Midland Painted Turtle Care Guide | Diet, Habitat, Breeding, Diseases

Jun 14, 2022

Midland Painted Turtle Care Guide

Image Credit: Cornellier (CC License)

Like eastern and western variants, midland painted turtles evolved during the last ice age, encompassing a period of c. 115,000 to c. 117,000. Brilliant, isn’t it? 

Today, these turtles are among the most widespread native turtle species in North America. They’re pretty popular too. 

Their petite size, stunning pattern, hardy nature, and playful personality make them one of the most coveted pet turtles in the scene.

If you have brought home a midland painted turtle, this care guide will come in handy. And that’s because it includes everything you need to know about raising midland painted turtles the right way. 

Let’s begin with a quick introduction! 

Midland Painted Turtle At A Glance 

  • Name: Midland painted turtle
  • Scientific Name: Chrysemys picta
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Conservation Status: Not listed
  • Lifespan: 30-40 years
  • Average Size: 4-6 inches
  • Diet: Omnivore
  • Clutch Size: 4-15
  • Egg Incubation Period: 72 days

Midland Painted Turtle Lifespan | How Long Do They Live?

Midland painted turtles live for 30-40 years on average. But it’s not uncommon for their lives to be cut short due to accidents and lousy husbandry practices. 

Nonetheless, know that raising a midland painted turtle, or any other turtle for that matter, is a long-term commitment. 

How Much Do Midland Painted Turtles Cost?

Midland painted turtles cost between $45 to $130 depending on the size, sex, and variations. 

I know 45-130 is such a wide range for an answer, and I’m sorry! But the prices listed online range so.

Midland Painted Turtle For Sale | Availability 

Midland painted turtles breed readily and have a pretty wide distribution map. Therefore, they’re available for purchase throughout the year. 

That being said, since they breed in summertime and spring, they’re most abundantly found from May through September. 

Midland Painted Turtle Conservation Status

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is yet to list midland painted turtles as endangered species. The subspecies’ status was last assessed in 2010. 

But although midland turtles are ubiquitous throughout much of their range and have a relatively stable lifespan, they’re susceptible to the same threats that have steeply caused the decline of other turtle species. 

For instance, loss, degradation, and fragmentation of the habitat are the number one cause of their mortality. Likewise, another notable reason is predation by natural predators like raccoons, coyotes, skunks, and foxes – coupled with increased human interference like road accidents. 

In 2018 in Canada, midland painted turtles were listed as a species of special concern under the Species at Risk Act. Ongoing habitat loss and increasing collisions with cars were cited as two top reasons behind the population decline. 

Midland Painted Turtle Predators 

Midland painted turtles don’t grow too big. Thus, numerous predators are willing to gobble them down when the opportunity comes. Painted turtles, especially hatchlings and eggs, are predated by the likes of raccoons, coyotes, skunks, foxes, and alligators. 

Likewise, frogs, snakes, predatory fish, and wading birds are also known to consume eggs and hatchlings. 

Therefore, if you plan to house your painted turtle outdoors, you need to pay special attention to securing the area from unsolicited gatecrashers. 

Midland Painted Turtle Natural Distribution And Habitat 

Midland painted turtles are among the northernmost American turtles. Their distribution range includes much of southern Canada. In the US, the range reaches the US Gulf Coast in Alabama and Louisiana. 

In the Southwestern United States, they are dispersed and are found in just one river in extreme northern Mexico. 

Midland painted turtles inhabit shallow water bodies like ponds, lakes, marshes, slow-moving rivers, and creeks. They prefer a site with a soft bottom and plenty of basking sites and aquatic vegetation. 

You will often see them basking on the shorelines or submerged rocks and logs. 

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Midland Painted Turtle Appearance 

Credit: Greg Schechte (CC License)

Midland painted turtles have a smooth, gently rounded carapace that is either olive green or black in color. The margins of the carapacial scutes are edged by a thin margin of light olive green, while the dorsal surfaces of the marginal are bordered with red lines. 

The plastron is colored beige or yellow with a dark central blotch in the middle. 

The head and legs are tinted black to green and have subtle yellow and red stripes. The chin is marked with two broad yellow stripes that join at the lower jaw. 

On each side of the head, right behind the eyes, is a big yellow dorsolateral spot and a yellow streak. And lastly, the upper jaw has some red markings. 

