How To Treat Shell Rot In Red Eared Slider?

How To Treat Shell Rot In Red Eared Slider

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

As a turtle lover, I always consider my pet turtle as a member of my family. So I know how it feels when your turtle falls sick. I always try to learn more about turtle diseases so that I can take excellent care of my pet. I’ve recently learned about a common condition called “Shell Rot.”

What is shell rot? What are the indications of the disease? How can you treat your turtle if it gets infected by shell rot? Well, stay with me till the end of this article. I am sure you will get all your answers.

In this article, I will illustrate how to treat shell rot in red eared slider.

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What Is Shell Rot?

Shell rot is a common condition for sea or aquatic turtles. Terrestrial animals also get infected by shell rot, but the percentage is higher with the sea turtles. In medical terms, shell rot is a bacterial or fungal infection that happens on the shell of a turtle.

At the primary stage, the condition is not severe. But if the disease remains untreated, it can be dangerous for the turtles. In extreme cases, the bacteria or fungus breach turtles’ shell, and get mixed with blood. The infected turtle will hold his last breath, not more than four or five days.

Why Turtles Get Shell Rot?

Shell rot condition starts with the damage on the turtle shell. It can be a cut, scratch, puncture, or a crack. The disease can grow even from a simple cut, no need for any severe injury.

A simple cut is enough for bacteria or fungi to enter into the shell. After invading, the number of bacteria and fungi start increasing. The disease can attack the bone and cause bone cavity. And as we have learned already that it can also invade the blood.

How Will You Know Your Red Eared Slider Has Shell Rot?

It is not hard to detect shell rot in your turtle. The infected area depends on how much the bacteria or fungi have spread.

  •  If you notice black spots on the shell of your Red eared slider, there is a possibility the Red eared slider has shell rot. You can observe these types of defects on the scutes or scutum.
  • You can also identify shell rot from pale lesions. Lesions turn into bloody color when the disease reaches its extreme condition.
  • In severe cases, scutes get loose, or they fall apart.
  • Sometimes, shell rot causes other diseases too. Scutes are attached to bones. So there is a high chance for the Red eared slider to get osteomyelitis, which is a bone infection. 
  • Bone cavity is another symptom that indicates a Red eared slider turtle may have shell rot.
  • You can observe the same type of spots or infection in the ulcerated area. The area may spread a gross smell.

If you are confused, I suggest you take your Red eared slider to a vet and have a proper diagnostic.

How To Treat Shell Rot In Red eared Slider?

Many treatments are available for shell rot disease. First, you have to ensure the reason for the shell rot. Treatment can vary depending on bacterial attack or fungal attack and the seriousness of the damaged area.

Here are some simple and effective methods:

Method 1 (Removing The Damaged Tissue):

  • Remove the damaged tissues of your Red eared slider delicately. Do not force any tissue to come out. Remember to be gentle. You can use a neat blunt tool to remove damaged tissues. (Highly recommended to consult with a vet for this step)
  • Now clean the area with a solution of betadine or Chlorhexidine or Gentian Violet.
  • Keep your turtle out of water, and in a warm place for twelve hours a day. Keep doing it until you notice any improvement in the scutes or shell.
  • In a few weeks, your Red eared slider will recover from this disease.

Method 2 (Cleaning With Solution):

In this method, you have to collect some supplies. Do not worry. You will get everything at your home.

  • Detect the damaged scutes on the shell and clean those areas. Use a toothbrush and soap for cleaning. You have to be careful while choosing a solvent/soap for your Red eared slider. Notice that the soap does not touch your turtle’s skin. The toothbrush has to be unused and clean.
  • Remove dirt on the damaged areas. Try to clean the infected areas as much as you can.
  • Rinse the soap/solvent with water. Temperature of the water is a significant factor in this situation. Use cool water.
  • Now dry the areas with a towel/cloth/napkin. Ensure the cloth has a smooth surface. Try to wipe all the infected scutes accurately.
  • Apply Betadine or Povidone-Iodine on the infected areas. Use your fingers or a clean toothbrush to do it. Try to cover all the infected scutes on the shell.
  • You have to let the solution dry on the shell. So keep your Red eared slider away from water as long as you can. I will suggest you to put it in a dry bathtub, a warm place or beside a table lamp.
  • Continue the process until you notice any significant improvements.

Method 3 (Oral Suspension):

If you can manage your Red eared slider in an oral suspension of metronidazole and amikacin I/M, it may bring effective results.

How To Clean Your Turtle Tank To Avoid Shell Rot:

Shell rot is not a blissful condition at all. You have already learned that turtles can die in severe cases. Moreover, it is a contiguous condition. It means healthy turtles will get affected if they do come near an infected turtle.

So we should try to avoid the situation if we can. Clean environment or tank is a must to evade shell rot disease. Clean the tank every other week.

You should use a powerful filtration system, and check each week if it is working or not. Canister filters are excellent for Red eared slider turtle tank. Try changing filter media each week.

Again, shell rot can happen if the Red eared slider spends too much time in the water. Ensure that your turtle climbs out of the water and spends much time in a warm place.


These are the techniques for how to treat shell rot in red eared slider. I hope it will help you to take care of your loved Red eared Slider. Again, if the condition is too bad, I recommend consulting with a vet as soon as possible.

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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