You are here:

Turtles/Identifying a turtle


Our baby turtle
Our baby turtle  
Hi, my fiancÚ was recently given a baby turtle and wants to keep it and take care of it but she doesn't know what kind of turtle she has. Can you help me identify it for her.

It's a little hard to tell from the picture, but I believe that is a hatchling diamondback terrapin, although I can't say what subspecies it is.  You can google for more images to help you ID it.  If it is indeed a DBT, and whoever gave it to her removed it from the wild, it is illegal to have in your possession per NY state law.  If that is the case, it should be returned to the location where it was found, and if that's not possible, it needs to be turned over to a qualified wildlife rehabber.  If by chance it's actually a captive bred DBT, then you need to have paperwork to show that.

DBT are a somewhat specialized species in the wild because they live in brackish water and have a partially marine diet.  Unless your fiance is already quite knowledgeable about turtles it's not a species I would suggest keeping, especially because hatchlings don't have a lot of wiggle room as far as care goes.  If you don't think it's a DBT, post back with more pictures (clear ones from the side, above, and below) and I'll see if I can ID it for you.  

Just FYI, in general turtles need large tanks (a hatchling can be kept in 20-30 gallons, but only for maybe the first year) of 75 gallons or more, depending on the species.  The tank should have a filter that is sized for two to three times the tank capacity.  They need a basking platform with light so that the area reaches 88-90 degrees, as well as a source of UVB.  UVB is vitally important for hatchlings because their shells and bones are growing and it allows them to properly metabolize calcium.  The diet should be well-rounded, and include pellets, animal protein, and greens.  Don't give just one food item because nutritional deficiencies and health problems can result.  Turtles aren't necessarily difficult to keep, but they do require a lot of room and some expense for setup and feeding.

Let me know if it doesn't seem to be a DBT, and we'll go from there.  NY does have some strict laws regarding turtles, so if it's wild caught it's important to know what it is and whether it's legal to keep.


All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts




Questions regarding husbandry of Russian tortoises and other Mediterranean species, sulcata, and redfoot tortoises; general tortoise and turtle care; box turtle care. If I can't answer a specific question, I can provide sources for further research. Disclaimer: My advice is not a substitute for vet care. If I think your tortoise/turtle has a specific medical condition or injury that warrants a vet visit, I'll tell you so, and if possible I'll help you locate a vet. It is neither legal nor ethical for me to provide veterinary advice.


I have kept and bred Russian tortoises for over ten years and have other Mediterranean species plus redfoots and box turtles. I've worked with other tortoise and turtle species while doing volunteer rescue work; mostly sulcata but some leopards, California desert tortoises, yellowfoots, all box turtle species, red-eared sliders, etc. I don't personally keep aquatic species, but have access to a wealth of information and research to help you with any questions you might have.

My knowledge is based on hands-on experience keeping, breeding, and working with tortoises and turtles.

©2016 All rights reserved.