How to Fix Red Eared Slider Shell Rot?

Red eared slider shell rot is an unfortunate thing that can happen to these aquatic turtles. Unfortunately, shell rot is a pretty common problem seen in a turtle’s shell. But there is a way to fix the red eared slider shell rot issue. Adopting a red eared slider can be an excellent experience for many. You see these tiny little red eared sliders swim around the tank carefree, and there is no doubt that these aquatic turtles make your leisure time better. 

If your red eared slider is suffering from rotting, keep reading to know how to treat the shell rot of red eared slider turtles. This post will help you learn more about turtle shells and how to prevent shell rot and care turtle. 

What Is Turtle Shell Rot?

Simply put, shell rot is a health issue of an aquatic turtle where their shell starts to crumble and become softer shells. This problem is known as SCUD, which stands for Septicemic Cutaneous Ulcerative Disease. This happens to red eared sliders because they spend most of their time underwater. Pet turtles tend to have this issue more since they spend most of their life underwater. The microorganisms present in water can cause this. When a turtle shell goes through a bacterial or fungal infection, the protective layer wears out. 

Not just this, sometimes algae present in the water can also make healthy turtles sick and the shell rot. Thus, treating a red eared slider’s shell becomes prudent because an infected turtle can soon succumb to many other health issues. 

In severe cases, turtles can die as well. When the shell starts to rot, you will often find a slimy layer, and you can feel it once you touch the turtle. And if you can feel it, it’s a clear indication that the turtle is suffering from shell rot. Moreover, it generally begins with the outer shell. 

The initial symptoms will usually be almost unnoticeable. But there will be a few discolorations on the carapace, which is the top shell or at the bottom, plastron. You can see a few colors, such as green, yellowish, or even white. If it is green, it will give off a mold-like appearance. The discoloration can appear anywhere on the red eared slider’s shell. 

A shell rot may appear as soft spots, small scars, and soon turn into divots or small pits. Then, the turtles will begin to have a soft shell, and the shell can even start to crumble, making the underneath tissues exposed to more infection. 

In comparison to a wild turtle, shell damage or shell breakage is more common in a pet’s shell, and the biggest concern is that if there are two turtles, this disease can affect the other turtle living in the same tank. Wild turtles are less prone to shell breaks than pet turtles. In severe issues, shell rot can lead to nerves and bone exposure, which becomes highly uncomfortable and painful for the red eared sliders. 

Another reason why you should take shell rot seriously is that the turtle has sharp edges on the shell. When they break, they can hurt the red eared slider, eventually developing an infection and bleeding. 

Types of Shell Rot

Types of Shell Rot

There are two types of shell rot that you should know about; here are they:

Dry Rot

Dry rot is the main reason for brittle, crumbled, and cracked shells. They will appear in lighter colors. Dry shell rot can direly affect the shell and even ruin the whole shell. If the turtle is struggling with dry rot, it will be challenging to repair them if the case becomes severe.

That’s why the moment you identify the dry shell rot issue, you need to get the turtle checked. 

Wet Rot

Other than dry rot, a turtle can also struggle with wet rot. This is a severe shell rot issue and often comes with other problems, such as odors and infection. A turtle with wet rot has to be treated fast because it can be life-threatening. 

Wet rot will typically appear in yellow and white color, and you will see discharge coming out of their shells. Therefore, the wet shell rot is more evident, and you can identify it easily. 

What Does Shell Rot Look Like?

As said, shell rot is common and can happen to many turtles. So, the first thing that you need to look at is what your turtle’s shell looks like. If there is any discoloration, it could be a sign of shell rot. The discoloration will start small and gradually spread, just like any infection spreads. 

If the red eared slider has got ulcerative shell disease, here are a few signs that you need to be careful about:

  • First, the turtle’s shell will start having discoloration. 
  • You will be able to see exposed bones and tissues under the shell. 
  • The shell may even have some discharge coming out of it. 
  • An odor may also start coming out from the shell. 

If the disease is mild, your red eared slider may not exhibit these symptoms. But do ensure to take the red eared slider to a veterinarian regularly. 

What Causes Shell Rot in Red Eared Sliders?

What Causes Shell Rot in Red Eared Sliders

The most common cause of shell rot in red eared sliders is fungal and bacterial growth. Since they spend most of their time in the water, they tend to suffer from a fungal infection in the shell. In addition, a red eared slider kept in dirty water for too long is more susceptible to this common turtle’s health problem. 

Reason 1: The Tank is Kept Poorly 

If you have a red eared slider, you need to keep their water tanks clean—tanks filled with dirty water become the breeding grounds for fungal and bacterial infection. In addition, your turtle will spend most of their time in the water, which means they can easily get infected by bacteria. 

