Fun African Sideneck Turtle Facts For Kids

Moumita Dutta
May 08, 2023 By Moumita Dutta
Originally Published on Aug 05, 2021
Edited by Jacob Fitzbright
Fact-checked by Deeti Gupta
African sideneck turtle facts talk about the sidenecks that stay in the water.

The African sideneck turtle is a common water turtle found throughout the continent of Africa, especially in many countries in West Africa. They originate from the genus Pelomedusa and are common in places such as Madagascar, Seychelles, Nigeria, and Ghana.

There are a lot of varieties of freshwater turtles, and the African mud turtle is one of them.

The reason that the African sideneck turtle got its name was from the fact that when they try to defend themselves, instead of making their necks go inward, they lay their head behind their shell's margins on both sides.

Their head is pretty small, and they have black markings on all sides. They love to be in the water, so the most common habitat for these animals are lakes, ponds, and streams.

They can also be kept as pets in a tank, but they must be given the utmost care to ensure that their shells aren't damaged, and they are provided with ample heat, UVB light, and food and water.

These turtles can tend to be aggressive at times, so it is better not to place other marine life in the same tank as them.

So, read on for more info on them.

If you would like to read other articles such as this one, you can check out Florida softshell turtle facts and map turtle facts.

African Sideneck Turtle Interesting Facts

What type of animal is an African sideneck turtle?

African sideneck turtles are a type of aquatic turtle that originate from Africa. They are also known as the West African mud turtle or the African mud turtle and are best acclimated to tropical and freshwater habitats. Many of them can be found throughout the continent of Africa and its islands. They are common in Madagascar and Seychelles.

What class of animal does an African sideneck turtle belong to?

They belong to the class of Reptilia and are in the same category as snakes, lizards, and crocodiles. Most specifically, they are classified as Amniotes, which is a category of vertebrates.

How many African sideneck turtles are there in the world?

There currently isn't any verifiable data present that can attest to the exact number of West African mud turtles present in the world. Therefore, it isn't possible to give an exact estimate.

Where does an African sideneck turtle live?

You'll find the African sideneck turtle living in habitats with a lot of clean air, foliage, and good water quality. Their natural habitat generally refers to large pools, freshwater rivers, and bountiful lakes.

They are also a species that is domesticated and kept as pets; therefore, you might also find them in some people's homes. During the dryer seasons, they prefer to cover themselves in mud and lie there in a process called estivating.

What is an African sideneck turtle habitat?

In the wild, African mud turtles are used to living in areas with clean, fresh water, tons of greenery, and ample mud.

You will mostly find them resting near lakes, ponds, rivers, and other inland bodies of water. When it comes to turtles in captivity, many chose to keep the African sideneck turtle in a turtle tank.

Turtle keepers that house large African sideneck turtles should ensure that their turtle tank is equipped with at least 75 gallons of water should have a gravel or sand substrate, a canister filter, moss, and other turtle toys, and a basking area that is getting ample UVB rays.

Who does the African sideneck turtle live with?

African sideneck turtles love to stick around in groups and thoroughly enjoy group activities like swimming in groups or basking together in the sunlight.

How long does an African sideneck turtle live?

On average, this species lives for 20 years or sometimes even longer. The exact lifespan of each turtle depends on its habitat, diet, environment, health, and other external and internal factors.

How do they reproduce?

African sideneck turtles may mate more than once a year; however, it is very common for them to mate in the springtime. Female African sideneck turtles will, on average, lay up to 30 eggs, called clutches, during every matings season.

More extreme temperatures will lead to the birth of female sidenecks, while male sidenecks are more prone to be born during moderate temperatures.

What is their conservation status?

The IUCN Red List has not listed the current conservation status of this species of sideneck turtle.

African Sideneck Turtle Fun Facts

What does an African sideneck turtle look like?

The head of a sideneck turtle is pretty cute.

*Please note that this is an image of a turtle, not an African sideneck turtle.

In terms of color, these turtles have a shell that is a dark color, and their underbellies, called plastrons, are grayish-black with a hint of yellow. They have black markings on their olive-colored heads and two barbels significantly protruding from their jaw.

Their feet are slightly webbed, and they have claws that are sharp and long. On their hind feet, they have five claws.

These animals need a heat lamp in their tank to maintain their body temperature.

If not taken care of properly, these turtles can develop a variety of issues ranging from respiratory problems and eye problems to shell damage and parasites.

One of the most common issues that owners need to look out for is shell rot, which starts as a bacterial infection and can lead to ulcers on their skin and all over their shells.

How cute are they?

African sideneck turtles are pretty cute animals, and they can be pretty lovable. Many people like to keep this species as pets because they tend to be moderate maintenance, and they are friendly and loyal companions.

