13 Map Turtle Shell Problems & How to Treat Them

Map Turtle Shell Problems

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

Like all other turtle species, shell problems are the most common disease for map turtles too. Unfortunately, we often fail to detect and treat the condition in time. Being ignorant of the shell related problems can cause future damage to the pet map turtles.

If you are raising a map turtle, and you want your pet to have a healthy shell, then this article will be all you need.

Two most common shell problems of the map turtles are:

  • Shell rot: It is a bacterial or fungal infection and can be treated with antibiotics and care.
  • Pyramiding: It occurs due to overfeeding the pet and can be controlled with a balanced diet.

In this article, I will illustrate all the shell problems that a map turtle can ever suffer, including the two conditions mentioned above. I will also explain what causes the shell diseases and how you can treat the shell problem following a few easy steps. So, read the full article if you are a beginner or your turtle is facing any shell related issues.

13 Shell Problems That Can Happen to a Map Turtle

  1. Shell rot
  2. Pyramiding
  3. Shedding
  4. Soft shell
  5. Soft spots on the shell
  6. White patches on shell
  7. Black spots on the shell
  8. Holes on the shell
  9. Red lines on the shell
  10. Mussy stuff on the shell
  11. Cracked shell or shell fracture
  12. Irregular shell growth
  13. Algae on the shell

In the upcoming sections, I will describe each shell disease with its cause and treatment.

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1. Shell Rot

shell rot

We, the turtle owners, are familiar with the condition, ‘Shell rot”. In medical terms, shell rot is known as ‘Severe Ulcerative Shell Disease’ or SCUD. It refers to a physical condition that can happen anywhere on a map turtle’s shell due to a bacterial or fungal infection. You may observe the infected area on both the carapace and plastron of the turtle.

Healing the shell of the map turtle can be a long process, but ignoring the condition can cause internal blood vessel damage. It is one of the most severe diseases that can occur to a map turtle. Let’s learn everything about this condition.

What Causes Shell Rot to a Map Turtle?

I have mentioned earlier that bacterial or fungal infection is the main reason behind the shell rot. But unfortunately, there are some other things too that cause SCUD to a map turtle. Those are:

  • Damaged shell: If your turtle’s shell gets damaged due to an accident or a fight, bacteria can enter and grow inside it. Once the bacteria or fungus enters inside the shell, it starts to rot if you do not take any actions to heal the damaged area immediately.
  • Low-quality water: Map turtles are sensitive to low-quality water. Once your pet gets exposed to any uncleaned, dirty or unhygienic water, there is a high possibility that the turtle will get infected. The shell rot can become severe if the map turtle has a damaged shell.
  • Improper housing management: An ideal map turtle’s enclosure must have a water area and a basking dock. Map turtles are excellent swimmers and love spending time underwater. From time to time, they come to the basking area to dry their bodies. If you haven’t provided any basking area, the pet will find no places to stay dry. It can cause shell rot and other respiratory diseases to the map turtle.


Here are the symptoms you may observe in your map turtle if it is suffering from SCUD or shell rot.

  • In the beginning, you will observe a cracked or damaged shell and moth-eaten appearances around the area.
  • Fluids will discharge from the infected area.
  • When the shell starts rotting, you may notice an unpleasant smell coming from it.
  • The shell will become soft and mushy.
  • In severe cases, the scutes will fall apart, and the bone tissues will be exposed.

Home Treatment of Shell Rot

Shell rot is a severe condition, and it needs proper treatment. Your ignorance towards the disease can push the map turtle to a life-threatening situation. In mild cases, you can provide home treatment to the map turtle. Here, I will include the easiest method of healing the rotten shell of your map turtle.

5 Steps to Treat a Map Turtle’s Shell Rot

  1. First of all, you have to determine the cause of the shell rot. If it is low-quality water, then try providing clean water. If there is no basking dock in the enclosure, build one for the map turtle.
  2. Shell rot is a cognitive disease. A diseased map turtle can infect other pets. So, if you are housing multiple turtles in a single enclosure, isolate the sick map turtle.
  3. Most of the time, you will find the infected area covered with dirt. Before applying antibiotic, you have to clean it. You can use a toothbrush to scrub off the dirt or algae.
  4. Different antibiotics are effective on a rotten shell. Cholorohexadine or hydrogen peroxide will help a lot to heal the infection. Use these antibiotics thoroughly on the infected area and let it dry on the shell.
  5. Now apply a healing cream on the rotten shell. Silver sulfadiazine, Neosporin, or triple antibiotic cream can be a good choice. Make sure the cream dries on the shell. Use the lotion a few times a day.

