How to Care for a Dwarf Turtle

Updated July 19, 2017

Many pet lovers seek dwarf turtles because of the turtles' small size. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a dwarf turtle. Most small turtles that you see in pet stores are baby turtles, which grow larger with age. Some pet stores and breeders have been known to mislead people into thinking that these tiny turtles will remain small. Only a few turtle species, such as the common musk turtle and the mud turtle will not grow large. Common musk turtles, also known as Stinkpots, and mud turtles will only grow to approximately 4 inches in shell length. Care for these two turtle species is basically the same.

Cover the bottom of the tank completely with the gravel or sand mixture. This will be the substrate.

Add water to the tank to a depth of 10 inches. Add the appropriate amount of water conditioner, as indicated on the water conditioner's bottle.

Decorate the tank with driftwood, slate, rocks, and plants. Create a basking area by building up the slate and driftwood so that they break the surface of the water. Musk and mud turtles like to climb and bask out of the water.

Hook up and install the heater, filter and the UVB lighting. Keep the water at a temperature from 24.4 to 25.6 degrees Celsius.

Feed the turtle commercial turtle pellets every other day. Its diet should also include items such as earthworms, bloodworms, mealworms and small fish.

Provide lettuce or other leafy greens in small amounts. Its diet should mainly consist of pellets and meaty foods.

Feeding vitamin D3-enriched foods or a calcium supplement is important, especially if you do not provide UVB lighting. These foods can be found in most pet stores.

Clean the inside of the tank and the water filter every two to three weeks. This will ensure a clean and healthy environment.

Change 25 per cent of the water when you clean the tank and filter. Use the gravel vacuum to clean the substrate.

Add water conditioner to the fresh water every time you change the water. This will ensure that the water is free of chlorine and other harmful chemicals.


When caring for baby musk and mud turtles, the water depth should be no more than 4 inches. Babies should be fed either chopped earthworms or small crickets every day.


Always wash your hands after handling turtles. Turtles and other reptiles can carry salmonella.

Things You'll Need

  • 30-gallon or larger tank (glass or acrylic)
  • Gravel or sand mixed with medium river rocks
  • Water
  • Water conditioner
  • Driftwood
  • Slabs of slate
  • Rocks
  • Plants (optional)
  • Submersible heater
  • High quality filter
  • UVB lighting
  • Turtle pellets
  • Earthworms
  • Mealworms
  • Bloodworms
  • Calcium supplement
  • Siphon cleaner/gravel vacuum
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About the Author

Based in Ohio, Patricia Arnett has been a professional freelance writer since August 2009. She is knowledgeable in a wide range of fields and has written more than 80 articles that have been published on various online websites. Arnett also reviews and edits newsletters for the American Postal Workers Union.