Spiny Softshell Turtle: Ultimate Guide

The spiny softshell turtle is probably one of the most interesting creatures you can ever set your eyes on. It has a very unique look, with a shell that is soft instead of hard. Unfortunately in the wild, this makes them very susceptible to attack, but if you are keeping them in captivity, you won’t have to worry about that.

This turtle can get very aggressive, so if you are keeping them in captivity, we certainly wouldn’t recommend that you touch them too much. However, as simple eye candy for your terrarium, you can’t go far wrong with one of these amazing creatures.

If you were to watch this creature in the wild, you’d see them lying in the mud all day, wallowing around and foraging for food, which will often be berries and small insects that are unfortunate enough to get in their path. There is also, sadly, a big market for using this turtle in various soups.

So where can you find a spiny softshell turtle? What do they eat and how do they behave? Can you keep more than one in a tank at any one time? How have these animals adapted to thrive in their environment? What are their major predators? How much can you be looking to spend on this animal every month?

Well, if you want to know the answers to this question and a whole lot more, we would suggest that you read on. We have a comprehensive list of attributes and a biological profile that will help you if you are thinking of buying one of these animals. We’ll also discuss diet and how to keep it in captivity.

Male Vs. Female

The male species of this turtle has rings across its back which makes it very easy to distinguish from the females. The males are also slightly larger, with a sandpapery feel to the shell that is completely different from the female’s smoother shell.

The female has blotchy markings on the shell which grow darker as they get older. These markings are usually grey or olive in color, which you can use to spot them very easily. The females have very smooth shells that you should be able to touch with snagging your fingers.


You should be able to spot this animal from its pointed snout and beady eyes. The shell itself has a kind of skin-like texture, which marks it out from the usual rough and uneven texture of a turtle’s shell. The softshell turtle usually has a very even shell surface.

This animal has very sharp claws, which are used to attack its predators with some viciousness out in the wild. The color of the softshell turtle is grey, although the males tend to be more olive in color. The texture and color of these turtles will grow darker with age.

As a Pet

These make great pets in your terrarium, although they aren’t great at sharing their space and will attack fellow creatures. We would recommend this turtle as a solitary creature rather than one that you should pair up with any other animal.

We would definitely suggest that you keep this turtle away from dogs and children. The claw can leave a very nasty cut that would grow infected if not treated. This turtle also likes to burrow out of its cage, so make sure there is a screen around the bottom of the terrarium so that they can’t see what is on the outside.


These animals can live up to 50 years in the wild, this is mainly because they cannot protect themselves as well against predators. They are also facing increased threats to their environment through chemical pollution and other factors.

This animal will hibernate for most of the year in the mud, so this is one of the reasons that it lives much longer than a lot of other turtles. You can get this as a pet for your children and it will live as long as their adolescence.


This animal has developed binocular vision that helps it to see both prey and predator. It has also developed sharp claws that help it to burrow in the mud to steer clear of predators and attack fellow turtles or female turtles during mating season.

The softshell is often seen as a weakness, but the color of the turtle helps it to camouflage, which helps it to hide from predators and attack small insects and fish by the riverbed. 

Breeding Season

These animals will usually breed towards the end of spring and the beginning of summer, traditionally in May. The females will lay a clutch of eggs that can number anywhere from 4 – 38 and will usually hatch in November time.


The female will often lay anywhere between 4 to 38 eggs. They are small with a yellowish texture. These eggs are prey to small rodents such as raccoons and other mammals that the spiny softshell turtle shares its space with.

Growth Rate

The male spiny softshell turtle will often reach full maturity at around 3 or 4 years old, whereas the female will take a lot longer. A female spiny softshell turtle will usually reach full maturity in its 12th or 13th year.

Life Cycle

In the wild, this turtle will often reach up to the ripe old age of 50. In captivity, these turtles will live slightly longer, obviously because it is getting more consistent food and most natural predators have been removed from its environment.


Experts estimate that around 1% of the whole population of this turtle is in Canada. The population of this turtle in Canada is anywhere between 600 and 1,500. They are usually found in the regions of Ontario and Quebec.

This species faces significant threats from urban development, which is devastating a lot of its natural environment. Human beings also hunt this turtle for its meat, with overhunting being a significant cause for the drop in numbers. So far no conservation efforts are being made to protect this turtle.


This turtle, like a lot of other of this species, eats a largely carnivorous diet consisting of small insects and fish that it finds near the riverbed. It has also been known to eat foliage, so if you are going to keep one of these creatures as pets, we would suggest that you feed it lettuce, spinach and other types of dark greens.

If you are keeping this creature in captivity, we would also suggest that you make sure that it spends some time outdoors. This way it can source its own insects, which will also cut down on food bills for that month.


This turtle has many predators, including red foxes, raccoons, herons, skunks and occasionally large predatory fish. The main protection that this turtle has against these animals is its sharp claws and ability to blend in with the mud.

Roaming Range

This animal will usually cover an average distance of 1.5km, although this is spread out over a few days. If you are keeping this one in captivity, we would recommend that you have at least 4 x 4 square feet of room for this turtle to wander around in.

As mentioned earlier, we would certainly not recommend keeping more than one of these turtles in the same terrarium, as they can be very violent to each other. It is not uncommon for one turtle to kill another within a week of being introduced to each other.


This turtle is very susceptible to liver and kidney disease. If you are keeping one as a pet, we would recommend that you keep an eye on it in case it loses its appetite.

Eye Color

Thes turtles have reddish-brown eyes, although the females have a slight grey tinge to them.


This creature will hibernate during the winter months where food is more scarce, often retreating to a burrow. It can hibernate for around 6 months at a time.

Can They Swim?

These creatures can swim, although they prefer to wallow in the mud, either relaxing, basking or searching for food.

Care Costs

It usually costs around $50 to buy one of these turtles. You should make sure that you have enough money each month to take care of this turtle. It usually costs around $30 to feed and clean this animal.

Fun Facts

  • This is the largest turtle species in North America.
  • It has a soft shell that it developed from mainly living in muddy plains, using its unique color to blend in with the surrounding environment.
  • This turtle has a very pliable spine that it uses to find food and get out of dangerous situations.