General Care Discussion :: turtle scratching shell

Taking care of your turtle's overall health.

Post Posted: Tue Nov 25, 2008 3:24 am   turtle scratching shell

sorry in advance for this being a super long post, i wanted to be thorough!

hey there. i have a turtle named Shark (aka Sharkie). He's an RES. i answered all the basic questions below. my question is about some odd behavior he's had within the past week or so...we have a filter with the intake coming down into the water and recently he has been scratching his shell on it. I was wondering if this was some sort of normal behavior or it's just like he has an itch or something? some other possible "symptoms" he has is shedding, sometimes it's heavy and sometimes very little (but only visible in the water). also when he is basking he kind of twitches like he is scratching his skin or just muscles are spasming. i haven't noticed that he's sluggish and he definitely IS eating. we clean the tank once every one or two months and he regularly take out water and replace it with clean water. we clean the filter every 3-4 weeks, too. also, there seems to be algae that gets in the filter and in the submerged part of his basking area, but we bought an algae killer that seemed to kill it but now all the dead stuff is there (we try to get clean it out as much as possible). i'm super poor (college student) and i just wanted to know if this could potentially be serious so i can take him to the vet if i need to. i hope this is detailed enough for answers! if you need pictures i can post some here. thank you so so so so SO much for your time! =]

How big is your turtle?
about 5-6 inches long
How long have you had it?
since august of this year, 2008

What is the water temperature?
usually around 75
Did you use a thermometer?
Are you using a water heater?
How much water is in there?
40 gallon tank with 15-20 gallons of water in it
Are you using a water conditioner?
Are you using any filtration?
yes, a ZooMed 501

What is the basking temperature?
80-85 last time i checked
Is there a basking light?
yes, ZooMed brand, 75 watts and also i switch it to an infrared light at nighttime, also 75 watts
Is there a basking platform that is easy to climb on?
yes i have a floating type of lightweight "rock" that i got from Petco
What kind is it or what is it made out of?
i'm not sure exactly what it's made out of but like i said it's lightweight and it floats. it's probably some sort of foam type thing
Is there a UVB light?
yes, i have a full spectrum light in addition to the basking light

What have you been trying to feed it?
i feed him/her (not 100% sure yet) commercial diet floating pellet things and feeder fish (every other day for the fish)
When was the last time your turtle ate?
he eats regularly

How big is the tank/pond/enclosure?
tank is a 40 gallon tank, 36x17x18 cm
Is the tank near a window?
yes but we usually keep the blinds closed though some daylight comes in
Is the tank in a room with a lot of activity?
depends on your definition of a boyfriend and i (we live together) usually are in there but the most activity is us getting up from the couch or leaving the room/apartment

Have you read the Basic Care section?
yes and i have a short book on RES
Have you searched the forums for similar situations?

thanks again!
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Post Posted: Tue Nov 25, 2008 12:18 pm   

If you could post a picture of his shell that would be helpful. It sounds like he's shedding and might be having difficulty getting those last scutes off.
You're certain that your full spectrum bulb has UVB as well? That really helps them shed.
You can also offer foods that are high in vitamin E like blueberries and apple skins to help things along.
You don't have to manually pull scutes off- in fact that's an awful thing to do you can damage the turtle's shell that way and leave it vulnerable to infection.

One thing I noticed about your set up is that you have no heater.
Those are relatively cheap and are invaluable in terms of keeping turtles healthy. It's extremely important for cold blooded animals to have a constant temperature and you're running the risk of getting a very ill turtle by letting the tank fluctuate to cooler temps. Pick up a heater the next time you're out. The stealth ones are great, and that 20-30 dollars is much cheaper than taking care of an ill RES.
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Post Posted: Tue Nov 25, 2008 8:49 pm   

You say he sheds skin? How about his scutes---turtles will try to scratch against objects to help them shed...The twitching on the basking area doesn't sound unusual---a basking turtle will do this to thermoregulate. When my turtles do it, it means they're getting warm on the basking area. If they get too warm, they'll either move away on the basking area or go into the water.

If the water temp is constantly at 75F (no big temp swings), this is OK for a healthy turtle his size. If it repeatedly drops significantly lower than that, a heater to keep the water temp steady would be good.

A basking area temp in the range of 88-90F would be better for him (and would encourage him to bask). Check that full spectrum bulb and make sure it's emitting UVB rays (it should say so). What UVB strength is it?

Is the floating "lightweight rock" basking area stationary under the heat and UVB lights? If it floats away from them on occasion, your RES can't benefit from them.

Is the ZooMed 501 a rather small internal filter? If so, it's probably not sufficient for the tank and the size of your turtle. You don't have that much water in there, which means it will get dirtier more quickly. How often is the water changed? The filter I'm thinking you have is not powerful enough for the tank and will not be able to keep up with the waste. Dirty water (and a high ammonia level) will contribute to skin shedding.
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Post Posted: Wed Nov 26, 2008 12:24 am   

it's definitely UVB, it says 5% on the box. and yes the basking area is stationary, it's suction cupped to the glass. i'll double check the temperature of the basking area and move the light closer if it needs to be to keep it warmer. i looked more closely as his shell and it kind of seems like they're starting to shed, like super early stages of it. i'm not sure what is considered to be a small internal filter. i think we need to get a new one though because when his skin sheds off it doesn't seem to get the skin out of the water. it was just really expensive (by my standards i'm a student haha) but i suppose it's a small price to pay for his health! thanks SO much both of you, you've been super helpful!
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Post Posted: Sun Jun 25, 2017 10:10 pm   Re: Keeps on burying herself

Hi! My box turtle Fiona keeps on burying herself is that normal? Is it something I should be worried about?
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Gender: Female

Post Posted: Mon Jun 26, 2017 3:02 am   Re: turtle scratching shell

To a point it's normal. If it's excessive Fiona may not be comfortable with the habitat and more time given to its setup.
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