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Turtles/sick turtles


Hi, my turtles have been unwell recently, there skin has been shedding too much all over and now there eyes are slightly puffy and they have them closed a lot ,they are both male missassipi map turtles and was purchased around 3 years ago were they were around 1 inch in lenght, for the first year they was in a 10 gallon with some gravel a heater filter and uvb light, they then moved on to a 4 ft x 18 x 18 they are kept at 22Ěc with a uvb light and a dock, the substrate is river sand (jbl sansibar river) they have a fluvel u4 internal and a bio-pro external as filtration. I feed them mussels, prawns, colly and these frozen veggie pellets i made containing water cress, romian lettuce, squash,calcium powder and some other veg i forget,when this started i put them in the 10 gallon with there dock,filter, heater and a new uvb bulb i have been doing 70% water changes a day with dechlorinated water and there skin has improved it is not shedding as near as much as they was but there eyes are slowly getting worse and there starting to refuse food, what should i do to cure this as thee isnt a vet around her for 250 miles + never mind one whom has experience with exotics. Thanks for any help

Hi Alex,

My first concern would be the UVB bulb.  What bulb are you using?  Unfortunately, many UVB bulbs are unreliable in their output, so that could be the problem.  Here in the States the bulb I would recommend would be the ZooMed Powersun (heat and UVB).

When you say 22C, do you mean basking temperature or water temperature?  It's really too cold for either, but much too cold for basking.  The water should be about 23C and the basking area should be 31-32C (measure that on the basking surface under the basking/UVB bulb).  Being too cool wouldn't cause the skin and eye problems, but would certainly cause a lack of appetite.

I would remove the sand substrate.  Sand is an impaction hazard.  Substrate should be too large for them to eat.  Again, this isn't causing the problem, but could be a concern in the future.

I would change the diet somewhat.  I don't think they should be fed mussels at all.  The prawns are OK, and I assume colly is some kind of fish (sorry, don't have that here!) so that should also be OK, but more variety in animal protein would be better (worms, crickets, live guppies, krill, crayfish, ghost shrimp, bloodworms, etc.).  Can you get turtle pellets such as Reptomin?  Those should make up the base of the diet, with other foods added in.  Rather than the frozen veggie pellets, I would start to offer greens such as turnip, mustard, collards, dandelion, etc. along with various fresh veggies (peppers, squash, carrots, etc.).  You can also add live plants to the tank such as anacharis, duckweed, water lily, and so forth).  

I think the eye and skin issue is either due to a UVB issue or the diet.  If you let me know what bulb you're using, I can try to find out how good the output is.  I also think that improving the diet and upping your temperatures will help.  Post back and let me know how they're doing.


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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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