Most common diseases in water and land turtles


Five days ago I have a very young American turtle. I put it in a very simple aquaterrary, but with enough space for it, it has its daily hours of sun, and the water temperature does not fall below 25 degrees (I have a thermometer and heater), but it is not interested in either the gammarus or the feed pellets, just worry about escaping the site and hitting with plastic, in the sunny hours it is quieter.

1 answer

Sorry for the delay.

First of all I tell you that a plastic aquarium is not a place for a water turtle. To know the minimum space your turtle needs, do the following, measure your turtle, the centimeters it gives you multiply by 8 for the width of the aquarium, 15 for the length and 4 for the depth, that is, if your turtle It measures 5cm, the aquarium must be a minimum of 40cm wide, 75cm long and 20cm deep. Turtles live in rivers and need a lot of daily exercise to stay active.

Once the space problem is corrected and taking into account that the temperature conditions are correct:

- Young turtles when they suffer a gastric change become very stressed, it is normal for the first few weeks not to eat or eat too little.

- If the turtles ignore the food you offer them, try offering others, for example: raw minced veal, small raw fish, crickets or live worms. Live food will always be more attractive than something that floats.

I also tell you that gammarus is not a good food, and that basing the turtle's diet only on dry feed sticks is also a mistake. Offer also raw meat, in small or minced pieces, liver and chicken heart, beef heart, live fish, small fish of the silverside type, crickets, grasshoppers, worms, worms. when it exceeds 12cm, it will start eating fruits and vegetables, but for now focus on giving it a balanced carnivorous diet.

And above all be patient, turtles are slow animals for everything.

Recognize the signs of disease in a turtle

As with us and a multitude of animals, when a turtle's organism is not healthy it manifests it through different signals Before which we must remain attentive, they are the following:

  • Swelling in the eyes
  • Cough or sneeze
  • Changes in appetite
  • Behavioral changes
  • Stains or anomalies in the shell
  • Diarrhea

Respiratory infections

Sudden temperature changes, which may be caused by a bad adjustment of the water temperature or by air currents, are the main cause of the turtle ending up getting a respiratory infection, since like us, are susceptible to colds.

The symptoms that we will observe in this case are the following:

  • Open mouth breathing
  • Mucus and nasal secretions
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weakness and lethargy

It is a priority increase water temperature To strengthen the immune system, if in a few days we do not see improvement, we must immediately go to the veterinarian to prevent the cold end up triggering pneumonia.

Diarrhea and constipation

Both intestinal transit disorders are caused by poor diet. In the case of diarrhea, this is usually due to a case of overfeeding, an excess of fruit and vegetables or the intake of a spoiled food. If constipation is affected, the diet will be deficient in fiber, although this disorder also appears when the aquarium is very small.

To treat constipation, in addition to making the corresponding dietary corrections, we can offer our turtle a warm water bath covering the lower part of the shell.

To treat and prevent diarrhea it is important keep the aquarium water clean and be careful with the hygiene of our turtle, in addition, we must reduce the supply of water through food until we observe that the intestinal transit has returned to normal.

Eye problems

Turtles are very susceptible to eye infections and we can see them very easily if we observe in our turtle the closed and swollen eyes, in addition to lack of appetite.

The cause is usually a deficit of vitamin A or dirty water. As the first treatment we must proceed to a eye cleaning with physiological serum, 2 times a day.

If no improvement is observed, we must go to the veterinarian to decide if an antibiotic treatment and / or a nutritional supplement based on vitamin A is necessary.

Pyramidism affects land turtles and it is a disorder that is very easily perceived through the shell, since the shell thickens and rises, in the most severe cases, it can become a very severe problem For the turtles

This condition is directly related to poor diet, although lack of moisture and sun exposure as well as endocrine diseases can also cause pyramidism.

While pyramidism has no treatment, the early veterinary evaluation It will be very important to reduce this condition and improve the turtle's quality of life.

Injuries and shell on the legs

Finally we mention these injuries, which without being a pathology, They are common in turtles and should be treated on time, otherwise, more serious complications may occur. Turtles can be damaged by falls, scratches or bites, if they live with other herbivorous reptiles.

