The Cost Of Owning A Turtle

Turtles May 12, 2022
Written by | Updated Apr 22, 2024
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The Cost Of Owning A Turtle

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If you’re looking for a pet that is anything but ordinary, a turtle might be the right choice. It may not be the cuddliest of pets, but turtles can be very entertaining.

When it comes to keeping a turtle as a pet, the setup matters greatly. Your turtle will spend the majority of its life in its tank, so you need to make sure it provides enough space and that it’s equipped properly to provide for your turtle’s needs.

Setting up your turtle tank is a considerable upfront expense, so think about it before you decide on this pet. You should also think about other upfront costs as well as the recurring monthly costs to feed and house your turtle.

Here’s what you need to know about how much it costs to keep a pet turtle.

Bringing Home A New Turtle – One-Time Costs

Although a pet turtle might not cost you much to purchase, you have to think about the other associated costs – the cost to house and feed your turtle.

Before you bring home a turtle, you need to make sure you have the proper habitat set up. A habitat for an aquatic turtle varies greatly from that of a terrestrial (land) turtle, so you need to know what type of turtle you want before you go shopping for supplies.

In addition to your turtle’s habitat, you’ll need enough food to get started and you should factor in the cost of that first veterinarian visit to get your turtle started on a healthy path.

Here’s what you need to know about one-time costs for pet turtles:

Buying A Turtle

Turtle Cost by Species

Species Average Cost (Low) Average Cost (High)
Painted Turtle (aquatic) $20 $40
Red-Eared Slider (aquatic) $10 $30
Box Turtle (terrestrial) $25 $50
Common Wood Turtle (aquatic) $20 $100
Common Snapping Turtle (aquatic) $20 $40

When it comes to pet turtles, there are several different types to consider. Prices vary greatly between land turtles and aquatic turtles, and among the different species.

Here are some of the most popular pet turtle species:

  • Painted turtle
  • Red-eared slider
  • Box turtle
  • Common wood turtle
  • Common snapping turtle

If you’re shopping for a pet turtle, the first thing you need to know is the 4-inch law. This law prohibits the sale of turtles with shells less than 4 inches long. The law was designed to reduce overbreeding and to prevent the spread of salmonella.

The first place to look for a turtle may be your local pet rescue or shelter. Turtles often end up here because people underestimate the commitment. Adoption fees vary but you can expect to pay about $50 to $75. In many cases, the turtle comes with the cage it was surrendered in.

You can also purchase pet turtles online and from breeders. They are less common in pet stores, but you may be able to find them at one that specializes in reptiles or exotic pets.

Common turtle species range in price from $10 to $100. The most common pet turtle, the red-eared slider, is usually the cheapest while less common species like wood turtles may cost a little more. Prices are similar between aquatic and terrestrial species.

Supplies And Setup

The biggest expense you have to consider when keeping a pet turtle is the tank. Because your turtle will spend most of its life in the tank, it needs to be as large as possible.

Turtle Supplies and Setup

Cost Type Average Cost (Low) Average Cost (High)
Cage $50 $300
Cage Supplies & Equipment $100 $400
Initial Food and Bedding $20 $40
Spay/Neuter Cost N/A N/A
Initial Vet Visit/Vaccinations $45 $75
Total = $215 to $815 (without spay/neuter surgery)

Different turtle species grow to different sizes, so consider the type of turtle you plan to keep before you shop for a tank. For the average aquatic turtle, a minimum tank size of 29 gallons is recommended. If you want to keep more than one turtle, a 55-gallon tank is the bare minimum.

For a terrestrial turtle like the box turtle, the tank may need to be even larger – a minimum of 40 gallons is recommended for a single turtle but 75 gallons is better.

In addition to the tank itself, you need to purchase certain supplies.

Every turtle tank needs a lid. Not only will it help keep your turtle in and other pets out, but it gives you a surface on which to mount tank lighting and other elements. An aquatic turtle tank requires equipment for heating and filtration while both aquatic and terrestrial turtles require lighting.

You also need to think about the decorations for your tank.

An aquatic turtle tank may or may not require any substrate, but it can enhance the appearance of your tank. Turtle tank substrate is recommended for land turtle habitats. You’ll also need bowls for food and water as well as accessories like hideaways for your turtle.

You should plan to spend at least $50 on the tank itself with an additional $100 to $400 on supplies and equipment. An aquatic tank setup will likely be more expensive than a terrestrial one.

The final startup cost to consider is the veterinary cost to make sure your new turtle is in good health. Expect to pay $45 to $75 on a vet visit with additional costs for lab tests or treatments. You should also know that you’ll need to do some research to find a vet that is experienced with turtles.

Cost of Turtle Ownership – Annual Expense Breakdown

When it comes to keeping pet turtles, most of your expenses will come at the beginning. You should purchase all of your tank equipment and get everything set up before you even bring your turtle home. Once you do, you’ll need to give your turtle some time to adjust.

