Dwarf Turtles, Miniature Turtles, Dollar Turtles

Care information: Baby water turtles care.

Rather frequently, someone will buy a small green turtle under the impression that it will stay that small. Usually this happens to unsuspecting animal lovers who see these little sweet turtles for sale. They then ask how big it will get, and they are told that it won't grow, or that it will stay small. They ask how to take care of the turtle, and are told to just put it in a water dish and feed it hamburger or lettuce or fish flakes, or some low-quality pellets made from ground up insects.

Soon after, this new and inexperienced turtle owner finds out that the turtle won't eat, that it is sick, or that it is growing at an unexpected rate. This is, when the learning starts.

I am sorry you got tricked into getting a pet that turned out not to be what you thought you bought. If you have the means to provide for your baby turtle, I would encourage you to do so. What seems like an overwhelming task at first will become quite straightforward

once you have a proper setup and a bit of practice.

This is also the place to compliment all those people who decide to keep their turtle and give it the home it needs, which is usually an overwhelming and task and an unexpected expense.

Chances are that you are reading this page because you are one of these people.

Here are a few facts I would like you to know:

  • 99 out of 100 baby turtles die in the first year. Some die, because they were not fit to live, some die from stress and filth during shipping. Many die from malnutrition, cold, and ignorance. Most people who buy a pet want to take good care of it and give it their heart. But, unfortunately that doesn't help, if the information is wrong or non-existent.
  • There is no such thing as a "miniature turtle." Most turtles sold as such are baby red-eared sliders or other turtles from the same family. These turtles reach an adult size between 7 and 14 and more inches, depending on gender.
  • If your little turtle is green with orange cheeks, it is a red-eared slider. If it is green with a yellow belly with dark markings, it is most likely another slider-type turtle. These are the most common baby turtles sold. Do find out what kind of turtle you have, since every turtle has somewhat different needs and requirements. This website has water turtle care sheets that are right for most of these turtles.
  • It is ILLEGAL in the United States to commercially sell any turtle smaller than 4 inches. It is LEGAL to keep, breed, and give away these turtles. It is LEGAL to buy/get one from a friend who had a litter. (There is an exception for educational purposes.)
  • If someone sold you a baby turtle (at a fair, at a store) and lied to you, I encourage you to contact the Fish and Game Department (it may be called something a bit different in your state) or an animal rescue operation with as much information as you have. You will do a good deed. Likely the person will get caught, and a small step towards reducing smuggling and illegal sales of turtles has been taken; which, and this is what I care most about, will save the lives of many turtles.

Check out the Care Sheets for more information, in particular the Baby water turtles care.

Turtles that stay small

I often get asked whether there are any turtles that stay small. The following turtles don't grow big and are readily available in the United States.

MALE Reeves turtles, spotted turtles (not legal to keep everywhere), Diamond back terrapins, and musk turtles all USUALLY stay smaller than 5 inches. Of these, I would recommend a musk turtle, if you are new to turtles. Musk turtles are available through the pet trade. Males usually stay smaller than females. Musk turtles are hardy and make good pets.

Check out the Water Turtle Care Sheets and this Musk turtle Care Sheet by the Tortoise Trust.


So-called mini-turtles grow into 10-inch sliders!

ⓒ Aleks Haecky (CC BY-NC-SA)

Baby red-eared slider turtles.

ⓒ Aleks Haecky (CC BY-NC-SA)