black and speckled with bright yellow markings. Also, the female turtles have more yellowing marks all over their bodies compared to males. Hatchlings have a yellow spot on every section of their carapaces. 

For their base skin, the color often ranges from black to grey with neck, head, and limps with yellow spots. Their underbellies can be orange, yellow, red, or pink. The plastrons of spotted turtles can be orange-yellow or yellow with a dark spot on every scute. 

However, as these turtles mature, their entire plastrons turn into black because of the increased melanism. The plastrons in male spotted turtles are bowl-shaped, but females have either curved or flat plastrons. 

The heads of spotted turtles are black with orange-colored markings on the sides. Also, they have multiple yellowish lines on their heads. They have teeth on their upper jaws. However, the male spotted turtles have brown eyes and tan chins. Females have orange eyes and yellow chins.

Besides, these turtles have short and flattish black-colored tails with yellow stripes and spots. The tails of male turtles can be longer than that of females. 

Similar Species

spotted turtle

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No other turtle species share the same physical and behavioral characteristics with spotted turtles.


These turtles are semi-aquatic. Meaning, they can live both by water and by land. They are okay with living in various habitats. These include swamps, bogs, fens, wet pastures, woodland streams, and marshes. At times, spotted turtles live in the wavy brackish streams. These turtles often choose to live in places with soft soil and slow-moving waters. 


The spotted turtles are omnivores. So, their diet normally consists of plant materials such as green algae and different aquatic vegetations. Also, these animals may consume marine insect larvae, worms, slugs, millipedes, spiders, salamanders, crustaceans, small fish, and tadpoles. 

Whatever they prefer to eat, spotted turtles will always consume their foods in the water. Feeding doesn’t start in spring until the water temperature becomes around 15 degrees Celsius. 

When feeding spotted turtles, you must offer them as much as they can eat in 15-20 minutes. For adults, feed them every 3rd day or every other day. Neonates must be given with frequent small meals in a day. The female turtles will breed better if there are more animal protein in their diet. 


The spotted turtles are naturally active, but they will become inactive throughout the winter season. Their activity starts in early spring as they love basking, which they do in the logs and fields. They tend to be more active in April to May within the northern areas.

Also, these turtles hibernate in water or on land throughout the entire extremely cold and hot months. They love to burrow in the leaf litters within the woodlands or marsh borders throughout when they rest during the hot summer season. 

The spotted turtles are also good at hunting. They do it often under the water. However, some studies show that these animals move to telluric lands when they want to hunt. They will eat when the temperature rises above 14.2 degrees Celsius or 57.6 degrees Fahrenheit. 

The female turtles with eggs will stay active throughout the night. They tend to jump to the water, and they go deep to bury themselves in the mud when feeling threatened. 


Several birds and animals kill spotted turtles for food. These include raccoons, skunks, muskrats, otters, black bears, bald eagles, and minks. 


These little turtles come with several adaptive characteristics and features which help them survive in the wild. Like other turtles, the spotted turtles have tough shells that help them protect themselves from the predators. 

Likewise, they live in water habitats with duckweeds, which help them hide whenever they feel threatened. The concave plastrons in male turtles are known to be the adaptive feature that can help them when mating. 


Resulta ng larawan para sa spotted turtle enclosure

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The process of mating occurs between March and May for these turtles. These turtles mate often inside the water habitats. Spotted turtles are somewhat easy to breed when raised in captivity.

When captive-bred, these turtles become sexually mature in just 47 months. However, those that are living in the wild will require as long as 8 to 9 years to become sexually mature. This is true, especially for the female turtles. 

You can keep the spotted turtles in pairs or a big group of several females and just one male. However, since the male turtles are often persistent when courting, then the enclosure of these animals should have 3 or more hiding spots where the females can run to. 

For the turtles living in the wild and an outdoor enclosure, breeding happens in March and will last until the first week of May. Those that are kept indoors tend to mate year-round. However, successful copulations often take place from March to July. 

If you choose to keep males with females in one enclosure, then you have to constantly check your pets, especially during the mating season. That’s because male spotted turtles sometimes pursue females, which causes them to stop eating and even getting drowned as they try to escape from males. 