Juvenile midland painted turtles look identical to adults in terms of patterns and coloration. But they have a relatively keeled carapace and proportionately large legs, head, and tail. Also, the tail is quite long. 

Midland Painted Turtle Size 

Midland painted turtles are fun-sized. The carapace reaches the length of 12-14 centimeters (4-6 inches), but one fine specimen has been measured at 19.5 centimeters (7.5 inches). Impressive!

Their petite size is one of the reasons why they are so popular among new hobbyists. 

Midland Painted Turtle Male VS Female 

As is the case with most turtle species, the male midland painted turtles are a tad bit smaller than the females. They also possess elongated foreclaws that are lacking in females. 

Likewise, a male’s shell is somewhat flatter, and a female’s is slightly domed. And a male’s tail is long and wide, whereas a female’s tail is thin and short. 

Lastly, the cloacal opening in females is positioned close to the body but away from the body and further down the tail in males.  

Midland Painted Turtle VS Eastern Painted Turtle 

Midland painted turtles are often confused with eastern painted turtles, although their distribution has limited overlap. 

The main differentiating factor between these two subspecies is the arrangement of scutes. 

In midland painted turtles, the scutes are arranged in alternating rows and seldom have thick color bands along the front edges. On the other hand, the front edges of the scutes on the carapace of the eastern painted turtle have yellow-olive color bands that form straight bands across the carapace. 

Species Similar To Midland Painted Turtle 

The western painted turtle can look similar to a midland painted turtle at first glance. However, it has a big butterfly marking on the plastron. 

Likewise, map turtles have stripes identical to those of midland painted turtles, but they lack the orange and red markings on the shell. Also, the rear margin of the carapace is serrated. 

A red-eared slider is also striped like a midland painted turtle, but it has an iconic red band on each side of the head. 

Midland painted Turtle Temperament 

Midland painted turtles make an excellent choice for beginners to advanced hobbyists due to their docile nature. Therefore, although they’d prefer their own company, they can happily coexist with other turtles from their own or other species as long as there’s ample space and resources for everyone. 

Besides occasional shoving matches for the best basking spot, painted turtles are docile for the most part. They are in no way as jittery and nervous as some other species like map turtles or snapping turtles. 

That being said, both male and female painted turtles can get mean if there’s not enough space. They will become dominant and aggressive. While this behavior is seldom severe enough to result in serious injuries, you still need to provide as much space as possible. 

Most of a painted turtle’s days are spent swimming, basking, and foraging for meals on multiple occasions. Hobbyists report that they are the most active when feeding. 

It’s important to know that unlike snails and some other reptiles that don’t mind handling, painted turtles find it intrusive and threatening. As much as we’d wish for it, they don’t seek or thrive on human affection. After all, there are more wishes than stars.

The only time it’s acceptable to handle a midland painted turtle is when it’s being inspected for an illness or injury or relocating it back to safety. 

And by the way, like most reptiles, midland painted turtles carry salmonella virus that can make you quite sick. Thus, it’s never a good idea to allow the pet to roam through your home freely.

Also, always wash your hands with warm water and soap before and after handling the turtle. 

Although the sound perception is poor in midland painted turtles, they have pretty sharp vision and sense of smell. But still, despite what the hobbyists claimed on forums, I doubt they recognize or associate with their caretaker. 

Lastly, midland painted turtles are largely diurnal – they remain active during the daytime and rest at night. 

Related: What Happens If A Turtle Bites You? Can They Chop Off Your Fingers?

Ideal Habitat For Midland Painted Turtle 

In the wild, midland painted turtles live in nearby ponds, lakes, marshes, and slow-moving rivers. Thus, setting up an outdoor habitat for them with a water source nearby would be the best way forward to emulate their natural settings. 

That being said, they can also be raised indoors without any qualms. Also, the habitat you create for them can be as elaborate or as minimal as you choose to make it. 

Midland painted turtles are avid swimmers. Plus, they have to be inside the water to swallow food. Thus, they’d benefit from a spacious and somewhat deep tank. For reference, the water’s depth shouldn’t be less than two times the width of the turtle’s shell. 

Midland painted turtles prefer densely planted areas in the wild. Thus, you can add plenty of plants that can be used up as food sources and hiding spots for your turtle. 

However, make sure the plants are set up in a way that traps and drowns the turtle. You need to be careful about that. 

