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Turtles/Razorback Musk Turtle Behavior



I have two razorback musk turtles. I have had them since they were barely hatched - they are now four years old. There have always been a couple of issues between them, but they got along well for the most part. Lately I have seen one latching onto and biting the other one quite often. At four years can the sex be determined yet? I know that two males can have problems getting along. They are in a tank that is 24" x 18". They have quite a bit of room as they are not large turtles and are not swimmers. I have ordered a larger tank and will divide it if necessary. Should I be able to determine sex yet? I have written to you before and have always found your answers to be helpful. Thank you, Sarah

ANSWER: Hi Sarah,

Maturity in turtles is actually determined by size rather than age--that is, a turtle that grows quickly can mature at an earlier age than one that grows more slowly.  In any case, at four years old they should certainly be big enough (3" or so) to sex.  Males will have a long, thick tail with the cloaca towards the middle; females have short, stumpy tails with the cloaca at the base.  You shouldn't have any trouble sexing them, but if you do, post back with a picture of the tail from underneath.

I think your hunch is probably right and this is a maturity issue.  Having two males can be problematic, but even a male-female pair may cause issues because the male will often harass the female relentlessly.  So either way you may need to separate them.  Let me know what you figure out from the sexing, and good luck!

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Hi Jeannie

Thank you for your answer. Looks to me like I have two males. I separated them in their tank and will keep them separated in the new tank.


Hi Sarah,

Yeah, that's the issue with hatchlings--never know what you'll end up with!  Glad to hear you are able to separate them.  Kudos to you for being such a responsible owner, and it's always a pleasure to hear from you!

ETA:  Sarah, if you'd like my private email just post back and set it to *private* and I'll give it to you (or leave yours and I'll contact you).  Then you can just email me directly any time you have questions.  No trouble at all!


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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.

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