QUESTION: I have a RES turtle that I have had for about a month and I have a kiddie pool out back that I keep both him and my feeder fish in. I change the water about once a week concidering that it gets really dirty. I have a basking rock out there for him but it is not completely out of the water. The pool is also halfway in the shade incase he gets to hot. He is about 2 inches long, so not very big. When he is underwater you can see white, film like SOMETHING on his shell, you can also see floating dead skin. I picked him up today and he was shedding like crazy.  He also has some shell rot in the back. Another thing is that he only has a couple claws on some legs. I also think he is not eating.  I am really concerned about him and do not know what to do. (My original question was if he doesn't have a fungal infection will the treatment hurt him... I guess the rest just....)

ANSWER: Hi Reagan,

I think you've answered your own question--the problem is that you're keeping this turtle in dirty conditions and it's having a negative effect on skin and shell.  Especially with a hatchling, turtles need clean, well-filtered water.  I would move him indoors into a properly set up tank with a good filter and UVB, treat him as necessary, and monitor his food intake.  The film on the shell may not actually be fungus if it's not fuzzy, so try cleaning it with a soft toothbrush first and see if better conditions help.  Shedding is normal unless it's really sloughing and there are abnormal areas underneath the shedding.  If there is shell rot, that does need to be treated, but the primary concern is to get him into clean water.  

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QUESTION: I have moved him into an indoor tank and  I am already feeling better with him indoors. It is a small fish tank and I realize rather I will have to get a bigger one but this is the best i can do for now.  Do you know of any cheaper lights/tanks/ect?

Hi Reagan,

The most important thing right now is to make sure you have a good filter and a good basking/UVB bulb, so put your money into that.  You can probably get a cheap tank on Craiglist, or even off Freecycle if you have that in your area.  You can also use a large plastic tub/bin, like a Rubbermaid tub.  You won't be able to see through it, but the turtle won't care.  The filter should be able to handle twice the capacity of the tank.  For the bulb, I'd get a ZooMed Powersun, which provides both heat and UVB.  Keep in mind that you will eventually have to provide a fairly large tank for an adult RES.

Here's some more detailed information on care and housing:



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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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