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Turtles/box turtle/hatchling


I have had box turtles in an outside pen for aprox 15 years..all are doing husband found 3 hatchlings in our front yard around Feb of this year. Since we have preditors (hawks,possums and such) and they were only the size of about a quarter, i put them in a aquarium in the house where i raise most of my hatchlings. They have all 3 been growing as expected..clean tank every other day, etc.  However, recently there is one that i constantly find flipped over on his back..not even trying to upright himself.  I know it it the same turtle every time because he is the only one with a very light bottom shell with hardly any markings. (I have learned they all have different markings on their under belly)oh..we live in the panhandle of Florida! Is this a sign that he is ill? what can i do to help him outgrow this problem? first time i have had this problem and not sure what to do. thank you for any advice you can give me.

also, i keep the males and females in seperate pens outside so i know these are not from my pet turtles but from strays? haha but this one baby has me baffled.

Hi Tascha,

I think you're probably more of a box turtle expert than I am, but I have a couple thoughts on this.  First is that this hatchling might be just a bit weaker than normal and doesn't quite have the strength to get himself back over easily.  Anything different lately?  Have you noticed that this little guy eats less or seems less active overall?  Any physical issues at all?  Is it possible for you to keep him in a separate enclosure for the time being?  What kind of substrate are you using for the hatchlings?  If it's not too grippy, maybe try mixing in something like long-strand sphagnum moss to help this particular hatchling get himself back over, or even just use moss period until he's a little bigger and stronger.

I don't think it's anything you can teach them, because it seems to be very instinctive behavior and something they start to learn almost immediately (and I'm sure you've seen this yourself).  That's why I think he may just be a little weak or possibly has a physical impairment of some kind.  The other possibility is the complete opposite--that he's very bold and adventurous, so flips himself over more than the others, but that doesn't explain why he doesn't seem to try to flip himself back.  Have you ever tried deliberately turning him over to see if he can right himself?  If he has to struggle more than a minute, then he really is having trouble.  Generally they right themselves within seconds.  

Not sure how much help I've been, sorry.  If he's survived this long he's obviously not in terrible shape, although if this is something that's developed recently, something new may be going on.  That's another reason to put him in a separate enclosure, so you can monitor his eating, etc. a little more closely.  Let me know if you notice anything different about him, or if you figure out what the problem is.  


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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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