Small turtles can be an extremely rewarding pet for many pet owners simply because they remain a manageable size and continue to be a relatively low maintenance pet. The problem with many pet owners that enjoy mini turtles is that they can often end up with the wrong species of turtle that gets much larger and requires more care. By finding turtles that stay small you can get access to miniature turtles that remain small and cute even as they age.

This guide will remain the definitive solution for finding the best small turtle breeds, the smallest turtle species as well as the top pet tortoise species that stay small. Keep some of these top species in mind if you are considering the purchase of one of these small turtles and you want a relatively low maintenance pet that you can enjoy over many years to come. In the next part of the guide you can read more about some of the best tiny turtle species that are available in the world right now.

The Best Types Of Small Turtle Species That Stay Small

List of small turtle breeds:

  • Terrapins
  • Mud Turtles
  • Musk Turtles
  • Spotted Turtles
  • Diamond Back Turtles
  • Box Turtles
  • Bog Turtle
  • Padloper
  • Slider Turtle
  • Painted Turtle

Types of pet turtles DO NOT stay small

  • Red-Eared Slider
  • Wood Turtle
  • Map Turtle
  • Western Painted Turtle


Reeves terrapins are natives to North and South Korea, Japan as well as China. They can often be found in small streams and ponds and generally like Stillwater or slow-moving water.

This species of small turtle is relatively low maintenance and generally lives between 10 to 15 years with a size that rarely gets over 9 inches. Most of these mini turtles grow to a maximum size of just over 6 inches. They are often bred in captivity and they are available for a relatively low price even though they are quite exotic species.

Mud Turtles

Mud turtles are a small freshwater species that regularly lived in mud and sand. They can commonly be found in the wild in streams that are springfed. They do particularly well in highly oxygenated water that is clean with plenty of vegetation.

Mud turtles are one of the most popular small turtle species because of their extremely small size. This species of turtle does not regularly grow about 5 inches and with this limited size they are extremely manageable to keep as pets.

Musk Turtles

Musk turtles can be found in the wild throughout eastern North America and they generally choose river and stream habitats. These mini turtles are also called stink pot turtles because they can at times use a foul smell from glands near the corners of their platron if they are scared or perhaps stressed. The chances of this happening become much rarer as the pet receives more handling.

These types of pet turtles are commonly available at many reptile dealers and pet stores. They are also some of the smallest turtles that continue to stay small. Most of the hatchlings are only a little bit larger than a penny and the maximum size is generally around 4 inches to 4.5 inches. Most of these mini turtles can live 20 to 30 years in captivity with proper care.

Spotted Turtles

Spotted turtles are a relatively rare species of Clemmys who regularly grow between 3.1 to 4.7 inches. These miniature turtles can commonly be found throughout the Great Lakes as well as the appellation Mountains. They are known for their relatively small size as well as their unique spotted shell pattern.

They are quite easy to care for and can eat a wide range of plants and animals. If you are looking for a turtle that is a little more exotic, this could be one that is a little less plain when compared to the average small sized turtle.

Diamond Back Turtles

Diamondback turtles are terrapins or a species of turtle that regularly lives in marshes as well as brackish water throughout Bermuda and the United States. This type of pet turtle generally maxes out at 8 to 9 inches and can typically grow up at 4 to 5 inches.

They are known for their unique diamond pattern on the backs of their shells. These are some of the most common miniature turtles in the terrapins family and they are great swimmers and very easy to care for.

Box Turtles

These turtles are generally found in ponds across America and they are not actually members of the tortoise family but rather terrapenes. There are Asian box turtles as well as North American box turtles.

This is a pet that could potentially live up to 50 years or older. They are omnivores capable of eating almost anything. Mailbox turtles also don’t generally get much larger than 7 inches in size. As pets they can get stressed when being moved into newer surroundings but they are generally quite easy to care for.

Bog Turtle

A bog turtle is a semi aquatic turtle that is native to the eastern United States. Usually these turtles don’t grow over 4 inches and they can live between 20 to 30 years. Most of these turtles reach maturity between the ages of four and 10 and they can grow quite rapidly in the early stages.

These turtles are quite active during the day and sleep at night making them the perfect pet for many families. Some species of turtle choose to sleep during the day time making them extremely inactive. This is a tiny turtle that stay small that will be a very interactive pet for children or families.


The Padloper is otherwise known as the speckled cape tortoise and it stands as the smallest tortoise in the world. This species is native to South Africa as well as man be a and it can be relatively difficult to care for unless you are an experienced reptile handler. This could be a great pet if you have had turtles or tortoises in the past.

They do not often grow to much larger than 4 inches and they are known for their serrated eggshell with a flat top. Certain species can be distinguished by their speckles. This tortoise also has five toes other than some other tortoises that only have four. Regular monitoring for temperature, a varied diet and checking for dampness are all important to maintaining the health of one of these tiny turtles.

