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Turtles/Red ear turtle


Found a red ear turtle outside my house, no lakes or bayous near by. Didn't want to leave it outside, afraid it was going to get run over by a car.  Bought a 40 gallon fish tank, filter, water heater, lamp and food for it. He seemed shy at first and then it  started swimming around.  Today I found him floating and unresponsive. His head is up, eye's close shut, arm and legs are out. How can I tell if he is dead or sleeping??

Hi Marvin,

It's usually very obvious pretty quickly when turtles are dead, as decay starts to set in.  The eyes will become sunken within a few hours, and that's when you should be able to tell.  If that hasn't happened, try tugging gently on a leg to see if there's a reaction--the turtle should try to pull the leg in.  If there's no reaction, it's likely that the turtle is either dead or nearly so.  Even when asleep, turtles aren't completely unresponsive, so it does sound as if this turtle is in bad shape for whatever reason.

If he does recover, here are some links to help you with care.  Note that adult RES require large (100+ gallons) tanks with excellent filtration, along with basking/UVB lighting and a varied diet.  If you have further questions, please ask!


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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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