Turtle Shell Peeling – Do Turtles Shed? | PetDT (2022)

Turtles are unique pets to have, and can be absolutely fascinating to have around. You may have noticed that your turtle’s shell is peeling, but is this normal?

Turtle Shell Peeling – Do Turtles Shed? | PetDT (1)

Thankfully, we can tell you that turtles peeling their shells is totally normal. Today we will teach you how to tell healthy shell peeling from unhealthy shell peeling, as well as what you should expect from turtle shell shedding, and more!

Most people don’t realize that turtles shed their shells every year. This is because they have a special layer of skin called the carapace that protects them from predators. The carapace also helps regulate body temperature

Shell Shedding – Is It A Real Thing?

Snakes shed their skin, and turtles peel their shells. It is not all that different really.

Turtle shells are made up of many small bones, they average at around 60 bones per shell.

These are then covered by ‘plates’, or what look like ‘plates’, however, these are actually named ‘scutes’. Scutes are made up of keratin, which is the same substance that makes up our hair and nails.

As the turtle ages, the scutes will fall off, this is what we are talking about today. It is known as shedding the shell.

Why Do Reptiles Shed?

(Video) Turtle Shell Peeling? What to do during shedding! | Turtle 101

Why Do Reptiles Shed?

Most of the time, when a turtle sheds its shell, it is just part of their totally normal natural process, however, this can also be down to illness or in some cases, poor care of the turtle.

Why Might A Turtles’ Shell Peel?

A turtle’s shell can peel for natural reasons, such as growing, however, it can also peel in attempts to fight off infections, sickness, or something as bad as shell rot.

Some turtles shed their shells each year. A few species do not. However, most turtles will shed their shells after molting. Molting is when an animal sheds its old skin, so it has new skin underneath.

Molting can often happen when a female lays her eggs and then goes into hibernation for several months.

When she wakes up, she digs herself out of the nest and begins to molt. She sheds all the old skin and grows new skin underneath.

Do remember, this is not true for every species, but is for some.

Also since their shell is made from bones covered by scute’s, as they grow larger, their shell needs to accommodate their new size. So, shell shedding will be common in your turtles if you get them while they are young.

Reasons For Peeling

As turtle bones grow, their scutes will fall off to create room for their new and large scutes. However, this is the traditional reason this will happen.

Turtles will often bask in the sun to dry out their shell and skin and raise their temperature, as you will likely know if you own turtles.

However, if their shell is covered in something like algae, or if something is blocking them, then this can create issues with their internal temperature, which will make them slow, and their health will then be at risk!

Adding calcium enhancers to your turtle tank can aid in their shell health if you are concerned.

As a turtle sheds their scutes, it will aid in keeping it clean and free of blockages, and potential infections.

They will also peel their shell if they are injured, or if their shell is damaged. Perhaps if a shell is lost or damaged somehow, shedding allows them to regenerate this scute.

(Video) Help! Your Turtle's SHELL Is Peeling!! | What It Means!

Turtles will also shed their shells to aid in the healing process.

What About Their Skin?

Turtles have rubbery and hardy tough skin. However, much like their shells, this skin cannot accommodate their growth as they age. For this reason, turtles also shed their skin to aid in their growth.

Turtle owners may also think that their turtle’s skin is shedding when in fact the turtle’s skin is actually just extremely dry. It is important to know the difference.

Shell Peeling: Frequency And Breeds

Turtle Shell Peeling – Do Turtles Shed? | PetDT (2)

Typically, you will find that aquatic turtles peel more than other species of turtle do. This is simply because infections and shell rot are more likely to happen in the water.

Thus, aquatic turtles who spend most of their time in the water are at high risk to these issues.

This makes aquatic turtles who peel their shell, animals who simply use this as a defense mechanism against potential infections and parasites.

However, you will find that other breeds of turtle, like box turtles rarely shed their shells. Yet, when box turtles shed, it is often part of a larger healing process.

So, if you were to ask how often shell shedding occurs, the main thing you need to consider is species.

Yet, there are often two primary periods in which you will find that turtles do shed. We mentioned this previously, can you guess it?

Hibernation.

Turtles will shed their shells prior to hibernating, and after hibernating.

A turtle will usually shed their shell before they hibernate, it prepares them for the only time dormant ahead.

