by The Pets Pampering Team
african sideneck turtle

African Sideneck Turtles…or simply just Sidenecks are an amazing new addition to any turtle lovers collection. Not because they have a great size (which they do) or amazing aggression (which they do), but because of the looks. Their faces seem to look like they smile all the time and they have a very ornate pattern to them. 

There are different African sideneck turtles that you can get including the brown, yellow, and even albino African sideneck turtles. All of them have their own interesting attributes that make them well worth having in your hobby tank.


Pelusios castaneus, commonly known as the African sideneck turtle, is a species of aquatic reptile notable for its large size and unique characteristics. It is generally considered to be on the larger end of the size spectrum, but it’s manageable for novice pet turtle owners.

African sideneck turtles are on the bigger side in terms of turtle size and require special care. But their curiosity, playful attitude, and striking physical appearance make these water-dwelling pets a joy to own.


African sideneck turtles can grow to be a little over a foot long. The largest specimens measure about 12 inches. However, the average is closer to 9 or 10 inches in length.

Despite their size, these turtles can live in a variety of habitats. While they prefer to live in shallow water, they can tolerate deeper environments as well.

African sideneck turtles are small to medium-sized. The carapace (top shell) grows to a maximum length of 12 inches, but most specimens measure around 8 inches long. The plastron (bottom shell) is about half the size of the carapace.

The turtle’s head and neck are so long that they can fold them beneath their shell. They hide like this when threatened or startled.

African sideneck turtles have long, slender necks that look like the letter “S” in some cases. That is where the species gets its name from — “side” refers to the side of the shell where the neck folds into it, and “neck” refers to the reptile’s body part.

Beyond their defining physical feature, African sideneck turtles are distinguishable in several other ways. The shell is flat, unlike the dome-shape of land-dwelling turtles. They have a dark brown or green carapace and have dark skin. You may see some accents of black on their bodies.

African sidenecks have a nice face, with upturned mouths and big eyes. This species is found in rivers and streams of sub-Saharan Africa. Their wide, webbed feet with long claws that they use to hunt fish!

African Sideneck Turtle Lifespan

African sideneck turtles usually live to be in their late 20s or early 30s. It is rare for an African sideneck turtle to live for more than 40 years. African sideneck turtles are a big commitment. They can stay with you for a few decades, so you should provide them with the best possible care.

Average Size

A typical adult African sideneck turtle can range in size from eight to 12 inches long when fully grown. But because the turtles are very similar in appearance, you can tell males and females apart by their size — females are larger than males.

Tank Size

The tank should be 75 gallons or larger (the larger the better). It’s important that the tank have a water depth of at least 24 inches. The water should be dechlorinated and kept at a temperature of 80-85 degrees Fahrenheit.

African sideneck turtles are aquatic and need plenty of water to swim and play in. A 20-gallon aquarium is fine for one baby or juvenile turtle, but plan on a 30-gallon or larger aquarium for an adult. The tank should be filled with at least 1 foot of water, preferably 2 feet.

Underwater heating devices are great for keeping the water at the right temperature, especially if you live in an area where temperatures often drop during certain times of year. A large rock or piece of driftwood can also help keep underwater temperatures stable. Use a basking lamp (with a full spectrum bulb) on top of this piece of furniture to create a hot basking spot in.

Habitat Setup

African sideneck turtles, also known as African mud turtles and African side-necked turtles, are small freshwater turtles that hail from southern Africa. 

African sideneck turtles are a popular choice for novice turtle owners because they’re easy to care for and don’t require large enclosures. While you can keep sidenecks in small environments, they do better in larger quarters. They’re also very social and can be kept in groups (although males may become territorial).

african sideneck turtle
african sideneck turtle

Temperature & Lighting

The temperature of your turtle’s habitat should never get below 70 degrees, but the ambient air should be at least 10 degrees warmer than the water. A good incandescent light bulb will keep the air warm enough for your turtle to use its heat pads.

Your turtle will need basking spots, so you’ll need some good lighting as well as a UVB bulb that provides the ultraviolet rays your turtle needs to synthesize vitamin D3 to regulate calcium levels in its body. 


Some reptiles require a specific level of humidity in their enclosure. This is never the case with the African sideneck turtle, which is a nice bonus, since maintaining the right level of humidity can be a hassle.

The African sideneck turtle lives in tropical areas and spends most of its life submerged in water, so they don’t need to worry about dry air. The water portion of their enclosure keeps the air muggy enough for them without any extra effort on your part.

Food & Diet

African sideneck turtles are omnivorous. They’ll eat meat and veggies, but their diet should be predominantly vegetarian.

Here are common foods that most African sideneck turtles will eat: 

  • Snails
  • Clams
  • Fish pieces
  • Earthworms
  • Crickets
  • Crustaceans
  • Dubia roaches 
  • Mealworms 
  • Krill and shrimp
  • Bloodworms
  • Mussels
  • Mustard greens
  • Dandelion greens
  • Collard greens 
  • Romaine lettuce 
  • Red-leaf lettuce 
  • Carrots


These turtles spend most of their time in the water, so your tank will need a large swimming area, as well as a dry area for basking. The water should be about 3 inches deep, with an air-conditioning unit or filter installed to keep it clean and be around 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

African side-neck turtles are messy eaters and produce lots of waste. You’ll need to change their water frequently — daily is best — and clean their habitat regularly with a 10 percent bleach solution.

Potential Health Issues

African sideneck turtles are a common pet. They’re also very common as food, and there are several different species that are commonly eaten in Africa.

Unfortunately, there are some health problems associated with eating African sideneck turtles. These range from environmental issues to problems that can be associated with captive animals, such as metabolic bone disease.

Metabolic bone disease is the result of a dietary calcium deficiency, and is characterized by loose, flaking shells and rapid shell growth. It can cause severe deformities and even deformations in the skull.

Veterinarians do not treat these problems. Instead, they require supportive measures such as diet changes, a chelating agent that removes toxins from the turtle’s body, and medication administered by a veterinarian

african sideneck turtle
african sideneck turtle

Behavior & Temperament

African sideneck turtles are fun, easy-going reptiles that make great pets.

These turtles have a few specific needs, but if you keep them in the correct environment and feed them a balanced diet, they can live for more than 50 years.

These creatures can be incredibly entertaining to watch. They’re highly social, so they don’t mind being handled. As they become more comfortable in their habitat, they will be more active and explorative.

The African sideneck turtle is a great choice for the beginner pet owner. Their easy-going nature makes them suitable for first-time reptile owners, and their small size makes them manageable.

If you want an interactive pet that will swim around and acknowledge your presence, this turtle is right for you. When you’re looking for an interactive pet that will swim around when you come near it, this turtle is a great choice.

Closing Thoughts

Keeping this turtle as a pet can be easy and fun, just remember to keep their tank clean and offer them a varied diet. African sideneck turtle care is a long-term commitment. You must be ready to keep these reptiles for more than two decades.

They are not the best choice for children or first-time turtle owners because of their unusual looks, needs and behaviors. And the African sideneck turtle can be a demanding pet. However, it also has plenty of great features that make it worth keeping if you are prepared for the task at hand.


How should I handle an African sideneck turtle?

With a look and don’t touch look, these pets accept handling during feeding time or tank maintenance. 

Are African sideneck turtles safe to pet?

Generally, they are gentle pets. However, they carry salmonella bacteria that can cause health issues to the owners.

Is the African sideneck turtle a high maintenance pet?

Caring for an African sideneck turtle requires you to understand several things such as a balanced diet, standard living conditions.

Related Posts

Leave a Comment