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Turtles/Turtle shell


Hi, I have a red eared slider that I have had since march. He has everything it needs for his tank; basking light, light, heater and filter. Lately I have noticed that his shell has been very slimy. I read that you can clean it by gently brushing a toothbrush on the shell. I did this with an extra small toothbrush and he opened his mouth and tried to bite me. His shell seems to be healthy and isn't soft in any areas. So I wasn't sure if I was hurting him or not. Do you have any other suggestions on how to clean the shell? I don't think he is basking like he should. The platform has stairs leading up to it so its not difficult to access. How do I get him to bask more?

Hi Heather,

Sorry for the delay--I wrote out an answer for you a few days ago, but must have forgotten to hit "Send."

Using a soft toothbrush to clean his shell is fine.  RES can be nippy, so you just have to watch out for him.  The slime may be building up for several reasons:  tank too small/filter not rated high enough, not enough water changes, tank furnishings not being cleaned, etc.  With RES, it's very important to give them plenty of room and excellent filtration.  You didn't say how old/big your turtle was, but as a rough estimate you should figure on *at least* 10 gallons of tank for each inch of turtle--so if he's 3", he should be in at least a 30 gallon tank.  A mature RES will need 75-125 gallons, with a filter rated for at least twice the capacity of the tank (three times is even better).  Proper accomodations, along with regular partial water changes and cleanings, will help to keep slime buildup to a minimum.

As far as the basking goes, you're right that baskiing is very important.  Too much time in the water and not enough time basking can lead to shell/skin problems.  Check your temperatures, as this is often due to the water being too warm in comparision to the basking area.  The water should be 75ish degrees (a few degrees warmer for a hatchling), and the basking area should be about 88 to 90 degrees.  You want a 10-15 degree difference between water and basking temps to encourage basking.

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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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