False Map Turtle: Ultimate Guide

The scientific name for the False Map Turtle is Graptemys pseudogeographica. They are also sometimes referred to as a sawback turtle. 

Male vs Female

Adult male False Map Turtles will measure between 4 and 6 inches along the length of their shell. In contrast, the females will be much larger, often measuring between 9 and 10 inches long. 


The shells of these turtles are brown or olive green. Each segment of the shell will have a dark mark around the edge and yellow markings in the center. The shell has a row of low spines and the lower scales are serrated. 

The color of the plastron (chest area) is somewhere between a yellow and cream in color. In younger turtles, you will see darker lines along the seams. 

False Map Turtles have a gray-brown to black-colored body. They will have yellow, white, or light brown stripes across their body. 

As a Pet

These turtles require a moderate level of maintenance. They are not particularly hard or easy to care for. They make good beginner turtles to own as they are fairly docile and do not often bite.

They can also share a tank with other turtles, including Map, Painted, Musk, and Mud Turtles. Cooters and Sliders can cohabitate with them as well. 


False Map Turtles are known to live in excess of 20 years if they are cared for adequately. In the wild, they are believed to live for between 30 and 50 years. 


There are no specific adaptations that False Map Turtles have to suit their environment. 

Breeding Season

The breeding season begins during the spring and goes all the way through to the fall. The males breed once in spring and once during the fall. The females will lay 3 clutches of eggs each year. 


The turtle eggs are laid in specific burrows which have been dug into sandy soil. The eggs have an incubation period of between 69 and 75 days. A female’s clutch will contain, on average, 14 eggs. It can be anywhere from 12 to 22 eggs. 

The temperature of the eggs as they are incubated is what dictates whether the turtles are male or female. If the eggs are incubated below 77 degrees Fahrenheit they tend to be male. 

The eggs are elliptical in shape and tend to measure between 32 and 41 mm long. They are about 18 to 26 mm wide and weigh between 6 and 11 g.

Growth Rate

Male False Map Turtles take around 5 to 6 years to grow to their full size and reach maturity. It takes at least a decade before females reach maturity. 

Life Cycle

You are most likely to see False Map Turtles between late March and early October. During the winter some species will hibernate while others remain active. The eggs are predominantly laid in June and July, and the hatching period falls between late summer and early fall. 


The species is classed as one of special interest in Ohio due to the dwindling population numbers.  


This species of turtle is primarily carnivorous. You should feed your False Map Turtle snails, mussels, worms, crickets, fish, and aquatic insects. They do occasionally like to feed on plants, so it may be a good idea to include some aquatic plants in the tank. Commercial turtle pellets are also a good food source. 

In the wild, younger turtles have a more plant-based diet as their jaw muscles have not developed sufficiently to crack the hard shells of their animal prey. Their diet consists primarily of aquatic plants such as hyacinths and duckweed. They are also known to eat worms and insects. 

If you are feeding your turtle commercial pet food, we recommend supplementing it with freeze-dried shrimp and krill twice per week. Adult turtles will only need feeding 2-3 times a week, but you should feed hatchlings every day, to begin with, gradually dropping the frequency over time.

As a general rule of thumb, you should only feed your turtle the amount that they can consume in 5 minutes. 


They are very timid animals. The main predators of False Map Turtles are red foxes, otters, and raccoons. Metoposarcophaga importans fly maggots are also predators of the nests and eggs. 

Emerging juvenile turtles are often preyed upon by ring-billed gulls, crows, grackles, red-winged blackbirds, and great blue herons. When the young are in the water, catfish, bass, and pike will also eat them. Rice rats can also eat these turtles. 

Roaming Range

They are commonly found in the Mississippi and Missouri river systems. This means that they can be seen in Ohio, Illinois, Minnesota, Indiana, Wisconsin, and the Dakotas. As well as this, they are found in southwestern Alabama, southwestern Mississippi, and Louisiana. Occasionally they are seen in East Texas too.

They are commonly found in large rivers, backwaters, oxbows, and floodplain ponds. They like to live in regions where the water flows, rather than staying stagnant. 


There are not many health problems associated with False Map Turtles. They may develop issues with their shells due to a Vitamin D deficiency, caused by not getting enough sunlight. This can quickly be resolved by incorporating some supplements into your turtle’s diet. 

Your turtle may also begin to suffer from a fungal infection. This is caused by your turtle not drying out sufficiently while basking. This means that the shell softens over time and becomes weak. Your turtle’s basking platform should allow them to sit without being able to touch the water. 

If they develop any cuts or bruises, we recommend applying a topical treatment such as Acriflavine or a betadine solution. 

Another problem that these turtles are susceptible to is metabolic bone disease. This occurs as a result of insufficient calcium and other vitamins in their diet. You should properly research appropriate turtle diets before owning one, to ensure this does not happen. Regular access to UV light will also help to reduce the chances of them developing this disease. 

Other diseases that your turtle may be susceptible to are lethargy, a loss of appetite, eye infections, ulcers, and furry mouth. If in doubt, or you notice your turtle acting differently, you should take them to a qualified veterinarian. 

Eye Color

False Map Turtles have brown, pale yellow, white, or green. They have a dark line across the eye and thin hooked marks behind their eyes. You will also notice some small and light-colored spots underneath their eyes and on their chin.


Species of False Map Turtles that live in Northern regions are likely to hibernate. They will need a relatively cool area in which to do this. More southern species should be housed indoors during the coldest months of the year when temperatures drop below 45 degrees Fahrenheit.

Can they swim?

Yes, all species of Map Turtles are able to swim. They should be housed in a fish tank. 


These turtles will need to be kept in a fairly large tank. We’re talking a minimum of 40 gallons for males and a minimum of 90 gallons for females. This allows for adequate space for movement and ensures that the water can flow to keep the turtles happy.

The water needs to be relatively deep too, allowing the turtles to flex their natural swimming abilities. We advise placing a log snag at the bottom of the tank to provide a rest stop.

Gravel or sand make ideal substrates. The basking area needs to be completely out of the water and should be heated through the use of a heat and UV lamp. The temperature should be between 80 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit, to ensure their shells can dry out completely. 

The air temperature should hover between 80 and 89 degrees Fahrenheit. The water should be around 70 to 75 degrees. To achieve this, you may wish to invest in a submersible water heater. 

These turtles can be timid when you first bring them home. Allow them time to acclimate to their new surroundings and get used to you. Over time, you will notice how docile and friendly they are. You should place a lot of hiding spots inside their tank to help them feel safer. 


These turtles tend to cost between around $6 to $40 at a pet store. You should also factor in the cost of the tank and equipment such as filters and tank decorations. You will also need to create a basking area set underneath a UV light and invest in water quality testing implements. 

As well as these initial costs, you must consider the ongoing costs associated with owning a turtle. These include dechlorination drops, food, and vet bills. 

Fun Facts 

These turtles are very sensitive to water quality and so it is important to closely monitor this in their tank. 

These turtles communicate through the use of touch and body language. During courtship, the males will drum over the eyes of their female counterparts with their fore claws.