Turtle Profile Common Musk Turtle

Common Musk Turtle Information

Because of their small size and relative ease of maintenance, the Common Musk Turtle, or the Stinkpot, is a popular pet choice. They are a type of aquatic turtle native to Eastern North America. When threatened, they can emit a foul, musky stench, giving rise to their alternate name of Stinkpot. These turtles may be little, but they may live to be 30 to 50 years old and are rather feisty. They are not something that should be undertaken carelessly.

Common Musk Turtle


The common musk turtle ranges through eastern North America, from Florida to Ontario, and west to Texas and Wisconsin. Common musk turtles can be found in both slow-flowing and fast-flowing parts of streams and rivers, as well as lakes and ponds. A common musk turtle, often known as the “stinkpot,” can generate a terrible odor from glands on the plastron’s corners that ooze an orange-ish liquid. This usually occurs when a turtle is frightened or startled, and often declines in pets that receive frequent handling.


Care Requirement

One adult common musk turtle can be housed in a 20-gallon aquarium with a submersible canister water filter. A pair can be housed in a 40-gallon tank. It is not advisable to keep two male common musk turtles in the same aquarium. Keeping one male and one female in the same tank may necessitate their separation if the male becomes overly interested in the female and begins to aggressively harass her. Although it’s nearly entirely aquatic and seldom leaves the water, a basking area should still be provided for a pet common musk turtle.

Although common musk turtles do not usually emerge from the water to bask, a basking light is still necessary for captive turtle health; place it above the site where the turtle would sunbathe if it chose to. This hotspot’s temperature should be around 90 degrees Fahrenheit. To elevate the ambient air temperature in the enclosure to the mid-80s, a ceramic heat emitter in a metal dome clamp light can be employed. A submersible heater should be used to maintain water temperature at 72 to 78 degrees.

To assist turtles in metabolizing calcium and avoiding vitamin A and D3 deficits, high-quality UVB lamps (available in reptile supply stores) are essential. To replicate natural circumstances, keep illumination on a 12-hour on/off cycle. A submersible heater should be installed. Substrate is not required when keeping common musk turtles, and a bare-bottomed tank is also easier to clean. Hobbyists who want a more attractive, naturalistic turtle enclosure can use medium-sized gravel.

Common Musk Turtle


Because of its modest size, the Common Musk Turtle is one of the most popular aquatic turtle species. However, you should not underestimate the amount of care they require.

Male Stinkpots have longer tails with prominent spikes, making this species simple to identify. They rarely reach a length of more than five and a half inches. They have a brown, grey, or black carapace (top shell) that is extremely domed in juvenile turtles but flattens out as they age. They also have two prominent yellow stripes running from the nose to the neck, which might disappear with age. They spend the majority of their time in the water, but because they are not exceptionally powerful swimmers, they prefer to stay in the shallows.

They are also naturally nocturnal, thus they may be more active at night. They got their name from the fact that when threatened, they may release a powerful, repulsive, foul-smelling odor from their scent glands. They are also noted for being fairly sassy, with the ability to scratch and bite if they are unhappy. They have a long and flexible neck, which makes it easier for them to grab their target.

  • Length: 3 to 5 inches
  • Type: Semi – aquatic
  • Color: Brown, grey, or black carapace (top shell) and two prominent yellow stripes running from the nose to the neck

Health Treatment

Smooth Softshell Turtle often carry salmonella and other pathogens that can spread to humans. Wash your hands after handling them is a must. It is best to look for a turtle at a reputable breeder or rescue group that can give you details on the animal history and health. There are other symptoms that you need to watch out to keep them in good condition. Such as:

  • Hypovitaminosis A: It can result in swelling in the eyes and respiratory issues that can lead to further complications.
  • Infectious Diseases: Common problem in aquatic turtles and these can range in their severity.
  • Parasites: It is not uncommon for even healthy aquatic turtles to host certain parasites in their system, like nematodes or flagellates. You may see things like weight loss, lethargy or diarrhea.

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