Diamondback Terrapin Care Sheet
Before purchasing your new baby diamondback terrapin for sale, be sure it is a captive bred diamondback terrapin for sale, and NOT wild caught. Here at tortoisetown, we ONLY work with captive bred baby turtles for sale as well as adult turtles for sale.
The diamondback terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin) inhabits the coastal brackish and saltwater marshes of the eastern and southeastern U.S. It is a medium-sized turtle, with males reaching about 5 inches in carapace length and females significantly larger at 9 inches. Generally, the carapace and skin coloration of a terrapin is gray to whitish, with varying patterns of black spots and streaks. Some even have black “mustaches.” Occasionally, yellow blotches are found on the carapace scutes, and an orange tinge may be present on the marginal scutes of some individuals.
Most terrapins are docile and do not bite people when being held, but a few will if given the chance. Females, especially, given their massive head size and jaw muscles, should be handled with care.
Hatchling diamondback terrapins are the preferred age class for the turtle hobbyist, and they are often available from turtle breeders. Hatchlings are very cute with their big black eyes. Their coloration is generally uniformly gray above with lighter colored plastrons. They are active turtles and tend to grow quickly. Wild-caught terrapins can be high strung and are not recommended for captivity.
Captive hatchling terrapins require clean, clear water with a sufficient filtration system. A 20-gallon long aquarium with 3 to 4 inches of water will comfortably house several. Do keep in mind that terrapins grow quickly, so you will find yourself upgrading to a larger terrapin enclosure fairly soon. A 40-gallon Rubbermaid oval tub will comfortably house a single adult female or two adult males.
Do not overcrowd terrapins, and keep individuals of similar size together. Hatchlings will nip at each other’s tails if crowded, hungry, or if one is bigger than the other.
Poor water quality is the leading cause of health problems in captive diamondback terrapins, and they must have circulating water. Submersible pumps, such as a Fluval 3 (for the 20-gallon aquarium) or a Fluval 4 (for the 40-gallon Rubbermaid tub) should keep the water flowing and clean. The pH should be slightly acidic to neutral, in the range of 6.8 to 7.0. Terrapins like open water and will actively swim, too, but they do need places to hang out. Plastic aquarium plants work well in providing areas for them to grasp onto and rest.
Diamondback Terrapin Diet:
Diamondback terrapin diets are not generally well studied, and almost all work on diets has been done in the southeastern part of their range. They eat shrimp, clams, crabs, mussels and other marine invertebrates, especially periwinkle snails.
Information provided by: Kurt Buhlmann, a senior research associate/ conservation ecologist at the University of Georgia’s Savannah River Ecology Laboratory. His research focuses on applied conservation solutions for reptiles and amphibians, including habitat restoration and management, reintroductions and population augmentations, and head-starting projects, particularly with turtles. He has a PhD in ecology from the University of Georgia, an MS in wildlife management from Virginia Tech and a BS in environmental studies from Stockton State College (NJ).