Small turtles are the cutest of all turtles, but are they right for you?
There are many benefits to small turtle breeds:
- You may need less space (though not necessarily)
- You may not have to feed them as much
- And you can potentially keep more of them in a single turtle tank
And, of course, they can be easier to care for compared to large turtle breeds.
Here is a list of turtles that stay small, or at least comparatively small to other breeds that grow huge!
Turtles That Stay Small
When people are setting up a turtle terrarium for the first time, we hear the same concern again and again.
Beginners are often worried that their turtle will outgrow their enclosure quickly. To make matters worse, some unethical turtle dealers claim that any breed will adapt to the size of the enclosure.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Healthy turtles will always grow to full size as long as they’re provided with proper care, even if the tank or enclosure is too small.
Nevertheless, there are some breeds that do stay small. These are the smallest turtles that will stay small throughout their lives.
1. Mud Turtles – Smallest Turtle In The World
Known for their characteristic yellow heads and eyes, Mud turtles will undoubtedly win your heart at first glance.
They generally grow to around 3-4 inches, but some might grow for an additional inch.
Despite being cute, Mud turtles might not always be docile. They can use their curved beaks to bite your fingers if they feel stressed or provoked.
Although they were named after mud, this breed doesn’t like to spend much time on land. Therefore, you’ll need to use at least a 40 or 50-gallon tank.
Also, you should place a sensible amount of gravel at the bottom to provide your turtles with easy hideouts.
2. Musk Turtles
Musk turtles are probably the first breed that most of us have ever owned.
In addition to their small size (3-4 inches), they’re valued for their relative ease of care.
They come with distinctive black, highly-domed shells. Their heads are also black, but you might see a clear yellow stripe starting from the nose and running all over the neck.
After they exceed 20-30 years of age, these peculiar characters will probably fade away.
Fun fact: Musk turtles are named to reference the foul odor they release when a predator approaches. That’s why they’re also known as Stinkpots!
3. Wood Turtle
The wood turtle is another small breed that is found in many states in the north central and eastern United States.
It’s one of the many turtles of Ohio, Pensylvania, Michigan, and Indiana, and has a max size of 6 – 10 inches in length.
They have interesting hibernation patterns but essentially they migrate to and overwinter in or near the river. Then they emerge in the spring.
Wood turtles are known to be highly intelligent and can make great pets. However, they will live 50+ years in capativity so should be bought with that commitment in mind.
4. Spotted Turtles
Moving up the size ladder, Spotted turtles are usually capped at 5-6 inches.
As their name implies, their dark-blue shells sparkle with lots of yellowish spots, much like the Starry Night, Van Gogh’s masterpiece!
This yellowish pattern also extends into their heads, legs, and necks; but it varies considerably between individual turtles.
In terms of care, the Spotted turtles aren’t that hard, but they’re not beginner-friendly either.
Unlike the previous two breeds, these ones prefer shallow water where they can reach out for the surface while resting their feet on the ground.
5. Box Turtles
Of the breeds featured on this list, Box turtles are arguably the most interesting.
Their 7-inch shells are usually colored deep brown with varying patterns of yellow and orange.
Unfortunately, this turtle breed is more difficult to care for. Box turtles have a lot of subtypes that noticeably vary in their setup requirements.
Some prefer high humidity (requiring a humidifier), others thrive in moderate temperatures, while some prefer brackish water.
6. Bog Turtle
Bog turtles are among the smallest variety of turtles out there – it could be the smallest turtle in the world.
They grow up to 4 – 5 inches long which is even smaller than some of the species above.
In the wild, they live in bogs – hence the name. They like really open, wet environments with mud and dry ground.
They do need dry land or other basking platforms as they are only semi-aquatic.
When they hibernate they will do so underneath the ground.
Bog turtles are also a threatened species due to habitat destruction and housing developments. Also because people like to capture them to keep as pets, they’re not doing as well in the wild.
This species is being monitored by various conservation groups to track its overall health and well-being.
Small Turtle FAQs
Are there any turtles that stay small?
Yes, some of the turtle breeds we’ve mentioned will stay small all of their lives.
This includes Eastern Mud and Striped Mud turtles, Musk turtles, and bog turtles. Also, males of most turtle species tend not to grow as large as females.
What is the smallest turtle as an adult?
Bog turtles are among the smallest turtles when fully grown.
They will reach a complete size of 5-inches long, much smaller than other turtle breeds.
Are there dwarf turtles?
All of these turtle breeds can be considered dwarf turtles.
Mud, Muck, and Bog turtles are very small and will not grow out of a decent-sized turtle tank.
What are the little turtles called?
Baby turtles are called hatchlings.
What tortoise stays small forever?
The Egyptian Tortoise which has an adult size of 3 – 5 inches is among the smallest tortoises.
They are not available worldwide, so it will depend on what your local exotic pet store has to offer.
Small tortoises are attractive because they can be kept in smaller tortoise enclosures, rather than requiring a large outdoor habitat.
Small Types Of Turtles
In the end, we wanted to stress the fact that being small doesn’t necessarily correlate with being easy.
In fact, the smallest turtle breeds can be more sensitive to sudden changes in the setup, diet, or overall routine.
Keeping informed is the best way forward:
Let us know if you have any questions down below.
Also, let us know if you have one of these small turtle breeds and what they are like to keep as pets!