Turtles can make great pets. Their hard shell and slow-moving pace are some of their most fascinating features. These reptiles have been around for millions of years, even before the dinosaurs. They are known to survive in almost any part of the world. Depending on the species, a pet turtle has a lifespan of between 25 and 100 years.
So, how much do turtles cost?
Turtles can cost as low as $10 and as high as $750 to buy. The one-time equipment expenses you will incur will range between $500 and $1,000. Annual recurring expenses such as food, supplements, and annual medical examination will cost you as low as $300 and as high as $1,500. There are optional costs such as insurance that costs you between $5 and $100 per month, microchipping costs $35, and toys cost about $5 per month.
Some turtles have been known to live over 100 years. Given their long lifespan and that some might even outlive you, your financial commitment to keeping a pet turtle may be considered a lifetime decision. Unless you intend to give the turtle away after a while, it is crucial to know how much a turtle costs.
Costs associated with keeping a pet vary depending on the type of pet and species. While turtles are considered relatively cheaper compared to cats and dogs, they require a good habitat and constant delicate care throughout their long life.
The various turtle costs include purchase, food, medication, and infrastructure acquisition and maintenance costs. Some of these costs are one-time costs, while others are recurring.
Here we explore each of these costs and answer the question: How much do turtles cost?
Cost of Buying a Turtle
Buying a turtle is one of the initial one-off costs you will meet. The amount depends on factors such as where you buy it, the species, season, local availability, and age of the turtle. One should never keep a wild turtle.
In some parts of the world, a law prohibits purchasing any turtle whose shell is below 4 inches long. This is because the younger turtles pose a risk of spreading salmonella to your children.
There are three significant ways to own a turtle; by rehoming one, adopting one, or from a breeder. If you are rehoming a turtle, then you will probably get it for free. Because turtles are considered inexpensive, there is hardly a rehoming fee. Rehoming is a $0 way of getting a pet turtle other than the equipment cost you will incur.
For adoption, you can get a turtle, either a pet shelter or a pet store. Often, people take pets to a pet shelter when they are no longer able to take care of it or when they are relocating and cannot move with the pet.
The cost of getting a turtle pet from a pet store or shelter ranges between $10 and $40, depending on the shop/shelter, age, and species, among other factors. Though cheap, you are likely to be limited on the turtle species you can take home with you as they tend to keep a limited range.
Another option for getting a pet turtle is by buying one from a breeder. It is the ideal avenue if you are looking for unique exotic species. Though rare, there are turtle breeders who raise specific turtle species for adoption. It is more expensive than rehoming and adopting from a pet store or shelter as it will, on average, cost you between $55 and $100.
Whichever option you go with, the pet species will be the most significant determinant of the actual cost you will pay for the turtle. This is because some species are considered more exotic than others. Here are some of the most common turtles and how much they are likely to cost you.
1. Red-eared slider
This is one of the most popular pet turtles. The females can lay up to 5 clutches of eggs annually, with each clutch having up to 30 eggs. The eggs hatch within 2 – 4 months. For this reason, the red-eared slider turtle is one of the cheaper species.
It costs between $5 and $25.
2. Painted Turtles
Painted turtles are either Western painted or Eastern painted. Both are a good choice for beginner pet turtle owners because they are tame around humans. They can also grow big to a length of about 10 inches. You may need to consider a big tank from the beginning to cater to the expected growth.
Western painted turtles have red-colored marks on their shells’ sides. The area below the shell is also colored. The cost is between $15 and $60. On the other hand, Eastern painted turtles have red marks on their shell, but the area beneath has white and, at times, black marks. Eastern painted turtles cost between $25 and $50, depending on their age.
3. African Side-Neck Turtle
These aquatic have several unique features. Unlike most turtles, the African side-neck turtle can’t retract its head, limbs, and tail inside the shell as a defense mechanism. Instead, it bends sideways till its fully covered beneath its shell.
They cost between $30 and $100 and require more care than most of the others. If you don’t have much time to tend to a pet, this one will not be an ideal pet turtle choice.
4. Twist Neck Turtle
Like the African Side-Neck turtle, Twist Neck is another turtle species that can’t retract its protruded parts into the shell. To protect itself from predators, it twists its neck and hides it inside the shell. They are best for a person who is more experienced with turtles as opposed to a beginner.
Twist Neck turtles are considered one of the exotic turtle species and cost between $100 and $200 depending on whether they are babies or juveniles.
5. Ornate Box Turtle
This species has one of the most beautiful shells. Because of the appealing shells, Ornate Box turtles are not cheap, and their prices often vary from one seller to another. However, they are beginners friendly, and if your budget allows, they are a good species option.
The Ornate Box turtle costs between $70 and $200.
6. Common Snapping Turtle
This Common Snapping turtle is one of the most common species. It is famous for having a rough appearance, and it also bites. You might be scared of the biting, but the good news is that they hardly do so unless provoked.
