Small Turtles that Stay SmallI must admit…. The tiny turtles are irresistibly CUTE and EASY to Care. In fact, they are soooooo lovely that you would want them to pet almost immediately you see them.

Hence, today, we are discussing the seven cutest and small pet turtles that stay small forever and are ardently easy to take care of also. Petting a small pet that stays forever small is easy since you won’t have to choose a larger tank once in a while.

Most beginner turtle owners purchase a tiny turtle, and it only starts growing bigger with each passing year. So, you will require picking a larger tank for them, which is not only annoying but also expensive. So, it is always better to start your turtle petting career with those that stay small always.

So, here we will discuss the seven cute and small pet turtles, their care and maintenance and finally, the benefits of keeping little pet turtles.

An Overview Of Small Pet Turtles That Stay Small

Small pet turtles are known by various names in the market. So, you shouldn’t be confused with these names. These are:

  • Dollar turtles
  • Miniature turtles
  • Dwarf turtles
  • Quarter turtles

All these names mean the same as the small turtle.

Benefits of Small Turtles:

Turtle is a relatively EASY TO PET species, and the smaller turtles take this easiness one step AHEAD. It means that the little pet turtles are the easiest to take care of compared to larger ones. The benefits of petting small turtles are:

  • Easy handling: Pet turtles are extremely easy to handle by parents and their kids. The easy handling comes from the tiny size of the turtles.
  • Ideal for small apartments: If you own a small apartment, you may lack the space to accommodate a large tank. Hence, you can quickly choose the tiny turtles even if you reside in a small flat.
  • Easy tank maintenance: Smaller turtles need a small tank. Also, you won’t have to keep changing the tank, as their size grows. The smaller tank also means that you will need less time to clean and maintain the tank. Furthermore, smaller pets need less food which also makes the tank maintenance smooth and breeze.
  • Cuteness: Have you seen the small kittens and puppies? How cute they look! Well, the same goes for the tiny turtles. The tininess of the turtles really contributes to their cuteness and desirability.
  • Affordability: When you start petting a pet turtle for the first time, you may not want to spend much for it. In such cases, the small turtles are an affordable alternative since these are available in the market only at a FEW DOLLARS.

The Gender Disparity:

Almost evidently, there is a huge gender disparity in turtles- POSITIVELY.

The disparity comes in size variations between male and female turtles. Yes, although it seems somewhat surprising, the female turtles are larger than the male turtles.


In fact, even for the small turtles, the female turtles will be approximately 1 inch to 2 inches larger than the male counterparts. So, when we talk about the tiny pet turtles, female will always get an edge over the males.

Seven Cute and Small Pet Turtles That Forever Stays Small

There are at least 250 turtle species found worldwide. However, not all of them are pet turtles, and state and federal laws protect even some species. Also, some are endangered species and won’t be found in shops.

But not all of them will stay smaller, and even some are as large as 15 feet height such as the Archelon turtles. So, we will discuss the seven turtle species that are born small and will STAY SMALL IN ADULTHOOD.

These are:

1. Mud Turtles:

Mud TurtleThe mud turtles are one of the easiest to take care of and also, rarely falls prey to sickness. So, these are ideal for beginners to start their turtle career since beginners are unaware of many sickening issues of the turtles.

Also, the mud turtles will grow around 5 inches at best and so, requires a pretty small tank for rearing. So, you can keep them without spending much of your fortune.

Mud turtle shells are generally colored from olive to dark brown and lack any keel. Also, the shell has a smooth dark black texture. Sometimes, the lower half of the shell can be a bit yellowish.

Average size:

  • Striped or common mud turtle grows around 4.5 inches to 5 inches.
  • Sonoran and yellow put turtles grow slightly more prominent. They will increase an average of 6 inches to 6.5 inches.


The mud turtles are smaller in size and so, needs a small tank. So, you can keep them in 25 gallons to 35 gallons of the tank at ease. Also, mud turtles love hibernating in a muddy space with a dig.  So, you may add some muddy area within the tank enclosure.

Also, the residence should have proper basking space and swimming spot for the mud turtles.

Feeding habit:

The mud turtles are omnivorous and live happily on almost everything they get around them. Their favourite menu includes snails, small fishes, shrimps and other protein sources.

You can also provide a commercial feed to meet all the nutritional requirements. However, at times offer some green leaves such as veggies, lettuce and parsley.

