Mississippi Map Turtle: Species Overview & Care Guide

These vibrantly patterned Mississippi Map Turtles have markings on their shells and skin reminiscent of the branching rivers of their hometown.

In this guide, you’ll learn:

  • What are Mississippi Map Turtles?
  • How do you properly care for them?

Mississippi Map Turtle Species Overview

The Mississippi Map Turtle (Graptemys pseudogeographica) is a species of aquatic turtle native to states in the mid-southeastern United States. It is part of the Graptemys genus, which includes several other map turtles. The Mississippi Map Turtle has a distinctive pattern on its carapace that resembles a topographic map, hence its name.

Common Name: Mississippi map turtle
Scientific Name: Graptemys pseudogeographica kohni
Adult Size: Females grow to 6-10 inches, while Males grow 3 1/2 to 5 inches
Life Expectancy: 30 years
Habitat: Rivers, streams, and lakes in the mid-Southern United States

Appearance & Colors

Mississippi Map Turtles can be identified by their unique shell patterning and coloration. Their shells are olive-brown with yellow or tan markings that resemble contour lines on a topographical map. They also have bright yellow stripes running along either side of their heads, necks, and yellow spots across their bodies and limbs. Males tend to be smaller than females, reaching lengths of up to 6 inches compared to 8 inches for females.

Pro-tip ⚡ 

Mississippi Map turtles have a yellow blotch underneath their eyes and a line running across the top of their head. This is a great way to identify them against other map turtles.

Average Size

Hatchlings measure around 1 inch long, while adults can reach up to 10 inches from snout to tail tip. Females tend to be smaller than males, but both sexes grow at roughly the same rate until they reach adulthood at around 5 years old. Adult males typically weigh more than adult females due to their larger size; however, there is no significant difference between male and female weights when comparing individuals within each gender group.


Under optimal conditions such as proper diet and environment, Mississippi Map Turtles can live up to 25 years or more in captivity. However, wild specimens typically only live between 10-15 years due to predation and environmental factors like water pollution.
The Mississippi Map Turtle is a fascinating species that can live up to 25 years in captivity when given the proper care and habitat.

How To Care For Mississippi Map Turtles

Housing The Mississippi Map Turtle

A Mississippi Map Turtle’s tank should be large enough to provide adequate space for swimming, basking, hiding spots, and other decorations. A 20-gallon aquarium is the minimum recommended size; however, larger tanks may be necessary depending on the number of turtles. The turtle’s tank should also have a secure lid with air holes or a mesh screen to prevent escape attempts. The cover must remain closed as these turtles can easily climb out of an open-top aquarium.

Pro-Tip ⚡

A good rule of thumb for enclosure size is to multiply your turtle’s shell length by 10 to figure out what size tank you need. For example, a female Mississippi Map turtle can reach 10 inches fully grown so it will need at least a 100-gallon tank.

Heat & Lighting Needs

The ideal temperature range for Mississippi Map Turtles is between 75°F – 80°F (24°C – 27°C). To maintain this temperature range in your turtle’s enclosure, you will need an appropriate heat source, such as a submersible heater or ceramic heat emitter, and UVB lighting from natural sunlight or artificial. Your turtle must receive 12 hours of light per day to ensure proper health and activity levels during daylight hours, followed by 12 hours of darkness each night.

📚 Read More >> Best Turtle Tank Heaters

Food and Water

Mississippi Map Turtles are omnivorous, meaning they eat plant and animal matter. Therefore, a balanced diet that meets their nutritional needs is critical to a long, healthy life.

The Mississippi Map Turtle’s diet should include high-quality commercial turtle food and live foods such as earthworms, crickets, mealworms, and other insects. They also enjoy dark leafy greens like kale or spinach.

Fruits such as apples can be offered occasionally but should not make up most of their diet due to their sugar content. Calcium supplements are essential for proper shell growth and overall health; this can be provided through cuttlebone or calcium powder sprinkled on their food every few days.

How Often Should You Feed Your Mississippi Map Turtle?

Adult Mississippi Map Turtles should be fed once daily, while juveniles may need two daily feedings depending on their size and activity level.

It is essential to monitor how much they eat at each feeding to adjust accordingly if needed; an overweight turtle will have difficulty swimming properly and could develop health issues over time from being too heavy for its shell size.

Uneaten food should be removed from the tank after 30 minutes, as decaying organic matter accumulating in the tank over time can cause water quality issues.


Uneaten food must be removed daily to prevent poor water quality, dirty tank filters, and can lead to health problems like shell rot.

Common Health Problems

Mississippi Map Turtles are prone to respiratory infections due to poor water quality or temperature fluctuations in their tank. Other common illnesses include:

  • Shell rot is caused by bacteria and fungi growing on the turtle’s shell.
  • Eye infections from dirty water.
  • Ear abscesses from improper diet.
  • Metabolic bone disease from lack of calcium or vitamin D3 in their diet.

Signs Of Health Problems

If your Mississippi Map Turtle appears sluggish or unresponsive, has difficulty breathing, refuses food for more than a few days, or develops an abnormal lump on its body or discoloration on its shell, these could be signs that it is ill and needs veterinary attention immediately.

It is also essential to watch out for changes in behavior, such as swimming erratically, swimming lopsided, or spending long periods floating at the tank’s surface – both may indicate something is wrong with your pet’s health.


Do Mississippi Map Turtles like to be held?

Mississippi Map Turtles generally do not like to be held. They are a semi-aquatic species and prefer to remain in the water, so they can become stressed when taken out of their natural environment. They may try to escape or bite as a defensive mechanism when handled.

How often do you feed Mississippi Map Turtles?

Mississippi Map Turtles should be fed every other day. Overfeeding can lead to obesity in turtles, so monitoring the amount of food given each feeding session is essential. On the other hand, too much food can cause health problems for your turtle, so always err on the side of caution when providing meals for your pet!

Do Mississippi Map Turtles need a water heater?

Yes, Mississippi Map Turtles need a water heater. This is because they are native to the southern United States and require warmer temperatures than other turtles. A water heater will help maintain the correct temperature for your turtle’s health and well-being. It should be set between 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit (24-27 Celsius)

Lara Sotto

Lara Sotto

Lara Sotto is a marine biologist, freelance animal writer, and reptile lover. She is passionate about empowering reptile owners with the information they need to give the best care possible for their reptiles. She is currently taking up her Ph.D. in Marine Science and providing her knowledge to the ReptileKnowHow community.

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Lara Sotto

Lara Sotto

Lara Sotto is a marine biologist, freelance animal writer, and reptile lover. She is passionate about empowering reptile owners with the information they need to give the best care possible for their reptiles. She is currently taking up her Ph.D. in Marine Science and providing her knowledge to the ReptileKnowHow community.

About ReptileKnowHow

We’re a team of reptile owners and experts who are on a mission to share practical, science-based tips and recommendations to other reptile owners.

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