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Turtles/acting weird after water change



I made a water change last week into my turtle tank. I added cold water to it.
ever since, I noticed he was sluggish and didnt eat. Didnt seem like himself.
I never had a basking lamp but I got it today. Now he is on it most of the time just basking. Will he be ok?
The water temp is set at 78. Is he in shock from thr water change? Thanks for your help.

ANSWER: Hi Alan,

The cold water may have had an effect, but I suspect it was mostly coincidental and more caused by a cumulative effect from improper housing.  For one thing, if he's never had a basking lamp before, then he doesn't have a source of UVB either, and that alone could be causing problems.  Can you give me more information so that I can provide you with better advice?  I need to know:

1)  The species and size/age of your turtle.
2)  The size of the tank and type of filter
3)  Basking temperature (measure it on the basking surface under the lamp)
4)  Complete diet
5)  Any additional symptoms, such as wheezing, runny nose, swimming lopsided, or frequent gaping/yawning.  

78 is a bit warm unless the turtle is a young hatchling or a tropical species, but it's probably OK to leave it at that temperature for now.  When you post back with the additional information, I can help you pinpoint what's going on.  

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------


I now have a basking lamp and he is on it most of the time sleeping. When I poke him, he awakes a little then back to sleep. He is on the basking ramp most of the time.
red ear slider about 5 inches in a 30 gallon tank. I have a whisper 30i filter.
Basking temp is around 90 degrees. Its a 50watt halogen bulb for reptile.
I feed him mostly pellets and fed him feeder fish sometimes. Not often.
he is sluggish in the water and climbs back onto the basking ramp. I dont hear sneezing, running nose or wheezing.
he did poop so I guess thats a good sign no?

What temperature I should keep the heater at? Will he be ok? Is he in shock now?

Thanks for your help:)

ANSWER: How long have you had your turtle?  Is this the first time he's had a basking lamp?  You need a source of UVB--get a ZooMed Powersun 100 watt.  Without UVB, he won't metabolize calcium properly and will develop serious problems, if he doesn't have them already.  He also needs to be in a bigger tank--at least 50 gallons, along with a more varied diet that includes whole animal protein foods as well as veggies and greens.  

The water should be at about 75-76 degrees.  Basking at about 90 degrees, but make sure that's on the basking surface and not air temperature.  It's hard to say exactly what is causing the lethargy and lack of appetite, but lack of UVB is likely a primary cause.  Get the UVB bulb and you should see some improvement.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: I had it for 15 years. I got the basking lamp and uvb lamp. He is always basking and seems to be ok. But just sleepa ans hibernate too much. Water is around 78 degree. Is he ok?
I hand feed him 3 pellets the other day. He looks tired still. How long I should keep the lamps on? Thanks

Hi Alan,

"Seems to be OK" isn't the same as healthy.  Turtles are tough and can survive for a long time under improper conditions.  If you've had your turtle for 15 years without ever having a basking lamp or source of UVB, or a varied diet, he's not healthy, and that's the reason he's so lethargic (not sleeping, not hiberating).  Did you get the specific UVB bulb I mentioned, the Zoomed Powersun?  Keep that on for 12-14 hours a day so that the basking temperature is about 90 degrees (minimum 12" from the basking surface).  You don't need the additional basking lamp, or it will be way too hot.  It will take more than a day or two to see if he starts perking up.  I really can't say if he'll be okay.  I can only make suggestions for better care based on what you tell me.  If you can post some clear pictures of his tank, that would also help.


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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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