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Related Articles: The Care and Keeping of the Red Eared Slider, Trachemys scripta elegans by Darrel Barton, Red Eared Slider Care, Freshwater Livestock

Treating common illnesses of the Red Eared Slider

(Trachemys scripta elegans)

and other Emydid Turtles


by Darrel Barton


The first thing to understand about these turtles, all reptiles and in fact fish too, is that they are very stoic animals.   In the wild, their predators prey on the sick and the weak and so it is not in their interest to show any signs of sickness if at all possible.   In captivity this is most often seen as a reptile of fish that "looked just fine" until within a few hours of death.   In reality it has been sick for days, weeks or perhaps even months and yet the initial signs were so small or so well hidden that it APPEARED to be healthy until it just .... as people have said ... "suddenly died." 

Check Please! 

This is why it is imperative that you check your animals EVERY DAY

That you check their behavior EVERY DAY

That you check habitat and equipment EVERY DAY.    

While this sounds like a lot of effort, the truth is that it's in the quality of the work, not the amount of it.   Just as these animals are habitual, so you can be.  Check the same things for the same signs at the same time every day (or night) and it becomes second nature, convenient and fast.    I currently check 15 fish, 21 turtles, 4 iguanas and 43 tortoises in approximately 15 minutes.   The focus is on where they are usually, what they are doing usually, how do they do it usually  ... and what (if anything) is different today?   Since feeding is a daily routine and eating is certainly on their list of daily activities, this becomes the best time.  Note who feeds first, how much they eat and what they're willing to do to get it.  Note who waits, how long they wait and what they do when it's they're chance to access the food.  


An Ounce of Prevention

The second thing to know about reptiles and fish is that EVERYTHING required to treat an illness is more expensive, more time consuming and ultimately less successful than a similar human illness.  In addition to the fact that there illness may not be noticed until it has progressed to a near terminal stage, there are fewer drugs, fewer treatments and due to the fact that they all have significantly lower metabolisms than humans (with the possible except of my brother-in-law) they take longer to show progress and seemingly AGES to actually heal.  Add this to fewer veterinarians that are schooled in reptiles and fish and you have more than enough reasons to invest a tiny portion of that time and energy in prevention.   

Check your animals EVERY DAY. 

Observe their behavior EVERY DAY

Check habitat and equipment EVERY DAY.


The common illnesses are 

Soft Shell                                              caused by              Improper or unhealthy conditions/improper diet

Fungal Infection                                  caused by              Improper or unhealthy conditions/improper diet

Bacterial Infection                              caused by              Improper or unhealthy conditions/improper diet

Swollen eyes                                         caused by              Improper or unhealthy conditions/improper diet

Wheezing or bubbly nose                    caused by              Improper or unhealthy conditions/improper diet

Puffy body or face                                caused by              Improper or unhealthy conditions/improper diet

Cuts, Bruises and Bites(*)                caused by              Rocks, glass, teeth or beaks

--And Odd looking body parts

(*) Note that sharp rocks and glass edges are themselves an improper & unhealthy condition. 


Immediate Treatment       -  Environment first - ISOLATION and DRY-DOCK

Recognize immediately that the very environment preferred by the turtle, warm and wet ... is also the optimal environment for the growth of fungus and bacteria -- and even if neither are the primary illness, you can be assured that if you leave a sick turtle in a warm, wet environment long enough, fungal AND bacterial will seize the opportunity to take hold and take over.    For this reason, the single most immediate treatment for any illness in a turtle is to remove them from their tank, pond or enclosure and place them somewhere warm and dry.    Remember that, in the wild, water turtles occupy the habitat AROUND the water as much, if not more than IN the water.  Moreover, a turtle in good health can survive months out of water and a sick turtle really needs the rest.