Separating them when feeding might help solve that issue. You can also keep the male turtle separated from the females and introduce it only when breeding is at the right timing. That would be a great solution to the same issue, too. 

Breeding females must have easy access to good nesting sites. These special sites are so important in the prevention of getting the eggs deposited in the water or retained in the female turtles as they don’t have access to nesting sites. 

The female turtles will lay 3 to 5 eggs. Sometimes, they produce up to 8 eggs. Give them a shoebox made of plastic and filled with cypress mulch or moist sand. This shoebox will serve as the nesting site for the females. Of course, you need to check this shoebox from time to time to see the eggs. 

When it comes to incubation, you can keep the eggs either in commercial incubators or plastic shoeboxes. If you choose the commercial incubators, then just follow carefully the directions provided by the manufacturer. With the plastic shoeboxes, fill them around midway with wet vermiculite. Use the 1:1 ratio by weight. For example, 100 g of vermiculite is equal to 100 g of water. Then, get the lid of shoeboxes and punch multiple holes in them to let the air go in and out of the shoeboxes.

Carefully excavate the eggs from the nest section then bring them to the incubation compartment. Make sure to keep the eggs in their original places and orientation, just like how the mothers laid them. Carefully draw a letter X on the top of these eggs using a lead pencil. This will help you keep the eggs oriented properly.

Once done, bury the eggs around midway in the vermiculite, allowing for infrequent observation and checking. Keep the eggs at a temperature between 75 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Expect the eggs to hatch between 55 to 90 days. As you wait for that special moment, never forget to check the humidity levels. Don’t allow the containers and eggs to dry. In case the humidity levels subside, you may gently mist the inner part of the incubation compartment. 


Resulta ng larawan para sa spotted turtle eggs

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The spotted turtles become ready for reproduction at the age of 7-10 years. In the long run, the females will go out of the mating ponds to find a nesting site. The turtles may travel far until they got a perfect place for the eggs. The female spotted turtles often go to meadows, fields, or in the edges of the streets. For them, these are the perfect sites for laying the eggs. 

Once they get there, the turtles will dig 2.5” x 2” holes using their legs. After that, they will lay 3 up to 6 eggs into these holes. The eggs are oval-shaped with thin but flexible shells. The turtles will then cover the holes carrying the eggs with mud and smooth the debris through the holes using their bodies. 

Life Cycle

The eggs of spotted turtles can take approximately 11 weeks before they hatch. When the time comes, the hatchlings will be around 1 inch in length. Sooner as they come out of the eggs, the hatchlings will start hunting for food and good shelter. Their mothers won’t take care of them. 

You can determine their sex based on the nest’s temperature at some point in the incubation time. Hatchlings that will be born under low temperatures will be males, while those born under high temperatures will be females. 


The spotted turtles will hibernate if the climate is either too cold or hot. Hibernation will occur in the lodges, burrows, and shallow waters. These turtles often go together in groups consisting of 5 to 12 members to hibernate. They will come out of the hibernation at the start of spring. 


Many of these turtles raised in captivity lived for more than 20 years. The estimated lifespan for this turtle species is from 25 up to 50 years.

Their Positive and Negative Economic Significance to People

These turtles occupy a dedicated ecological niche inside their habitats, which are physically diverse and comparatively intermittent. The spotted turtles are aesthetically good-looking. Their colors easily attract people, which resulted in a higher demand for these turtle species as pets for sale. Besides, these turtles are known to be harmless to humans compared to other turtle species.

Caging and Environment

Resulta ng larawan para sa spotted turtle enclosure

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You have many choices to choose from when it comes to the best enclosure to use for spotted turtles. These animals thrive well in these settings for as long as you provide them with enough clean water. The water you’re giving to them must be warm enough at 76 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit. Also, these turtles need to have quick access to many live plants that offer security and hiding spaces. 


Typical outdoor enclosures made for turtles are usually rectangular pens that can be constructed by stacking two sheets of the railroad ties. These pens must be at least 10’ x 10’ and around 2’ in height. Be sure also that they are partly shaded by the nearby plants and trees or even with man-made structures while the sun is up. 

