Cooter Turtle Species and Care Guide

Cooter turtle species and care guide

Cooter turtles, scientifically known as Pseudemys are native to South and East America, they are huge pond turtles that have a very close relationship with freshwater bodies. If you see a river or a lake, it is most likely that you also find cooter turtles within that river or lake, as freshwater is the basic habitat of the river cooters.

Cooter turtles come in various species too!

They can be classified into 7 species. It’s so fascinating to learn about these magnificent creatures, they come in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes, so you can never get bored of them.

This article will provide you with all the information regarding cooter turtles, their care guide, and species too.

Overview of Cooter Turtles.

Common nameCooter turtles.
Scientific namePseudemys concinna
Size9-11 inches
OriginSouthern U.S
HabitatFreshwater lakes and rivers.
Life span20-40 years
Experience levelbeginner
Temperature85 degrees Fahrenheit
ConversationNot extinct

Species of Cooter Turtles.

Commonly there are 7 species of cooter turtles, but the most famous specie of cooter turtles is the “river cooter”.

River Cooters

Scientific name of this turtle is  Pseudemys concinna, and they belong to the family of Emydidae.

The river cooters are native to America, but they can also be found in neighboring countries to America, like Europe because of trade. The river cooters are of a friendly nature, they have subspecies like eastern river cooter, coaster plain cooter, and pond cooter.

The appearance of river cooters is very eye-catching, they differ from other cooter turtles due to their shell, their shell is dark brown and has “C” shapes on both sides, which makes the river cooters unique.

The river cooter is the second-largest cooter turtle, the average size is 15 inches. One thing that shocks people is that the females are approximately 3 inches larger than the males!

The river cooters fit in the category of pet turtles because of their peaceful nature.

River cooters can be easily handled by a beginner pet keeper. 

They are primarily herbivores but can munch on some insects once in a while. The Diet of this turtle is very simple, it consists of plants like kale, fruits, and other leaves.

The average life span of these kinds of turtles is 40 years or more if properly taken care of.

The price range of river cooters lies between 100 to 300 dollars, and as far as the conversation status of these turtles is concerned they are “least concern”.

Pseudemys concinna, the river cooter, is a diurnal species, meaning it is active all through the day.

They remain active all winter unless they are subjected to extreme cold, in this case the eastern river cooter, Pseudemys concinna, or Pseudemys Florida, is known to hibernate for months in the mud. 

They don’t need to come to the surface of the water to exist, since they can utilize the oxygen provided by the water.

cooter turtle
Image Credit : Source

Florida Red-Bellied Cooter 

As the name speaks for itself, the Florida redbelly cooter, also known as the redbelly cooter is named red-bellied because of its bright red colored belly(plastron), and Florida is attached with its name because they are mostly found in Florida. Other than Florida they can also be found all around the peninsula and in the southern part of Georgia.

These cooters are scientifically known as the Pseudemys nelsoni, and they are one of the most famous specie of cooter turtles.

Like all of the other cooters, they also live in freshwaters.

The average size is 8-15 inches, females being a little larger than men, as noted in different species of cooters. The red-bellied cooters weigh around 4 kgs, a shocking fact about them is that the females weigh 4kgs, while the males weigh only 1.5 kgs!

The red-bellied cooters have red marks over their shell and plastron that fade eventually with the passage of time.

The red-bellied cooter can be distinguished because of the “y” shaped structures it has on its shell, also their shell is dome-shaped while the shell of other species is flatter.

The red-bellied turtles are good pets, they are also easy to feed. This turtle needs to be fed every other day, and baby red-bellied turtles should be fed twice a day. 

Their diet comprises plants, but the younger turtles can also enjoy small insects as their meal, you should feed your turtle with vegetables, fruits, and herbs. 

Here are some things that you can feed your red-bellied turtle: hydrilla, water hyacinth, arrowhead, duckweed, waterweed, and other edible vegetation including lettuce, parsley, romaine lettuce, spike rush, spinach, hydrilla, water hyacinth, arrowhead, duckweed, waterweed, and other edible vegetation.

You should give them the right amount of calcium, this can be achieved by giving them a little number of calcium supplements as prescribed by the wet.

The temperature requirement for this specific turtle is 80 degrees Fahrenheit, and the humidity level in the environment should be 70-90%

Their conversation status is “least concern”.

They are comparatively cheaper as compared to other cooters, their price ranges from 50 to 100 dollars.

This is a good buy as these turtles are long-living too, their life span is 30 years long, on average.

Image Credit: Source

Alabama Red-Bellied Cooter

The Alabama red-bellied cooter is a very rare specie of cooters.

They are rare because they are endangered, you can not keep them as pets due to this reason.

The biological name of this adorable turtle is Pseudemys alabamensis. 

