Skip to Main Content
Ask About Financing

Is a Turtle a Reptile?

Is a Turtle a Reptile?

If you are thinking about getting a new pet then you may have at some point considered a turtle. If so then you may also have had some questions about turtles and their care, like what kind of animal is a turtle? Today, our Greeley vets tell you whether a turtle is a reptile or amphibian and if they would make a good family pet.

Is a Turtle a Reptile or an Amphibian?

A turtle is a type of reptile that lives in either saltwater or freshwater. The term "turtle" refers to any reptile of the order of Testudines, including those that dwell on land. Because this order was previously known as Chelonia, all members of this order are referred to as chelonians.

Turtles are reptiles because they are four-legged vertebrates with a cold-blooded metabolism and scales covering their body. Amphibians, on the other hand, have a smooth scaleless coating that is water-permeable. Turtles are protected by a tough, impenetrable shell. Their lungs help them breathe, as they do in all other reptiles such as crocodiles, snakes, lizards, and the Tuatara.

What is it About a Turtle That Makes it a Reptile?

Refer to the following chart to find out what exactly makes a turtle a reptile and not an amphibian.



This class includes animals that dwell on land (snakes, lizards, tortoises); mostly in water (turtles); and on both land and water (crocodiles and alligators). There is no such thing as an immature (larval) aquatic stage in reptiles.

Frogs, toads, newts, salamanders, and caecilians are members of this class; they typically have an aquatic larval stage (e.g., tadpole) followed by a terrestrial adult stage.
Breathe Using the lungs Breathe using gills at the larval stage and with the lungs during adulthood
Have dry, scaly skin Have smooth skin. Adults also use the skin as a secondary breathing organ.
Lay their eggs on land. These eggs have shells Normally lay eggs in water. These eggs are surrounded by a gelatinous covering.

What Animals are Classified as Turtles?

Today, there are three different types of 'turtles:' turtles, tortoises, and terrapins. The main difference between the three is where they live. Turtles spend most of their lives in the water, tortoises on land, and terrapins split evenly between the two.

To be classified as a turtle, an animal must be cold-blooded, have no teeth, four legs, and have a bony shell. The shell is a turtle's most distinguishing feature. Their shells have a top and bottom and connect on both sides of the turtle's body to form a skeleton box.

Turtles live all over the world except for Antarctica. They can vary in size dramatically, from as small as four inches to as large as four feet.

Are Turtles a Good Idea for a Children's Pet?

The truth is that turtles make excellent pets for children, but you must consider if they are the greatest choice for your family. They are fun to watch and require less ongoing maintenance than other pets such as dogs or cats. But turtles, contrary to common perception, can be fairly expensive to keep since they require special care to stay alive and well. You'll need to buy a terrarium (likely one that you can have half with water and a half without), and a large one at that so that the turtle can freely move about. The terrarium will also likely need to be cleaned daily of extra goods and turtle droppings.

As for food, you may need to purchase calcium-enriched turtle food to keep its shell strong. Speak to your vet about what kind of food is right for your turtle.

If you have any more questions about turtles and what it is like having a turtle as a pet and the kind of care that they need, please speak with our Greeley exotic pet vets.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If are thinking about getting a pet turtle but would like to learn more about their care, please contact our Greeley vets.

Caring for Pets in Greeley

St. Michaels Companion Animal Hospital is always happy to welcome new patients to our animal hospital. Get in touch today to get started!

Contact Us

(970) 330-9400 Contact