Ouachita Map Turtle

Graptemys ouchitensis ouchitensis






There is debate over the classification of this turtle, and it is referred to as both Graptemys ouachitensis and Graptemys pseudogeographica ouachitensis (a subspecies of the False Map Turtle) in the scientific community. Regardless of its classification, the turtle has a brown to olive oval carapace that is patterned with light yellowish markings and dark borders. This coloration is prominent when young, but tends to fade with age. The keel is low and there are serrated edges at the back of the carapace. The head of the Ouachita Map Turtle is narrow and it lacks a protruding nose. The skin is olive to brown or blackish with narrow yellowish stripes on the legs, tail, chin, and neck. A variable shaped marking may also appear behind the eye. In addition, one to nine neck stripes may reach the eye. Light bars adorn the underside of the chin, and two large light spots may appear on each side of the face, one under the eye and one on the lower jaw.


Distribution and Status


The Ouachita Map Turtle ranges from Texas and Louisiana, north through eastern Kansas and eastern Kentucky, through central Missouri and north along the Mississippi River to southern Wisconsin and northern Iowa, and east along the Ohio River to eastern Indiana. There are also isolated colonies south-central Ohio. In the Midwest, this species is found in every state except Michigan and Minnesota.




The Ouachita Map Turtle is a good swimmer and prefers rivers and large creeks with moderate current. The presence of aquatic vegetation, as well as snags or floating logs for basking or hiding is also important to this species. In addition to being comfortable in deep and swift water, Ouachita Map Turtles may also be found in oxbow lakes and sloughs. They are usually absent from lakes, ponds, and small streams.

Air Temperature:  Low to mid 80's

Basking Temperature:  High 80's to low 90's

Water Temperature:  Low to mid 70's




Male  3 ½” - 5”            Female  5" - 10 ¾


Captive Habitat



These are aggressive baskers, so a basking spot is required. UVA/UVB lighting is needed as well as a heat lamp over the basking spot. A submersible heater is recommended if the water temps fall below the recommendation. They are excellent swimmers and their captive habitat should have a water depth as deep as possible. Substrate should be anywhere from a sand to a fine-to-medium size gravel.

Recommended size for a single adult Graptemys ouchitensis ouchitensis would be a 40 gallon aquarium as a minimum (55 or larger preferred) for males, and a 90 gallon aquarium as a minimum (100 or larger preferred) for large females. This will provide adequate swimming area, as well as assisting the filtration in maintaining good water quality. For additional Graptemys ouchitensis ouchitensis, I would recommend adding 20 gallons of tank space for additional males and 50 gallons of tank space per additional female at a minimum.

Ouachita Map Turtles are great turtles for a community habitat with Mud Turtles, Musk Turtles, Sliders, Cooters, other Map Turtles and Painted Turtles.



Food Habits





The Ouachita map turtle is omnivorous, with females feeding on mollusks, insects (caddisfly cases, mayfly larvae, and damselfly larvae), and plant material (e.g., Vallisneria, Potamogeton, Lemna). Males eat the same insects as females, as well as beetles, flies, mollusks, fish carrion, and trace amounts of vegetation. The relatively narrow crushing surfaces of its jaws probably prevent this species from feeding predominantly on mollusks. Feeding begins in late May and continues until mid-September (Vogt 1980).