A temporary shelter can be anything from an empty aquarium to a plastic bin or trash can or even just a cardboard box with high sides (keep in mind a determined turtle is an incredible climber).   Add a heat source, which can be a regular electric heating pad (if you're lucky enough to be able to find one without the annoying 'automatic off' feature) to a light bulb suspended over head. Ideally you want to achieve a constant temperature of between 85-87 degrees. Since we are deliberately taking away the turtle's choice to move from cool to warm, we have to pick a constant that fits both needs.   NOT having to move between temperature zones and not having to swim or climb is the first step on giving the turtle the ability to direct his attention more toward healing. 

You must also provide  UV-A and UV-B light sources(NOTE 2), which perhaps can be moved from his original enclosure or -- in the alternative, a minimum of 10 minutes of direct (NOT filtered through any kind of glass or screen) three times a day.

Assuming he is healthy enough to be moving, the regimen will be to place him in a shallow container of luke warm (room temp) tap water every day for 5 minutes in order for him to drink, poop and possibly eat.  Shallow means no more than half his shell under water when you place him in it -- and really only enough to cover his tail and cloaca.  Assuming that he is being treated for his actual condition and improving, he can go YEARS in this condition without ill effects.  Do NOT place him in water over his head! 


We are using the term "isolation" to isolate a turtle or even ALL turtles from the environment from which the illness was contracted.   All affected turtles can be treated together and we still call it "isolation."

 Veterinary Care:    Each of the illnesses listed is an indication for veterinary care, preferably by an experienced herpetological specialist.   The typical course of Veterinary care is referenced here, but the primary thrust of this care guide is making the assumption that, for whatever reason, professional care and treatment in unavailable.

 Always seek professional medical care if at all possible.


FINALLY!  The Common Illnesses. 

Soft Shell                                    Sorta defeats the purpose of having a shell, doesn't it?

Far and away the most common complaint is soft shell.   In Emydid turtles (Emydid is a fancy way of saying hard-shelled water turtles) have shell material made from the same keratin material as fingernails.   An just like fingernails, the material is firm and hard to the touch around the center changing to just a tiny bit flexible around the edges.   The brain needs calcium to function.  If the brain cannot get enough calcium from the diet, it leeches it from the bones until the bones become too soft and weak to support the body and then eventually the brain stops functioning, at which point the only thing that can be done is to elect it to Congress.

Improper diet, lack of calcium and lack of UV-A and UV-B lighting cause the shell to slowly deteriorate and soften.  This is called Metabolic Bone Disease and untreated becomes 100% fatal

Soft Shell is an early sign of illness.

Failure to treat will lead to virtually ALL the illnesses listed below.


1) Isolation treatment as outlined above.  

2) Calcium, preferably an injectible form from your veterinarian.  Failing that, obtain a calcium tablet from the vitamin section of some store, pure calcium like ground oyster shells if you can get it, but any calcium will do.  Crush a pill into a powder and coat whatever food item the turtle will eat with the calcium and feed at least twice a day.  Yogurt is also high in calcium and sometimes you can mix the crushed powder in the yogurt. Some turtles will simply eat small pieces of the crushed pill.   The critical part is that you get some calcium into him IMMEDIATELY via any method that will work.

Long term:  Correcting the diet(NOTE 1) and providing proper exposure to UV-A and UV-B lighting(Note2) will stop the deterioration and reverse the MBD if the condition has not advanced to affect other internal systems.   

Veterinary care will include injectible Vitamin A, D & Calcium and this is VERY effective in treating even advanced cases.  Advanced cases, where the turtle has lost his appetite, etc. are unlikely to survive without veterinary care.

Prognosis:  If the MDB is caught early enough that the turtle is still active and eating and therefore can eat the correct dirt and metabolize the vitamins and UV lighting, improvement should be noticed within three weeks and the turtle is able to resume life in a normal habitat within 6 weeks -- PROVIDED that you have corrected the dirty water, incorrect temperature, improper lighting and/or bad diet that caused the illness in the first place.