If the turtle simply has a scratch, it will be enough to clean the area with water and neutral soap, to disinfect it later with a solution of iodine dissolved in water. However, if the wound is deep, it is essential go to the vet as early as possible.

This article is purely informative, at we have no power to prescribe veterinary treatments or make any kind of diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian in case he presents any type of condition or discomfort.

If you want to read more articles similar to Most common diseases in water and land turtles, we recommend that you enter our Prevention section.

Turtle characteristics

At first, all the turtles were terrestrial but 100 million years after its appearance some evolved to be aquatic and others to be marinas.

Turtles are characterized by having a short and wide trunk and a shell It serves to protect your internal organs. The two front legs, the two rear legs and the tail come out of the shell. Although these animals do not have teeth, they have a beak similar to that of the birds that cover their jaws.

Like the rest of reptiles, turtles are ectothermic, that is to say, that its metabolic capacity depends on the ambient temperature. Another feature of this species is that shed skin as do snakes, but turtles do it more slowly.

How are the turtles?

These are the main characteristics of turtles:

  • Class: reptile
  • Length: between 12 and 30 cm
  • Weight: between 600 grams and 1 kg
  • Longevity: between 10 and 100 years
  • Maturity: 4-5 years (semi-aquatic) and 7-9 years (terrestrial)
  • Reproduction: oviparous
  • Young by laying: 20 eggs (semi-aquatic) and 5-7 eggs (terrestrial)
  • Incubation: 80-85 days (semi-aquatic) and 2-3 months (terrestrial)
  • Habits: daytime
  • Feeding: herbivorous
  • Character: peaceful and quiet

How old do turtles live?

The life expectancy of turtles is an issue that has always attracted our attention to people and this varies depending on the species, climate, food, and size, among others. Domestic water turtles live between 10 and 20 years. In the wild, land turtles live between 50 and 80 years while the sea turtles live between 80 and 100 years.

Freshwater turtles

The freshwater turtles They are the most common domestic turtles. Sea turtles move through both water and sand. They have a shell that serves them to walk and to swim. Its four legs have the function of legs and of fins. Their legs are the main difference with land turtles, because in the water turtles the legs are formed by membranes.

The shell of water turtles has the peculiarity that joins on the sides, a fact that helps them protect themselves from predators. The shape, tones, texture and thickness of its shell will vary depending on the species. Water turtles have a long and flexible neck They can pick up quickly in the shell, although moving it is difficult for them. This kind of turtle has no teethbut owns a mouth finished in a beak Very hard it can be dangerous.

Have two respiratory systems: one through lungs and another through gill-like membranes. They are able to hold their breath underwater for 10 minutes.

Red-eared turtle or Florida turtle

The red-eared turtles, also known as Florida tortoise turtle, is a kind of turtle semi-aquatic originally from Central America. Sometimes they are also known as Japanese turtles due to a black horizontal stripe inside the eyes that makes one think of torn eyes. It is the subspecies of turtle more common Among the domestic turtles.
It is considered a invasive exotic species due to the serious threat it poses to native species and ecosystems. That fact is the result of thousands of dropouts These pets suffer in lakes and other places when families get bored. For that and other reasons it is so important to understand what it means to adopt an animal and the commitment and responsibility that an adoption implies.

The red-eared turtle gets its name from the elongated red spots which has on both sides of the head, which disappear over time. It has dark spots on the shell and reticulated drawings on the bottom and legs. They have interdigital membranes between the fingers of the hind legs. They usually measure between 12 and 20 centimeters and can reach 40 centimeters.
They are animals twilight, so you will sleep in the middle of the night and in the middle of the day, having more activity in the intermediate hours. They spend most of their time in the water although in the sunniest hours we can find them sunbathing on a log or a rock to regulate its temperature.

We can differentiate one sex from the other because female turtles are bigger that the male turtle and the males have the largest claws and tail.
They are animals omnivorous so they feed on proteins of animal origin and vegetables and fruits. Your diet should change according to age because when they are younger they need more protein to grow.

