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Baby Painted Turtles: Everything You Need to Know

Do you have a new baby painted turtle and wonder what the best way to take care of it is? Have you found a baby turtle in the wild and don’t know what to do?

These little turtles can be a lot of fun, but they require some special care. 

In this article, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about taking care of baby painted turtles. 

We’ll also answer common questions about them and provide some tips on making sure your turtle stays healthy and happy.

What Are Baby Painted Turtles Called?

Baby painted turtles do not have a species-specific name. Instead, they are called hatchlings, the collective nouns for baby turtles in general.

Hatchling is a term derived from their development in eggs. The term “sparkies” sometimes describes baby turtles, but we do not know where it came from.

Turtle babies and turtle groups have various collective nouns.

Baby painted turtleHatchling, sparky
Group of baby painted turtlesNest, bale
Group of adult painted turtlesBale, flotilla

Related: Baby Turtles: Names, Lifecycle, Diet, Care, and More

What Are Baby Painted Turtles Called

What Does a Baby Painted Turtle Look Like?

Baby painted turtles look the same as adults. They have the same structure and shape, except they have a softened shell that hardens as they mature.

Like other turtle species, painted turtle babies are precocial. They hatch fully developed and require no parental care. This evolved as a way for adult painted turtles to conserve energy. All they have to do is mate and lay eggs instead of invest in the care of the young.[1]

This turtle can be recognized by the following traits:

  • A baby painted turtle has a shell that is soft and flexible. 
  • It is dark green, with yellow stripes running down the side. 
  • The head and neck of the turtle are light green, with orange spots on the cheeks. 
  • The legs and feet of the turtle are webbed, and they have long claws.
  • The bottom of the turtle’s shell is called the plastron. It is usually a light yellow or cream color. 
  • The top of the turtle’s shell is called the carapace, which is dark green.
  • The baby turtle has a long tail, which is used to help them swim. 
  • They also have sharp claws on their toes, which they use to climb and catch their food.

Baby Painted Turtle Life Cycle

A baby painted turtle goes through several stages of development before it becomes an adult. They begin as tiny hatchlings, growing rapidly until they mature into adults between 5–8 years old.

The first stage is the egg stage. The female lays the eggs on land in a nest, and they hatch after about two months.[2]

The next stage is the hatchling stage. The turtles spend the first few weeks of their lives in the water, eating small insects and tadpoles.

Then the turtles enter the juvenile stage. They start to grow larger, and their shell begins to harden. At this point, they begin to eat plants as well as insects.

The final stage is the adult stage. Adult painted turtles can live for 20 years or more in captivity and up to 50 years in the wild.

Baby Painted Turtle Life Cycle
Image Source

Baby Painted Turtle Growth Rate

Baby painted turtles grow the quickest in their first year of life, getting to approximately three inches in their first year after hatching. They then grow at a rate of one inch per year until they mature. 

Males mature after 3–5 years, while females mature after 5–8 years.[3]

Related: Painted Turtle Size

0-1 years1–3 inches
1–4 years3-5 inches
5–8 years6–9 inches

Can You Keep a Baby Painted Turtle as a Pet?

Yes, you can keep a baby painted turtle as a pet. They are generally easy to care for and make great pets for kids and adults alike.

Before you get a baby turtle, you should know a few things.

  1. The health risks of owning turtles
  2. Legalities of owning baby turtles
  3. Habitat requirements
  4. Cleaning and hygiene
  5. Lifetime commitment

First, turtles can carry salmonella, so it’s essential to wash your hands after handling them.[4]

Secondly, it’s illegal in North America to sell or buy turtles less than four inches. So unless you breed your own painted turtles, you cannot legally acquire a brand new hatchling.[5]

Thirdly, turtles are wild animals and should not be kept in small tanks or bowls. They need a large enclosure with a water area, land area, and hiding spots.

Fourth, turtles are messy. They track mud and dirt into their water, so be prepared to clean their tank often.

Finally, turtles can live for a long time, so make sure you are ready to care for them for the next 20 years or more.

Can You Keep a Baby Painted Turtle as a Pet

If you’re ready to add a baby painted turtle to your family, familiarize yourself with their care requirements and find a reputable breeder or pet store.

Related: How to Take Care of A Painted Turtle

Baby Painted Turtle Care

Now that you know everything about baby painted turtles, it’s time to learn how to care for them. Painted turtles are relatively easy to care for, but they do have some specific needs such as tank size, habitat, water regulation, temperature, and lighting.

Related: How to Take Care of a Baby Turtle

Tank Size

A baby painted turtle needs a tank that is at least 20 gallons. As they grow, they need a larger tank. A 75-gallon tank is usually sufficient for an adult turtle.

