How To Take Care Of A Softshell Turtle? [Beginner’s Care Sheet]

Image of freshwater exotic Chinese softshell turtle

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

Sharing is caring!

Softshell turtles are not easy to handle. Most turtle owners claim that you need experience and proper knowledge to raise a softshell turtle. Do not worry if you are a beginner and want to pet a softshell turtle. In this article, I will discuss how to take care of a softshell turtle properly.

Softshell turtles are aquatic reptiles that thrive in a spacious aquarium with clean water, a basking area, and a UVB light. Softshell turtles eat both protein like fish and worms and vegetables. You should change the water regularly and use a filter to keep it clean. Handle these turtles as little as possible to avoid stress. Check their health often and see a vet if needed.

If you are thinking about buying a softshell turtle, or you already have one, this article is for you. Read to the end to get a complete guide on how to take care of a softshell turtle.

Key takeaways

  • Softshell turtles require experience and proper knowledge for care.
  • They thrive in spacious aquariums with clean water, a basking area, and UVB light. They eat both protein and vegetables.
  • There are almost 25 species of softshell turtles, but not all are suitable for captivity.
  • Three species that make good pets include the Florida softshell turtle, Spiny softshell turtle, and Smooth softshell turtle.
  • Softshell turtles need a basking dock, heating lamp, UV lamp, water filter, water heater, and a specific environment in the enclosure.

how much does a softshell turtle cost?

Softshell Turtle TypePrice RangeLink
Spiny Softshell $89.99 – $149.95Tortoise Town
Spiny Softshell Not
General Softshell Price$5 – $200TheTurtleGuide
Leopard Softshell $89.99 – $279.00CB Reptile
Florida Softshell$94.95 – $
Various Softshell Turtles $39 – $1,699MorphMarket

How To Take Care Of A Softshell Turtle?

Taking care of a softshell turtle requires a combination of proper habitat, diet, and regular monitoring for health and well-being. Here’s a general guide on how to care for a softshell turtle:

proper Habitat setup:

Spacious Aquarium/Tank:

Softshell turtles are primarily aquatic, so they’ll need a spacious tank. The size of the tank will depend on the species and size of the turtle. As a rule of thumb, provide 10 gallons of water for every inch of the turtle’s shell length.

pristine Water Quality:

Use a good quality water filter to keep the water clean. Softshell turtles are sensitive to poor water quality. Change 25% of the water weekly.

soft, sandy substrate:

Use a soft, sandy substrate on the bottom of the tank. Softshell turtles like to bury themselves in the substrate.

Basking Area with uVB light:

Even though they spend a lot of time underwater, softshell turtles also need a basking area where they can dry off and absorb UVB light. This can be achieved with a floating platform and a UVB light overhead.

Temperature [70°F to 80°F (21°C to 27°C)]

Maintain the water temperature between 70°F to 80°F (21°C to 27°C). Use an aquarium heater if necessary. The basking area should be warmer, around 85°F to 90°F (29°C to 32°C).


Provide 10-12 hours of UVB lighting daily. UVB light helps turtles metabolize calcium and is essential for their shell and bone health.


Softshell turtles are carnivorous. Their diet can include:

  • Aquatic insects and their larvae
  • Small fish
  • Worms
  • Commercial turtle pellets
  • Occasional treats like shrimp or crickets

It’s essential to provide a balanced diet to ensure they get all the necessary nutrients. Calcium supplements can be added to their diet to support shell health.

Later down the article, I have discussed in-depth about diet for softshell turtles.

Infrequent handling:

Softshell turtles can be shy and may not appreciate frequent handling. Handle them gently and infrequently to reduce stress. Their skin is more delicate than other turtles, so be cautious not to injure them.

regular Health monitoring:

Regularly check for signs of illness, such as lethargy, refusal to eat, cloudy eyes, or abnormalities in the shell. Softshell turtles are prone to shell rot, so ensure their basking area is adequately dry and that they have the opportunity to bask daily.

