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Geoffroys Side-Necked Turtle

Phrynops geoffroanus

  • Family: Chelidae
  • Range: Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay, Argentina, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador and Brazil
  • Habitat: Lakes, lagoons and rivers
  • Captive Lifespan: More than 20 Years
  • Dangerous: No
  • Care Level: Advanced

Overview

Geoffroy’s side-necked turtle, also known as Geoffroy’s toadhead turtle, is a highly aquatic turtle that enjoys actively swimming and being submerged. A large tank, around 200 gallons or more, would be perfect for a pair. For basking, provide large stones, floating basking sites or a land area. A land area is required if you are interested in breeding your turtles, and the depth of the dirt used is important for nest digging and egg laying.  
If you’re not interested in breeding turtles, a floating basking platform works well for a more basic set up. These are available from pet stores that sell reptile supplies or online. 

About 75 degrees Fahrenheit is great for the water temperature. This is about room temperature, but be sure to utilize a water heater with a thermostat if needed to maintain. Place a heat lamp or heat emitter above the floating platform to create a basking site of about 90 degrees. Add a fluorescent UVB lamp above the length of the enclosure, and you are good to go.  

Turtles like to explore and check things out, so items such as pieces of mopani wood; large, floating plastic plants and other items will keep your turtles from getting bored and help add to the appeal of the enclosure. River gravel can be placed on the bottom, too. It will make the tank look pretty, but needs to be cleaned regularly, too, which is why I don’t use it in my turtle tanks. 

I strongly recommend a high-quality filtration system, either a fully submersible type or an outside canister filter. Keep the filter cartridges clean and change the water in the tank as needed.  The most common cause of a dirty turtle tank is leftover food. Don’t overfeed — offer only as much as your turtles will eat at one sitting — and remove uneaten food when your turtles are done dining.

Diet:  Geoffroy’s side-necked turtles do well on a variety of commercial pelleted turtle food, as well as chopped fish, insects and worms. They will also eat vegetation, and some leafy greens every so often will do them good. Again, be sure to remove uneaten food.  

What’s Available:  Geoffroy’s side-necked turtles used to be imported in larger numbers, and several countries still import them into the U.S. Captive breeding is on the increase, though, and with a little searching, captive-bred babies can be found, and these are recommended over imported adults. Captive-bred babies can be found at select reptile specialty stores, sometimes at reptile shows and, with some searching, occasionally online.  

Extra:  Baby Geoffroy’s side-necked turtles start out with an almost orange carapace, but this amazing coloration fades with age.  

Geoffroy’s sideneck turtle is a very outgoing species with a fantastic personality.  With the proper care, it does well in captivity, and if you can supply the space, you’ll have yourself a very rewarding pet.


Ken Foose produced his first captive-bred snakes at age 11. With a Master’s Degree in zoology, he has been both a zookeeper and curator. He opened Exotic Pets, which specializes in reptiles and amphibians, in Las Vegas in 1991. He is currently president of the International Herpetological Symposium.

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