How Big Do Mud Turtles Get? How Big Should Their Enclosure Be?

Apr 21, 2021

how big do mud turtles get

Do you know there are around 18 known species of mud turtles that belong to the Kinosternidae family? At first glance, they may look similar to each other, but every single species is unique and displays unparalleled characteristics. So how similar or different are they to each other in terms of size?

How Big Do Mud Turtles Get?

Mud turtle species rarely grow over 5-6 inches long. Their petite size is one reason they’re popular as pets. During adulthood, almost all mud turtles are about 4-6 inches (around 10-15 cms) long in terms of carapace length. 

As semi-terrestrial species, male mud turtles are usually slightly larger than their female counterparts, with a few exceptions. Also, male mud turtles sport much longer tails. 

And when it comes to newborns, mud turtle hatchlings are among the smallest turtles on the planet. They’re barely bigger than an inch when they come first peck out of the shell. 

Let’s look at the tentative size of some of the most popular mud turtle species. 

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How Big Do Eastern Mud Turtles Get? 

Natives of the Eastern United States from New York to Texas, Eastern mud turtles usually are around 3-5 inches (7-12 cms) long. These semi-aquatic turtles rarely grow over 5 inches long. 

This video here gives an idea on how big an Eastern mud turtle will be:

How Big Do Striped Mud Turtles Get?

Striped mud turtles have a uniquely shaped oval shell that only reaches about 4 inches (around 10 cms) long. At largest, they can grow over 5 inches long, but that’s quite rare. 

How Big Do Yellow Mud Turtles Get? 

Coming from the far-eastern counties of the US, Yellow mud turtles have an average length of 4.5 inches (around 11 cms). The maximum length they can grow to is 6 cm. Also, note that adult males are quite larger than females. 

How Big Do Oaxaca Mud Turtles Get? 

Originally from Oaxaca, Mexico, as the name suggests, these turtles can grow to the carapace length of around 6 inches (15 cm). Once again, female Oaxaca mud turtles are usually smaller than males. 

Now you know the answer to how big do mud turtles get, let’s move on to their tank size needs. 

What’s The Best Aquarium Size For Mud Turtles?

Given the tiny size, there’s a misconception that mud turtles can live in nano aquariums.

While mud turtles can live in a 20-30 gallon tank, it won’t ensure a good quality of life. Going by the rule of 10 gallons for every inch of the length, a pair of mud turtles needs a 70-75 gallon aquarium with 12 inches of water depth. 

If space permits, you can always go for bigger tanks – but never mistake their small size for lowered maintenance needs. 

They’d appreciate a bigger enclosure as much as a Red-eared slider or a Painted turtle would do. 

When choosing the right aquarium, it’s important to pay attention to the floor space than depth. Natives of the shallow water, they don’t need deep habitats. Most of their day-to-day activities will take place in the horizontal tank. 

What’s The Best Aquarium Size For Hatchling Mud Turtles? 

Due to their extremely tiny size, hatchling mud turtles don’t demand a big tank. A pair of hatchlings can easily live in a 20-30 gallon tank. As for depth, the tank doesn’t need to be any deeper than 4 inches. 

If you are buying a tank for the first time, I’d suggest getting a big tank anyway, so you don’t have to spend money on the upgrade shortly. 

What’s The Best Aquarium Furnishing For Mud Turtles?

Mud turtles are on the shyer side compared to their close relatives, musk turtles. Thus, they’ll benefit greatly from submerged hideouts like aquatic plants, logs, and caves. 

And since they’re also good climbers, I’d suggest getting this beautiful platform from Saim Store that also has a nice hiding space at the bottom – if you’re looking to buy a tank decoration. 

In the wild, mud turtles are prolific scavengers. They are apt at hunting down critters with their sharp, curved beaks. So, I’d also recommend getting your turtle a banquet block that’ll help tone down the beak. 

This value-pack by Zoo Med includes 5 regular size blocks made with natural food pellets and enriched with calcium at a super affordable price. Looks like a good deal to me! 

If the beak overgrows, you’ll have to trim it down manually.

And naturally, this will be quite stressful for your pet. So, you shouldn’t allow the beak to overgrow in the first place. 

How To Create An Ideal Mud Turtle Habitat?

People often confuse smaller sizes for lower maintenance needs – but it’s quite the opposite.

Mud turtles need a 70-75 gallon tank ideally, which should have half land and half water portions. As primarily terrestrial species, they bask a lot and need an extensive area for basking. And the water shouldn’t be too deep because they naturally come from shallow water bodies and aren’t too adept at swimming.

Since they love to dig and forage, it’s best to add gravel substrate, so the tank doesn’t get too messy.

A half-water and half-land setup will allow your mud turtle to swim and dive but also give plenty of room to bask, burrow, and roam around.

If you have the time, space, and budget, you can create a double-decker habitat with two tanks by placing the second tank on the side atop the rim of the water tank. 

Otherwise, you can use platforms like this one by Tetra that are specifically made to cater to all-in-one enclosures for turtles. 

There’s a suitable basking area and an easy-to-climb ramp that your turtle will love. Head over to Amazon to see the pictures posted by happy turtle parents. 

Conclusion on How Big Do Mud Turtles Get?

Clutch of mud turtles
Clutch of mud turtles

So, how big do mud turtles get? Well, they can grow about 4-6 inches long in terms of carapace length. That’s about 10-15 centimeters. 

And their hatchlings are extremely small – hardly an inch long when they first emerge from the shell.

Mud turtles are cute, small species that make great pets. There are about 18 known species. But there’s no drastic difference in terms of their size. 

As for habitat, ideally, they’ll need a 70-75 gallons, half-submerged habitat to live happily. 

Read more:

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rohit gurung author at urbanfishkeeping

About Rohit Gurung

My never-ending love and fascination with Aquascaping started when I received a red-eared turtle for my 10th birthday.

Apart from researching and writing, I spend hours gazing at my 3 turtles. And yeah, I bask alongside them too.