Consult a veterinarian experienced with reptiles if you notice any health issues.

use a lid for ensuring safety:

Ensure the tank has a secure lid to prevent the turtle from escaping. Keep the turtle away from potential predators, especially if you have other pets.

prepare for aggressive behavior

Softshell turtles can be aggressive towards each other, especially males. If you have more than one turtle, monitor them for signs of aggression and be prepared to separate them if necessary.

Environmental Enrichment with proper decor

Provide hiding spots, plants, and decorations to simulate a natural environment and keep the turtle mentally stimulated.

Remember, the specific care requirements can vary depending on the species of softshell turtle you have. Always do thorough research or consult with a reptile expert to ensure you’re providing the best care for your specific turtle species.

Are Softshell Turtles Endangered

What’s Your Pet’s Species?

Softshell turtles have almost 25 species, but not all of them can be raised in a captive environment. In one of my previous articles, I have mentioned that 3 softshell turtle species make excellent pets. Such as:

  1. Florida softshell turtle
  2. Spiny softshell turtle
  3. Smooth softshell turtle

Once you know which softshell turtle you have, you can offer better care to it. However, check this link to find out more details on the types of softshell turtles that you can keep as pets.

Caring Guide For Florida Softshell Turtles

The Florida softshell turtles are native to the Southeastern part of the USA. These turtles usually grow bigger than other softshell turtles. A male Florida softshell turtle can get 6 to 12 inches big, while the female ones grow about 8 to 25 inches. Check the growth factors of Florida softshell turtles by clicking here.

Tank Size:

As Florida softshell turtles are bigger in size, they require more space. It means you have to provide these turtles with a bigger tank.

For an adult male Florida softshell turtle, a minimum of 75 to 100 gallon tanks will be perfect. But a female Florida softshell turtle needs more space. Experts suggest not to raise the Female Florida softshell turtles in a conventional glass aquarium.

If you want to pet the female turtle in a tank, buy an aquarium more than 100 or 125 gallons. The best option is to build a 400 gallon stock pool.

However, Florida softshell turtles are big and they need more space to move and swim. That is why you should not house more than one turtle in a 75 or 100 gallon enclosure. Even if you do, increase the tank size.

Basking Dock:

Like other turtle species, the Florida softshell turtles also bask. Basking boosts the turtles’ digestive system and keeps them healthy. If there is no basking station in the enclosure, the pet turtle may suffer from skin or shell diseases.

While buying or building a basking dock, consider the size of the enclosure and the turtle. Make sure the station can hold the weight of the Florida softshell turtle. You can check the best basking docks for softshell turtles from here.

See also  How Much Does A Softshell Turtle Weight?

Light Sources:

Basically, 2 types of lights are necessary for a Florida softshell turtle’s enclosure. Such as a heating lamp and a UV lamp.

The heating lamp provides heat to the whole tank and keeps the environment warm. This bulb is a must for you if you live in a region where winter is severe. Some people use average watt bulbs to heat the tank, which is okay but not healthy. There are proper heating lamps available in the market.

UV bulbs are a must if you are raising the Florida softshell turtles in an indoor enclosure. The turtles require UV exposure to absorb vitamin D and calcium, which help them develop strong bones.

In the wild, the Florida softshell turtles get the UV rays by basking directly under the sun. But in captivity, you have to install the UV light above the basking dock.

Read this article to get the full basking light guide for a Florida softshell turtle.

Water Filter:

It is important to provide the Florida softshell turtles with clean water. As an aquatic and freshwater species, these turtles can not stand dirty water. If the tank water is unhygienic, it will spread bacteria and fungus.

So, eventually, the pet turtle will suffer from shell rot, skin disease, eye infection, or some other condition.

To keep the tank water clean, you have to set up a water filtration system. Water filters will do this work for you. Here are the 7 best water filters for a Florida softshell turtle’s tank that actually work.

Water Heater:

The Florida softshell turtles are ectothermic. It means they depend on external heat to warm up their bodies. So, if the water temperature is below their range, they will feel cold.

Softshell turtles spend most of their time swimming underwater. So, cold water will affect the turtles’ health condition. For example, the pet will suffer from cold, respiratory diseases, etc.