You have to continue the treatment process twice a day for 5 to 7 days. If you do not observe any progress, take the map turtle to the vet immediately.

Things to Remember

  1. Never let the sick map turtle swim more than one hour a day.
  2. Keep the map turtle in a dry and warm area.
  3. You should not make the turtle swim after applying antibiotics or healing cream on the infected area. Let the medicine dry on its shell.
  4. While applying antibiotics, handle the pet gently. Pushing or forcing the map turtle can make it anxious and stressed.

How to Prevent Shell Rot in Your Map Turtle

Though with proper treatment your map turtle can recover shell rot, being a little proactive can prevent this disease. Here are some tips that might help you prevent SCUD:

  • Sharp objects can damage the map turtle’s shell, which can lead to shell rot. So, you have to make sure that there are no sharp objects inside the enclosure.
  • Low-humidity can lead the turtle’s shell to crack, which can eventually cause shell rot. So, always monitor the humidity level.
  • Map turtles do not prefer dirty water. Provide clean and hygienic water in the enclosure.
  • Clean the pen regularly.
  • Build large basking docks for the map turtles. Make sure that the area is warm and dry.
  • Do regular health check-ups of the pet map turtle.

2. Pyramiding

turtle shell pyramid

Pyramiding is one form of metabolic bone disease. It refers to an abnormality of scutes on the turtle’s carapace. Map turtles often suffer from this common disease. A stat indicates that the rate of pyramiding is observed more in indoor map turtles.

What Causes Pyramiding to a Map Turtle?

Though the primary cause for pyramiding is still unknown, malnutrition is considered as one of the reasons for this disorder. We know that map turtle is an omnivorous species, and the pet requires a balanced diet. Despite being omnivorous, the turtle prefers eating more animal or protein-based foods than plants or vegetables.

The need for protein decreases drastically with its growing age, and then it must eat a mixed diet with protein and plants. Misbalancement of protein or excess protein can cause pyramiding to the map turtle.

Some scientists claim that low humidity can also cause pyramiding to the map turtles. It is because the lower humid level mimics the dry season, and the pet does not get a diet according to the environment. The situation eventually leads to pyramiding.

Signs of Pyramiding in a Map Turtle

It is not hard to determine pyramiding symptoms in your map turtle. You will observe the abnormal shape of the scutes. Each scute becomes bumpy and raises above the standard height. The dome-shaped shell of the map turtle looks like a pyramid.

The sick pet turtle will face trouble walking, moving, or swimming, and the male map turtles will fail to mate.


Though the disease is minor, ignoring it at the early stage can cause severe damages to the map turtle’s shell. As it happens due to overfeed of protein, you must provide the map turtle with a balanced diet. Moreover, make sure the humidity level is suitable for the pet.

You may consider consulting a vet. He can prescribe some medicines that you must follow for a quick recovery.

Can You Prevent Pyramiding?

Some smart changes in the map turtle’s lifestyle can surely prevent this disease. For example:

  1. Ensure the map turtle is getting a balanced diet according to its age.
  2. Monitor the humidity level in the enclosure.
  3. Put the map turtles in a large pen where they can swim freely. Swimming is the form of exercise for the turtles. Regular exercise can help them fight this disease.

3. Shedding

turtle shell shedding

Shedding is a natural phenomenon in a map turtle’s life. But the shell peeling can be unhealthy too.

What Causes Unhealthy Shedding?

Several things are responsible for an abnormal shedding or shell peeling of the map turtle. Such as:

  • If you overfeed your map turtle or feed it extra protein and calcium pallet, the pet will start growing fast. However, premature growth can cause unhealthy shedding.
  • The basking dock of the enclosure should be warm and dry. If the temperature increases too much by any chance, it can lead to shedding.
  • Fungal infection is another reason why map turtles suffer from unhealthy shell peeling.
  • If the water is of low quality and contains high-level ammonia, then there is a possibility that the pet turtle may suffer from unhealthy shedding.
  • Again, certain diseases can also cause this condition to the map turtle.

How to Recognize Unhealthy Shell Peeling?

In a natural shedding, the scutes peel off as a whole. But in an unhealthy shell peeling, the scutes fall off as individuals, and also, the scutes are thicker than usual.


If you observe abnormal shedding in your map turtle, take it to a vet. Follow his prescription and do little changes in the enclosure. For example:

  1. Keep the map turtle’s enclosure clean.
  2. Provide the pet with a balanced diet.
  3. Set up a high-quality UV bulb. Make sure the temperature and humid level inside the enclosure is suitable for the map turtle.
  4. Clean the pen regularly with disinfectants.
  5. Set up a water filter inside the enclosure.

