Turtles live longer than most animals. Certain factors contribute to their capacity to have long lives. As a pet owner, it’s important to know how long your turtle will live.
How long do pet turtles live? On average, pet turtles live about 20 to 40 years if given proper care. Some pet turtle species can live up to 100 years or even more! Wild turtles generally don’t live as long due to predation and other factors. Being well-informed about how to properly care for your pet turtle will ensure they live to live a long and happy life.
Read on to learn more about how long pet turtles live, and how you can ensure they live as long as possible.
How Long Do Pet Turtles Live?
The lifespan of a particular pet turtle depends on what species it belongs to, the kind of care that it gets, the food it is provided with, and its living conditions.
Although you can’t really pin down the exact lifespan of a particular pet turtle, you can rest assured that if you give your pet turtle the proper attention it deserves, it will live longer. Most turtles are able to live for more than two or three decades. Many can live up to 100 years or more, which could outlive you if you are the owner.
If a turtle survives the first few years of its life, you can bet that it will be able to live longer than you have expected. Here are some of the most popular pet turtles and their approximate life expectancies.
- Red-Eared Slider — 25 to 35 years
- Painted Turtle — 25 to 30 years
- Leopard Tortoise — 100 years plus
- Greek Tortoise — 100 years plus
- Russian Tortoise — 40 years plus
- African Sideneck Turtles — 50 years
- Eastern Box Turtle — 50 years plus
- Reeve’s Turtle — 20 years
- Wood Turtle — 40 to 55 years
- Musk Turtles — 30 to 50 years
- Map Turtle — 15 to 25 years
- Mud Turtle — 15 to 20 years
The pet turtle species that is most common in the US and many other countries is the Red-Eared Slider. So if you are like many other people who choose a Red-Eared Slider, you can expect the turtle to live about 25 to 35 years. Other very popular turtle species are the Western Painted Turtle, Eastern Box Turtle, Wood Turtle, and Mud Turtle.
Bigger tortoises and turtles live amazingly long lives. Smaller species that are commonly categorized as pets have shorter lives. On record, some large tortoises have lived almost 200 years, some even more.
The longest living tortoise, based on records is an Aldabra giant tortoise which is called Adwaita. This tortoise lived in an Indian Zoo. Apparently, the zoo records showed that Adwaita lived up to 255 years before it died. Unfortunately, the dates indicated in the record cannot be verified.
There are other long-lived tortoises aside from Adwaita. They include Tu’i Malila, a radiated tortoise who lived up to 188 years, Jonathan, a Seychelles giant tortoise who lived up to 187, Harriet, a Galapagos giant tortoise who lived up to 175 and Timothy, who lived up to 160.
The lifespans of pet turtles can vary because a lot depends on how their owners take care of them. But assuming that the pet owner gives their pet a modicum of care and upkeep, their pet turtle will live much longer than other pets like dogs, cats, birds, and fish.
How to Make Your Pet Turtle Live as Long as Possible
You are the key to the long life of your pet turtle. Don’t think that because your pet has the capacity to live very long, it doesn’t need that much care from you. It is best to keep an eye on your turtle so that he/she will be able to be your companion for years and years. Here are some suggestions on how you can ensure your pet turtle lives as long as possible.
It is expected of you to buy a terrarium where you can put your pet turtle(s) safely. This will be their living space where they can be protected from the elements and other animals. The smallest terrarium that you should buy is 29 gallons. It should at least be 18 inches tall, 18 inches wide and 4 feet long.
Place the right amount of soil and small stones and water on the terrarium. Water should not be too deep or too shallow. If the turtles are still small, they might drown if the water is too deep. They are still learning to swim.
Ensure that your turtles have constant access to land and water inside the terrarium. Ensure that the temperature of the air and water inside the terrarium is constantly regulated to about 86°F or 30°C. It’s good to install a tank filter so that you won’t have to change the water every day. With a tank filter, you only need to change the water every two or three days.
Give food to your pet turtles two times a day. Be watchful of the physical conditions or features of your pet turtles. Any change in their normal physical conditions could be a sign of an illness. Look for swollen eyes, discoloration of their shells, not eating their food, etc. Contact a vet if you notice any of these signs on your pet turtles. The vet will know what to do.
The right food will make a great difference in prolonging the life of your pet turtle. Health problems occur when pet owners forget to feed them regularly with the right food. To feed your pet turtle correctly, follow these tips.
- If your pet turtle is 6 months old, feed it daily with vegetables and protein. Consult your vet about the right amount of each.
- If your pet turtle is from 6 to 12 months old, feed it daily with vegetables and with protein every other day.
- If your pet turtle is more than one year old, feed it daily with vegetables and with protein 3 times a week.
