Carapace is domed with three well-developed longitudinal keels which become less obvious with age. Attains 175 mm in length. The plastron is hinged between the pectoral and abdominal scutes, and there is no posterior anal notch. The head is large with a projecting snout and hooked upper jaw. Two large barbles on the chin are followed by two or three smaller pairs. The head is gray- brown, darker above and lighter laterally; the jaws uniform yellow or streaked. Neck, limbs, and tail are gray brown. Carapaces of both sexes are about the same length, but is broader in females.
It occurs at low elevations from southern Tamaulipas, Mexico, southward to northern Argentina, Bolivia, and northern Peru. It is widespread on Trinidad, unknown from Tobago. The species is polytypic with four subspecies.
Habitat includes streams, rivers, lakes, and ponds. If its waterway dries up, it will bury itself in the mud bottom until the next rain. It is omnivorous. Diet includes algae, plants, insects, mollusks, fish, and amphibians. Nesting occurs from March to May. Clutch size is 6-16 eggs, requiring about 90 days of incubation time. Spinks et al. (2014) supported previous research suggesting there is much uncertainty regarding species delimitation in the K. scorpioides and K. subrubrum groups. They suggest a taxonomic revisions within these groups would be premature.