Razorback Musk Turtle

Lisa Selvaggio
by Lisa Selvaggio
fast facts

About Razorback Musk Turtle

20 years
Commercial pelleted diet for turtles, insects, non-toxic aquatic plants, worms, fish
Difficulty Of Care
Low Maintenance
Comparable Breeds
Common Musk Turtle, Loggerhead Musk Turtle
Razorback Musk Turtle General Info

The Razorback Musk Turtle is the biggest type of Musk Turtle. It is a species that is nearly entirely aquatic, but these turtles will come out of the water to bask occasionally. Also, because they even walk along the bottom of their tank, they are a delight to watch.

The Razorback Musk Turtle is the biggest type of Musk Turtle.

Native Habitat
The Razorback Musk Turtle is found in areas throughout the United States. The states where these turtles are found include Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Mississippi, Florida, and Louisiana.

These turtles prefer swamps and slow-moving rivers. They can also be found in streams and in shallow ponds that have a lot of vegetation.

Overall Description

Razorback Musk Turtles feature a bulbous, large head and a long neck. They also have a noticeably sharp beak, along with short legs. And these turtles feature a sharp keel that runs down the center of their shell and for the whole length of their shell. It is this keel that gives this turtle breed its name.


Baby Razorback Musk Turtles will showcase a tan or cream color with brown spots on the shell and body. As these turtles grow, their shell starts to darken into a brown color, and there will be darker rings around your pet’s scutes as well. The body will turn into a gray color, and there will be spots on the legs and head.

Baby Razorback Musk Turtles will showcase a tan or cream color with brown spots on the shell and body.

Because the Razorback Musk Turtle spends a lot of time in the water, you will need to provide your pet with an enclosure that has enough water for your turtle to completely submerge, swim, and walk around on the bottom of the tank. However, baby turtles can do well in water that is quite shallow at just 4-6” deep.

At a minimum, a 30-gallon aquarium tank will give your pet the room that he needs. However, if you are planning on housing more than one turtle in the same tank, you will need to increase the size of the tank to accommodate each additional turtle. As active animals, Razorback Musk Turtles will appreciate and use all of the space that you can give them.

Also, even though these turtles do not bask frequently, you will need to set up a basking area, complete with UV light and heat lamp, in your pet’s tank. You can create a basking spot by using a rock that projects from the water, or you can even use floating aquatic plants. Set the temperature in the basking area anywhere from the mid 80s to low 90s Fahrenheit, whereas the rest of the air temperature in the tank should be 75-83°F.

Your Razorback Musk Turtle will also benefit from a substrate consisting of smooth river pebbles or sand, as he will spend time walking on the bottom of his tank, in addition to swimming. And because these turtles can be messy eaters, you will need to have a strong and high quality water filtration system in place. Set the water temperature to the mid to high 70s Fahrenheit.

Adding non-toxic aquatic plants and rocks will give these shy turtles places to hide and will also provide them with a sense of security. This is especially helpful if your turtle is young. In addition to ensuring you provide your pet with a well-planted aquarium, you can also set up ceramic plant pots, rocks, bogwood, and other hiding places underwater.

The Razorback Musk Turtle is shy, and might even be the shyest of all of the Musk Turtles.

Care Requirements

You can feed your Razorback Musk Turtle a high quality commercial pelleted diet for turtles. Supplement the commercial diet with feeder fish, crickets, roaches, mealworms, bloodworms, and earthworms. You can also follow their wild diet and provide your turtle with snails, mussels and aquatic insects, as well as non-toxic aquatic plants like duckweed.


The Razorback Musk Turtle is shy, and might even be the shyest of all of the Musk Turtles. Also, even though these turtles are not the type to bite you, you should only handle them when it is necessary to do so.

When they are provided with enough space, Razorback Musk Turtles will do well in a community tank. You can house these turtles with Sliders, Cooters, and Painted Turtles. These species will often live together peacefully, particularly if they are all around the same size. If you are planning on housing more than one Musk Turtle in the same tank, be careful that they do not show aggression towards one another.

Photo credit: Gelmo94/Wikimedia; Laurent Lebois/Wikimedia
Lisa Selvaggio
Lisa Selvaggio

Lisa Selvaggio is a freelance writer and editor, and our resident cats-pert, with certifications in pet nutrition and pet first aid. She enjoys producing content that helps people understand animals better so they can give their pets a safe and happy home.

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