Why Is My Turtle Not Active Nor Responding? Understanding Potential Turtle Problems FAQ-4 (2021)


This section covers the potential problems you may have with your turtle.

Why the turtle has gone off its food?

A number of things can cause turtles to go off their food, but by far the most common cause is water that is too cold. Some turtles will stop eating when the temperature drops below 20°C, nearly all will stop eating at temperatures below 18°C. If your turtle does not seem hungry, the first thing to do is to check the temperature. If this is too low, you may need to get an aquarium heater, or, at the least, move the turtle tank to a new location that is warmer.
If the temperature is not the problem, the turtle may have stopped eating due to some other cause of stress. A turtle that has recently been moved to a new aquarium may not eat for a few days while it settles in. If this is the case it is best to disturb the turtle as little as possible to allow it to acclimatize. Try feeding the turtle in the aquarium, at least to begin with, and tempt it with dried shrimp or frozen bloodworms if it is reluctant to eat.
A turtle may also stop eating if it is ill for any other reason, eg with fungus or a cold. Check the turtle for any other symptoms and see the relevant sections of this FAQ, or, if you are still unsure, email us or take your turtle to a knowledgeable store owner or vet. Bear in mind that not all vets and pet stores specialize in turtles, so we recommend checking first.

Why the turtle spends a lot of time out of the water?

Turtles vary quite a bit in the amount of time they spend out of the water, but if a turtle begins spending noticeably more time out of the water than usual, or if it spends nearly all of its time out of the water, it is a sign that the turtle may have fungus.
Fungus usually starts around the turtles’ toes and eyes as solid white lumps that are not easily removed. Carefully examine the turtle for any signs of fungus and treat if necessary. Even if you do not find any signs of fungus the fact that the turtle is spending a lot of time out of the water shows that it is unhappy. We recommend that you perform a water change and add a little rock or sea salt (5g/l is ideal). If you have some, a half dose of anti-fungal medication can also be added.
Keep a very close eye on the turtle to be sure it does not develop fungus.

Why the turtle never comes out of the water?

Turtles will not come out of the water if they feel threatened, therefore, some turtles will not come out whenever anyone is around. These should still be provided with a resting place in case they need it, and some room out of the water as they may very well come out when left alone.
It is not essential for the turtle to spend much time out of the water, but it is certainly beneficial. To ensure your turtle does have some time out of the water, take it out of the tank for 10 to 15 minutes each week.

Why is there white lumps appear on the toes or around the turtle’s eyes?

If the lumps are solid and can not be easily removed by hand, then this is a classic sign of fungus and immediate action should be taken. If the white substance comes off easily then it may simply be shed skin, which is normal and requires no treatment. Gently remove what you can to ensure that the shed skin is not hiding a fungal infection. If the toes are whitish but without obvious lumps, it may be that the turtle has bitten them whilst feeding (a not uncommon occurrence). To prevent infection of the affected area, be sure the water is clean and perform a water change if necessary. Add 5g rock or sea salt per liter as a preventative. Additionally, any injured areas can be painted with either an aquarium anti-fungal medication or with betadiene. Remove the turtle from the water for a few minutes and gently pat with a towel or tissue to remove excess moisture before painting the affected area. Carefully check the turtle for any signs of fungus developing and treat if necessary.
If you suspect your turtle might have fungus but are unsure, we recommend you seek advice from a turtle expert.

Why the turtle body is covered with a white flakey substance?

As turtles grow they shed their skin in sections. The shed skin is white in color and may cover nearly the entire body. Often shed skin is similar in appearance to fungus, but, unlike fungus, shed skin is easily removed from the turtle’s skin by hand. With experience, you will be able to differentiate between shed skin and fungus simply by sight, but if you are at all unsure, take the turtle out of the water and gently remove what you can of the white substance. If any lumps remain that do not easily come off, then you should treat them for fungus.
If you suspect your turtle might have fungus but are unsure, we recommend you seek advice from a turtle expert.

