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Common Musk Turtle (Stinkpot): Species Profile

Due to its size and relative simplicity of maintenance, the common musk turtle, also known as the Eastern musk turtle or the stinkpot, is a popular pet. They are aquatic turtles native to the eastern region of North America.

As a result of their ability to emit a foul, musky odor when they feel threatened, they are also known as stinkpots. These turtles may be little, but they may live to be between 30 and 50 years old, and they can also be rather combative. These obligations should not be treated lightly.

In this piece, we will continue with BestForPets (bestforpets.org) to examine the Common Musk Turtle (Stinkpot): Species Profile.

Common Musk Turtle Conduct and Personality

Due to 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 demand. Male stinkpots have larger tails with prominent spikes, making sexing this species simple. They seldom exceed five and a half inches in length.

They have a brown, gray, or black carapace (top shell), which is notably dome-shaped in juvenile turtles but becomes flatter as they age. Additionally, they have two prominent yellow stripes that extend from the snout to the neck, but these stripes can sometimes disappear with age.

Although they spend the most of their time in the water, they tend to remain to the shallows due to their poor swimming abilities. They are also nocturnal by nature and may be more active at night.

Their name derives from the fact that, when they feel threatened, their scent glands may release a powerful, foul-smelling stink. They are also known for their tenacity and can scratch and bite when they feel threatened. Their long and flexible neck makes it easier for them to capture their prey.

All turtles must be treated with care and courtesy. If you must handle the stinkpot, you should use extreme caution to avoid receiving a terrible bite. Picking them up from the rear of their shell might be advantageous.

There is a possibility that aquatic turtles can carry Salmonella. You are required to wash your hands after touching them. If you have children, you must monitor their interactions to prevent them from putting their hands in their mouths before cleaning.

The stinkpot is an aquatic turtle that is better watched as opposed to handled extensively.

Common Musk Turtle Behaviour and Character

The stinkpot will require a tank that allows for effortless swimming. In contrast to certain aquatic species, they do not require deep water or a substrate (such as gravel) at the bottom of the tank. This also makes it easy to clean the tank. If you desire a more visually appealing aquarium, it is OK to use medium-sized gravel. The water depth should be shallow so that the turtle may touch the tank’s bottom and yet reach the surface without constantly paddling.

They do not require as large of a tank as their bigger relatives. As they are an active species, it is still advised to have a tank that can accommodate at least 30 gallons for one turtle. If you want to house a male and a female together, you must be wary of the male being overly eager and pestering the female. You should be prepared to separate them if this occurs. It is inappropriate to lodge two guys together.

Although stinkpots spend the most of their time in the water, you should also offer ideal spaces for them to bask and rest on land. They dehydrate rapidly, therefore it is uncommon for them to bask for extended periods outside of water. Providing structures for basking and plants for support provides extra chances for enrichment and exploration.

To keep the turtle’s environment clean, a water filter suitable for shallow waters is required. Without it, you would have to frequently empty the tank to clean it. Due to their high-protein diet, stinkpots can be messier than other turtle species; thus, a robust filtration system is necessary.

In addition to an effective, continuously operating filtration system, the aquarium should be completely cleaned at least every few months, if not more frequently. You may acquire kits for testing the water’s cleanliness to verify that it remains safe for your turtle.

When adding additional water to the tank, you must guarantee that it has been dechlorinated. The chlorine in tap water might affect the filter’s effectiveness and your turtle’s health.

If you have dogs or cats, ensure that the turtle’s tank is protected with an adequate cover.


Even though they are not frequent baskers, they need have access to a warm location that is around 90 degrees Fahrenheit. The ideal water temperature is roughly 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

If water heaters are used to maintain this temperature, extreme caution must be used to prevent the water from evaporating and exposing the heater. This can lead to overheating, which is hazardous for your turtle.


UVB-Lighting is advised to guarantee that your turtle receives sufficient vitamin D3 to enable correct calcium metabolism. Despite the fact that this is commonly added to commercially available pellets, if they do not get enough from their diet, the illumination will guarantee that they remain healthier. Notably, though, the common musk turtle is more competent than other turtles of producing vitamin D3.

Food and Water

In the wild, the common musk turtle would consume an assortment of aquatic fish and insects. They are predominantly carnivorous, however they do occasionally consume algae. A diversified diet can assist to guarantee that captive animals remain happy and healthy.

Along with high-protein diets such as earthworms, crickets, salmon, and shrimp, commercial turtle pellets are an excellent choice. Some stinkpots may also love munching on leafy greens, but do not take offense if they turn up their noses at them.

Frequent Health Issues

The common musk turtle is recognized as a reasonably healthy species. As with other aquatic turtles, however, there are a number of potential health concerns that should be considered. Some examples include:

Hypovitaminosis A: This occurs when your turtle’s food does not include enough vitamin A. It can cause eye edema and respiratory problems, which can lead to severe concerns. This may be treated with a vitamin supplement, and it can be prevented by feeding your turtle a balanced diet. If you locate a pellet that they appreciate, this will contribute to their balanced diet.

Infectious Conditions are a widespread problem in aquatic turtles, with varying degrees of severity. By ensuring that your turtle resides in clean water, you may reduce the likelihood of a problem occurring.

Parasites: It is fairly unusual for even healthy aquatic turtles to harbor parasites such as nematodes or flagellates in their bodies. If their numbers grow excessive or if they acquire parasites such as tapeworms from another host, their health may be compromised. Possible side effects include weight loss, tiredness, and diarrhea. By arranging a yearly feces examination with an exotics-specialist veterinarian, it is possible to keep things under control.

Selecting a Common Musk Turtle

When wanting to acquire a stinkpot turtle, it is essential to choose a reputable breeder or rescue group. Your turtle should be produced in captivity to protect the survival of natural populations.

A statute in the United States restricts the selling of turtles with a carapace measuring less than 4 inches. This implies that most breeders will not sell hatchling stinkpots.

In most cases, a small-scale, specialized breeder is preferable than a conventional pet retailer. Not only would a reputed specialist have greater assurances regarding the turtle’s origin and upbringing, but they will also frequently supply superior guidance.

Why not adopt a muskrat that requires a new home? There are several organizations that rehome reptiles and amphibians, as well as several turtle-specific rescue groups.

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Dr. Deborah Fletcher

Deborah R. Fletcher, DVM, is a skilled veterinarian with more than 15 years of experience dealing with companion and exotic animals. She has experience caring for a variety of animals, including household cats and dogs, reptiles, birds of prey, and even primates. Dr. Fletcher is a valuable part of the BestForPets team, where she contributes to their aim of providing pets and their owners with the finest possible treatment and services.

Veterinarian (DVM) Dr. Deborah Fletcher


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