Snapping Turtles

A pet owner's guide to the snapping turtle

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In some areas, adult and baby snapping turtles are hunted to near-extinction, so there is some debate as to whether snapping turtles should be kept as pets. Even without the environmental factor, it's still questionable whether a snapping turtle is the best choice for a pet turtle.

Snapping turtles can be kept as pets if you're willing to put in the time and effort to care for them. But they do require work and can be tricky to care for, especially as they age.

Origins and Natural Habitat

Snapping turtles can be found in southeastern Canada, the western United States, Mexico and even as far south as Ecuador. They live in freshwater areas, including marshes, rivers and lakes, and prefer soft mud with plenty of underwater plants.

Appearance and Characteristics

Size: Snapping turtles are one of the bigger breeds of pet turtles, measuring up to 20 inches in length.

Markings: Snapping turtle markings vary depending on the breed. Common snapping turtles are olive to dark brown in color and have no distinctive markings. The Alligator snapping turtle can be distinguished from the common snapping turtle by its three rows of spikes and raised plates on its outer shell. It is also a bit larger than the common snapping turtle, but is otherwise very similar in appearance.


Snapping turtles are typically a laid-back breed, but captivity can bring out the worst in them. When left alone in the water, they are usually docile, but they may turn to hissing and biting when they are disturbed. This behavior is particularly common in adult turtles.

Health and Care

Feeding: Snapping turtles are omnivorous, which means they eat meat such as earthworms and insects as well as plants. They should be fed at minimum once a week, and any remaining food should be removed after a half hour in the tank.

Housing: Because they are so large, snapping turtles are best kept in a small child's pool. Gravel can be used to line the pool, and rocks or a turtle ramp should be included to provide an area for basking. The water should be kept at a temperature of 75 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and can drop by 10 degrees at night. Be sure to change at least half the water twice a week to keep the pool clean and prevent contamination. A full-spectrum reptile light is also necessary.

Health Concerns: Common health issues for snapping turtles include lethargy, vomiting and decreased appetite. These are usually signs of improper diet or an unclean habitat.

Life Expectancy: Snapping turtles live 30 to 40 years, on average.

Finding Snapping Turtles for Sale

Baby snapping turtles and even snapping turtle eggs are collected from the wild to supply pet stores, leading to a population crisis. If you choose to buy a snapping turtle for a pet, be sure it is one that has been bred in captivity.

Baby snapping turtles typically start at about $75, and prices can run up to $150 or higher for adults.

