The Ultimate African Sideneck Turtle Care Sheet: Creating a Happy and Healthy Habitat

African Sideneck Turtles, also known as African Mud Turtles, are unique and fascinating reptiles native to Sub-Saharan Africa. With their distinct appearance and intriguing personalities, they are a popular choice among turtle enthusiasts. Caring for an African Sideneck Turtle requires dedication and knowledge, but with the right information and guidance, you can provide a happy and healthy habitat for your shelled companion. This comprehensive care sheet offers insights and solutions to ensure your African Sideneck Turtle thrives.

Setting Up the Perfect Enclosure

African Sideneck Turtles are semi-aquatic, requiring a living environment that offers both water and dry land areas. A minimum 40-gallon tank is recommended for one adult turtle, though a larger enclosure is always better. As they grow, these turtles can reach a shell length of 7 to 11 inches, so providing ample space is essential.

The aquatic portion of the enclosure should be deep enough for your turtle to swim comfortably, with a water depth of at least 1.5 times their shell length. A high-quality filtration system is crucial to maintaining clean water and preventing harmful bacterial growth.

On the terrestrial side, provide a dry basking area for your turtle to rest and regulate their body temperature. This can be achieved by placing large rocks, driftwood, or a commercial basking platform in the tank.

Temperature and Lighting

African Sideneck Turtles rely on external heat sources to maintain their body temperature. The basking area should have a temperature of around 90-95°F, while the water temperature should be maintained between 75-80°F. Use a submersible water heater and thermometers to ensure consistent temperatures.

UVB lighting is crucial for your turtle’s health, as it helps them metabolize calcium and synthesize vitamin D3. Invest in a high-quality UVB bulb and place it above the basking area. The light should be on for 10-12 hours per day, mimicking natural daylight cycles.

Diet and Nutrition

African Sideneck Turtles are omnivorous, which means they eat both plant and animal matter. A balanced diet is essential for their overall health. Feed your turtle a variety of high-quality commercial turtle pellets, supplemented with live or frozen foods such as crickets, earthworms, and feeder fish. Include leafy greens, like kale and collard greens, and occasional fruit, such as berries and melon, for added nutrients.

Younger turtles should be fed daily, while adults can be fed every other day. Be cautious not to overfeed, as obesity can lead to health issues.

Handling and Socialization

African Sideneck Turtles may be shy at first, but with time and patience, they can become more comfortable with handling. Limit handling to when it is necessary, such as tank cleaning or veterinary visits. Always wash your hands before and after handling your turtle to prevent the spread of bacteria.

Health and Veterinary Care

Routine veterinary care is essential for maintaining your African Sideneck Turtle’s health. Find a veterinarian experienced in reptile care to perform regular check-ups and address any health concerns. Common health issues for African Sideneck Turtles include shell rot, respiratory infections, and parasites. Early detection and treatment are crucial for your turtle’s well-being.


Caring for an African Sideneck Turtle is a rewarding and fulfilling experience, but it requires dedication and knowledge to ensure your pet thrives. By providing a spacious and clean enclosure, maintaining proper temperature and lighting, offering a balanced diet, and prioritizing veterinary care, you can create a happy and healthy environment for your African Sidneck Turtle. By following this care sheet and dedicating time to understanding your turtle’s needs, you’ll be well-equipped to provide a nurturing and enriching habitat.

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