Common Snapping pet turtles will cost you between $20 and $70, depending on their age. If you are considering this species, bear in mind that they can grow massively.
7. Musk Turtle
Also referred to as Common Musk turtle or Stinkpots, this species is an excellent choicer for a beginner pet turtle owner. They have a foul smell emitting glands below their shell. It is their defense mechanism against wild predators.
Musk turtles cost between $20 and $50.
8. Mississippi Map Turtle
These moderately sized aquatic turtles get their name from the markings and lines on their shell that look like those of a map. The name is also because they inhabit in Mississippi River banks and its Southern tributaries.
Mississippi map turtles cost between $15 and $40. They are an affordable beginner-friendly turtle option.
9. Eastern Mud Turtle
Also known as Common Mud turtle, and as the name suggests, they spend most of their time in muddy water. As a result, their shells are smoother. Some have brown-colored shells, while others have a grey-brown color.
Eastern Mud turtles cost between $30 and $70. They are beginner-friendly, though they require delicate care when younger because they tend to be very sensitive and fragile.
10. Florida Red-Belly Turtle
As the name implies, these turtles have a red belly. Their shell also has small red marks that contrast with bright yellow stripes on their head and limbs. They inhabit freshwater bodies in Florida. They can grow big up to 15 inches.
Florida Red-Belly turtle costs between $20 and $50.
11. Indian Star Turtle
The shell of this turtle has a beautiful star-like pattern with a yellowish-white color. Though very aesthetically appealing, they are not a good choice for a first-time pet owner because they are delicate.
Indian Start turtle costs between $500 and $750, making it the most expensive pet turtle one can get.
Other common turtles include the Chinese golden thread turtle that costs between $40 and $100, Texas Diamondback that costs between $100 and $200, Russian turtle going for between $80 and $250, Gibba costing between $50 and $80, Belize Slide turtle costing between $50 and $100, Yellow-Bellied Slider that costs between $10 and $25 and False Map turtle that goes for between $25 to $50.
Food and Supplies Cost
A balanced diet is vital to the health of your pet turtle. It is best to feed the turtle fresh food such as feeder fish, fruits, and vegetables. However, if not possible, some commercial foods and supplements will effectively work as a substitute for fresh food. They provide your pet turtle with nutrients and minerals you might not know that the turtle is missing.
Turtles are generally omnivorous. When younger, you feed on more meat and shift to more vegetables as they mature. The kind of food you provide your pet turtle should largely depend on age and species. Research on the ideal dietary requirements for your turtle and follow the feeding recommendations given by your vet or the ones labeled on the packing of commercial turtle foods.
The average cost of feeding a turtle ranges between $20 and $40 per month. As a recurring cost, food is a crucial consideration.
If you keep the environment clean, feed the pet turtle a balanced diet, and ensure that it gets sufficient UV-B and UV-A light, then the turtle is likely to remain in good health. Even so, it is good that you familiarize yourself with common illnesses that affect turtles and their symptoms. You will identify them and contact a vet when necessary.
Turtles are one of the cheapest pets to keep in terms of medical costs. Unlike most pets, turtles don’t require annual vaccinations, dental check-ups, and worm, flea, and tick treatments. The main medical cost of keeping a turtle is the annual check-ups on common turtle illnesses that may not be manifesting yet. The most common health problems affecting turtles include parasite infestation, Vitamin A deficiency, respiratory diseases, shell rot, septicemic cutaneous ulcerative disease, and abscesses.
Ideally, it would be best if you took your turtle pet for a medical examination every year. By doing this, any medical problem will be identified and treated before it is too late. Vet costs for such an examination cost range between $45 and $80. As an annual cost, you can save on the cost every month.
Turtles can be aquatic, semi-aquatic, or land-dwelling. Terrapins are semi-aquatic, meaning that they live on both land and water, while tortoises are land-dwelling. Depending on the pet’s natural habitat, there are various equipment you need to buy when making a home for your pet turtle. Here are the basic vital items.
1. UV-A and UV-B Light Source
If you keep your pet turtle inside, then you need to provide it with a light source that gives it both UV-A and UV-B light. Glass usually filters out UV-A and UV-B light spectrum coming from the sun. Just like human beings, turtles need this light to remain healthy.
A good UV-A basking bulb costs between $10 and $20. On the other hand, a good UV-B fluorescent tube costs between $20 and $70. You may find cheaper options at pet stores, but they often don’t produce UV-B.
When setting up the light, ensure that it is at the right height to avoid overheating your pet turtle’s environment. It is also necessary to remove any plastics or glass in between because the two reflect UV-B light away.
2. Aquarium Tank and Stand
Aquatic turtles need a tank with a minimum width of about 3-4 times the width of the turtle, length of 4-5 times its length, and height of about 1.5 times its length. Typically, tiny turtles measuring below 5” need a 20-gallon aquarium tank while more mature ones measuring about 10” require a 120-gallon tank.