The best way to keep the Florida softshell turtle’s tank warm is to install a water heater. A tank heater easily makes the water temperature for the Florida softshell turtles.

Read this article to get the 4 best water heaters for a Florida softshell turtle’s tank.

Enclosure Environment:

In an indoor enclosure, you have to try your best to replicate the wild environment.

The Florida softshell turtles prefer deep water. So, make sure the depth of the water is perfect for the pets.

However, a soft sandy or muddy bottom will provide the perfect pond vibe. You can plant small edible herbs inside the tank. Place small smooth rocks around the plants so that the Florida softshell turtles can not uproot them.

Tank Mate:

Florida softshell turtles are aggressive in nature. They will attack humans or any opponent if they feel panicked, stressed, or a bit insecure.

Check this article if you do not know the wild behavior of a Florida softshell turtle.

That is why experts suggest not to put any fishes or turtles with a Florida softshell turtle.

The best tank mate for a Florida softshell turtle will be another Florida softshell turtle. Make sure the provided space is enough for the two and both are compatible with each other.

However, some turtle owners have raised cooters, painted turtles, map turtles, and mud turtles with a Florida softshell turtle without any hassle.

Caring Guide For Spiny Softshell Turtles

Spiny softshell turtles are native to Nothern America. This species has 7 subspecies. Such as:

  1. Eastern spiny softshell turtle
  2. Western spiny softshell turtle
  3. Gulf Coast spiny softshell turtle
  4. Guadalupe spiny softshell turtle
  5. Pallid spiny softshell turtle
  6. Texas spiny softshell turtle
  7. Black spiny softshell turtle

The care of every subspecies is almost the same. The male spiny softshell turtle gets 5 to 9.5 inches big. On the other hand, the female spiny softshell turtle grows between 6.5 to 18 inches. Check the size chart of different softshell turtles by clicking here.

Tank Size:

Though the spiny softshell turtles are smaller than the Florida softshell turtles, they also need big enclosures.

Providing the males with a 75 to 100 gallon tank will do just fine. But when it comes to the female spiny softshell turtles, you must increase the tank size.

Depth is also important for the softshell turtles. According to the experts, the water depth should be 4 feet or more.

Experienced turtle owners recommend providing 400 gallon stock ponds to the spiny softshell turtles. If you can afford a 600 gallon outdoor pond, this will be the best for the pets.

In that case, you can raise more than 2 spiny softshell turtles with other fast moving fishes and turtles.

Basking Dock:

If you observe a spiny softshell turtle, you will notice they hardly come to the land or basking area. This sometimes makes the owners think that the turtles do not need a basking station. Is that so? Absolutely, not.

Like all other turtles, the spiny softshell turtles also need a basking dock. Take a look at the importance of basking in a spiny softshell turtle’s life:

  • Spiny softshell turtles spend their days swimming in the water. So, they need a land area to dry and warm their bodies.
  • Without any basking area, the spiny softshell turtles have to stay in the water for a long time. That can lead to cold, respiratory diseases, shell, or skin rot.
  • The spiny softshell turtles bask under the UV light in this area, which keeps the pets healthy.
  • Basking boosts the metabolism of the spiny softshell turtles.

So, without thinking twice, get a basking dock for your spiny softshell turtle. You can review some of the best basking stations for spiny softshell turtles from this article.

Light Sources:

In the previous section, I have discussed the importance of heating lamps in a softshell turtle’s enclosure. The lamps make sure that the spiny softshell turtles do not feel cold.

Set up the bulb on one side of the tank in such a manner that most portions of the habitat get warm. Leave one side uncovered. The pets can swim to that portion in case they feel cold.

Another important light for the enclosure is a UV light. The UVB exposures produce vitamin D3 in the Spiny softshell turtle’s body. It eventually absorbs the calcium and phosphorus from the food and makes the bone strong.

Again, the UVA rays are also significant for the Spiny softshell turtles. The researchers have shown that this particular exposure can affect a turtle’s mental health. The presence of UVA rays makes the Spiny softshell turtles more active and happy.

