Painted Turtles As Pets

The painted turtle (Chrysemys picta) is not your average aquatic turtle. This species (including its various subspecies) has the largest range of any north American turtle, and can found in suitable habitats from the Atlantic to the Pacific coast of North America. It is also colorful, outgoing, moderately-sized, and very undemanding. Let’s take a closer look at painted turtles and see whether they are the right pet turtle for you.

Tank Setup

Tank setup for painted turtles generally follows the basic design already described. Like the red-eared slider, with which it is often confused, painted turtles are the quintessential basking-type turtle that inhabits ponds, lakes and lazy rivers, around which they spend a great deal of time soaking up the sun. If you’ve ever seen them in the wild, you will understand just how important these basking sites are. Juveniles and adults will often be piled up on one another in the choicest sunning spots, and long tanning lines of individuals will form on sufficiently thick tree branches. Consequently, you will need a good heat lamp or ceramic heater, and it is also a good idea to use a UV-B emitting bulb as well.

In addition to providing a good basking spot, these turtles will enjoy a large and deep swimming area. These are not large turtles, but, depending on the subspecies, males will generally reach at least 4 inches at maturity, with females getting to around 7 inches in total carapace length. Applying the general rule of thumb of 10 gallons to each inch of carapace length is a good starting point when estimating tank size.

Like just about all basking turtles, the painted turtle likes to shred its food and will generally make a mess of just about anything it eats. This, coupled with their significant size at maturity, poses a real challenge in terms of water quality. Consequently, we again stress that you consider using a quality canister filter for their tanks, in addition to regular (preferably weekly) 50% water changes. Dechlorinated tap water is fine for painted turtles and they are relatively unaffected by things like pH and water hardness.

Typical household temperatures are fine, and generally obviate the need for heating the water so long as a basking temperature under the light of close to 100F is reached. However, in winter things can get more complicated. As discussed below, the various subspecies come from different climatic zones. For example, the eastern painted turtle (C. p. picta), as it is used to hibernating during the winter months, will have a strong instinct to prepare for a long cold winter, and if water temperatures start to dip below 70F in your tank, it could cause this species to stop feeding. This drive is so hard-wired that some turtles may stop feeding as autumn approaches, even if warm water temperatures are maintained.


Painted turtles will happily accept most turtle food. Like other basking species, they tend to start life as carnivores, eating insects, small fish, tadpoles, etc., and then move towards a more vegetable-based, omnivorous diet. Make sure to dust prepared foods with a high quality supplement. I have always used Rep-Cal for providing crucial vitamin D and calcium, and would not recommend any other. A failure to supplement foods with these vitamins is just asking for trouble, and is particularly damaging to young, growing turtles that are likely to manifest shell deformities as they mature.


Young turtles are very difficult to sex, but as they grow males will show several differences. Males will tend to have larger front claws, a longer, thicker tail, and a more concave plastron (underside of shell) compared to the flat plastron of the female. Of course, the female will normally get significantly larger than the male as well.


Like most basking turtles, the painted variety is very long lived. The eastern subspecies is reported to live between 20 to 40 years, and mature in about 10 years. This is likely a very conservative estimate of this species lifespan in the wild. In captivity, a well cared for turtle should easily live for more than 20 years.

Painted Turtle Subspecies

One neat thing about these animals is how they’ve begun to change since the last ice age. Currently, there are four recognized subspecies:

  1. Eastern Subspecies (C. p. picta): this subspecies is prevalent along most of the east coast, along a wide swath stretching from Novia Scotia to Georgia. It is typified by a dark green to black carapace, sometime with a faint midline stripe and red edging along the marginal scutes. This is a moderately-sized turtle, with an average mature carapace length of 5-7 inches for the male, and 6-7 inches for the female.
  2. Midland Subspecies (C. p. marginata): the midland painted turtle occurs in a wide inland area that starts in the north from southern Quebec and Ontario, and goes westward as far as Michigan, Indiana and southern Illinois. Its southernmost extent falls somewhere in Tennessee. This subspecies mixes with eastern form along the northeastern boundary of its range, and this “integrade” is the dominant from throughout much of Pennsylvania. A nondescript form of painted turtle. Adults are between 4 and 10 inches in total length.
  3. Western Subspecies (C. p. bellii): this subspecies is reportedly the largest, reaching 10 inches in total length, and covers the most area of the North American continent. Its easternmost extent starts in western Illinois and a small extension of its range continues as far west as the northern Oregon coast and southern border of Washington state. It occurs as far south as northern Oklahoma and as far north as Lake Manitoba. The most notable feature of this subspecies is a brightly colored, reddish plastron.
  4. Southern Subspecies (C. p. dorsalis): not only is this the smallest subspecies, with an average carapace length of 4-6 inches, but it has the most limited range as well. It is generally found in western Tennessee, Arkansas, Alabama, and Lousiana. The southern painted turtle can usually be recognized by its relatively vivid, red midline dorsal stripe.

Painted Turtles as Pets – The Verdict

These are generally colorful and easy to please aquatic turtles that should thrive in a basic turtle tank setup provided they are given enough room. While all of the subspecies can be maintained in captivity, some of the subspecies adapted to the northern latitudes may have a tendency to go off feed in the winter, even if adequate water temperatures are maintained year-round. For this reason, the southern painted variety may be a more ideal choice as a pet, since it hails from a much warmer clime. In addition, as the smallest of the subspecies, it can be housed in slightly smaller enclosures.

