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Turtles/Yellow belly sliders shell


I recently got two young yellow belly sliders from a pet shop. They had no basking/heat or UVB and no filter. I have them now in a 20 gallon tank with a heat lamp, UVB lamp, heater, dock and a filter. They also have food dusted in calcium and a cuttlefish/cuttlebone. The turtles shells are nice and hard put have rust coloured peeling, it doesn't look like the scrutes are coming off just something on the surface, like a thin film. Underneath however is bright and healthy looking. The shell underneath the turtles feels slightly softer. Is this normal or should I do something?

Thank you.

Hi Chris,

A 20 gallon tank is a bit small for two hatchlings, but will do for now, and sounds much better than what they had previously.  Just keep in mind that they'll need a much bigger tank soon.

The peeling sounds like normal shedding, and as long as the shell underneath looks normal with no redness, oozing, or odor, I think all is well.  Assuming your turtles are hatchlings (1 1/2"-2"), a little give to the plastron (lower shell) is normal.  There will be some flex for up to six months to a year.  What you want to watch for is increasing softness, especially to the carapace (upper shell), along with lack of appetite and lethargy.  This would indicate a more serious problem, generally due to poor diet and/or lack of UVB.  Feed a good, varied diet--pellets, animal protein, and greens--and have a good UVB bulb, and they should do fine.  

Here's some links for additional information that may be helpful to you:  (for RES, but good information for YBS as well)


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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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