Spiny Turtle (Heosemys spinosa) Care Sheet

Southeast Asian Spiny Turtle (Cogwheel Turtle, Spiny Hill Turtle)
Heosemys spinosa (no subspecies recognized)
Gestekelde aardschildpad (Heosemys spinosa)

Heosemys Gallery
Tenasserim through peninsular Thailand and the Malay Peninsula to Sumatra, Borneo, and various small Indonesian Islands.

Shallow, clear rainforest streams at altitudes from 170 m up to 100 m where it frequently wanders about on land in cool, humid, shaded areas. It often hides under plant debris or clumps of grass. Young may be more terrestrial than adults.

Adult Size:
From 175 mm to 220 mm in carapace length and 1.5 kg to 2.0 kg mass.


© Robert S. Simmons

Large adults are spineless. Males have longer, thicker tails than females and concave plastrons.

Care in Captivity:
Indoors - Adults should be housed in large (852 liter) stock water tanks (178 cm X 61 cm X 61 cm high) divided into land and water areas. The water area should be at least half of the total area and maintained at a depth of 6 to 10 cm. The land substrate should consist of a 5 cm layer of river gravel (6-8 mm size) with a topsoil layer consisting of peat moss and long fiber peat moss (Sphagnum sp.) at a depth of 15-25 cm for nesting. Neonates and juveniles should be maintained in similar, but smaller, enclosures as the adults. A rain cycle of once to twice weekly, provided by sprinklers, will provide the necessary humidity needed by the turtles.

Outdoors - These turtles do quite well in large outdoor pens planted with shrubs and a large, shallow pool of clean, cool water. Indoor heated facilities are necessary during the cooler months. These turtles are very similar to North American wood turtles (Clemmys insculpta) in habitat requirements.

Temperature and Lighting:
Spot lights (150 W) should be used to provide basking areas and ambient temperatures should be maintained between 27 and 30° C. A photoperiod of 12 hours daylight and 12 hours night should be provided.

Spiny turtles are mostly herbivorous by nature, although they will sometimes eat meat in captivity. It is best to feed them salads consisting of fruits (especially tomatoes), vegetables, and collard greens two to three times per week. Chopped skinned mice or mouse pinkies may be fed to adults biweekly, but refrain from feeding meat to neonates and juveniles. Most neonates and juveniles prefer tomatoes over any other food items and tomatoes may be the best choice for getting finicky eaters to feed regularly. Vitamin supplements are not usually necessary if a mixed salad is offered. A calcium/phosphate supplement may be given to neonates and juveniles and a good diet should include Turtle Brittleâ to provide Vitamin D3.

Copulation, in captivity, has been observed in December and February. Mating behavior is often triggered by spraying water on the adults with a garden hose. The male becomes excited during this "rain" event and chases the female into the water for mating. Nest digging behavior is unknown in the wild, but generally one or two eggs may be deposited by the female in a nest. Females may produce up to three clutches per year; a common occurrence for batagurine turtles. The only successful reproduction of the spiny turtle in captivity occurred at Zoo Atlanta in 1991. The incubation period was 106 days. The egg was incubated in a medium of damp sand, peat moss, and long fiber peat moss at a temperature of 28-30° C for 35 days and at a temperature of 26-28° C for the remainder of the time. Some batagurine turtle eggs undergo a diapause phase that may correspond to the wet/dry seasons and it may be necessary to fluctuate incubation temperatures.

Health Issues:
Spiny turtles are susceptible to the same general diseases common to other emydid chelonians. Care should be taken to provide UV radiation to arrest the growth of fungal and bacterial cultures that may cause shell rot disease. It is imperative that clean water is provided at all times. A filtration system complete with UV sterilizers is recommended.

Key References:

Ernst, C.H. and R. W. Barbour. 1989. Turtles of the World. Smithsonian Institution Press.

Herman, D.W. 1993. Reproduction and management of the Southeast Asian spiny turtle (Heosemys spinosa) in captivity. Herpetol. Natur. Hist. 1(1): 97-100.

Pritchard, P.C. H. 1979. Encyclopedia of Turtles. Neptune: T.F.H. Publ., Inc.

Compiled by:

Dennis W. Herman
Coordinator of Living Collections
N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences
11 West Jones Street
Raleigh, NC 27601-1029


7 August 2000


Care sheet used with permission 

World Chelonian Trust


PO Box 1445

Vacaville, CA


 Home Page - World Chelonian Trust


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