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Baby Snapping Turtles

Baby Snapping Turtle Care Guide: Tips & Facts

Have you ever heard of baby snapping turtles? These little reptiles are fascinating species of aquatic turtles that can be found in North America. They belong to the Chelydra serpentina and Macrochelys temminckii species, which are commonly known as common snapping turtles and alligator snapping turtles, respectively.

When baby snappers are born, they have a soft shell that hardens as they grow older. This makes them vulnerable to predators such as fish and birds. While some people keep baby snapping turtles as pets, it is important to note that they require specific habitat conditions and can carry salmonella, which can be harmful to humans.

If you’re interested in learning more about these interesting creatures, this article will provide you with some useful information. We’ll explore where to find baby snapping turtles, how much they cost, when to release them into the wild, and much more. So let’s dive in!

Table of Contents

Interesting Facts About Baby Snapping Turtles

Born with a “Caruncle”

Baby snapping turtles are born with a unique adaptation that helps them break out of their eggshell. They have a small tooth-like structure called a “caruncle” on their upper jaw, which they use to crack the shell from the inside. This caruncle is not present in adult snapping turtles and is only found in baby turtles.

Long Lifespan and Growth

Despite their small size, baby snapping turtles can live up to 50 years in the wild. As they grow, they can reach lengths of up to 10 inches. However, it takes many years for them to reach this size as they grow slowly.

Omnivorous Diet

Baby snapping turtles are omnivores, meaning they eat both plants and animals. Their diet consists of insects, worms, small fish, and crustaceans as well as aquatic vegetation such as duckweed and algae. Interestingly, baby snapping turtles have a unique hunting technique where they lure prey with their worm-like tongue.

Do Baby Snapping Turtles Bite?

Yes! Baby snapping turtles have sharp beaks that can deliver a painful bite if provoked or handled improperly. It’s important to handle them with care or avoid handling them altogether to prevent injury.

Appearance & Characteristics of Baby Snapping Turtles

Baby Snapping Turtle

What does a baby snapping turtle look like?

Baby snapping turtles are fascinating creatures that have unique physical characteristics. They have small, smooth, and oval-shaped shells that range from 1 to 4 inches in length. The shell is usually brown, black, or olive green with a rough texture. At the bottom of the shell is a hinge that allows the turtle to close its shell tightly for protection.

The legs and feet of baby snapping turtles are webbed and equipped with sharp claws for digging. Their feet are strong enough to support their heavy bodies and help them maneuver through water and land. They also have a long tails covered with scales that aid in swimming.

How big is a baby snapping turtle?

As mentioned earlier, the shell length of baby snapping turtles ranges from 1 to 4 inches. This size may vary depending on factors such as diet, habitat, and genetics.

What’s a baby snapping turtle’s mouth like?

One of the most striking features of baby snapping turtles is their sharp beak-like mouth and powerful jaws. Their mouths are designed for catching prey such as fish, insects, worms, and crustaceans. It is essential to handle them carefully since they can cause serious injury due to their aggressive behavior.

How do you identify a baby snapping turtle?

Apart from their physical appearance, there are other ways to identify whether it’s a baby snapping turtle or not. One way is by observing their behavior; they tend to be aggressive when threatened or handled roughly. Another way is by examining the shape of their head; it’s triangular-shaped with ridges on top.

What qualities do they possess?

Baby snapping turtles possess several qualities that make them unique creatures in the animal kingdom. For instance:

  • They have excellent eyesight which helps them locate prey.
  • They can live up to 50 years in captivity.
  • They are adaptable to different habitats such as freshwater, brackish, and saltwater.
  • They have a keen sense of smell that helps them locate food.

Care Guide for Baby Snapping Turtles

Baby Turtles

Habitat: Provide a Spacious Tank with Clean Water and a Basking Area

Baby snapping turtles require an appropriate habitat to thrive. It is crucial to provide them with a spacious tank that can accommodate their growth. A 20-gallon tank is suitable for hatchlings, while juveniles require at least a 50-gallon tank.

The water in the tank should be kept clean and free from chemicals such as chlorine. Use dechlorinated water or let tap water sit overnight before adding it to the tank. The temperature of the water should be maintained between 75-80°F using a submersible heater.

A basking area is essential for baby snapping turtles as they need to regulate their body temperature by basking under heat lamps or UVB lights. The basking area should be kept at 85-90°F, and it should be large enough for them to climb out of the water and dry off completely.

