The first step in caring for a southern painted turtle is to provide it with a suitably large habitat, such as a 55-gallon aquarium or a small pond. It's best to ensure that the water stays very clean, which can be accomplished by frequent water changes or by using a powerful aquarium filter. Additionally, the turtles require full-spectrum lighting and a basking platform located under a heat lamp.
Be sure that the basking platform allows the turtle to exit the water completely so that it can dry off and warm up. The basking spot should be at least 90 degrees Fahrenheit, and it should be turned on for approximately 12 hours each day. While adults are usually able to remain healthy with room temperature water, hatchlings should not be placed in water that is below 78 degrees to prevent them from developing respiratory infections.
Feed southern painted turtles a variety of foods to ensure they get a balanced diet. While adults are primarily herbivorous and should be fed a combination of fresh fruits, vegetables and turtle pellets, they also enjoy eating the occasional cricket or feeder fish. Young painted turtles are more eager to eat live prey, which allows them to obtain enough protein to fuel rapid growth.