The Musk Turtle goes by a lot of different names, with the Eastern Musk Turtle or Stinkpot being the most popular. These turtles are a go-to for those looking to add a pet turtle to the family because they are so easy to care for. There is a lot more than meets the eyes with this turtle species. They have a unique personality and they can sometimes get a little feisty. They aren’t the best for young children, but anyone with a basic understanding of their needs can easily care for one.
Quick Facts about Common Musk Turtle
|Species Name:||Sternotherus odoratus|
|Temperature:||72°F to 78°F|
|Color Form:||Dark brown or black bodies with distinct stripes on head|
|Lifespan:||Up to 55 years|
|Diet:||Seeds, insects, tadpoles, snails, algae|
|Minimum Tank Size:||20-29 gallons|
|Tank Set-Up:||Water tank with lots of enhancements|
Common Musk Turtle Overview
The Common Musk Turtle is also called the Sternotherus odoratus and is a species primarily found in the eastern United States. These turtles are found in the wild around watery environments like lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams. They get their nickname, Stinkpot, from the stinky liquid they release when they feel they’re in danger. These turtles are some of the easiest to take care of, but they do have a little bit of an attitude and aren’t afraid to bite those who don’t know how to handle them properly.
How Much Do Common Musk Turtles Cost?
You’ll be pleasantly surprised to learn that Musk Turtles are some of the most affordable reptiles that you can own. You can find these turtles in nearly all pet shops around the world, or they can be shipped to you after you buy them online. Try to purchase them from a reputable breeder if you have one near you. The average Musk Turtle costs anywhere from $20 to $70, which is a low price compared to other reptiles. The main cost comes from setting up their enclosure, which requires a lot of enhancements.
Typical Behavior & Temperament
People love having Musk Turtles as pets because they are so fun to watch. They have spunky and curious personalities, so they’re always finding a way to move about their tank and entertain themselves. These turtles spend their days swimming, exploring, and playing until they feel threatened. When they feel like there is danger nearby, they release a thick orange liquid from their glands, and the foul smell can last for quite some time if you don’t clean it properly. To avoid this, we recommend handling them as little as possible until they trust you.
Appearance & Varieties
Musk turtles are pretty small compared to other turtles around the world. Their shells are usually black or dark brown in color, though they may sometimes be streaked with lighter brown or accumulate lumps of green algae. These turtles have two distinct white markings on their head, chin, and throat.
Musk turtles have a much smaller bottom shell than other similar turtle species. It exposes more areas of their skin and makes them easier prey. Males have thicker tails than the females as well.
How to Take Care of Common Musk Turtle
Musk Turtles aren’t reptiles that sit in one place all day and barely move around their tank. They love to swim, and the more room they have to do that, the better. Give them a spacious home to live in and they’ll thank you by showing off their fun, quirky behavior.
Habitat, Tank Conditions & Setup
If you haven’t had a Musk Turtle as a pet before, follow these guidelines to help you create a home that they’ll enjoy,
Although a 20-gallon tank is a minimum for these turtles, they are a lot better off when they have a lot of room to swim. Try going for a 30 or 40-gallon tank if it’s in your budget and you’ll get a much happier turtle. Because they spend so much of their free time in the water, there isn’t any substrate required. Instead, give them a few enhancements to make their home more aesthetically pleasing, like a turtle dock, floating toys, and artificial plants.
Temperature and Lights
Musk Turtles like their water temperature to be just under 80°F. However, they also enjoy basking under the warm sun in the wild. Use supplemental lighting with UVB rays to heat their basking area to 85°F. Keep them on a natural light cycle with the lights on for 12 hours and off for the other 12 hours.
Turtles don’t require too much humidity since there is already so much water in their tanks. Keep their enclosure humidity between 30% and 40% for ideal conditions.
Cleaning a turtle’s tank isn’t a fun task. Use unchlorinated water in your tanks and install and filtration system to keep the tank clean for longer periods of time. You won’t need to supplement drinking water since they already spend so much of their time in it.
Do Common Musk Turtles Get Along with Other Pets?
Don’t ever place two male Musk Turtles in the same enclosure together. Males and females do well together and enjoy one another’s company. However, the males tend to get a little love sick and harass the females, so keep an eye on her to make sure she isn’t getting bothered by him on a regular basis.
What to Feed Your Common Musk Turtle
Turtles are carnivorous reptiles and feeding them isn’t too complicated as long as they have a well-rounded diet. Dropping crickets, earthworms, ghost shrimp, turtle pellets, greenery, and fish directly into their tank is the easiest way to feed them. They are healthiest when they have a good mix of pellets and fresh prey, which also keeps them stimulated.
Keeping Your Common Musk Turtle Healthy
There are some common health issues that Musk Turtles face that you’ll want to keep an eye on. If their shell starts to turn white, they could have shell rot. Make sure they have a place to bask under the light for a few hours every day and allow their shell to dry out. Scrub off any buildup if necessary.
Perform a routine fecal exam that checks for parasites. Signs of an infection include sluggishness, runny stool, or weight loss.
Keeping males and females together in a cage is the easiest way to encourage breeding. They tend to do it on their own and don’t require assistance from their owner. If they do breed, females should have a nesting box that she can lay her eggs in. Ensure that the box is large enough for her to fit and turn around in. Incubate her eggs at 84°F and they will hatch after about 60 days.
Are Common Musk Turtles Suitable for You?
Common Musk Turtles aren’t reptiles that require a lot of care. Although we wouldn’t recommend them to young children or someone with zero experience, they are one of the easiest turtles to give a good home to. Musk Turtles are spunky creatures that you won’t get bored of during their long lives. Because they live to be over 55 years old in captivity, only buy one if you’re dedicated to sharing your life with them and watching them grow.
Featured Image Credit: Frode Jacobsen, Shutterstock
Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts’ knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.