Scientific nameTrachemys scripta elegans
Weight240 to 500 g
Size12 to 20 cm
ShellDark green
PlastronLight yellow
Life expectancy20 to 30 years
CharacterScary and aggressive
FeedingFeed, larvae, vegetables and fruit

Yellow-eared turtle

The yellow-eared turtles they are turtles semi-aquatic dark colored with yellow lines on head, legs and tail. They have the fairly flattened shell with brown tones and yellow stripes. The ventral part of the shell is pale yellow with very well defined dark spots. They have the webbed hind legs and the males have long nails on the hind legs. The male turtle also has the longest tail and widest legs. The female turtle is usually larger than the males This turtle class can measure between 20 and 30 centimeters long.

Cumberland Turtle

The cumberland turtles they are turtles semi-aquatic that have the oval shell and olive green with yellow spots. The ventral part is yellow with well-defined dark spots. His head and neck are dark with yellow lines. His shell presents two rounded projections in the back. As for their claws they are strong and long. Turtles of this breed can reach 17 to 21 cm long.

They are animals omnivorous They eat more food of animal origin than vegetables. These turtles usually live on the banks of rivers.

Land turtles

The Turtles they have a wide and long neck They stretch and contract easily and quickly. To protect themselves from predators, turtles they keep the neck Inside the shell

Although land turtles they have no teeth, his mouth is finished peak shaped and they have very strong jaws. This kind of turtle has no membranes in the legs and his fingers are more developed.

Land turtles regulate your body temperature depending on the environment. That's why, what are you hibernate during the colder seasons. In the case of domestic turtles, this hibernation does not occur or occurs to a lesser extent due to the more stable temperatures we find in our homes.

Box turtle

Box turtles are found in the United States and Mexico. They have the dome-shaped shell with the articulated bottom, which allows them close the shell to protect yourself from predators. Its shell is brown with yellowish and orange patterns. The ventral or plastron part is dark brown and is usually uniform or with dark spots.

This kind of turtle has the small head with a mouth shaped hook. The male turtle of this species has the reddish iris while the female has it yellowish. In addition, males have shorter and sturdy back leg nails and their tail is longer and wider. This species of turtle can measure between 15 and 20 centimeters long.

Mediterranean tortoise

The Mediterranean turtles are land turtles They live in areas of Mediterranean climate. They have the domed shell considerably with light brown tones and dark spots. The ventral part of the shell is a light shade with two dark spots that cover almost everything.

The males of this species are smaller, have the largest tail and the ventral part is concave, Unlike that of the females that is flat. Its size and drawing of the shell will vary depending on the area where the turtle is. But, generally, they can reach 20 centimeters long.

Russian turtle

The russian turtles Are the Turtles more frequent as a companion animal. its shell is flattened, less crowded than other land turtles, and rounded. The color of the shell is of brown tones with ocher and yellow touches.

Its anterior legs are robust and with four nails well defined. The shields of the ventral part are dark with light edges. His tail ends in a horny skewer. The females of this species measure between 20 and 22 centimeters while the males measure a little less, between 16 and 18 centimeters long.

Blackberry turtle

The blackberry turtles They are found in Europe, Asia and Africa. They have the very domed shell and yellow and olive green tones, and each shell plate has a dark edge. Its ventral part is yellow with black spots. A characteristic of this species is that it has the plate above the tail without dividing.

They have a yellowish head with large dark spots. They have two prominent scales on the part of the head. The black turtle has bulging eyes like frogs. This turtle also has large pointed scales on the legs, being those of the smaller hind legs. Present four nails in the hind limbs and five nails in the front. Its tail is short and, unlike the Russian turtle, doesn't have a spur in its tailbut has a spur on each thigh.

Its size will vary considerably depending on the subspecies. In the Iberian Peninsula, they usually measure between 15 and 18 centimeters. As in the other turtle classes, females are larger than males.

Buy a turtle

Turtles are pets that require rigorous maintenance That is not always respected. Before buying a turtle we must to be convinced that we are going to take care of her properly during all his life (remember that turtles are very long-lived animals that semi-aquatic turtles can live for 10 to 20 years and land turtles for 80 to 100 years). We must be aware of the great responsibility that entails have a turtle as a pet and we must give it all the necessary care so that it has a good quality of life.

