Midland Painted Turtles: A Complete Care Guide

The Midland painted turtle is a beautiful and interesting pet, but it will require plenty of special care and attention to keep it healthy and happy inMidland Painted Turtle captivity.

To help you understand these cute critters ad how to look after them a little bit more, here’s our complete guide to the Midland painted turtle:


The Midland Painted Turtle – An Introduction

The Midland painted turtle (Chrysemys Picta Marginata) is an attractive subspecies of the painted turtle that comes from the Emydidae family of pond turtles. Other types are the Western painted, Southern painted and Eastern painted turtle. They are found in the Western Hemisphere, most notably in America and the Great Lakes.

They can get to around 9 or 10 inches in size (females), so they aren’t the smallest turtle type you can adopt, but some do only grow to 5 inches (males).

In captivity they can live to about 30 or 40 years, so they aren’t a small time commitment. Some people really love that fact, though, because it gives you the chance to make a really strong bond with them.

Unfortunately, the life length and specialist care they need often results in an excess of turtles requiring rehoming. However, it is better to move the animal on to a rescue or a new home than it is to let it loose in the wild, which would be terrible for both the turtle and the local ecosystems.

The Midland painted turtle is the hardest to identify because there is no particular distinguishing feature. As with their other painted pals, though, they are very beautiful with a black, brown or green body and shell and bright stripes, splodges and bars across it.

In the wild you will find the Midland painted turtle in gentle bodies of water with soft muddy or sandy bottoms, lots of plant life, basking sites and freshwater.


The Midland Painted Turtle As A Pet

The Midland painted turtle can cohabit with other painted types, like the Western painted, as well as similar breeds like red sliders. As long as they have lots of space they won’t show aggression towards each other and should cohabit peacefully.

When it comes to handling a Midland painted turtle, you should minimise contact. They are very shy and can carry salmonella, which is why turtles are commonly not recommended as pets for families with very young children.

Instead, because the turtles won’t run away when you approach to watch them, you can enjoy observing their day to day activities. They are a lot of fun to watch as they swim about and explore.

If you do need to handle them for tank cleaning or to take them to the vet, they can be easily picked up with one hand (for smaller turtles) by the shell, or if they are larger, with one hand on the front of the shell and one at the back. Be careful to watch their mouths as they can bite.

Chrysemys Picta Marginata

Choosing A Midland Painted

Buy a Midland painted turtle from a reputable source like a verified breeder or a rescue facility. They should have a full history for the turtle, be willing to show you the turtle, its habitat and veterinary certification for parasite checks etc.

As a good visual guide, you can also keep an eye out for:

  • Bright eyes
  • Clear eyes with no discharge
  • Strong legs and arms (they should react when they are picked up but not panic)
  • An active disposition (no lethargy)
  • No cracks, pits or obvious wounds
  • No sagging between their body and the shell
  • No excessive basking
  • No swelling anywhere
  • No fear of getting in the water
  • Any signs of vitamin A deficiency or parasites (misshapen shell, white patches on the shell, nasty poop)

If you can, get the turtle to an exotic animal vet for a check before paying for it (accompany the breeder) or ask for a check from a vet of your choice. This may be difficult as the turtles are not very expensive, but if the breeder is good, they will do this for you. They should also ask you lots of questions to check that you are a suitable owner.


Midland Painted Turtle Care

Your Midland painted turtle will need a very specific environment to live in that replicates its natural environment as much as possible. Below, we’re going to look at the main aspects of their enclosure size, lighting and other factors to make sure your turtle feels happy in their new home:


The Midland painted turtle loves to swim, which means they cannot really thrive in a small tank.

Instead, a large tank at least 10 gallons per inch of shell is advised. It should be a minimum of 60 gallons and even bigger if you want lots of turtles.

If you buy a hatchling or juvenile Midland painted, you will only need a smaller tank of 20-40 gallons taking special care to only add 10 gallons of water to it. Once the turtle gets more confident and water proficient you can add more water and eventually move them to a bigger tank overall.