For the bottom, you can leave it bare or add substrate. Of course, no substrate means the tank is easier to manage, but it won’t look very appealing. 

So, if you plan to add substrate, you should choose something that doesn’t float, mix and dilute in water, or is small enough to be ingested by the turtle. 

Natural slate stones like these from Amazon can be a great choice. I have a combination of these slates and gravel in my turtle tanks. 

Recommended Tank Size For Midland Painted Turtle 

The minimum recommended tank size for one adult midland painted turtle is 50 gallons. These turtles are tiny, but they’re active swimmers and need their space. 

If you’re not keen on buying a 50-gallon tank, you can use a kiddie pool, a pond liner, or a large plastic container. 

Whatever vessel you use, it should be at least 3 times as long as the length of the turtle’s shell. Likewise, the water’s depth should be twice as deep as the length of the turtle’s shell. 

Midland Painted Turtle Diet 

In the wild, midland painted turtles are highly opportunistic feeders that feast on algae, inverts, carrions, fish, frogs, and vegetation. And by the way, they must be inside the water to swallow their food. Since their tongues don’t move freely, they cannot chew and swallow food on land. 

My advice here would be to not cut corners when buying pellets for your turtles. Pellets are something that they’re gonna eat daily. So you want to ensure they are fortified with the right nutrients and do not contain low-quality filler ingredients. 

Ideally, the pellets should have high protein and vitamin D concentration, the right calcium to phosphorus ratio, and low-fat content. 

Here’s a link to the pellet brand I use – it fulfills all the abovementioned requirements. 

Besides pellets, you can treat your midland painted turtles with delicious treats a few times a week. But remember that treats shouldn’t make up more than 10% of your turtle’s diet. 

Here’s a list of food you can give as treats:

  • Mealworms 
  • Crickets 
  • Trout chow 
  • Super worms 
  • Live fish 

Avoid giving fatty fish like goldfish. It’ll impart more harm than good. 

And by the way, midland painted turtles also love to eat their greens. So you can give them the following regularly:

  • Water lettuce 
  • Hyacinth 
  • Romaine lettuce 
  • Parsley 
  • Duckweed 
  • Dandelion greens 

It’s also wise to fortify your pet reptile’s diet with vitamin and calcium supplements every once in a while. 

I’ll leave quick links for both below:

How Often And How Much To Feed Midland Painted Turtles?

You can give your midland painted turtles 1 cup of food every day or every other day. But, don’t stick to just one type of food. For a balanced diet, give an assortment of pellets, veggies, and frozen/live treats. 

Malnourishment can lead to shell defects and deformed growth. So, you must maintain a healthy diversity in their palate. 

The general practice in the hobby is to feed juveniles once a day and those older than 5 years on alternate days. 

Can Midland Painted Turtles Eat Fruits?

Fruits aren’t part of the midland painted turtle’s diet in the wild. Therefore, they can go on without food for the most part. In moderation, fruits can be beneficial for your turtles. 

However, fruits naturally contain high amounts of sugar and citric acid – thus, they can lead to digestive issues in the long run. 

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Water Parameters For Midland Painted Turtle 

Here’s what water parameters should look like for a midland painted turtle: 

  • Water temperature: 75-80 degrees F (23-26 degrees C)
  • pH: 6.0-6.9
  • Ammonia: Below 2 PPM
  • Nitrite: Below 2 PPM 
  • General Hardness: 180-200 PPM
  • Carbonate Hardness: 80 PPM

Turtles are messy creatures – there’s no doubt about that. But that should never be the reason to keep them in subpar environments. If consistently exposed to the wrong setting, they’ll give in to maladies like bacterial and fungal infections that can cut their lives short if treated on time. 

To keep the water quality as pristine as possible for a longer period, I transfer my pet turtles to a separate container filled with water for their meal and poop time. 

You should try to mimic the turtle’s natural habitat whenever and wherever possible. And keeping the water parameters safe and stable is one of the keys to that. 

Since midland painted turtles spend most of their time inside water, staying on top of the water parameters is crucial. While smelly and cloudy water means nuisance 9 out of 10 times, water that looks clean and pure can also harbor harmful bacteria and parasites.

Here’s a link to API’s Freshwater Masterkit that I use. It measures 5 crucial water parameters – pH, high pH range, nitrite, nitrate, and ammonia. 

Cloudy Turtle Tank Water? Don’t Make These 4 Mistakes!

