Hilaire’s Toadhead Turtle (Phrynops hilarii)

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Hilaire’s Toadhead Turtle
Phrynops hilarii
Hilaire’s Toadhead Turtle (Phrynops hilarii)
Name Hilaire’s Toadhead Turtle
Name Lat. Phrynops hilarii
Family Austro-American Sideneck Turtles
Family lat. Chelidae
Order Turtles
Order lat. Testudines
Origin South America
Habitat Rivers, lakes
Diet Fish, crayfish, insects
Humidity 60-80 %
Behavior Semi-aggressive
Keeping Individual, pair, group
Care Level Moderate
Reproduction Oviparous
Housing Aquaterrarium
Life Span 20 years
Protection No
Metric Units
Size 35-40 cm
Temperature 25-28 °C
Temperature Local 35-45 °C
Housing Size 180 x 80 x 80 cm
US Units
Size 14"-16"
Temperature 77-82 °F
Temperature Local 95-113 °F
Housing Size 70" x 30" x 30"

Distribution and habitat

The diurnal light-edged toadhead turtles are widespread in South America from southern Brazil through Paraguay and Uruguay to northern Argentina. They live in slow flowing and stagnant waters with soft bottoms and dense vegetation as well as sheltered basking areas on the shore.


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 180 x W 80 x H 80 cm is recommended, which should be placed in a quiet and vibration-free place.

The water part, about 30 cm deep, with soft, muddy substrate, should be structured with roots, aquatic plants and larger stones (visibility barriers and hiding places), some of which reach the water surface. In addition, they need a small, sandy land part with plants and roots as well as sunny spots. To maintain water quality, a powerful filter with low flow and frequent water changes are recommended

Water Temp Lighting Sunny
Summer 25-28 °C 12-14 hrs. 35-45 °C
winter (2-3 months) 10-15 °C 6-10 hrs

They need high light intensity and daily UV irradiation as well as sunny places with radiant heat.


They feed mainly on animal food. The food supply consists of frozen food, such as aquatic insects, shrimps, crayfish, smelts, mussel and fish meat, etc., supplemented with commercially available dry food for aquatic turtles. In addition, they occasionally require plant food, which is accepted differently from individual to individual, such as lettuce, dandelion, endive and aquatic plants (e.g. waterweed) as well as fruit (banana). Adult animals should be offered food twice a week. It is important to regularly add minerals and vitamins

A varied diet promotes health and prevents deficiency symptoms.

Reproduction and breeding

The males have a concave ventral carapace (plastron) and a much longer tail. Mating occurs year-round, but the end of the rainy season is preferred. Egg-laying occurs several times a year. The female buries her eggs, a maximum of 23 per clutch near water. The incubation period is 60-70 days at an average of 29 °C

Life expectancy can be over 20 years.


They require a large aquaterrarium and should not be socialized with other aquatic turtles. Although the animals are well tolerated among themselves, care must be taken to ensure that low-ranking animals receive sufficient food

Light-bordered toadhead turtles are excellent swimmers and spend almost all of their time in the water

Particular attention should be paid to good water quality.

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: Christian Sänger; Image: Josip Stanic

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

  • Gemäß § 21 Abs. 5 Tierschutzgesetz idgF