How to Take Care of a Baby Turtle (Guide 2022)

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How to Take Care of a Baby Turtle

If you’re interested in getting a baby pet turtle, it’s crucial that you know how to take care of them.

Picture this: you come home from a long day at work, and as soon as you step in the door, you hear the sound of little feet running to greet you.

You look down and see your new baby turtle waddling towards you with his tiny arms outstretched.

The joy that fills your heart is indescribable!

Baby turtles are the perfect reptile pets – they’re easy to care for, low-maintenance, and require just enough space.

But that doesn’t mean they don’t require any care – they still need to be fed, cleaned, and housed properly.

Plus there are so many different breeds of turtles that there’s sure to be one that fits your personality perfectly.

Whether you want a turtle who loves swimming in its tank or one with a unique shell pattern, we will cover everything about how to take care of a baby turtle.

So let’s get started!

Is A Turtle Right for You?

Before you run out and buy a turtle, there are a few things that you should know.

This article will fully cover the semi aquatic turtles.

First of all, many turtles do not make good pets for small children.

It is not that they are mean or don’t like kids – it’s just that young children have a very hard time taking care of a pet.

Turtles need clean tanks and fresh food and water daily, and it will be up to the child to provide this for them.

For a child, providing food and water can be difficult if they forget to do it every day.

So it is important to wait until a child is old enough to understand the responsibilities that caring for a turtle entails. Also, turtles need lots of space to swim freely and exercise.

A turtle tank should be a minimum of 30 gallons, with many breeds needing even more space. If you live in a small apartment, it is not a good idea to get a turtle.

Finally, even the smallest turtles can grow very large.

Not all turtles grow to be very big, but many of them do.

You need to make sure you have enough room in your home for a turtle before you buy one. If you have the space, time, and money you should definitely get a baby turtle.

RELATED READ: How Big do Red-Eared Slider Turtles Get?

Are Baby Turtles Good as Pets?

baby red-eared sliders in pond

In most cases, it’s not.

Unfortunately for most people, having a pet involves the companionship of the animal in question, and while some turtles may enjoy being petted for a moment, they’re hardly the kind of animal you keep by your side.

And that’s just one of the reasons why it’s a bad idea to keep them as pets.

The “good” reasons:

That being said, there are a few good reasons to avoid getting a turtle as your pet.

First of all, turtles are fairly large animals with long lifespans, so they require a great deal of time and effort to care for properly. They also require a large amount of space to live in.

Turtles are cold-blooded animals, meaning that they rely on a variety of environmental factors to regulate their own body temperature.

They need a warm basking area and also require a large enough bowl or pool of water in which they can completely submerge themselves to keep their entire body wet and cool off.

Some species also need a special UV-B light source to enable them to produce Vitamin D3, which is essential for the metabolization of calcium in their diets.

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Another reason why turtles aren’t suitable as pets is the fact that they often carry and transmit salmonella to humans, their caretakers.

Even well-fed turtles are likely to carry the bacteria, so it’s recommended that you thoroughly wash your hands after handling them.

The “bad” reasons:

Unfortunately, there are some people out there who may want to get a turtle for reasons which have nothing to do with the animal itself.

Semi-aquatic turtles are an easy target for impulse purchases because of their attractive, button-eyed appearance.

They are also usually very inexpensive to purchase or adopt, especially since some turtles grow very large and maybe too much to handle for children.

Another unfortunate aspect of keeping a pet turtle is its popularity among animal abusers/ collectors.

Hatchling turtles are often taken from their nests in large quantities to be sold in stores, where they’re kept with no regard for their well-being.

They’re sometimes forced to swim in small turtle tanks which are so dirty and filled with old water that bacteria and funguses grow on their shells, which eventually causes them to become sick or even die.

Other times they’re packed into tiny plastic containers with little to no water, exposure to light, or adequate food.

So if you’re still looking to purchase a pet that’s low maintenance and don’t mind the chance of contributing to animal abuse by buying them from unknown places then, please feel free to get yourself a pet turtle!

We always recommend to try and adopt or rehome turtles instead of buying them.

RELATED READ: 10 Basic Tips For Caring For Baby Red Eared Sliders

Where Can I Get a Baby Turtle?

If you’re looking to purchase a turtle, please check with your state’s wildlife department to see if it’s legal for you to keep one as a pet.

Many people who get turtles as pets acquire them by either taking someone else’s turtle and releasing it into the wild or buying a turtle online through illegal poaching.

Please note that even though it may be legal for you to own a turtle, selling them in pet stores is often against the law.

So if you’re still determined to get one, then please make sure that the turtle is captive-bred and not wild-caught.

