Alligator Snapping Turtle

Alligator Snapping Turtle Size and Growth


The Alligator Snapping Turtle (Macrochelys temminckii) is a remarkable species of turtle known for its enormous size and slow growth rate. In this article, we will delve into the fascinating world of Alligator Snapping Turtles, exploring their growth patterns, factors influencing their size, and tips for keeping these unique reptiles healthy.

Understanding Alligator Snapping Turtles

Alligator Snapping Turtles are the largest freshwater turtles in North America, and their size and growth are of great interest to turtle enthusiasts and researchers. These turtles are primarily found in the southeastern United States, inhabiting freshwater habitats such as rivers, swamps, and lakes.

Size and Growth Patterns

Alligator Snapping Turtles exhibit intriguing size and growth patterns that set them apart from many other turtle species. Here, we will explore these patterns in detail.

Hatchling Size

When Alligator Snapping Turtles hatch, they are relatively small, measuring just 1 to 2 inches (2.5 to 5 cm) in carapace length. This diminutive size is accompanied by a weight of approximately 20 grams.

Slow Growth Rate

One of the most notable characteristics of Alligator Snapping Turtles is their exceptionally slow growth rate. These turtles grow at a significantly slower pace compared to other turtle species. It can take many years for them to reach their maximum size.

Maximum Size

Alligator Snapping Turtles are known for their impressive size. Mature adults can reach carapace lengths between 16 to 32 inches (41 to 81 cm) and can weigh anywhere from 155 to 175 pounds (70 to 79 kg). There have been records of even larger specimens, with some individuals reaching up to 220 pounds (100 kg).

Factors Influencing Growth

Several factors influence the size and growth of Alligator Snapping Turtles. Understanding these factors is essential for those looking to care for these unique reptiles.


Diet plays a crucial role in the growth of Alligator Snapping Turtles. These turtles are primarily carnivorous and feed on a variety of aquatic prey, including fish, amphibians, and invertebrates. A diet rich in protein and nutrients is essential for their growth.


Temperature is a critical environmental factor that affects the growth of Alligator Snapping Turtles. These turtles are ectothermic, meaning their body temperature is regulated by the environment. Warmer temperatures can lead to increased metabolism and growth rates, while cooler temperatures can slow down their growth.

Habitat Quality

The quality of their habitat is another vital factor. Alligator Snapping Turtles require clean, unpolluted water with plenty of aquatic vegetation and hiding spots. A suitable habitat ensures they have access to the resources they need to grow.

Tips for Keeping Alligator Snapping Turtles Healthy

If you are considering keeping an Alligator Snapping Turtle as a pet, it’s essential to provide them with the proper care to ensure their health and well-being.

Enclosure Size

One of the most critical aspects of keeping Alligator Snapping Turtles in captivity is providing a spacious enclosure. These turtles need ample space to move around, so a large tank or pond is ideal. A general rule of thumb is to provide at least 150 gallons of water for a single adult.

Proper Diet

As mentioned earlier, a proper diet is crucial for the growth and health of Alligator Snapping Turtles. Offer a varied diet that includes fish, crustaceans, and other aquatic prey. Additionally, consider using calcium and vitamin supplements to meet their nutritional needs.

Water Quality

Maintaining high water quality is essential for the well-being of your Alligator Snapping Turtle. Ensure that the water is clean, well-filtered, and regularly checked for ammonia and nitrite levels. A well-maintained environment will help prevent diseases and promote healthy growth.

Temperature Control

To stimulate growth, maintain a suitable temperature range in their enclosure. Keep the water temperature between 75 to 85°F (24 to 29°C) and provide a basking area with a heat lamp to allow the turtle to regulate its body temperature.

Handle with Care

Alligator Snapping Turtles can be aggressive and have powerful jaws. Always handle them with caution and consider their temperament. If you’re not experienced, it’s best to avoid handling them altogether.


Alligator Snapping Turtles are truly remarkable creatures, known for their incredible size and slow growth. Understanding the factors that influence their growth and providing proper care is essential for anyone interested in keeping these unique turtles. By following these guidelines, you can ensure the health and well-being of your Alligator Snapping Turtle while marveling at their impressive growth over time.