2. Painted Turtles:

Painted TurtlePainted turtles won’t grow over 10 inches in adulthood. Hence, we put them in our list anyway. Also, painted turtles are tough and survive in a challenging condition better than many turtles. So, they make an excellent pet for small apartments.

They get the name from a painted shell. In fact, when you closely see the shell, you will find it smeared all over with different colour markings. The colour variations come mainly from yellow, red and green appearance.

The painted turtles will live approximately 20 years to 25 years.

Average size:

  • A fully grown adult painted turtles will be around 6 inches to 10 inches. The females are ardently and slightly larger than the males.

Painted turtle have different subspecies including the eastern, midland and western painted turtles. So, their living habitat also varies significantly. However, all the subspecies need a good basking area for the species to live healthy and happy.

Also, painted turtles can be kept both inside and outside the tank. So, it is easy to choose between two types of the tank depending on your budget and space. And finally, ensure a proper UV light to rear the turtles in a healthier condition.

Feeding habit:
The eastern painted turtle lives mostly on meats and fishes. So, their ideal feeding includes worms, small fishes and shrimps. They are a bit lazy and mostly eat the dead or injured fishes and other species. On the contrary, the southern painted turtles have a surprising feeding habitat.

During the juvenile state, the southern painted turtle eats around 15%-20% of vegetation and about 80% proteins. However, when they grow adult, food habit changes dramatically and transform into 85%-90% vegetables.

3. Central American Wood Turtles

Central American Wood TurtlesFound widely from Costa Rica to the coasts of Mexico, the Central American Wood Turtles is perhaps the most beautiful looking turtle species you can ever come across. It has an average 7 inches length with males being slightly smaller.

Also, the turtle is friendly, and so, even kids love handling them. Additionally, they are quite intelligent and are famous for growing bonds with the owner.

These turtles are also known as Ornate Wood Turtle mainly because of their ornamental woody texture on the shell.

Average size:

  • The female carapace grows around 8 inches to 10 inches. However, the males will grow 7 inches on an average.


The turtle breed features a semi-terrestrial habitat. So, when you prepare their enclosure at home, try to mimic a marshy pond environment. However, the pond needs to be a bit drier.

However, if you want to keep the turtle indoor, we suggest you use a pen with wide and long shape instead of a standard aquarium. The enclosure needs to have cover to protect exterior debris and dust. Finally, attach UV lights for the proper basking of the turtle.

And if you keep the turtle in a tank, it needs to have 75 gallons of water and 50 gallons more for an additional turtle.

Feeding habit:

The Central American Wood Turtle is omnivorous and lives mostly on protein. So, their ideal feeding menu will include crickets, redworms, earthworms and small fishes. Furthermore, you should add salad in their menu consisting of seasonal fruits and veggies.

4. Reeve’s Turtle:

Reeves TurtleThe Reeves turtle is famous in the USA and Europe, although they originated mainly from mainland China and Japan. These will grow around 5 inches to 6.5 inches and live around 20 years to 25 years at ease.

The shell has three kneels, and colour variations differ from tanned to black and even deep grey tone. You will see some broken yellow lines on the neck and head of the turtle.

Average size:

  • The female Reeves turtle will grow up to 6.5 inches while the males are slightly smaller.

When you bring a baby Reeves turtles at home, it can easily accommodate in 15 gallons to 20 gallons tank. However, as the size grows bigger and attains adulthood, a tank around 30-35 gallons is more suitable for them.

Since the Reeves turtle aren’t known for their swimming ability, even a slightly smaller tank will work fine. But don’t forget to add basking spot and UV light for the tank.

Feeding habit:
The Reeves turtle is mostly omnivorous. Thus, you need to balance between vegetables and protein sources in its feeding menu. Give worms, small fishes, or crickets in their menu. Once in a while, provide some leafy vegetables such as lettuce and salads.

Also, you can give them pelleted turtle food for an even more balanced diet.

5. Spotted Turtles:

Spotted Turtle
Spotted Turtle

Small turtles have a pretty fearsome competition with the Central American Wood Turtles when it comes to a beautiful appearance. Indeed, you will love the vivid yellow spots all over the shell and the body of the spotted turtles.

In fact, they get the name from those yellow spots. Even the head and neck of the turtle has yellow spots, and these spots make it easier to identify them. They will live up to 40-45 years with proper care and tank maintenance.