Also, make sure that the animal is healthy and well-adjusted.

Sick or stressed turtles will often stay submerged in their water bowls and refuse to eat, so look for ones that are active and have healthy appetites.

Also, be wary of turtles being sold in pet stores since they often sell them without any kind of documentation.

This means that you can’t find out where they came from, how old they are if they’re male or female, or what kinds of health issues they may have.

RELATED READ: How to Set Up a Turtle Tank

Semi Aquatic Turtles Versus Land Turtles

There are two types of turtles that are suitable as pets, semi-aquatic and land turtles.

We will exclude the fully aquatic turtle (sea turtle) since that’s obviously illegal to own and are an endangered species and not talk about land turtles (tortoises) in this article.

Semi-aquatic turtles are better as pets because they don’t require as much maintenance if you have everything set up correctly for your turtle tank.

Some people might think that semi-aquatic turtles need to go outside and be in the sun or get a natural habitat, however, this isn’t entirely true. As long as you provided all the basic needs the turtle can survive in a tank or aquarium.

Land turtles, meaning tortoises, cannot live in water and require a lot of sunlight to grow healthy.

They are very shy creatures and when they are in the wild, they usually only come out of hiding at night. They are also larger than a semi-aquatic turtle and require a very big enclosure.

How Much Does it Cost to Own a Baby Turtle?

Aquatic turtles are often very inexpensive to purchase.

They cost between $10 and $20 in most pet stores, but I have seen them for even less in some places.

However, it’s important that you don’t base your decision on whether or not to get a turtle based on how cheap they are because owning this type of pet does come at a price.

The main expense is having to provide your turtle with the types of vet care it may need throughout its life. Since turtles are reptiles, they have a very high risk of developing many different types of diseases and/or health problems.

This means that you will need to provide regular veterinary care throughout your turtle’s life, which can be quite costly depending on the severity of its symptoms.

Another minor expense associated with owning a pet turtle is having to purchase habitat for them and the rest of the necessary enclosure equipment.

List of Baby Turtle Care Supplies and Costs

Veterinary Checkup (Annual):$45-$80
Tank Supplies and Equipment:$100-$400
Additional Supplies:$5
Food and Treats:$20-50/month
Food and Water Dishes:$10

RELATED READ: How Much Does a Turtle Cost?

Where Should I Keep My Pet Turtle?

baby red-eared sliders in a turtle tank

You will need to provide your pet turtle with adequate living space since they can grow quite large and they need to be able to swim, so to do that you need to replicate as much as you can their natural environment.

The best type of habitat enclosure for an aquatic turtle would include two-thirds water and one-third land.

You can create the land area by using a flat rock as a basking spot where your turtle can rest and then filling it with a substrate that they can burrow in like large gravel or sand.

Also, give them some kind of shelter where they can hide if they want to, but make sure the shelter is secure enough that they can’t escape from it.

For the water section in your turtle’s habitat, you should create a large area where they are able to freely swim and play by adding enough water until it almost fills the tank.

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Turtle Tank Size & Habitat Setup

Since you will need to measure the size of your turtle’s habitat, use these guidelines as a reference point:

  • Baby turtles can live in a 10-gallon tank.
  • Juveniles can live in a 20-30 gallon tank.
  • Adults need at least a 55-gallon tank.

In addition to the type of habitat you provide your turtle with, it’s important that you set up their living space in a room that’s warm and dry.

Try to avoid drafty or damp areas since this can cause various health problems for your pet turtle.

If you’re worried about the humidity level in the room where your turtles will be living, then you should purchase a small humidifier and keep it running in the area where they’ll be staying at all times.

RELATED READ: How Big of a Tank Does a Turtle Need

What Do I Need to Setup a Habitat for my Turtle?

Aside from your turtle’s habitat, you will also need to purchase some merchandise items that will ensure they have everything they need to live a comfortable life.

These items include:

  1. Food dishes– Feed your turtle with a shallow bowl or dish that it can easily reach from the land area of its habitat.
  2. Basking platform– Give them a large, flat rock where they can get out of the water to stay warm and dry off. Make sure the rock is secure so they won’t push it over and escape to dry land.
  3. Hide-out shelter– Turtles need a place where they can get away from light, heat, or other irritants. Be sure to provide them with a shelter that is the right size for the turtle you buy.
  4. Turtle tank– To make your life easier, you may want to purchase a prefab habitat that’s shaped like a turtle. These can be expensive, but they come with filters and water heaters.
  5. Heating– Keep your turtle’s living space around 80 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit since they come from tropical climates.
  6. UVB light– This is the best type of lighting you can get for your turtle since it will keep the turtle healthy and happy.
  7. Heating lamp– This will be the heating source that you’ll use to provide your turtle with warmth during winter months or colder climates.
  8. Water Filter– A water filter can do wonders for your turtle habitat since they collect bacteria that can cause illness in turtles and improve the water quality with much maintenance.
  9. Hydrometer– This will tell you the chlorine, pH, and whether or not the water is hard or soft.
  10. Water heater– You may need to have a water heater installed that will keep the water temperature in your turtle’s habitat at a steady pace. You should also check the water temperature regularly to avoid overheating the turtle enclosure




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Do Baby Turtles Need a Heat Lamp?

