Softshell Turtle - Eastern Spiny

Alternative Name
Texas Spiny Soft Shell Turtle Scientific Name: Trionyx spiniferus

Basic Info

Although female Eastern Spiny Soft Shell Turtles can grow to lengths of about 17 inches, many times males are only about 8t inches long. The carapace is leathery rather than bony, and the edges are flexible. The carapaces of males have a rough, sand paper feel, although females' shells tend to be smoother. Many have a few prominent spines, or cone shaped projections, growing from the fronts of their carapaces. Eastern Spiny Soft Shell Turtles have ridged nostrils, and their noses taper at the front into a pointed shape. Males have long tails, but females' tails are so short that they may be hardly visible. Both male and female Eastern Spiny Soft Shell Turtles have webbed feet and relatively small plastrons, which are whitish in color. There are two lines running down the sides of their heads to the eye and to the snout. Usually, Eastern Spiny Soft Shell Turtles have feet and necks that are marked with yellow and black patterns. Males have olive green to yellow shells that are covered in darker large circles. Females are a bit duller in color than are males, usually tan or olive, and the dark circles on their shells are larger and less well defined than those of males. Amazingly, Eastern Spiny Soft Shell Turtles have gas permeable skins and can actually "breathe" underwater for long periods of time because of the gas exchange that can occur between the water and their bodies.


Because the skins of Eastern Spiny Soft Shell Turtles are so permeable, they can be particularly sensitive to chemicals in their water or to the quality of their water. They should have tanks that are set up to cater to their aquatic habits with a log, flat rock, or land area to bask on. There should be a layer of sand at the bottom of the tank so the Eastern Spiny Soft Shell Turtle can bury itself comfortably. The water over the sand should be shallow enough that the turtle can stick its nose above the water into air while buried. You should be particularly careful that there are no sharp edges in the terrarium, as the soft shells of these turtles can leave them more vulnerable to scratches or bruises than other species may be. They may become aggressive toward one another if overcrowded, and thus will do better when kept in alone or in relatively large aquariums when keeping more than one. Even pairs may not get along and, in this case, should be separated. The basking spot should usually be kept around 85 degrees Fahrenheit, and the water should remain around 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Eastern Spiny Soft Shell Turtles should have diets consisting of feeder fish, invertebrates, and a bit of cooked chicken from time to time. They may have also have a little low fat dog food (a premium brand). Breeding The breeding season for Eastern Spiny Soft Shell Turtles occurs in May. Usually, the female will dig a nest in a sunny spot in the sand, in which she will deposit her eggs in June and July. The average nest is dug near the water's edge, and contains between 12 and 30 eggs. Between August and September, the Eastern Spiny Soft Shell Turtle eggs hatch into neonates that are about two inches long and have the same coloration as mature males do.

Softshell Turtle - Eastern Spiny

Found in lakes or rivers that have sandy bottoms


Rather unusual looking animals and interesting pets are fascinating to observe at home or in the wild. Eastern Spiny Soft Shell Turtles prefer habitats that include sandbars, so that they can bask and breed. Usually, they are found in lakes or rivers that have sandy bottoms. At night, Eastern Spiny Soft Shells often partially bury themselves in sand or mud to sleep. They are active during the day and are mainly aquatic. They hunt by actively foraging for food or by grabbing it out of the water as it swims by them. Eastern Spiny Soft Shell Turtles can use their long noses to breathe without leaving the water, simply using them like snorkels. Although these turtles can stay underwater for up to five hours, they often do not submerge themselves for more than 20 minutes at a time. Eastern Spiny Soft Shells spend the winters, usually from November to April, buried in mud.


North America


In the wild, Eastern Spiny Soft Shell Turtles range from Canada's provinces of Ontario and Quebec through the eastern United States south to Mexico. They are quite common in the pet trade. In the wild, humans hunt Eastern Spiny Soft Shell Turtles. Eggs and neonates are often eaten by carnivorous mammals or fish, as well. Chemicals used to kill fish also adversely affect them. The Eastern Spiny Soft Shell Turtle remains strong throughout its range and at present, there is not much concern that these turtles will soon become endangered.

Common Foods

Eastern Spiny Soft Shell Turtles hunt for aquatic insects, crayfish, and fish. Although they eat aquatic plant material, this is probably accidentally ingested with the prey items, rather than intentionally sought out.

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