This being said, turtles may usually shed much more after hibernation than they do before hibernation. Many call the period after hibernation the ‘frizzles’. Maybe because they ‘frizzle’ their shells?

Top Shell Peeling Reasons

This is the main reason for shell peeling/shedding, however there are other things as well that will lead to shell shedding in turtles. Let’s look over some of these alternative reasons.

(Video) Turtle Shell Peeling and Shedding Scutes? Why They Do This And What To Do

  • A turtle may shed their shell due to a fungal infection.
  • Turtles might also shed their shells due to high ammonia levels in the water. Note that you need to have a good high-quality filter with a bio filter to counter this issue.
  • They may shed if the basking area is too hot. Getting a thermometer to monitor this is wise.
  • If your turtle is overfed, and thus is growing too quickly. This is common in turtles whose owners are feeding them an inappropriate diet of too many and only protein pellets.
  • It is also possible that a turtle may shed their shell due to a disease.

What If Their Scutes Aren’t Shedding?

Turtles can be picky creatures, and they may not shed their shells, if the water or basking temperature is not ideal.

Remember that turtles have an ideal temperature, and if their water and basking areas are not on point-aspects of their biology can be disrupted.

It is also possible that they are not getting enough calcium to shed their shell. If your UV lightbulb is just fine and the temperature is okay, review the turtle’s diet.

Let’s consider these possibilities in more depth.

Is The Water Or Basking Temperature Right?

You should always check the ideal water and basking temperatures for your species of turtle, and adjust it accordingly.

For a majority of domestic turtle species, the best temperature will be in the 70-80s for the water, and 90s for the basking zone. Get a thermometer to check.

Is The UV Bulb Working As It Should?

It is not new news that UV bulbs will decrease in their quality as they get old. It is ideal for you to change your UV bulbs every 6 months or so.

A low-quality UV bulb can actually be damaging to your turtles’ health. So, keep on top of it.

Is Your Turtle Ingesting The Right Amount Of Calcium?

If your turtle does not get enough calcium in their diet, they will not be able to grow. So, you should double-check their diet and make sure that they are getting enough. If they are not, introduce calcium blocks to lend a hand.

NOTE: Your turtle may be shedding their shell, but they may be eating the shedded scute as soon as it peels off, otherwise you may not be able to see them in their aquarium, especially if you have substrate or a rock bottom.

So, before you go tempering with your turtle’s environment or diet, make sure they are not shedding. Older turtles are less conspicuous with their shell shedding.

Things To Be On The Lookout For!

Turtle Shell Peeling – Do Turtles Shed? | PetDT (3)

Shell shedding in turtles is a very natural occurrence. But, remember that not every time a turtle sheds its shell for these natural means. Sometimes, when a turtle sheds, it can be for unpleasant reasons, such as parasites, or disease.

A good way to tell if the shell shedding is natural and normal, you will find that the scutes will just fall away, normally they will be whole, and this will happen all over the shell, not just at the top.

You will notice the edges and bottom also peel off too!

(Video) Grooming a yellow bellied slider turtle with “stuck scutes”

If you notice scutes coming off at the bottom and sides then this is a natural shedding, and you should feel at ease. Portions of the shell may seem to almost lift from the shell. This is fine, but do not try to pull them off.

These will come off naturally. A scute is ready to come off when it is easily pulled away. If there is any resistance to it coming off then it is not ready, and you should leave it be.

Yet, if you believe that the shell of your turtle is blocked, such as with something like algae, you can attempt to cut it off with a knife. But, be gentle.

This being said, it is just best to wait it out and see what happens. Using a knife can be dangerous.

Healthy Peeling: What It Looks Like

So, the final thing to say… How on earth do you tell if it’s healthy or unhealthy peeling?

Well, the best way you can tell if your turtle’s shell shedding is healthy or unhealthy is to inspect what the scutes look like once they are off.

A scute should be whole, and totally intact once it has fallen off. Scutes should not come off in bits, if they do, this is a sign that your turtle is injured or is sick.

Be aware, rocks which are sharp can often make a turtle’s scutes fall off prematurely, or they may also damage the scutes.

If this is the reason, ensure that your turtle’s environment is good for them, removing any potentially harmful items.

Another sure fire way to ensure that the scutes are peeling normally is to inspect the scutes.

