In the 1960s, vast numbers of the tiny, brightly colored young of this species were sent to the US with shipments of tropical fish, but most did not survive. Since females may exceed 17 inches in shell length, they are not appropriate for most home aquariums. Serious private collectors and zoos have done well with them, and they have bred many times in captivity. While considered vulnerable to extinction, they remain an important resource for Native Americans in parts of their wide South American range.
This South American turtle is famous for the mass gatherings of females that come ashore to lay their eggs, often a hundred at a time. Otherwise, these plant-eaters hardly ever leave the water. Females are much larger than males, reaching a shell length of three feet. Because their eggs and flesh have long been prized as food, they have been subject to overhunting, and are now classified as Conservation Dependent.