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Anna, Pet Expert/Biologist
Category: Pet
Satisfied Customers: 11465
Experience:  40 yrs.: herps, pocket pets, rabbits, poultry, dogs, horses. Biology degree. Vet assistant.
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My baby turtles are not eating and are basking when there ...

Resolved Question:

My baby turtles are not eating and are basking when there is no light. They are also not as active, their eyes are getting puffy and their shells are slightly discolored. At times they gasp for air and look lifeless. Could someone please help?
Submitted: 9 years ago.
Category: Pet
Expert:  Anna replied 9 years ago.

A little more information will help me to answer your question.

How long have you had the turtles, and how many do you have?

How big is your tank? What is the water temperature, and the temperature under the basking light?

What types of lighting do you have?

Have the turtles eaten at all since you got them? If they have, what did they eat?

Thank you.

Customer: replied 9 years ago.
Reply to Anna's Post: I've had one of them for about a year, the others for about a month maybe two. There are 4 currently, we started out with 6, 2 have died from similar issues. We have a 20 gallon long tank about 3/4 filled with water (the turtles are still under 2 inches in shell size) There is a basking area. The water temp. is normally around 78 degrees and the basking light is normally around 84-90 degrees. We have a UVB and two 60 watt heat lamps, but recently I have only turned one of those on.
Expert:  Anna replied 9 years ago.
Thank you for getting back to me. I suspect that your turtles weren't healthy when you got them - that's often the case with pet store turtles. It sounds like you've provided good conditions for the most part. I have just a couple of suggestions to make them even better. A 20 gallon tank is a bit crowded for four turtles. It's usually recommended that you provide 10 gallons of tank per one baby turtle. If you don't have a good filtration system and make regular water changes, the water quality may not be very good. The bulbs in UVA/UVB lights are only effective for 6 months. After that, they may look fine, but are no longer putting out the proper rays. That could account for the shell symptoms you're seeing. Also, pet store personnel often sell lights claiming to be "full- spectrum" that provide everything reptiles need. Full-spectrum isn't the same as UVA/UVB. Rely on your own eyes when choosing a new light. A Reptiglo 10 is a good brand.

You have tried vitamin A, sulfa, and tetracycline. There really isn't much more you can do on your own. Your turtles are exhibiting signs of a severe respiratory infection. They need to see a reptile vet as soon as possible. Opening the mouth as if gasping is called "gaping," and the turtle does it in an attempt to get air into his lungs. Here is a link to a directory of reptile vets so you can find the nearest one:

You can't treat this at home, and without treatment, it is likely to turn into pneumonia. It may already have. Respiratory infections are the leading cause of death in turtles.

You probably won't be able to see a vet until tomorrow. In the meantime, there are things you can do to support your turtles. Adjust the basking light so the temperature under it will stay at 90*. Raise the water temperature to about 85*. The warmer temperature can give the immune system a boost. Be sure one area of the tank remains cooler so they can get out of the heat if they want to.

I hope you're able to quickly get your turtles to a vet so proper treatment can begin.

If you have further questions, just let me know by clicking on REPLY.


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