Mississippi Map Turtle: Complete Care Guide with Species Profile


The Mississippi Map Turtle, scientifically known as Graptemys pseudogeographica kohnii, is a popular aquatic pet that requires specialized care. In this article, we will provide a comprehensive care guide for this species, covering everything from housing and diet to health and conservation.

Introduction to Mississippi Map Turtles

Mississippi Map Turtles are fascinating creatures that are native to the United States. They are found in the Mississippi River and its tributaries and are known for their intricate shell patterns that resemble maps. These turtles can be found in a stunning array of colors, making them a popular choice for pet owners.

If you’re considering adopting a Mississippi Map Turtle, it’s important to understand their specific care requirements. These turtles require a lot of attention and care to thrive in captivity. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the species overview, natural habitat, and physical characteristics of Mississippi Map Turtles.

Species Overview

The Mississippi Map Turtle species is a member of the freshwater turtle family, Emydidae. These turtles are typically medium-sized, with adult males having a carapace length of 3-4 inches, while females can grow up to 10 inches. They can weigh anywhere between 1-2.5 pounds and have a life expectancy of up to 20 years.

Mississippi Map Turtles are known for their unique shell patterns, which resemble maps. Their shells can range from light to dark shades of brown, with intricate designs that are specific to each individual turtle. These turtles also have long, webbed feet with claws that aid in their strong swimming abilities.

Natural Habitat

In the wild, Mississippi Map Turtles live in rivers and streams with moderate to fast currents. They prefer to bask in the sun on rocks and logs near the water’s surface. These turtles also require ample hiding spots like overhanging plants or submerged branches.

If you’re keeping a Mississippi Map Turtle as a pet, it’s important to replicate their natural habitat as closely as possible. This means providing them with a large aquarium or pond that has a strong filtration system and plenty of rocks and logs for basking. You’ll also need to provide them with a UVB light source to help them metabolize calcium and maintain healthy bones.

Physical Characteristics

Mississippi Map Turtles have a distinct oval-shaped carapace that ranges from light to dark shades of brown. The intricate pattern on their shells is what gives them the nickname, “map turtles.” These turtles have a unique appearance that sets them apart from other turtle species.

In addition to their unique shell patterns, Mississippi Map Turtles have long, webbed feet with claws that aid in their strong swimming abilities. They are also known for their long necks, which they use to reach up and take a breath of air while swimming.

Overall, Mississippi Map Turtles are fascinating creatures that require specific care to thrive in captivity. If you’re considering adopting one of these turtles as a pet, be sure to do your research and provide them with the proper care and attention they need to live a happy and healthy life.

Proper Housing for Mississippi Map Turtles

Creating the ideal environment for your pet turtle is crucial for their health and wellbeing. Mississippi Map Turtles are fascinating creatures that require specific living conditions to thrive. Here are some important considerations for housing Mississippi Map Turtles:

Choosing the Right Enclosure

When selecting an enclosure for your Mississippi Map Turtle, you should choose the largest size that you can accommodate. A minimum of a 40-gallon tank is recommended for a single adult Map Turtle. A larger tank will provide more swimming and basking space for your turtle. You should also ensure that the enclosure has a secure lid to prevent escape attempts. Mississippi Map Turtles are excellent climbers and can easily escape from an unsecured enclosure.

Ideal Water Conditions

Mississippi Map Turtles require clean, freshwater with a temperature range of 75-85°F. The water should be changed at least once a week to prevent the buildup of harmful bacteria and waste. Water should be treated with a water conditioner to remove harmful chemicals and bacteria. You should also consider installing a water filter to maintain water quality and clarity.

Basking and Lighting Requirements

Providing a basking spot for your turtle is essential. This area should be equipped with a heat lamp that produces a temperature of 85-90°F. Basking lamps should be turned off at night to mimic the turtle’s natural environment. UVB lighting is also essential for your turtle’s health. UVB lighting should remain on for 12 hours a day to provide your turtle with the necessary UVB rays for vitamin D3 synthesis.

Providing Hiding Spots and Decorations

Adding a variety of decorations to your enclosure will provide your turtle with a stimulating and enriching environment. Submerged logs, rocks, and live plants can create areas for your turtle to explore and hide. You should also provide a hiding spot, such as a cave or tunnel, for your turtle to retreat to when they feel stressed or threatened. Providing hiding spots will help your turtle feel more secure and comfortable in their enclosure.

In conclusion, creating the ideal environment for your Mississippi Map Turtle is essential for their health and wellbeing. By following these guidelines, you can provide your turtle with a comfortable and stimulating environment that will allow them to thrive.

Mississippi Map Turtle Diet and Nutrition

Mississippi Map Turtles are fascinating creatures that require a well-balanced diet to ensure their growth and vitality. These turtles are omnivores and require a diet of both animal and plant-based foods. Providing a varied diet is important to ensure that your turtle receives all the necessary nutrients for optimal health.

