If a first time turtle owner asked us which breed they should start with, we would undoubtedly suggest the Peninsula Cooter. They are very easy to look after, which makes them a perfect choice for beginners and they are so much fun to watch.
Still, being low maintenance doesn’t mean you don’t need to read around their needs. To help you along, we have created an ultimate guide to Peninsula Cooter Turtles!
Male vs Female
The only real difference between the males and the females are their size and their breeding. Both the males and the females have the same docile temperament, and need to be looked after in the same way.
The females are larger and bulkier than the males, but the two sexs can grow between 12 and 16 inches.
For breeding information, scroll down to the “Breeding season” section.
Peninsula Cooters look very similar to the other turtles you can find in Florida, but there are a couple of distinct physical features that can help you point them out.
If you take a look at their shell, you will notice that the Peninsula Cooter has shallow perimeter edges and a tall scute (the part of the shell on the top which looks like a spine). This shape is unique to the Peninsula Cooter and it creates a steep curve with a ridged edge.
The colors of the Peninsula Cooter are similar to other Floridian turtles. They are olive green, light green, and yellow. These colors alternate through the shell’s patterns and create a dripping effect, starting from the top of the shell to the bottom.
The heads and the tails of the Cooter have the same colors, but the patterns tend to go in the opposite direction.
As a Pet
Although we said that Peninsula Cooters are an amazing choice for a first time turtle owner, that doesn’t mean your new friend is going to be small.
Peninsula Cooter can grow to a very large size, which means they need to have a large tank or outdoor space to stay in. Despite this large habitat, that doesn’t mean they are a handful to look after.
Peninsula Cooters have adapted amazingly well to life in captivity as they enjoy the laid back life of a pet.
Peninsula Cooters have a long lifespan, but not as long as many other turtles. You can expect them to live for over 30 years as long as they are kept healthy and happy.
Quality food and enriching environments will keep your turtle’s life long!
Like most river Cooters, the Peninsula Cooter has a tooth-like cusp in the upper part of their jaw. This is to help them eat tough and crunchy vegetation like leaves and fibrous foliage.
Peninsula Cooters are just like rabbits; if you place a male and female in the same enclosure, they will mate with each other. You don’t need to do anything to encourage this type of behavior, as long as your reptiles are healthy and happy.
If you do not give the female her own nesting box, she will attempt to make one for herself. This might disrupt your current enclosure, so we suggest that you get a container that is large enough for her to turn around in and deep enough for her to dig.
Then add in some soil mixed with water, so it clumps a little bit. This will be an attractive location for her to lay her eggs and bury them.
As long as it isn’t too cold, this could happen at any point in the year.
The eggs should be incubated at a temperature of 84 degrees Fahrenheit and then sealed in a moisture rich substrate to help trap in the humidity. This will keep the hatchlings at the high temperature and high water level needed to be healthy.
After 60 days, the eggs should start to hatch. Once one has broken free, the other will be encouraged to do the same.
Peninsula Cooters grow fast! They will start off at around an inch in length once they have hatched, but after a couple of years, they will reach their adulthood size 13 inches long. This means you will need a 100 gallon aquarium or an outdoor pond to look after this gentle giant.
If you do use a tank, we suggest one which is 48 inches wide, 24 inches deep, and at least 12 inches tall. This is until your Peninsula Cooter has reached adulthood. At that point, you may need to reassess the size of your pet.
There isn’t a lot of information around how large the Peninsula Cooter population is, as it is doing well as a species. It isn’t considered endangered or at risk, and the wild population is very large.
However, there are three threats to the Peninsula Cooter population; the first is the degradation of their natural vegetation. Pest control and contaminated waters have to lead to Peninsula Cooter going through a food shortage.
The second is their loss of habitat, again due to human expansion taking over their natural habitat and degrading their water edge.
The third is due to an invasive predator, which we will discuss more in the “Predator” section.
Peninsula Cooters enjoy a wide range of aquatic plants but will eat almost any vegetable or leafy green. They can also eat live or frozen insects, including crickets, roaches, and locusts.
Adults can eat larger meat based foods, like mice, fish chunks, and shrimp.
The main threat to the Peninsula Cooter is the Asian Carp. The Asian Carp is an invasive species that entered into the American population for anglers and the sport of fishing in the 1960 and 1970. They are now so wildly loved by competing anglers that removing them will cause an uproar.
Asian Carps are a large meat-eating fish that lower water quality through their mass numbers. This means they attack Peninsula Cooters when they are young, eat all their food, and reduce their water quality.
A common disease that many turtle owners need to look out for is metabolic bone disease. This is a terrible disease that affects reptiles that do not have access to enough UVB light. Their bodies stop being able to metabolize calcium which, in turn, makes their bones frail and their shells brittle.
With their defenses down, your Peninsula Cooter will then be vulnerable to a host of bacterial infections and viruses.
Peninsula Cooters have black pupils and bright yellow irises.
If you live in an area with relatively warm winters, then your Peninsula Cooter will stay active throughout the months of April to October.
If you live in a colder climate, and when it gets to near November time, then your Peninsula Cooter will begin to get ready for hibernation. They will float down to the bottom of the pond or water tank and reside there for several months at a time. They do not need to breathe during this period and will come back to the surface when the weather gets warmer.
Can they swim?
Peninsula Cooters love to swim. It might surprise you to learn that they are excellent swimmers, even though their weight and size should say otherwise. They will play and zip around any swimming area they have access to, spending hours and hours in the water.
As we said before, looking after a Peninsula Cooter is very easy. We suggest you start off with a tank that is 48 inches wide, 24 inches deep, and 12 inches tall. Then see how your turtle reacts to the size of their tank as they grow, getting a larger sized tank if needed.
Next, you want to fill the tank with mostly water but also fine sand. Ideally, you want to create a slope so it is easy for them to slide in and out of the water.
The UVB Light should produce 80 degrees Fahrenheit, and the humidity should be at least 70 percent. At the same time, the water should be between 75 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
The average price of a Peninsula Cooter is very low, less than $100. The real cost will come in the heating and humidity creating environments.
Unlike most reptiles, Peninsula Cooters are good neighbors! They don’t mind sharing their habitat with others and create lovely small communities.
Cooter’s love to bask in the sun, so creating a large platform will let them display their beautiful colors as they enjoy the heat!