How to Take Care of a Turtle Rotating Header Image

Welcome to How to Take Care of a Turtle

Here you can learn all about what it takes to properly care for turtles in this complete owners guide. It’s a guide intended to provide beginners and novice Chelonian owners (turtles and tortoises) all the basic information they will need to get started as well as trouble shooting problems that might come up. On this site we cover advice on caring for the following Chelonians:

It’s important to know what type of breed you have so you can get the correct information on caring for it. Since not every turtle is from the same geographical location, no two species will have exactly the same care requirements. In fact, turtles are found on almost every continent in dry hot deserts to warm humid climates year around to even areas that have cold harsh winters. All the turtles found around the world have adapted and evolved to survive in their given natural habitat.

Things to Consider

You should become familiar with all differences in the needs of each turtle species, especially yours of course. Knowing the answers to these can ensure that your pet stays happy and healthy. Failing to do so can make your turtle miserable which will also more than likely shorten its lifespan. Some of the factors that need to be taken into consideration before you bring one home include but are not limited to the following:
  • What temperatures do your turtle or tortoise need to stay healthy?
  • How humid or dry does your turtle or tortoise prefer?
  • Does it require an additional source of water to live in?
  • What types of food needs to be included in their diet?
  • How large of a living space is required to ensure a happy pet?

box turtle in hand

Care Topics Covered

Now that you know the questions you need to ask, find the answers to them in the following sections.

Setting Up a Proper Habitat

You have several options for housing your turtles. Depending on where you live in the country and what type of turtle you have, you can create an outdoor pen or even a turtle pond if you have the space in the yard. If outside isn’t an option or you would like to house your pets inside during a cold winter, you can build an inside table or even house them permanently in a large aquarium if they are small growing species.

What to Feed Your Turtle

Every turtle and tortoise has a specialized diet that you need to adhere to. Some turtles are strictly vegetarians that only eat greens and veggies while others are mainly carnivores and require proteins or live meals. Simply throwing in a head of iceberg lettuce is no meal for most turtle; they won’t get the adequate vitamins or minerals they need to stay healthy. Find out what you should be feeding your turtles.

How to Treat and Prevent Illness

Turtles like all animals are susceptible to a number of diseases, illnesses or injuries. For starters, the best way to avoid getting a sick turtle is to avoid purchasing one that isn’t healthy in the first place. Furthermore, you can help prevent illness by keeping your turtle’s living space at the most optimal parameters for its breed as well as feeding it an appropriate diet. Sometime disease and infection are inevitable and unavoidable.

caring for an aquatic turtle

Have More Question?

If you have additional questions about your turtle or tortoise, feel free to leave a comment on the page that best describes the type of questions you might have and we will try to answer it to the best of our knowledge.

Photos by: poplinre, eroggenburg, 50562790@N00, pamramsey, mcouper
Author: Tim Winter


  1. amanda says:

    I was cleaning out the pool an found a little baby turtle trying so hard to get out so now I am takeing him an let my kids keep him I just don’t know how to take care of it do I have it live in water or have a bowl for him to be in wTER HE IS THE LITTLEIST THING ITS O CUTE

  2. Cindy says:

    so, I bought a turtle on mothers day. I already had him for like, three and a half weeks. I am worried im not taking good care of it. can you help?

  3. Cindy Zhuang says:

    i have bought a turtle on mothers day, and Ive already had him for three weeks. but ive been studying on this website for sometime now, and a lot of things it said to do I don’t do. my parents say its okay, but im not sure. can you help?

  4. Jessica says:

    So i live in Northern California and my dad rescued a turtle the other day(it was about to be ran over :( i dont know the species, its a common in ponds and such around here. Anyways I want to release it back into the wild, but i cant until monday, so ill have it for a couple of days. So im wondering how should i take care of it and such? Should i feed it worms? I have it in water, with some rocks, but what else should i do for the next 3 days?

    1. turtle50 says:

      Yeah that’s good to keep it in a tank that has some water but also a place where it can pull itself out. Make sure it doesn’t get too cold in the tank. You can probably use some lights to keep the tank warm but not too hot. You can try to feed it worms but it might be too stressed to eat however, turtles can go a long period without eating. It’s good of you to release it since wild turtles don’t do as well in captivity.

  5. Patricia says:

    I found a turtle at my ants house, she lives somewhere close to high mountains and its usually hot in the summer…I brought it home with me, I live somewhere close to the mountains and yet close to the” Big Cities” :P Well anyway this turtle I found seems so much like the “tortoise” turtle and I have been feeding it lettuce, the climate is usually warm were I live, The turtle is smaller than the palm of my hand and i’m only 12 years-old, I need you’re help.. I can’t find any information that i’m looking for… my turtle seems normal and it sometimes likes to walk when it’s not sleeping and it sometime liks to make a little whole when it sleeps.. I don’t know if that’s just for comfort but, i’m worried that i’m not taking care of it enough or I don’t know what it likes to play with and i would like to ask if it likes water :s that’s confusing me it dose not drink much water.. Any ideas to help me with everything i have mentioned? :) Please Help

    1. Patricia says:

      ohh and i forgot to ask will it grow? and how much time will it take to grow? and how large can it grow? :/

    2. turtle50 says:

      Box turtles don’t grow very large, no more than seven inches or so. Tortoises on the other hand can grow very large depending on the breed, several feet even. You need to feed it more than lettuce though. Take a look at the section on feeding a turtle. If you keep it inside, take a look at this section on turtle and tortoise tables. To keep a turtle or tortoise happy, you need UV lighting, and a good heat source and humidity if it’s a box turtle or dry if it’s a tortoise. You should try hard to figure out what type you have first. If you don’t think you can take care of it, you should release it back where you found it. In fact, you as a rule of thumb going forward, you should leave all wild animals where you find them since they will probably live happier lives being free.

  6. Katniss says:

    My turtle won’t eat anything and I’m worried. What do i do?

    1. turtle50 says:

      Is this a new pet turtle or have you had it for awhile? If you just brought it home and you are first trying to feed it, it might just be that you are not feeding it what it was used to eating at the breeders/pet store. Try mixing up the diet and make it look appetizing. See this post on how to feed turtles. You might also want to look at this post on when turtle won’t eat. It could be that it’s too cold in your turtle’s tank. If your turtle doesn’t eat for over a week or so after trying to fix any of these issue, you should consult a vet.

  7. James says:

    I just bought a box turtle and need to know how to take care of it! I’m glad I came across this site. Can I keep it in an 20 gallon aquarium or should I make it a cage or something?

    1. turtle50 says:

      I would suggest building a turtle table instead. Glass aquariums used for box turtles can heat up too much and also, the box turtles will get confused with the glass walls. They might keep trying to walk through the glass. This becomes rather stressful for them. A 20 gallon aquarium is usually okay for your aquatic turtles though but they too might have difficulty with the see through glass sides. If it becomes a problem, you might be able to add some solid material so they can’t see out.

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