Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta) - Characteristics, Diet and Origin

Painted turtle (Chrysemys picta): find out what this animal is like, its physical characteristics, character, behavior, etc. The only species of the genus Chrysemys, the painted turtle is...

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The only species in the genus Chrysemys, the painted turtle is a freshwater turtle that inhabits various regions of North America. These turtles are very popular with reptile enthusiasts because they are colorful and peculiar. In addition, they are not too demanding in terms of care and are not too delicate. So even if you are not an expert in the subject, you can easily adopt a painted turtle.

Now we are going to talk about painted turtles, what they eat, how they reproduce and their more general needs. Find out all about them in this article from PlanèteAnimal!


  • Europe
  • Canada
  • United States
  • Mexico

Origin of the Painted Turtle

Painted Turtles, whose scientific name is Chrysemys picta, are native to wetlands and rivers in Brazil. Experts trace their origin to the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul. However, painted turtles can also be found in various parts of Uruguay and northern Argentina.

Due to their popularity in the aquarium world, painted turtles are now found in every nook and cranny of the world and can be found living in the wild in parts of South America and the United States. Many of them, which for various reasons have gone from living in captivity to living in the wild, have ended up colonizing rivers in different parts of the world.As a result, they have become invasive species in European countries like France.

Characteristics of the Painted Turtle

Painted turtles belong to the group of aquatic turtles and there are several different sizes and the total carapace length varies from 10 to 25 centimeters in males and 27 to 38 centimeters in females. Size depends on both genetics and the food each individual eats.

There are 4 subspecies of painted turtles, taking the males as a reference, their characteristics are:

  • Western Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta bellii): between 17 and 20 centimeters, with a green shell and yellow and orange reticulations. Their plastron is bright red or intense orange. The carapace is entirely green or dark gray without any pattern, although it may have small, thin red lines.Females can reach a length of 26.6 centimeters.
  • Eastern Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta picta): 10 to 15 centimeters long, with scutes edged with straight yellow lines, a full plastron and no markings. The carapace is dark, with reddish delimitations, their yellow plastron has an intricate dark pattern. They have yellow spots and yellow stripes on their head and legs. Females can reach up to 18 centimeters in length.
  • Midland Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta marginata): about 14-15 centimeters long and with black-edged, alternately arranged scutes. His orange breastplate has a black line down the middle.
  • Southern Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta dorsalis): the smallest, which measures about 10-12 centimeters, is also the most colorful. Its dark green carapace is crossed by an orange line and markings of the same color, and its breastplate is yellow, red and black.

In all cases, males are significantly smaller than females, and develop earlier, so they are fertile at a younger age than females.

Painted Turtle Habitat

These turtles live in parts of southern Canada, several states in the United States, and northern Mexico, with a greatly expanded distribution throughout North America.

They inhabit bodies of water such as lakes, wetlands, marshes, ponds and rivers that are not too large, and where they live in soft, muddy beds. On the Atlantic coast, painted turtles inhabit brackish waters, particularly the eastern subspecies of the painted turtle.

In general, these turtles need a lot of aquatic vegetation which, in addition to feeding them, serves as protection against predators.

Reproduction of the painted turtle

A painted turtle reaches reproductive age between 3-4 years, and females mature sexually later than males. The breeding season begins in spring and lasts until summer. Only one mating occurs per year.

For reproduction in turtles to take place, the male performs a courtship display, which consists of vibrating his front legs on the face of the female. They can also bite them lightly on the neck or legs, however, these bites are more of a technique used to subdue reluctant females to copulate. During copulation, females swim to the bottom of the river or pond because fertilization must take place in an aqueous medium.

After copulation, turtles lay 2 to 8 eggs in the environment. To do this, they prepare a hole out of the water, in an area with little vegetation. At this location, the eggs mature in about 800 days, at which time they hatch.

Painted Turtle Feeding

What does the painted turtle eat? These turtles are omnivores and consume, among other things, plants, usually algae and aquatic plants, as well as small insects, slugs, tadpoles and snails. However, in the juvenile stage, these turtles are exclusively carnivorous and they just eat crickets, worms and various types of fish. It is as they get older that their diets begin to reverse and they begin to include more and more plant-based foods.

If we have a painted turtle at home, it is recommended to give it a varied and balanced diet, which can be consumed with specific food for aquatic turtles or with a homemade diet. If we resign ourselves to feeding them with specific foods and preparations for aquatic turtles, it is important to supplement their diet with vitamins and minerals from fresh vegetables.Some of the best include fresh parsley, dandelion or green leafy vegetables.

Caring for a Painted Turtle

These turtles are known to be quite independent. They tend to be constantly alert and avoid contact with their guardians. If we want to keep one of these turtles in our home, it is important to prepare a good place for them to live. To do this it is necessary to have an aquarium, since they spend most of their life in water, but they must also be able to go out and bask in the sun or in the light of the lamp that we have installed for them. . In addition, we must also take into account that these turtles hibernate, so when the moment of hibernation arrives, we must make sure that they have a place where they will be calm and warm all winter.

Their aquarium should be maintained under certain conditions and the temperature should be at least 28ºC. Temperatures below 15 ºC make the turtle lethargic, and it may stop feeding and hibernate.

The Painted Turtle also needs good lighting, using UVB lamps if the sun is not shining directly on the aquarium or not strong enough. This system is often associated with heating lamps to maintain a good temperature. Submersible heaters of around 250 watts are recommended. The pond area should be at least 60 centimeters deep for adult turtles. The land area must have vegetation or be minimally enriched.

" For more details on the care of the painted turtle, do not miss this article: The turtle as a pet."

Painted Turtle He alth

For our painted turtle to be he althy, we must take care of its diet and the conditions of its aquarium. It is essential to keep the water in the tank clean and to renew it frequently, otherwise problems such as shell and skin infections can occur.To prevent the development of fungi, some experts recommend adding a little s alt to the pond water.

A varied and quality diet is essential to avoid complications such as the development of kidney stones or hepatic steatosis. It also prevents them from becoming obese.

They can suffer from hearing diseases, which are much more common in specimens housed in poor conditions, especially those exposed to very low temperatures or those living in stagnant water.

Pictures of Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta)

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