When it comes to vegetables, most turtles will prefer to eat romaine lettuce, bok choy, dandelion leaves, kale, collard green, and mustard greens. For protein, they will prefer feeder fish, daphnia, mealworms, cooked meat, earthworms, silkworms, shrimp, wax worms, krill, crickets, and snails.
If pet turtle owners seldom clean the terrarium, health problems of the turtles will get more serious. According to Brian Ogle, a science instructor specializing in animal behavior at Beacon College in Florida, the most common problems in captive reptiles are calcium and Vitamin A deficiencies .
Additionally, there are pathogenic organisms that can make pet turtles sick. A common disease in captive turtles is salmonella.  This is also dangerous to humans because they can contract it from diseased turtles. That is why it is very important for pet turtle owners to keep their terrariums clean to prevent their pets from contracting this illness.
Why Do Turtles Live So Long?
There are several theories that try to explain the long lifespan of turtles. You know that the life expectancy of your pet turtle depends largely on how you take care of it. But setting that aside, here are three theories that try to explain their longevity.
Slow Rate of Metabolism
With a slow metabolism, the rate of aging also slows down. Contracting disease from other animals or the environment is also minimized. This inherent ability also enables turtles to go without water and food for long stretches of time.
This is also the reason why their growth rate is slow. Turtles are slow and they also grow slowly. Their slowness causes them to age slowly. Although their growth rate is slow, they grow continuously.
Turtles live peaceful, stress-free lives. They are extremely docile. The largest and the oldest of them eat only vegetables and green food that do not contain cholesterol and fats. The good combination of healthy eating and healthy living seem to explain why they live longer lives.
There is a theory that says their long lives provide them an advantage in their evolution. It enhances their capacity to reproduce. With longer lives, they will have more opportunities to mate and reproduce themselves. Their thick and tough shells also offer them effective protection against predators. That enables them to relax and take their time when it comes to reproduction.
How Long Can Pet Turtles Live Without Food?
If you will be away from home for a while, for example, you will be taking an extended vacation abroad, you need to consider your turtle’s diet. Can your pet turtle live that long without food and water?
If your adult pet turtle is relatively strong and healthy, it can live without food and water for several months. So, you won’t have a problem with a dead pet turtle if you are off to a far-away place for one or two months. In fact, hibernating turtles go without food and water for months.
In the wild, when the temperature goes down to 50°F or 10°C, turtles will hibernate. While they are hibernating, their rate of metabolism gets really very slow. It slows to nearly a zero activity state of existence. This is when they can go for months without food or water.
Pet or captive turtles don’t hibernate because of the following reasons:
- The temperature in their tanks or terrariums does not undergo radical temperature changes throughout the year. This condition does not encourage them to hibernate.
- Their supply of food is regular. Food and water are available every time they need them so pet turtles don’t need to hibernate.
- UVB rays constantly radiate in their tanks, partly to control pathogenic organisms. But this also discourages them to hibernate.
However, when they are left with nothing to eat, such as during times when you are on vacation, you will still find them alive when you return. There is a story of one person who thought he lost his pet turtle. He recovered his turtle two years later and it is still alive, although emaciated. It turned out that the turtle fell under the house’s foundation. During the two years, the turtle was able to live by eating bugs and small critters.
How Long Can Pet Turtles Live in the Wild?
If you release your pet turtle in the wild, it won’t be able to live for long, especially if it is bred in captivity. Since it is bred and grown in a controlled environment, it does not have the skills to hunt for food which is what it will be forced to do if you release it in the wild.
It is also possible that your pet turtle is not native to your place. Your pet turtle may not have the inherent physical traits that will enable it to survive in your area.
If your pet turtle is also afflicted with a disease, it is all the more wrong for you to release it in the wild. It may transfer the disease to the local turtle population that it will come in contact in the wild.
How Long Can You Care for a Pet Turtle?
This is a question that you need to answer before buying a pet turtle. Now that you know how long pet turtles can live, you should be able to commit yourself to it once you bring it home from the pet shop.
It is quite easy to buy a pet turtle. With the right amount of money to buy the turtle, its food and its living quarters and accessories, you will be able to get a pet turtle. But the most important thing is your commitment to the turtle.
Are you committed to feeding them regularly? You should also be committed to clean their tank regularly. If you are a true lover of turtles, this will not be a problem. But if you are just inspired by a fad, give it a second thought. Fads can fade, but the turtle will still be there because it has the capacity to live long.
So how long do pet turtles live? Pet turtles, like the most common species – the Red-Eared Slider – live about 30 to 40 years. They live this long if you provide it with all the things that it needs including food, water and shelter, and TLC. There are other pet turtle species that can live even longer, up to 100 or more years.
Owning and caring for a pet turtle can give you many benefits. A turtle’s easy-going ways can rub off on you, especially if you are a stressed out person. You can learn important lessons of survival from its slow and relaxed movements. As you take care of it, you may not be aware that it is also taking care of you.