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Turtles/turtle is less active and doesn´t eat, hibernation?



turtle tub
turtle tub  
tranchemys scripta scripta, water land turtle, Frank, 5+ years, weight: 2141 gr., length shell: 27 cm, never hibernated

We recently (about 3 months) changed his/her living area from a 100liter glass aqarium to a `turtle tub` (by Zoo Med) with built-in land area where Frank chills a lot - about 49 liters water area, big black plastic tub thing, equipted with what we belieave to be the right filter, heater, and lamp.
Since the move he is less active in the water - very seldomly he takes a swim. All he does is lay under the lamp and chill - recently with arms, legs and head hidden. He buries himself in the forest floor bedding and natural cork thats on the land side.
What worries us the most is that he doesn't eat much anymore - neither turtle food nor lettuce or anything he liked before. Maybe he needs less food since he doesn't swim so much anymore? In the glass area he didn't have such a big and comfy land area to rest.
We are not sure whether Frank is just happier now and does what he would always have liked to do but just couldn't because of lack of space or if there is a problem. We are worried because he really hardly eats, we think his shell is less shiny and he may has lost some weight too.
We are wondering whether maybe Frank feels like he needs to hibernate since his new living space is not transparent anymore like glass but black plastic. Of course he gets light from a lamp about 14 hours a day but it is definitely a change to before.
When we have him running around in the appartment he appears strong - he can hold his own body weight up, the walking looks good.

We would be so happy to hear your opinion - and whether you advise us to go to a vet. Or should we change back to a glass aquarium?

Male/female differences
Male/female difference  
Hi Russell and Josefine,

First off, Frank is definitely not trying to hibernate.  Hibernation is a very specific process triggered by light and temperature changes, but it cannot occur at typical household temperatures because houses are kept too warm.  He may be too cool, however, and if he's too cool he won't eat.  So let's go over the enclosure requirements to make sure everything is OK.

First, he does need a larger tank/enclosure.  This isn't absolutely urgent, but it's something you should consider.  A 10" (27 cm) turtle needs about a 100 gallon (375 liter) tank.  Turtles need a lot of space!  For a large tank, the filter should be an external cannister filter that is sized for two to three times the tank capacity.  Water quality is very important for turtles, and having good filtration will help to avoid infections of shell and skin.

The water should be approximately 75-77 degrees F (24 C).  The basking area should be 88-90 degrees F (32 C)--measure this temperature on the basking platform directly under the basking lamp.  You said that he had a lamp, but didn't specify exactly what it is, so if there isn't a basking lamp, Frank is probably too cold.  He also needs a source of UVB, which would be a special reptile bulb.  I generally recommend a ZooMed Powersun, which provides both heat and UVB, but I'm not sure what's available in Germany.  Artificial UVB is necessary for turtles and tortoises that aren't able to get natural sunlight outside on a regular basis.  It allows them to metabolize calcium properly.

The diet should consist of a variety of pellets, animal protein, and greens/veggies.  Adult red-eared sliders are more herbivorous than juveniles.  Avoid too much lettuce because it's not very nutritious, but you can feed turnip and mustard greens, collards, kale, dandelion, etc.

Your English is very good!  If anything is unclear, or you need more information, please post back.  Below are some links that may also help you--there are good lists of foods, too.  I suspect that temperatures are the likely problem, but if the temperatures are correct, let me know and we'll see what we can figure out.  

P.S.  I couldn't quite tell from your picture, but Frank may actually be female.  27 cm is quite large for a male.  If his front claws aren't really long, then he's a she.  I attached a picture that shows the difference.


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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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