Black Softshell Turtle: Ultimate Guide

The black softshell turtle is not like any other turtle. Like most of the softshell turtle breeds, this one really stands out from the crowd. It has smaller eyes and a leathery shell that is very flexible and won’t obstruct the turtle’s movement.

The size of this animal is around 13 to 15 inches, making it one of the larger of the box turtles. If you want to keep this one in your terrarium, you’ll have to make sure that it has plenty of room, at least 6 x 6 square feet.

Some of these turtles have been rumored to live up to 150 years, so if you are thinking of having one in your home, it might be worth making sure that it has somewhere to go when you die! This animal is very loyal and won’t require a lot of maintenance, especially if you keep it outdoors where it can source its food.

So where can you find a black softshell turtle? What are the differences between a male and a female turtle of this species? How can you identify them by looks alone? What time of the year do these animals breed? What do they eat in the wild and in captivity? What is the total population of one of these animals?

Well, if you want the answers to these questions and a whole lot more, then we would recommend that you keep reading. We have all the info that you’ll need if you are thinking of having one of these softshell turtles as pets. We’ll also cover what diseases this animal is susceptible to and how to notice the early warning signs.

Male Vs. Female

The one noticeable difference between the male and the female of this species is the fact that the male has a much longer and pointier tail than the female, whose tail barely produces past the shell.

The female shell is much darker than the males and will continue to get darker as it gets older. The females also have a small head than the males but are larger overall.


This turtle has a semi-flexible shell that won’t impede movement of this turtle. It is slightly brown with a greyish tint. This animal has a very distinctive face shape and snout, with a protrusion that is in stark contrast to the flat face of the traditional hard-shell turtle.

If you get close enough to touch this turtle’s shell, then you’ll notice that it is very leathery and almost skin-like the texture. The skin of this turtle is black and brown, with white and yellow spots on the underbelly.

As a Pet

Like a lot of the softshell turtle breeds, this turtle can be very aggressive, and we would recommend getting it only as something to observe, rather than hold and caress. They are very territorial, so we would strongly advise against keeping two in one tank as they will probably end up killing each other.


This turtle will live up to 50 years in the wild. They can live much longer in captivity as all their natural predators are removed and they are getting regular care and food. Some of these turtles have been known to live up to 150 years.


This turtle has developed a softer shell from lying in the mud for long periods. It has a color that will help it to blend in with its background. This camouflage helps it to escape from predators and is largely the reason a turtle with such a soft shell has been able to thrive for so long.

Breeding Season

This turtle usually breeds during May, just as the summer is beginning. The female will traditionally lay up to 38 eggs, which will hatch around the October season. The temperature of their climate is known to affect the sex of the eggs.


The female will lay anywhere between 10 and 38 eggs in one sitting. The eggs are buried in the mud and the hatchlings will usually come out during October and September. The eggs themselves are whitish and yellow in color and are victim to predators such as raccoons and certain predatory fish.

Growth Rate

The male turtle will often reach maturity much sooner than the female, usually being fully sexually developed by the age of 3 or 4. Females reach proper sexual maturity at the age of 12 to 15.

The hatchling will reach their full size within a year of being born. Unlike a lot of other turtles, the shell of this one will remain soft throughout its life, although it will get harder after it has been born.

Life Cycle

This turtle will live up to 50 years, and slightly longer in captivity. There have been some reports that these turtles can live up to 150 if they are taken very good care of.


Sadly, National Geographic has reported that there are only 3 of these creatures left in the wild. This is due to massive changes to this turtle’s environment, hunted by humans for food to the point of extinction. Conservation efforts are currently being made to increase the numbers of these turtles and bring them back into the wild.


This turtle lives on a mixture of meat and vegetables, usually consuming berries, insects and small fish if it is feeling brave. In captivity, this turtle will often be fed raw meat and grains. This turtle is one of the most dependent on people, as they have been habituating to captivity over the last 20 years.

If you are thinking of keeping one of these as a pet, then we would recommend that you keep it outdoors. This will give your turtle the chance to find its own food, which will exercise its muscles and prevent it from putting on weight.


The primary predators of these animals are raccoons, herons and larger fish. This is because in the wild this turtle likes to hang around at river banks, usually basking in the sun or searching for insects to eat.

One method that this turtle uses to escape predators is by blending into the mud. The skin tone matches the surroundings, which is why this turtle can thrive despite having a much softer shell.

Roaming Range

This turtle will cover quite a vast distance, and it is not uncommon for the black softshell turtle to cover around 1km over the course of a week. This is why, if you are keeping one of these turtles in captivity, you should have quite a wide area for it to travel. We would recommend having an enclosure at least 6 x 6 square feet in length.


Like a lot of other turtles, this one is very susceptible to intestinal parasites, which can severely damage its health. If you have noticed that your turtle is not eating its food, then we would suggest that you take it to the vets to rule out this possibility.

This turtle is also susceptible to kidney and liver disease, so take it to the vets regularly and make sure that it receives care from a reptile specialist.

Eye Color

The eye color of the black softshell turtle is brownish with a red tint. It has a large black pupil in the center.


This animal does hibernate during the winter months when the temperature drops and there is a shortage of food. Even in captivity, you’ll notice that your turtle has a dip in energy levels. During this time, it is important that you don’t bother it and make sure there is food nearby if it wants to eat.

Can They Swim?

The turtles can swim, although they usually prefer to stay on the riverbank, wallowing in the mud and soaking up the sun to get rid of parasites. It has been known to swim to catch small fish that can be found in the shallower parts of the river.

If you are keeping this one in a terrarium, it is important to closely mimic the conditions in which it has evolved. Make sure there is a mixture of mud, land and water to allow the turtle the option of swimming if it wants to. These turtles will lose a lot of moisture, so keeping them hydrated is crucial.

Care Costs

You can get one of these turtles for anywhere between $50 and $100, although be sure you are getting it from a reputable breeder.

Fun Facts

  • Thought to be extinct in 2002, these turtles were found living in the pond of the Hayagriva Madhava Temple in India. Through conservation efforts, the number of these turtles increased.