This turtle is named Alabama red-bellied cooter by the Alabama legislature in 1990. 

 Alabama cooter is found in the mobile-Tensaw Delta only because it’s going extinct slowly.

The average life span of these turtles is shorter than the other species, the average life span is of 15-20 years.

The shell of this turtle is gorgeous. It has red, green, and brown patterns on it. The plastron comes in 2 colors red and yellow the patterns on the plastron fade with time.

The Alabama red-bellied turtles feed on aquatic plants.

Image Credit : Source

The size of the Alabama red-bellied turtle is 12-14 inches.

Texas river cooter 

Texas river cooters biological name is Pseudemys Texana.

The texas river cooters are found in Texas, but they can be found in the Brazos, San Bernard, Colorado, Guadalupe, San Antonio,  Nueces river basins, and as well as their tributaries. It is one of three cooter species found in Texas, the others being the Rio Grande cooter.

These river cooters can be kept as pets, and the experience level is” beginner”.

The river cooter’s average size is 12 inches the cooter’s color is green, its shell has a variety of yellow and black patterns that become lighter as it grows.

Their diet consists of various aquatic plants like algae and grass.

Their lifespan is 30-40 years.

The price range of these turtles may range from 30-100$, and their conversation status is “least concern” species of river cooters, this means that they can be kept as pets.

Image Credit :Source

Rio Grande Cooter 

When you take a glance at this beautiful, vibrant, and attractive turtle you will immediately want to study it. 

This turtle originates from Mexico and the southwestern United States of America. This cooter is called Rio grande because it is found in Rio grande drainage Mexico. Its scientific name is Pseudemys gorzugi, but they are commonly called Rio grande cooters or Rio cooters.

The appearance of the Rio Grande is very enchanting, it is olive green in color with yellow and brown patterns on its shell these patterns are a lot more vibrant on the younger Rio cooters as compared to older ones.

These turtles are petite, considering that their adult size is 9 inches. The average life span is 10-30 years.

The carapace(upper shell) of adults is oval, and the carapace of the males is flatter than the females.

The tails of these turtles are longer and thicker for the males, and short and slim for the females, as observed in the river cooters.

These turtles are omnivores, but they prefer their green over other insects or animals that you may want to feed them.

Feeding the turtle with vegetables high in calcium like collard and spinach has proven to be beneficial for their growth. In the wild, these turtles eat aquatic plants and algae.

Their conversation status is near threatened, meaning that they are likely to be endangered in the future.

The price of Rio cooter is 30-90 dollars.

This is why their trade is reduced to a great extent. You can keep them as pets, but they aren’t as commonly kept as pets due to their conversation status.

Image credit : Source

Peninsula Cooter

Scientifically known as  “Pseudemys peninsularis”.

These cooters are found in Florida, their habitat is freshwaters and lakes.

The experience level is “beginner” and can be easily kept as pets and the conversation status is “least concern”.

The shell of this turtle is a little similar to the Florida red-bellied cooter, its shell is not as convex as the other turtles, and the outer part of the shell has a Rigid shape, some turtles of this species have ring shapes on the outer portion of the shell.

The color of this turtle is yellow, green, and brown. The difference between Florida red-bellied cooters and peninsula cooters is that the peninsula cooters do not have the prominent red colors in their shells. The average size of this turtle is 10-15 inches.

The average lifespan of this reptile is 30 years or more.

Peninsula cooters are herbivores and like eating aquatic plants.

The conversation status of these turtles is “least concern”.

You can keep these turtles as pets, just make sure to provide them with a large enclosure.

Image credit : Source

Northern Red-Bellied Cooter

Northern red-bellied cooter, also known as Pseudemys rubriventris was originally named Testudo rubriventris by john LeConte in 1829, they are found in new jersey and eastern Massachusetts. 

The life span of a northern red-bellied cooter is over 50 years.

These appealing creatures have vertical marks in red color over their carapace(shell), and

They are distinguished by their size and coloring. Females measure about 11 to 13 inches, while males are 10-12 inches big

The carapace of adults is black to brown with subtle reddish patches. Male Plastron is soft pink with black mottling.

Adult females have crimson plastrons with grey margins along the shell plate seams with black, yellow, or ivory lines on the head, throat, limbs, and tail.

Northern red-bellied cooters have a life expectancy of over 50 years.

Men and females attain maturity at different ages. Females reach adulthood between 13–20 years, however, males reach maturity at a younger age.

The Massachusetts and Federal Endangered Species Lists both categorize northern red-bellied cooters as endangered. 

The nearest red-bellied cooter population is 200 miles distant in New Jersey.

The redbelly turtle is largely a herbivore that feeds on water vegetation.

Northern red-bellied cooter turtle
Image credit : Source

Pet Care Guide of Cooter Turtles. 