Fungal infections                 Why are you picking on me?? I'm a Fungi! (**)

Almost as common a complaint as soft shell is fungus.  Tiny white patches on the shell or whitish/gray patches on the skin.   Often they can be rubbed off with a cotton swab but reappear within hours.  The fungus is present even in a clean environment, but it becomes aggressive when the turtle can not get out of the water, dry out under a heat source and absorb UV light.   Fungus is also one of the easiest to treat.  You can obtain any number of different antifungal treatments from the local grocery store or pharmacy.  Use generic Tolnaflate, Miconazol, Clotrimazole (any of the treatments ending in "azol").  Pick up a small, soft toothbrush while you're there.   I have seen fungus successfully treated with common household vinegar as well, but the antifungal treatments are much better and faster.


1) Isolation treatment as outlined above 

2) Each day after the bath, dry the turtle off and allow him to become completely dry.   Apply the antifungal to all affected areas.  For the shell, rub it in with the toothbrush making sure to cover the area around the visible infection as well.   For skin and face, use a cotton swab to gently apply it over the affected and surrounding areas, taking care to avoid the eyes and mouth.  Apply a second time approximately 12 hours later.

Generally speaking, Veterinary care is not indicated except in the most advanced cases.  Improving the conditions and application of topical antifungals is usually as effective as any medical treatment.

Prognosis:  You should start to see improvements immediately, as the brushing and swabbing is removing the visible growths, but the infection remains at deeper levels.  After 10 days of treatment, if the fungus does not reappear in the skin or shell, the turtle can be placed back in his original enclosure -- PROVIDED that you have corrected the dirty water, incorrect temperature, improper lighting and/or bad diet that caused the illness in the first place.

(**)         That joke works better if you read it as Fun-Guy rather than Fun-Gee

                Not that it's any funnier ..... just better.

Bacteria                        Fungi's meaner, uglier brother.

Much like fungus, bacteria also occurs naturally in the turtle's habitat, but unlike fungus it requires more of an opportunity to take hold and take over.  Cuts or injuries are common openings as well as more serious and insidious causes:  For example, there is a temperature that is warm enough to induce the turtle to eat, yet not warm enough to allow it's body to digest.   The food sits in the gut and rots and begets an internal infection.    Bacteria can also be secondary to any other illness ... seeing what fun they're having and wanting to join in.

External infections will usually cause an eruption on the skin, a very definite "sore" that will be black, gray, sometimes yellow but ALWAYS a color that clearly appears 'wrong' for the area.  Often the wound suppurates (suppurate is a five dollar word for ooze) pus or other fluids.   In most cases there are obvious signs of dying skin.

Internal infections will often cause gas pockets that keep the turtle from swimming normally. Note that not ALL gas pockets are from bacterial gas, so this is an indicator only of something abnormal.

A proper treatment for a bacterial infection requires a course of antibiotics prescribed by a veterinarian after he or she has examined the turtle.  

Before anything else, resist the temptation to buy antibiotics at the fish store that are sold in paper cards with blister-packed pills.  Beyond being of questionable quality in the first place and setting aside for the moment that certain treatments only treat certain bacteria ... the plain fact of the matter is that you couldn't build enough concentration of the chemical in the water to do any good at all!   This applies to fish and fish diseases as well.   If you ever have the urge to buy & try those antibiotics, do yourself a favor -- go down to the corner of your block and toss two handfuls of $20 bills down the sewer and then come back home and explore the other options.  It's cheaper, faster with EXACTLY the same result!

There are people, myself included, that have in the past recommended injectible antibiotics such as Baytril which I use myself from time to time.   But I was trained by a good friend who happens to be a world class reptile veterinarian [ he literally wrote the book on Reptile Medicine and Surgery ISBN 9780721693279], I've been doing it for 15 years and even still I don't always get it right.   On balance I recommend against it because the injectibles cause burning and necrosis (another $5 word meaning tissue death) of the skin at the site, major pain for the animal and .. as I said before, if you use the wrong drug on the wrong bacteria ... no positive result.  In most cases you would be doing more harm than good


1) Isolation Treatment as described above

2) Raising the temperature to 92-95 degrees can often give the turtle's immune system just the boost it needs to fight off the infection.

