My Turtle’s Eyes Won’t Open: What To Do?

My Turtle’s Eyes Won't Open

Are your turtle’s eyes closed? Can’t he open his eyes? You need to read this article thoroughly to find out what to do in this kind of situation.

Turtles can’t open their eyes mainly because of vitamin A deficiency. Vitamin A deficiency can result in turtle not being able to open its eyes, swollen eyes, puffy eyes, etc.

If a turtle can’t open its eyes, many things can be responsible for this tragic condition. I’ll try to explain the most common ones throughout this article.

Turtle swollen eyes:

Turtle swollen eyes is generally the result of a deficiency of vitamin A or poor water quality. Most of the time, lack of vitamin A and poor diet is the main reason.

There is no possible way to diagnose turtle swollen eyes all by yourself. You need to seek the help of a professional vet. The vet will check for possible causes of the puffiness. If the Harderian gland of the turtle shows signs of puffiness, then chances are that lack of vitamin A is the real culprit.

If you need to contact with a turtle vet emergency, check out our Emergency Turtle Vet Directory where you can easily contact with a turtle vet from your state.

Otherwise, poor water quality is also a common reason for swollen turtle eyes. In this case, bacteria travel from the water inside to the turtle’s body and cause a serious health issue.

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  • The eyelids will get swollen or puffy
  • The eye can get reddish
  • If left untreated for a long period of time, the eyelids can get so swollen that the turtle will get blind.
  • You’ll often see fluid secreting from the eyes. Also, dead cells can gather around the eyes.
  • The nose can get blocked.
  • The turtle will lose weight alarmingly.


  • Lack of vitamin A
  • Poor water quality


  • If lack of vitamin A is the main reason, then the vet may dose the turtle with a vitamin A dose. There are also other options to go for such as: feeding vitamin A enrich goods, providing a balanced nutrition, feeding puree of carrots etc.
  • If the water quality is poor, then the vet will prescribe a systematic antibiotic which will cure the bacterial infection. In this case, it is better to keep the sick turtle in a quarantine tank until he is fully recovered.
  • You can use Zoo Med’s turtle eye drops. They are really safe and effective. Follow the instructions on the label of the package.

Preventive Measures:

  • Ensure that your turtle is getting a nutrient-rich diet which is diverse and consists of a full nutritional profile.
  • Feed foods that are enriched in vitamin A such as carrots, squash etc. puree of carrot is an excellent home remedy to cure turtle swollen eyes.
  • Make sure the tank has every basic item that a turtle must need for healthy growth such as a basking area, UVB light, heat lamp, powerful filter, fresh water etc.
  • Always keep the turtle tank water clean. Go for a highly efficient powerful canister filter such as the Aquatop CF500YV filter. Make sure the filter can cope up with the load of the tank.
  • Ensure that there is enough space inside the tank for the turtle. A general rule of thumb is, for every 1-inch shell length, you’ll need about 10 gallons water. So, if your turtle has a shell length of 5 inches, you’ll at least need a 50-gallon tank.
  • You can use Zoo Med water conditioner to make the water absolutely safe for your turtles.

Turtle Eye Infections:

This is another common turtle eye disease. Eye infections are generally caused by bacteria. The bacteria can come from the poor water of the tank or from another infected organ inside the turtle body such as infection from the respiratory tract.

In the case of eye infection, the vet will prescribe a systematic antibiotic. Don’t try to do anything on your own. Eye infections can get very serious if left untreated for a long period of time. So, whenever you see signs of eye infection on your turtle, ask the help of a vet immediately.


  • The conjunctiva, as well as the adjacent area, will get reddish
  • The eye can get puffy
  • Watery eyes
  • The turtle will often try to rub its eyes or scratch them
  • Lots of wheezing, losing balance while swimming
  • Fluid secretion from mouth as well as nose
  • Excessive weight loss


  • Bacteria originated from the poor condition of the tank water


  • It is not possible to treat turtle eye infection on your own if you are an average turtle keeper. So, you need to seek the help of a reptile vet immediately.
  • The vet will examine the turtle thoroughly and try to diagnose the cause of the infection. Depending on the cause, the vet will prescribe the necessary medications.
  • In most cases, vets prescribe a systematic antibiotic for curing turtle eye infection.
  • You can try other products like zoo med’s turtle eye drops to help cure the infection. But ask the approval of your vet first.

Preventive measures:

  • Poor water quality is the number one reason for turtle eye infection. So, you need to give immediate attention to improving the water quality of your turtle tank.
  • If the tank is not suitable according to your turtle’s size, get a bigger one. If the tank is small, there is nothing you can do to keep the water quality decent. So, the first thing you should do is get a proper size tank for your turtle.
  • The second thing to look out for is the filtration system of the tank. If the filtration system is poor, then the water will get dirty very quickly. So, you need to choose a filter that fully cope up with the load of the turtle. Turtles are very messy animals. They produce a lot of waste than other aquarium inhabitants such as fish. So, you need to get a filter that is very powerful. I always recommend getting a powerful canister filter for a turtle tank.
  • You can use Zoo med’s water conditioner which is specifically made for reptiles. It will help to keep the water safe for your turtles.

