Common Snapping Turtle Care Sheet

Common Name(s): Common snapping turtle, common snapper

Scientific Name: Chelydra serpentina

Physical Description: These turtles have a very small plastron connected to the carapace by a narrow bridge on each side of its body.  The spiked tail is usually 0.6 to 1.2 times longer than the carapace.  The snapper is usually colored black, brown, or an olive color.

Natural Habitat: Lives in quiet or slow-moving waters, preferably with a muddy bottom.  These turtles are nocturnal and prefer to forage on the bottom.

Size:  14-20 inches in length.  Will weigh 30-45 pounds and be capable of biting through steel. 

Housing

For an adult snapper, one will need at least a 200-gallon tank.  Think about a small pool instead.  Tank must be at least 5 times as long as the turtle is. Stock tanks are more economical solutions.

Heating

Requires an aquarium heater (looks like a glass tube) to keep the water temperature between 74 and 78 degrees F.  The heater will also need a heater guard to keep it from breaking.  Snappers can be very destructive.

Basking Area

These turtles will require a spot to dry them off and bask.  A basking area can be made from rocks, plastic boxes, or anything else that will support them.  Snappers may rarely or never bask out of the water but the opportunity must always be there.

Lighting

These turtles need both a heat lamp and a UVB lamp.  A heat lamp can be a regular desk lamp, use a Reptisun 5.0 bulb and fixture for UVB.  Position these over the basking area by using a screen cover.

Water Depth

Keep water AT LEAST as deep as the turtle is long.  Snappers prefer if the water is the right depth for them to rest on the bottom but be able reach their heads out of the water.

Feeding

Feed them commercial foods like ReptoMin along with crickets and live fish.  Adults can be fed mice occasionally.  Adults may also eat aquatic plants.  Feed once a day with babies and once every other day with juveniles and adults.

Filter

You will absolutely need a high quality filter for your turtles if you want to keep the tank from being smelly.  Use canister filters like Magnum 350 or Fluval 404’s.  Bigger is better.  Just one canister filter will cost between 75 and 200 dollars.

Decorations

Snappers will move anything in their tank around until they like it.  Don’t expect them to live in a beautifully designed tank rich with plants and other decorations; a simple set up is better.  If you want to add some decor, try some large and heavy driftwood that they can hide near.  Aquarium backgrounds also add a touch of scenery to any tank.

Other

Turtles do not make good children’s pets and are for responsible keepers only.  Do not get a turtle is you are not willing to invest a lot of money in them.  Snappers have phenomenal reach and can easily bite a finger off.  Snapping turtles should only be kept by experienced keepers.

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