Our Terrapin has stopped eating and has become immobile. We have separated it from the other 2 and warm his water. Once

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Customer: Hi. Our Terrapin has stopped eating and has become immobile. We have separated it from the other 2 and warm his water. Once the temperature drops back to normal he basks out of the water all day. When he does move / swim, it is a struggle and he looks as if he is listing which is a symptom I have read about.
Answered by Anna in 11 mins 8 years ago
30+ years of experience

17,040 satisfied customers

Specialities include: Reptile Veterinary, Herp Veterinary, Exotic Animal Medicine, Amphibian Veterinary

Hello and welcome. My name is XXXXX XXXXX I'm a biologist with a special interest in reptiles. I'm sorry to hear of this problem. Some additional information will be helpful.

What is the temperature under the basking light? In the water?

Have you noticed any bubbles coming from his nose or mouth?

Has he been yawning a lot?

What kind of terrapin is he - red ear slider, painted, etc.?

Thank you.

Hi Anna. We don't measure the water temperature but it is tepid so I guess around 80f. We have lp laced a lamp over the tank so it is warn . It is not a UV lamp. We have not noticed yawning or bubbles. It is just very lethargic and struggles to walk or swim.
Hi Anna, did you get my response
Yes - I just received notification of it. When a terrapin lists to one side in the water, it often means there is infection in the lungs - often pneumonia. Unfortunately, there is no home treatment for that, and it usually becomes progressively worse. A vet needs to treat it. Having trouble walking often indicates Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD). That is caused by lack of UVB light or calcium. Here are the reptile vets I found in Singapore:

The Animal Clinic -
BlkXXXXX11, #01-31,
Singapore (120109),
Tel: (65) 67763450...

Allpets and Aqualife Vets Pte Ltd
219 Jalan Kayu
#01-01 Singapore 799442
Dr Frederic Chua

On Mon and Fri only @
The Animal Clinic Pte Ltd (Katong Branch)
55 Lorong L, Telok Kurau #01-63
Bright Centre, Singapore 425500
Tel: 64404767, 64402336.

On Tue morning [email protected]
The Animal Clinic Pte Ltd (Clementi Branch)
#01-19 and #01-31, Singapore 120109
Tel: 67763450, 67770273, 67744464, 67746626.

The basking area should be at 85*F to 90*F. It's important to use a thermometer so the are is neither too hot or too cold. The water should be 78*F to 82*F.

Besides making sure the terrapin is warm enough, all you can do at home is make sure all conditions are optimal. To help you with that, I'm sending along a care sheet I've written. Most terrapins are sliders, so even though you didn't tell me what kind he is, I'm going to assume he unless you let me know otherwise. Use the care sheet as a checklist to be sure all conditions are right.

If you have more questions, let me know in a REPLY. I hope you'll be able to quickly get treatment and the terrapin will reach a full recovery.


My goal is to provide you with excellent service – if you feel you have gotten anything less, please reply back, I am happy to address follow-up questions. Please remember to rate my service only after you have all the information you need. Thank you!


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.



Hi Simon, I'm just following up on our conversation about your pet. How is everything going? Anna

Hi Anna. We took the turtle to the vet. He gave it an injection which was too much for the little thing and it dies on the way home from the vet. Thanks for your help.

I'm so sorry for your loss. The poor little thing must have been very sick. You did all you could.

Just a note: You may receive emails that are inappropriate for this situation from JustAnswer that look they're from me. They're not; they are computer generated. Just ignore them.

I wish there would have been a better outcome for your terrapin.

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