3) For any external wounds, clean twice a day with hydrogen peroxide on a swab and then cover with Betadine (iodine/povodine, etc.).  If the turtle retracts and you are unable to apply the peroxide directly, it is permissible to just "dribble" it on, provided that you do NOT dribble it on any place that will run into the eyes, nose or mouth.  If you can't apply the peroxide for this or any other reason, skip this step and dribble on the Betadine.  Try to avoid the eyes and mouth, but if there is no other way to apply the treatment, apply it and then hold him up, down or slightly to the side as needed so that it drains away from the face. 

Prognosis:  Without proper veterinary treatment, the prognosis for a bacterial infection is not good unless it is extremely superficial.   Our procedure is to remove the turtle from an environment that promotes bacterial growth to one that hinders it, all the while allowing the turtle to rest and help his own immune system to better cope with it.   After 14-20 days of consistent treatment and the turtle showing positive signs of health such as activity, appetite, general appearance -- assuming any external wounds have at healed or at least been covered completely in scar tissue,  he can be returned to his original environment -- PROVIDED that you have corrected the dirty water, incorrect temperature, improper lighting and/or bad diet that caused the illness in the first place.

Swollen or closed eyes                  Beware the Eyes of March

Eyes that are swollen or swollen shut are one of the most easily preventable and most easily treatable illnesses seen in turtles.   Proper diet(Note1), proper lighting(Note2), proper hygiene andthe problem goes away.  It is almost always caused by hypovitaminosis (a $5 word meaning lack of vitamins), specifically vitamin A which they get from a proper diet and Vitamin D which is synthesized from natural sunlight or proper UV lighting. 

Unless you're screening the movie Sister Act 2 -- in which case closed eyes is merely good judgment. 


1) Isolation Treatment as described above. 

2) If the turtle is eating, coat a few Koi Pellets with a drop or two of Cod Liver Oil and attempt to get it to eat during it's bath time.   Another possibility is to offer a live earthworm (both pet stores and bait shops sell Night crawlers) that can also be coated in the Cod Liver Oil.   Sometimes a small (very small) piece of cow's liver from the grocery store.  Liver, as you have guessed, is high in Vitamin A and we need to get some of it into him.   Turtles that won't eat often have to be forced, but the challenge of forcing the mouth open and holding it open in order to get a dropper with a single drip of Cod Liver Oil -- all while not hurting the turtle -- is a significant one.

Treatment of the eye itself with Liquid Vitamin A drops may be of slight value -- read again -- SLIGHT value, but it does not in any way replace delivering the vitamin into the turtle's system.

Exposure to direct sunlight for at least 15 minutes, twice or three times daily is necessary.  At the level we are trying to build in the body in a short time, the typical UV light source that is adequate in prevention is too little and too late for treatment.  Most UV lamps are only effective at 6 to 8 inches and lose more than 80% of even THAT effectiveness through any for of glass , so any exposure to UV lamps is likely to be an intolerable heat source.   If artificial lighting is the only source available care must be taken not raise the temperature of the isolation container while at the same time, leaving the lights on for 12 to 18 hours per day.

Veterinary care would consist of injectible Vitamin A & D as well as the care instructions above.  As long as the turtle is active and eating and can therefore eat the proper diet and metabolize the UV, a trip to the vet may not be necessary.

Prognosis:   Unless the vitamin deficiencies have debilitated the eye (or any other part of the turtle) to the point where secondary fungal AND bacterial infections have set in ... if essentially all you have is a blind or partially blind turtle, the addition of vitamin A and D (via sunlight) will start to show positive signs in 2 to 3 days and the turtle should be able to resume a normal life after 7 complete days of treatment -- PROVIDED that you have corrected the dirty water, incorrect temperature, improper lighting and/or bad diet that caused the illness in the first place.