Yes, most turtles need a heat lamp to be able to survive.

Turtles are cold-blooded animals that can’t produce their own body heat. They need a heat lamp to provide them with warmth.

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How Much Water can Baby Turtles Swim In?

Most aquatic turtles can swim well. For most baby turtles, you want to make sure that it stays in shallow water where you can see it at all times.

If you place your little turtle into deeper water, it is possible that the little one will get away from you and end up drowning itself.

The best thing that you can do is keep it in a shallow tub or pool to make sure that it stays safe and sound.

Do Baby Turtles Need Water in the Tank?

Yes, turtles need water in the tank to be able to survive and drink and clean themselves.

How Much Water Should be in the Tank?

The water needs to be deep enough for the turtle to submerge itself fully, so be sure to provide it with a kiddie pool or some other form of water container.

RELATED READ: How Long Can Red-Eared Sliders Live Without Water

How To Handle a Baby Turtle

handling a baby turtle

Baby turtles are small and delicate creatures that can’t support their own body weight.

To pick up your little turtle, it is recommended that you should use a pair of tongs and lift it by the rim of its shell, but you can also gently grab him by the sides.

Never pick up your turtle by its legs or tail because this can damage its spine and even cause it to lose one of its extremities.

Is it Hard to Raise a Baby Turtle?

Keeping a pet turtle is definitely not for everyone.

It’s not so much about how difficult or easy it is to care for, but more about your ability to handle all of the different problems that may come up over the course of their lives.

Don’t get a turtle unless you’re financially and mentally prepared to take care of it properly.

Bathing the Baby Turtle

You may need to bathe your baby turtle if his shell will get full of algaes.

There is not much reason to worry about the algae, but if it gets to the point where the algae is so thick on your turtle shell, it might not get the full benefits on the UVB light.

Bathing them is a good way to make sure they stay clean and healthy.

There is a way you can bathe a baby turtle safely.

The first thing you need to do is get a tub of clean water that is shallow enough for the turtle to get in and out of easily.

Then, take a dedicated toothbrush for your turtle, preferably soft bristled and you can gently rub the back of the turtle shell and eventually the algae will start to go away.

Turtle Brumation

Turtles brumate when they hibernate, and it’s a way for them to get rid of their waste

They will need a cool and dry place to rest for a few months out of the year.

RELATED READ: Do Red Eared Slider Turtles Hibernate?

What Should I Feed My Baby Turtle?

There are a wide variety of different foods you can feed your turtle, depending on its age and species of turtle.

For a healthy diet, provide food turtles with a diversified menu of meals.

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If it’s a baby turtle, then you will need to feed it more protein-based foods. This can include live foods like crickets, earthworms, slugs, and small frogs and toads.

For most of their hatchling phase avoid feeding fresh vegetables as these are more appropriate to feed to adult turtles.

Adult turtles can be fed a wider variety of foods like beef, poultry, fish, shrimp, and insects.

RELATED READ: What do Baby Turtles Eat?

How do I Feed a Baby Turtle?

The first thing that you need to do is get a small bucket or bowl full of water.

Place the food item into the bowl and lower your turtle down until its head is submerged in the water.

The turtle will usually instinctively know what to do from this point on and it should eat out of the bowl.

Never feed a baby turtle by placing its food directly onto the ground because this can cause it to get sick by accidentally ingesting something else.

You can also use a pair of reptile tongs if you don’t want to get your hands dirty especially when feeding insects.

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How Often Do I Need to Feed My Baby Turtle?

Feed your pet turtle every day with a variety of foods. The easiest thing for you to do would be to just buy commercial turtle food pellets.

Make sure that you don’t overfeed your turtle because they can easily become obese or have other health problems.

Do Baby Turtles Need Toys?

There are a wide variety of different fun turtle toys that you can buy to keep your little pet entertained.

You’ll want to make sure that you get the turtle plenty of toys because it will be very boring if you don’t give it anything to play with.

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What Do You Do if You Find a Baby Turtle Outside?