Diet: Feed Them a Varied Diet of Insects, Worms, Fish, and Plants

Baby snapping turtles are omnivores, meaning they eat both plants and animals. They require a varied diet consisting of insects such as crickets, mealworms, wax worms, earthworms, fish like minnows or guppies, and aquatic plants like duckweed or water lettuce.

It’s essential not to overfeed baby snapping turtles as it can lead to obesity-related health issues. Offer food once daily in small portions that they can consume within 15-20 minutes.

Temperature: Keep the Water Temperature between 75-80°F and the Basking Area at 85-90°F

Maintaining proper temperatures in your baby snapping turtle’s habitat is crucial for their overall health and well-being. As mentioned earlier, keep the water temperature between 75-80°F using a submersible heater.

The basking area should be kept at 85-90°F using a heat lamp or UVB light. Ensure that the basking area is not too hot as it can cause burns to your turtle.

Handling: Handle Them with Care and Avoid Touching Their Tails or Limbs

Baby snapping turtles are delicate, and handling them requires care and attention. Avoid picking them up by their tails or limbs as they can get injured easily. Instead, use both hands to support their body while lifting them gently.

It’s essential to wash your hands before and after handling your baby snapping turtle to prevent the spread of bacteria.

Where to Release Baby Snapping Turtles

Releasing baby snapping turtles into the wild is not recommended. They can carry diseases that may harm other wildlife populations. It’s best to keep them in captivity, providing suitable care for their entire lifespan.

Where to Buy Baby Alligator Snapping Turtle

Alligator snapping turtles are a different species from common snappers, and they require specific care requirements that differ from those of baby snapping turtles. In some states, it’s illegal to own an alligator snapping turtle as a pet.

Feeding Your Baby Snapping Turtle

Feeding your baby snapping turtle is an essential part of ensuring its health and growth. As a responsible pet owner, it’s important to provide your turtle with a balanced diet of both animal and plant-based foods.

What to Feed Your Baby Snapping Turtle

Live food is an excellent source of protein and nutrients for your baby snapping turtle. Insects such as crickets, mealworms, and waxworms are great options that can be found at most pet stores. You can also feed them small pieces of raw meat or fish like shrimp or salmon.

It’s essential to ensure the live food you give your baby snapping turtle is small enough for them to eat comfortably. If the prey is too large, it could cause choking or other digestive issues. Always supervise feeding time closely as snapping turtles have a strong bite and may mistake fingers for food.

In addition, to live food, vegetables are also an important part of your baby snapping turtle’s diet. Leafy greens like kale and spinach are rich in vitamins A and C while carrots provide beta-carotene which helps with eyesight development.

How Often Should You Feed Your Baby Snapping Turtle?

Baby snapping turtles should be fed daily until they reach adulthood when you can reduce their feeding frequency to every other day. It’s best to feed them in the morning when they’re most active so they can digest their food throughout the day.

As a general guideline, you should aim to feed your baby snapping turtle 25% animal protein (like insects) and 75% plant-based foods (like vegetables). This will help ensure they receive all the necessary nutrients for healthy growth.

What Not To Feed Your Baby Snapping Turtle

While it may be tempting to feed your baby snapping turtle table scraps or other human food, it’s important to avoid doing so. Foods high in fat, salt, or sugar can cause digestive issues and lead to obesity. Some foods like avocado and chocolate are toxic to turtles and should never be given.

Tank Setup for Baby Snapping Turtles

Tank setup is crucial. A well-designed tank provides the ideal environment for your little one to thrive in.

Tank Size and Materials

The first thing you need to consider when setting up a tank for your baby snapping turtle is the size of the aquarium. The minimum recommended size is 20 gallons, but bigger tanks are always better if you have space. A larger tank provides more room for swimming and exploring.

Glass aquariums are the best option as they are durable and easy to clean. Avoid plastic containers or tubs as they can be easily scratched and harbor bacteria.

Water Conditions

Water temperature and quality are crucial factors that determine the health of a baby snapping turtle. You should maintain a water temperature between 75-80°F using a thermostat-controlled heater. It’s also important to monitor water quality regularly using a filter system.

Freshwater or brackish water can be used depending on the species of your baby snapping turtle. If you decide to use an outdoor pond, make sure it has enough UVB lighting and plants that provide shade and hiding places.

Basking Area

Baby snapping turtles require a basking area where they can rest out of the water under heat lamps or natural sunlight. The basking area should be at least 75% of the total surface area with an elevated platform made of rocks or driftwood.

