Unhealthy turtle shell
March 24, 2010 8:16 PM   Subscribe

How do I take care of my turtle's unhealthy looking shell?

I inherited a 4 inch turtle from a friend who moved away. It's a deep brown shell with a black head and yellow streaks spotting the sides of its head. I was told it's a female.
It likes to lay in water. I am keeping it in a 25 gallon tank with a shallow basin of water a large drying rock and a reptile UVB lamp.
The underside of the plastron is smelly, and the area of the scutes underneath have a brown sludge between them, kind of like old mortar between bricks. Scraping gently with a fingernail removes some of this gunk. The edges of the upper carapace feel slimy and have the same gunk. I am soaking the turtle in a solution of 1 tsp aquarium salt to 1 gallon room temperature water for half an hour, then rinsing her off. I put her to dry in the tub for two hours.

I am feeding her chicken and lean beef. She doesn't seem to want to eat the meat coated in Reptolife plus Vitamin powder, so I've just been feeding straight meat. The carrot shreds I provide prove less preferable than the meat.

What can I do to stop the shell from deteriorating and grow healthier?
posted by ayc200 to Pets & Animals (6 answers total)
sounds like an eastern painted turtle. sure one of those spots isn't red? red eared sliders are a lot more common. it may look yellow because of diet.

both are aquatic turtles, which means more water then land. you should have her in an aquarium that's half filled with water, and have a floating log or dock for her to sun herself on. position your lamp to be right on the log, and leave it on for 18 hrs. per day.

get a sulfa block from the pet store. keep one in the tank at all times.

feed her more veggies, like cucumbers and lettuce, and try apples or bananas. my turtle also loves feeder fish*. buy a few and throw them in. watching a turtle hunt is pretty cool.

on your tank: 25(?) gallons isn't big enough. you need a 55 gallon. fill it 1/2 way, and use a container filter rated for 40+ gallons.

oh, and no mefi turtle post is complete without a link to the happy turtle pub.

*get small feeder fish, otherwise she won't catch them all ... and you'll have floating fish parts in your tank.
posted by lester at 9:00 PM on March 24, 2010

ahem ... sulfa block.
posted by lester at 9:01 PM on March 24, 2010

It is just dirty? I've had to clean my turtle with a toothbrush a couple of times when I was a little irresponsible with the filter changes. I have a red-eared slider, which is an aquatic turtle, as lester mentioned. I just put her under a running faucet (not too cold or too hot), and scrubbed her with a toothbrush. She would bite me or the toothbrush if I got too close to her head, so I had to approach the head-adjacent part of the shell from behind.
posted by Mavri at 9:29 AM on March 25, 2010

If she's a meat-eater, try dry kitten chow, and whole feeder goldfish and insects.

My red-eared water turtles had a nutritional deficiency from a bad diet. I found a vet who treated reptiles (hard to find!), and he told me that the Repta-Min they were refusing to eat was even worse than the dried shrimp I was feeding them. He told me what to feed them instead. Kitten chow plus the occasional goldfish cleared their problems up completely. We kept those turtles for twenty-five years before tiring of them and finding them a new home.

The old lethargic snapping turtle in the biology lab in my department became energetic and interesting after they started it on Kitten Chow as the result of my experience.

Meat-eating turtles need to eat whole organisms for nutritional completeness, not just muscle meat like you've been feeding yours. Your turtle must have serious nutritional deficiencies. Kitten Chow is far more nutritious than the food sold by pet stores for turtles, and, incidentally, it's a mere fraction of the price, as well.
posted by Ery at 9:45 AM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

It might be shell rot but a good clean could take care of it if it's just slime build up from dirty water. Look for any soft or odd color parts of the shell to check. I've used watered down iodine (3 parts water/1part iodine) to kill off spots but I've also used the Nolvasan (chlorhexidine) mentioned on the link below. The herp vet I was going to at the time said the Nolvasan was over kill so I stopped it but it did work well. It makes a huge difference if you keep your water as clean as possible.


Younger sliders tend to eat mostly meat and eat more veggies as they get older. I feed my turtle veggies first, otherwise she'd eat only meat and fruit (melon is yum! for my turtle) if I'd let her get away with. In the wild, I think they eat more algae. I've seen turtles at a couple big aquariums snacking away on algae covered rocks. Try cooking the veggies a little and giving them to her warm. This helps with my turtle when she's being fussy. Don't over do the Reptolife. Too much vitamins can cause as much problems as too little

Turtle Times is another forum where you can ask questions.

posted by stray thoughts at 11:49 AM on March 25, 2010

Response by poster: I bought a pouch of Nutro Natural Choice Complete Care Kitten in Chicken and Liver flavor; it was spit out by the turtle.

The guppies I dropped in the feeding basin were stared at and ignored. The chicken breast chunks were happily consumed, however. How do I teach the turtle to eat live fish?
posted by ayc200 at 2:28 AM on April 1, 2010

« Older Advice for renting a car in Europe?   |   Where to eat in San Francisco? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.