So, what needs to be done is to keep the tank clean. Therefore, you should buy a good turtle filter. Turtle filters will keep the water quality at its optimum level. Do remember that your turtles will be messy, and being their guardian, it’s up to you how you keep them secure and safe. 

Reason 2: The Shell is Already Damaged 

Shell rot in red eared sliders can also be seen among those turtles whose shells are already damaged. If there is more than one turtle, then they may fight and hurt each other’s shells. Even if a small cut in the shell is caused by sharp objects, it can become infected and lead to shell rot.  

If you don’t treat the initial cuts or damages, it can soon attract fungi and bacteria. So, you need to keep an eye on your turtles and see if they are fighting. If they do, ensure to check them because fights can lead to injuries. Get a bigger tank so that both can have their territory. 

Reason 3: Improper Habitat Conditions 

The tank must have the proper humidity level, lighting, water quality, and temperature for your turtles to prosper and strive. If you avoid these requirements, they will suffer from shell rot disease and many other health issues. 

Turtles will need a basking area, and you should keep it above the waterline. The Basking area keeps them dry, and your turtles will look for a place where they can dry their shell completely. Also, floating docks can easily outweigh your turtle. Therefore, be careful about it. You can get a UV light, UV lamp, or heat lamp because, without natural sunlight, your turtles will fall ill.

Reason 4: Aggressive Turtles in the Same Tank 

You may want to adopt more than one turtle, but you can never gauge how these two will behave when kept in the communal enclosure. If one red eared slider is aggressive, that particular red eared slider will often fight with the other turtle. And a fight, as you can predict, can hurt the shell too, leading to shell rot. 

If one of the turtles is aggressive, it is better to separate them as soon as possible to avoid shell rot. If they fight repeatedly, there is a chance that they may not get along at all. 

Symptoms of Shell Rot

The symptoms of shell rot are not challenging to identify. Keep an eye on the turtles for the early signs because the sooner you treat the shell, the sooner they will feel better and start to recover. Shell rot starts at any age. Here are some of the symptoms that will help you understand whether the shell is rotting or not:

  • There is visible damage to the shell. However, the shell looks uneven, and some plates can be lifted easily. 
  • The shell rot is producing a foul-smelling discharge. 
  • Dry lesions are present without any spots or draining pus. 
  • Crusty, dry, and white substance within the lesions. 
  • Discoloration of the shell in some areas. 

How Can I Treat It at Home?

How Can I Treat It at Home

If the red eared slider doesn’t have a severe shell rot issue, you can treat it at home by following the steps below. In addition, at-home treatments are available to fix shell rot. 

Step 1: Get a Bowl of Warm Water 

Wear a pair of rubber gloves and take a shallow water bowl. Add some warm water and mix a few drops of sensitive soap that are turtle-friendly. You can get the soap from any pet store. 

Step 2: Start Scrubbing 

Take a soft bristle brush and gently scrape the shell rot areas. Ensure to scrub the whole area gently. Don’t add a lot of pressure; use gentle circular motions. 

Step 3: Rinse Off 

After scrubbing and cleaning the shell rot area, hold the red eared slider shell carefully and rinse the soapy solution thoroughly. 

Step 4: Dry the Turtle 

Take a soft towel or a few paper towels, whatever you have to dry off the eared slider shell. By drying them, you will prevent moisture from seeping inside. 

Step 5: Apply a Healing Cream 

After the old or young turtles are completely dry, use a triple antibiotic cream, silver sulfadiazine cream, or Neosporin and start applying on the damaged areas. 

Step 6: Let the Turtle Relax 

Now that the whole treating shell rot process is complete, you need to allow your red eared turtle slider to rest for at least 20 minutes in a dry place.

The damaged shell will not recover in one day, which means you will have to repeat the entire process for a few weeks. 

Since red eared sliders need to recover, ensure you add a lot of protein to their diet. Give them more dead bugs because that will increase their protein intake.  

When Should I See a Vet?

After trying the in-home treatment, if your red eared sliders don’t seem to make any improvement, take them to a vet. The shell rot infection has to be resolved as soon as possible because it can spread out to the rest of the area. Moreover, the healing process is slow. 

How To Prevent Shell Rot?

To prevent rot in red eared sliders, you must keep the tank clean. The cleaner the tank, the safer your red eared sliders will be. Fix a day to clean the tank and ensure you provide your red eared sliders with proper swimming and drying space. 


To remind you of everything that you need to do regarding shell rot, do remember that shell rot can damage the shell. It often happens because of poor habitat, dirty water, fungal and bacterial infection, abrasions, sharp objects, aggressions among the red eared slider, and more. 

Use warm water to clean the shell of the red eared sliders and increase the protein intake in their diet. If you can identify a foul-smell discharge or the treatments at home aren’t enough, take them to a vet. Also, the healing process is slow.

Also Read: What to feed a turtle in a Pond?

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