You will find different types of UV rays in the market. Do not go for the cheap ones. Instead, buy an expensive and long lasting lighting source for your softshell turtle’s enclosure. Check this article to get the best bulbs for Spiny softshell turtle tanks.

Water Filter:

You already know that water quality matters the most for the Spiny softshell turtles. It is your responsibility to ensure hygienic water. Filthy water is the perfect living place for bacteria and fungi. So, dirty water means skin rot, mouth rot, shell rot, eye infection, etc.

Sometimes, your water pH level may be too high or low for the Spiny softshell turtle. Installing a water filter will solve all these problems.

Water in some areas may contain high amounts of chlorine. It can cause eye or skin irritation to the Spiny softshell turtle. The problem can be solved with a dechlorination chemical. You can buy it from an authorized pet store.

Check the best water filters for Spiny softshell turtles by clicking here.

Water Heater:

As Spiny softshell turtles can not generate heat, you have to make sure the water is warm enough for them. What will happen if the water temperature is below the range? The turtle will feel cold and suffer from respiratory diseases.

If the temperature drops below 50 or 45 degrees Fahrenheit, the Spiny softshell turtle will prepare for hibernation.

You know that turtles can not endure cold. To cope with the environment, they slow their activities and go for a long sleep.

You will notice that your Spiny softshell turtle is losing its appetite and doing nothing. Sometimes people ask me why a softshell turtle stops eating. Well, this can be a possible reason. To know other reasons, check this article.

The best way to deal with this situation is to install a water heater in the tank. You can check the best tank heaters for Spiny softshell turtles from this article. You can buy either an expensive or average tank heater for the pet.

See also  How Do Softshell Turtles Mate? [Everything You Should Know]

The average tank heaters are not that great. Users have many complaints against them. For example, sometimes, the water gets too hot for the turtles. Or, the water is not getting warm at all.

On the other hand, the expensive ones offer better service. These devices can track the temperature of the water. If the temperature drops or gets too hot, the heater fixes it immediately. No matter which one you are using, set up a thermometer in the tank for safety.

Enclosure Environment:

Spiny softshell turtles prefer sandy or muddy bottom. So, put a thick layer of a substrate at the bottom of the tank. To make the habitat look more elegant, plant low vegetation. You can place different sized rocks in the enclosure, which will work as visual barriers.

Tank Mate:

Spiny softshell turtles act most aggressive towards their own species. The adult ones try to dominate the females and young turtles. If you put two adult males in the same enclosure, there surely will be a fight.

Housing a male and female spiny softshell turtle will be okay. But make sure there is enough swimming and basking space for both the turtles. Also, you have to provide the turtles with enough food.

You can also put some fast moving big fishes, mud turtles, cooters, painted turtles, map turtles with the baby spiny softshell turtle. Or if you have a stock tank, you can house other species with softshell turtles. Find out the perfect tank mates for a Spiny softshell turtle from this article.

Caring Guide For Smooth Softshell Turtle

The smooth softshell turtle is another North American turtle.

The male smooth softshell turtle grows 5 to 11 inches. And the female ones can get 6.5 to 14 inches big.

So, compared to the Florida softshell turtles and the Spiny softshell turtles, they are smaller. You can check this article to know which factors affect a Smooth softshell turtle’s growth.

Tank Size:

As the smooth softshell turtles are small in size, a minimum 75 gallon tank will work for the male ones. For a female smooth softshell turtle, you have to afford a minimum of 100 gallon tank.

Like other turtles, the smooth softshell turtles also prefer space. So, the more space you can provide them with the better it is for the pets.

Basking Dock:

I think I do not have to describe the importance of a basking dock anymore. Let’s discuss which things you should consider while choosing a basking station for the Smooth softshell turtle:

  1. The dock is strong enough to carry the weight of the Smooth softshell turtle.
  2. It does not cover most portions of the tank.
  3. There must be a rampage so that the turtles can get on the dock easily.

You can either buy a basking dock or make one for the smooth softshell turtles. Check out the following suitable materials for building a dock:

  • Driftwood
  • Plastic
  • Foam
  • Metal sheet
  • Smooth rock

If you want to buy a commercial basking dock, check this link. You will get the best basking docks for the smooth softshell turtles.

