African Sideneck Turtle (African Mud Turtle) Care Guide

The African Sideneck Turtle is also known as the African mud turtle and is one of the most popular types of turtles owned across the world. The African mud turtle is often confused with a terrestrial turtle, but this little creature is actually an aquatic turtle that requires an aquatic habitat.

The African Sideneck Turtle gained its name for its unusually large necks that they are unable to tuck inside their shells, and so they have to tuck them to the side instead. The African mud turtle is also easily recognizable for its dark brown shell, olive-brown skin with black markings, and unusually large size.

These turtles are a firm favorite among turtle keepers for their big, round eyes and mouth that makes them look like they are constantly smiling!

If you want to learn more about the African Sideneck Turtle, or are considering getting one for your own keeping, then you will need to know all about this reptile!

african sideneck turtle

The African Sideneck Turtle Facts

Despite being a popular pet across the world, the Sideneck turtle is native to West Africa, it is actually scientifically termed pelusios castaneus, and is part of the Pelomedusidae family native to Africa.

The African Sideneck or mud turtle is commonly confused with the African helmeted turtle as they are both similar in look and size, however, they are actually two very different species of turtle.

The African Sideneck turtle is a moderately sized, and rather large aquatic turtle that can grow the carapace of its shell up to 11 inches in length! The shell is most often dark brown in color much like the rest of its body, however, the underside of the shell, the plastron is typically grayish or black in color.

What most people find the most endearing about this type of turtle is its cute little eyes, with a big smile constantly spread across its face!

African Sideneck Turtle Care

If you are interested in keeping an African Sideneck turtle, then there are a few things that you should know about these animals. This includes having the correct diet available for them, and what habitat is most suited to them.

Try watching this video to learn more about these unique, cute, and interesting reptiles before taking the plunge and getting your own!

African Sideneck Turtle Habitat

When in their wild habitat in Western Africa, the mud turtle will be found in aquatic environments such as ponds, streams, lakes, swamps, and even lagoons. In addition, the African turtle has been known to live in savannahs and forests in the wild.

If you want to keep an African sideneck turtle as a pet, then you will need to house it within an aquarium. This could be a glass aquatic aquarium, however, your turtle will need a fair bit of space, as even for a single mud turtle, you would need about 40 gallons of water capacity.

In addition, the turtle will need a higher water level that is deep enough for it to swim easily. The tank will also have to be at the very least 1 ½ the length of the sideneck turtle, but the bigger the space the better! Also, if you wish to keep a group of adult African sideneck turtles, then the tank will have to have a water capacity of about 150 gallons, with enough space for them all to live comfortably.

With any aquarium, you will need to ensure that there is a good filtration system and water pump for proper hygiene and maintenance of the tank. We recommend having a pump with a flow rate of at least 350 gallons an hour for the best results.

Your African sideneck turtles will also need a few decorations in their tank for it to feel just like home. This includes having large flat rocks that they can bask on, along with some vegetation for the turtles. However, try to ensure that they cannot utilize the decorations to escape from the tank.

African sideneck turtles will also require a UVB light over their basking area to help them absorb vitamin D3 and vital nutrients for their survival.

To best look after African sideneck turtles, you will also need to keep the water in the tank at about 70-75 degrees, with the basking area around 95 degrees for them to live comfortably and happily. You should also aim to keep the air temperature steady at around 80 degrees!

Remember to always remove sludge and grime from the aquarium and keep it in tip-top condition for your turtles:

API Turtle Sludge Destroyer, 8-Ounce

African Sideneck Turtle Dietary Needs

An African Sideneck turtle will prefer to eat in an aquatic environment, and will most likely not eat outside of the water. This means that unfortunately, they will have a much messier tank and will need regular cleaning, or you can feed them in a separate area.

When found in the wild, an African Sideneck or mud turtle will be omnivorous and will eat a wide variety of foods in their diet. This includes vegetation, fruits, seeds, insects, worms, shrimps, frogs, and fish.

Because of their extensive range in their diets, feeding an African Sideneck Turtle is not a difficult task. These turtles will literally eat anything and are not picky eaters. That being said, it is best to feed them a wide variety of foods, giving them a little diversity in their diet.

Younger and juvenile sideneck turtles will eat much more protein and will seem a little more carnivores than older turtles, but this is because they need the protein and meat to grow. As they reach adulthood and become fully grown, they will need much less protein and will become more an omnivore.

In terms of protein, you can feed an African sideneck turtle small insects and amphibians as part of a healthy, balanced diet. This can include pieces of cooked chicken, aquatic insects, snails, shrimp, and other small fish or crustaceans.

These types of turtles will also require some vegetation, and will enjoy romaine lettuce, red-leaf lettuce, spinach, collard greens, and dandelions! However, turtle food is also suitable for your African sideneck turtle. This could be commercially available turtle food such as:

Zoo Med Natural Aquatic Turtle Food

Tetra ReptoMin Floating Food Sticks 2.64 Pounds

African Sideneck turtles will eat as much food as they are presented with, and will need feeding once every two or three days. However, young juvenile turtles will require feeding daily until they grow to adulthood.

African Sideneck Turtle Health Problems

When cared for properly, African Sideneck turtles are not prone to any illnesses or health problems. Some issues concerning dehydration may arise that are down to poor shipping environments upon arrival, however, these can be quickly resolved.

You should also deworm your turtle upon arrival as they may carry some parasites which can make them unwell:

Nature Zone SNZ59321 Reptile Worm Guard Powder

You can also solve small abrasions or bacterial infections with Turtle fix:

API TURTLE FIX Antibacterial Turtle Remedy

The most common health problem with a turtle is a damaged or broken shell, which can be healed with a Betadine scrub or cream, or dealt with by a medical professional.

African Sideneck Turtle Endangerment

Although in their native African habitat, these mud turtles will have a few natural predators and are often taken by humans for food, and medicinal purposes, and as part of the pet trade, these turtles are not endangered.

Many of such issues do not have a drastic effect on wild populations, and the African Sideneck Turtle is not currently listed as endangered, being of very little concern on the IUCN red list. This means that our favorite smiley little turtles are not in danger of dying out or going extinct.


In conclusion, the African Sideneck Turtle is a popular and fun little pet to keep. They are cute, easy to care for, and curious about their surroundings. Their unique and distinctive smiling faces make them a fun creature to keep, and can be found in most pet stores.

In addition, the African mud turtle is not typically aggressive towards humans but can be aggressive towards other turtles, especially during feeding times or mating seasons. With the proper omnivorous diet, and suitable aquatic environment, these turtles are a great pet to keep, and perfect for first-time turtle carers!

Dorothy Razo

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