Put a dipped tub inside the enclosure. It should be at least 36” wide, 60” long, and 10” deep. The sunken tub will serve as the enclosure’s water part. Fill it with chlorine-free water and add some aquatic plants and driftwood inside the enclosure. You may also put a fabric bag or the legs of used pantyhose filled with peat moss to the water. This will help maintain the ideal pH level of the water inside your pet’s cage. 

Be sure that there is enough space in the tips of the water area. This way, the turtles will not be struggling to climb out of the enclosure. You can also put a 10-inch deep layer of ½ peat moss combined with ½ moist river sand. This will be the nesting site of your female spotted turtles. 

On the opposite tips of the cage, you can plant marginal plants like wild iris, cattails, papyrus, and taro with bog to imitate the natural habitat of your pets. Leave some space on one side with just soil. No need to add plants for this section. It should be at least 18” wide and 18” long. This will be the feeding section of the enclosure. This type of enclosure was proven successful in keeping and raising spotted turtles and even other turtle species. 


You can also set up these turtles in bigger tubs indoors. These tubs often measure 48” wide, 84” long, and 24” deep. They are called “resting” or winter enclosures. They aren’t as elaborate as the outdoor cages, so they are easier to clean and maintain. Also, it is easier to watch the behaviors of the turtles and their condition during this period when you keep them in these enclosures. 

For the substrate, you can use ½ peat moss mixed with ½ wet sand. But before you add this substrate, you need to add first a 10-inch layer of pea gravel on the base of the enclosure that will serve as the drainage. You can use either a litter pan or a cement-mixing tub within that will serve as the water area. The top sheet of cypress mulch applied to most parts of the environment within the tub will help a lot in retaining the moisture. 

Then, you can add some plants and palm fronds plus dry leaves, providing more cover which your pets will enjoy. The layers of bark and big slate slabs resting on the bricks can also serve as a hiding area for shy turtles. 

Aquatic Setting

The spotted turtles can also stay in those enclosures that are quite aquatic. Some keepers out there prefer keeping their pets with other turtle species like musk turtles inside of an aquatic setting. These turtles love to bask, and they are commonly seen on the basking spots. Sometimes, they rest at the pond’s borderline or on the driftwood logs. They look happy and satisfied with being in an aquatic setting for the rest of their lives. If you choose this type of enclosure, just be sure that the sides of the water area are in a slanting position. This way, the turtles will be able to climb in and out of the water area with ease. 


River sand is among the best choices of a substrate to use for this turtle species. 

Lighting and Heating

Full-spectrum lights are necessary for the correct stimulation of feeding, growth, and breeding. These lights are crucial for simulating natural sunlight. The natural sunlight that passes through the aquarium or window glass lacks the needed UV wavelengths because of the glass that filters out the UV. Do not put the tank in the area where it can be left exposed to direct sunlight because it may quickly overheat the cage and kill the turtles inside. 

The neonates may need additional UVB supplementation that encourages proper bone development. Full-spectrum lighting must be mounted from 8” to 12” on top of the basking spot. Likewise, the lights must be on for 10-12 hours every day.

The water temperature must be approximately 65 degrees Fahrenheit with a basking spot of around 90 degrees Fahrenheit. The spotted turtles must have some basking sections. You can use 100-watt bulbs that can produce the right amount of heat. It should be around 12-15 inches from the basking spot. 

Heat is essential for turtles that are dealing with respiratory infections. Therefore, it’s best to give warmth just in case your pets are sick. Some UVB bulbs must be included, too. These lights are good at stimulating the natural light. They can also help the turtles in synthesizing the vitamin D3 that aids in the proper absorption of calcium.


The spotted turtles can swim but not so good at it. They choose shallow water. So, when creating a water area for them inside the enclosure, make sure the water is only 0.65 feet. You can use a pond filter or biological filter for filtration. The suggested water pH level is 6 to 7. 

In case of the temperature decreases, the spotted turtles will become sluggish and unable to swim. When adding a water area in their enclosure, always be sure the water level is within the ideal height and that your pets can use the wood or plants and have a strong grip on the walls to climb out of the water to gasp air. 