Here's a better article on eye conditions.  It's more complete and the guy who wrote it is smarter than me.



Wheezing or bubbly nose              Not a happy feeling 

Wheezing sounds, labored breathing and bubbles from the nose are signs of a respiratory infection and a clear indicator for a veterinary examination.   Among many reasons it's hard to be a turtle, they have no ability to cough or sneeze so any fluid that accumulates in the lungs becomes life threatening.

This is a very serious condition in any reptile


1) Apply Isolation Treatment as described above 

2) Raising the temperature to 92-95 degrees can often give the turtle's immune system just the boost it needs to fight off the infection.  Proper UV lighting is critical and as always, 15 minutes of full exposure to natural sunlight twice or three times daily is essential.

This symptom is a classic indicator for Veterinary care.   A course of injectible antibiotics such as Baytril is clearly the best treatment and almost assures a positive outcome.

 Prognosis:  Without veterinary care, the road back to health is very long.  After 30-45 days of Isolation Treatment with higher temperatures and proper UV exposure and nutrition it is possible that a turtles will experience a full recovery -- PROVIDED that you have corrected the dirty water, incorrect temperature, improper lighting and/or bad diet that caused the illness in the first place.

 To read more on respiratory infections, here's an excellent article.  The author is more educated that I am, but then again I'm far better looking.


Swollen or Puffy body or face.     An emotional breakup and binge eating ?

The number one cause of a swollen body or face is simply obesity.   A common mistake of the caregiver is to equate feeding with care and wanting to provide excellent care ... over feeding.  In fact obesity due to over feeding (and therefore complications from that) is close to the number 1 killer of all pets.  Number 2 is commonly known to be malnutrition, but that is almost universally the result of the WRONG foods.  

An animal that gets sick from simply not getting enough of an otherwise balanced diet is a rare, rare occurrence. 

The diagnosis is, of course, that the swelling and puffiness develop over a long time.


Obesity:   This is also one of the few cases where the treatment and the correction are one and the same:  Let him be a little hungry.   Feed a turtle no more than he can eat in 4-5 minutes 3 times a week.

Prognosis:  Obesity can cause many significant internal changes that do not always correct once the diet is corrected.   Fatty degeneration of heart, liver, lungs and intestines are all connected to over-feeding and obesity and are not reversed by a more healthy diet but as soon as the diet/portion problems are corrected and the weight begins to recede, the overall health will still improve.


Swollen or Puffy body or face.     An overnight thing ?

In cases where the swelling is sudden and severe, it's called EDEMA (which just means swelling of the tissues) and is normally considered a symptom of something else as opposed to an illness itself.   Edema can be caused by liver, cardiac or kidney problems as well as fungal, bacterial or viral infections -- none of which can be treated or diagnosed without a proper veterinary examination.


1) Isolation Treatment as described above.

Since Edema is a symptom and not a disease, it is beyond the scope of any guide to suggest a diagnosis.  Worse, it's usually symptom of an advanced condition.  Care by an experienced reptile vet may can detect and treat the underlying cause, but it's usually a Herculean effort and expense.


Prognosis: In the absence of ANY other sign or symptom of illness, the sudden onset of Severe Edema will rarely have a positive outcome.  If the simple rest offered by the Isolation Treatment does not afford the turtle the chance to overcome the underlying condition then the isolation will, at least, ease his discomfort. 


Cuts, Bruises and Bites                 And Odd looking Body parts

In spite of all of the problems mentioned above, Turtles are among the most rigid and durable of all animals and if we give them a reasonable chance they can survive almost anything.   They can bounce back from physical injuries that would kill almost any of us.  Usually all they need is a safe, dry place to heal and a promise that we won't let them get hurt like that again.

First Warning:  Any physical injury that is causing severe blood loss or exposes bone or any deep oozing wound, should be seen by a veterinarian.  Sometimes it is necessary to amputate a severely detached limb in order for the skin to be able to heal over the bone and this is NOT for the inexperienced or squeamish.