Nutritional Requirements

As mentioned earlier, Mississippi Map Turtles are omnivores and require a diet that consists of 50% protein-rich foods and 50% leafy greens, vegetables, and fruits. The protein-rich foods can include insects like crickets, earthworms, and mealworms, or commercial turtle pellets. It’s important to note that the protein source should be of high quality and low in fat.

The plant-based portion of the diet should consist of a variety of leafy greens like kale, spinach, and collard greens, as well as vegetables like carrots, squash, and sweet potato. Fruits like strawberries, blueberries, and bananas can also be offered in moderation.

Feeding Schedule and Portion Sizes

The feeding schedule for adult Map Turtles should be once every two days. Hatchlings, on the other hand, should be fed smaller meals more frequently. Portion sizes should be adjusted based on the age and size of your turtle. Overfeeding can lead to obesity and other health issues, so it’s important to monitor your turtle’s weight and adjust their diet accordingly.

Live Prey and Commercial Food Options

Live prey like earthworms, crickets, and mealworms can be offered occasionally as a treat. However, they should not be the main source of protein in your turtle’s diet. Commercial turtle pellets should serve as a staple source of protein in your turtle’s diet. Be sure to choose a high-quality brand that is specifically formulated for turtles.

Supplements and Vitamins

Turtles require calcium and vitamin D3 for optimal health. Dusting calcium and vitamin D3 supplements on your turtle’s food twice a week will help prevent health issues like metabolic bone disease. It’s important to note that too much vitamin D3 can be toxic, so be sure to follow the recommended dosage on the supplement packaging.

In conclusion, providing a well-balanced diet is crucial to ensure the health and vitality of your Mississippi Map Turtle. By offering a variety of protein-rich foods, leafy greens, vegetables, and fruits, and supplementing with calcium and vitamin D3, you can help your turtle thrive for years to come.

Health and Wellness

Keeping your Mississippi Map Turtle healthy requires proactive care and vigilance for signs of illness. Here are some important considerations for your turtle’s health:

Common Health Issues

Mississippi Map Turtles are known to be hardy and resilient creatures, but they are susceptible to a few health issues. One of the most common health issues that Mississippi Map Turtles face is respiratory infections. These infections can be caused by a variety of factors, including poor water quality, low temperatures, or stress. Another common health issue is shell rot, which is a bacterial infection that affects the shell of the turtle. This can be caused by poor water quality or injuries to the shell. Metabolic Bone Disease is also a concern, which is caused by a lack of calcium and vitamin D3 in their diet. It’s critical to monitor your turtle’s behavior and appearance for signs of illness.

Preventative Care

Ensuring your turtle has a clean environment, a balanced diet, and adequate space will help prevent health problems. Mississippi Map Turtles are active swimmers and require a large tank or pond to thrive. It’s important to provide them with a basking area where they can dry off and absorb UVB light, which is essential for their health. Performing regular water changes and maintaining a clean enclosure is necessary for preventing infections. It’s also essential to provide your turtle with a varied and balanced diet that includes commercial turtle pellets, fresh vegetables, and occasional treats like feeder fish or shrimp.

Signs of Illness and When to Consult a Veterinarian

Signs of illness can be subtle, but it’s crucial to keep a close eye on your turtle’s behavior and appearance. Lethargy, lack of appetite, breathing difficulties, or changes in the appearance of their skin or shell can all be signs of illness. If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s crucial to contact a qualified veterinarian experienced in treating turtles. A veterinarian can perform a thorough examination and recommend appropriate treatment, which may include antibiotics, wound care, or dietary changes.

By providing your Mississippi Map Turtle with proper care and attention, you can help ensure a long and healthy life for your beloved pet.

Handling and Socialization

Proper handling and socialization are essential to build trust with your Mississippi Map Turtle. Here are some key considerations:

Mississippi Map Turtles are fascinating creatures that make great pets. They are known for their unique appearance, with intricate patterns on their shells and skin. These turtles are also very intelligent and can recognize their owners. However, to build a strong bond with your turtle, you need to know how to handle and socialize them properly.

Proper Handling Techniques

Turtles can be sensitive to changes in temperature, so it’s crucial to handle them in a warm, quiet environment. Before handling your turtle, make sure your hands are clean and free of any harmful chemicals. You should also support their body weight and avoid touching sensitive areas like their tail or limbs.

When picking up your Mississippi Map Turtle, gently place your hand under their belly and support their legs with your fingers. Never pick them up by their tail or limbs, as this can cause them pain and stress. You should also avoid sudden movements or loud noises, as this can startle your turtle and cause them to retreat into their shell.

Building Trust with Your Turtle

Building trust with your turtle involves approaching them slowly and speaking gently. Consistent handling will help your turtle feel more comfortable and less stressed. You can also try offering your turtle their favorite food as a treat to encourage positive behavior.

It’s important to remember that every turtle is different and may have their own unique personality. Some turtles may be more outgoing and social, while others may be more shy and reserved. It’s important to respect your turtle’s individuality and work with them at their own pace.

