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Joan, Veterinary Technician
Category: Reptile
Satisfied Customers: 17298
Experience:  35+ years experience as veterinary tech and 20+ years experience doing reptile rescues.
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Good Evening, I just finished feeding my aquatic turtle, still

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Good Evening, I just finished feeding my aquatic turtle, still a baby, apparently he got food stuck in his throat, he's taking big breathings and opening mouth wide, like wanting to take more air, what should I do?


My name is XXXXX XXXXX I am a Vet Tech with special interest in Reptiles. I had seen the second question you posted and I will work it with this one.

You say the turtle is swimming in circles, and listing to one side. How long has this been happening?

Can you tell me about the set up?

Do you have filtration?

Do you have two lights? One basking light and a UVB light?

If you have a UVB light, how old is it Florescent tube or compact coil, brand, strength and how old?

Is there bubbles coming from his nose and mouth?

What type of diet do you feed?


Customer: replied 3 years ago.

It's been happening for around 10 days, I bought a reptile tank starter kit, it has the basking platform in the middle, the filter at the back on right side, some plastic plants at the back of the tank, and a smaller one at the front right side. It also has around 1" of small pebbles for ground.


It only has one basking light 60 watts.



The turtle eats fine and walks fine, she just goes in circles and twists a lot, no bubbles coming out of nose or mouth, she is currently eating aquatic turtle food hatchling formula, small round pellets and mimi sticks (staple diet). I also give them baby-shrimp and mini-krills.


The information that you were given for care was not the best. Turtles need a UVB light beside a basking light. The UVB is a simulated sunlight that is needed to help with the immune system as well is is needed to work with a calcium supplement to prevent Metabolic Bone Disease. The bulb recommended is a reptisun 10.0 florescent tube that extends the length of the tank. The symptoms that Taeh is showing is a Respiratory infection. That will account for the problems swimming, problem eating, gasping for breath when eating, and the listing to one side when swimming. We usually see this problem when the RI is starting to go into the lungs. The diet also for aquatic turtles should be 50% dark leafy greens, 25% pellets and 25% cooked meats like slivers of chicken or live prey like meal worms or crickets. Taeh should be seen by a Herp Vet asap. They most likely will start an antibiotic after an examination. I would be happy to locate a Herp Vet for you with a State. I am going to give you a care sheet that was created by a fellow Expert(Anna). It will help you with the proper husbandry.


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.

For Further

This is among the most reputable sites on
Please let me know if you need further help and if you would like me to locate a Herp Vet. I will be happy to continue with you if you need more help. Joan

Joan and other Reptile Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thanks Joan, just wanted to let you know, that Taeh, (supposedly the male) the one gasping for air while eating, is different from Teah (the female), the one swimming in circles. I will make the necessary changes, like add the UVB bulb and feed them leafy greens, I've only done it once. I have only have them for 1 month, so I'm still learning.


I believe there are exotic and reptile vets in the Gainesville, Florida area, so I will consult them as well.


It is possible they both may have some respiratory issues. It is wise to have them both checked out. The Pet shops do not always give the best information and you are wise to ask questions. You are correct about Vets for Reptiles in your area. The College has a clinic as well as several other Vets in the area. This will help you locate the Vets: Joan