In most cases, you should just leave it there, but if you consider that is far from its natural habitat or any source of water you should try to bring the little turtle inside of your house where it will be safe from other animals and wild weather.

If you’re really worried about where to keep it for the night, try bringing the turtle inside and placing it in a kiddie pool or some other form of the water container.

How Do I Know If My Baby Turtle Is Sick?

small turtle

As long as your baby turtle has a clean environment to live in, it will stay healthy.

Still, you need to know the common signs of a sick turtle so you can get it the care it needs if something goes wrong.

You should look for if the turtle has any mucus in or around its eyes, if it has any swellings under the skin, and if there is any kind of discharge from the genitals.

If you see any of these symptoms in your turtle, then it’s a very good idea to take a trip to the pet store and buy some medicine for it.

You may also want to get some antibiotics if you don’t think that the turtle will survive.

But before any of this, you should consult with a professional for veterinary advice.

RELATED READ: How to Keep Turtle Tank Clean

Shell Damage

Shell damage is a sign of a sick turtle if the shell isn’t smooth and shiny.

If you see any sort of deformity on your turtle’s shell, then it has some type of problem and you should bring it to the vets immediately.

Vitamin A Deficiency

Baby turtles that have a vitamin A deficiency will develop problems with their eyesight and their bone structure.

You can tell if your turtle has a vitamin A deficiency by looking at its eyes because the pupil of its eye will be cloudy.

Beak Deformities

If your turtle has a deformed beak, then this is most likely a sign of vitamin A deficiency.

If your turtle doesn’t have any signs of this condition, then it might just be a sign of shell damage.

Respiratory Infections

Baby turtles can get respiratory infections if they are exposed to cold temperatures for more than an hour.

If you suspect that your turtle has a respiratory infection, then you should place it in a warm environment for 30 minutes.

If the turtle still has these symptoms after being in a warm environment for a while, then it might have a respiratory infection.

You should take your turtle to the vet immediately if you suspect this so they can provide you with the necessary steps to solve the issue.

Turtle Facts

  • Adult female turtles are usually much larger than males, and species of turtles also seem to be smaller or bigger depending on their environment.
  • Turtles make their very own swimming motion with their little arms and legs. They move them in such a manner that they use up all of the air that is in their lungs. When they reach the surface of the water, they will begin to breathe normally once more.
  • Turtles need somebody to care for them, so it’s important that you provide your pet with all of the necessary turtle care to survive.
  • Turtles can spend hours underwater because they have evolved to be able to breathe normally while submerged, drawing water into their mouths and over their internal gills.
  • The shell of a turtle has bones inside, which provides turtles with protection from predators.
  • Hatchling Turtles are sometimes prey for many animals, some examples of these animals include: raccoons, dogs, and even large birds.
  • Turtles normally mate in the water, and many times the male will climb on the female’s back.

How Long do Baby Turtles Live?

There have been cases where a pet turtle has reached the age of 40, but this is very rare.

In general, the lifespan of a pet turtle depends on its species and sex. Male turtles live longer than females since they don’t go through the stress of laying eggs.

Also, certain species like box turtles which is more a tortoise than a semi aquatic turtle, can live up to 50 years while other types could only live for 5 or 10 years.

Can Baby Land Turtles Swim?

Most land turtles are not able to swim but just float depending on the species.

RELATED READ: Can Box Turtles Swim?

What is the Average Size of a Turtle?

Turtles come in all different shapes and sizes, but most of them are quite small turtles.

Adult female turtles are usually much larger than males, and species of turtles also seem to be smaller or bigger depending on their environment.

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How do Baby Turtles Learn to Swim?

Turtles make their very own swimming motion with their little arms and legs. They move them in such a manner that they use up all of the air that is in their lungs.

When they reach the surface of the water, they will begin to breathe normally once more.

Can a Baby Turtle Survive on its Own?

No, baby turtles are unable to survive on their own.

They are very small and weak with very underdeveloped shells. Turtles require attention, so they need someone to care for them.

It’s critical that you give your turtle all of the essential turtle care so it may survive.

Can you Keep Green Sea Turtles as Pets?

No, green sea turtles are not allowed to be kept as pets.

Be aware of local regulations before you buy a pet turtle.

RELATED READ: How to Choose the Best Live Plants for Turtle Tanks


If you’re interested in getting a pet turtle, it’s important that you know how to take care of them.

This article provides a comprehensive guide on how to care for your new baby turtle, from providing the right food and water to making sure they have a safe place to live.

As with any pet, it’s important that you research what your specific turtle species needs and make sure you are able to provide those things before bringing them home.

With time, patience, and proper turtle care, your new baby turtle will thrive under your watchful eye!