Common Musk Turtle (Sternotherus odoratus)

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Common Musk Turtle
Sternotherus odoratus
Common Musk Turtle (Sternotherus odoratus)
Name Common Musk Turtle
Name Lat. Sternotherus odoratus
Synonym Kinosternon odoratum
Family Mud Turtles
Family lat. Kinosternidae
Order Turtles
Order lat. Testudines
Origin North America
Habitat Shallow waters
Diet Insects, fish, plant matter
Humidity 60-80 %
Behavior Semi-aggressive
Keeping Individual
Care Level Easy
Reproduction Oviparous
Housing Aquaterrarium
Life Span 10 years
Protection No
Metric Units
Size 10-14 cm
Temperature 22-28 °C
Temperature Local 35-40 °C
Housing Size 60 x 40 x 40 cm
US Units
Size 4"-5.5"
Temperature 72-82 °F
Temperature Local 95-104 °F
Housing Size 25" x 15" x 15"

Distribution and habitat

Common musk turtles are widespread in eastern North America, from Ontario to Florida and Texas. They inhabit standing and slow-moving, plant-rich waters with muddy bottoms and dense riparian vegetation that provides sheltered basking sites.


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

floor space for 1-2 animals: 3PL x 1,5PL (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. 60 x 40 x 40 cm is recommended, which should be placed in a quiet place

The water part (about two thirds of the base area) should be structured with a soft substrate of fine gravel, with roots, aquatic plants and larger stones (visual barriers and hiding places), some of which reach the water surface. In addition, the water surface should be covered with numerous floating plants. The terrestrial part with a soft substrate of sand-soil mixture should be equipped with robust plants and roots, as well as provide sunning areas. To maintain water quality, a powerful filter with low flow is recommended, as well as frequent water changes

Temp. day: 26-28 °C Temp. night: 20-22 °C Temp. local: 35-40 °C Water temp.: 22-24 °C

The lighting duration should be 10-14 hrs. depending on the season. They need daily UV irradiation and sunny places with radiant heat.


They are omnivores and require a balanced mixture of animal and vegetable food. The food supply consists of commercial water turtle food, supplemented with insect larvae, mussels, snails, small crustaceans, earthworms, fish pieces, etc., which are also well accepted frozen. In addition, they need vegetable food, such as lettuce, dandelion and tender water plants (e.g. duckweed). Also sweet fruit (e.g. bananas) is eaten, individually different. The regular addition of minerals and vitamins as well as cuttlebone is important

At least 1-2 fasting days per week are recommended. A varied diet promotes health and prevents deficiency symptoms.

Reproduction and breeding

Males have a concave ventral carapace and the anal opening of the male is closer to the tip of the tail than in the female.

Usually four clutches of 1-9 eggs per year. Eggs are buried on land in soft sandy substrate. Incubation period is 70-80 days at a temperature of 28-30 °C.

Life expectancy can be over 10 years.


They stay mainly in the water. In order to be able to catch their breath, they absolutely need objects (e.g. stones) that reach the surface of the water as well as a sleeping place where they only have to lift their head to breathe, completely covered by the water. Their anal gland secretion is strong smelling

Because of their intra-species aggressiveness, socialization is hardly possible

For the 4-8 week winter hibernation period, the temperature is lowered to 8-15 °C and the lighting time is reduced by 2-3 hours. The hibernation can take place in water or earth-moist substrate

In summer, it is possible to keep them in an outdoor facility. In order not to distort the native fauna, they must not be released into the wild under any circumstances

The terrarium must have good ventilation without drafts and 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: petdata; 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