1) For any physical injury, Isolation Treatment as above.

2) In the event that it is a limb, face or neck injury where movement causes more injury or more bleeding, you may restrict the movement through any means available.  Sometimes, just packing them more tightly in their warm, dry enclosure by adding towels is fine.  Sometimes an injured limb can be gently replaced in it's "retracted" position and then the shell wrapped with adhesive tape to hold it in place.  

3) For external bacterial infections, wipe twice daily with hydrogen peroxide followed by a coating in Betadine (read bacterial Infections - external).  If kept warm, dry and immobile the wound like most likely NOT develop an infection and mother nature will do the rest.

Prognosis: Excellent provided that no secondary infection takes hold and takes over.

Meanwhile:  The source of the wound must be traced and corrected.  Sharp rocks, glass edges, any kind of protruding filter or other device must be found, examined and steps made to correct the danger.

 Some turtles will develop what seems like chronic skin irritation from their own skin rubbing on their own shell.  The treatment is for any other physical damage as described ... but the cause is usually dietary -- Vitamin C deficiency from poor diet, Vitamin D deficiency from poor lighting are all common causes of the skin not being able to withstand contact with it's own shell.


Dead or dying scutes                    When good shell goes bad

 In some cases of fungal, bacterial or physical damage, a scute (the plates that make up the top part of the shell) may be so damaged that the underlying tissue that supports it may die and just slough off the entire scute.   This is clearly identified by the scute being partially or completely missing and the underlying tissue turning hard and white.


1) Isolation treatment as described above. 

2) Swab the area twice daily with hydrogen peroxide, let that dry for a half hour and then cover with Betadine (Povodine/Iodine, etc.) 

In the absence of any bleeding or secondary infection, usually indicated by odd colored growths and/or bad smells, this one does not normally require Veterinary care.

 Prognosis: In about 6 weeks he'll be fit enough to resume  life in a normal habitat.    Once completely scarred over, this plate is tough enough for day to day life, but it does require that you be extra observant for any future damage or infection of the surrounding scutes.

 With that said, he can look forward to a long an [otherwise] healthy life and his only liability is not being able to compete in beauty pageants.   But then, those things are so rigged and political anyway ... it's just as well.


Which brings us to:    Odd looking Body Parts and what to not do. 

From time to time a turtle is found that appears to have a hernia -- that is to say that it's intestines appear to be hanging out through it's cloaca (butt).   This is, of course, a matter of most serious concern. 

This is not, however, a hernia and that is not intestines.

 What you are invariably seeing is a male turtle's .... um .... party animal.   Always used for mating and sometimes simply displayed for .. um .. whatever reason a turtle would display his private parts.  And just as almost all cats that get into trees can actually get down by themselves ... almost all turtle penis' will retract by themselves given time. 


If the turtle appears to be in distress and you feel you must take action


1) Do NOT attempt to press the organ back inside. Do NOT. 

2) Remove the turtle from his normal enclosure and place him in something smooth after having coated the bottom surface with mineral oil if possible or regular vegetable oil if not.

3) Do what you practically can to restrict movement of the turtle. 

4) STILL DO NOT attempt to press the organ back inside.  Do NOT.

 Prognosis: If the turtle has been unable to retract his organ within 48 hours it will be necessary to have the organ reinserted by someone completely familiar with chelonian anatomy.

Notes, disclaimers and excuses

  Note 1:  Proper Diet

 This one is easy.   Koi pellets.  A high quality Koi pellet contains all the nutritional elements needed for health and well being.   If you feel strongly about it, Repto-min food sticks, which have exactly the same content ... just a different shape and a higher price.   Weekly "treats" of earthworms (Night crawlers from a pet shop or bait store) are appreciated, but no more frequently.

 Dripping some Cod Liver Oil on a koi pellet, earthworm or even a small piece of bread is a way to deliver extra amounts of Vitamin 'A' if needed.   Very small chunks of beef liver are also good in the delivery of vitamins.