The larger the tank you can provide, the better, allowing your turtle to swim and exercise.

Baby Painted Turtle Tank Size
Image Source


Painted turtles need a large tank or enclosure. The tank should have both a water area and a land area. The water area should be deep enough for the turtle to swim and dive, with a basking spot where the turtle can climb out of the water to dry off.

The land area should be big enough for the turtle to walk around. It should also be covered with a layer of substrate, either sand, gravel, or even dirt.

There should also be hiding spots in the tank for the turtle to feel safe and secure. These can be rocks, logs, or plants.


Painted turtles need a large water area to swim and dive in. The water should be deep enough that the turtle can fully submerge, and changed regularly.

Filter the water source to remove impurities, particularly chlorine.

Baby Painted Turtle Tank Water
Image Source


Painted turtles are cold-blooded animals, so they rely on the temperature of their environment to regulate their body temperature. The water must be between 75–85°F

The basking spot should be between 80–90°F. You can use a basking lamp or a heat lamp to create the basking spot.

The rest of the enclosure should be between 70–80°F


Painted turtles need full-spectrum lighting to stay healthy. This type of lighting can be provided by fluorescent bulbs or LED bulbs. The lights should be on for 12 to 14 hours per day.

They also require UVB exposure to produce vitamin D and absorb calcium. This can be provided by a special UVB bulb or by taking your turtle outside for a few hours each day.

What Do Hatchling Painted Turtles Eat?

Painted turtles are omnivores, which means they eat both plants and animals. Hatchlings eat a diet high in protein, supplemented by plant matter.

Related: What do painted turtles eat?

What Do Baby Painted Turtles Eat In The Wild?

In the wild, baby painted turtles eat a diet of insects, fish, and other small animals. They also eat a variety of plants.

As they mature, their diet becomes higher in plant matter. Once they are mature, they don’t need as much protein, but they also are not as mobile to catch small prey.

What Do Baby Painted Turtles Eat In The Wild
Image Source

What Do Baby Painted Turtles Eat In Captivity?

In captivity, their diet is similar.

Their diet consists of fresh vegetables, live insects, and commercial turtle food:

  • Fresh vegetables for a turtle include lettuce, spinach, kale, and collard greens (chopped into small pieces so the turtle can easily eat them.)
  • Live insects for a turtle include crickets, mealworms, and earthworms. These should be fed to the turtle a few times a week.
  • Commercial turtle food available in pellets or flakes is given to the turtle a few times a week.

How To Get a Baby Painted Turtle To Eat?

Getting a baby painted turtle to eat can be tricky. They are often reluctant to eat commercial turtle food and prefer live insects and fresh vegetables.

One way to get them to eat is to offer them a variety of foods and see what they show an interest in. Another way is to hold the food in front of their face and wait for them to eat it.

If you are still having trouble getting your turtle to eat, you can contact a reptile veterinarian for help.

How Long Can Baby Painted Turtles Stay Out Of Water?

Painted turtles are semi-aquatic and spend most of their time in the water. A baby may only last a few days to a week without water, depending on the environmental conditions.

Painted turtles need water for various reasons

  • Hydration (internal and external)
  • Eating
  • Defication
  • Thermoregulation

A healthy adult may last a few weeks out of the water if the temperatures are mild and the humidity is high. A juvenile turtle does not have a developed immune system and may not survive out of water for more than a few days.

Eastern painted turtle

What Do You Do If You Find a Baby Painted Turtle?

If you find a baby painted turtle, the best thing to do is leave it where you found it. If it is in an unsafe area, such as a road, move it to a safe place near a water source.

Baby turtles are precocial, meaning they require no parental care. From the moment they hatch, they are on their own. If you find a baby painted turtle, there is no need to worry about its well-being, granted it looks bright and alert and is in a safe place.[6]

If the turtle appears to be far away from a waste source or looks sick or injured, contact a local reptile rescue or reptile veterinarian. If you cannot find a professional animal carer, you can offer short-term care at home.

Ensure you keep it separate from all other pets and minimize contact until it has had a health screening.


Painted turtles are a popular pet choice for many turtle enthusiasts. They are relatively easy to care for and can live a long time with the proper care.

Baby painted turtles have specific diet and housing needs that ensure their health and wellbeing. If you find a baby painted turtle, the best thing to do is leave it where you found it or contact a professional for help.

About Sophie Herlihy (Zoologist)

Sophie Herlihy, a trained zoologist, is a lover of true misfit animals. With a specialty in insects, birds, and rodents, she helps the Misfit Animals craft factual and valuable informational pieces on various animals.

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