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Turtles/Extremely concerned RES eyes are shut swollen


Greetings,  my seven year old son brought home a turtle from the flea market while out with family.  There was no instructions and I was totally unprepared.    My son brought her home on 2-23-14.She stayed in the dish about three days after brought her home and I noticed the turtle was climbing the side of the dish and becoming stuck upside down.  I purchased a 10 gallon tank kit. I then noticed that one eye look puff crushed.  Asked pet store was told it was probably from another turtle. Then I noticed the other eye doing the same, went back and was told the water cleaner I purchased didn't clean out chlorine.  So the Jordan was swimming in bad water for about a week. I immediately purchased flukers dechlorinator and got her out the water she has been in good water since.  She is drinking but not eating the Tiffy turtle deluxe pellets for about three days. I just got a  exo terra reptile uvb 100 yesterday and it is on a lamp right above her dry rock. I have a filter since I got the tank. It came with a internal filter 115 volts 60hz, tetra whisper.  She still swims and respond to my son coming up to the tank but her eye's are crusty or something.  I shredded a little carrots near the area  she like to drink, she puts her head in and drinks. Stays out of water alot with legs straight out and arms. I don't have a heater and don't know the water temperature.  Just want her to get better and live,  my son will be crushed.  Cant afford vet they are $75 just to look at her. Just bought all this stuff for the tank, PLEASE what can I do until I can get her to the vet in 3weeks.  Also the pet store guy told me to take her out and put antibiotic ointment on her eyes and leave her out all day. I tried that yesterday also and was very uncomfortable so didn't try it again,  she runs around in the box when we put her in to try the ointment. She still jumps in the water but mainly like to stroll out on the dry rock.

Hi Jay,

A couple of things I can tell you right off the bat:

1)  Don't go to a pet store for advice on turtles.  Most employees know little to nothing about them, and often their advice is very poor;

2)  RES are considered a "throwaway" pet.  They're bred in huge quantities for the pet and overseas food markets, in poor conditions, and they're cheap.  So the health of hatchlings is often not very good in the first place, and then when they're sent to be sold they're still kept in poor conditions (overcrowded, etc.), so that doesn't help.  However, they are generally hardy turtles, so if they survive to be sold they can do just fine given proper husbandry.

I would take everything you've bought so far back to the pet store and demand your money back.  You were given poor advice on everything.  The tank is much too small, the filter is probably inadequate, and Exo Terra UVB bulbs are not reliable sources of UVB.  So...

First thing, get a bigger tank.  10 gallons is too small for any turtle, even the tiniest hatchling.  For a hatchling, I would get at least 30 gallons, but 40-50 would last longer.  RES can get quite large, grow quickly, and need a lot of space.  An adult RES is going to need 100 gallons or even larger if it's a large female.  The filter should be able to handle *at least* twice the tank's capacity, so for a 50 gallon tank you'd need a filter for a 100 gallon tank.  The better the filter, the cleaner the water, and the less likelihood of skin and shell infections.

Then, you need basking heat and UVB.  Get a ZooMed Powersun 100w bulb.  They are the most reliable UVB bulb out there in terms of output and durability (see  There should be a basking temperature of about 88-90 degrees (measure on the basking area directly under the bulb), and the water should be about 77 degrees for a hatchling.  You do need some kind of thermometer to check the temperatures.  No heat is necessary overnight unless your house is very cold (below 50).  The turtle should spend several hours a day basking, as well as time swimming.

I would get Reptomin pellets, but you also need to feed a variety of animal protein, and offer greens regularly as well.  A varied diet is really important.  I'll attach links for you that have information about what kinds of food you can give.  

The eye issue is most likely due to poor water quality, lack of UVB, poor diet, or a combination of all three.  Eye infections tend to be isolated to one eye, not both, and swelling is very often because of improper conditions.  So get her set up correctly, and give a couple of weeks for things to improve.  If they don't get better, post again and we'll see what else we can figure out.  

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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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