Can Tortoises Change Color? [Yellow, Black, White, Red]

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Do tortoises undergo color changes? If you’re one of those perceptive individuals, you’ll ponder and inquire about this. Some individuals have an excellent eye for detail. Because of this, it’s only reasonable to question if tortoise’s hues vary as they mature.

Tortoises may change their color in response to a few factors. A disease, an illness, or just becoming older are examples of these reasons. Sometimes it’s natural for a tortoise’s whole body to change color gradually. A common indication of aging is the gradual darkening or complete blackening of the skin.

In the following paragraphs, we will investigate these aspects in more depth and look at how they contribute to the change in the color of tortoises. In addition to that, I will share how coloration varies in some species of tortoise.

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk about what makes tortoises’ carapace and skin different colors.

Why Do Tortoises Change Color?

In most cases, a disease, illness, or infection is the cause of a tortoise’s patchy coloring change, particularly when the transformation occurs over a very brief amount of time.

However, there are situations in which a subtle shift in hue over the whole body is considered natural.

Also take notice of whether or not your tortoise is behaving abnormally or suspiciously, as well as whether its coloration is shifting.

A normal indication of aging is the gradual darkening or complete blackening of the skin. The substrate is either dirty or a cause of discomfort if such skin darkens in spots as a result of it.

If the skin of your tortoise has started to become white, it either has an illness or is losing its skin.

If the skin begins to appear red, this may be an indication of infestation (ticks or mites). Shell rot may be identified by the presence of a crimson fluid underneath the scutes of the carapace. 

The yellowing of your tortoise’s skin may be the result of insufficient nutrition, liver failure, or jaundice.

By keeping their enclosure clean, tortoises may be able to prevent developing some skin problems.

In addition, the habitat for the tortoise should have a medium that is wet, gentle, and well-ventilated, as well as interior temperatures that are kept at a comfortable level.

Why Does Tortoise Skin Turn Yellow?

If you notice that your tortoise has suddenly become yellow, it’s important to look for the following:


This skin ailment is brought on by an abnormality in the liver, which causes it to become inflamed. There are three possible causes of jaundice:

  • bile duct obstruction as the medical diagnosis
  • Disease of the liver
  • An abnormally high rate of erythrocyte (red blood cell) destruction in the liver.

These will result in the skin becoming a yellowish color.

It may be challenging to recognize liver illness in tortoises till the abnormalities have progressed to a more serious state.

Liver Failure

There is a possibility that your tortoise is suffering from acute liver damage in addition to jaundice, which is both a sign and a concern.

The tortoise begins to take on a frail yellow color, and it also:

  • Suddenly displays signs of lethargy
  • Does not consume any of its food.
  • Refuses to move about, even to sunbathe in the sun.

Additional symptoms of the chronic liver illness include the following:

  • a considerable reduction in the amount of weight lost.
  • Problems associated with brumation, such as anorexia after brumation.
  • Skin discoloration and alterations in the hue of the feces.

Poor Diet

It’s possible that your tortoise’s food contains excessive amounts of fat or protein. In point of fact, progressive liver illness is most often brought on by improper diet in addition to persistent alterations in fat content.

It is strongly advised that you adjust the food of your tortoise. It is in your pet tortoise’s best interest to spend more time basking in UV rays, since this may stimulate its digestion and strengthen its immune response.

Why Does Tortoise Skin Turn Black?

When a tortoise’s skin begins to turn black, fears of the worst are understandable. However, tortoises almost never suffer from gangrene or other life-threatening illnesses that cause skin to become black.

Reasons why tortoises get dark in color, include:


The aging process is a natural cause of the tortoise’s skin blackening. When a tortoise’s shell or skin darkens with age, it’s an indication that you’ve been providing adequate treatment and that the animal is maturing normally.

The skin of certain tortoise varieties, such as the Russian tortoise will be dark-skinned. And this darkness may increase with age, giving the tortoise the appearance of becoming black.

Discomfort Caused by Unsatisfactory Substrate

The tortoise’s shell darkening should develop uniformly throughout its whole body, not just in one spot.

The substrate in your tortoise’s habitat could be irritating if you see it darkening just on its underbelly.

The soil in a tortoise’s habitat must be safe for ingestion (by chance) to prevent gastrointestinal distress. This material should be able to hold onto hydration, preventing the skin from becoming dry and flaky.

Substrate-borne skin infections

Infections, which may emerge as discolored discomforts or sores beneath the shell, are more likely to occur if the substrate is not regularly cleaned.