Where to buy a turtle

When we go to buy a turtle we must research and inform us of everything you will need. We shall adapt our house for the arrival of the turtle so that we can have good conditions. In addition, the most recommended is find a reputable seller, that has facilities in good condition, with animals with a healthy appearance and that has all the information and documentation You need about the turtle. In pet shops they are usually safe options although they have a limited breed variety. We can also go to a specialized breeder but in this case we must be very careful and make sure that the whole process is legal and that they have all the necessary information about the turtle's health, its origin and how it has been raised. We must buy only turtles that have been bred in captivity. Unfortunately, the sale of wild turtles is very common, but it is an illegal and very harmful sale. If the breeder cannot give you a verification that he has been raised in captivity then better look for another breeder.
We must choose the turtle breed what more suits us, let's keep in mind that turtles have very specific requirements in terms of temperature, humidity and food. When we are going to choose a copy, we must see that it meets a series of requirements:

  • Don't have swollen or murky eyes
  • Do not show a runny nose
  • Have a firm shell, unless it is a kind of soft shell. If you have holes or cracks it does not necessarily mean that you are sick.
  • React
  • Be reasonably active
  • Do not gasp or whistle when breathing

Turtle prices

The turtle price varies depending on whether it is a semi-aquatic turtle or one land turtle. The price of a semi-aquatic turtle It is usually between 5 and 20 euros. The price of a land turtle It is higher and is usually between 80 and 300 euros. That price difference is because land turtles are more difficult to keep in captivity.

Water turtle behavior

Water turtles are excellent swimmers, so they will be constantly in the water. Even so, from time to time they will leave for sunbathe and rest.

These turtles will always be in alert status to perceive possible predators or people. The daylight hours will pass looking for food.

Swim against the walls

At first, turtles will have this behavior when they are analyzing and exploring the aquarium. If you continue to do so after a while, that behavior will indicate that not at ease in your aquarium And wants to leave. If your turtle or turtles perform that action constantly, you should consider buying a larger aquarium.

Stretch neck

When our turtle or turtles stretch neck, is it so analyzing your surroundings. If the turtle hears any noise or feels that there is someone, it will stretch its neck so that it can see and hear better. This behavior will also be at perceive a threat, to try to find out what happens.

Show aggressiveness

The turtles will be aggressive if they live with other turtles In a small space. Turtles like to have company but with enough space for each one. Otherwise, it will be aggressive. Turtles are aggressive especially in mating season.

In the male turtles, digging is a sign that you are preparing for the hibernation. In the female turtlesInstead, that behavior will be a sign that you want create a nest To lay the eggs

Aquarium for water turtles

Water turtles need to have their own living space. This should be a turtle aquarium with the following mandatory conditions:

  • Water zone: Our turtles will spend the day swimming, so this will be the most important part. Must be as big as possible and should have enough depth so you can swim without bumping walls or aquarium elements.
  • Ground Zone: the aquarium should have an area without water for when the turtles want dry up, sunbathe Y rest. They must have a ramp to access this area from the water.

Change the water

Turtles usually get very dirty water so we should renew water every week. If our aquarium has a filter, it will not be necessary to change the water so often (but the water will have to be renewed from time to time equally).

Clean the aquarium

Once a week, when we go to change the water, we will take advantage to clean the aquarium. To do this, we will use rubber gloves to protect ourselves, a sponge, a common neutral soap and hot water.

It is important that we let's wash our hands well after washing the aquarium because turtles can transmit salmonellosis. We will do the same every time we have turtle contact.

Remove chlorine

Water chlorine can damage eyes of our turtle. To remove the chlorine that tap water usually carries, we can leave stand the water for 24 hours before putting our turtle. If not, we can also use a product to remove chlorine and that we can find in specialized stores.


Turtles, when they are in the dry area of ​​the aquarium, will need an exposure of 2 or 3 hours in sunlight (maximum). Sunlight is very important for turtles because it provides them with calcium necessary for your shell and helps them prevent diseases. To replace sunlight, we can install in the dry zone a UV-B lamp special for our turtle. We will also need to place a bulb that heat in the dry area, approximately 30 cm. If you want to have a lamp or fluorescent lamp for this purpose, we recommend that you inform yourself properly in a specialized store about which one is best suited for your turtle and the best way to install it.


