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Joan, Veterinary Technician
Category: Reptile
Satisfied Customers: 17310
Experience:  35+ years experience as veterinary tech and 20+ years experience doing reptile rescues.
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My red eared slider turtle is lethargic, doesnt swim much,

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My red eared slider turtle is lethargic, doesn't swim much, sleeps and basks constantly, sheds excessively, and seems to sometimes throw up his food. It also seems to me that he should be growing more than he is. Turtle is 2 inches long and I have had him 9 months. His water is heated, and he has a basking light. Parents won't let me take him to the vet because they think it will end up costing too much. What could be wrong?


My name is XXXXX XXXXX I am a Vet tech with special interest in Reptiles and Reptile Rescue.

Can you tell me about the set up? Size of tank?




Do you have a UVB light? How old, Florescent tube or coil, how old, strength, and brand?



Customer: replied 3 years ago.

I have him in a 5.5 gallon tank (16"L x 8"W x 10" H) with a basking platform made up of flat stacking rocks (


the water is about 6" deep. I don't have any plants or other decorations and have some stones but nothing small enough that he could swallow.


I feed him Reptomin plus food sticks and Hikari tubifex worms. I would usually feed him once or twice a day but lately he is always asleep on or clinging to the side of his basking spot so I have to try putting him in the water to get him to wake up and start swimming and see if he'll eat. I don't use any supplements.


For filtration I have a Tetra Whisper 3i in-tank filter, which I know isn't a very strong filter so I try to change the water pretty often.


I do not have a UVB light.


You have several issues with husbandry that can be causing the problems. lack of proper lighting is a big issue. The turtle should have a UVB light as well as a basking bulb. In addition to the UVB bulb, you need a calcium supplement to work with the UVB, which works together to prevent Metabolic Bone Disease. The tank should be a minimum 20 gallon long. The diet should be 50% leafy greens, 25% pellets and 25% live prey or cooked meats. Without having the proper husbandry, diet and supplements, your turtle will continue to decline. What I will do is give you a care sheet compliments of a fellow Expert, Anna. This will help you get the conditions straightened out and should help your little turtle.


Well-cared for sliders can live 30 years or

The Tank

It's recommended that a baby slider have at least a
15 gallon tank. By the time the turtle is 3-4 years old, it will need a 60
gallon tank, so it's best to get the biggest you can in the beginning. You can
also use a large RubberMaid tote. That's not as pretty as a tank, but costs a
lot less. Set up the tank so there's a land area and a water area. Put the
basking light at one end so the whole tank doesn't get too hot. You want the
water to be about twice as deep as the turtle is long. If the turtle is two
inches long, you'll want four inches of water.

Temperatures and Basking

Turtles need certain types of lighting and need to be warm. Air and
water that are not warm enough can lead to fungal and respiratory infections and
unhealthy shells. Turtles must have a basking area where they can get out of the
water, dry off, and bask in very warm light. The ambient air temperature in the
tank should be around 75 *F (24*C) , with the basking area warmer still. Over
the basking area there should be some sort of lamp that will take a 40-60 watt
incandescent bulb (or you can buy a ceramic light fixture made just for
reptiles). If you live in an area that has farm stores, you can buy a metal
light fixture made to keep baby chicks warm for just a few dollars. Don't buy
the accompanying bulb, however. You need an ordinary incandescent bulb in the
basking light. Hardware stores sell similar fixtures as work lights. The basking
area should be kept at 85-90*F (29 to 32*C). Use a digital probe thermometer to
be sure. You can adjust the temperature by raising or lowering the light
fixture.The lights that come with the covers on aquariums are not suitable for
turtles. You'll also need a submersible aquarium heater that will keep the water
78-82*F (26 to 28*C).

UVB Light

It's extremely important that you
buy an additional light that produces UVB rays. A Reptisun 10.0 is a good brand
that does. If you choose another brand be absolutely certain it provides UVB
rays. Don't take the word of pet store personnel, but read it for yourself.
Full-spectrum, DayGlo, sunGlo, UV, or UVA are not the same thing. I'm putting a
lot of emphasis on this because it's crucial to your turtle's health. Without
this light, Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD) will develop because your turtle won't
be able to produce vitamin D. Vitamin supplements are not a good replacement for
the proper lighting. MBD causes a very slow and painful death.UVB bulbs must be
replaced every six months as they lose their effectiveness after that, even
though they may still look fine. Light that comes through a window isn't
sufficient because the glass filters out most of the rays turtles need to stay
healthy. To prevent MBD, turtles also need calcium. The easiest way to provide
it is to place a cuttlebone in the tank. Cuttlebones are sold in bird
departments of pet stores.


Turtles are very sensitive
to water quality. Even if you change the water every day, it can still contain
harmful chemicals. A good filtration system is essential. Water changes are also
needed even with a filter. If the tank is too small, no filter can keep up with
the amount of waste that turtles produce.


Feeding is an
area where pet stores often give out bad information. Commercial food should
make up only 1/4 of the diet. Animal products (cooked meat, earthworms, canned
cat food) should make up another 1/4. The remaining half should be plant foods
(dark lettuce like romaine, bits of strawberry or melon, etc.). Hatchlings
should be fed every day. Older turtles should be fed 3 times per week.
Overfeeding can lead to gout and kidney failure.

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Please let me know if you have further questions. I will be happy to continue with you. My goal is to give you 100% Excellent Service. Joan

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