Should You Dechlorinate Water For Midland Painted Turtles?

Even though painted turtles are not as sensitive to chlorine as fish and inverts are, it’s still wise to dechlorinate the water first. Although slim, there’s a chance that chlorinated water will irritate your turtle’s eyes. 

On top of that, chlorine destroys the good bacteria colony and wrecks the tank’s nitrogen cycle. Thus, we always recommend dechlorinating the water first. 

Some cities are known to use chloramine in addition to chlorine to treat tap water. If it’s the case in your area, you should use a conditioner that’s been labeled to nullify chlorine, chloramine, and ammonia. 

Lighting For Midland Painted Turtle 

Turtles raised outdoors don’t require additional light or heat. However, captive turtles raised indoors rely heavily on artificial sources of light and heat. As you already know, turtles are ectotherms that depend on their external temperature to regulate their body temperature. 

Cutting to the chase, your midland painted turtle needs UVB lighting and supplemental heat light to synthesize vitamin D3. If the turtle cannot synthesize vitamin D3, it will lead to grim health issues like shell deformity and metabolic bone disease. 

Routine exposure to sunlight is crucial, but it doesn’t mean you should place the tank in the sun’s path. This will cause overheating. 

Even though painted turtles don’t require quite hot temperatures like some terrestrial species do, they become active and have a good appetite when their home is comfortably heated. 

And it goes without saying – if your turtle resides outdoors, it’s time to bring it inside as the winter falls. 

Your midland painted turtle requires UVB lighting at least 12 hours a day, no matter what season. Also, note that the bulb should be replaced once every 6 months as UVB rays expire much sooner than visible white light. 

You can depend on heat lights or ceramic heat emitters to provide heat. Depending on the spot, you should maintain a temperature gradient between 70-95 degrees Fahrenheit (21-25 degrees Celsius).

The watered area should be the coolest, and the basking region should be the warmest corner of your pet’s habitat. 

Here’s a quick link to the 10.0 UVB compact fluorescent light I use in my turtle enclosures. What I like the best about this is that it fits into any standard clamp-lamp. So you don’t have to spend money on a separate ballast. 

Right Temperature For Midland Painted Turtle 

It’s crucial to maintain a temperature gradient in your turtle’s habitat. 

The water’s temperature should ideally be maintained between 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit (23-36 degrees Celsius), the ambient air’s temperature should be between 80-85 degrees Fahrenheit (26-29 degrees Celsius), and the basking area’s temperature should clock in between 85-95 degrees Fahrenheit (29-35 degrees Celsius). 

The enclosure’s temperature will inevitably be different than the room’s temperature – especially if a hood or cover is installed. Thus, don’t rely on external temperature readings to regulate the temperature of the enclosure, 

Place thermometers in the respective habitats to stay on the safe side.

Common Health Problems In Midland Painted Turtles 

Midland painted turtles are hardy for the most part. However, if raised under poor conditions, they’re susceptible to certain disorders like metabolic bone disease, vitamin deficiency, infections, and parasite infestation. 

We will discuss some of them in brief below. 

Metabolic Bone Disease 

The metabolic bone disease results from calcium/phosphorus imbalance in the turtle’s body, weakening the skeletal structure, carapace, and plastron. Lack of proper UVB lighting is the number one reason behind the metabolic bone disease. 

Unfortunately, turtles with this condition experience a low growth rate and likely develop a deformed body. In the later stages of MBD, your midland painted turtle will experience extreme fatigue, bone fractures, and involuntary tremors. 

Fractured bones can be treated by splinting or casting. The reptile will also need calcium supplements administered orally or by injection. 

Hypervitaminosis A

Hypervitaminosis A is the outcome of malnourishment. For example, if your midland turtle’s diet primarily consists of meat, iceberg lettuce, or low-grade commercial pellets, the pet will contract hypervitaminosis down the road. 

In reptiles, some telltale signs of hypervitaminosis A are dry and scaly skin, ulcers, weight loss, and sloughing. In addition, the eyes will be swollen, and nasal drainage might be irritated. 

If you suspect your midland turtle has contracted hypervitaminosis A, you must revamp its diet to include ample vitamin A. The vet may also prescribe an oral vitamin supplement. 

Parasites

Parasites are more common in wild-caught specimens, but it doesn’t mean your captive-bred midland turtle is invincible. Gastrointestinal parasites like roundworm can lead to weight loss and diarrhea and will require medical treatment. 