 Lettuce, Grass, Meal worms, crickets, feeder fish, minnows, feeder goldfish, etc. are NOT proper food items and do NOT have proper nutrition and are NOT part of a turtle's diet in the wild.  No, not even the fish.  And ESPECIALLY not the lettuce!  Please consider all of these items to be in the category of IMPROPER DIET and often the very cause of the illness we are now trying to treat.


Note 2:  Proper lighting

There are three kinds of UV lighting.

 UV-A    This trends toward the black-light (barely visible spectrum) and is helpful in establishing the day/night routines of animals, but not strictly required.

UV-B    This is the invisible light that is responsible for allowing for the synthesis of Vitamin D and the metabolizing of calcium.

UV-C    This is the wavelength that kills most organic things it contacts for sufficient periods.  Germicidal bulbs and UV Sterilizers use this type.   Can cause severe eye damages if viewed directly.

"Proper" UV lighting 


 Nothing is as good as natural sunlight.  However, at the same time, sunlight is still delivering heat that can cook a turtle directly (or even via heating his water) in very short order.  While it's still the best, care must be taken that (A) the sunlight is unfiltered (B) the turtle can get completely out of it and into the shade as needed and (C) that the light does not unduly heat his enclosure.

Sunlight that arrives through glass loses almost 85% of it's UV-B. 

Sunlight through common window screen loses almost 25% of it's value.

Screened tops should have 1/4 mesh or larger.

Glass Aquariums are simply NOT suited to be used or left in direct sunlight. 

The benefit to exposing a turtle to natural sunlight is matched only by the danger of exposing it to natural sunlight.   The turtle MUST be able to escape to someplace dark and cool and if this cannot be assured beyond doubt,  it is unwise to expose him to the danger.


 The traditional method of reptile lighting has been to supply one ordinary incandescent bulb for both lighting AND because it heats the basking area and then a separate Florescent bulb for maximum delivery of the UV-B.    There are many brands of UV bulbs, some of which claim to supply the visual spectrum as well as the UB-B needed for health, but it is important to note that for optimal health turtles need radiant heat from above as opposed to conductive heat from a source like a hot rock or heating pad.   Distance from the basking area is also a critical factor, as artificial UV bulbs have drop their efficiency as they are further away from the surface. 


 In my early keeping  and breeding, I used Vita-lite by Duro products.  It is a broad spectrum UV light, which means it was trying to duplicate sunlight, not just the UV, but back in those days, Duro Corp was the first to actually publish it's research and specifications on wavelengths, etc. when most of the others didn't seem to offer support for whatever they claimed.   Today, we have many more choices.  My friends at Zoomed Laboratories  http://www.zoomed.com  offers a wide variety of products and have invested substantial time and money in producing documentation to back up their claims.   It is suggested that if nothing else, they make a very good starting point in research.

 **** NO Plant Bulbs sold at home improvement stores or Plant Bulbs sold by Fish Stores ***

Note 3:
               Wastes of money

 Antibiotic pills                      In general, Antibiotics work by interfering with the bacteria's ability to reproduce and to this end must be built up in high concentrations in the very tissues infected.  So besides being of dubious quality in the first place, the amount of these pills one would need to build up enough concentration in the water to in turn build up enough concentration in the animal is staggering.   And the amount of money one would need to spend in order to buy enough to actually make a difference is greater than it would be to fly your turtle to the Mayo Clinic AND put one of their doctors through Veterinary School. 

                                                With all your might, resist the urge to try fish-store drugs.    If you cannot resist the urge, take two handfuls of $20 bills and toss them down the nearest storm sewer!  It's faster, cheaper and EXACTLY the same result. 

Sulfa Blocks                          For the same reasons as Antibiotic pills, Sulfa blocks are usually a waste of time and energy.  In fact, late at night, if you turn off the pumps and filters, it is often possible to actually hear the fungi and bacteria laughing at the sulfa block.