The water temperature of the aquarium should be tibia, must be between 25 and 28 ºC. The environmental temperature It should be a couple of degrees higher than that of water. Below that temperature, turtles will have less activity and even hibernate. It is important that do not suffer sudden changes Of temperature nor receive air currents They could get a cold or pneumonia. To keep the water at the right temperature we can get a water heater In a specialized store.

How often to feed a turtle

The how often you should feed your turtle will depend on your age. You should follow the instructions on the turtle feed package, but generally you should follow the following guidelines:

  • Small turtles: once a day
  • Subadult turtle: every two days
  • Adult turtle: 3 times a week

Remember remove the leftover food last time to prevent the aquarium from getting dirty.

Fresh vegetable

As diet supplement, we can occasionally give them vegetables such as lettuce, carrot and cucumber. It is also good to give them aquatic plants since they usually eat them in the wild.

Fresh fruit

Also like complement, we can give them promptly a little of fruit such as apple, pear, banana, melon and watermelon. We should not give them citrus fruits such as orange or tangerine.

White cape in the shell

If we observe that it has a white layer on its shell that means that the turtle it has fungi. Fungi appear when there is a excess moisture and lack of sunlight. It is important that our turtle has a good place where it can dry up. If our turtle has fungi, we can acquire a fungal treatment In a specialized store. We must bear in mind that it will take a long time to heal.

Eyes infection

If we see that our turtle has the eyes closed for long periods You may have an infection. Eye infections are usually due to a lack of hygiene from your aquarium or to a lack of vitamin A. If we believe that our turtle has an eye infection, we should take it to the vet immediately.

If we observe runny nose of our turtle, which breathe with your mouth open Y moves a little, the most certain is that our cold turtle. We must make sure to keep it away from drafts and that its environment is between 25 and 28 ºC. If our turtle has had a cold, we will go to a veterinarian to tell us how to treat it, since the cold can lead to a cold. pneumonia and be very serious.


Our turtle can suffer constipation for a lack of vitamins and fiber in your diet We will try to modify your diet by an appropriate one. We can go to a veterinarian for a personalized diet.

If the turtle has diarrhea it is due to a excess fruit, vegetable or for having eaten a food in disrepair. We must give it drier food until it recovers and we will renew the aquarium water.

If we believe that our turtle is stressed, we should put the aquarium in a quieter area So it does not lead to health problems.

Egg retention

If the eggs break inside the turtle it may be due to a lack of vitamins, a bad nutrition or that the turtle is older. If this happens, you have to take the turtle to an exotic veterinarian immediately, as it could die.

If the turtle's reproductive system gets out of its hole because of a wound, we must take her to a veterinarian immediately. If it is not due to an injury, you may return inside alone, but we should consider taking it to the veterinarian for safety.

Water turtle reproduction

The water turtles or semi-aquatic usually reach the sexual maturity at 4 or 5 years and that is when they will begin to mate, which is usually between march and june.

The egg gestation It usually lasts about 2 months. During this period, the female will look for more heat zones and will have little appetite. Shortly before egg laying, the female will look for an area with land to dig the nest about 20 cm deep. At the time of spawning, the female turtle puts up to 20 eggs, which will put in the nest hole and then the will cover with earth. There is a possibility that the turtle hold eggs inside, which would mean a serious risk for your health.

In the case of turtles in captivity, eggs are usually laid in artificial incubators to ensure a good incubation, although it must be done very carefully so as not to detach the embryo.

The turtle pups they will begin to hatch at 80-85 days.

Behavior of land turtles

Terrestrial turtles are peaceful and quiet animals. Usually they are lonely And they live alone. Dig caves as shelter and they don't usually get too far from it, unless food is scarce.

In reproductive time, the males they can be territorial with other males and be aggressive, getting to bite and hit with his shell.


For your turtle to entertain and have a more interesting life, you can put trunks and decorative objects (that can't hurt her). One option, in addition, is to put different unevenness so they can climb. We can also put in the enclosure flat rocks To keep your nails

Ground turtle feeding

Land turtles are mostly herbivorous (Except for the box turtle, which is omnivorous) and feed on vegetables, vegetables and fruits.

We should not give our turtle human food (ham or meat) because they will become voracious and carnivorous, and they will stop eating vegetables.

Food formulated for land turtles

The food specially formulated for land turtles that we can find in specialized stores will be the food base. We can try different types to see which one you like best.

