Common Musk Turtle Care Guide

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We know your penchant for reptiles, and we know how you love to have the most exotic of them in your home!

A visit to the nearby pet shop, and what do you see! Not one not two but half a dozen common musk turtles that you cannot take your eyes off!

Sternotherus Odoratus or the common musk turtle is not too large and not too tiny. They are the right size to make hardy pets for turtle enthusiasts like you.

How do you recognize the Common Musk Turtle?

The common musk turtle has a blackish to brownish carapace that is angularly domed when they are young. The domed keel eventually flattens with age, and the plastron on carapace also reduces in size.

Ideally, you can recognize a common musk turtle from the two yellow lines that run parallel on its head right from its nose to its neck. These yellow lines are extremely dark when they are still juveniles but may fade away in some of them.

Where can you find the Common Musk Turtle in the wild?

The common musk turtle can be found everywhere in the country! Whether it is Florida or Ontario, Texas, or Wisconsin!! Any water habitat is suitable for it. You will find them in slow-flowing streams as well as the river beds, lakes, and ponds.

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Stinkpot! Why would anyone give them a name like that?

The turtles can emit an orange color glandular liquid from vents close to the plastron that can be so foul that you will want to maintain a reasonable distance from it.

This usually happens when it is frightened or has a panic attack. Turtle experts will console you that this declines when it receives regular care and handling from its caretaker.

common musk turtle

Is the Common Musk Turtle freely available for pet trade?

While the population in the wild is anything but swindling, it is always strongly recommended that you go for the captive-bred turtles as pets. It makes a lot of sense not to remove the wild turtles from their natural habitat.

Common Musk Turtle Size and lifespan

The average length of a common must turtle is not more than 5 inches from its snout to the tail. The male of the species is generally a little bigger than the females. The hatchlings at the time of their birth are so tiny that they are only as big as a penny!

In the wild, they are suspected of living up to a maximum of 50 years. In captivity, the maximum recorded is about 30 years. Male turtles reach sexual maturity in about four years, whereas females take a minimum of 10 years to become sexually mature.

How to house the Common Musk Turtle?

Caging your pet right is one of our primary concerns. While setting up a common musk turtles’ cage, make sure that it is a strict no-no to house two adult male musk turtles. You may use a dual capacity aquarium to house a male and a female, but you may want to consider separating them at the first instance of sexual aggression by the male.

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A 20-gallon aquarium per turtle is ideal. If you are housing a pair, then you must go for a 40-gallon capacity. Make sure you create a paddling pool for them with a submersible canister. Fill the canister with dechlorinated drinking water. Change the water as frequently as once in two to three days.

common musk turtle water

Does the Common Musk Turtle need a basking area?

Contrary to the belief that these turtles will hardly come out of the water, you must provide them a basking light that is concentrated around an area in the cage where they could bask if they felt up to it.

The area where the basking light is fixed should be close to 90 F. if fixing a UVB light is cumbersome or not possible for some reason, you could choose a heat-emitting metal clamp device in ceramic that will raise the ambient air temperature to anything higher than the room temperature.

Why is UVB rays necessary for the Common Musk Turtles?

Not just UVB light but light rays from high-quality UVB bulbs are essential for them to be able to metabolize calcium and to avoid vitamin deficiencies. Caretakers are strictly instructed to mimic their natural ambiance by keeping it on for twelve hours and then off for the next twelve hours.

A submersible heater that maintains water temperature nicely pegged at 70 degrees is a welcome decision. The turtles are going to love it and be ever grateful!

Chuck the substrate?


Why overdo when it is not needed. Now, if you are someone that loves an attractive cage, use medium-sized gravel only. Anything else can be harmful to them if accidentally ingested.

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They look so cute! They must be cuter to handle:

Well, they are! But let us advise you to exercise a little care and caution as these small muskies can attempt to nip at the skin of your fingers. Not a bleeding wound, but a tiny nip can be as painful

While handling them, you must hold them on the carapace as farthest away from the mouth. But with flexible necks like theirs, we cannot guarantee you will be safe from that prick of a bite. And do not keep your hands too much at the end of the carapace, or you will be greeted with not so inviting smell that will send you reeling to the washbasin!

Finally, what do you give the Common Musk Turtle to eat?

In the wild, musk turtles will eat everything that comes their way in their ecosystem from small snails to crayfishes to dragonfly larvae to fly nymphs. They can swallow tadpoles too! In captivity you can feed earthworms, small fishes and shrimps, live crickets and market available pelleted food for the turtles. 

Finally, we will leave you with what we tell every turtle enthusiast. Make sure you care for them well, feed it on time, handle them without dropping them and wash your hands after them.

They may not be the cuddly cute pets but they are fascinating beings to watch and love! You will soon realize that life and your routine is so incomplete without them!!

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