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Anna, Reptile Expert, Biologist
Category: Reptile
Satisfied Customers: 11424
Experience:  Have owned turtles, snakes, amphibians, and lizards. Study and provide habitat for wild herps.
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Please help! My RES has puffy eyes and is very lethargic, it

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Please help! My RES has puffy eyes and is very lethargic, it also may have some swelling around her jaw line, and it really doesn't seem like necrotic skin, she seems like she is sleeping a lot but that may be just her swollen eyes. She seems like her appetite isn't there. I've been applying Cod liver oil to her face mainly her swollen eyes and am attempting to feed here turtle pellets and romaine lettuce, please help!

Some additional information will help me to answer your question.

How old is your turtle?

What size tank do you have? is there a filter?

What types of heating and lighting equipment do you use?

What temperatures do you have in the basking area and the water?

Thank you.

Customer: replied 8 years ago.
Let's see, my turtle really is only a couple of months old, not even a year, I have a 10 gallon tank, there is a filter, I use regular lighting, and take them outside occasionally or put them in some natural lighting to bask, and the water and basking area are between 75-80. The thing is, this kind of was taking place before this, I barely got this system yesterday when I was able to buy this, and before that the water was still about the same temperature, maybe like 70, and they only had natural lighting through a window, and the water was very dirty most of the time.

Thank you so much for your time!
Thank you for getting back to me. Turtles are more difficult to care for than most people would expect. They also can be expensive to get started with. They can live 30 years or more, when properly cared for. Unfortunately, most people get their information on care from pet stores, and that information is usually wrong. Incorrect conditions have probably led to your turtle’s problems. I'll start by giving you a summary of basic care, and then we’ll look at the specific problems.

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. 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.

In order to be healthy, turtles need certain types of lighting and need to be warm. Air and water that are not warm enough can lead to infections, lethargy, and appetite loss. 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 (24*C) degrees, 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 degrees (29 to 32*C). Use a thermometer to be sure. You can adjust the temperature by raising or lowering the light fixture. If your tank is small, set up the basking area at one end - you don't want the entire tank to become too warm. 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 degrees (26 to 28*C).

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, 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 turtles 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. Turtles need this light for 12 to 14 hours per day, so trips outside for a while aren't adequate.

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.

Feeding is another area where pet stores often give out bad information. Commercial food should make up only 1/4 of the diet. Animal products (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.) . You may want to look at these sites for additional information on care and feeding.

No matter what is causing your turtle's eye problem there are things you can do to support its recovery. Raise the air temperature in the tank to 85 degrees. Water temperature should also be increased a few degrees. Under the basking light, 90 degrees would be good. These temporary warmer temperatures will boost the turtle's immune system.

Dirty water commonly causes infections, too.

Vitamin A imbalances are another common cause of eyelid swelling. Too much vitamin A from supplements or not enough can cause equally serious problems. It's best if your turtle gets its vitamin A from foods. This link will take you to a site with information on vitamin A deficiency, and a list of vitamin A-rich foods:

Since the turtle is not eating, give it a daily bath in a solution of half warm water (85-90) degrees and half Pedialyte (sold in drug stores for human infants). Let the turtle soak for about an hour.

While the turtle needs to have the correct conditions, at this point, it is probably too sick to recover without veterinary care. I recommend that you amke an appointment with a reptile vet as soon as you can. this link will take you to a directory.

If all this sounds like too much expense or work, give me your state, and I can refer you to reptile rescue groups who would take the turtle and care for it. Sometimes people buy a turtle without realizing what it involves, and in this troubled economy are unable to provide what it needs. If you’re in that situation, I understand, and will be happy to give you the link to rescues in your state.

If you have further questions, or want a list of rescues, just let me know by clicking on REPLY. There's no additional fee for such follow-up questions, and I'm happy to help. I hope you enjoy many years with your turtle.

Anna and other Reptile Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 8 years ago.
Thank you for your help, I will start to care for it and get the pedialyte today, and I have ordered some supplies like meat foods and am trying to feed it, and on Monday I am going to take her to the veterinarian. Thank you so much for your help!
You're welcome. I hope she'll reach a complete recovery. It sounds like you're going to do everything youc an to help her.