Do Turtles Make Good Pets?

Turtles are often marketed as low-maintenance pets, but they require specialized care and decades of commitment. Yet, for the right owners, they make great pets.

Apr 30, 2024By Molly Weinfurter
do turtles make good pets

For reptile lovers, turtles can make great pets. With adequate space and water parameters, they offer lots of entertainment. They’re also more active than other small aquatic pets (like hermit crabs), making them fun to observe. However, turtles are a big commitment because they need large enclosures and could live for decades. So, do your research to make sure you’re fully committed to a turtle before bringing one home.

Turtles Make Good Pets—for Well-Informed Pet Owners

turtle on rock
Image credit: Pexels

In general, a turtle tank should have at least 10 gallons per one inch of the turtle’s shell. For many turtles, that can equal a minimum of 75 to 100 gallons. Plus, more space is always better to improve a pet’s well-being.

Before getting a turtle, make sure you have enough money and space to set up an appropriately sized turtle tank. If a tank is too small, it could warp the shape of the turtle’s shell, especially for young turtles.

Turtles Require Specialized Care

baby turtle in aquarium
Image credit: Pixabay

If a turtle has a large enough enclosure, they can be fairly low maintenance. They don’t need regular attention like a dog or cat would. Instead, they just need someone to feed them and maintain their enclosure. They’re the perfect pet for someone who wants an animal without needing to constantly stop at home to check on them.

Turtles Could Require Decades of Care

pet tortoise eating lettuce
Image credit: Unsplash

Most pet turtles live between 20 and 40 years, but it depends on the species. Tortoises are a type of turtle, and many tortoises live for 50 to 100 years. So, if you adopt a turtle or tortoise, they will likely be around for most of your life. Depending on your turtle’s age upon purchase, they could even outlive you! So, while turtles can be easy to care for, they’re typically a lifelong commitment.

If you want a turtle or tortoise, but feel uncertain about a lifelong commitment, go online and look for owners who are rehoming their pets. Here, you could find a reptile that would only live for another decade—rather than a few. Plus, you would be giving an animal another chance at a happy life!

Pet Turtles Are for Admiring, Not Handling

pet turtle close up
Image credit: Unsplash

Many people love to hold and cuddle with their pets, but if that’s you, a turtle isn’t a good fit. First of all, most turtles dislike being handled, so you should only pick them up when necessary. Also, turtles can carry diseases like Salmonella, regardless of their breed and size. Salmonella is a bacterial disease that can cause gastrointestinal distress.

Whenever you handle your pet turtle, you should immediately wash your hands afterward. Handling them as little as possible is the best way to keep you and those around you safe. Even though turtles aren’t great for holding, they’re fun pets to observe.

Every Turtle Species Has Unique Needs

turtle eating fruit
Image credit: Pexels

There are hundreds of turtle species in the world today, which can be both a pro and con to getting a pet turtle. It could be a good thing because there’s a wide range of species for pet owners to choose. However, it can be overwhelming to choose the perfect turtle for you and figure out their care requirements.

When you’re looking for a turtle, make sure you research that specific species’ care requirements. Some turtles need a mostly aquatic environment while others are mostly terrestrial (meaning they live on land). Also, some might do well with other turtles while others might live best solo. Consider all those aspects before deciding which turtle species you’d like.

Finding Turtle Veterinarians Can Be Tricky

turtle hiding in shell
Image credit: Pixabay

It can be difficult to find vets that have experience in reptile care. This can be stressful for new turtle owners if their pet gets sick. So, before you get a turtle, search nearby vets to see where the closest reptile vet is. If you can’t find one, try calling a regular vet nearby to see if they know of any vets that take turtles.

Even though turtles don’t require vet visits too often, it’s always a good idea to plan ahead. Save the number of an exotic pet vet, so you can be prepared in an emergency.

Do Your Research When Getting a Turtle

With so many turtle fun facts out there, it’s easy to fall in love with these reptiles. However, just because someone loves turtles doesn’t mean they should own them. You need to consider all the above factors to decide if you have the time, money, and space for a turtle.

When looking for a pet turtle or tortoise, you should also research where to get a turtle from. A great place to look is at shelters and rescues. Some organizations take in reptiles, so you could give a good home to a turtle in need by adopting from there.

If you decide to go to a breeder, look at reviews and ask the breeder lots of questions. They should be happy to discuss the turtles they have to make sure they’re going to a good home.

Turtles Can Make Great Pets in the Right Household

turtle in the grass
Image credit: Pixabay

Turtles can be great pets for some people but not ideal for others. They’re perfect for an owner who understands that turtles should be observed, not handled. The right household should also have enough space for a proper turtle tank. Plus, whoever adopts a turtle or tortoise needs to recognize that their pet could live for decades, so they’re a big commitment.

If you don’t have time, money, and space for a turtle, that’s okay. You can still learn about them and enjoy videos of them online, such as sea turtles hatching from eggs. After all, turtles are fascinating creatures both in the wild and as pets.

Molly Weinfurter
By Molly Weinfurter

Molly has over 5 years of experience writing about animals for various websites. She has two pets of her own: a small dog (Mabel) and an axolotl (Wooper). She’s extremely passionate about helping animals in need, so she regularly volunteers with animal organizations by fostering pets, helping at adoption events, and educating about puppy mills.