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Turtles/Razorback Musk Turtle Behavior


I have two razorback musk turtles and have had them for about 1 1/2 years. They were newly hatched when I bought them. Their tails are the same as each other, making me think that they are the same sex and I think they are males. I often see that one will get on top of the other and lock its legs around the other.It will try to look directly in the other's face, but I don't see any real biting happening. I have observed that it is not consistently the same turtle that is dominant. I am not sure if this is just a territorial behavior or what. I have not seen so far any need to set them up in separate tanks. Just would like your opinion on what these guys are thinking... Thank you

Hi Sarah,

Your turtles are too young to sex.  All turtles look female until they're mature, and that really depends on growth rate rather than age, but generally captive turtles wouldn't be mature until at least 4 years old (and more than 5 years would be better, growth-wise).  So your turtles have some time to go.  

My guess would be that it's a territorial behavior.  I don't know about musk turtles specifically, but it's not uncommon for bullying to occur, especially if the tank isn't big enough for two turtles.  You didn't say how big your tank is, but make sure it's an adequate size--at least 50 gallons if your turtles are 3-4" .  Make sure you provide sight breaks for the bottom--rocks, sunken logs, plants, etc.--and a hide cave is a good idea as well.  If there's enough room and at least some natural features, territorialism tends to be much reduced.  


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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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