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Choosing the Right Turtle or Tortoise For You

Now that you've decided to add a turtle or tortoise to your family, your next step is figure out which species is the right one for you. There are several different types of turtles and tortoises and each has its own set of unique needs including dietary. To help you select the right one, Dr. Robyn Jaynes, PetSmart vet expert, offers the following advice: "It's important to remember that the little turtle or tortoise you're bringing home could grow up into a large turtle or tortoise. Research the different types, taking special note of their expected adult size and the amount of care required to keep them healthy. Then choose the one that best fits your experience level and lifestyle."

Turtles and tortoises: What's the difference?
While both turtles and tortoises are reptiles, have scales and are cold-bolded, the main difference between the two is their habitat and diet. Most turtles spend much of their time in the water, tend to have webbed feet and are omnivores. Tortoises are land-dwellers, have round, stumpy feet like an elephant's and are herbivores.

Which species is right for you?
PetSmart offers several different types of turtles and tortoises. Contact your local PetSmart to find out which ones they carry.

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Turtles

Central American Wood Turtle aka Ornate Wood Turtle

African Aquatic Sideneck Turtle: Named for their unique "folding neck," these turtles are ideal for beginners 12 years and older with adult supervision. They are primarily aquatic but do require a basking area and are omnivores. As adults, they can reach up to 8 inches. Ask a knowledgeable PetSmart associate for more information on this turtle.

African Aquatic Sideneck »

African Aquatic Sideneck Turtle

Central American Wood Turtle aka Ornate Wood Turtle: These semi-aquatic turtles enjoy shallow swimming but need large, dry land areas to bask. While mostly herbivores, they will eat the occasional insect or worm. As adults, they can grow up to 9 inches. Ideal for beginners 12 years and older with adult supervision. Ask a knowledgeable PetSmart associate for more information on this turtle.

Painted Turtle

Painted Turtle: This colorful aquatic turtle is an omnivore. As adults, they can grow up to 7 inches and enjoy basking so they require land areas. Ideal for beginners 12 years and older with adult supervision. Ask a knowledgeable PetSmart associate for more information on this turtle or see our online guide on general water turtle care.

Painted Turtle »

Caspian Pond Turtle

Caspian Pond Turtle: This semi-aquatic turtle requires a basking area and is an omnivore. As an adult, it can grow up to 9 inches. Ideal for beginners 12 years and older with adult supervision. Ask a knowledgeable PetSmart associate for more information on this turtle or see our online guide on general water turtle care.

Red Ear Slider Turtle

Red Ear Slider Turtle: This water turtle is one of the most popular pets in the world! They are ideal for beginners, are omnivores and as adults, can grow up to 11 inches. Ideal for beginners 12 years and older with adult supervision. These turtles enjoy basking so they require land areas. Ask a knowledgeable PetSmart associate for more information.

Red Eared Slider »

Tortoises

CB Cherry Head Red Foot Tortoise

CB Cherry Head Red Foot Tortoise: Known for their red markings and bulbous noses, these tortoises are land dwellers but do require a shallow water dish for soaking their shells and drinking. They are herbivores, have a big appetite for fruit, and as adults, can grow up to 12 inches. Ideal for beginners 12 years and older with adult supervision.

CB Red Footed Tortoise

CB Red Footed Tortoise: Similar to the Cherry Head, these tortoises are also known for their red markings and bulbous noses. They are land dwellers but do require a shallow water dish for soaking their shells and drinking. They are herbivores, and as adults, can grow up to 12 inches. Ideal for beginners 12 years and older with adult supervision.

Greek Tortoise

Greek Tortoise: These tortoises are land dwellers but do need a shallow water dish for soaking their shells and drinking. They are herbivores and as adults, can grow up to 12 inches. They are ideal for beginners 12 years and older with adult supervision. Ask a knowledgeable PetSmart associate for more information on this tortoise.

Greek Tortoise »

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Russian Tortoise: These tortoises are land dwellers but do need a shallow water dish for soaking their shells and drinking. They are herbivores and as adults, can grow up to 8 inches. They are ideal for beginners 12 years and older with adult supervision. Ask a knowledgeable PetSmart associate for more information on this tortoise or see our online care guide.

Russian Tortoise »

Expert fact: Did you know that if properly cared for, turtles can live to be more than 30 years old and tortoises can live to be 50 years and older?

At a glance: What you'll need for your turtle

  • Turtles need a large home (a 29-gallon or larger glass aquarium with a screen top) with proper lighting/heating for basking and aquatic requirements including filtration to help keep the habitat clean.
  • Turtles need a varied diet including live, prepared and fresh foods.
  • Turtles require proper veterinary care.

At a glance: What you'll need for your tortoise

  • Tortoises need a 40-gallon or larger glass terrarium with a screen top for ventilation, proper heating and lighting, substrate to line the bottom of the terrarium, artificial or natural rock or wood for a hiding area, a dish for food and a water dish for drinking/soaking their shells.
  • Tortoises need a temperate, moderately humid or arid environment depending on the species. To help measure the habitat's temperature, you'll need at least two thermometers to gauge temperature at both ends of the habitat and a hygrometer to measure humidity levels.
  • Tortoises require a varied diet that consists of fresh vegetables, a little fruit and prepared foods.
  • Tortoises require proper veterinary care.

Welcoming home your new turtle or tortoise

  • Ideally, you'll want to have the habitat ready and running before you bring your new turtle or tortoise home so you can troubleshoot any problems like with filtration in your turtle tank or temperature in your tortoise habitat, etc. Being prepared can help reduce stress on your pet and help him adapt to his new environment more quickly.
  • Always supervise children when they're interacting with your turtle or tortoise.
  • Turtles and tortoises should be handled only when necessary – frequent handling of turtles or tortoises can be stressful for them. Always wash your hands thoroughly after handling your turtle or tortoise to prevent the transfer of certain types of bacteria including salmonella.

Information from the book "Aquatic Turtles" by (Complete Herp Care series) by David T. Kirkpatrick (ISBN: 978-07938-2885-2) was used in this guide. Copyright 2006 TFH Publications, Inc. Used by permission.