Mississippi Map Turtle (Gratemys kohni) Care Sheet

Map Turtles are beautiful little aquatics found throughout the United States through Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, and Texas. There are several types of species of Map Turtles, each having sub-species in them as well. Some of the most common map turtles include the False Map Turtle (Graptemys pseudogeographica pseudogeographica), Mississippi Map Turtle (Graptemys kohni), Common Map Turtle (Graptemys geographica), and the Texa’s Map Turtle (Graptemys versa).

A List of More Map Turtles:

  • Barbour’s Map Turtle: Graptemys barbouri
  • Common Map Turtle: Graptemys geographica
  • Cagle’s Map Turtle: Graptemys caglei
  • Escambia Map Turtle: Graptemys ernsti
  • Pascagoula Map Turtle: Graptemys gibbonsi
  • Ringed Map Turtle: Graptemys oculifera
  • Yellow Blotched Map Turtle: Graptemys flavimaculata
  • Blacked-knobbed Map Turtle: Graptemys nigrinoda
  • Delta Map Turtle: Graptemys nigrinoda delticola
  • Ouachita Map Turtle: Graptemys ouachitensis
  • Sabine Map Turtle: Graptemys ouachitensis sabinensis
  • Alabama Map Turtle: Graptemys pulchra

Map turtles, though they may look similar to sliders and painted turtles, are very unique turtles in many aspects. The first is in the shell and body patterns. Most Map Turtles feature somewhat of “spines” coming out of the edge in portions of the carapace earning some of them the nickname “Sawbacks”. Another characteristic is the general “map” looking patterns distributed all around the body and scutes. Some Map’s also feature large head and jaws (or beaks as one may put it).

Overall Look

Map Turtles grow in a variety of sizes. Some are very small, which can be a plus in space matters, and others get at a decent large size. They have nice physical characteristics and are very beautiful-looking turtles.

Overall though, Map turtles can be very good pet turtles, though may be a small challenge for beginners (but not by a long shot). As a very very first beginner turtle, I recommend Not going with a Map Turtle. Try a hardier species such as a slider or a Painted Turtle. If you wish to get a Map Turtle, then just make sure what is expected for it to be kept healthy. Remember, this is just an overlook on the species itself, so the Map Turtle species specific may also have more requirements that you will need to make sure you know of.

Size Average of Subspecies:

  • False Map: Female: 4-10″ Males: 3-5″
  • Mississippi Map: Females: 5-10″ Males: 3-5″
  • Texas Map: Females: 3-5″ Males: 2-3″
  • Barbour’s Map: Females: 6-11″ Males: 4-5″
  • Common Map: Females: 6-11″ Males: 4-6″
  • Cagle’s Map: Females: 4-7″ Males: 2-4″
  • Escambia Map: Females: 8-11″ Males: 3-5″
  • Pascagoula Map: Females: 7-12″ Males: 3-5″
  • Ringed Map: Females: 5-9″ Males: 3-4″
  • Yellow Blotched Map: Females: 6-7″ Males: 3-4″
  • Blacked-knobbed Map: Females: 4-6″ Males: 3-4″
  • Delta Map: Females: 5-6″ Males: 3-4″
  • Ouachita Map: Females: 5-12″ Males: 4-5″
  • Sabine Map: Females: 5-11″ Males: 3-6″
  • Alabama Map: Females: 7-11″ Males: 3-5″

Map Turtle Diet

The diet can somewhat relate to sliders and so forth, it also does have its differences. A few protein-based foods can be fed such as insects, feeder fish, crickets, wax worms, and so forth. However, vegetation is also preferred among them, especially as adults. Favorites include: romaine lettuce, aquatic plant matter, carrots can also be a plus, etc.

Map Turtle Habitat

Mississippi Map Turtles (Gratemys kohni) are native to the central United States, where they inhabit rivers, streams, and large ponds. This aquatic environment is typically characterized by moderate currents, abundant vegetation, and ample basking spots.

Important Information: This is going in general, look for species-specific.

  • Water pH level: 6.0-6.2
  • Water temperature: mid 70’s (74-76ºF)
  • Basking Area temp: mid to high 80’s, very low 90’s
  • Air Temperature: mid 80’s

Tank Size

The tank’s size is an essential factor. For juveniles, a minimum 20-gallon tank is required. However, as your turtle matures, it will need more space. Adult females, being larger, will need a 75-gallon tank minimum, while adult males can make do with a 40-gallon tank.

Water Parameters

  1. Depth: Ensure the tank’s water depth is at least twice the turtle’s shell length. This depth allows them ample space to swim and dive freely.
  2. Temperature: Maintain a water temperature between 72-78 degrees Fahrenheit.
  3. Filtration: Turtles are messy eaters. Therefore, an efficient filtration system is paramount for maintaining water quality and clarity. Consider using a canister filter designed for tanks larger than the one you’re using.

One of the main things that don’t make these turtles an A++ beginner’s turtles is their sensitivity to water quality. Map turtles tend to be more sensitive to water quality than some of their similar partners. They are less tolerant to water conditions than sliders and other aquatics.

