My pet turtles shed shells

Filed under carapace, my pet turtles, pet care, photos, red ear slider turtles, turtle health, turtle pictures, turtles

I wrote about turtle shell shedding in a previous blog post, pet turtle shell shedding.

Oh yeah. Shell shedding is completely normal and natural for pet turtles. It’s a sign of good health. It means they are eating properly and have the proper turtle habitat in terms of having a completely dry basking area (in addition to a totally wet swimming area).

My pet turtles have been shedding their shells

The reason for that is that my turtles, my male pet turtle in particular – Rex, has been shedding a lot of his shell lately.

Both my pet turtles have been shedding their shells for months now. Usually I find small bits and pieces of shell when I do some spot cleaning of the turtle tank with my water vacuum. I find them mixed in with everything I vacuum up, including pet turtle poop, uneaten food, cuttle bone “crumbs”, and shed skin. I always thought they were shedding really thin layers of shell that would come off in really small pieces. Of course, the pieces I would find weren’t always the same size. Some were bigger, most were really small.

Then when doing a water change a month ago, I learned the truth. It was a weird water change but I learned a lot. I also watched my pet turtles a lot that day… Before I even started, I found a newly shed piece of my pet turtle shell in the water. A whole scute! Much larger than any piece of shell I’ve found since. During the water removal and replacement process, I saw about three whole scutes in the water – fresh from falling off my pet turtles’ shells.

Pet turtles eat anything

I found a fourth scute when I saw Rex eating something. I hadn’t given the turtles any food, so I though he was eating some turtle poop – but upon closer inspection he was actually trying to swallow a whole turtle scute. My pet turtle was trying to eat his shed shell! He had almost swallowed the whole piece before I managed to pull it off his mouth. That’s when I realized that my pet turtles have been shedding whole pieces of shell, entire scutes all this time. They see the pieces after they fall off, and red ear sliders being what they are, they ate them. The small bits and pieces I would find when doing maintenance were turtle shell fragments that were already processed – as in my pet turtles had already eaten and pooped them!!

After the water change, Rex was swimming around when I saw a scute hanging off his back. It was almost completely out, so I pulled it off him. Throughout the rest of the day and the day after, I kept finding whole pieces of shed shells in Rex’s side of the pet turtle tank. In the next few weeks, I vacuumed more frequently and found whole scutes in the vacuum bag. Some pieces were clearly Rex’s and some I’m not sure which pet turtle of mine they came from. I only found a single piece of whole scute that I found in Cinderella’s (my female red ear slider turtle) side of the turtle aquarium. Just one.

And so, here they are. Some photos of the pet turtle shells that were shed. I’ve been collecting them over a month and arranged them in their proper arrangement. I have almost all the scutes for Rex’s carapace – they are the first several pictures. I only found one piece from his plastron, it is the second set of photos. The last three photos are the only whole piece I found from Cinderella’s carapace. Enjoy:

How about you? Have you been finding your pet turtles shed shells? Have you been collecting them or just throwing them away?


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27 Comments for this entry

  • Pet Vacuums

    Interesting…

    “Turtle shedding” is something I never would have imagine. Thanks for the pictures to confirm it.

  • Lizzie

    My two RES have been shedding a lot lately, and I found your site by googling. I was pretty sure the shedding was okay, but thanks for the information.

  • Star

    Um does ur pet turtle’s shell colour change before shedding?

    • forlogos

      they don’t change color before shedding, but a turtle shell will look better after. Many times the old shell scutes get loose and there is space between the shell scute and the rest of the shell (before they fall off). Water and air gets between them and can make those scutes look different from the rest. When the scutes do fall off, the newer/brighter scutes underneath will be revealed.

  • res lover

    such relief know my turtles arent the only ones shedding but when my turtle sheds the shell scales are clear with a little bit of thier shell color on it

  • C

    My RES also known as Crush, is currently shedding,and the scutes look healthy, but is it normal for him to be rubbing his shell on things in his tank purposly? almost in an attempt to scratch his back and take the scutes off himself? He literally lifts up some of his tank decor when he dives under to try and place it on top of his shell and rub his back vigorously. Thanks in advance =)

  • Kevin89

    My turtle has been shedding a LOT of scutes lately. When I did a water change recently I found about 30 different scutes… (its been maybe about a month since the previous water change?) Is this normal? I know its normal for turtles to shed their scutes, but this fast? It seems unhealthy to me..
    Also, where the back legs come out of the shell,there is what looks like a roll of fat, does this mean I’m overfeeding him?

    • forlogos

      totally healthy… nothing to worry about.

      The roll is just skin. If your pet turtle was fat – he would look like he’s too big for his shell

      • Kevin89

        Ok. Thanks! I was getting worried because I have a smaller res in the same tank and was worried that he was eating all the food..

  • Shannon

    I also found the site by googleing it. Very helpful. Was worried about my son’s RES whom we have only had for 4 months. Upon changing the tank water we stumbled upon 4 scutes and started looking for anything he could have gotten into until my boyfriend turned him over and found another one on his belly that was just about to fall off. We left it and googled. Thank god this is a good sign. Didn’t want him getting sick and having to explain what happened.

  • Lynnette

    My turtle spent a lot of time at the bottom of the water a few weeks ago, and his shell had black slime growing on it. I did a total water change and now he has stopped eating. Last night, he seemed really sluggish and his shell was cracking apart, almost like delaminating plywood. He has not gone into the water for a day. I am really worried. Thoughts?

  • bob

    iv had my turtles for a while, but both of them have had for a few years now a shallow crack at the very middle of there shell, it sometimes gets pinkish, but there’s only been puss in it once, is this bad? also, my bigger turtle has a small hole in his bottom shell, it is usually filled with a crystaly looking substance, but a month ago it got bloody and pussy, and a really big peice of something weird looking came out, but he’s been fine since.
    please answer if this is bad, thanks! =)

    • forlogos

      blood and pus is never a good thing. I hope you’ve had your pet turtles looked at by a qualified vet

  • Mapturtles

    Any tips for helping them shed parts of the shell that haven’t come off on their own? Normally when I clean the tank I check to see if there are any loose pieces and gently remove them but for some reason lately it seems like they are not coming off in large sections.

    • forlogos

      I would not forcefully remove them. Many times I don’t find big pieces, since the turtles eat them and I find really small pieces instead

  • Amy mcguyer

    My baby sliders have a thin film skin like stuff on there skin just started it got me scared they don’t get .. Ick like fish ? Is this just them growing

  • bob

    I have not…=/
    should I?

  • orla

    i am currently minding the school pet turtle, it never basks on the floating platform i keep the heat lamp on 24/7, it just stays under the water near the heater, i was told to clean it once a month, and feed every 3 days, i have been cleaning it once a week, and give it a tumb of food every day, it seems fine, i was also told i could let it walk in the grass for a hr a day, but it never wants to walk just shade some were, i am trying to do best, as i love animals, can i do anything to make its life a little more intresting as i always thing the turtle looks bored in the tank thanks for any feed back

    • forlogos

      Make sure your basking and water temperatures are what they should be for your type of pet turtle (typically 90 and 75 degrees F, respectively).

      Walking on the grass depends on your turtles specie and personality. Keep in mind that it might also be scared and simply trying to look for a place that feels safe.

      As for looking bored, how about giving it some fish to chase (and eat)?