Care of Mississippi Map Turtles

Updated October 06, 2017

The Mississippi Mud Turtle is a sawback turtle recognisable for its yellow-striped greenish-brown skin. Found from western Mississippi to central Illinois, these turtles are strong swimmers most at home in large fast-running streams and oxbow lakes.

One of the most popular pet turtles, the Mississippi Mud Turtle can live for decades with proper care.

Diet and Feeding

Feed your hatchling in his tank, because he is naturally timid and may not eat otherwise. Give a turtle under six months enough to satisfy his hunger, removing the leftovers. Fresh minced guppies, chopped earthworms, small grasshoppers or crickets are fine. Offer romaine lettuce if he likes it, because it's practically all water. Cut the feedings to every other day after six months.

Petco recommends feeding your adult map turtle live earthworms, meal worms, or blood worms and dark green vegetables, squash, and grated carrots. A high-quality commercial dry food like ReptoMin is a good choice.

Give your indoor turtle the Vitamin D3 he needs by sprinkling D3-fortified powdered calcium. The calcium will strengthen his shell and bones. An outdoor turtle makes D3 from sunlight but still needs the calcium.


Your mud turtle loves basking in a warm spot where his shell can dry from top to bottom. The basking area should be large enough to keep him completely out of the water, and made from a log, rock, or any strong material strong that won't irritate his skin.

Provide your turtle with heat and UVB light in his basking area. The heat will dry him, and the UVB light will let him manufacture Vitamin D3 if his diet isn't doing the job. Locate the basking lamp to maintain one part of the basking area at about 90 degrees F, with other areas in the 80s. He will like the variety.


A vigorous swimmer, your turtle needs room to dive and paddle. Thomas Coy of the International Turtle and Tortoise Network recommends starting with 8-inch deep water for a half-dollar sized hatchling. Increase the depth as he grows.

Break up the water's surface with vegetation (artificial will do) so the turtle can hide or rest in the water. A hatchling needs water between 25.5 and 26.6 degrees C, while an adult is happiest with water in the low to mid-70 degree range. Use a submersible heater with a burn guard.

An adult male needs a 75- to 90-gallon tank; a female, 125 gallons. Using a grade of gravel too large for your turtle to swallow, build up the bottom of the tank in one area so he can rest with his head above the waterline. Provide raised mounds for basking area access.

Your turtle's drinking and swimming water are the same. Keep it filtered, and have a separate feeding tank for adult turtles, which often defecate after eating. Food scraps also contaminate the water.

Cover the tank with a screen to keep your turtle safe at home.

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About the Author

Passionate for travel and the well-written word, Judy Wolfe is a professional writer with a Bachelor of Arts in English literature from Cal Poly Pomona and a certificate in advanced floral design. Her thousands of published articles cover topics from travel and gardening to pet care and technology.