August 20

How to Care for Baby Snapping Turtles


Snapping turtle care isn’t an easy job. But if done the right way, a freshwater snapping turtle can live from 20 to 50 years (even more than 100 years).

But why snapping turtle care isn’t for everyone? Because snapping turtles belong to the reptile family. And having a miniature reptile in your aquarium can be troublesome for the majority.

However, some fanatics love to pet snapping turtles due to their dinosaur-like appearance, exciting traits, and ability to thrive. And for those people, we have created this goto snapping turtle care guide.

From what do snapping turtles eat, how to catch a snapping turtle to how big can a snapping turtle get, and how to hold a snapping turtle, we’ll describe it all. So without wasting any more time, let’s get right into the piece.    

A Baby Snapping Turtle Is a Lifelong Commitment

baby snapping turtle

As mentioned above, petting a freshwater snapping turtle isn’t for everyone. 

Baby snapping turtles require special care, extra adjustments, and, most importantly, lifelong commitment.

Raising a baby snapping turtle is just like raising an infant child. You’ll need to commit your time and attention for your entire life for things to turn out good.

For newbies, baby snapping turtles are too cute to handle and hard to resist. However, when they start to grow, they can get quite large and hard to handle. 

For instance, if the environment isn’t right, you can expect your reptile-looking miniature to get rogue or destructive anytime. Moreover, snapping turtles can also disturb the other species in your fish tank or aquarium if not treated the right way. 

Snapping turtle care is easier said than done. If you are looking forward to petting a snapping turtle, keep one thing in mind, a lifelong commitment is required.     


group of baby snapping turtles

Snapping turtles are part of the Chelydridae family. You can find freshwater species in swamps and rivers of Central, North, and South America.

Although snapping turtles are pretty popular and demand by the majority, you can find them in a pet store near you with ease.

There’s much more to snapping turtles. So let’s dive in and examine their typical behavior and appearance.

Typical Behavior

From an early age, baby snapping turtles have a cute appearance. But don’t let it fool you as they aren’t a tad bit near the word of innocence.

    Common snapping turtles are aggressive when it comes to nature. In the wild, you’ll find snapping turtles roaming alone, waiting to ambush their prey. And that’s not it! They also have the tendency to fight with other male snapping turtles.

    Snapping turtles feel like home in the water; you’ll see them swimming around with calmness and mind their own business. But once you remove them from their preferable environment, they turn into angry monsters.

    On the land, snapping turtles show quite an aggressive mood. And they may even hiss or attack an incoming threat without notice.

    Do snapping turtles hibernate? Well, they are capable of hibernating, but not all of them are fond of the practice. Snapping turtles have a strong tolerance to cold environments; they can easily remain active even underneath layers of ice.

    But snapping turtles that belong from the northern parts of America do hibernate. For up to six months, snapping turtles can remain buried in the muddy bottom of a lake or a river, just exposing their heads.    


    The first and foremost thing to note about the appearance of a snapping turtle is its enormous and gigantic size. Snapping turtles can grow up to 18 inches and weigh up to 80lbs. And that’s the main reason why people find it hard to keep up with the snapping turtle care routine.

    Next up, it’s their prehistoric-dinosaur like appearance that makes them stand out in the crowd. The snapping turtle belly is very narrow and cross-shaped. Not to mention, their shell has three long short ridges running lengthwise that can vary from tan, brown or black color.

    As snapping turtles get older, their shell gets covered in algae, making it smoother and less spiky. In addition, the neck of snapping turtles can be up to two-thirds of the length of their shell, which makes them great at snapping threats away from them.

    Snapping turtles have webbed feet with sharp claws to stand their ground and long ridged tails nearly as long as their shell. The heads of snapping turtles are huge, but they have small black eyes.

    When it comes to male vs female snapping turtles, males have long, thick tails with vents further down the tail. In contrast, females have shorter tails with vents closer to their bodies. And female snapping turtles are also smaller in size compared to males.  

    How to Build a Good Turtle Habitat

    Feeding Baby Snapping Turtle

    Building a good snapping turtle care habitat comes down to replicating the environment and conditions preferred by turtles.