Average size:

  • The carapace of a fully grown female spotted turtle will be approximately 3 inches to 3.5 inches. The males are slightly small in size.

You will see the spotted turtles mostly in swampy, marshy lands and bogs. It means the spotted turtle is basically a semi-aquatic species of turtles. So, you need to provide both ample swimming and land space for the turtle.

Ideally, they will need 50 gallons of tank water to reside happily with a lot of basking space. However, the spotted turtles are very picky about their tank condition and ask for pristine water. So, you may need to clean their tank frequently and sometimes; it can feel tedious.

Feeding habit:
The spotted turtle lives happily both on animal and vegetable food. However, their favourite menu includes aquatic vegetation, algae, insects and worms. During captivity, you can feed them commercial turtle food with occasional supplements of live crickets and insects.

6. Box Turtles:

Eastern Box TurtleGenerally growing up to 6 inches, the box turtles are perhaps the most popular pet turtle worldwide. When felt endangered, they will completely hide in the shell and look like a box. That’s why they get the name box turtles.

The shell has a dome-like appearance and can have different markings with yellowish colour tone. Their feet aren’t webbed, and so, they are pretty weak at swimming. These have two widespread subspecies- firstly, the Eastern Box Turtles and secondly, Ornate Box Turtles.

Average size:

  • The box turtles grow up to 6 inches on an average. Both subspecies have a similar carapace measurement.

Box turtles are mostly land dwellers and so, setting their enclosure is pretty straightforward. They don’t require much swimming spot. Yet, it is suggested that you provide them with a lovely wading pool.

The substrate comprises of sand, moss, potting soil and lots of leaves. Also, regularly sprinkle water on the substrate to keep it humid and wet. A fully dry substrate for the box turtles can be lethal.

Feeding habit:

The balanced diet includes vegetables, live fishes, insects, crickets and worms. You can feed them with seasonal fruits as treats. Also, provide commercial palette food for proper nutrition.

7. Musk Turtles:

Common Musk TurtleThe last turtle inclusion in our list of smell pet turtles that stay small is the musk turtle. Many expert turtle owner sometimes fails to differentiate between the musk and mud turtle due to their surprising similarity.

They have a black to deep brown shell appearance, and the shell looks like a high domed shape. The most visible physical feature of them is two parallel yellow lines around the head. This striking distinction makes them identifiable from the mud turtles.

Also, they live up to 50 years with proper care. So, you need to be ready for a lifelong commitment if you bring the musk turtle at home.

Average size:

  • Musk turtles quickly grow up to 3 inches to 4 inches. The best part is that the size remains unchanged throughout the lifetime of the musk turtle.

Since the musk turtle is smaller in size and remains small throughout the lifetime, they need a relatively small tank. The standard tank requires 20 gallons of water for an adult musk turtle and an additional 10 gallons for each extra resident.

The drawback is that the tank water needs to be crystal clear to keep the turtle healthy and disease-free. So, we recommend you use a canister filter to keep the water clean and healthy.

Feeding habit:
The musk turtle lives mostly on aquatic nymphs, insects, worms and small fishes including crayfish. At the enclosure, you can provide them with commercial turtle food and mix it for them with crickets, shrimps and leafy vegetables occasionally.

Don’t Forget About Turtle Care

I admit that small turtles are relatively easy to take care of and maintain. However, it doesn’t mean that they will live without nay sorts of care.

For instance, turtles are incredibly messy. So, they will soon turn the tank in a dirty place. Hence, I prefer using a canister filter and HoB filter to keep the turtle tank clean and free of any algae and viral attacks.

Also, clean the turtle tank once in two weeks for a healthier condition. Lastly, feed the adult turtle 4=5 days a week and if possible, in every alternative day. It is better to underfeed the turtle than overfeeding it slightly.

And don’t forget to install UV lights and create a proper basking spot for the turtle.

The Bottom Line

All turtles are born small, but not all of them stay small throughout their lifetime. Some will quickly grow up to 10 inches or more, and so, they need larger tanks. Our list only includes those small pet turtles that stay small forever and won’t grow bigger than 6 inches to 8 inches on an average.

Nonetheless, the mud turtle and painted turtle are two of the best options for the beginners to start their turtle petting career. These two are hardy and won’t fall sick easily. So, you will love owning the turtles and learn intricately about them.


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