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Paludarium   Animals

Razorback musk turtle
(Sternotherus carinatus)

Sternotherus carinatus

Alternative species (click on the thumbnail to see the card)


Scientific name
Sternotherus carinatus
Kinosternon carinatus (formerly)
Kinosternon carinatum (formerly)

Common name
Razorback musk turtle
Razor-backed musk turtle


what are its countries of origin?

Origin: Southeastern United States
Biotope: American. Swampy areas with low current and rich vegetation


what are the physical differences between males and females?

Males have a more massive head than females. Their tail is also longer and wider at the base than females. The cloaca is closer to the edge of the carapace in females than in males.





what is the minimum volume for this species?

For 1 specimen: 120x50cm
or 50x20" (Lxl)


what are the recommended temperature parameters?

Hot spot (beach): 28/30°C or 82/86°F
Water: 24/25°C or 75/77°F





what is the maximum size of this specie?

12 to 16cm (5 to 6.3")


what is the average Longevity of this specie?

15 to 20 years


in which area of the aquarium does this specie live?

Earth (beach) and water


sociability of the species

1 or 3


How to feed the Razorback musk turtle?


How to feed the Razorback musk turtle?

In the wild, this turtle feeds on slow-moving fish, molluscs, amphibians, aquatic insects or even carrion. It is an omnivorous species with a strong carnivorous tendency.

In captivity, offer mostly fresh food. On the menu:

  • - pieces of fish (trout, monkfish, salmon...). Be careful, some fish should be avoided because they are bad for the health of turtles (antivitamin B1) such as herring, sardines, smelts or red fish...
  • - earthworms
  • - vase worms
  • - snails
  • - fresh shrimps
  • - chicken or beef liver, rich in vitamin A (occasionally)
  • - alfalfa
  • - salad
  • - dandelion
  • - Lemna Minor, Salvinia, Pistia... available in the aquarium

Complete with good quality specialized aquatic turtle food (Zoo med, Exo Terra, Komodo...). Be aware that the formulas for adult turtles are different from those for juveniles.

In terms of quantity, a meal must represent the equivalent of the volume of the head (this corresponds more or less to the volume of the stomach).

Make a cuttlefish bone available at all times in order to provide the aquatic turtle with the calcium it needs (this is mandatory for its health).

Feed your turtle every day, but fast once a week: this will help it keep its shape and form! Conversely, young turtles need it every day, without fasting.

Note that this turtle stops feeding when the temperature is above 35°C/95°F or below 13°C/55°F.


What kind of behavior does the Razorback musk turtle have?


What kind of behavior does the Razorback musk turtle have?

Sternotherus carinatus

Fearful and shy by nature, this turtle will need hiding places to reassure it. Branches, upside down earthen pots or plants will provide him with a safe place to hide.

It moves by walking rather than swimming.

In the wild, this species hibernates for up to 4 months (from December to February), usually hidden or buried in the sand. In captivity, hibernation is not mandatory (unless you wish to reproduce it). If you still wish to offer this natural period to your animal, gradually reduce the frequency of meals as well as the temperature. Install a carpet of dead leaves at the bottom of the aquarium. When the water goes below 10°C, the turtle buries or hides to hibernate. This period should not exceed 4 months. Attention, it is not recommended to hibernate a juvenile.


Who can live with the Razorback musk turtle?


Who can live with the Razorback musk turtle?

jeune Sternotherus carinatus

The Razorback musk turtle is very territorial (like all aquatic turtles), which is why it has no problem living alone.

If you have a sufficiently large aquarium, it is possible to keep several individuals as long as you follow certain rules. First of all, never associate two males together, the cohabitation of two females is more likely to work.

For a couple, they only tolerate each other during the reproduction period, that is to say 1 or 2 months. The rest of the time, they must be separated in separate facilities. Indeed, like some species of fish, the male constantly (and ardently) courts the female, who risks becoming completely exhausted and fragile. The solution? Don't install a couple, but a trio: 1 male and 2 females. With such a group, male/female cohabitation may be feasible).

In any case, aquatic turtles are always snarling with their roommates. There is always a risk that the cohabitation goes badly even if we put all the chances on our side (question of character of each individual, and that, we can do nothing!). Sometimes, too extreme dominations lead dominated turtles to prostrate themselves in a corner, sometimes going as far as to stop feeding. Such a daily stress makes the specimen concerned very fragile and will end up being prone to diseases. Thus, if you try to cohabitate, keep in mind that things can degenerate, and that a second installation of the same type as the first will then be necessary to separate incompatible turtles.

The Razorback musk turtle being quite slow, cohabitation with a few fast fish (guppy, southern platyfish) is possible as long as the volume of water is sufficient for the chosen fishes and the aquarium is well maintained.


How to breed the Razorback musk turtle?


How to breed the Razorback musk turtle?