Make sure that there is enough distance between the basking area and heat lamps so that your turtle doesn’t get burned.


Gravel or sand makes an excellent substrate for baby snapping turtles as it mimics their natural habitat. However, avoid small-sized gravel as it may cause impaction if ingested accidentally by your pet.

Tank Mates

Baby snapping turtles are solitary creatures and should be housed alone in their tanks. Do not mix them with other species or even other baby snapping turtles as they may fight and injure each other.

Purchasing Supplies

When buying supplies for your baby snapping turtle, make sure to purchase them from reputable stores that specialize in reptile care. Avoid using any items that contain chemicals or pesticides as they can harm your pet’s health.

Safety Concerns with Baby Snapping Turtles

Are Baby Snapping Turtles Dangerous?

Baby snapping turtles are known for their sharp beaks and powerful jaws, making them potentially dangerous to handle. They can cause serious injuries if they feel threatened or scared. It is important to understand the risks associated with handling baby snapping turtles to avoid any potential harm.

Do Baby Snapping Turtles Carry Diseases?

Yes, baby snapping turtles can carry Salmonella bacteria which can cause infections in humans. This bacteria is commonly found in their digestive tract and can be transmitted through direct contact or by touching objects that have been contaminated by turtle waste. It is important to take proper precautions when handling baby snapping turtles to prevent the spread of Salmonella infection.

Risk of Injury from Baby Snapping Turtles

Baby snapping turtles have strong jaws that can cause significant injuries if they bite. They may bite out of fear or aggression, so it is important to approach them carefully and avoid provoking them. If you do get bitten by a baby snapping turtle, seek medical attention immediately as their bites can become infected.

To reduce the risk of injury from baby snapping turtles:

  • Always handle them with care and respect
  • Avoid picking them up by their tails as this can injure their spine
  • Wear gloves when handling them
  • Keep your fingers away from their mouth

Salmonella Infection from Handling Baby Snapping Turtles

Salmonella infection is a serious concern. This bacterial infection can cause symptoms such as diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps in humans. Infants, elderly individuals, pregnant women, and those with weakened immune systems are particularly at risk of developing severe illness.

To prevent Salmonella infection from handling baby snapping turtles:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling them
  • Use gloves when cleaning their tank or feeding them
  • Don’t allow children under five years old or people with weakened immune systems to handle them
  • Clean their tank and equipment regularly with disinfectant

Avoid Hypovitaminosis in Baby Snapping Turtles by Providing Proper Nutrition

Hypovitaminosis is a condition caused by a deficiency of vitamins and minerals in the diet. Baby snapping turtles require a balanced diet that provides all the necessary nutrients to prevent this condition. A lack of proper nutrition can lead to stunted growth, a weakened immune system, and other health problems.

Conclusion: Caring for Your Baby Snapping Turtle

Congratulations on becoming a new owner of a baby snapping turtle! You now have the responsibility of providing proper care and attention to ensure your pet’s health and happiness. Remember that baby snapping turtles require specific living conditions, feeding habits, and safety precautions.

Firstly, it is important to know that baby snapping turtles are fascinating creatures with unique characteristics such as their sharp beaks and long tails. They also require a tank setup with both land and water areas to mimic their natural habitat.

Secondly, caring for your baby snapping turtle involves providing them with appropriate food such as live insects, small fish, and vegetables. It is crucial to monitor their diet closely to prevent any health issues.

Thirdly, safety concerns should always be taken into consideration when handling or interacting with your baby snapping turtle. Always wash your hands before and after handling them, never leave them unattended near other pets or young children, and avoid overhandling them.

In summary, taking care of a baby snapping turtle can be rewarding but requires proper knowledge and attention to detail. By following the guidelines provided in this article, you can provide the best possible care for your new pet.


Q: How often should I feed my baby snapping turtle?

A: Baby snapping turtles should be fed once daily or every other day depending on their age and size.

Q: Can I keep multiple baby snapping turtles together in one tank?

A: It is not recommended to keep multiple baby snapping turtles together as they may become aggressive towards each other.

Q: What temperature should the water in my baby snapping turtle’s tank be?

A: The water temperature should be kept between 75-85°F (24-29°C) using an aquarium heater.

Q: Do I need special lighting for my baby snapping turtle’s tank?

A: Yes, UVB lighting is necessary for proper bone development and the overall health of your baby snapping turtle.

Q: How often should I clean my baby snapping turtle’s tank?

A: You should perform partial water changes and clean the tank once a week to maintain a healthy living environment for your pet.

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