Eastern Painted Turtle: Ultimate Guide

Male vs Female

The easiest way of identifying male Eastern Painted Turtles apart from the female Eastern Painted Turtles is by looking at their shells and foreclaws. 

The shell of the female Eastern Painted Turtle is generally slightly domed. However, on a male, the shell is much more flat in terms of appearance. 

As well as this, males tend to have elongated foreclaws. Female Eastern Painted Turtles, on the other hand, do not have these. 

You may even find that some female Eastern Painted Turtles are bigger than their male counterparts! They average 6 to 7 inches, whereas males can be as small as 5 inches. That 1 inch makes all the difference! 


To identify the Eastern Painted Turtle from other types of turtles, you should look for their carapace. Painted turtles tend to have smooth carapaces. 

Other turtles that they often get mistaken for, such as red-bellied turtles, often have wrinkles on their carapace. 

Therefore, the lack of wrinkles will indicate that the turtle in question is likely to be an Eastern Painted Turtle. 

They are also often confused with Map turtles. However, Map turtles tend to have a pronounced dorsal keel, as well as intricate stripes and whorls on their carapace. This is a great way of setting them apart from the Eastern Painted Turtle. 

As a Pet

Eastern Painted Turtles are commonly kept as a pet. They are the most common type of painted turtle in North America and make great pets. 

That being said, they do require lots of very specific care, and so any prospective Eastern Painted Turtle owner should prepare themselves for this. 

We discuss in more detail the specific care needs and requirements of the Eastern Painted Turtle under the Care section of our article, so head on down to that to find out more. 


Even though both males and females will reach sexual maturity by 10 years, they live for much longer than this! Painted turtles as a species can live for as long as 55 years. 

It is hard to get a definitive answer for Eastern Painted Turtles specifically, but it is certainly possible for them to exceed 10 years easily, and even go far beyond. It is thought that, on average, they can live for 20-25 years with some lasting much longer and others not so long. 


The Eastern Painted Turtle has adapted to have a flat shell and webbed feet to help them move easily through the water. They also have the special adaptation of being able to put their whole body inside their shell for protection. 

Breeding Season

The breeding season of the Eastern Painted Turtle typically occurs from the middle of April until June. They tend to build their nests anytime from May to June, usually around a few hundred yards from the water. 

They tend to prefer cavities that are covered with mud for protection. When they have bred, they usually lay their eggs in a clutch system. Move on to the next section to find out more about these eggs. 


As we mentioned in the previous section, the eggs of the Eastern Painted Turtle are usually laid in cavities. These cavities are generally flask-shaped and covered by mud to protect the eggs. The eggs are laid in clutches which means a group of eggs laid in one single palace at one time. 

These clutches can feature anything from 4 to 10 eggs! This means a possible 4 to 10 hatchlings, provided they all live! The eggs are white and can vary in size from 0.55 inches to 1.3 inches. These eggs are generally incubated for 72 days (this is how long it takes them to hatch). 

Growth Rate

The growth rate of Eastern Painted Turtles varies between each one, but generally, they stop when they have reached sexual maturity. This will be around 6-10 years for a female and 2-4 for a male. 

Since females grow faster and for a lot longer than males, they are generally larger than male Eastern Painted Turtles. Even though they stop growing when they reach maturity, they can still live for an impressive amount of time. Keep on reading to the next section to find out more. 

Life Cycle

As you will know from the previous section, generally, females grow faster than male Eastern Painted Turtles. This is because they need to be larger to reach sexual maturity. 

Generally, the female Eastern Painted Turtles do not reach sexual maturity until they reach the age of 6, or even as late as 10. 

See why they need the head start? In comparison, males mature slower, but they reach sexual maturity as early as 2 years old, and up to 4 years old. 


The exact population of Eastern Painted Turtles is not known. However, this is a good thing because it indicates that there are so many of them that it is difficult to count! They are not thought to be at risk of extinction and have been rated as being an animal with ‘Least Concern’ on conservation charts. 


In the wild, all painted turtles tend to eat their food when they are swimming. This means that food items that can float are a good idea. The diet of the Eastern Painted Turtle, in particular, seems to be the least studied. 

They have been seen eating dead or injured fish, meaning they will choose food that is easy and does not require hunting. They may also eat plants such as the water lily, duckweed, and insects such as dragonfly nymphs and larvae. 

In captivity, the diet of an Eastern Painted Turtle can be very different. They may eat a variety of leafy green vegetables, crayfish, insects, shrimp, worms, crickets, and parsley. They may also eat commercial turtle food which comes in pellet form. 


The predators of Eastern Painted Turtles and their eggs include snakes such as copperheads, water snakes, and races. Their eggs are also preyed upon by crows, squirrels, raccoons, skunks, badgers, foxes, and much more. 

Hatchlings are also at risk of being preyed upon by predators such as the snapping turtle and water scorpions. There have even been instances of the adult Eastern Painted Turtles being taken by raccoons. 

Roaming Range

The roaming range of the Eastern Painted Turtle can vary, but it is not uncommon to see them travel for up to 6 km. This is especially true of nesting females who will want to find a safe space for their hatchlings. 


Some common diseases and other health issues that Eastern Painted Turtles can get include Vitamin A deficiency, parasites (especially intestinal parasites), infections of the shell, ears, and skin, and metabolic bone diseases which can affect both the bones and shell. 

Like many other turtles, the Eastern Painted Turtle is known to be a carrier of salmonella. As such, this can be passed on to humans. Always wash your hands before and after handling Eastern Painted Turtles. 

Eye Color

Eastern Painted Turtles can have eyes that are red, yellow, brown or a mixture of both. Generally, the male Eastern Painted Turtles have red eyes whereas the females have yellow-brown eyes. 


In the wild or a garden pond, Eastern Painted Turtles may hibernate when the temperatures begin to drop. They do this by going underwater and covering themselves in the mud at the bottom of the pond or habitat they are living in. 

If you keep your Eastern Painted Turtles in your pond, you need to make sure that the temperature remains high enough so that they do not freeze. If it gets cold you may be better off keeping them inside where they will not need to hibernate. 

Can they swim?

Yes! Eastern Painted Turtles can indeed swim! They are aquatic animals, meaning they spend a large amount of time in the water. This means they have to be adept at moving around the water. As well as this, they also spend a lot of time on dry land, basking in the sun. 


When you care for an Eastern Painted Turtle in captivity, you must ensure they have everything they need for a comfortable life. 

They will need lots of water to swim and for when they want to eat, as well as a good size of dry land on which they can bask. 

You will also need to ensure they have constant access to fresh water, food, and light. The light component is very important, perhaps more than you might think. 

This is because Eastern Painted Turtles need around 12 hours of UVB light a day. If you cannot give them natural light then this needs to come in the form of artificial UVB light in a bulb. 


The price of an Eastern Painted Turtle may vary. Therefore it is hard to find a definitive price. That being said, painted turtles, in general, can be purchased from around $20 – $40. You should never just take them from the wild. Sure, they will be free of charge, but this is very dangerous and the Eastern Painted Turtle is not likely to survive. 

Fun Facts

  • In the Native American Algonquian tribes, the painted turtle was representative of the trickster.