 Calcium Blocks                     Turtles get calcium via their food items and not absorbed through their skin.  A build up of calcium high enough to be of value is called Drywall.

 Shell Conditioners               See Calcium.  A topical treatment is immediately washed away if you place the animal back in the water and if you leave him out to dry under the sun or UV lighting, then the UV lighting is doing the work and not the conditioner.

 Vitamin Drops                       Eye drops are barely effective at best and too little, too late in most cases.

 Vitamin Supplements *       A good vitamin supplement is a fine thing AS LONG AS it isn't being used to cover up or compensate for a basically bad diet.  On the other hand, if the diet is good then the supplements aren't needed.

 Dechlorinator tabs *            Unlike fish, Turtles are perfectly happy in normally chlorinated water.  While the time and money spent on dechlorination is not entirely wasted -- and can be spent on better filters and/or lighting. 

* A note while editing:        I have nothing against vitamin supplements unless they are being used to try to compensate for a bad diet, in which case you are better off to spend the money on a better diet itself.


                                                Likewise, dechlorinated water isn't BAD for turtles and as Neale Monks suggested -- there certainly is no risk in removing chlorine, ammonia and copper if they are present... to which I will only reiterate -- as long as the budget for good lighting and adequate filtering has already been met!


A word about dominant animals and subdominant animals. 

In any natural group, there will be dominant animals that simply thrive better than the others.   The others, called subdominant animals are always in competition, whether for food, light, heat, human attention, mates, etc. and they never quite do as well -- they don't eat quite as much or quite as often, they don't grow as fast or as big, etc.  Within reason this is a normal function of keeping animals in groups and as many a keeper can attest, there is often nothing you can do to equalize this condition.  It is very important however, to understand this "pecking order." One is liable to be dominant and then there is number 2, followed by #3, etc. and with each level of sub dominance there is more stress, more competition and less opportunity. 


In a situation like this, simply removing the bully only advances the others but a tiny bit and does not relieve the underlying situation. 

This caution is by way of saying that it is not always possible to ensure the health of all the animals in a group and sometimes it is necessary to remove some animals from a collection if they will not thrive. 

As long as they DO eat, as long as they get ENOUGH and as long as they have the space to get away by themselves when the competition gets too tough, these secondary animals will do just fine.   Again, the key is seeing that they get 'enough' and that is sometimes different than "as much as the others."    

The difference between a healthy subdominant animal and a long, slow slide toward illness is often only the difference between the keeper noticing subtle changes and not.


[Author's Bio:]

The author is a retired business executive and evil genius with a personality that once caused Dale Carnegie to throw a punch at him.  He grew up in Orlando, Fl prior to the coming of the mouse and therefore occupied his young years out in the swamps and forests bringing home all manner of beasts and learning, many times by trial and error, what end of what animal can be safely held.

He currently resides in a suburb of Los Angeles, Ca with a marine aquarium, 21 assorted Emydid turtles, 25 African Desert tortoises, 1 very mean Galapagos tortoise, 3 Green Iguanas, 1 Cyclura Iguana, 2 cats and a son who thinks that DAD is a three letter word that means ATM. 

[Author's Note:]

In reading this article you probably have noticed a rather unusual writing style that trends toward bad jokes, obscure references, strong opinions and peculiar word choice.  Trust me when I tell you that it's all in your mind, however at the same time I would like to say 

The author wishes to apologize to any and all people who neither get nor appreciate his humor as well as any and all people who may be offended but any references in this article.  This includes but is not limited to Insurance Salesmen, brother's in law, men, women, children, members of any organized political party or people who live under the Metric System and lastly anyone who actually liked Sister Act 2 ( but please get help!!) 

The author is not responsible for errors, omissions, bad spelling, punctuation, dangling participles, misplaced modifiers and lost or stolen articles.   The author is not responsible.  Period. 

[Editor's note:]

Man, you are weird. But a good person, and mean well. RMF

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