Slider Turtle

The slider turtle is one of the most popular pet turtles in the United States and also a relatively invasive species. The red eared slider variety is known for the small red stripe that wraps around their ears. These tiny turtles can in some cases reach over 16 inches in length but most grow to 6 to 8 inches in total.

Slider turtles can live between 20 to 30 years although some in captivity have lived 40 years. There are some regulations on owning these types of pet turtles in certain areas of the United States because they have become an invasive species. Check local guidelines on owning or purchasing these pets before buying them. Overall they remain an extremely easy pet to care for and a great tiny turtle variety.

Painted Turtle

The painted turtle is one of the easiest to find turtles in North America. It lives in freshwater that slow-moving and can be found across northern Mexico, Louisiana, Canada and more. It’s estimated that the species lived around 15 million years ago with fossil evidence. Males of the species typically only get around 4 to 6 inches in length and they can eat a wide array of items including insects, fish, crustaceans analogy.

Adult painted turtles can sometimes live up to 55 years of age. One of the reasons why painted turtles have become such popular pets are their unique face stripes as well as the beautiful colors on their shells. Generally these pets are quite easy to care for and a common turtle to own for many interested in finding a great tiny turtle.

Care Instructions for Turtles That Stay Small

When looking into the proper care and maintenance for many turtles it’s important to understand some of their basic needs. By learning more about what each species of turtle needs for their housing, temperature requirements, food and care will help to ensure that your pet can live as long as possible. Care instructions from a proper zoo med guide could be a great way to make sure that your pet remains as healthy as possible. From this guide you can learn how to take care of a turtle.

How to take Care of a Turtle

  1. Correct aquarium size. For each 1 inch of turtle shell you will need TEN gallons of water, per turtle. Read below.
  2. Right water temperature. Good water temperature is 77 – 85 degrees. Turtles require both UVA and UVB. About light or heat sources read below.
  3. Correct water filter. Filter must be is nominal twice as strong as turtles tank.  Filter MUST use both mechanical and biological filtration.
  4. Correct basking dock. Except water, turtles love to dry off. Something natural or commercial. About commercial read below.
  5. Correct Food. Your turtle pet need protein (worms, fish, crickets) and some types of veggies and fruits as they get older. About pellets for turtle read below.


The Best Types Of Food For Small Turtles

Different species of turtles will require various types of food in order to survive and thrive. Be sure to look into the type of diet that your turtle generally has so that you can feed your mini turtles with the right diet. It is also important to keep in mind that many pet tortoise and the smallest turtle species are omnivores requiring a balanced diet of many types of food in order to feel their best. Here are some of the top Turtle foods you could consider:

Fluker's 8-Ounce Aquatic Turtle Diet


Aquatic turtle diet: These small pellets come with all of the vitamins that most small aquatic turtles need to thrive. High protein pellets contain the same proteins that aquatic pets would normally receive eating fish or crustaceans in the wild.

Baby shrimp treats: Apart from pellets these small shrimp treats are a great way that you can give away some extremely high protein snacks to your pets. Tiny sized baby shrimp protein are well loved by many small aquatic turtles.

Floating pellets: In a bag of floating palettes you can get access to pellets which are infused with vitamin C as well as calcium. These pellets will replicate the same aquatic plant-based nutrients that a pet might receive in the wild. They are highly nutritious and excellent to pair alongside protein based pellets for aquatic animals.

What Is Needed For A Turtle Home

Outfitting your turtles that stay small with the proper home is also an important consideration. Some type of temperature monitoring device as well as the potential for a heating lamp could be a great idea for different species of turtles. Just be sure to take into consideration the amount of water that they need, the humidity that needs to be in their environment as well as the size of the tank that they might require. Here are some top products that you could consider when creating a turtle home:

Turtle aquarium tank: A 55 gallon glass tank could be a great way that you can get started with the turtle tank that is perfect for many species. This clearer acrylic aquarium could also work as an ample sized habitat for many small turtles.

Heating: A Zacro LED digital water thermometer can help you to measure the temperature inside your aquarium. You should also strongly consider the right heat lamp such as a Zila reptile habitat lighting. Turning on this type of lighting will help you to control the temperature and potentially even the humidity when required.

Habitat improvements: helping a turtle feel as though it is still in the wild can really help with stress. Adding items like aquarium sand or a floating turtle platform can really help to create a small ecosystem within your aquarium habitat.

Filtering the water: regular filtering for the water is required for any type of aquatic animal. This requires a high-quality air pump as well as a power filter with cartridge refills to ensure proper filtering at a constant rate.

Video: Pet Turtle Care : Mini Pet Turtles

Conclusions On Small Turtles

Pet turtles that stay small can be a wonderful pet to own with a wealth of information available on all of the species of pet turtles that stay small as well as their dietary requirements, health and wellbeing, you can get a cute and very active pet that will never outgrow the habitat that you purchase for it initially.