Pus and bacteria may spread out from the infection if it is not properly drained.

Why Does Tortoise Skin Turn White?

The skin of tortoises often undergoes a whitening process that occurs spontaneously every few months and is the most noticeable of the many alterations in color they undergo.

The following are some of the factors that might lead tortoises to have white skin:


When the skin of your tortoise lightens or goes white, it may soon fall off.

In order to provide room for new skin, tortoises, like other reptiles, remove their old skin every several months.

Unlike a snake, though, this won’t shed its skin in one fell swoop. Tortoises don’t shed all at once, rather in large clumps.

Excess skin might appear as scaly white patches on your tortoise. Please refrain from picking off all these flakes, since doing so might be harmful to your tortoise.

The best way to prevent skin flakes from appearing on your tortoise is to give it a brief, nice hot bath.

In addition, if you let your tortoise sunbathe in the sun more frequently, the UV rays will dry up the old skin, causing it to peel off.

There is a natural process through which a tortoise’s shell wears down and becomes less vibrant in color before it completely falls off. Don’t try to force your tortoise to remove its skin or shell.

You may determine your tortoise’s age by looking at the rings formed by its shed scutes, much as you would with a tree.

infected skin

An infestation or fungal growth on the skin or carapace may be the cause of the white coloration.

Observing your tortoise’s habits is the best method to identify whether he or she is experiencing these symptoms or shedding.

There will be no evidence of pain or listlessness from a tortoise that is shedding. Tortoises who are shedding can continue to eat, drink, and enjoy their time in the habitat, although they may spend more time basking than normal.

A tortoise with an infection will exhibit the following symptoms:

  • Starve themselves
  • reduce weight
  • Experiencing skin boils

Symptoms of a fungal infection on your tortoise’s skin may include a white or grayish discoloration. It may cause shell rot, which is fatal to tortoises, if not treated.

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Why Does Tortoise Skin Turn Red?

The presence of a crimson fluid right below the scutes of the tortoise’s carapace is a possible indication that the tortoise is suffering from shell rot.

Your tortoise’s skin will not become a true reddish from this red liquid. In fact, parasites are often indicated by strong red marks.

Reasons why tortoises become red include:

Rotting Shell

In general, older tortoises are more susceptible to shell rot than younger ones. Infections with bacteria or fungi, both of which may cause this condition are very harmful.

Among other things, shell rot leads the carapace to steadily erode. A deficiency in calcium and phosphorus in the meals, for example, may lead to shell rot.

The most common causes of shell decay are infestations by bacteria, fungi, or algae.  These pathogens may penetrate the tough carapace shell of your tortoise and spread through the body, poisoning the tortoise’s blood.

SCUD (Septicaemic cutaneous ulcerative disease) is the name for this blood infection . Your tortoise’s life-sustaining organs are vulnerable to a bacterial blood infection. Antibiotics are effective against this condition.

When a tortoise first gets a new owner, it’s possible that they won’t notice these signs until it’s too late.

Here are some of the symptoms to look out for:

  • Odors and/or discharges that are unpleasant are localized to the afflicted region.
  • Blood-like fluid between the shell’s scutes
  • Having a detrimental effect on the shell and scutes by weakening them, raising them, or any combination of these

A povidone-iodine or chlorhexidine solution should be used twice daily if your tortoise’s shell begins to flake off. This may help the tortoise lose its skin more quickly and painlessly, even though it is shedding.


If your tortoise has red spots, it may be suffering from outside parasites like ticks or mites. Your tortoise is most vulnerable to ticks and mites in the areas with the lightest skin.

Because of this, most individuals get minor cuts or blisters in these regions. To continue their life cycle, the parasites will produce eggs within the wounds.

Migrant ticks and mites are typically tiny and either black or red in color, making them difficult to spot. They will make a home in the tight spaces between your tortoise’s thighs, neck, and head.


Consequently, the majority of tortoises will undergo color morphing at some point throughout their lives. Tortoises, for some unknown reason, are able to alter the color of their shells.

The majority of the time, they are affected by sickness, an infection, or a parasite, which causes a change in coloration. The good news is that this could be easily avoided.

Your tortoise has a chance of outliving you if it receives the attention and nourishment it needs. However, tortoises have the unique ability to undergo a color change as they age.

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About Author

Muntaseer Rahman started keeping pet turtles back in 2013. He also owns the largest Turtle & Tortoise Facebook community in Bangladesh. These days he is mostly active on Facebook.


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