Note that scutes should not be thick, and they should actually be semi-see through. Basically, they should look like a carbon copy of what they just came off of.

Also, do not forget that your turtle might try to eat some of its scutes once they fall off. They may break off a whole piece and just eat it. This is normal, it is safe and natural in many reptiles.

Just make sure that there are no random scutes lying around, they could injure your turtle if they try to eat them.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is It Normal For A Turtle To Shed Its Skin?

Water based turtles will shed their shells (scutes) normally, it is simply a part of their natural biology. While a cat will shed their fur, our skin flakes off as dust, and a snake sheds its scales, turtles shed their shells too.

Do Any Turtles Shed Their Shells?

Most turtles do shed their shells, but not all. Always check to see if your turtles breed, shed their shells.

(Video) 5 COMMON Turtle Shell Problems And How To AVOID Them

How Do You Tell If A Turtle Is Stressed?

A stressed turtle will be lethargic, and may not eat much. Poor quality of water, diet, low temperatures, loud noises and excessive handling can all be causes of stress.

FAQs

Is it normal for turtles to shed their shell? ›

Healthy Shedding

Peeling as part of the growth process is normal as long as the thin layers come off, revealing shell that looks and feels normal. Scutes should generally be intact and whole and not come off in parts. If they don't, it could be a sign of disease.

Are turtles supposed to shed skin? ›

Natural skin shedding for growth

Water turtles shed their scutes naturally, and it is just a part of their life cycle. It is just like how other animals shed their fur, skin, and scales, and therefore it's nothing to be worried about.

What does turtle shedding look like? ›

The shed scute will appear thin and translucent. This will look exactly like the shell itself. You may find your pet eating the fallen healthy scutes. Though it is normal, you should not let your turtle do it.

What do I do if my turtle's skin is peeling? ›

There is no need to help the turtle. Don't pull off the peeling scute. Let it fall off naturally. If the scutes do not fall off intact and whole, then it can be a sign of illness.

Why is my turtle shell peeling off? ›

As young turtles, the shell simply grows with the turtle however, when they become older, mature adults, the scutes and the keratin layer will peel off in a thin layer. This peeling is shedding, and is totally normal for your turtle!

What does shell rot look like on a turtle? ›

Symptoms of shell rot usually start as an almost unnoticeable discoloration on either the carapace (top of shell) or plastron (bottom) of a turtle's shell. The color change can be white, yellowish, or green with a mold-like appearance. It can show up as spots or blotches and can appear anywhere on the shell.

How often do turtles shed skin? ›

How Often Do Turtles Shed Skin? Turtles shed their skin once every one to two months.

How often do turtles shed their shell? ›

The species of turtle shed their scutes once a year when they are young. It might also vary from turtle to turtle in how long it takes them to shed their shell. A healthy turtle shell scute sheds annually. The skin of the turtle is also shed along with the scutes of its shell.

Why is my turtle skin turning white? ›

Symptoms and Causes

Fuzzy white or gray patches on your turtle's skin may indicate fungal infection. Other symptoms can be flaking, peeling, blisters or the presence of a cheeselike substance on his skin. Normal skin shedding doesn't produce white patches, redness or swelling.

Is my turtle's shell healthy? ›

Turtles should have hard, smooth shells with no defects. Sores, cuts, or abrasions on the shell could become infected while soft shells are a sign of metabolic bone disease. Also, avoid any turtles with cracked or broken shells since these injuries are extremely serious.

Do turtles like when you rub their shell? ›

Turtles can actually feel through their shells, so you can also pet it by stroking its shell with your fingers. It might be more energetic and receptive when it's warm, so try petting it after it's done sunning itself.

Do turtle shells grow back? ›

Fractured shells are common and happen when turtles are hit by cars or attacked by wildlife. Some veterinarians are able to repair broken shells with bonding material, but one of the fantastic things about a turtle shell is that since it's made of living materials, it can slowly repair itself and regrow.

Do slider turtles shed their skin? ›

Red-eared slider shell peeling

If your red-eared slider's skin or turtle shell is peeling, it is likely perfectly normal. A turtle will shed his skin in pieces rather than in one single piece like a snake. In addition, he may shed the outer layer of the scutes, the scalelike plates on the shell, as he grows.