Socialization with Other Turtles and Pets

Mississippi Map Turtles can live with other turtles and non-aggressive fish. However, it’s important to introduce new pets gradually and supervise them closely to prevent any injuries. You should also make sure that your turtle has enough space to swim and bask in the sun.

When introducing new pets to your Mississippi Map Turtle, it’s important to watch for any signs of aggression or stress. If your turtle seems uncomfortable or scared, it’s best to separate them and try again later. With patience and consistency, your turtle can learn to coexist peacefully with other pets.

Breeding Mississippi Map Turtles

Mississippi Map Turtles, also known as Graptemys kohnii, are a popular species of turtle among pet owners due to their friendly disposition and attractive appearance. Breeding them, however, requires a specialized setup and careful environmental considerations. Here are some important considerations for breeding:

Determining Gender

Before breeding Mississippi Map Turtles, it is important to determine the gender of the turtles. Males have longer tails and larger claws than females, while females have shorter tails and smaller claws. Males also have a concave plastron, while females have a flat plastron. It is important to note that determining the gender of juvenile turtles can be difficult, and it may take several years before the gender becomes apparent.

Creating a Suitable Breeding Environment

Mississippi Map Turtles require a suitable breeding environment that mimics their natural habitat. Breeding should take place in a separate enclosure with optimal water and temperature conditions. The enclosure should have a basking area with a heat lamp, as well as a UVB lamp to provide the necessary light for the turtles to thrive. Hiding spots and rocks should be added to allow females to lay their eggs. The water in the enclosure should be kept clean and at a temperature of around 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit.

Egg Laying and Incubation

Once the breeding environment is set up, females will lay between 7-20 eggs, which are incubated for 2-3 months in a warm, humid environment. It is important to ensure that the eggs are not disturbed during this time, as any movement or jostling can harm the developing embryos. Once the eggs have hatched, the hatchlings should be separated from adults and provided with a suitable habitat. Hatchlings require a smaller enclosure with shallow water, a basking area, and a UVB lamp. It is important to provide hatchlings with a varied diet that includes both animal protein and vegetation.

Breeding Mississippi Map Turtles can be a rewarding experience for pet owners who are dedicated to providing a suitable environment for their turtles to thrive. With careful planning and attention to detail, pet owners can successfully breed these fascinating creatures and enjoy watching their hatchlings grow and develop.

Conservation and Legal Considerations

Mississippi Map Turtles are a threatened species, and it’s critical to support conservation efforts in the wild. Here are some important considerations regarding conservation and legal requirements for keeping Mississippi Map Turtles:

Threats to Mississippi Map Turtles in the Wild

Habitat loss, pollution, and over-harvesting are significant threats to Mississippi Map Turtles in their natural environment. These turtles are highly sensitive to changes in their habitat, and any alteration can have a significant impact on their survival. Mississippi Map Turtles are also at risk of predation by larger animals, such as raccoons and coyotes. Supporting conservations efforts and responsible pet ownership can help protect this species.

Conservation efforts for Mississippi Map Turtles include habitat restoration, pollution reduction, and the enforcement of laws and regulations that protect the species. These efforts are crucial for the survival of the Mississippi Map Turtle and other endangered species that share their habitat.

Responsible Pet Ownership and Captive Breeding

Captive breeding can help reduce the impact of wild-harvesting of turtles. It’s essential to purchase turtles from reputable breeders who follow ethical and sustainable practices. These breeders should have a clear understanding of the species’ needs and provide appropriate care to ensure the health and well-being of the turtles. Mississippi Map Turtles require a large tank with a basking area, UVB lighting, and a varied diet that includes both plant and animal matter.

Responsible pet ownership also includes proper disposal of waste and regular cleaning of the turtle’s enclosure. Improper disposal of waste can lead to pollution and the spread of disease, which can harm both the turtle and other animals in the environment. Regular cleaning of the enclosure helps prevent the buildup of harmful bacteria and ensures the turtle’s health.

Legal Requirements and Permits

Laws and permit requirements for keeping Mississippi Map Turtles vary by state and country. It’s critical to research local laws and obtain the necessary permits to keep these turtles legally. In some areas, it may be illegal to keep Mississippi Map Turtles as pets, while in others, a permit may be required. It’s important to follow these laws to avoid fines or legal trouble and to ensure the protection of the species.

Permits may also be required for the transport of Mississippi Map Turtles across state or international borders. These permits help prevent the spread of disease and the illegal trade of animals. It’s important to obtain the necessary permits and follow all regulations when transporting turtles.

In conclusion, conservation and responsible pet ownership are crucial for the survival of the Mississippi Map Turtle. By supporting conservation efforts, purchasing turtles from reputable breeders, and following local laws and regulations, we can help protect this species for future generations to enjoy.


Mississippi Map Turtles are fascinating and beautiful pets that require specialized care. Following the guidelines outlined in this article will help ensure that your turtle thrives in captivity.

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