If you would like to keep African mud turtles as pets, you will need an aquarium that is large enough to house them. Their big round eyes and mouth, which are always smiling, make them seem very cute.

How do they communicate?

Turtles mainly communicate through low-frequency sounds, meaning their main method of communication with other animals and turtles is through sound communication. When it comes to humans, we cannot listen to any of the sounds that come out of the mouth of a turtle because the frequency is too low.

However, turtles communicate through their body language as well. They retract, move, or forge ahead when they wish to convey something.

How big is an African sideneck turtle?

The length and size of an African sideneck turtle can vary, with some being 7 in and others being longer. The average length of an African sideneck turtle is anywhere from 10 - 12 in (25.4-30.4cm). Compared to the largest sea turtle, the leatherback sea turtle, this species of turtle is rather small.

How fast can an African sideneck turtle move?

African sideneck turtles are slow-moving creatures. Their walking pace is pretty slow, especially if they're in an aquarium with other pet turtles and plants.

How much does an African sideneck turtle weigh?

They're estimated to weigh around 1.5lb (723g). Females might weigh a little bit more around the time that they're about to lay their eggs.

What are the male and female names of the species?

There are no differentiating sex-specific terms that are used to refer to the African sideneck turtle. Both males and females in the group are referred to as African sideneck turtles.

What would you call a baby African sideneck turtle?

A baby African sideneck turtle is often called just that, a baby African sideneck turtle, and other times they are also referred to as hatchlings.

What do they eat?

These reptiles are omnivores that love to consume meat as much as they love their greens. Turtle food can vary a lot.

They love to eat insects, fish, worms, aquatic turtle pellets, and crayfish, as well as plants, snails, lettuce, and mixed vegetables.

In captivity, it is best to feed them during a set period throughout the day, and if possible, you should feed them outside of their tank, as they tend to be messy. It is important to keep plants in their aquarium or enclosure so that if you have multiple turtles, they can stay away from one another.

Are they dangerous?

These turtles can be pretty aggressive, especially when they're mating or eating in an enclosed space. They should preferably not be housed together with other aquatic animals such as fish and lobsters.

They might end up killing any other beings who they feel are encroaching on their space. This is why it is very important to keep plants and other decorations inside your aquarium because if you house multiple African sideneck turtles, they need space to hide from each other.

Would they make a good pet?

African sideneck turtles make very good pets because they are active, friendly, and loyal creatures that don't require a lot of maintenance. They also live for a long time, so owners don't have to worry about their pets dying too soon.

They love turtle treats and can easily be at home in an aquarium as long as all of their needs, especially basic needs like those of food, shelter, and water, are met.

These pets tend to get a little bit aggressive when they're in an enclosure; however, that can also be managed over time. You don't need to have a substrate at the bottom of the aquarium, but it is preferred.

Did you know...

African mud turtles will swim to the surface of the tank if they think someone is trying to offer them food.

These turtles are not able to put their heads completely back into their shell.

Aquatic turtles tend to defecate in the water after having food.

The water level in a tank needs to be more than 1.5 times bigger than your turtle's length.

Can African Sideneck turtles live with fish?

It is best if African sideneck turtles are not placed in the same tank as fish. This is due to multiple reasons.

The primary reason is that since these turtles are omnivores, there is a high chance they may end up consuming the fish. The secondary reason is also that these turtles can be extremely aggressive. Therefore, it would be dangerous for the fish if they were kept in the same tank as these turtles.

How can you tell if an African Sideneck turtle is male or female?

While male turtles have tails that are long and thick, the tales that females have are skinny and short. Female turtles also tend to be longer than males and are overall bigger. Males tend to have a concave plastron, while females have a flat one.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other reptiles including blue-tongued skink facts or Indian cobra facts.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable African sideneck turtle coloring pages.

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Written by Moumita Dutta

Bachelor of Arts specializing in Journalism and Mass Communication, Postgraduate Diploma in Sports Management

Moumita Dutta picture

Moumita DuttaBachelor of Arts specializing in Journalism and Mass Communication, Postgraduate Diploma in Sports Management

A content writer and editor with a passion for sports, Moumita has honed her skills in producing compelling match reports and stories about sporting heroes. She holds a degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the Indian Institute of Social Welfare and Business Management, Calcutta University, alongside a postgraduate diploma in Sports Management.

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Fact-checked by Deeti Gupta

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English Literature

Deeti Gupta picture

Deeti GuptaBachelor of Arts specializing in English Literature

A detail-oriented fact-checker with a research-oriented approach. Devika has a passion for creative writing, she has been published on multiple digital publishing platforms and editorials before joining the Kidadl team. Currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from St.Xavier's College, Deeti has won several accolades and writing competitions throughout her academic career.

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