Additional Tips:

  • Always ensure that your turtle has everything it needs for leading a healthy life. The most basic requirements for a turtle tank is a spacious tank, a powerful filter, a sturdy basking place, a heat lamp, a UVB bulb and some hiding place.
  • Poor diet leads to a poor immune system which leads to various types of turtle eye diseases. So, ensure that you are giving a proper diet to your turtle. Only giving a commercial turtle pellet is not enough at all. You’ll also need to provide fresh leafy vegetables as well as other proteins such as cooked chicken, fish, insects etc.
  • You should also provide a calcium block to your turtle. Calcium helps to make the shell and the bone stronger. It is also necessary for the proper growth of your turtle.
  • Here on my Recommendations Page, I’ve talked about all the turtle products that I love and stand by! So, if you are looking for the best products for your turtle, have a look at my Recommendations page.

So, this is my detailed guide on what to do if your turtle can’t open its eyes. Basically, you’ll have to ask the help of a vet immediately as there is nothing you can do to help him on your own.

You need to follow the instructions of the vet precisely as well as apply medications to your turtle as prescribed. Hopefully, within a week or two, your turtle will get well and be able to open its eyes again!

Let me know if you have any question in the comment box below!

Turtle Not Moving Eyes Open: Is My Pet Dead?

Though such cases are rare, they are not impossible. You may notice your turtle not moving and resting with eyes wide open. Do not freak out thinking it is dead. Instead, do some quick tests to see what you can do.

Vets suggest pinching the back foot of the turtle to get a reflex. A resting turtle will instantly kick back or pull away its foot due to pain. You can also gently tap on its open eyes and wait for a response.

If the turtle is giving away reflexes, it is still alive. The pet may decide to hibernate because of the temperature drop or inadequate UV rays in the enclosure. However, it is really unusual for turtles to hibernate with eyes wide open and retract into their shells during this process.

Yet, you can consult a vet for proper health checkups and prescriptions. The pet may be suffering from metabolic bone disease or vitamin deficiency. You can not cancel out the chance of blood infection either.

In the meantime, do the followings,

  • Install a quality UV lamp (10% UVB output).
  • Recheck the heating light and its settings.
  • Add calcium supplements to the turtle diet. Turles usually do not like the taste of calcium. I have added some excellent tricks to provide calcium to turtles here.
  • Offer the turtle a balanced diet rich in vitamin A and other nutrients.
  • Turtle’s eyes may dry up as they are wide open for a long time. Plain saline eye drops and electrolyte soakings will comfort the pet.

However, the turtle might be dead if you get no reflex or response, even after pinching the leg and tapping the eyes. You can call a vet or review the dead turtle signs from this article. I have also discussed the available ways how you can say goodbye to your pet in my previous write-up.

Turtle Not Moving Eyes Closed: What’s Wrong With My Pet?

Let’s not think the turtle is dead yet. But of course, you can not rule out the possibility. You can check out the reflex of the turtle by pinching out the legs or tapping on the eyes. Holding a feather in front of the nostril to observe whether the pet is breathing is also a good idea.

If you see no reaction and breathing signs, the pet is dead. Usually, dead turtles float in the water once they bloat, and their flesh starts rotting after 16 – 32 hours.

Now, if the turtle is alive, here are the possible explanations behind this behavior,

1. Hibernation:

A drop in the water temperature will force the turtles to slow their metabolism. It is because turtles are ectothermic creatures and solely depend on the surrounding temperature. During the hibernation period, turtles enter into deep sleep for months.

The chances are that your turtle is hibernating. However, most species hibernate at the bottom of the tank and retract into their shells.

An unplanned hibernation can bring death to the turtles. Hence, experts suggest preparing the turtles and building a suitable hibernation spot beforehand.

If you notice your turtles taking long sleeps with closed eyes, reset the temperature slowly. It will make the turtles active again. Well, consulting a vet from the very beginning is always recommended.

2. Eye Conditions:

The closed eyes situation can be explained by a swollen eye, infection, trauma, etc. Sometimes turtles with such eye conditions also show lethargy. So, examine the turtle’s behavior properly.

An eyedrop, healing creaming, antibiotics, and warm soaks with a balanced diet can cure pets. Do not forget to take the turtles to a professional for proper direction.

3. Nutrition Deficiency:

Lack of vitamin A, vitamin D, and calcium can develop critical illnesses in the turtles. For example, hypovitaminosis A is often responsible for puffy or swollen eyes. Similarly, malnutrition leads to infectious diseases, including shut eyes, eye infections, etc., along with fatigue.

Do Turtles Die With Their Eyes Open?

In most cases, turtles die with their eyes closed. But of course, it is not always true. Sometimes, turtles may die with partially closed eyes.