You can also follow these instructions if your map turtle does not peel its shell at all.

4. Soft Shell

A soft shell is a form of metabolic bone disease. Map turtles often suffer from this common medical condition. Having a soft shell is normal when the pet is growing up. But if an adult is experiencing this condition, then you better examine the spots.

What Causes a Soft Shell to a Map Turtle?

Two things can cause soft shell condition to a map turtle. Those are:

  1. Poor dietary
  2. Low-quality UV light


In most cases, you can heal the sick map turtle at home without any antibiotics or medicines. For that, you have to follow the instructions given below:

  • Make sure the diet of the map turtle contained all the essential elements. Try to stick to the balanced diet chart.
  • You have to provide vitamin and calcium supplements with each meal.
  • UV light plays a significant role in building a healthy and robust shell. You have to set up a high-quality UV light inside the map turtle’s enclosure.

If you see no development in the map turtle’s condition even after trying these tips, consult with a professional as soon as possible.

5. Soft Spots on the Shell

Though map turtle’s shell needs to be hard and solid, you may observe soft spots on the shell in some cases. These spots indicate that the pet is sick, and it requires proper treatment. Why does this condition occur to a map turtle and how you can treat the pet? 

What Causes Soft Spots on the Shell?

Poor dietary and a low-quality enclosure is mainly responsible for the soft spots on the shell. You can also put the causes in the following way.

  1. Lack of calcium in the diet
  2. Vitamin D3 deficiency
  3. The UV light is not providing suitable service
  4. The basking area temperature is not suitable
  5. The water temperature is too hot for the map turtle.


Soft spots on the map turtle’s shell can be healed without any anti-biotic or medications if you can make some changes in the pet’s lifestyle. Here I am listing the things you need to do:

  • Do not overfeed the map turtle, instead, provide him with a balanced diet.
  • You can feed the map turtle extra calcium and vitamin D3 supplements.
  • Keep the enclosure’s temperature suitable for the pet. You can maintain a temperature of 72 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit in pen and 90 degrees Fahrenheit in the basking area. To know the perfect temperature for map turtle, click here.
  • Make sure the UV bulb is working properly. If you are raising your map turtle in an indoor enclosure, try providing the direct sunlight for a minimum of one hour a day.

Consult a vet, in case you observe no progress in the map turtle’s condition.

6. White Patches on the Shell

white spots on turtle shell

White patches on the map turtle’s shell is not an uncommon condition. Most of the time, this is a minor disease, and totally curable.

What Causes White Patches on the Shell?

The condition happens because of fungal infection. A poorly maintained enclosure can spread the fungus, which will eventually cause white patches on the map turtle’s shell.


The patches look similar to the condition when the map turtle starts shedding. But they do not cover the whole shell. You may observe these on some scutes.


You have to focus on the enclosure management solely. Use a high-quality water filtration system to keep the pen algae free. Also, clean the habitat with disinfectant from time to time.

You may have to apply antibiotic and healing lotion on the infected areas of the map turtle. Try consulting a vet for a proper recommendation.

7. Black Spots on the Shell

black spots on turtle shell

In most cases, black spots on the shell is not a severe condition. These spots can be a result of 4 things. Such as:

  1. Shell rot or SCUD
  2. Fungal infection
  3. Algae on the shell
  4. Any shell infection

Generally, after recovering from any of the conditions above, the infection leaves marks on the shell. You can clean the shell using a toothbrush, but the spots may not fade away.

The black spots are not harmful as long as they do not stink. Unhealthy black patches will discharge fluid and spread a bad smell. The cases are rare, and you should consult a vet if you observe anything like that.

8. Holes on the Shell

holes on turtle shell

Do not afraid if you notice small holes on your map turtle’s shell. The condition can be fixed even without any professional help.

What Causes Holes on the Shell?

Many things can cause this condition to a map turtle. Some of these reasons are:

  1. Poor dietary
  2. Dirty water
  3. Previous injury
  4. Cracked shell
  5. Shell infection
  6. Improper enclosure management


In some cases, these holes are the beginning stage of the ulcer. You may observe bloodstream around the spots. So, immediate action is required to heal the map turtle’s shell. Here are the things to help your pet:

  • Take your map turtle out of water. To keep the turtle hydrated, soak its body for 30 minutes twice a day.
  • Sponge the pet with Betadine or Nolvasan several times a day.
  • Keep the map turtle in a warm and dry enclosure.
  • Make sure the bulbs are working properly.
  • You have to provide a balanced diet to the map turtle.
  • You can feed it calcium and vitamin D3 supplements.
  • Make sure the water is clean, and the pH of the water is suitable for the pet.