Lighting Source:

Like all other softshell turtle species, these turtles also need UV and heating lights. Without UVB rays, the baby softshell turtle’s body will not be developed properly and it will suffer from various diseases. In the worst case, the hatchling can die.

The heating lamp is similarly important for the smooth softshell turtles. Without warmth, the pets will feel cold and may not come out of the water at all. This can cause different bacterial diseases.

So, setting up a heating lamp and a UV bulb is a must. Some owners go for full spectrum bulbs that provide both services. You can check each category of lights for smooth softshell turtles by clicking here.

Water Filter:

Water quality should be one of your top priorities. If the water quality is not good, the smooth softshell turtle will suffer from allergies, infections, or other diseases.

Installing a water filtration system will definitely help you keep the tank water clean and safe. A quality filter can also control the pH level of water.

You have to clean the tank water more than thrice a month even if you install a water filter. Use the python system to discharge water from the tank.

Click here to get the list of the 7 best filters for smooth softshell turtle tanks.

Water Heater:

You already know why we set up the water heater inside a softshell turtle’s tank. But how will you calculate the power you need?

According to the experts, a 75 gallon tank requires a 300 watt water heater. The device power will increase depending on the size of the tank.

You can use multiple water heaters or a single high power heater. But if you ask me, I will suggest using multiple tank heaters for the big enclosures. This works as a backup in case any device stops running.

Click here to get the 4 best water heaters for the smooth softshell turtle.

Enclosure Environment:

Smooth softshell turtles need adequate space for swimming and moving underwater. Planting small vegetations in the tank is always good. Also, place several visual barriers or hiding places for the smooth softshell turtles. Add a thick layer of a substrate at the bottom of the tank.

Tank Mate:

Smooth softshell turtles are also aggressive in nature. But with adequate space, several hiding places, large basking areas, and enough food, you can raise these turtles with another mate.

You can put fish like pacu, pike, snakehead, African fish, etc with a baby smooth softshell turtle. Also, other turtle species, for example, mud turtle, map turtle, painted turtle, red eared slider, musk turtles are also compatible with the smooth softshell turtles.

The softshell turtles usually do not attack the hard shelled turtles. These turtles have a tendency to dominate the younger turtles of their own species. So, never house two smooth softshell turtles of different age groups.

Housing male and female smooth softshell turtles is a better idea. Sometimes, the male one may try to dominate the female one. But most times, the female smooth softshell turtle acts passively.

Perfect Habitat Environment For Softshell Turtles

By now, you know how to ensure the best enclosure for a softshell turtle. But here is the thing, if you can not replicate the wild environment, the turtles will feel uncomfortable living in the tank. So, how to create the perfect habitat environment for softshell turtles?

First of all, add a layer of high quality sand substrate at the bottom of the tank. This will help the softshell turtles burrow into the mud. You can buy other substrates if you want. Just make sure the elements are not harmful to the pets.

Secondly, it is important to provide the turtles with suitable tank temperatures. Here is a chart that indicates the preferable tank temperatures of a softshell turtle:

Basking TemperatureWater TemperatureAir Temperature
80 to 90 degrees Farenheit70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit

Finally, you have to decorate the tank. Try to replicate the wild environment as much as you can. For example, plant small herbs. Place smooth different sized rocks around the substrate. Also, add a few hiding places for the pet turtle.

what do softshell turtle eat as a pet?

The diet of all softshell turtle species is more or less the same. The species is primarily carnivorous, which means, these turtles prefer eating protein based foods or animal-based items throughout their life. Though you can add a little amount of vegetables to the meals of a softshell turtle.