How many times does a turtle eat? ›

Here are some good rules of thumb for frequency of feedings: Feed babies and juveniles (turtles up to 1 year of age) once a day. Young adults should be fed every other day. Mature turtles should be fed every third day.

How can u tell a turtle's age? ›

After it's death, the age of a turtle can be determined by a technique called “skeletochronology”, whereby the humerus (arm bone) is examined. These bones reveal growth rings that allow the turtle's age to be calculated, much like we can calculate the age of a tree.

What helps turtles with shell rot? ›

Antibiotic cover is essentially in severe shell rot cases or if the shell has been fractured. Topical antibiotics such as silver sulfazadine cream applied daily can be enough for many cases. If they need systemic treatment as well I generally use ceftazadine injection.

Is shell rot contagious? ›

Shell rot can be highly contagious, and one infected animal can spread it rapidly to all others it comes into contact with. It is not a condition that should be ignored or underestimated. Seek professional advice at an early stage if you believe you have an affected tortoise or turtle.

How do you get rid of shell rot on a turtle? ›

How to Easily Fix Shell Rot in Turtles - YouTube

Can turtles recognize their owners? ›

Turtles Know Their Owners! Most people don't realize this, but many turtles recognize the sight and sounds of their owners! In fact, many owners comment how their pets swim right up to the water surface to greet them when they walk in the room.

What does a fungal infection look like on a turtle? ›

Spotting A Fungus On Your Turtle…

The first signs of a fungal infection are small patches, usually on the shell but occasionally on the legs or neck. These are green in color and should not be confused with the white patches which are the first sign of a shed on the skin or shell.

Should you wash turtles? ›

If you've never owned a turtle, you may not realize that cleaning them regularly is necessary for their good health. Even turtles that spend a lot of time in water need their shells cleaned off to prevent algae buildup. Proper cleaning will help your turtle live a longer, healthier life.

What does a unhealthy turtle look like? ›

A healthy turtle will have no problem with its shell. But when a healthy turtle becomes unhealthy, their shell starts having small pits, unhealthy peeling, turtle's shell turning white, a layer of slimy coating, reddish fluid may start coming out of the inner or outer skin.

How do you know if a turtle is not healthy? ›

A healthy and happy turtle should have clear eyes with no discharge. They should also not show any signs of difficulty breathing. Swollen, cloudy, or "weepy" eyes with a discharge are all common signs your turtle is sick. Another very common sign is mouth breathing or straining to breathe.

How do turtles see humans? ›

The vision turtles is very similar to that of humans, so they can see very clearly who is taking care of them. Nature has gifted turtles with the remarkable ability to recognize the owners with their scent. Turtles are able to pick up your scent whenever you put your hand in the tank.

Can turtles hear humans? ›

Points To Remember

Turtles cannot hear as clearly as humans or other animals. However, they do have other strong senses like sight, smell, taste, and touch. They rely on their sharp senses for survival.

Do turtles need a light at night? ›

Night Lights

They can also provide some heat, which can be important for hatchling turtles, who often sleep on the basking area at night. Adult turtles don't need night lights, and most turtles don't care whether they're red or blue as long as they're not too bright.

How long does a turtle shell take to heal? ›

Shell fractures can take up to 30 months to fully heal. Spaces left between fragments will heal via ossification of the coelomic membrane. Most shell fractures should be treated as open wounds.

Can a turtle shell repair itself? ›

Yes, a turtle shell can repair itself because it is made up of living, natural parts like keratin, muscles, nerve endings, membranes, and so on. Depending on the case's severity, the healing process can take anywhere between a few weeks to 30 months.

How long can a turtle live with a broken shell? ›

"The shell is like a skull, a broken bone that feels pain," she said. If a turtle is left to suffer on the road, it can take about four days for it to die, in horrific agony. "They suffer in pain while flies eat them alive. Please don't turn your back on them," Testa said.

How often do turtles shed their shells? ›

The turtle shell scute shedding occurs every year and takes approximately one to two months to shed its scutes. What is this? The species of turtle shed their scutes once a year when they are young. It might also vary from turtle to turtle in how long it takes them to shed their shell.

Is my turtle's shell healthy? ›

Turtles should have hard, smooth shells with no defects. Sores, cuts, or abrasions on the shell could become infected while soft shells are a sign of metabolic bone disease. Also, avoid any turtles with cracked or broken shells since these injuries are extremely serious.

