Painted Turtles


Life Cycle

Painted Turtles start their life breaking through the shell of an egg with their “egg tooth”. An egg tooth is a small sharp nub on the turtle’s beak that is just used to break through the shell and eventually comes off. At this stage they are called hatchlings. The hatchlings (only about an inch in shell length) race as fast as they can towards the pond or lake water, still learning how to use their legs. Amazingly they are pretty good at it even though they were just born. Swimming also comes fairly naturally to them, but they get even better over time. The next stage is when they become juveniles. Now they are a bit bigger and are better at getting food and surviving. Painted turtles mature at ages anywhere from 5 to 12 years, depending on the gender of the turtle. They can be between five inches to twelve inches long. Once they are mature they will find a mate. The pregnant female turtles crawl up onto the beach of the lake or pond yearly and find a safe, easy place to dig a nest. She then lays up to twenty eggs and fills the hole with sand, gravel, or dirt. Painted turtles live over 20 years old, so they can lay many eggs in their lifetime. Once the egg hatches and new hatchlings pop out, the process repeats, again, again, and again.

Habitat and Distribution

Where do painted turtles feel at home? Well any sort of pond, lake or marsh is an ideal location for a painted turtle. A slow flowing river would do but they don’t enjoy fast moving water or rapids. They like a place with relatively shallow water and a log or rock poking out of the water to bask in the sun. They like to have a muddy bottom in their aquatic space with abundant plant growth.
Where can I find a painted turtle? In Canada you can find them only in very southern areas. (Just before the border to the United States) They are found in the “bottom” part of all southern Canadian provinces. In the U.S. you can find painted turtles in almost all the eastern states, a bunch of the central states and a few of the north-western states.


Well what does it look like? It may be hard to distinguish a painted turtle from most pond turtles from a first glance, but if you flip it over you will notice a bright red plastron (lower shell) with black markings. Or with different species of painted turtle, a more plain yellow plastron. The carapace (upper shell) of the painted turtle is a dark olive color. Also they have bright yellow markings on their neck, limbs and tail. There is also a thin red rim around the outer edge of the carapace, and some more yellow markings. These turtles have a rounder shell than other turtles like map turtles, which have pointed ridges on top.


A painted turtle’s diet consists mainly of vegetables and plant matter. They will also eat many other things including: crayfish, insects, worms, small fish and frogs. Since painted turtles have a wide range of foods to eat, it must make it easier to survive.

Difference in gender

Without special testing you cannot determine whether a painted turtle is male or female at a very young age. However, once they get older and more mature there are a few easy ways to tell what gender a painted turtle is. The first one is that males have fatter longer tails compared to females. Next is the cloacal opening on the female is very close to the tail base, and on a male it is closer to the tip of the tail.

Image Credit: WesternPaintedTurtle0655-web by Earth Sanctuary

12 thoughts on “Painted Turtles

  1. Hey Jared,

    My friend Maya is knitting/crocheting a turtle right now, and I stumbled on your blog, looking for good pictures of turtles to help her. Thanks for the great pictures. Your blog is really fun, and I love your enthusiasm. My favorite is the smiley face turtle, but I have a special place in my heart for the box turtles I grew up with. Your blog helped me remember how amazing turtles are. Keep up the good work Jared.

    P.S. Is it true you can tell the age of a turtle from the shape of its shell?

    • Thanks! I’m glad you liked my blog.
      I don’t think that it’s true that you can tell the age of a turtle by the shape of it’s shell, (I’ve actually never heard of that strategy, so I may be wrong) But you can tell approximately how old it is by looking for “growth rings” on the scutes of the under-side of the turtle. “Growth rings” are these lines on the turtles scutes and every year a new one should appear. Sort of like on a tree. (If you cut down a tree you can see rings, and If you count the rings, you can figure out how old the tree is). The reason that I said “approximately how old” is because some years they don’t grow a ring. And now I’m talking about turtles, not trees. I’m not sure if I made that clear. 🙂
      Thanks for commenting!

  2. Dear Jared,
    I once had to do a project on painted turtles when I was in 5th grade, or definitely one related to it. I like the picture you added. Nice blogs, especially this one!
    Noah C.

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  4. I really like all of your comments even all of your pictures I think your blog is really
    cool because you put all kinds of cool things and i like how you paint your turtles.

    • Thanks. I’m not sure if you were just joking about painting turtles. That’s actually just the species of turtle. They haven’t actually been painted. 🙂

    • Thanks. I’m not sure if you were just joking about painting turtles. That’s actually just the species of turtle. They haven’t actually been painted. 🙂

  5. I really like your blog you have a lot of very cool facts about painted turtles. I thought the most interesting fact was that they break the turtle egg with there teeth.

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