Mata mata turtle, Chelus fimbriata

Mata matas are unique, large turtles that pose an interesting challenge to keepers

At a glance...
  • Mata mata turtles are a highly unique and rewarding pet
  • Large turtles that require lots of space and specific parameters
  • A great choice for experienced keepers looking for a challenge
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Do Mata mata turtles make good pets?

Mata mata turtles are a large turtle species originating from the slow-moving, shallow black waters of Northern South America. They are very unique looking with their long necks, triangular heads and long, snorkel-like nose. Their husbandry requirements are more complex than most turtle species, which along with their larger size makes them a better option for more experienced keepers.

All of the Mata mata turtles for sale at Swell Reptiles were captive bred in the UK, meaning you can be safe in the knowledge that your new turtle came from a reputable source with minimal negative impacts on their native environment.

What size enclosure does a Mata mata turtle need?

The Mata mata turtle is a large, fully aquatic turtle that needs a lot of space, which makes this species a rather big commitment for potential keepers, but if you can provide the required space, they make an extremely rewarding pet. We recommend a minimum footprint size of 120 x 120cm (4 x 4ft) for an adult, which usually comes in the form of an indoor pond.

The water level should be shallow, as although fully aquatic, Mata mata turtles are not the best swimmers and prefer to walk along the floor, so we recommend a water level of around 20-25cm (8-10”) for an adult, but lower for hatchlings or juveniles.

Do Mata mata turtles need heating and lighting?

As they are fully aquatic, Mata mata turtles will not come out onto land to bask as many turtles would so they do not require a heat lamp, but their water should be between 25-27°C (77-80°F), which can be achieved using an appropriately sized aquatic heater. They will, however, naturally be exposed to sunlight as they reside near the water surface, so a UVB source should be provided to ensure they remain healthy and happy.

The percentage of UVB required will depend on the height of the light fixture from the water level, if this will be between 30-40cm (12-15”), an Arcadia ProT5 Kit - Forest 6% is a good option, whereas if this will be between 40-60cm (15-24”), an Arcadia ProT5 Kit - Desert 12% is a better idea.

Do Mata mata turtles need specific water conditions?

Aside from water temperature, Mata mata turtles require clean, acidic waters with a pH between 5-5.5, which can be achieved by adding natural reptile decor such as leaf litter, moss and bogwood into the water. These will release tannins into the water, turning it a darker colour (black water), which although may be unsightly to some, is much better for your turtle.

Mata mata turtles, being quite large, are rather messy and destructive, so although smaller internal filters may be sufficient for youngsters, we recommend the use of large external filters or even pond filters for adults. This will ensure debris particles are removed from the water whilst also providing biological filtration to remove harmful ammonia and nitrites from the water.

How do I decorate a Mata mata turtle’s enclosure?

Firstly, an aquatic substrate should be used to line the floor of the enclosure which can be either sand or gravel. Further decor can come in the form of rocks, wood and botanicals, many of which will also help you maintain the required water parameters. Covered areas using foliage from either real or artificial plants will also help to reduce stress and allow your Mata mata turtle to feel more secure.

What do Mata mata turtles eat?

Mata mata turtles are carnivorous, and can be fed on a variety of fish, live worms, mussels and live insects. Fish especially provide a great calcium source, as the bones are also ingested, but other food items will not provide this and it is still important to provide supplements to your Mata mata.

Traditional dust supplements don’t tend to work as well here, as this is likely to wash off the food items the second they come into contact with water, however, aquatic alternatives such as Zoo Meds Dr. Turtle Slow Release Calcium Blocks should be used.

How do I buy a Mata mata turtle?

If you would like to purchase one of our UK captive bred Mata mata turtles, please come into our store and see us, bringing with you some photos of your set-up which should be completely ready for the turtle to go into.

We will ask you a few quick questions and also to see your set-up images before we allow you to take the turtle home. We reserve the right to refuse adoption to anyone we feel is unprepared to adopt.

For more detailed husbandry information, please refer to our dedicated Mata Mata Turtle Care Sheet.

Common names Mata mata, Mata-mata, Matamata
Scientific name Chelus fimbrata
Country South America
Captive-bred Yes
Adult size 60+cm (2+ft)
Natural habitat Slow-moving, shallow black water
Housing 120 x 120cm (4 x 4ft) - Indoor pond
Ideal temperature 25-27°C (77-80°F)
UVI 3-4
Ideal humidity N/A - Aquatic
Diet Carnivorous
Average lifespan 15-30+ years
Personality Docile
Ease of handling Handling can be stressful and is not recommended
Cohabitable No
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  1. Mata mata turtle, Chelus fimbrata, care sheet
    Categories: Care sheetsChelonians

    Mata mata turtle, Chelus fimbrata, care sheet

    Mata mata turtle, Chelus fimbrata, husbandry guide from the experts at Swell Reptiles, covering housing, heating, lighting and more.