How often do turtles shed skin? ›

How Often Do Turtles Shed Skin? Turtles shed their skin once every one to two months.

Why does my turtle have white fuzz? ›

Fuzzy white or gray patches on your turtle's skin may indicate fungal infection. Other symptoms can be flaking, peeling, blisters or the presence of a cheeselike substance on his skin.

Can turtles recognize their owners? ›

Turtles Know Their Owners! Most people don't realize this, but many turtles recognize the sight and sounds of their owners! In fact, many owners comment how their pets swim right up to the water surface to greet them when they walk in the room.

How can u tell a turtle's age? ›

After it's death, the age of a turtle can be determined by a technique called “skeletochronology”, whereby the humerus (arm bone) is examined. These bones reveal growth rings that allow the turtle's age to be calculated, much like we can calculate the age of a tree.

How do you clean a turtle's shell? ›

Turtle Tank Algae Removal - How to clean algae on turtle shell - YouTube

What does a unhealthy turtle look like? ›

A healthy turtle will have no problem with its shell. But when a healthy turtle becomes unhealthy, their shell starts having small pits, unhealthy peeling, turtle's shell turning white, a layer of slimy coating, reddish fluid may start coming out of the inner or outer skin.

How do you know if a turtle is not healthy? ›

A healthy and happy turtle should have clear eyes with no discharge. They should also not show any signs of difficulty breathing. Swollen, cloudy, or "weepy" eyes with a discharge are all common signs your turtle is sick. Another very common sign is mouth breathing or straining to breathe.

Do turtle shells grow back? ›

Fractured shells are common and happen when turtles are hit by cars or attacked by wildlife. Some veterinarians are able to repair broken shells with bonding material, but one of the fantastic things about a turtle shell is that since it's made of living materials, it can slowly repair itself and regrow.

Can turtles feel their shell? ›

Yes, sea turtles can feel it when you touch their shell. Sea turtle shells consist of bones, which are covered by a layer of so-called scutes (plates). These scutes are made of keratin, the same material that human fingernails are made of. There are nerve endings enervating even the bones of the shell.

Do slider turtles shed their skin? ›

Red-eared slider shell peeling

If your red-eared slider's skin or turtle shell is peeling, it is likely perfectly normal. A turtle will shed his skin in pieces rather than in one single piece like a snake. In addition, he may shed the outer layer of the scutes, the scalelike plates on the shell, as he grows.

What does a fungal infection look like on a turtle? ›

Spotting A Fungus On Your Turtle…

The first signs of a fungal infection are small patches, usually on the shell but occasionally on the legs or neck. These are green in color and should not be confused with the white patches which are the first sign of a shed on the skin or shell.

How do you wash a turtle? ›

How To Clean A Snapping Turtle - YouTube

How do you get rid of a fungal infection on a turtle? ›

Clean affected skin/shell with dilute Chlorhexadine 2% or Betadine solution. Put a small amount of Silvazine ointment over the affected skin/shell and dry-dock your turtle for another 20-30 minutes.

Videos

1. HELP! YOUR TURTLE HAS STUCK SHED!?!?! | DOES THIS EVEN HAPPEN? | PEEL THE SHELL OFF!!
(Animal1 Guy)
2. Helping my turtle shed
(spryfishwheel)
3. Turtle Shedding it's Shell | Good or Bad? | Reasons Why They Do
(Kevin Slavin)
4. HOW TO TAKE CARE OF YOUR TURTLE'S SHELL
(The Turtle Girl)
5. water turtle peeling (shed) her shells - completely normal
(Animal wonders)
6. do turtle shells peel?
(John Garca)

Top Articles

You might also like

Latest Posts

Article information

Author: Terrell Hackett

Last Updated: 12/01/2022

Views: 6238

Rating: 4.1 / 5 (72 voted)

Reviews: 95% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Terrell Hackett

Birthday: 1992-03-17

Address: Suite 453 459 Gibson Squares, East Adriane, AK 71925-5692

Phone: +21811810803470

Job: Chief Representative

Hobby: Board games, Rock climbing, Ghost hunting, Origami, Kabaddi, Mushroom hunting, Gaming

Introduction: My name is Terrell Hackett, I am a gleaming, brainy, courageous, helpful, healthy, cooperative, graceful person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.