Here is a list of food that you can offer to a softshell turtle:

  • Grasshopper
  • Bug
  • Crustaceans
  • Ghost shrimp
  • Small fish
  • Pellets
  • Insects
  • Cricket
  • Crayfish
  • Mealworm
  • Waxworm
  • Frogbit
  • Earthworm
  • Bloodworm
  • Redworm
  • Snail
  • Cooked meat
  • Cuttlebones
  • Insect larvae
  • Lettuce
  • Algae
  • Cloves
  • Cabbage
  • Azolla
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Water hyacinths
  • Alfalfa
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Carrions
  • Dragonflies
  • Mussels
  • Damselflies
  • Beetles
  • Mayflies
  • Caddies flies

    Foods You Must Avoid Feeding Your pet Softshell Turtle

    The softshell turtles are carnivorous, this does not mean you can feed the turtles anything you want. There are certain types of foods that you must avoid. Such as:

    • Raw meat
    • Hamburger
    • Yogurt
    • Milk
    • Cheese
    • Processed food
    • Junk food
    • Preserved food
    • Candy
    • Sweets
    • Marshmallows
    • Chocolates

    You can get more information on what softshell turtles eat as a pet by clicking here.

    what do baby softshell turtles eat?

    Baby softshell turtles, also known as hatchlings, have dietary needs similar to adult softshell turtles but with some differences due to their size and growth requirements.

    See also  Can You Eat A Softshell Turtle?

    Here’s what baby softshell turtles typically eat:

    Protein Sources:

    • Small Aquatic Insects: Such as mosquito larvae, daphnia, and other tiny aquatic insects.
    • Worms: Small pieces of earthworms or bloodworms are suitable for baby softshell turtles.
    • Small Fish: Baby brine shrimp, small guppies, and other tiny fish can be offered. However, it’s essential to ensure the fish are safe and free from contaminants.
    • Commercial Turtle Pellets: There are turtle pellets specifically formulated for hatchlings. These are nutritionally balanced and can be a staple in their diet.

    Occasional Treats:

    Small pieces of mealworms, crickets, or other suitable live foods can be given occasionally. Remember to keep the size appropriate for the baby turtle’s mouth.

    Calcium and Vitamins:

    Just like adult turtles, baby softshell turtles need calcium for healthy shell growth. You can sprinkle calcium powder on their food or provide a calcium block in their tank.

    Vitamin supplements, especially vitamin D3, can also be added occasionally to ensure they’re getting all the necessary nutrients.

    Feeding Frequency:

    Baby softshell turtles have a higher metabolism than adults, so they need to eat more frequently. Typically, you should offer food once a day or every other day, depending on the turtle’s appetite and size.

    Water Quality:

    While not directly related to their diet, maintaining clean water is crucial for baby softshell turtles. Good water quality ensures the food remains uncontaminated, and the turtles can digest their food properly.

    Portion Size:

    Offer small portions and observe how much the turtle eats. Remove any uneaten food after about 15-20 minutes to prevent it from spoiling the water.

    How Much And How Often Should You Feed Your Softshell Turtle?

    Each and every softshell turtle owner should have a clear knowledge about how much and how often to feed the pet. Otherwise, the pet turtle may suffer from overfeeding or malnutrition conditions.

    Well, for the quantity, you can rely on 2 effective methods. Such as:

    1. The 15 minute rule
    2. The head method

    The 15 minute rule:

    You know softshell turtles are voracious species. They have a wild instinct when it comes to food. They will keep eating even after they are full, which can cause different medical conditions for the turtle. Such as rapid growth, obesity, etc.

    So, what is the solution here?

    Experienced owners suggest leaving more than enough food inside the tank for 15 minutes. The quantity a smooth softshell turtle finishes within the time frame is enough to keep it healthy.

    The head method:

    If you can also determine the food quantity by this method. Take a bowl the size of the softshell turtle’s head and fill that up. Or imagine how much food would fit into the softshell turtle’s head if it were empty. That is the quantity you should feed the pet.

    The 15 minutes rule works better than the head method. So, I personally recommend that one.

    softshell turtles speed

    How Often To Feed The Softshell Turtles?

    Age GroupFeeding FrequencyDiet CompositionAdditional Notes
    HatchlingsDaily (for the first 6 months)Fish, cooked meats, shrimps, and other animal proteins. No vegetables.Feed cuttlebones for calcium and vitamin requirements.
    Young TurtlesEvery other day (for 1-2 years)Primarily animal proteins with a small amount of vegetables.Sprinkle meals with vitamin D and calcium supplements.
    Adult TurtlesThrice a weekBalanced diet with a preference for vegetables, but ensure they get all necessary nutrients.Adults have a reduced appetite compared to younger turtles.
    General NotesSoftshell turtles prefer eating in water. Best feeding times are early morning and late evening.