As you might have guessed, the cost of an aquarium tank and stand varies depending on its capacity. For a 10-gallon tank, the average price is $200. This cost increases with an increase in the number of gallons’ capacity.
The cost of an aquarium tank also depends on whether you choose to use glass or acrylic. Acrylic is more expensive but ideal for larger aquariums, especially those installed on walls or customized cabinets.
If you keep a land turtle, you will need to replace the aquarium with a good enclosure. The cost of a cage varies depending on the material, size and kind of setup. The cost of one ranges between $150 and $250 to buy and set up. It is also good to get proper fencing to prevent the tortoise from wandering and getting lost.
3. Filtration System and Pump
A good filter is an effective way of keeping the tank well circulated and clean. The filter removes any food debris and nitrates, and ammonia that the turtle may excrete. Clean water reduces the chances of your pet turtle getting sick.
The best filter should be rated about 2-3 times the size of your aquarium tank. The average price for such a filter is $70. If you have an aquatic turtle, you may consider feeding it in a separate tank to minimize the amount of debris left in the tank. This bioload can often lead to algae growth in the aquarium.
4. Equipment Setup
The cost of setting up is a one-off cost. If the aquarium will be fixed to the wall or custom cabinets, you need to consider setting up to be a critical cost. Equipment setup cost ranges depending on the amount of work involved. Generally, it will cost you about $100.
The good thing with turtles is that they are not rough on the items they live with and in. Once bought, you will rarely require to replace the equipment.
Other items you may need to buy include a basking surface or rock, thermometer, humidifier, surge protectors, light timers, graver, and a water heater. The cumulative cost for these ranges between $100 – $200.
On average, you will need between $500 and $1,000 to buy and set up the necessary equipment for your pet turtle.
Insuring turtles is not a common thing because turtles are generally considered as low-costing pets. But this is still an available option. Turtle insurance is usually done by those who own species considered to be exotic as they are worth a lot. It is also common among people who keep turtles as an investment.
Pet insurance is not a bad thing. For turtles, it will cost you about $5 monthly. However, for exotic species, this might be as high as over $100 per month.
Entertainment is an optional cost because turtles don’t require much entertainment. However, buying your pet turtles’ toys is a good way of keeping them busy. The price depends on what you want to buy. Generally, turtle toys can cost between $40 and $120 each. If you are on a budget, this is a cost you should avoid.
Emergencies come up in all aspects of our lives. They can be financially stressful to deal with and can leave you in a pit of debt. While you don’t need to worry much about medical emergencies with pet turtles, there are still other emergencies that may come up.
It is hard to estimate the cost of emergency expenses related to keeping a pet turtle because they are rare. Saving $100 is a safe bet to meet these costs if they ever come up. It is always better to have the emergency money and not need it than need it and not have it.
This is often done to land turtles that are likely to walk far and get lost. Microchipping turtles is not recommended, but it is also not illegal. If you opt to microchip your turtle, it will cost you about $35; a one-off cost.
Total Annual Cost
Annual costs occur once or several times a year. They do not include one-off expenditures such as buying the turtle, equipment purchase and installation, humidifiers, thermometer, basking rock, etc. Knowing the total annual cost required to keep a pet turtle will help you be financially prepared, save up and plan ahead. Recurring yearly expenses of a pet turtle include food, supplements, toys, and annual check-up.
The annual costs of keeping a pet turtle range between $300 and $1500. This amount is small compared to owning other pets such as dogs and cats. It is no wonder that turtles are considered an affordable pet option.
Other non-financial costs of keeping a pet turtle include time and space. Turtles need to be fed from time to time, and someone needs to be available to do this. The tanks need regular cleaning to maintain ultimate hygiene, even with a filtration system and a separate feeding aquarium. In terms of space, ensure that you have enough room to keep the aquarium. 120 gallons is not tiny; it will cost you ample space. Ensuring that you have enough space means that your room will not be congested, making you regret the decision.
Before bringing a pet home, it is vital to know the overall cost it will require of you to keep it. The cost of owning a pet is mainly composed of the initial one-time fees and recurring expenses.
Initial one-time costs can be higher than those of other pets, especially if you use high-end equipment. You are likely to spend $450 and above. Buying a turtle can cost you from as low as $10 to as high as $750. Don’t break the bank to get a pet turtle. You can start with the more affordable species and only buy the essential items, to begin with.
The recurrent costs of owning a turtle pet are a crucial consideration. Turtles are known to live for as long as 100 years. It would help if you considered whether this is a cost you will afford to meet in years to come. On average annual recurring costs of keeping a pet turtle range between $300 – $1500. Ensure that you set aside some cash for emergencies expenses that though rare, may come up.