Again, a turtle dying on its back may have its eyes and mouth wide open because of gravity.

My Turtle Is Not Opening His Eyes And Not Eating: Is The Pet Sick?

If you notice your turtle immobile with closed eyes, test its reflex first. There is a high chance that the turtle is alive and going through a medical condition. Though you need to take the pet to a vet for a proper diagnosis, guessing the illness by observing the symptoms is also possible.

Potential causes behind turtle’s shut-eye and less appetite are,

  1. Hibernation
  2. Eye infection
  3. Swollen eye
  4. Eye injury
  5. Vitamin A deficiency
  6. Vitamin D deficiency
  7. Respiratory illness

Why Is My Turtle Rubbing His Eyes?

If you catch your turtle rubbing its eye, something is definitely wrong with the pet. Look for signs of eye infection or trauma first. Sometimes these illnesses irritate the turtle’s eyes, making the pet uncomfortable. Rubbing the eyes against something relieves the pain of the pet.

Another reason can be respiratory illness. Mucus discharge from the eyes is one of the common symptoms of this infectious disease. Turtles may rub their eyes to get rid of this substance.

Finally, there is a high chance that the water chemistry in the tank is messed up. For example, high chlorine or ammonia in the enclosure water will irritate the pet’s eyes and skin. Filtering the tank water or using a dechlorination solution will help restore the healthy water chemistry.

Why Is My Turtle Rubbing Its Shell?

Generally, a turtle’s shell rubbing activity poses no harm. But of course, you must consider all possibilities to ensure the pet is healthy. The possible explanations are,

1. Self-Cleaning:

You will often catch a cat licking its body. The pet does this to clean its fur. Well, similar hebavior has been observed in sea turtles.

Scientists have suggested that sea turtles sometimes scratch their shells to remove the algae or barnacle growth. Otherwise, the organisms can add weight, slowing the turtle’s speed.

2. Shedding:

Like snakes, turtles also shed their scutes as they grow. Scratching the shell aids in the peeling session. The primary purposes of shell shedding are growth, fighting bacteria, and healing from trauma. Give this article a read for a deep understanding of the shell-peeling behavior of turtles.

3. Infection:

Shell rot or similar infectious diseases on the scutes are not uncommon for turtles. In fact, the turtles can experience unhealthy shedding because of overfeeding and shell diseases. Such conditions can make the scutes itchy, so the pets rub the shell.

The differences between shell rot and healthy and unhealthy shedding can be a little confusing for newbies. This article will help you differentiate between these conditions and offer a home treatment guide.

What Does It Mean If A Turtle Has Red Eyes?

Red-eye indicates that the turtle is suffering from an eye condition. It can be a swollen eye, puffy eye, or eye infection. Usually, vitamin A deficiency, poor water quality, injured eyes, and bacterial attacks are responsible for such eye conditions in turtles.

In the previous sections, you will find the treatment of swollen eyes and eye infections in turtles.

Why Are My Baby Turtles Eyes Closed?

Check the temperature first if you notice the baby turtle with a shut-eye. The hatchlings also need a UV and a heating lamp. A drop in temperature can also make the pets hibernate.

Remember, hibernating babies is highly discouraged. The pets can even die as their body and immunity are not developed yet.

Again, baby turtles can suffer from shut eyes because of eye conditions. Follow the previously discussed treatment methods to cure turtles.

Finally, vitamin A deficiency and respiratory illness are two other culprits. Have the hatchlings diagnosed and treat the pets according to the vet’s prescription.

Baby turtles have lower immunity than juveniles and adults. Hence, quick treatment is mandatory to cure pets. Otherwise, the turtles will grow up with permanent health damage.

My Top 3 Turtle Products To Make Your Life Easier (And Your Turtles Happier)

1. Fluval FX6 Canister Filter

Turtles are quite messy creatures. And you need a powerful weapon to cope up with the mess. Fluval FX6 is a giant beast equipped with multi-stage filtration system. Fluval FX6 is my #1 recommendation to keep your turtle tank cleaner & healthier.

2. Penn Plax Turtle Topper

If you are keeping a turtle, you’ll need a basking place. The good thing about Penn Plax Turtle Topper is, it won’t use any space inside the tank, so your turtle can enjoy the full swimming space. The design and functionality make this basking dock my top recommendation!

3. Zoo Med UVB & Heat Lighting Kit

This one kit will solve all your lighting needs for the turtle. You’ll get everything you’ll need including Polished aluminum dome, dual ceramic sockets and two lights: ReptiSun UVB Light (for UVB) & Repti Tuff Halogen Lamp (for Heat). Zoo Med UVB & Heat Lighting Kit will slash half of your burden!  

Muntaseer Rahman

I have been keeping turtles as a pet for many years now. I’ve fallen in love with these cute pets from the moment I saw them. That’s why I am writing articles to share my turtle keeping knowledge with you.

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