Prohibited vegetables and fruits

Peas, spinach, carrots, bananas, sweet potatoes, potatoes, zucchini, mushrooms, mushrooms, sweet corn, beets, peppers, bamboo, pomegranate, asparagus, peaches, apricots, nectarines, dates, beans, beans, corn, rice, beans, lentils , beet, chili pepper, sugars, dog food, cat food, animal products and legumes and grains in general.

Respiratory problems

The possible respiratory problems of the turtles are the result of a sudden temperature change, air currents or one incorrect temperature. If our turtle is cold, we will correct the temperature problems. If in a couple of days it does not improve, we should see an exotic veterinarian, because it could lead to pneumonia.

Intestinal problems

Diarrhea and constipation are the result of a bad nutrition. If our turtle has diarrhea it may be due to excess food with water (such as fruit), overfeeding or having eaten something in poor condition. Constipation, on the other hand, is usually due to a low fiber diet or by stress (if you are not at ease).

Shell Problems

Our turtle may have a problem with pyramidism if the shell grows excessively. It is usually the result of a poor diet, lack of moisture and sunlight and endocrine diseases. It is advisable to go to an exotic veterinarian as soon as possible.

If our turtle suffers a fall, a bite or a scratch, we must keep in mind that can get complicated and end up being serious. We must take her to the vet to recommend a treatment.

Reproduction of land turtles

The land turtles or land reach the sexual maturity at 9 years (female turtles) and at 7 years (male turtles). The reproductive time of turtles develops mainly between april and june and during that period the males chase the females for hours, hitting them with the shell and biting their legs.

The egg gestation inside the turtle usually lasts about 2 months. When the female turtle lay the eggs it does it in holes between 10 and 12 cm deep that make nest. If the soil is not soft enough to dig the nest, then the female can hold the eggs, what would be a serious risk for his life. Land turtles usually put between 5 and 7 eggs each time, although there are races that get to lay up to 20 eggs.
In the case of land turtles in captivity, eggs are usually laid in artificial incubators to get a greater number of successful offspring.

The egg hatching will depend on the ground temperature where they are (at a higher temperature, lower incubation), although normally it will be approximately two or three months later. Most eggs eclosionan a los 2 o 3 días, aunque algunos pueden retrasarse one week. Una vez eclosionen, la tortuga bebé puede tardar entre 24 y 48 horas en salir del huevo. Las crías de tortuga medirán unos 4 cm de largo aproximadamente en el momento del nacimiento.

Ciclo de vida de las tortugas

Las tortugas son uno de los animales más antiguos que existen and his ciclo de vida se repite cada generación. A pesar de las diferencias entre las tortugas de tierra y las tortugas de agua, su ciclo de vida es muy similar.

Las etapas que definen el ciclo de vida de las tortugas son huevo, breeding y adultez.

Una vez que las tortugas llegan a la madurez sexual, the período reproductivo se repite cada año, cada dos años o cada 3 años.

Dependiendo del tipo de tortuga, la anidación se produce en playas areniscas, en el agua o cerca de ella o en el barro. The tamaño de la excavación del nido depende del tamaño de la tortuga, suele constar de un espacio donde quepa el cuerpo de la tortuga y un agujero más profundo donde depositará los huevos.

Crías de tortuga

Una vez que la tortuga ha depositado los huevos, ésta no permanece a su lado. Cuando llega el momento, las crías rompen la cáscara flexible del huevo con un dentículo, lo que suele llevarles un par de días. Una vez fuera del huevo, las nuevas crías de tortuga deben cavar para salir al exterior y para ello se estimulan entre ellas para facilitar la tarea. Al moverse todas las crías a la vez, les facilita romper el techo de tierra o arena.

Inmediatamente después de salir del nido, las crías se dirigen al océano o al agua cercana, donde nadarán y empezarán una nueva etapa. Es en esta etapa en la recorren miles de kilómetros explorando el territorio.

Tortugas adultas

Cuando las tortugas alcanzan las características físicas definitivas es cuando llegan a la etapa adulta. Cuando llegan a la madurez sexual, empieza otra vez el período reproductivo y se empieza de nuevo el ciclo de vida de la tortuga.

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