    For more softshell turtle’s feeding related tips, check this article.

    Regular Medical Care for softshell turtles

    You can not expect your softshell turtle to stay healthy all the time. The pet can fall sick due to the environment or any other reasons. No matter why your pet softshell turtle is ill, you have to ensure the best medical care possible.

    Here are some of the reasons that can make a softshell turtle ill:

    • Genetical complexes
    • Unhealthy environment
    • Unbalanced diet
    • Organ failure
    • Accident

    Take a quick look at the following chart. It contains most of the diseases of a softshell turtle. symptoms, and probable treatments:

    Softshell Turtle Common DiseasesWhat Causes The Diseases?Symptoms Of The DiseasesProbable Treatment
    Hypovitaminosis or vitamin A deficiencyLack of vitamin A in regular dietSwollen eyelids

    Appetite loss

    Weight loss

    Runny nose

    Skin infections

    Abnormal embryo development on eyes
    Vitamin A shots Vitamin A enriched diets
    Respiratory infectionLack of vitamin A

    Cold water

    Unhealthy enclosure




    Less activity

    Difficulty in breathing

    Runny nose




    Appetite loss

    The pet spends more time on the warm basking area
    Maintain the suitable tank temperature.

    Provide the softshell turtle with a balanced diet.

    Make sure the heating lamp, UV bulb, and water heater are working perfectly.

    Visit a vet if you see no progress.
    Ear abscessEar infection If the respiratory disease goes untreated

    Vitamin A deficiency
    Visible lump on ears

    The lump is filled with pus and dead cell
    Anti-biotics Contact a vet for a painless treatment.
    Shell rotCut on the shell

    Bacterial or fungal attack
    White patches on the shell

    Mucous discharge from the shell

    Shell tissue will be exposed
    Isolate the softshell turtle.

    Keep it in a dry place.

    Scrape off the dead cells.

    Use disinfectant on the rot or wound.

    Take the pet to the vet for better treatment.
    Unhealthy sheddingFast growth

    Fungal infection

    High ammonia content in the water

    You will notice small white flakes on the shell of the softshell turtle.Make sure the softshell turtle is getting a balanced diet.

    Do not overfed the pet.

    Follow the feeding schedule I have mentioned above.

    You can consult an expert to determine the exact reason for shedding.
    Metabolic bone diseaseLack of calcium

    Lack of vitamin D

    Imbalance of calcium and phosphorus

    Poor quality UV bulb
    Bones of the softshell turtles will not develop properly.

    The pet will have trouble walking.    
    Provide the softshell turtle with a balanced diet.

    Sprinkle vitamin D and calcium supplements on each meal.

    Set up a high quality UV bulb in the enclosure.
    Organ failureOverfeeding of proteinThe pet will behave abnormally.

    Appetite loss

    Weight loss
    You need to seek professional help in this case.
    Eye infectionUnhygienic water

    Lack of vitamin A

    Bacterial or virus attack
    Shut eyes

    Swollen eyes

    Puffy eyes

    Red eyes

    Appetite loss

    Weight loss

    Mucous discharge from eyes
    Check the water quality

    Make sure the water filter is working fine

    Provide the pet with a balanced diet

    Vitamin A shots Antibiotics

    There are some other common diseases that can happen to a softshell turtle. For example,

    1. Paralysis
    2. Mouth rot
    3. Overgrown beak or nails
    4. Internal parasites
    5. Blood parasites
    6. Eye rot

    In case of any disease, you should take the pet to a vet. This will ensure proper medical care. However, a regular check up is also necessary for the softshell turtles. This will help you keep the pet healthy.

    softshell turtle swimming

    Do softshell turtles need air?

    Yes, softshell turtles, like all turtles, are air-breathing animals and need to surface to breathe air. While they can stay submerged for extended periods, they must eventually come up for air.

