The three striped mud turtle, or Kinosternon baurii is one of the prettiest turtles you can have as a pet. Indeed, it is a beautiful reptile, with its bright yellow plastron and the three stripes down the carapace. Many of these little turtles, which only grow to about 3 to 4 inches long, also have stripes on their head. One caveat is that taking care of K. baurii is a long-term proposition, for these turtles can live as long as 50 years. You might want to appoint a guardian.
The mud turtle’s natural habitat is found in the Florida, Georgia and parts of southern South Carolina, so it needs a warm place to live. Experts recommend that the air temperature be kept around 80 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit, with the basking temperature reaching into the low 90s. If you’re raising very young turtles, the water should be around 80 degrees. It can be a bit cooler for adults. Another warning about three striped mud turtles is that hatchlings are fragile and hard to raise in captivity. They should be left to people who have experience raising and taking care of mud turtles. Experts recommend that the enclosure should be what’s known as a paludarium. This is a tank that has both aquatic and terrestrial features. In the case of mud turtles, the paludarium should hold at least 20 gallons and be longer than it is tall.
If an owner does start off with a hatchling, the water in the tank should be shallow to reduce the risk of drowning. Even adults can thrive in fairly shallow water, even though in the wild they can live in water as deep as six feet. They don’t commonly come on land to bask but will climb onto a mat of aquatic vegetation to get some sun. In captivity, experts recommend that the water be at least 4 to 6 inches deep though mud turtles do well in water that’s as much as a foot deep. Other items on the checklist include enough dry land to walk around on, for mud turtles are not as aquatic as other turtles kept as pets and don’t swim as well. There should be driftwood and some real or artificial aquatic plants for shelter, and the bottom of the paludarium should be covered with river rocks and not mud. Mud clogs up water filters and makes the water difficult to keep clean.
Temperament and Sociability
Generally, mud turtles do not get along with each other or even with turtles who resemble them, and their jaws can do considerable damage. If an owner must have more than one K. baurii in an enclosure, they should choose different looking species such as spotted turtles or male southern painted turtles. Baby turtles should not be placed with adults, because the adults will try to eat them.
Three striped mud turtles are omnivores that prefer invertebrates such as earthworms, crickets and the smaller types of grasshoppers. They also eat shrimp, crayfish and krill and famously take snails. Biologists believe that the relatively large size of this reptile’s head and its strong jaws evolved so they can easily crush them. All food should be bought from a reliable vendor, for snails especially have been known to transmit disease. Other animals eaten by the turtles may not be free of pesticides and other toxins if they’re brought in from the wild.
Mud turtles also eat a variety of vegetation such as lettuce and water hyacinth, even though a pet might not take readily to it. They do enjoy vegetarian pellets, however. Commercial pellets and animal protein in the form of earthworms or bloodworms should be fed exclusively to the animal for the first six months of its life. They should be fed once a day.
These little turtles can be taught to beg for food and can be hand-fed, but they might nip if they don’t like being handled. This is a lovely turtle to care for.