In the wild they are frequently found where great densities of algae occur. They occupy ponds, swamps and marshes. Most active in the morning, they can often be seen basking in the sun.
The shell of the adult yellow belly turtle averages between 8 and 10 inches (20.3 and 25.4cm) long. Females are slightly bigger and can sometimes reach 11 inches (27.9cm). Usually a mixture of brown and black at the top, the plastron underneath is distinctively yellow with some green spots. Its skin is predominantly olive-green, but features odd patches of yellow on the legs and neck.
The yellow belly turtle can be kept indoors, but bear in mind that it will need a tank capacity of at least 60 gallons when adult. If you are planning to own more than one, add 20 gallons per turtle to the equation. Young hatchlings can be kept in a tank of 15 gallons.
A basking area with a temperature of at least 80 Fahrenheit (26.6 degrees Celsius) should be provided. Since they sleep at night, the basking light could be turned off when it is dark.
Males eat more meat than females and, as with several other species of turtles, hatchlings also eat more meat, in the form of insects, tadpoles, spiders and worms, than adult turtles do. This species eats carrion when it is available.
In nature, young turtles may spend an entire winter still confined to their nests after they hatched. The vivid colorings of the hatchlings fade as they mature. They eat pond plants such as elodea and cabomba, but can also be fed Romaine lettuce, escarole and collard greens. They eat in the water. While aquatic plants can be left, uneaten non-aquatic plant matter should be removed after a while.
One reason why they make great pets is their friendly demeanour. Even a shier turtle, is quickly won over once it trusts you.
Another word of caution applies to their handling. The shell is actually part of the skin, making it easy to hurt them without meaning to. To be on the safe side, do not let your hand stray too near to the turtle’s beak.