    Here are some key points about the respiratory habits of softshell turtles:


    Softshell turtles have lungs, and they breathe atmospheric oxygen. They need to surface regularly to take in fresh air.

    Prolonged Submersion:

    Softshell turtles can stay submerged for extended periods, especially when they are resting or inactive. During these times, their metabolism slows down, and their oxygen requirements decrease.

    However, the duration they can stay underwater without breathing varies depending on factors like water temperature, activity level, and individual differences.

    Cutaneous Respiration:

    While submerged, softshell turtles can absorb a small amount of oxygen through their skin, especially in the throat and cloacal areas.

    This process, known as cutaneous respiration, allows them to extract some oxygen from the water, supplementing their oxygen intake and enabling them to stay underwater for longer periods.

    However, this does not replace the need for them to breathe air.

    Activity Level:

    When a softshell turtle is active, swimming, or hunting, it will need to surface for air more frequently than when it is resting or buried in the substrate.

    Stress and Health:

    A stressed or unhealthy turtle might surface more frequently or show signs of respiratory distress. If a softshell turtle is constantly gasping for air or seems to have difficulty breathing, it could indicate a health problem, and you should consult a veterinarian.

    In captivity, it’s essential to ensure that the turtle’s tank or enclosure allows easy access to the surface so they can breathe whenever necessary. Always monitor the turtle’s behavior and ensure that it is surfacing regularly to breathe.

    Is it safe to pick up softshell turtle?

    Picking up a softshell turtle can be safe for both the handler and the turtle if done correctly and gently. However, there are some precautions and considerations to keep in mind:

    Soft, Delicate Skin:

    Softshell turtles have softer, more delicate skin and shells compared to other turtle species. This makes them more susceptible to injury. Always handle them with care and avoid squeezing or applying pressure.

    Aggressive Behavior:

    Some softshell turtles can be aggressive and may attempt to bite if they feel threatened. Their necks are surprisingly long, allowing them to reach around and bite handlers. It’s essential to be cautious and aware of this when handling them.

    Proper Handling Technique:

    • Approach the turtle calmly and gently.
    • Place one hand under the turtle’s plastron (the underside) and support its body weight.
    • Use the other hand to gently hold the sides of its carapace (the top shell).
    • Always keep the turtle close to the ground or a surface when handling to prevent injury in case it wriggles free.

    Precautions while handling:

    1. Limit Handling: Softshell turtles can become stressed with excessive handling. It’s best to handle them only when necessary, such as during tank cleanings or health checks.
    2. Wash Your Hands: After handling any reptile, including softshell turtles, always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water. Reptiles can carry Salmonella bacteria, which can be transferred to humans.
    3. Avoid Face and Mouth Contact: Never allow a turtle near your face, and avoid touching your face after handling a turtle until you’ve washed your hands.
    4. Health Monitoring: If you notice any signs of distress, injury, or illness in the turtle after handling, consult a veterinarian.

    how long can softshell turtles be out of water?

    Softshell turtles can be out of water for short periods, ranging from a few minutes to several hours, without any immediate harm. They might come out to bask, lay eggs, or explore their surroundings.

    Softshell turtles have soft, permeable skin that can dry out if they are out of water for too long. It’s essential to keep them moist if they need to be out of their aquatic environment for an extended period.

    While there isn’t a strict “time limit” for how long a softshell turtle can be out of water, it’s generally not advisable to keep them out for more than a few hours. If they are out of water for reasons like transportation or tank cleaning, ensure they are kept in a moist environment, and return them to their aquatic habitat as soon as possible.

    Special Circumstances: Female softshell turtles will venture out of water to lay eggs. During this time, they might be out of water for several hours. It’s a natural behavior, but they will typically return to the water soon after laying their eggs.


    As a beginner, these are the things you need to know. To ensure the best care, you have to be extra careful. I hope this article will help you keep your softshell turtle happy and healthy.

    Sharing is caring!

    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.


    This site is owned and operated by Muntaseer Rahman. is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to This site also participates in other affiliate programs and is compensated for referring traffic and business to these companies.