Of more than 250 turtle species in the world, only a few remain smaller than a foot long in adulthood. Smaller turtles are often thought to make better pets because of their size and corresponding environmental requirements -- but even small turtles sometimes have special needs that keep them from being the best choices for pets. The padlopers, for example, are not great captives because of their special food requirements.
The Five Padloper Species
Padlopers come from Africa and are very small. The adult speckled padloper turtles reach only 3.75 centimeters each. The karoo padloper is only slightly larger, at 4.3 centimeters, with a somewhat domed shell. The Namaqualand speckled padloper gets his name from the white markings on his shell and grows to around 2.5 to 3 inches. The Nama padloper is 3 inches long, while the common padloper reaches only 2.5 to 3 inches.
Mud and Musk Turtles
Mud turtles grow 3 to 4 inches long and make great pets. These animals live to be 50 years old in captivity. Mud and musk turtles both grow to around 5 inches. Musk turtles are called stink pots as they have scent glands that release a foul scent as a self-defense mechanism. Both the mud and musk turtles have these scent glands -- but the mud turtle kept in captivity won't use the glands.
Spotted Turtles and Reeves Turtles
Spotted turtles grow to around 3.5 to 5 inches in length, and are black all over with yellow spots on their heads, necks, legs and shells. Reeves turtles can be found in mainland China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan. These creatures grow to around 5 inches long and have rectangular rather than round carapaces.
Common Pet Turtles
The red-eared slider grows to 7 to 9 inches while the eastern box turtle reaches a length of 4.5 to 7 inches. The western painted turtle grows to be anywhere from 4 to 10 inches in length. The map turtle female is 7 to 10.5 inches, while the map turtle male is smaller, at 3.5 to 6.5 inches. The wood turtle reaches a length of 6.5 to 9.4 inches.
- Turtles of the World: Homopus Boulengeri (Karoo Padloper)
- Chelonia.org: Namaqualand Speckled Padloper (Homopus S. Signatus)
- PetTurtle.com: Mud Turtles
- IUCN Red List: Homopus Solus
- Department of Environmental Conservation: Spotted Turtle Fact Sheet – Spotted Turtle – Clemmys Guttata
- Univeristy of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: The Reeve's Turtle, Chinemys Reevesii: An Alternative to Sliders and Painted Turtles
- Department of Natural Resources – Michigan.gov: Wood Turtle (Glypemys Insculpta)
- Animal Diversity Web – University of Michigan – Museum of Zoology: Graptemys Geographica
- Native Turtles of Oregon: Western Painted Turtles
- Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images