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Razorback Musk Turtle

Razorback Musk Turtle
Sternotherus carinatus

Razorback Musk Turtles are almost entirely aquatic found in dense plants and slow moving waters. They have a distinctive sharp keel down the center of their shell, giving them their common name.


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What does a Razor Back Musk Turtle look like?

The Razor Back Musk Turtle reaches an adult size of 12-15cm (5-6 inches); although a small species, this is the largest within the Musk family. Babies tend to have an overall colouration that is cream/tan with brown speckles on the body and shell. As they grow the shell darkens to brown with darker rings around the scutes, the body turns a grey colour with spotting on the head and legs. They have a large bulbous head with a sharp beak, long neck and short legs. As their name would suggest, they have a sharp keel running down the centre and along the full length of the shell.

Where are Razor Back Musk Turtles from?

They are found in Northern America in the states of Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi, Texas, Florida and Louisiana. They inhabit heavily vegetated shallow ponds, streams and swamps with slow moving water.

How do you keep Razor Back Musk Turtles?

The Razor Back Musk Turtle is nearly entirely aquatic, therefore a 24” aquarium (20 gallons) should be provided for one adult with additional space added per animal; a 36” aquarium (30 gallons) would be OK for a pair. Babies should be kept in a smaller aquarium then moved as they grow.

Although mainly aquatic, they will venture onto land to bask occasionally, therefore a small rock protruding from the water should be efficient. A basking temperature of 28-32C (82-90F) should be provided with an air temperature of 24-28C (75-82F). We use a basking bulb and the compact 5% UVB above all our turtle enclosures, you can also use the Exo Terra Turtle UVB Fixture. Water temperatures should be maintained around 23-26C (74-79F) with a submersible aquarium heater such as the Exo Terra Turtle Heater. The use of a filter is required to keep the water clean as they are quite messy feeders, use one with a low water flow or one that can be adjusted.

They spend most of their time walking along the bottom of the tank rather than swimming. This is one reason why they prefer shallow water; babies only require 10-15cm (4-6 inches). The use of sand and/or smooth pebbles will help the turtles move around easier. Razor Back Musk Turtles are the shyest compared to others within their family. You must provide a well planted aquarium; this can be with artificial plants or live, the latter requires UVB lighting. Place rocks, ceramic plant pots, bog wood and anything else that can provide shelter within the aquarium.

Water changes should be carried out frequently as you would with fish keeping. A 25% water change every two weeks will be efficient; treat new water with a de-chlorinate treatment. Importantly, after handling or when maintaining the aquarium water/decor, you must always wash your hand thoroughly to prevent any disease being spread such as salmonella.

Razor Back Musk Turtles are omnivorous in the wild, they will eat both plants and insects; in captivity they tend to be more carnivorous. Feeding is easy; they will happily take the following:

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