All the species of cooter turtles have proven to be great pets, and you can adopt these as pets easily. Here are some things that you must ensure to have to keep them as pets.

The Housing of Cooter Turtles

While getting a cooter turtle the first thing that you should keep in mind is that cooter turtles require spacious tanks and aquariums so that they have enough place to swim and move in.

When providing the turtles with indoor housing you should buy a glass or plastic aquarium as they don’t leak. The tank of the cooters should have a combination of both water and sand because these cooters like to come out of the water and bask in the light for some part of their day.

As far as the size of the tank is concerned, you should take a tank that is triple the size of the turtle, this means that if you have a bigger turtle a bigger tank should be bought. The size of the tank completely depends on the size of your turtle. 

A tank of 20-30 gallons is enough for a baby cooter turtle, while a tank as big as 300 gallons is good for an adult cooter turtle.

If you plan on keeping more turtles, then consider doubling the size of the enclosures, but for a single adult turtle, a tank of size 47 inches big and 12 inches high is advised. If you notice your cooter trying to climb the walls of the enclosure, get a tank with longer sidewalls.

Cooter Turtles Substrate 

As cooter turtles are pond turtles, they don’t usually need a substrate, but If you want to add some sort of substrate for your turtle, then add rocks and pebbles in your aquarium because the turtles like to climb on them and bask. 

Make sure that these rocks are not huge, as this may cause drowning if the turtle gets stuck under them.

Always ensure that you provide a good basking spot for your turtles, as this helps in preventing shell rots.

Water Purification 

As cooter turtles remain in the water for the most part of the day, it is vital for you to make sure that this water is clean. 

These turtles drink the same water in which they swim, hence it is mandatory to purify this water to prevent any diseases.

You should install a water purifier in the tank to overcome this problem.

Water purifiers are not costly and will help maintain the health of your turtle.


All species of cooters require a good amount of UVB light, this can be maintained in a tank, and if you choose to provide an outdoor enclosure then you do not need to take any additional measures regarding this as sunlight does this task for you.

Why do River Cooters Need UVB Light?

  • well, they need it in order to synthesize vitamin D3 which is vital for their bone growth.

Turn the lights on for 12 hours during the day, and keep the light facing towards the basking spot, turn the light off at the night.

You can easily find a tank light in a pet store, make sure to change the light every six months.


So for the temperature, you need to maintain a temperature of 80-90 degrees Fahrenheit, but the water in which the turtles swim should be 75-85 degrees warm.

You can use a water heater in order to maintain this temperature and assure to check the temperature throughout the day. You can install a thermometer in the tank to be aware of the temperature at all times during the day.

A heat lamp can be used to heat the basking spots. If you are breeding your cooter turtles, then increase the temperature of the basking spot to 100 degrees Fahrenheit, this helps the turtles breed smoothly.

Feeding Cooter Turtles 

As observed in all of the species of cooter turtles, they are all omnivores, this means that they can eat animals as well as plants, but they like to eat plants and greens over insects and animals.

It is mostly observed that cooter turtles are omnivores in the early stages of life and then eventually turn into herbivores as they grow up.

You don’t need to prepare a special diet for these turtles because their diet is very simple, they eat vegetables like kale, spinach, lettuce, and carrots. They also eat aquatic plants and algae.

Animals like fish worms, snails, tadpoles, and other insects can also be fed to them.

The adult cooter turtle eats one time every other day, on the other hand, baby cooters must be fed daily. The amount of food you feed your cooter should be able to be consumed within 5 minutes.

Also, provide your cooters with some calcium supplements within their food.

Since these reptiles live in water so you do not need to provide them with drinking water as they can drink from the water they swim in at any time, just make sure the water they are swimming in is clean.


Clean your tank at least once a month and spot clean daily, you should use a vacuum to clean the tank every week.

Usually, there tends to be dirt under the rocks and pebbles, so make sure to clean them well. As mentioned above invest in buying a water purifier.

Do not leave any uneaten food in the tank of the turtle this may cause bacterial growth which is harmful to the turtle.

The water nitrate levels in the tank are kept low thanks to weekly tank water changes. Before replacing a portion of the tank water, make sure the tap water is dechlorinated. A simple 20% tank water change is all that is required for basic weekly maintenance and cleaning to maintain the tank clean.

When completing a large tank clean, move your cooter turtle to a smaller water tank since the sound of the tank vacuum might annoy and worry the turtle.

Water changes are safe for cooter turtles, however, it’s best to remove the turtle beforehand and then change the water in a corner opposite the turtle to avoid stressing the turtle.

Handling and Temperaments

Cooter turtles don’t mind being held, but this depends on the specie of the turtle, pet turtles are not aggressive in fact they are quite friendly, while wild-caught Florida red-bellied cooter can be aggressive if it is held a lot.