Why the turtle shell is soft and bends at the edges?

Softshell is most commonly caused by a diet that is deficient in Calcium. It may also be caused where a turtle has trouble absorbing calcium from its diet due to insufficient vitamin D. Be sure to feed your turtle a specialized turtle diet, these contain plenty of calcium and usually sufficient vitamin D. Sometimes a turtle cannot utilize vitamin D from food and must receive sunlight in order to synthesize useful vitamin D. Proper aquarium lighting, or regular short periods (10 to 15 minutes every few days until the shell is hard, once per week thereafter) in natural sunlight should remedy this problem.
Remember, do not place the turtle in direct sunlight – and be careful on very hot days!

Why the plates of the turtle shell are peeling off?

It is normal for turtles to shed the plates of their shell as they grow. These should come off cleanly leaving a new well-formed plate underneath. If they do not dislodge, the shell will become lumpy and uneven, and although this is not a major problem, it does leave the turtle at greater risk of infections to the shell.
To ensure proper shell formation, give the turtle some time out of the water (about 10 to 15 minutes) each week to let the shell dry out. It is a good idea to take the turtle out and do this when you notice the plates starting to peel off. If the weather is cool, leave the turtle out for longer – until the shell is quite dry on top.
To help the plates come off, you can pull on them gently, but do not force them.

Why the turtle legs are puffy and pink underneath?

This is usually a sign of vitamin deficiency, caused either by an inadequate diet or by the turtle being unable to absorb sufficient vitamin D. Be sure to feed your turtle a specialized turtle diet, these contain plenty of calcium and all the necessary vitamins and minerals. Sometimes a turtle cannot utilize vitamin D from food and must receive sunlight in order to synthesize useful vitamin D. Proper aquarium lighting, or regular short periods (10 to 15 minutes every few days until the puffiness disappears, once per week thereafter) in natural sunlight should remedy this problem.
Remember, do not place the turtle in direct sunlight – and be careful on very hot days.

Why the underside of the turtle’s shell is pink?

This can be caused by the turtle scraping itself on the aquarium gravel or rocks, which is not a cause for concern but can also be a sign of internal infection – most commonly as a result of an untreated fungal infection. If this is the case the turtle will usually show other signs as well, eg listlessness, lack of appetite. Treatment is difficult and is not always successful. Pink under the shell can also be a sign of vitamin deficiency.

Why are there small dark cavities in the turtle’s shell?

The turtle’s shell may occasionally be attacked by parasites. This is uncommon but occurs more frequently where water quality is poor or where the shell is soft or deformed. The parasites should be removed by very gently scraping out the cavity with fine tweezers or a needle that has been disinfected. (pass through a hot flame or dip in alcohol). Water quality should be improved where necessary. Add 5g of rock or sea salt per liter of water and a half dose of an aquarium anti-fungal medication. Give the turtle some time out of the water to aid shell formation and ensure a proper diet is being fed.

Why the turtle seems to be wheezing and having trouble breathing?

Like many animals, turtles can catch a cold! To check your turtle’s breathing, take it out of the water and hold it with its head near your ear (not too near!), and listen for wheezing.
If you think your turtle may have a cold it is advisable to have it checked by an expert.
Treatment usually consists of keeping the turtle in warm (24 – 26°C), shallow water, with 10g rock or sea salt per liter. Add some aquarium anti-bacterial medication to be doubly sure any infection does not worsen.

Why the nails are missing from some of the turtle’s toes?

Turtles may occasionally bite their feet while eating, or, where more than one is kept, one turtle may nip at another. Although the toes do not always grow back, this is not a major cause for concern. The most important thing is to ensure the damaged site does not become infected. You can do this by painting the affected area with either an aquarium anti-fungal medication or with betadiene. Remove the turtle from the water for a few minutes and gently pat with a towel or tissue to remove excess moisture before painting. Adding 5g of sea or rock salt per liter will also help prevent infection. Carefully check the turtle for any signs of fungus developing and treat if necessary.

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