When keeping Maps, it is important to keep a Water Testing Kit with you at all times. pH levels must be watched as well as tap water hardness. Superb filtration systems must be present in the habitat as a little glitch in the water can cause ammonia levels to skyrocket, and this alone can be fatal to Maps, while on the other hand, RES and Painteds would be a bit more resistant to it.

Basking Area

Turtles need a spot to emerge from the water, dry off, and soak up some heat. The basking area should be easy to climb onto and large enough for your turtle to entirely bask on. The basking area’s temperature should range from 90-95 degrees Fahrenheit.


Lighting is one of the most important aspects of mississippi map turtle care. Without proper lighting, your Mississippi Map Turtle cannot thrive. This species requires a specific blend of UVB and heat lighting to support their metabolic processes, including digestion and vitamin D3 synthesis, which aids calcium absorption. These turtles spend significant time basking, and thus, lighting replicating their natural habitat is non-negotiable.

UVB Lighting

UVB lighting is absolutely essential. Don’t even consider trying to cut corners on this. UVB lights stimulate the production of vitamin D3, which in turn promotes calcium absorption—a critical element for shell health. My recommendation is to use a bulb with a 10-12% UVB output.

Recommended UVB Lights

  • Zoo Med ReptiSun 10.0 UVB
  • Exo Terra Repti-Glo 10.0 Compact
  • Arcadia D3 Reptile Lamp 12%

Basking (Heat) Lighting

Next, let’s address the heat lighting. Mississippi Map Turtles require a basking spot with temperatures around 90-95 degrees Fahrenheit. This enables them to thermoregulate, essential for digestion and general health. Your best bet is to use a high-quality basking bulb positioned over the turtle’s basking area. But remember safety first. Ensure the bulb is securely fitted to prevent any accidents.

Light and Dark Cycles

Lastly, but equally important, is the balance between light and dark. Like all creatures, Mississippi Map Turtles have a circadian rhythm, which means they require periods of both light and dark. A general rule is to provide about 12 hours of light and 12 hours of dark each day. Be consistent with these cycles to mimic the turtle’s natural environment and support their well-being.

Personalities and Ownership

Map turtles are very shy by nature and very nervous (skittish) turtles. They get stressed really easily and frightened as well. I’ve known some keepers who have had their map turtles for 2-3 years, yet the turtle still gets freaked out when the owner comes by the tank.

If your looking for a good personality turtle for your family or kids, a Map Turtle may not be right for you (however, don’t get me started with the turtles and kids situation, turtles in general may not be right for a kid family period. Read our Turtles & Children Article for important aspects and information).

Where to keep a Map Turtle: Another important aspect is where one will keep your map turtles’ habitat. As mentioned before, these guys are shy stressful creatures. An indoor habitat is recommended. One where you can monitor your turtle safely and measure important conditions such as water quality and temperatures.

The habitat should be placed in a low-traffic zone to keep the turtle as calm and relaxed as possible. Furnish your tank as natural and wild as possible, which will help in getting your turtle to be calm and stress-free as well. Remember, a stressed-out turtle can lead to a sick turtle.

Mississippi Map Turtle Cost

Undeniably, owning a Mississippi Map Turtle (Gratemys Kohni) is an investment worth considering. However, it’s crucial to understand that the cost isn’t just about the initial purchase. It encompasses a broad range of necessities – from the tank setup, lighting, and heating, to the turtle’s diet, routine check-ups, and potential health treatments. Let’s delve into the financial aspect of owning this wonderful creature.

Initial Cost of the Turtle

The cost of a Mississippi Map Turtle varies depending on the age, size, and the breeder. Generally, you can expect to pay anywhere between $20 to $50 for a hatchling. Adults, particularly those with desirable patterns and markings, may fetch higher prices. While the initial purchase might seem affordable, bear in mind that the other associated costs can significantly add up.

Housing and Environment Setup

Mississippi Map Turtles require a spacious and well-maintained environment to thrive. Here’s a detailed breakdown of the initial housing setup cost:

ItemEstimated Cost
Aquarium (40-120 gallon)$100-$300
Docking Platform$20-$50
Water Filter$30-$60
Water Heater$20-$40
UVB Lighting$20-$40
Decoration (plants, rocks, etc.)$20-$50

This brings the total setup cost to approximately $210-$540. The price range depends largely on the size of the equipment and where you’re buying from.

Ongoing Maintenance Costs

The expenses don’t stop at the setup. There are continuous costs to consider, primarily revolving around diet, electricity for heating and lighting, and replacing equipment as needed. Mississippi Map Turtles enjoy a varied diet including commercial turtle pellets, insects, leafy greens, and occasional fish. Here’s a glimpse at ongoing maintenance costs:

ItemEstimated Monthly Cost
Equipment replacement$5-$10

Therefore, the estimated monthly maintenance costs range from $20 to $40.

Veterinary Care

Routine veterinary care is essential for your turtle’s well-being. Annual check-ups, potential treatments, and unforeseen emergencies can add to your expenses. Depending on the area and the complexity of the treatment, an annual vet visit may cost anywhere from $50 to $200.

Filled under: Turtles and Tortoises

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