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Ask Joan Your Own Question
Joan, Veterinary Technician
Category: Reptile
Satisfied Customers: 17305
Experience:  35+ years experience as veterinary tech and 20+ years experience doing reptile rescues.
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I've got three turtles that are outside in a atrium with two

Customer Question

I've got three turtles that are outside in a atrium with two ponds. I've had them in this same place for about 10 years, I've noticed that one of them is being very lethargic and not eating and the other two are picking on him. He's not his normal self, very active.
JA: I'm sorry to hear that. Could be a lot of things that cause lethargy. The Veterinarian will know how to help the turtle. What is the turtle's name?
Customer: Paint
JA: Is there anything else the Veterinarian should be aware of about Paint?
Customer: no
JA: OK. Got it. I'm sending you to a secure page on JustAnswer so you can place the $5 fully-refundable deposit now. While you're filling out that form, I'll tell the Veterinarian about your situation and then connect you two.
Submitted: 4 months ago.
Category: Reptile
Expert:  Joan replied 4 months ago.


My name is ***** ***** I have been a Vet tech for 30+ years with special ineterest in reptiles and reptile rescue.

Have you tested the water in the Pond for Ammonia, Nitrites and Nitrates?

Type of turtle?



Any bubbles from nnose or mouth?


Customer: replied 4 months ago.
I've never tested water, the other two are fine. They eat bugs that are around plus I give them a blend of food from a pet store which I have been feeding for 10 years or more. No supplements. The one I'm concerned with is a yellow bellied slider.
Don't know about bubbles
Expert:  Joan replied 4 months ago.

The Big issue when a Turtle goes off food in a pond can be a Parasite issue, Respiratory infection where you may see it swimming funny, Bubbles from nose or mouth, or a Vitamin deficiency. If the other turtles are picking on him, he is very ill. They are very stoic and do not show illness unto in bad condition and the other turtles are recognizing that. They all should have some type of calcium supplement like cuttle bones or a calcium block and really need a vitamin fortified food. I suggest separating the turtle and having it see a Herp Vet. I am afraid if left out in the pond he will not survive. The Herp Vet can examine him and give needed medications. I can locate one for you with a State. In this situation with a pond turtle sick there is no easy answer and treatment.


Customer: replied 4 months ago.
Expert:  Joan replied 4 months ago.

Did you need a Herp Vet? If you supply a State I can locate some for you and I can also give you a Care sheet how to set up for the turtle in the house. Please let me know.


Customer: replied 4 months ago.
Florida, Orlando ok
Expert:  Joan replied 4 months ago.

Herp Vets in FL :


Well-cared for sliders can live 30 years or more.

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 Area

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 Reading

This is among the most reputable sites on turtles.