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Joan, Veterinary Technician
Category: Reptile
Satisfied Customers: 18189
Experience:  35+ years experience as veterinary tech and 40+ years experience doing reptile rescues.
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My baby Red Ear Slider turtle is not eating, his eyes are

Customer Question

My baby Red Ear Slider turtle is not eating, his eyes are puffed and swollen shut, he opens them, but briefly. he doesn't like to be in the water, and he floats. this only started about 5 days ago. Hes only a month old. What do I do?
Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: Reptile
Expert:  Joan replied 5 years ago.


Can you tell me about the set up?

What is the diet? Prey /greens?

Do you have filtration?

Do you use a dechlorinator?

Do you have a UVB light? Tube or coil?


Any bubbles come from nose or mouth?

State to locate a Herp Vet?


Customer: replied 5 years ago.

Well, I have two, the one is doing perfect the other not, the set up is, they have a few plants and a reptile climbing rock inside the tank, there is a filter, and we do use a liquid that makes tap water safe for the RES turtles. there is also a thermometer and automatic heater in the tank to make sure the water temp. stays the same at all times.

He opens his mouth and it makes a click sound, and there has been a few bubbles. they eat turtle food and freeze dried meal worms, and the odd time lettuce.

Expert:  Joan replied 5 years ago.


Do you have any over head lights. The would be a basking light and a UVB light?


Customer: replied 5 years ago.
The tank has two bright hot lights that I was told are exactly what they will need and it seemed perfect since they were built in!
Expert:  Joan replied 5 years ago.


I can tell you I suspect the turtle has Pneumonia from your description. The swollen eyes, the floating and clicking all are symptoms. There is no at home treatment, and this can only get worse. You can treat the eyes with some Saline eye drops without presevatives, as the turtle eye drops are worthless, and this is an infection that will need to be treated with an antibiotic.


The turtles should have a cuttle bone for calcium. A UVB light is needed. That is a cool florescent type bulb that supplies artificial sunlight to help metabolize the calcium in the body. The bulbs that give heat are for basking, unless you are using a Mercury Vapory bulb.


The diet should be 50% leafy greens like collards, mustards, romain, escarole, 25% pellets and 25% cooked meats and live prey.


The little turtle needs to see a Herp Vet asap. I can locate one for you with a state.

In the mean time you may want to separate the two turtles as if this is bacterial the other turtle may get sick too. I am going to give you a care sheet that was developed by Anna, one of my co Experts.



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.

I hope you will have a Happy Thanksgiving.