Chinese Soft-shelled Turtle (Pelodiscus sinensis)

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Chinese Soft-shelled Turtle
Pelodiscus sinensis
Chinese Soft-shelled Turtle (Pelodiscus sinensis)
Name Chinese Soft-shelled Turtle
Name Lat. Pelodiscus sinensis
Synonym Trionyx sinensis
Family Softshell Turtles
Family lat. Trionychidae
Order Turtles
Order lat. Testudines
Origin Southeast Asia
Habitat Lakes, floodplains, rivers
Diet Fish, snails, worms
Humidity 60-80 %
Behavior Aggressive
Keeping Individual
Care Level Moderate
Reproduction Oviparous
Housing Aquaterrarium
Life Span 25-30 years
Protection No
Metric Units
Size 11-25 cm
Temperature 20-26 °C
Temperature Local 30-35 °C
Housing Size 140 x 70 x 60 cm
US Units
Size 4.3"-9.8"
Temperature 68-79 °F
Temperature Local 86-95 °F
Housing Size 55" x 30" x 25"

Distribution and habitat

The range of the mostly aquatic Chinese soft-shelled turtle extends from China, Japan and Korea to Vietnam. There they inhabit lakes, ponds and floodplains as well as slow-flowing streams and rivers with a muddy bottom. They come ashore only to bask and lay their eggs.


Minimum dimensions for the aquaterrarium, according to the size and number of animals

floor space for 1-2 animals: 5PL x 2,5PL (L x W) Water level: 2PB

The carapace length (PL) and carapace width (PB) is measured on the largest animal. For each additional animal, increase the footprint by 10%, and for the 5th animal and larger, increase the footprint by 20%. An aquaterrarium of e.g. L 140 x W 70 x H 60 cm is recommended, which should be placed in a quiet and vibration-free place. The water part of the aquaterrarium should be structured with roots, aquatic plants and larger stones, some of which reach the water surface, and should have a deep substrate of sand or fine gravel at double tank height suitable for burrowing. In addition, they need a small dry land area with sandy substrate for sunbathing. To maintain water quality, a powerful filter with low flow and frequent water changes are recommended.

Water Temp Lighting Sunny
Summer 20-26 °C 12-14 hrs. 30-35 °C
winter (2-3 months) 15-20 °C 8-10 hrs

Thermostatically controlled floor heating is recommended. The lighting duration must be 8-14 hrs. depending on the season. Special lamps that produce the necessary heat and UV light are ideal. Daily UV irradiation is essential.


The food supply consists of fish with head, scales and innards, snails (posthorn and mud snails), earthworms and insect larvae supplemented with pelleted or frozen ready-made food. Individually varying, lettuce or aquatic plants are occasionally accepted. Young animals should be offered food daily, adults twice a week. Regular addition of minerals and vitamins is important.

Reproduction and breeding

The tail root of the males, which remain much smaller, is thicker than that of the females. For oviposition a dry, sandy and sunny part of the land is necessary. There the eggs are buried about 10 cm deep. The incubation period is 60-120 days, depending on the bru temperature

The life expectancy can be 25-30 years.


Soft-shelled turtles have a soft, leathery shell that is flexible at the edges. To avoid injury to the shell, there should be no sharp-edged objects in the tank. Adults usually need to be kept singly due to incompatibility

They are very bitey and can bend the head with their long neck far over the back. It is recommended to wear gloves when handling them

To avoid fungus on the carapace, some sea salt (approx. 2g/l) from the pet store can be added to the water.

The terrarium must have good ventilation without drafts and must meet the species specific needs. Measuring devices, such as thermometers, hygrometers, etc. are necessary. The lighting has to correspond to the species-specific day-night rhythm and has to be placed in such a way that the animals cannot injure themselves. The terrarium should be locked in such a way that neither unauthorized persons can open it nor the animals can escape. Contamination must be removed regularly.

Further literature can be found in your pet store.


Text: Werner Winter; Image: petdata

Source: BMELV (1997): Tierschutzgutachten - Mindestanforderungen an die Haltung von Reptilien; ENGELMANN (2006): Zootierhaltung - Tiere in menschlicher Obhut: Reptilien und Amphibien, Harri Deutsch Verlag; ROGNER (2009): Taschenatlas Schildkröten, Verlag Ulmer

  • Gemäß § 21 Abs. 5 Tierschutzgesetz idgF