Comparing Land and Water Turtles

Whether the turtles live on land or in the water, we tend to identify any reptile with a hard shell or carapace and a slow, awkward gait as a turtle. While this is generally true that they are all turtles, convention dictates that those turtles that live on land be referred to as tortoises.

All turtles are coldblooded, meaning that their temperature is the same as their environment. If you plan to keep turtles as pets, it’s crucial to understand the differences between turtles and tortoises, and what is required to provide them with a healthy environment.

Turtles live in freshwater, oceans, and marshes. Turtles spend most of their lives underwater venturing out only to lay eggs or bask for a while in the sun. They will go into a state similar to hibernation when the weather becomes too cold.

Turtles are omnivorous. They eat plants, insects, and fish. Turtles have light shells that are somewhat flat, having only a slight crown, streamlined for efficient travel through water. Their feet are webbed for swimming. Although they are notoriously slow on land, they are speedy swimmers. Often kept as pets, turtles live to an average age of thirty years.

Tortoises live on land, only venturing into the water to drink or bathe. They are not good swimmers and can easily drown if caught in a swift current. Tortoises are, for the most part, vegetarians or herbivores eating plants with lots of moisture.

Tortoiseshells are heavy and dome-shaped, providing excellent protection. Their feet are short, and they have rugged legs. Some tortoises are quite fast on the ground, moving quickly when necessary. Tortoises have very long life expectancies, some living as long as 150 years. While some tortoises are kept as pets, they are not as popular as turtles.

Both land and aquatic turtles (tortoises and turtles) make exciting pets if you are considering having a pet turtle. Still, the aquatic turtles are generally more popular because their habitat is simpler to create and maintain. The aquatic turtle’s space requirements are usually much less than a tortoise’s. The pet turtle’s environment must be as close to what he might experience in the wild, as is possible.

If you have an aquatic turtle, a tank with both adequate water volume for swimming and eating and sufficient land area for resting is essential. The water is especially important and should be filtered and maintained in the same manner as would be done for a goldfish aquarium. Land turtles will usually require a much larger area with access to enough water for occasional bathing. Smaller land turtles can manage more miniature terrariums, but many tortoises grow large enough to require a larger fenced-in area outdoors.

As with any pets, clean water should always be available. Most aquatic turtles, being omnivores, will require both plants and animal protein from foods such as calcium-rich vegetables, snails, earthworms, and bugs. On the other hand, tortoises should be quite content with a purely vegan diet consisting of vegetables like carrots, berries, and leafy greens.