Common Health Issues Among the Spotted Turtles

Shell abnormalities and health issues can come along the way due to poor nutrition. If your pets have abrasions, they become more susceptible to fungal infections. Swollen and irritated eyes will develop if the water is of poor quality or when the pH level is extremely high. When kept for a while under direct sunlight with clean water, the spotted turtles will grow. 

Temperament and Handling

The spotted turtles must be touched sparingly. They don’t love being handled, but they are okay with infrequent handling. So, hold them just once or twice every week for up to 20 minutes. 

Also, you need to avoid handling them if you want them to breed. They should be relaxed and feeling comfortable so that they can focus on courtship and mating. If your pets are new, then you should avoid touching them as much as possible as they need to adjust to their new environment and enclosure. Make it easier for them by refraining from touching them whenever possible. 

Availability – Where to Get One?

You may look for these turtles through the web and at the local pet stores in your area. If you’re in the US, then finding them is not a problem. These turtles are quite common in the country. You may contact the reptile breeders you know or visit the nearest pet shops and get a pair of healthy spotted turtles. 

How to Care for a Spotted Turtle?

Taking care of spotted turtles can be quite challenging for novices. But once you know what to do and you have provided everything the turtles need, they will be happy for the rest of their lives under your care. 

Of course, these needs include the enclosure. It needs to be the best enclosure for your pets. The enclosure should be wide and spacious enough, especially if you want to keep 4 or more turtles in one enclosure. 

Then, feed them right. Always pick those food items included in their list of preferences. Give them their food at the right time. 

Also, don’t forget to check the humidity level, temperature, and lighting within the enclosure. These things are crucial for the health of your pets. 


Do spotted turtles live in saltwater or freshwater?

You can find the spotted turtles in the rivers, lakes, and streams, which means they live not in saltwater. It’s impossible to spot them living on the shoreline. 

Whats is the scientific name of spotted turtles?

The scientific name for spotted turtles is Clemmys guttata. In 1828, Ferdinand August Maria Franz von Ritgen named this turtle species and, another taxonomist named these turtles as Testudo guttatai in 1792. 

How long do spotted turtles live?

Taking care of the spotted turtles is a long-term commitment as they can live for more than 20 years. The secret to reaching that lifespan is to provide these turtles with good shelter, food, and a relaxing and stress-free environment. 

Do spotted turtles love being handled?

Unlike other reptiles, spotted turtles do not seem to have fun when being held. They can even get stressed and sick with prolonged handling, so it’s better to leave them on their enclosures for the most time. 

How big and heavy the spotted turtles are?

The size of spotted turtles may vary, but it’s typically between 3.4 cm up to 12.4 cm. For the weight, their weight is typically between 0.5 and 0.75 pounds. 

What type of lighting do they need when kept as pets?

The lighting setup must be where these turtles will feel comfortable when being fed. The photoperiod should stay at 18:6. 

Do spotted turtles hibernate?

The spotted turtles will hibernate by nature or when forced to do so. If the temperature inside their enclosure went down to 22 degrees centigrade, then these turtles will surely go and hibernate. 

Do spotted turtles swim?

The spotted turtles can swim as they live in freshwater. However, they are not as good as other turtles in swimming as they prefer to swim in shallow water.

Where do spotted turtles live?

The spotted turtles can be seen in Canada and some areas in the US. They are spotted living in Arizona, New Mexico, Missouri, and Indiana, and even Fraser Valley and British Columbia. 

How many eggs do female spotted turtles lay in every breeding season?

The female spotted turtles can lay 10-12 eggs in most cases. The eggs are around 3 cm long. 

When do spotted turtles mate?

The spotted turtles mate often in summer. Ideally, they do it from June to July.

What are the greatest predators of spotted turtles?

Different animals play as predators for spotted turtles. These include badgers, crows, foxes, raccoons, and dogs that often feast on hatchlings and eggs. 

Are spotted turtles friendly?

Spotted turtles are not friendly like other turtles. However, they seem to be okay with living with other turtle species in just one enclosure. 

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