Hepper is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

4 Rare Pet Turtles: Most Unusual Species (With Pictures)

Nicole Cosgrove Profile Picture

By Nicole Cosgrove

pig-nosed turtle is swimming in an aquarium

Turtles are intriguing little amphibians that can live for decades, and make interesting pets. They do require specialist accommodation, though, whether you want a land-based or an aquatic variety. Some species, like the Red-Eared Slider, can be bought for around $20 each, although you will need to invest hundreds of dollars in a tank and the rest of the setup. On the other end of the scale, some very rare and unusual turtles are difficult to find or have unique features that make them incredibly expensive.

Below are four of the rarest pet turtles, for those that are looking to add some intrigue to their collection. Some of these species are considered critically endangered in the wild, and the trade in wild samples is illegal. Always ensure that you buy captive-bred, only buy from a reputable breeder, and ensure you know the laws before you buy. Furthermore, you should understand that some of these breeds can live 40 years or more, so you are undertaking a huge commitment by buying these animals as pets.

The 4 Rarest Pet Turtles

1. Painted River Terrapin

close up of male painted river terrapin turtle
Image Credit: Danny Ye, Shutterstock
Scientific Name: Batagur borneonsis
Price: $400
Size: 28 inches

The Painted River Terrapin is critically endangered in the wild, which means that if you are looking to keep one as a pet, it must be a captive-bred terrapin to remain within the confines of the law. Expect to pay around $400 for one of these, as they are rare. Females can grow to 28 inches and the Painted River Terrapin eats commercial food or leafy greens and vegetables. It is a river terrapin, which means that it is semi-aquatic and will need an appropriate tank and environment.

2. Yellow Blotched Map Turtle

yellow blotched map turtle
Image Credit: Gabbie Berry, Shutterstock
Scientific Name: Graptemys flavimaculata
Price: $400
Size: 7 inches

Map turtles are aquatic and tend to grow to a small to medium size. The Yellow Blotched Map Turtle has, as the name suggests, yellow blotches on its shell, and females grow to around 7 inches. It is considered the rarest of the map turtle species and originates from the Pascagoula River in Mississippi, although you should only buy captive-bred from reputable breeders to keep as pets. Expect to pay around $400 for one of these.

3. Pig-Nosed Turtle

pig nosed turtle in the aquarium
Image Credit: daniilphotos, Shutterstock
Scientific Name: Carettochelys insculpta
Price: $1,0000
Size: 28 inches

The Pig-Nosed Turtle is a large turtle—the female can grow to 28 inches. It is considered vulnerable in its wild habitat and is especially notable for having flippers, rather than webbed digits. It is also unusual because despite having a leathery textured shell, it is not a soft-shell turtle and has a carapace under the skin. It may be possible to get one of these for $1,000 but in some parts of the world, you will have to pay multiple thousands of dollars because they are even more difficult to acquire. The Pig-Nosed Turtle is also sometimes known as the Fly River Turtle.

4. Spiny Softshell Turtle

spiny softshell turtle on a rock
Image Credit: damann, Shutterstock
Scientific Name: Apalone spinifera
Price: $100
Size: 11 inches

The Spiny Softshell Turtle is a softshell and while it is relatively affordable, costing about $100, it is still quite difficult to come by in the pet trade. These can be more difficult to care for because they do not react well to poor water conditions and their diet consists of foods like fish, prawns, and crayfish. The Spiny Softshell Turtle will grow to around 11 inches.


Turtles make interesting pets that are fun to watch and tend to. However, they do have specific requirements with regard to their habitat and living conditions. They can be very susceptible to water conditions, and if they aren’t given the right diet, they can suffer. Ensure you have an appropriate setup before taking delivery of any turtle and don’t assume that because you have kept one species, you know what all turtles need.

Above, we have listed four rare turtles that can be kept as pets, but other rarer species are unavailable on the pet market, as well as those that are so rare they are likely extinct or close to it. Other rare turtles include morphs and albinos of various species. The rarity of a turtle species will depend on where you live and are shopping because while some species are rare in the U.S., for example, they may not be as rare in other parts of the world.

Related read:

Featured Image Credit: daniilphotos, Shutterstock

Related Articles

Further Reading

Vet Articles

Latest Vet Answers

The latest veterinarians' answers to questions from our database