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QUESTION: I Understand You're Not A Vet, But I have A RES Turtle, Idk How Old He/She Is. I Won It From The Fair, And Have Done My Best To Provide It With The Right Environment & Everything It Needs. We Were In State Of Emergency, & My Turtles Tank Got REALLY Nasty, But I Cleaned It ASAP. Now, He/She Has Been Not Eating, Foaming A Bit From The Mouth. She/He Also Has Being Doing This Thing Where It Looks Like He/She Is Going To Puke. Idk WHAT To Do, Lately Money Has Been Tight And I Have NO CLUE Where A Local Vet For Reptiles Is. I'm Worried Sick About My Turtle, PLEASE HELP ME!

ANSWER: Hi Jennifer,

In order to help, I need more detailed information.  Please post back and let me know:  how long you've had the turtle, exactly how you have it set up (size of tank, basking and water temperatures, brand of basking and UVB bulbs), and complete diet.  Be as specific as you can--I need to know exact temperatures, for example.  Is your turtle swimming at all?  Any other symptoms, such as wheezing, runny nose, etc.?  It sounds like she may have a respiratory infection (based on the gaping symptom), but if you can give me more information it may give me a better idea of what's going on.  In the meantime, increase the basking temperature slightly, but to no more than 91-92 degrees (NOT air temp, but temperature in the basking area directly under the basking light).  I'll try to post back as soon as I can after I hear back from you.

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QUESTION: I've Had The Turtle Around 5 Months, Water Tempature Is 72, Basking Temp Is 80. The Tank Size Is 20 Gallons. She/He Does Swim. I Usually Feed Him/Her Pellets And Mini Shrimp, But She/He Hasn't Been Eating At All. I Posted Pics Of The Tank And Tried To Get Good Pictures Of What Bubbles Have been Coming From The Mouth.

Hi Jennifer,

The most imediate thing you should do is get the temps up.  The water temperature is a little cool, but the basking temperature is much too low.  Get it  up to about 90 degrees--the basking bulb should be directly over the basking area (the stones) rather than over the water.  Getting the temps up should help, but if your turtle has an actual respiratory infection/pnumonia, it will need vet treatment with antibiotics.  If the turtle can get warmer, it may help with appetite as well.

You also need to make some changes to the setup.  A 20 gallon tank is too small for a turtle, epecially an RES.  At the size your turtle is now, a 50 gallon tank would be a good size, but keep in mind that at maturity you'll need a 75 gallon tank and possibly larger.  You should also get a better filter (turtles are messy and water quality is very important)--an external cannister filter is best, and should be rated for 2-3 times the tank's capacity.  You also need a UVB bulb, which can either be a combo heat/UVB bulb (ZooMed Powersun) or a UVB-only tube bulb (Reptisun 10.0).

Pellets and shrimp are OK as part of the diet, but your turtle also needs a variety of fresh animal protein and greens.  I'll post some links below that will have food lists, as well as detailed information on tank setup and care.  

See how your turtle does after you bring the temps up.  If need be, I may be able to help you find a local vet.


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Questions regarding husbandry of Russian tortoises and other Mediterranean species, sulcata, and redfoot tortoises; general tortoise and turtle care; box turtle care. If I can't answer a specific question, I can provide sources for further research. Disclaimer: My advice is not a substitute for vet care. If I think your tortoise/turtle has a specific medical condition or injury that warrants a vet visit, I'll tell you so, and if possible I'll help you locate a vet. It is neither legal nor ethical for me to provide veterinary advice.


I have kept and bred Russian tortoises for over ten years and have other Mediterranean species plus redfoots and box turtles. I've worked with other tortoise and turtle species while doing volunteer rescue work; mostly sulcata but some leopards, California desert tortoises, yellowfoots, all box turtle species, red-eared sliders, etc. I don't personally keep aquatic species, but have access to a wealth of information and research to help you with any questions you might have.

My knowledge is based on hands-on experience keeping, breeding, and working with tortoises and turtles.

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