Your Pets and Your Guardian Angel

If you are like most people, you consider your pets to be part of your family. You love them and receive much love in return, and you distress when they become ill or lost for even a short time. Below I’m going to give you some unique suggestions on lowering your stress level when events seem to be worrisome or even in crises situations with those lovable family members.

About ten years ago, in reading spiritual articles and books, I kept noticing the word “benevolent” used in stories about Guardian Angels and their relationship to us. One day I read a suggestion to request benevolent outcomes for events in your life. I decided to try it out, and was amazed how PERFECTLY it worked for everything, from small requests such as a parking spot next to a busy restaurant or a seat on the subway to the really important situations in my business and personal life. After having made these requests between 10,000 and 15,000 times over the years, I am firmly convinced that our Guardian Angels are there to assist us in living more gentle lives. We just have to ask.

So how do we utilize these requests with our pets? As an example, one of my dogs, Sandy, will roam the neighborhood if we accidentally leave the gate open, which certainly at the very least could mean the permanent loss of a sweet, lovable dog. When this happens, I have immediately requested out loud, “I request a Most Benevolent Outcome for finding Sandy safe and sound. Thank you.” You always thank your Guardian Angel and make these requests with emotion, as that works best. Requesting a Benevolent Outcome always takes the stress and worry away, as I KNOW that I’m going to find her.

When it’s time to add a pet into your family, you say, “I request a Most Benevolent Outcome for finding the perfect pet for our family. Thank you.” When you go to an animal shelter, possibly one of the attendants points out a pet that just arrived that morning, even just a few minutes before you arrived. Or you will just be drawn to one particular animal that in your heart you know is the perfect companion for your family. Even before you go, one of your friends calls to tell you about a new litter. Your Guardian Angel works in amazing ways, and I can assure you it’s FUN to sit back and see how the pieces of the puzzle come together when you make requests for MBO’s (as I call them). Just remember that requesting Benevolent Outcomes has to be benevolent for all concerned.

Next, you can request a Benevolent Outcome for choosing the right food and vitamins for your pet. And you can request a Benevolent Outcome for visits to the veterinarian. When your pet is sick, that can really cause you to be concerned and worry for their welfare. One lady told me how her cat was recently in distress, so she took her cat to the veterinarian and requested a MBO that the cat would be fine. She was greatly relieved to be told by the vet that it was an easy problem to treat.

One of our previous female dogs had a parvo type disease that is fatal 99 out of 100 times. We requested a Benevolent Outcome for her recovery, and then had the “inspiration” to start feeding her large amounts of the same vitamin E we took for our health. Her blood count slowly increased to the point where she completely recovered.

I’m going to give you something else that works when you see an animal on TV that has been injured, tortured, or trapped. You can feel quite frustrated that you can’t help that animal in person. But you can say out loud, “I ask that any and all beings come to the aid of this animal and comfort, aid, and assist this animal in any and all ways. Thank you.” These requests are not acted upon by your Guardian Angel, but by other Angelic beings, and INSTANTLY. You do not limit the request to humans, as it could be other animals or Angelic beings that actually physically assist that animal in distress. Then you will feel better that at least you did what you could to aid that animal. This confidence will be higher if you have been requesting Benevolent Outcomes in your life, so you know from direct experience and knowledge that making these requests really work!

Your life with your pet companions will be much less stressful and worry-free when you request Benevolent Outcomes from the time that you decide to add them to your family and all through their lives with you. I wish you all a Good Life!

Pets and the Swine Flu

A thirteen year old Iowa cat answered the question that many concerned pet owners have been asking: “can pets catch illnesses from us?” The kitty came down with swine flu, proving that the illness in fact can be transmitted from humans to animals. The diagnosis surprised veterinarians and medical experts who didn’t previously believe that cats or dogs were susceptible to human flu viruses. No dogs have yet been diagnosed, so researchers are uncertain whether the virus can also be transmitted to dogs. However, it appears that ferrets, pigs and domestic turkeys are also susceptible to the virus, so it is possible that dogs will be as well.

The virus causes a runny nose and other flu symptoms. In humans with weak immune systems, such as children or the elderly, swine flu can even be deadly. The fear thus exists that it could also lead to respiratory distress or death in cats or dogs if they do in fact come down with the illness. No one wants to see their pet memorialized in a cat urnor dog urn any sooner then absolutely necessary, so cautious owners will want to be aware of the potential dangers and watch their pets for signs of swine flu.

Vets warn that people should not automatically jump to the conclusion that a runny nose or other sign of the flu is caused by the H1N1 virus in pets. Experts believe it is more likely that if an animal is exhibiting these symptoms, it is caused by a virus more common in domesticated pets then H1N1. However if you or another family member had H1N1 or you believe your animal was exposed, you can get your pet tested to rule out the possibility that it is this potentially serious strain of the flu.

Since cats can clearly get the virus, you should also take precautions with your cat the same way you would with any human being. If you are ill or someone in your family has H1N1, take care not to expose your feline friend to germs. Try not to be too affectionate with your pet or too cuddly during your illness lest you spread germs and unintentionally make your pet ill. Don’t leave tissues or other contaminated objects lying around. After all, your pet may be prone to playing with the tissues and this lighthearted game could potentially lead to their illness. Furthermore, ensure that if your animal begins exhibiting signs of illness, you go to a responsible veterinarian for an appropriate diagnosis.

Diligent pet owners want to put off the day that they memorialize pets with a pet headstone for as long as possible. One important step in doing this is to be aware of the potential dangers for dogs and cats and take steps to protect against them. Therefore, although vets believe it is unlikely that many cats or dogs will be infected by this new flu virus, it is typically much better to be safe then to be sorry.