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Turtles/My RES in pond


QUESTION: Got my RES about 2 weeks ago he lives in our pond and seems to love it I was very worried first few days I didn't see him come up my husband did now that it has gotten warm I catch him out and as soon as he sees me he dives back in well today he was out and (he's very friendly) I picked him up and he stretched his neck out opened his mouth and sounds like he is crying , he seems healthy and is fast I put him back by pond and he went straight to the water is this normal should I worry

ANSWER: Hi Lisa,

Sorry I couldn't answer sooner.  Anyway,  it's hard to say if there's cause for concern.  The symptoms you describe (stretching the neck out and gaping, wheezing) could be signs of a respiratory infection.  However, if he is eating and active, it might have just been a one-time thing.  How is he acting now?  Are you seeing a repeat of those same symptoms?  If so, you will need to take him to a vet for treatment.  If not, and he remains active and eating, I wouldn't worry.  Please post back if you can and let me know how he seems to be doing.

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QUESTION: He does it off and on I went to the fish store we go to and glad I had video because they looked at me like I was crazy everyone else has told me he needs a friend .And or possibly warmer water I live in the High Desert (Hesperia Ca) and it gets pretty warm I'm not sure if putting another heater in would be a good idea especially since we have comets it does get pretty chilly at night at times So we are going to get him a friend thanks so much for your help Any other Suggestions would be greatly appreciated

ANSWER: Hi Lisa,

Don't get another turtle at this point.  Whoever is giving you advice doesn't know what they're talking about.  First, turtles are solitary and don't need friends.  When you see them congregating, generally it's because that area has the best food and basking opportunities, so they all want to get in on it.  Adding another turtle could work out fine, but RES can also be aggressive and territorial, especially if there isn't enough room.  For two RES, your pond should be at least 250 gallons, and 500-1000 gallons would be better.  

The other issue is whether there is something going on with your turtle's health.  Stretching the neck out and gaping/yawning is a classic RI symptom.  It means that the turtle can't breathe well and is trying to get more air.  Does he have a runny or bubbling nose at all?  If you hold him near your ear, does he gurgle or wheeze as he breathes?  Is he swimming normally, or does he appear lopsided at all?  It's still a good sign if he's eating and active, but I'm concerned that he's repeating the symptoms.

What is the water temperature, and the overnight temperatures?  If it's warm enough to bask, it's fine if the water temperature is fairly cool.  If it's warm enough for the comets, it should be OK for the turtle.  The water temperature should be cooler than the air anyway.

As far as adding another turtle, if your pond is big enough it shouldn't be a problem, but you should wait at least a few months to make sure this turtle is settled well and perfectly healthy.  I would also advise against getting a female.  Males can harass females, and you don't want to end up with hatchlings anyway--RES are way overpopulated as it is, so it's very difficult to find good homes for them.  

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QUESTION: No weezing or bubbles he seems to only do it when he sees me he seems the same otherwise he's very fast we have also gotten plants in the pond he can eat besides his food a friend of ours has 1 and says does the same .Seems to talk when he sees ppl my son thinks I'm crazy being so worried about a turtle but he is still a pet :)  he really gets upset when I take him out and let him wander around the back yard if he can't get back to pond and when I put him in pond area he dives right in ..I will try to find a vet up here ,to take him to be on safe side

If you're not seeing wheezing or bubbles, and he's eating and swimming/basking normally, then it's nothing to be concerned about.  RES can be pretty greedy, so it's possible he's stretching his neck out begging for food.  They don't like being too exposed away from water, so that's why he doesn't like being out in the back yard.

If your poind is big enough, it's fine to get another turtle, but as I said, wait a few months until you're sure this one is healthy.  If there isn't enough room, best to stick to just one.


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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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