The tank itself will need to be at an ambient temperature of about 80-85 degrees Fahrenheit, with the water kept at about 70-75 degrees Fahrenheit. As well as your general tank lighting, depending on where you live you will need a water heater to keep the water at the right temperature. This heater should be turtle tank suitable, have a visible thermometer and work automatically if the water temperature starts to drop.

If there is a lot of water in the tank you may need two heaters to heat the water. You will also need an excellent filter. Try to buy one with double the filtration power you would buy for fish. So if it filters 60 gallons consider that to filter 30 gallons of turtle water. This is because turtles are much messier than fish and they poop a lot more!

Lastly, do change at least a third of the water every week. You will need to treat the water to remove chemicals from it before adding it to the tank.


Substrate & Enrichment

You don’t need to add anything to the tank in the way of decorations and substrate, but this will be boring for the turtle and for you.

Instead, try to add things like large smooth aquarium rocks, slate stones and other non-edible items in the water itself. In areas above water you could add turtle logs and even plants and other items for the turtle to hide or forage in. These are important to manage the Midland painted turtles stress as they need to be able to hide to feel secure. Just make sure the items are smooth, non-toxic and easily cleaned.

Other Midland painted turtle owners like to add floating and weighted plastic and real plants in the water, and even add extra basking stations too, just to give the turtle a more interesting environment.



All turtles need to be able to bask so that they can thermoregulate, which they do by going in and out of the water (and onto the basking station). The basking temperature needs to be about 88 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit, provided by a ceramic heat lamp or tube lamp. This lamp should be off at night to remove the UVA light source and allow your turtle to rest.

You also need to include a UVB light in this section which is incredibly important to a turtle’s health. It enables them to make Vitamin D3, something they need for strong bones and a strong shell. Without it, they can become deformed and very sick.

When you choose a light you will be able to see how far from the basking station you need to place it so that it provides the right amount of UVB. You also need to change the bulb regularly to avoid it decreasing in the UVB it puts out.

Many manufacturers sell basking lights that combine normal UVA lighting, UVB and heat together. Whatever you do choose, you should buy thermometers and other measuring equipment so you know exactly what your basking station is putting out for your turtle. This is an essential aspect of Midland painted turtle care and worth investing more money in overall.


Feeding Your Midland Painted Turtle

The Midland painted turtle loves meat as a baby and juvenile. As they get older they lean more towards veggies.

In your care, regardless of the animal’s age it should have a very well-rounded diet to make sure it gets all the necessary vitamins and minerals.

Here are some suggestions for their food:

Turtle Pellets – some people only feed turtle pellets to their turtles. However, many keepers recommend pellets only make up some of their diet, with fresh foods making up the rest for interest and nutritional quality.

Seafood – Feeder fish are great for Midland painted turtles because they offer the animal some interest and encourage it to move to catch its food. Ghost shrimp are also great for this.

Veggies – There is a vast amount of veggies your Midland painted turtle can eat including; pondweed, red leaf lettuce, endives, romaine lettuce, dandelions, water lilies and water fern. You should include a mixture of floating plants and chopped prepared plants for variety.

Insects – Mealworms, blood worms and crickets are turtle favourites, especially if offered alive to trigger the turtle’s response to fast movement.

Some keepers will also give their Midland painted turtles supplements which is something you should discuss with your veterinarian who can advise you accordingly. They can also discuss a diet plan with you based on your turtle’s age, weight and health needs. Most adult turtles need feeding three times a week, and younger turtles – everyday.


You’re Well On Your Way To Owning A Midland Painted Turtle!

The Midland painted turtle is very cute, and very easy to care for once you get to understand the basic reptile husbandry needed to help it thrive.

With our guide above, and a really good veterinarian who can offer specific advice, you’ll be well on your way to keeping your very own Midland painted turtle healthy and thriving for a very happy long life under your care.

Be sure to check out My Turtle Shop Here for the essentials you need to help you set up.


*Photo credit https://www.flickr.com/photos/fujidude/27730831161/

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