Baby Snapping Turtle Care, Feeding and Breeding Guide

The baby snapping turtle is indeed a unique and exotic pet for your tank. It may look scary at first, but you will soon fall in love with its cuteness. Keep reading to get to know it and learn what it needs to last as long as it could in your aquarium.

Appearance of the Baby Snapping Turtle

Chelydra Serpentina

One of the common features of a snapping turtle is the rough black or dark-brown shell that occurs when it is young. As it gets older, the shell will be getting smoother. You can find three long short ridges that run along with the shell.

The plastron (the belly shell) is narrow and has a cross shape. The color of the plastron is lighter. The baby snapping turtle has strong webbed feet and sharp claws. It also has a long jagged tail.

As the name suggests, this turtle snaps to defend itself when feeling threatened or provoked. Therefore, the most conspicuous feature of a baby snapping turtle is the sharp, powerful beak shaping like a parrot’s which is used to bite.

This turtle looks like an alligator snapping turtle to some extent so many people mix them up. The baby snapping turtle can grow big up to the size of 18 inches in maturity. Alligator snapping turtles can grow bigger up to 32 inches.

While the baby snapping turtle has ridges on their shell, the alligator snapping turtle has three rows of crests.

Origin and Distribution in the Wild

The baby snapping turtle is native to the North American Continent, especially the wild south-eastern part of Canada. You can also find some species of snapping turtles in the Rocky Mountains areas as well as Nova Scotia and Florida.

This unique pet’s natural habitat is in the freshwater. It enjoys spending most of its time in the water. It usually hides in turbid waters that have slow-moving currents.

It also likes hanging out in the muddy sections, buried deep in the mud and sticking out its nostrils and eyes to breathe. It tends to hide away during the day, but it gets active at night when looking for food.

Snapper Turtle General Care

Snapper Turtle General Care

Taking care of the baby snapping turtle is quite simple as it is not susceptible to any particular disease. But you still need to consider several things related to the tank setup if you want it to live healthily.

A baby turtle is rather small. Therefore, a three-square feet turtle tank can be a good start. Keep in mind that this turtle grows fast up to 18 inches so you will need a bigger tank to accommodate it.

To keep an adult freshwater turtle, a 60-square-feet tank will be just fine. Or, you can simply keep it in a pond near your house. If there is not any pond nearby, you can make one.

The good news is this turtle is hardy. It can put up with sudden temperature changes. In fact, it can even survive in cold waters.

But if you want your turtle to thrive better, keep the water temperature between 76-78 Fahrenheit. You can achieve this range of temperature by using a heater. Make sure that the acidity range is between 6.8-7.2 pH.

The water in the tank has to be deep enough for it to swim in. But it has to be shallow enough so that it can stretch up its neck to breathe.

Enclosure furnishing

Since the baby snapping turtle likes to hide, it will be better to provide a cave or any other accessory that allows it to do so.

If you have the budget to purchase a cave, please do. But if you are short on budget, you can just build the cave from rocks and sand. You can also use a clay pot, a storage box, or driftwood to make the cave.

An easier and cheaper option will be making a cave out of a 20-ounce plastic bottle. Cut both ends of the bottle off, sand them down if necessary to remove the sharp edges, then put it in the water.

This particular turtle likes hiding among rocks and plants in the streams. Therefore, adding some rocks and plants will mimic its natural habitat well.

Bear in mind that this turtle is an omnivore. It likes to eat anything. This means, keeping live plants is your safe bet.


Baby Snapping Turtle Images

Another crucial aspect of thriving a baby snapping turtle in captivity is providing the appropriate lighting.

You will need two types of lights; a normal luminescent and a UV-light. The luminescent light is used to illuminate the whole tank. Therefore, it has to be suspended over the tank.

Not just that, you will also need to install UVB lamps that are good for the turtle’s health and shells. When purchasing a UVB lamp, make sure the label says that it contains UVB 10%. This will ensure that the radiation of the lamp will stay within acceptable limits.

Place the UVB lamp near the basking spot. The ideal way is to place it approximately 12 inches of your turtle’s shell when it is basking to get a better calcium absorption.

Basking Spot

Another component that you need to provide is a basking spot. It has to be somewhat sloppy as this little turtle does not leave the water completely.

A sloppy basking spot will allow your turtle to keep some parts of its body in the water while basking.
Do not forget to install UVB lamps in the basking spot. Make sure that the lamps can attain 95 degrees Fahrenheit.

The Tank Water Quality

Snapper Turtle Tank Water Quality

The baby snapping turtle likes to eat a lot. This accounts for the easily-polluted tank that you will have to put up with. For this reason, installing a good filtration system is imperative.

Unfortunately, a good filter is not enough. You will still need to clean the tank and change the water regularly.


The baby snapping turtle is omnivorous, meaning it can eat any kind of food. It is not fussy when it comes to eating. You can give your turtle insects, small fish, small rodents, and even turtle pellets.

Keeping a baby snapping turtle is not as hard as you may think. But you still need to provide a healthy diet and proper tank for it to live better.

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