After your turtle has settled in, you can begin your routine of feeding him. Dietary requirements vary from one species to another, so do your research to determine how much and how often to feed your pet turtle.

In addition to monthly costs for food, you should factor in annual costs for veterinary checkups, emergency treatment, and replacement costs for tank supplies and equipment.

Here’s what you need to know about annual costs for pet turtles:

Annual Medical Expenses

As long as you feed your turtle a healthy, appropriate diet and keep the tank clean, your turtle should enjoy good health for many years. It’s still a good idea, however, to familiarize yourself with the conditions to which your pet turtle might be prone.

Here are some of the common health problems known to affect turtles:

  • Vitamin A deficiency
  • Respiratory disease
  • Abscesses
  • Shell infections/fractures
  • Parasites

To monitor your turtle’s health, take him in for an annual vet exam. Again, the cost will probably be somewhere in the $45 to $75 range.

Estimated Medical Costs for Turtles

Cost Type Frequency Average Cost
Veterinary Checkup Annual $45 to $75
Dental Cleaning N/A N/A
Vaccinations N/A N/A
Flea, Tick, and Worm Treatments N/A N/A
Emergency Expenses Occasional $100 and up

Your turtle doesn’t require any annual vaccinations, dental exams, or other treatments. That being said, it’s a good idea to put some money away in case your turtle needs emergency services or treatment for some kind of disease. These costs can be quite high and unexpected.

Food And Supplies

Feeding a turtle generally isn’t a huge expense, so it’s well worth it to buy a high-quality commercial turtle food. Research your turtle’s dietary requirements and follow the feeding recommendations on the package to ensure his needs are met.

In addition to commercial food, you should offer your turtle fresh foods like vegetables, fruits, insects, and feeder fish. Again, recommendations vary from one species to another.

To prepare yourself for the cost of feeding your turtle, estimate about $20 to $40 per month for food.

Though food will be a recurring monthly cost, you should also prepare for occasional costs to replace things like toys, tank equipment, and other supplies. Set aside $10 per month in savings so you have the funds available if you need to replace something.

Also Read: What Do Turtles Eat?

Food and Supply Costs for Turtles

Cost Type Frequency Average Cost
Food and Treats Monthly $20 to $40
Bedding N/A N/A
Toys Occasional $5
Additional Supplies Occasional $5

Total Annual Cost Of Owning A Turtle

Though it may be inexpensive to purchase a turtle, these pets are more expensive to keep than many people realize. Turtles require a large enclosure with specific equipment to keep them healthy, not to mention a specialized diet.

Here’s a quick summary of the estimated annual cost for keeping a turtle:

  • Purchasing/Adopting = $10 to $100
  • Cage and Setup = $215 to $815
  • Annual Veterinary Costs = $45 to $75 (vet exam only)
  • Monthly Food and Supplies = $20 to $40

Before bringing any pet home, it’s important to make sure you can cover the cost to keep it. Turtles can live as long as 50 years, so they are not a short-term commitment. Make sure you have the time, the space, and the funds to care for your new turtle properly.


How much does a turtle cost?

Pet turtles are fairly inexpensive to purchase, generally ranging from $10 to $100 for the most common species. If you’re looking for a rarer variety, you may pay more.

How much does it cost to neuter/spay a turtle?

It’s extremely uncommon to spay and neuter turtles. Because the majority of their anatomy is located inside the shell, the procedure is highly invasive and can be very dangerous. You’re unlikely to find a veterinarian willing to perform the procedure.

How much does a turtle vet checkup cost?

Plan to spend between $45 and $75 for an annual checkup for your turtle. Exotics vets tend to charge higher prices and may be more difficult to find. If your turtle requires laboratory testing or treatment, those costs will be higher.

How much does it cost to microchip a turtle?

The cost to microchip a pet is usually a one-time fee of $35. This procedure is not recommended for turtles, however, because the microchip is typically embedded under the skin on furry pets.

How much does turtle food cost?

Most turtles follow a diet of animal protein (insects or fish), commercial food, and vegetables. Depending how large your turtle is and how often you feed it, you can spend $20 to $40 per month.

How much does a turtle cage cost?

The cost of a turtle cage varies depending on the size and setup. A terrestrial environment is fairly straightforward, requiring little mor than a UV light and/or heat lamp and basic accessories. An aquatic setup requires filtration, lighting, heating, and more. For a land turtle cage, estimate $150 to $250 for the initial setup. For an aquatic setup, an estimate of $350 to $600 is more reasonable.

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Kate Barrington is avid pet lover and adoring owner of three cats and one dog, her love for animals has led her to a successful career as a freelance writer specializing in pet care and nutrition. She has been writing about pet care and pet products since 2010
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