    And as we are covering baby snapping turtle care and breeding practices, you must take care of the environment and conditions liked by snapping turtles when building a habitat.

    For instance, you’ll need enough space in the habitat so that snapping turtles can roam around freely. You’ll also need to take measures of other species and see how they are compatible with snapping turtles.

    Here are some things you’ll going to need when building a good snapping turtle habitat. 

    Things You Will Need


    Before anything, you’ll first need to invest in a 10-gallon or bigger size tank to facilitate your snapping turtles.

    When young, snapping turtles will be fine in a 10-gallon tank. But as they’ll get bigger in size, you’ll require a sizeable tank of 30-40 gallons in size.

    We recommend picking a big-size tank initially so you don’t have to buy another in the future when your snapping turtles start maturing.

    Sand & Rocks

    Use big size rocks in the tank to make your snapping turtle feel at home. Don’t fill in small-sized rocks, especially when your snapping turtles are young, as they can mistake them for food.

    Don’t forget to add a good amount of sand to your tank, as that will play a significant role in replicating a river-like environment for your snapping turtles.


    Water in your snapping turtle habitat should be shallow as snappers aren’t good swimmers. With that being said, make sure to keep the water as deep as the length of your snapping turtles so they don’t drown.

    Don’t use chlorinated water as it can affect the life span of your cute little baby snapping turtles.


    One can’t afford to change the water quite often in their snapping turtle care routine. And that’s where a filtration system can help your habitat.

    The filtration system will clean up the junk in your habitat. Invest in a quality filtration system because as your snapping turtles will get older, the more garbage they’ll spread.

    Heat Lamp

    Turtles don’t produce heat for themselves, and that’s why you need to install a heat lamp in your habitat.

    Position the lamp in the shallowest area of your habitat and see your snapping turtles enjoying the heat and adjusting their temperatures.

    If you can, make sure to keep the temperature of your snapping turtle care habitat around 28.1 C.

    Time, Care & Patience

    Now that you have decided to pet snapping turtles, you’ll need to invest your time, care, and some patience.

    Without time, care and patience, you won’t do justice in petting, snapping turtles. 

    Habitat and Tank Conditions

    Baby Common Snapping Turtles

    When setting up a habitat and tank for snapping turtles, there are some conditions you must check on your list.

    Firstly, it’s the temperature, then the enclosure, followed by substrate, water quality, and lighting.

    Without fine-tuning the temperature, enclosure type, substrate, water quality, and lightning, you can’t expect your snapping turtle to live longer.

    To get a quick idea, you must know that snapping turtles are used to living in swampy areas or rivers with a silted beds. They also need substrate and fresh & brackish water with plenty of vegetation to hide.

    Down below, we’ll be mentioning the optimal value ranges of the conditions we have just mentioned for your baby snapping turtles.  

    Baby Snapping Turtle Tank Setup

    Your baby snapping turtles can survive in a 10-gallon size enclosure. But eventually, they’ll get big, and a 120-gallon size tank is required to keep an adult turtle. Large plastic tubs, plastic fish ponds, small children pools are ideal enclosures for snapping turtles.

    Snapping turtles can live without substrate. But giving them a combo of plants and driftwood can cheer up their mood and eliminate anxiety. Of course, rock bottoms should be planted, but they must not be small enough that snappers confuse them as food.

    Snapping turtles can survive in extreme temperatures. However, you should keep them in within the range of 76 to 78 F. Use underwater heaters along with a thermostat to keep temperatures in check.

    Snappers love fresh and brackish water. Therefore, only use chlorine-free water when setting up a snapping turtle care habitat. Use filters to keep the water clean and safe for snappers that are growing. 

    Baby Snapping Turtle Care

    Baby Snapping Turtle Care Guide

    Now that you have set up your baby snapping turtle care tank, it’s time to take note of a few more adjustments you’ll need to take down the journey.

    Firstly, even if you have installed a sound filtration system, you’ll need to clean the tank every 2-4 weeks. All substrate, decoration, and other things should be removed and washed with 10% bleach beath.

