African Side Neck Turtle

Squirt was surrendered by an owner who needed to move. These aquatic turtles need large fish tanks with mostly water and some land so they can be difficult to rehome. Since he is not a native turtle, he will need to stay indoors where his temperatures can be controlled.
Common Name: African Side Neck Turtle or African Mud Turtle
Scientific Name: Pelomedusa subrufa
Type: Aquatic turtle
Diet: Omnivore
Average Life Span: 50+ years
Size: 6 to 9 inches
IUCN Red List Status: Unknown
Current Population Trend: Unknown

About the African Side Neck Turtle

If you haven't already guessed, these turtles are named so because they are unable to tuck their heads entirely inside their shells so they tuck them to the side instead. An African side-neck turtle's anatomy differs from that of a typical aquatic turtle such as a red-eared slider. Side-necks have unique cervical spines, extra scutes on their shells, and unusual skull characteristics. 


African side-necks have longer necks than most other species of turtles. This gives them a distinct advantage over their fellow turtles: If they find themselves turned over on their shells, these turtles can right themselves using their neck muscles. You can socialize pet aquatic turtles with frequent interaction, and African side-necks are no exception. They are inquisitive, cute turtles that are interesting to watch.

Be advised (especially if you have small children) that aquatic turtles are believed to carry salmonella bacteria. It's important to wash your hands after handling African side-neck turtles, and it's probably better to keep them away from small children, who may be tempted to put the turtles in their mouths.


African side-necks are aquatic turtles, therefore, they need a large fish tank that will hold water. Your turtle should be able to swim and dive in their tank so the larger the tank is the better. Ideally, you should have about a 75-gallon aquarium (or larger) that is half to three-quarters full of water. A floating dock or large rocks that provide dry land and an area for your turtle to climb out of the water to dry off are also needed. A quality water filter is needed since aquatic turtles defecate in the water. A recommended pH of 6.5 should be maintained. Like all other turtles, African side-necks are reptiles, not fish or amphibians. Therefore, they require supplemental heat to maintain their body temperatures along with UVB rays to properly metabolize calcium and Vitamin D3.


Like most aquatic turtles, African side-necks are omnivores. They eat some plant material but they also eat insects, fish, crustaceans, and aquatic turtle pellets while swimming. Turtle pellets should include the calcium and other vitamins and minerals that your turtle needs. 

Health Issues

Aquatic turtles are often afflicted with parasites such as roundworms. These are tricky to treat, because the turtle may not show obvious symptoms. An exam by a reptile veterinarian is usually when parasitic infections are discovered.

African side-neck turtles also are prone to vitamin A deficiency, which may have symptoms such as swelling and pus around the eyes.

Like most reptiles, African side-neck turtles are predisposed to respiratory infections. You may notice your turtle wheezing if it has a respiratory infection, or notice excess mucus around its nasal passages and mouth.

And shell rot, perhaps the most common illness to affect aquatic turtles, is also a concern for African side-necks. This disease usually begins as a fungal or bacterial infection, and as it progresses, it can cause painful ulcers on the turtle's shell.

Source: The Spruce Pets