Common Musk Turtle Care Sheet: Everything You Need To Know

The Common Musk Turtle, also known as the Eastern Musk Turtle or Stinkpot Turtle, is a semi-aquatic turtle native to the Eastern United States. 

They are a popular pet among turtle enthusiasts due to their small size, unique appearance, and long lifespan of 30-50 years.

This article will provide;

  • Overview of Common Musk Turtles 
  • Natural habitat, 
  • Aquarium requirements
  • Dietary requirements 
  • How to properly care for them

Species Overview

Common NamesCommon Musk Turtle, Eastern Musk Turtle,Stinkpot Turtle
Scientific NameSternotherus Odoratus
Species OriginEastern United States 
Natural HabitatSemi-Aquatic
Adult Size3”-5”
DietOmnivore
Lifespan30-50 Years

Aquarium Requirements

When owning a Common Musk Turtle, you’ll need to ensure you set their enclosure up correctly. You’ll need to consider the tank size, heating, lighting, and decoration within the tank.

Aquarium Size

The minimum size aquarium recommended for housing a Common Musk Turtle is 20 gallons, this provides them with optimum space to explore whilst providing space for rocks and branches for them to rest on whilst basking.

If you own two Common Musk Turtles, you’ll need to increase the aquarium size to a minimum of 40 gallons to provide both pets enough space to roam around and exercise.

Heating

Although Common Musk Turtles are semi-aquatic, they’re still reptiles meaning they’re cold-blooded and require external heat sources to regulate their body temperature. 

Using external heat sources enhances their metabolism and aids in the digestion process of their meals.

You’ll need basking and water temperatures reflecting;

  • Basking Area: 90°F-95°F
  • Water Temperature: 75°F-80°F

Heat sources must be turned off overnight to replicate the natural temperature drop they would experience in the wild.

Lighting

Common Musk Turtles are among the better turtles at synthesizing Vitamin D3, however, I still recommend using a UVB bulb to assist in the metabolization of calcium. Commercially sold pellets provide calcium but the UVB lighting will ensure they remain in good health.

UVB lighting must replicate the day/night schedule they’ll experience in the wild. I recommend running a day/night schedule of 12 hours on and 12 hours off.

Filtration System

Turtles are messy reptiles so a high-quality filter is needed to maintain a healthy living environment.

They defecate a lot and if this isn’t kept in check by routine clean-ups and filtration systems it can cause bacterial and fungal buildup within the tank, leading to illness.

I recommend using filters capable of filtering water levels of 2-3 times the size of your turtle tank. For example, if your tank is 40 gallons you’ll need a filter that offers 80-120 gallons of capacity.

The flow rate of your filter is measured in gallons per hour (GPH). At the minimum, your filter needs to be able to cycle through the entire water volume of your tank once every hour.

Always read the manufacturer’s labels to ensure you use the product as intended.

Substrate

Common Musk Turtles don’t require specific substrates in their habitat to thrive. So having substrate is down to personal preference, it provides a natural-looking environment for observation, however, supplying substrate does make the cleaning process harder.

Decoration

Providing decoration within the enclosure is an important part of environmental enrichment for your Common Musk Turtle, they’ll require plenty of plants, rocks, and branches to rest on whilst swimming around their aquarium.

The most important part of the decor you’ll need to provide them is a basking spot, although they don’t spend a lot of time basking they’ll still need somewhere to sit out of the water and relax. I recommend using a flat rock, placed at water level making it easy for your turtle to climb on and off throughout the day.

Dietary Requirements

Common Musk Turtles are omnivores, requiring a balanced diet consisting of insects and vegetation. 

What Do Common Musk Turtles Eat?

Common Musk Turtles eat a variety of different foods, such as;

ProteinsVegetationTurtle Pellet
CricketsLettuceOmega One Juvenile Pellet
Freeze-dried ShrimpKaleOmega One Adult Sticks
KrillCollard GreensZoo Med Aquatic Turtle Food
SilkwormsCarrotsTetra Reptomin
Dubia RoachesGreen Beans
SnailsDandelion Greens

I recommend utilizing cuttlefish into their diet also, this provides calcium intake into their diet, helping to prevent metabolic bone disease.

Pro Tip: Cut your cuttlefish up into smaller pieces to make it easier for your Musk Turtle to eat and replace them every 1-2 months.

Feeding Schedule

The frequency and quantity of the meals for your Common Musk Turtle depend on their age, Musk Turtles under 6 months of age require protein and pellets daily, whereas Musk Turtles older than 6 months require protein and pellets every other day and vegetation every day.

A portion of a meal is however much your Common Musk Turtle can eat within a 5-10 minute period. The vegetation portion quantity needs to be a similar size to their shell, and the pellet portion needs to be a similar size to their head.

Common Musk Turtles enjoy eating their meals on the ground, it’s always best to feed them whilst they’re submerged in water and they’ll eat the food once it has sunk to the bottom of the tank.

Aquarium Maintenance

Common Musk Turtles are messy reptiles when it comes to hygiene, meaning regular cleaning and water changes are needed to provide a healthy habitat.

I recommend cleaning the aquarium once every 1-2 weeks, including;

  • Glass cleaning
  • Water change
  • Filter cleaning

How To Clean Common Musk Turtle Aquarium

When cleaning the aquarium, you’ll want to;

  1. Remove the turtle from the enclosure
  2. Turn off heat and light sources
  3. Clean glass
  4. Remove 30% of the water volume and replace
  5. Clean filter
This video from The Turtle Girl provides in-depth information for proper tank and filtration cleaning

Handling Common Musk Turtles

Common Musk Turtles are observation-style pets and don’t appreciate being handled too much. I recommend only handling your Musk Turtle when necessary, for example when cleaning or trips to the vet.

Summary

These turtles are great pets to own and observe in their enclosure, however, ensuring your providing the correct care is paramount to their overall health.

Remember when preparing to own a Common Musk Turtle need to provide;

  • Minimum 40 gallon tank
  • Basking temperatures of 90°F-95°F
  • Water temperatures of 75°F-80°F
  • A balanced diet including proteins and vegetation
  • Thorough and consistent cleaning schedule