Spotted Turtle: Ultimate Guide

These are also sometimes referred to as the polka-dot turtle. Their scientific name is Clemmys guttata

Male vs Female

Male spotted turtles have a darker patch of pigmentation on the harder areas of their upper and lower jaws. In females, these areas are more yellow or red in color. 


This species of turtle is clearly and easily identifiable thanks to the distinctive yellow spots on their heads, legs, necks, and upper shell areas. This is all set on a coloring of a uniform black. The lower shells are yellow and black. 

You can identify younger spotted turtles as they will have fewer spots on the shells, often only one per plate. As they age, more spots will appear. It is not uncommon to see old spotted turtles with over 100 polka-dots. 

The turtles measure between 3.5 and 6 inches in length.

As a Pet

The temperament of these turtles is fairly curious and alert. They are a relatively active species but are prone to becoming stressed if you handle them too often.

You should always wash your hands properly after handling aquatic turtles. This is because there is a small chance that your turtle could be carrying the salmonella bacteria. 

These turtles thrive in a suitable outdoor environment, although they can be kept inside too. 


Many of these turtles will live until they are at least 25. It is not unusual for these turtles to live to the age of 50. In rare cases, some turtles have exceeded 100 years of age. Male turtles commonly live to 65 years old while the females can reach 110.


The male turtles have a concave plastron (chest plate). This is believed to assist with the mating process.

Breeding Season

The breeding season runs from March to May. You will see the male turtles frantically chasing the females, often with more than one chasing a singular female. When the female is ready to mate she allows one of the males to mount her back and catch her. To mate, he will hold onto her shell using all 4 of his feet and position himself like this. 


At the end of the breeding season, the females leave the water and search for a field, meadow, or the edge of a road. Sadly, many females get run over by cars during this process. 

The female will dig a 2 inch deep and wide hole with her back legs and will lay her eggs into this. The eggs are laid into this, but the clutch is often only 3 or 4 eggs. The female then covers over the eggs and uses dirt to disguise the nest. 

The nesting period runs from late May to June. The clutch can contain anywhere between 1 and 8 eggs, and often the females will only lay one per year. In some cases, a second, smaller clutch will be laid a few days after the first clutch. 

Growth Rate

The eggs take about 11 weeks to hatch. They reach sexual maturity between 7 and 14 years of age. 

Life Cycle

The turtles are most active from March to October. You may see them alone or in small groups basking in the sun. The young will be seen emerging from the nest in August and September.


This species used to be one of the most prevalent in the New York City area. Over time the populations have declined as a result of habitat loss. They are very sensitive to pollution and as the water quality reduces, the turtles begin to disappear. 

In Illinois and Ohio, the species is listed as endangered. In Vermont and Maine, it is threatened. In Indiana, it is a species of special concern, and in Massachusetts, it is a protected species. 

The main threats to this species are habit loss and degradation. Wild turtles being captured for the pet trade is also a major threat to their existing populations in the wild. They often are seen traveling across roads and in fields. This makes them vulnerable to vehicle mortality, and this is a major contributing factor to their population decline. 


Their natural diet consists mainly of spiders, snails, worms, and slugs. They are a primarily carnivorous species and should be fed a varied, balanced diet. You do not need to feed them more frequently than once every day or two. The occasional piece of cooked beef is a great treat for them. 

In the wild, they feed mainly in water. This means that their diet will include green algae, tadpoles, and aquatic grasses. 

You can feed them leafy greens, fruits, and duckweed too. Commercial turtle pellets are a great food source too as they contain Vitamin D3 which is important to supplement in turtles. This is especially important for indoor turtles. We also advise incorporating a calcium supplement, such as cuttlefish bone.


Some common predators for this species of turtle are muskrats and raccoons. They are also preyed upon by skunks, minks, otters, black bears, and bald eagles. 

These turtles are very vulnerable to predation on the land. If predators scare them as they are basking, you will notice them quickly diving into the water and burying themselves underneath the mud.

Roaming Range

These turtles are commonly seen across southern Maine, Ontario, Illinois, and northern Florida. Smaller and more isolated groups of these turtles can also be found in southern Quebec, central Georgia, and northern central Florida. 

They tend to be found in bogs, swamps, marshy meadows, ditches ponds, and small bodies of stagnant water. They enjoy being in shallow, slow-moving waters with a base of soft and muddy soil. This includes sedge tussocks, water lilies, cattails, and sphagnum moss. 


This species of turtle is relatively hardy and does not suffer from many health conditions. Ensuring that you care for them correctly will reduce the risk of disease even further. 

Aquatic turtles are fairly susceptible to parasites such as nematodes, tapeworms, and flagellates. This can lead to weight loss, diarrhea, and lethargy. We advise taking your turtle to a specialist exotic vet for a fecal exam annually to check for these parasites. 

Eye Color

The eye color of this turtle varies according to their gender. Male spotted turtles have brown eyes, and females have orange eyes. 


These turtles are known to hibernate when the temperature is either extremely hot or cold. They will hide in shallow waters, lodges, and burrows and often emerge at the beginning of spring. They are known to hibernate in groups of 5 to 12 turtles. 

Can they swim?

Spotted turtles are a semi-aquatic species of turtle. This means that they can swim, although they are not as adept at swimming as other species. They tend to stick to the more shallow regions. Hatchlings are more aquatic, and as they age they spend less time in the water.


They should not be kept in an enclosure with very deep water as they are not strong swimmers. Their feet should be able to reach the base at all times. Their enclosure should have raised logs and basking areas, with slanted access points so it is easy for them to bask.

Their tank should be a minimum of 25 or 35 gallons, half of this containing water and the other being dry. The temperature of the water should remain between 75 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

The basking spot should be between 82 and 86 degrees. The whole tank should never get hotter than 88 degrees as this could trigger your turtle to go into a state of hibernation. 

They need full-spectrum lighting and should be fed once every 2-3 days. You can feed them small mice and frozen fish in addition to the foods mentioned above. 


A baby spotted turtle is likely to cost between $100 and $125. A juvenile is likely to be more expensive and will cost between $200 and $250. 

Add to this the cost of their enclosure, tank decorations, and food. You will also need to consider the cost of veterinary bills, lamps, filters, and the other general costs associated with owning a pet. 

Fun Facts

The females can store sperm for up to 5 years after a successful mating session. They can use this to produce healthy offspring.

These are one of the smallest species of turtle, maxing out at about 6 inches long. 

They are generally solitary animals but they bask in small groups and hibernate communally. Communities of turtles have been known to range from as few as 30 to as many as 1,205. 

Spotted turtles are very active hunters and will hunt by sticking their faces into bunches of aquatic plants under the water. They will only feed under the water.

Many of these turtles discovered in the wild are observed to have mutilation scars from past attempts at predation. They are incredibly vulnerable thanks to their diminutive size. 

A group of these turtles is known as a bale, nest, creep, dole, or turn.