Generally, spring is the preferred breeding season for the species, although some breeding occurs in the fall.

Turtles are old enough to reproduce when they are 4 to 8 years old depending on the individuals (from 8-10 cm / 3.2-4"). Females can lay eggs 2 or 3 times a year. On average, each clutch contains between 1 and 7 eggs (more usually between 2 and 4 eggs).

The female needs a thick layer of substrate (about 20 cm) to lay her eggs deep. To satisfy this need, place a wide and deep box in place of the emerged bank. It will be filled with peat, soil and sand.

Put the male and two females in contact (see "cohabitation") and after several matings, separate them.

Gently collect the eggs (be careful not to turn them!) and put them in a substrate of water and vermiculite, at a temperature between 25 and 28°C. The young arrive after 80 to 100 days of incubation. The young weigh only 2 to 4 g and are quite fragile. They will have to be fed every day.

jeune Sternotherus carinatus

Its Paludarium

Which paludarium for the Razorback musk turtle?

Its Paludarium

Which paludarium for the Razorback musk turtle?

To maintain this pretty water turtle, it is necessary to plan a rather important installation. The budget for such an installation can quickly rise. You will need:

  • - First of all, the aquarium: count 120cm / 47" of frontage for 50cm / 20" wide to accommodate your guests.

  • - Then the filter. Turtles are big polluters. The water is quickly polluted and the filtration must be powerful enough to keep pace. However, turtles do not like strong currents but rather stagnant water. You will therefore have to find the right balance between comfort and efficiency. Since the filter clogs quickly, you can plan to clean it once a week. The water will be partially renewed every 2-3 days (1/5 of the total volume is sufficient).
    Tip: Point the filter's discharge pipe against a wall to reduce the current in the aquarium.
    Tip 2: to place a filter in so little water, there are special filters for aquatic turtles, or you can take a corner filter that you lay on the ground.

  • - The water temperature should be around 24-25°C / 75-77°F, so an immersion heater is necessary. However, take into account the real volume of water to determine its power.

  • - The water should not be more than 20cm / 8" high so that the turtle can breathe by standing on its hind legs (as it does not swim very well, it should not have to swim to breathe). Of course, if your turtle is smaller, lower the water level. Ultimately, the level will depend on your turtle's growth.

  • - The Razorback musk turtle, even though it is mainly aquatic, needs to get out of the water to rest. Plan to install a platform so that it can emerge at will. Pretty branches are also a good option for more naturalness. Whatever your choice, the emerged part should represent about 25% of the aquarium's surface.

  • - It will also be necessary to install a heat lamp above the platform to warm the turtle. This lamp must produce enough heat to keep the temperature between 28 and 30°C or 82 and 86°F (play on the distance platform to bulb to adjust your temperature).

  • - Another essential in the aquaterrarium: a UVB lamp. Thanks to this lamp, the turtle can synthesize calcium correctly, which is essential for its good health. This part of the installation (in the form of a 10.0 tube for example) needs to be changed twice a year (failing this once a year is a strict minimum), even if it seems to you that it still works (the UVB rate can strongly decrease, which is not visible to the naked eye).

  • - For more comfort, you can connect your 2 lamps to a timer that you will have set to 11 hours of lighting per day.

  • - Finally, the decoration of the aquarium: at the bottom, fine aquarium sand for the comfort of this walker. Sometimes she buries herself in the sand. A good layer is thus necessary: count approximately 30cm / 12" of sand. Beware of the small gravel that the turtle can ingest and cause intestinal occlusions. The presence of plants such as Vallisneria, Echinodorus, Anubia or Egeria will also be appreciated. To complete, install roots and large stones for the turtle to lean on. Finally, you can install hiding places because the Razorback musk turtle loves to hide (be careful with the stability of your decor to avoid the rockslide or the risks that the turtle gets stuck at the bottom and drowns).

Note that this species can live in an outdoor pond if all conditions are respected (low water level, dead leaf mats...). In warm regions, it can stay there all year round. In colder regions where winters are longer, it is better to bring it in during this period. Finally, install a net because some birds can make it their meal!

Good To know

Find all additional information!

Good To know

Find all additional information!

jeune Sternotherus carinatus

Robust and easy to feed, this species is perfect for beginners.

In the wild, we can't really say that this little aquatic turtle is the queen of survival: it doesn't hunt very well and it is not an outstanding swimmer either. On the other hand, it is the champion of resourcefulness! It eats whatever it thinks it can eat and that passes under its nose, and to move around, walking on the bottom is still the best!

Like all turtles, this species does not like to be manipulated. Take it only in case of absolute necessity to avoid unnecessary stress and be careful because it can bite you quite hard (grab it from behind so you don't get caught by its long neck!).

It owes its name to the roof shape of its shell, which is quite unique.

Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)

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