If you are handling a baby cooter then hold them with your thumb and index finger. 

Place your thumb on their belly and the index finger on their shell. This creates the right grip and lowers the chances of the turtle slipping.

Handling a larger cooter can be a little different, as they are bigger in size they require to be held firmly, if they aren’t held properly they may slip out of your hand, and in case they fall on the floor their shell might break.

So for proper grip place one hand on its belly and one hand over the shell. 

Do not hold your turtle just by its shell, this can cause injuries to your turtle.

They coexist nicely with other North American turtles due to their kind disposition. They may, however, be rather bashful. Cooters in the wild may also be hostile.

Health Concerns 

Cooter turtles are strong and they do not suffer any diseases mostly. 

The health hazards you may have to take care of are, vitamin A deficiency, metabolic bone disease, and some injuries.

Your turtle may suffer from health issues if the water in its enclosure is dirty, if the water has ammonia and nitrates, the turtle may consume this fall sick, and die if remains untreated, that’s why it is very crucial to keep the tanks water clean.

 Lack of Vitamin A 

Vitamin A insufficiency is caused by the cooter turtle’s failure to consume enough green vegetables. Make sure your turtle gets enough leafy greens and that the tank is stocked with tasty aquatic plants like java moss. You might have to add a medicinal supplement to the tank water if your turtle is nauseous.

Metabolic bone disease, shell infection (shell rot), and shell fracture are all examples of shell disorders.

Mbd( metabolic bone disease) is brought on by a deficiency in vitamin D and/or calcium.

Lack of basking and drying might result in shell indentation. Ensure that the basking platform is big enough and easy to get to.


This is the most significant health concern for most turtle owners.

Cuts and other injuries can happen regardless of how carefully you care for the turtle. Ensure there are no rough edges or items in the turtle’s tank that might injure it.

In case you come across some injury, clean the damaged area with water and apply an antibiotic, if the injury is more critical take your pet to the vet.

Breeding a Cooter Turtle 

If you keep two turtles of the opposite gender together, it is likely that they do breed, breeding usually takes place in the spring season.

The females are mature and have reached the age of sexual reproduction at the age of 6 and males reach the age of sexual reproductivity at the age of 13.

In the wild, the females dig in the ground in order to lay their eggs, if you are breeding them indoors then provide the with a sandy substrate.

She lays eggs in clutches, each clutch contains 20 eggs.

After the female has laid her eggs give her a proper diet. 

The eggs hatch after 90-100 days with the right temperature environment, a fact about cooters is that you can control the gender of hatchling, a higher temperature results in more female offspring while a lower temperature results in male offsprings.

Conversation and Legality

The cooter turtles are not endangered except the Alabama red-bellied turtle, so you can keep all of the species of river cooters as pets except the Alabama red-bellied cooter.

Make sure to follow up with the instructions provided by your country regarding the buying of turtles.

In countries such as America and Europe, it is legal to keep river cooters as pets.

Cost of Getting a Cooter Turtle.

Most of the cooter turtles cost between 100 dollars, and the total amount of money you will have to spend on the aquarium and substrate will be around 250$. This is a one-time investment as the aquariums last for years.


We come to a conclusion that cooter turtles are the best sort of reptiles to be kept as pets!

They come in a variety of species to choose from, they come in many colors and sizes, and these turtles are cute and attractive too.

They even have their distinguish identity, meaning that each cooter turtles species has something special about it that makes it stand out.

These turtles are also friendly and easy to handle.

They have a long life, that’s something most pet buyers look for. Cooter turtles eat mainly plants and don’t require any sort of care or pampering. 

Cooter turtles like basking and it is a requirement for their growth.

They aren’t costly either, the only thing that you should take into consideration is that they need large enclosures.

Overall if you want to keep a turtle as a pet cooter turtles are the best option out there.


Are cooter turtles easy to take care of?

Yes, cooter turtles are very easy to take care of they do not need to be fed that often, and they also don’t fall ill and have a strong mechanism to fight against diseases.

Is the shell of the cooter turtle stronger as compared to other turtles?

No, the shell of cooter turtles is actually weaker, that’s why it should be held firmly because if it falls its shell can easily break.

Can two or more turtles be kept in the same tank?

Yes, you can keep more than two turtles together, but make sure that your aquarium is big enough for both of them, avoid keeping the same gender together in groups as they may get aggressive while mating.

Can cooter turtles go into hibernation?

Cooter turtles do hibernate for 2-3 months during winters.

How to fix cooter turtles’ cracked shells?

If you are a beginner at keeping a turtle pet you may take a vet’s help, but it is easy to take care of this at home too. Firstly clean the cracked area with water and antiseptic, then apply any antibiotic cream, and then close the wound with an epoxy.

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