Posted by Trista Harris on June 29,2017 at 06:30 PM
I have a one-year-old regular snapping turtle. I was walking around Sloans Lake in Lakewood, Colorado when I found it. At first, I thought it was dead, he was so tiny and didn't move ( he was inside a lump of mud in the middle of the sidewalk). I was worried someone might run over it with their bike or a dog would get it because Sloans Lake is a popular place to go. Also, there were warnings about poisonous algae in the water so I didn't just put it in the water. I wasn't looking for a pet but he's grown on me. When I first found him he was smaller than a 50 cent piece nose to tail, now he's more than 14 inches from nose to tail. I can't believe how much he's grown in less than a year, It'll be a year in September. I feed him aquatic turtle floating food and keep minnows in his tank so he can eat when he wants. Right now he's in a 30 gal aquarium (It's what I have on hand) and I'll be moving him to a children's pool soon because the aquarium isn't cutting it anymore. I take him outside and let him walk in the grass whenever I clean the tank which is every 3rd or 4th day. No cartridge filter I buy can handle the bio load of this guy so I'm going to have to get a sump pump filter once he's in the pool. I've given up on regular filters and just change his water when it gets cloudy and that happens fast.
Posted by Cait on January 23,2014 at 07:17 PM
My little guy came from the lake down the street from my boyfriend's house when I was 17. We took the canoe out all the time and saw adult snappers all over the place, but had never seen a baby there. Our initial intention was just to keep him for the summer, and let him go before the weather got cold, but he grew on us. He's 8" long now from the tip of his beak to the tip of his tail and is the sweetest thing ever. Since he's small, we keep him with our three other young turts, two male RESs and a female Red Bellied Cooter in their 55 gallon tank. But that's going to change soon because now they grow like little weeds. He never snaps and, like Tori said, he only ever opens his mouth when he's upset (or frustrated because he wishes to be put down, haha). His diet consists of juvenile turtle pellets, calcium supplements twice a week, worms, bugs, etc. He hasn't developed much a taste in veggies yet, but I hear that changes as they get older and the little guys need the protein anyway. When we watch the turtles in their tank, he always swims up to us, and when we take him out, he likes to cuddle up and go to sleep. Don't tell the others, but Bowser has become our favorite of our four turtles ^^;
Posted by Jere on August 19,2013 at 05:58 AM
I think you might mean a Russian Tortoise, I never heard of a russian hibeangck Torts roam by instinct and they have no sense of barriers, they dont see the glass in front of them and wanna keep going. They plow over everything in their way. Try this- give him something to hide in. I use this big rat house thing, it's purple and looks like a castle. PetCo has them; about $10. Fill it with some hay for a floor. Sounds weird but my pair love it, it's their cave. They dont bang around at night, just sleep in there. They get to go outside during the day too; I'll suggest what I do-get a large 60 kiddie pool, fill the floor with dirt, build a shade, a little water dish and fix up some fresh veggies for munching and put him out there for awhile. The sun is great for them and he'll get the roaming business done. Mine are tired at the end of the day and sleep well.
Posted by Maegan on January 10,2013 at 01:34 PM
I had found a snapping turtle while hiking up a part of badly washed out/ damaged woods.Thinking it was dead I brought it home to clean and keep the shell for my aquatics teacher, whilst soaking it the little guy started moving. Ive had Alcatraz for about 8 months, he is the biggest sissy ever, he plays dead and hides when he see's a lot of activity outside of his tank. He loves to go in his kiddie pool for exercise and sit on my feet. Ive never had problems with him biting or hissing but he doesnt like the toothbrush i use to clean his shell to much, after 5 minutes he tries to run away lol. He eats small rose minnows, ghost shrimp, live meal worms and dead mealworms. The petstore sells a medley treat for turtles which is just a variety of dried bugs, also dried shrimp. If he is hungry he will come to the side of the tank where my head is (the tank is next to my bed on a table) and throw rocks at me to wake me to feed him, he will do this nonstop until i get up and do as his lordship demands. Snappers will grow as large as adequate feeding and space provides, they also hibernate in cold months if you don't have a heating pad under the tank.
Posted by Destinee George on December 06,2012 at 08:54 AM
I have a snapping turtle that is about one and a half years old. I feed his slices of ham, turtle pellets, mini krill, and whenever i can find any i feed him worms. I dont know why but he has a white dry skin looking skin around his mouth im not sure if it is dry skin but was wondering if anybody could help me out, it doesnt seem to bother him but i just feel so bad leaving it alone...can anyone help me?
Posted by Traci on September 06,2012 at 04:55 PM
my Fiance found a snapping turtle inside the warehouse where he works. it was just a baby. he carried it around in his shirt pocket all night and brought it home in the morning. Kobalt the turtle is about a year onld now and lives in a 10 gallon fish tank. he is a very happy turtle. we have a fish tank filter to help keep the water clean longer. he loves to sit under the running water. i buy turtle food at the local grocery store and occasionaly give him freeze dried crickets and meal worms.
Posted by Tori on July 10,2012 at 12:02 AM
I have a pet snapping turtle that is about 4 years old and no larger than a baseball. He is very active at night and moves his gravel around with his claws for hours. I feed him a diet of turtle pellets, occasional bugs (not too many because they cause him to grow more rapidly), and freeze dried shrimp and blood worms. I am able to wash the naturally occurring algae form his shell, although he is large enough that I hold his with tongs and brush his shell with a toothbrush so as not to get bit. He rarely hisses although he opens his mouth when he gets upset. I use unscented soap in bar form to clean his shell, but I never clean his skin because of its sensitivity. He sheds at times and the only remedy is to clean his cage out. He lives in a plastic animal carrier with enough water for him to pull his head underwater (he likes to keep wet and eats his food floating), but until recently I have kept him in a large fish bowl. I hope this may be of help.
Posted by Jamie on September 29,2014 at 12:15 AM
My friend, it sounds like you should get a bigger tank. It should be able to swim & move freely, and have water it can dive into- I think you should consider that
Posted by Dennis Cline on March 02,2012 at 10:23 PM
I was standing in my front window watching some hail fall when I saw something bounce in the grass, I walked out and it was a turtle, It is a little bigger than a silver dollar, I brought it in and put it in a large tupper bowl, I live in central Indiana, where would a turtle that small come from. Dennis Cline , Yorktown Indiana
Posted by ina_99 on January 21,2010 at 08:35 PM
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