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Joan, Veterinary Technician
Category: Reptile
Satisfied Customers: 18544
Experience:  35+ years experience as veterinary tech and 40+ years experience doing reptile rescues.
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I have a 14 year old very small (4-5inches ) red eared

Customer Question

I have a 14 year old very small (4-5inches long) red eared slider (asian aquatic) type turtle. He is extremely sluggish & won't eat. On his underside near his back legs light colored skin is swollen, & really puffy and extended. Turtle can move front legs, but not back. Occasionally, he tries to crawl but can't drag immobile back end. Left him with husband for a week, came back to find him in filthy water, not eating & in this shape. Got him to eat 2 bits of tiny reptomin, by putting in his mouth last night when he opened & looked at me. Seemed better overnight, back leg swelling went down completely on one backside, now he is worse & swelling is back. Is there any medicine, anything I can do? Please help!
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Reptile
Expert:  Joan replied 1 year ago.


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

Can you tell me about the set up?


Normal diet?


UVB light, linear tube or compact coil, strength, age of bulb and brand?

Basking light?

Can you post a Picture of the area that is swollen?

Do you have a Herp Vet and if not State to locate one.


Customer: replied 1 year ago.
No hero vet in state, that's why asking you. Turtle is type from east Asia purchased in Chinatown 14 years ago. It was less that one inch long then. During it's entire life it has been in plastic container, spring water only used daily & changed. Diet has always been Tetra brand ReptoMin small food sticks with calcium added, supplemented by mini-krill & pieces of mini baby shrimp (also Tetra brand). Turtle has been healthy, until now. I will take photo of back underside & send.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Here is photo, let me know if you got it, please
Expert:  Joan replied 1 year ago.


These turtles like most aquatic reptiles require special care. The set up right now is in adequate. Diet needs improvement and you need special lighting. The turtle requires two types of lighting. One is a normal basking light and the other is a Linear UVB bulb that will metabolize calcium in the body to prevent Metabolic Bone Disease. The bulb I suggest is a Reptisun 10.0 linear tube. This is extremely important, since it sounds like your turtle is suffering from Metabolic Bone Disease: The diet needs improvement to include 50% Leafy green veggies, 25% pellets and 25% live prey or cooked meats. Turtles are predisposed to Kidney disease . The area that is swollen actually looks like a hernia or a tumor. This turtle does need to see a Herp Vet since they will want to start it on some Vitamin and calcium and a do some further investigation into the swollen area. They may aspirate it for fluid and cells to see what is going on. In the mean time you need to make come corrections with lighting, diet and filtration. I can locate Herp Vets in all States if you supply yours. I am also going to give you a care sheet composed by a Fellow Expert Anna and my self to guide you in the needs of the turtle to help him. Winter is approaching and they do hibernate and he is not in god enough shape to do that.SLIDER TURTLE CARE SHEET

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.

Expert:  Joan replied 1 year ago.
I'm just following up on our conversation about your pet. How is everything going?
Expert:  Joan replied 1 year ago.


I am checking in to see how your turtle is doing. Please let me know if there has been any improvement.