Thus, it’s essential to have your pet turtle’s feces checked by a professional as soon as you bring it home. And that’s not all – you should follow up with yearly checkups. 

Infections

If kept under subpar conditions, midland turtles are likely to develop ear, nasal, and eye infections, among others. The main reason behind them is an unsanitary environment. It could be a fungal, bacterial, or parasitic infection. 

 If the infection persists, you must seek medical help for your turtle as soon as possible. The vet will take x-rays and run blood tests to find out the real cause of the infection and treat it accordingly.

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Midland Painted Turtle Hibernation 

Midland painted turtles most definitely hibernate through the winter in the wild. They can live submerged in the pond covered with an ice lid for up to 100 days. 

However, we cannot say the same about captive specimens. They may or may not hibernate, depending on their environment. 

Since the environment would be toasty and warm in their habitat even when the mercury drops, they may choose not to hibernate. 

Nonetheless, if you believe your pet reptile is going to hibernate or has done so in the past, there are a couple of things you need to do to ensure the pet wakes up when the winter ends. 

First things first – you need to consult with a vet. Why? Only perfectly healthy animals should go into hibernation. Once again, why? That’s because the immune system drops dramatically during the long slumber. 

Therefore, you first must ensure the pet is healthy and fit enough to hibernate. 

Some essential things to bear in mind are weighing the turtle routinely and keeping notes of its weight, feeding a diet rich in fiber and vitamin A, gradually fasting it and lowering the temperature before the big day arrives, and creating an indoor/outdoor hibernation setup. 

If you are interested to read up on how to help painted turtles hibernate the right way, here’s a quick link to an article entailing 9 steps you shouldn’t miss. 

Breeding Midland Painted Turtle 

Breeding midland painted turtles is relatively easy as long as you get a few things right. They breed readily in most settings, but you need to ensure certain measures, so the eggs incubate and hatchlings don’t die an untimely death. 

They Take Time To Get Ready 

Bear in mind that turtles don’t breed right off the bat. Instead, they enjoy a long lifespan and take their sweet time to reach sexual maturity. Males take around 3 years, whereas females take approximately 3-5 years. 

Identify Male And Female Turtles 

I’m sure you can tell apart a male from a female if you’re planning to breed them. But here’s an unsolicited tip: males have concave or flat plastron, while females have a convex plastron that allows some space for eggs. 

The Timeline 

In the wild, the courtship usually lasts from mid-April to June, and the nests are built, and eggs are laid from May to July. So, you can expect your pet reptiles to follow the natural calendar. 

The eggs, laid in clutches of 4-15, incubate for around 72 days and hatch around late September to late October. 

Building A Nest

If left outdoors, the midland painted turtle will painstakingly build a nest nearby a water body. They create flask-shaped cavities covered with mud. 

If you house your turtles outdoors, you can expect the female to build her own nest, provided that resources are nearby. 

Otherwise, you can build a nest for your turtle using soft soils, rocks, and logs. Make sure the nesting area receives ample sunlight. 

Sex Determination 

The temperature of the surroundings determines the hatchling’s sex. If it’s cool outside, the hatchlings will predominantly be males. However, if the weather is on the warmer side, most of the hatchlings will become females. 

Also, the eggs can survive temperatures as low as 15 degrees Fahrenheit (-9 degrees Celsius) since they contain a biological “antifreeze” that prevents the tissue from freezing. 

Independent From Day One 

Yes, hatchlings are independent from day one. Once the mother lays her eggs, her job is done. She returns back. The hatchlings are left to their own devices to defend themselves, find food, and reach the nearest water source. 

Parting Words: Midland Painted Turtle Care Guide 

So, that’s about it. We hope you enjoyed our detailed care guide on midland painted turtles. I haven’t had the chance to bring home a midland specimen, but I have a fair share of experience raising semi-aquatic turtles. 

So, I can definitely vouch for these lovely little turtles and guarantee that it will be a super gratifying experience. Keep in mind that raising a turtle requires long-term commitment, though!

If you found this article helpful, I’m sure you will love reading up on other equally cool subspecies too. Check them out here! 

Western Painted Turtle Care Guide 

Cumberland Slider Turtle Care Guide

Eastern Painted Turtle Care Guide

Southern Painted Turtle Care Guide

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.