If you follow these instructions, your pet’s shell will heal soon. If you see no progress, take the map turtle to a vet for better treatment.

9. Red Lines on the Shell

It is a common scenario for most of the map turtles except the young ones. You do not have anything to worry about. In the worst cases, the red spots may indicate a rare disease called ‘Septicemia’. The red lines may fade away with time.

If you see red lines on your map turtle’s shell, try focusing on its diet and make sure the temperature of its enclosure is suitable for it.

10. Mussy Stuff on the Shell

Many turtle keepers confuse this condition with shell rot. Though both diseases have similarities, each has distinctive characteristics.

What Causes Mussy Stuff on the Shell

  1. Keeping the injured map turtle in a dirty enclosure can lead to the disease.
  2. You may observe mussy stuff the map turtle’s shell at the beginning of shedding.
  3. If the water is dirty, it can spread fungus and bacteria fast, which can cause this condition.


If you notice mussy stuff growing on your map turtle’s shell, you have to isolate the pet from other turtles as soon as possible. Keeping it with other pets can make them sick too. You may find several methods of healing the shell of your pet, but here I will explain the one using Acriflavine.

Acriflavine works with most of the shell infections. It is a week by week step. Here is the treatment method:

  1. In the first week, you have to change the enclosure’s water. Remove any carbon media filtration from the pen. Now add Acriflavine in the water following the label.
  2. Change the water in the second week again, and add another dose of Acriflavine.
  3. Repeat the same step for the next three weeks.

After the fifth week, you will notice progress in your map turtle’s condition. In severe condition, take the pet to a vet.

11. Cracked Shell or Shell Fracture

Red Eared Slider Shell Problems

The main reason behind a map turtle’s cracked shell is injury. However, if the pet falls from a height, involves in a fight, or comes in contact with a massive force, its shell can crack. Sometimes low humidity levels inside the enclosure can also cause this condition to the pet map turtle.


If you see blood coming out of the shell, then you should take the pet to the vet immediately. In the case of small injuries, you can apply the first aid. These are the things you need to do:

  • Isolate the injured map turtle and put it in a separate tank.
  • Clean the crack with clean water.
  • Now you have to disinfect the area. You can use iodine or betadine as a disinfectant.
  • Apply a healing cream on the injury. Neosporin or triple healing cream will be a perfect choice.
  • Let the antibiotic and cream dry on the map turtle’s shell for one hour.
  • Now put the map turtle in the clean water for swimming.
  • Repeat the treatment for 2 weeks.

In severe cases, you have to take the injured pet to the vet.

12. Irregular Shell Growth

It indicates malnutrition and metabolic bone disease. If your map turtle is suffering from this disease, you will notice bumpy and asymmetrical scutes on its shell. The condition is similar to pyramiding.

13. Algae on the Shell

algae on turtle shell

Though it is not a shell condition, it indicates that the water and enclosure are dirty. You may observe black spots on the map turtle’s shell because of this. You can clean the algae with a toothbrush. To ensure a healthy life for the map turtle, you need to clean its enclosure regularly.

How to Take Care of a Map Turtle’s Shell

Taking care of a map turtle’s shell includes ensuring a safe and clean surrounding for the pet. Fortunately, it is easier and less expensive than the turtle’s treatment.

Here are some tips that might help you taking care of your map turtle’s shell:

  • You must provide a properly arranged enclosure to the map turtle. Build a basking dock for the pet so that it can dry its body there.
  • Make the enclosure obstacle free. Any sharp object inside the tank can injure the map turtle, which may cause severe medical conditions. Remove any sharp objects or rocks from the pen.
  • Cover the habitat with something so that the map turtle can not escape. The creature can fall from the height and fracture its shell.
  • Keep the enclosure clean. Dirty bedding or uncleaned water can spread bacteria and fungus, which can lead to shell rot, mussy spots, white patches on the shell and other shell diseases.
  • You have to offer a balanced diet to the map turtle. Poor dietary can cause various shell related problems, including pyramiding and irregular shell growth.
  • Each map turtle needs direct sunlight for keeping its shell healthy. For an indoor habitat, you have to set up a UV light. The UV rays help the turtle to absorb calcium and vitamin D3 from the food and make its bone and shell strong.
  • Do regular health check-ups of the map turtle.
  • At last, always obverse your turtle’s shell. If you notice anything irregular or abnormal, take immediate action.


By providing the minimum shell care, you can decrease the risk of any shell related problems. But if anything unexpected happens, it is better to be prepared for it. I have included almost everything you need to know to heal your map turtle’s shell. For any further query, you can always consult a vet.

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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