    Next up, you’ll also require to change 30% of the water in your habitat every week to main the quality of the water. And not to mention replacing the water with non-choleric and treated water.

    What To Feed Baby Snapping Turtles

    Baby snappers should be fed twice a day. And you can feed them anything you like as they are omnivorous. From crayfish to earthworms, water lettuce, and artificial food, you can feed baby snapping turtles with anything you want.

    Make sure you have healthy plants in your habitat as baby snapping turtles also feed on them. Other than that, baby snapping turtles will happily eat diced fruits, shrimps, flakes, and everything in between.

    Last and certainly not least, if you feel like your snapping turtles are bulging out of their shell, feed them less. And if their skins look saggy and full, feed them more with insects, commercial foods, fruits, dead fish body and more. 

    Tank Mates

    Snapping turtles eat everything. And that’s why you need to keep a strict check on whom are they hanging out with.

    As snapping turtles are potent predators, their tank mates must be fast enough to get rid of them in a snap. Slow and sluggish fishes alongside snapping turtles will end up being eaten alive.

    On the other side, keeping species other than fishes as mates for snapping turtles will only make the scenario more complicated. As they’ll all live on the same front, fights will occur, and your habitat will suffer.

    We recommend keeping snapping turtles alone as keeping them with other species will only invite trouble. 

    Keeping Baby Snapping Turtles Together

    If you are thinking about keeping more than one snapping turtle in a habitat, think twice. Snapping turtles don’t differ in any species; they are equivalent in nature to all types of species.

    It’s also found that snapping turtles are quite aggressive and hostile, even with their own kind.

    Frequently Asked Questions About Snapping Turtles

    We feel proud to help our readers by answering their precious questions. But before you ask us any questions about snapping turtle care, make sure to check out the following frequently asked questions.

    We came up with these FAQs by analyzing websites, pieces, and forums related to snapping turtle care.

    How do you know if your turtle is a snapping turtle?

    Chelydra serpentina, or common snapping turtle, features a brown or black shell that’s rough and rigid at a young age, but it gets smoother with age.

    Next up, snapping turtles have large triangle-shaped heads with pin-point noses and a largemouth. Inside the mouth, you’ll not see any tooth but a curved beak. 

    How big do they get?

    Common snapping turtle size varies from 8 to 18 inches in shell length. And you can expect them to weigh about 85 pounds when they have fully grown.

    Another thing about their size is they grow faster. One of the interesting facts about snapping turtles is that a farmer in 1948 found a snapping turtle that was about the size of a dining table, and it weighs about 500 pounds. 

    Why is it called a “snapping” turtle?

    Snapping turtles can snap, thanks to their beak-like jaws and ability to move their head fast and very far.

    Although snapping turtles won’t harm unless threatened or provoked, they can cause severe damage to a careless handler.

    Their remarkable ability to snap is the reason why we call them snapping turtles.   

    How long will it live?

    How long can a snapping turtle live? Well, snapping turtle care can be pretty problematic and challenging. But if done handled the right way, a snapping turtle can live up to 30 to 40 years on average.

    And if zoom in the question, how old do snapping turtles live, according to some reports, they can live up to 100 years. 

    How to Handle a Snapping Turtle

    The majority think that handling a snapping turtle is troublesome. But it’s only the half-truth. In reality, if snapping, turtles are managed well from a young age can become as chill as other turtles.

    If you start to take good care of your snapping turtle from an early age, the chances are that you won’t get snapped often.

    However, as they grow older in size, one must stay careful when handling them. Their strong & sharp beaks and long necks make them dangerous to handle. But nothing is impossible in the world.

    To pick up your snapping turtle, calmly slide your hands beneath the carapace above the back legs of your turtle and use your thumbs on top of the shell for support. Then, use their shell to lift them up.

    Never ever try picking up your snapping turtle by the tail, as it can cause severe and permanent damage to its spinal cord.   


    Interesting, exotic, intimidating, and you name it, snapping turtles are everything to make everyone go viola.

    But they come with a price; if you can handle them properly, invest enough time and patience, you’ll not regret petting one in your house.


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