How to Breed Terrapins

Terrapins are freshwater turtles, of which there are only seven species. These aquatic pets are very popular in the UK and there are countless specialist reptile stores that sell hatchlings. However, there are many reputable breeders too. If you have terrapin experience, you may wish to breed your own. This guide will help you get to grips with how to breed terrapin turtles.

The Perfect Age to Breed Terrapins

In the wild terrapin turtles can mate soon after birth. For males, this tends to be around 18 months and, for females, usually around three. However, terrapins in captivity tend to mature more slowly, reaching sexual adulthood around the age of five and being able to breed up until the age of 11 safely.

More often than not, if you have a sexually mature male and female who have been reared correctly and are well looked after, you are more than likely to have baby terrapins on your hand if you let nature take its course.

The Best Environment to Breed Terrapins

Some choose to breed terrapins outside. However, due to the inability to effectively control the climate, it can be easier and safer to do so inside. Terrapins need an enclosure that comprises of both water and land. Terrapins tend to mate in the water and head to dry land to lay eggs. Optimal temperatures for breeding is different for every species.

Do Terrapins Lay Eggs?

Being an aquatic amphibian, yes, terrapin turtles do lay eggs. Bar a few exceptions, nearly all reptiles lay eggs which they have to tend to; this will ensure the eggs hatch after the gestation period. Eggs tend to hatch in around 60 days and female terrapins lay anywhere between four to 10 eggs.

Will I Need to Incubate Terrapin Eggs?

Artificially gestating your terrapin’s eggs is a popular choice for some, particularly those who want to guarantee hatchlings. Terrapins, once they have laid and buried their eggs safely, abandon the clutch. Although it may seem brutal, their parenting duties are complete at this stage.

As a terrapin owner, it is now up to you as to whether you let nature take its course or get involved. There is nothing wrong with incubating your terrapin’s eggs, in fact, it is the chosen method for many terrapin hobbyists.

How to Remove Terrapin Eggs

When your female has finished laying her eggs and is out the way, carefully uncover the nest. Soft and clean paintbrushes are the best tool to reveal the eggs without damaging the shell. If the nest is packed down tightly, don’t rush, just take your time.

Remove the eggs and, whilst doing so, gently mark the shell on one side. Unlike the eggs of other animals which need turning, terrapin eggs must remain stationary throughout the gestation period. If not, the growing embryo can die. Placing a small mark on one side of the egg will help you know if an egg has moved during incubation.

Incubator Setup

Different species of terrapin will require different incubator temperatures and humidity. You will need to research for your terrapins before you let breeding commence. However, a variety of different setups have been used to incubate terrapin eggs and, as you welcome more clutches, you will learn what best suits your terrapins.

Regardless of species, it is imperative that the incubator maintains the correct temperature throughout the process. Temperature can also determine the sex of the hatchlings. Incubation temperatures between 30 and 32°C tend to produce females and 24 to 28°C often results in males.

Will the Parents Try and Harm the Hatchlings?

Parents have been known to kill hatchlings so it is best to separate them. Hatchlings will do best in an environment that has ample land, as well as a shallow pool of water, around 1 to 2 inches in depth whilst they are small. Keep hatchling handling to a minimum whilst they are young.

How Can I Tell If a Terrapin Hatchling is Male or Female?

Whether you want to sell the hatchlings on to new homes or keep them, you will likely want to know what sex they are. However, terrapins are sexually dysmorphic, so a quick glance at their genitals isn’t going to give the game away easily. However, their claws, tail, and plastron can all be great indicators. If not, you will be able to easily tell at maturation.

Terrapin Claws

Female terrapins tend to have short claws whilst males have very long claws. The long claws are used during the mating process.

Terrapin Tail Length

The length of the tail is often how many choose to distinguish the sex of their younger terrapins. Females often have shorter tails, whilst males tend to be much fuller and longer.

Terrapin Underbelly

Known as the plastron, the underside of a terrapin is flat with females. Male terrapins often have a convex plastron to allow for easing mounting during mating.