How to Take Care of a Baby Turtle

Taking care of a baby turtle is a thrilling and exciting experience. These lovable pets are easy to maintain and are relatively inexpensive compared to their adult counterparts. On the same note, the FDA still maintains that purchasing a turtle of 4-inches or smaller is illegal. This is because baby turtles of 4 inches or less present a high risk of contracting Salmonella.

Before buying one, remember turtles have a long lifespan. As a result, you need to be prepared to take care of them for many years to come. There is also the looming risk of Salmonella. From 2006-2015, a sum of 15 multistate outbreaks of salmonella in the U.S. The outbreaks was linked to these adorable pets.

Similar to adult turtles, taking care of your pet baby ones requires commitment. The procedure is similar in that there are several factors that need to be considered. These factors include:

Baby turtle care

Care tips


A large tank

A large tank is ideal for all turtles as it gives the pet room to play, explore and burrow. A standard tank that can hold 15 gallons, and measures 24 inches in length, 12 inches in width and 12 inches in height is ideal for this reptile. However, if your pet’s shell length is more than 4 inches, then you need a bigger tank. Here are the tank sizes you require according to its shell length.

Turtle Shell Size  Tank
4-6 Inches 40-60 gallons
6-8 inches 60-80 gallons
8-inches 80-100 gallons

Replicating the habitat

You need to provide your pet with conditions that are like its natural habitat. This is important as it keeps it from getting stressed which can lead to illness.

There are three types of turtles. The terrestrial, aquatic, and semi-aquatic turtle. One common turtle breed in the market is the Red Eared Slider. This breed is semi-aquatic meaning that it occurs near ponds.

Therefore, if you have a baby Red Eared Slider, you will have to give a tank with special lighting and heating to mimic the warm climate of its natural habitat. The tank should have water, for instance, 60 gallons of water if your pet is 6-inches long, as well as raised land for your pet to bask on.


Similar to the adult one, your pet requires a diet that is similar to what they feed on in the wild. Some species are omnivorous, e.g. the Common Musk, Mud Turtles, The Red Eared Slider, and the Common American Wood Turtle are omnivorous. Therefore, the diet of your pet depends on the type of species.

Young turtles like a high-protein diet as they are growing. Protein foods include earthworms, snails/mollusks, and insects. Vegetables are also important like carrots, cucumber, spinach, as well as fruits like apples.

Remember that while still young, these reptiles tend to be more carnivorous than the adult counterparts. As a result, they are likely to refer to worms, mollusks, and insects. Still, offer them vegetables regularly.


There are supplies that you need to take care of this pet. Aside from the large tank, you need a filter. Aquatic breeds are messy creatures. Therefore, you need a special filter designed for turtle tanks to keep the water clean.

You need to prepare bedding for your pet. The bedding/substrate is made from gravel. You can buy the gravel from a pet store an alternative to gravel are river rocks that are hardened/stable coupled with pieces of driftwood.

Next, you need to create a natural-like habitat for your pet using plants and rocks. The plants and rocks will give your pet a place to hide and bask. Lastly, you need a heat lamp, turtle food, and pet bowls. Place the heat lamp on a raised area that occurs above the water. This raised area is its basking site.

There are turtle foods in the market that have been approved by veterinarians. They include Tetra 29258 ReptoMin. This food brand is high in protein, vitamin, and calcium making it a great feed for your pet. There is also the Fluker Labs SFK72020 Aquatic Turtle Medley Treat food that is equally nutritious.

The joys of having a baby turtle video

Baby turtle care

Providing a proper, clean habitat for your pet and feeding them properly is the best way to care for this young reptile.  As a rule of thumb, you need to work towards making it happy and not just keeping them alive. This requires initiative on your part, and that is why it is advisable to get a pet turtle if you absolutely love turtles. Do not purchase this pet on a whim. Here are the practices you need to incorporate into your care sheet:

1. Frequent water changes

This can be done once every two weeks. Replace two-thirds of the water in the tank with clean water. The frequency of water change depends on the size of the aquarium.

2. Lighting

Baby turtles require UVB radiation for shell strength, proper health, and growth. Get a fluorescent light bulb that produces at least 5% UVB radiation. The lighting should be placed at a distance (at least 30cm) from the area you want to light.

There is also a second lighting that you need. This is the incandescent spotlight for creating heat in the basking area. Remember that these pets are reptiles. They have no control over their body temperature. Therefore, you need to provide them with the right temperatures and lighting.

In regards to temperature, different species have different temperature requirements. Most species thrive in temperatures ranging from 750-800 According to Amphibiancare.com, you should get a submersible aquarium heater. Heaters made from plastic or titanium are safer as they are not likely to break. Carefully place the heater in the water. Temperatures in the basking area should range from 900F (320C) to 1000F (380C).

Give your baby turtle access to land and water

Being young, they are not yet expert swimmers. Therefore, make sure the water is not too deep (recommended: the water should be an inch deeper than the shell-width). Also, 25% of the tank space should be a land area where it can bask.

Feed your baby turtle daily

These pets require a lot of food to grow. Baby turtles can eat 3-8 pellets daily. Offer a variety of foods to your pet to promote good health. Put the food in the water. Once your pet is done eating, remove the debris from the water.

Regular veterinary check-up

It is difficult to know if your pet is sick. As a result, it is advisable to visit a vet occasionally for a check-up.

Alternatively, you can pay attention to any changes in behavior, such as reduced appetite, or physical signs such as a softshell, shell fractures, swellings, foaming or discharge emanating from the mouth, wet runny eyes, or any other signs that are a deviation from the normal.

Preventing turtle-acquired Salmonella

For turtle lovers, the good news is that salmonella can be prevented. This can be done through good hygiene practices such as regular hand-washing and carefully handling it. Avoid directly kissing your pet’s shell or any hand to mouth contact.

Also, regular cleaning of your pet’s shelter as well as proper disposal of waste reduces the risk of getting the bacterial infection. Warning! Purchasing Salmonella Free turtles does not mean that you and your family are not at risk of contracting the infection. They may become re-infected in the environment.

Concluding remarks

Providing a healthy habitat and proper diet is the key to a healthy pet. Once you provide all these requirements, you are sure to enjoy a happy baby turtle. Always purchase a captive-born turtle as they are already adapted to captivity and have a lower risk of acquiring diseases. Lastly, if you are a beginner in the caring field, opt for species that are low maintenance, such as the painted turtles.


  • https://www.thespruce.com/red-eared-sliders-1238387
  • Colleen Sexton. Caring for Your Turtle, Bellwether Media, 2013
  • https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/22/7/15-0685_article
  • https://www.thespruce.com/pet-turtles-and-salmonella-1239427