What To Do If My Tortoise Is On Its Back? [3 Reasons]

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

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We take great care to ensure the health and happiness of our pet tortoises. It might come as quite a surprise to see your shelly little companion, the tortoise, lying on its back for the first time. As a pet parent, you are in the best position to determine whether or not your tortoise is at risk if you discover it on its back.

You should just carefully and gently flip the tortoise over in the proper position. It’s important to avoid turning the tortoise over too rapidly since doing so might injure its digestive system. Ensure your tortoise is well-fed and hydrated, and give it some time to rest and rehabilitate in the quiet.

If you discover your tortoise on its back and it has been that way for a long time, you should not leave it alone. All of the tortoise’s vital organs are designed in such a way that they only work properly while the animal is on its belly. A tortoise’s shell is not meant to support the weight, and leaving your pet there for an extended time might be lethal.

That may sound ominous, but you needn’t worry about your tortoise’s safety because I’ve included some basic guidelines in the text below.

So keep on reading!

What Are The Reasons For Tortoises To Turn On Their Backs?

Your tortoise may roll over for a variety of causes, including:

1. Accidents When Climbing

Despite lacking the muscles required for climbing, our tiny shell pals nonetheless enjoy the thrill of climbing exploration.

A typical cause of an inverted tortoise is an accident that occurred while it was trying to climb. The baby tortoise is more likely to find itself on its shell as it explores its new environment and tests its limitations.

Tortoises, especially juveniles, have a fascination towards edges and like climbing them, despite the high risk of falling flat on their backs.

What To Do:

Try removing the object your tortoise is climbing on if it keeps tumbling over. It may require a little while to figure out what is bothering your tortoise.

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But you may speed up the process by utilizing a camera to watch him or her while you’re not there. Your tortoise could have an adverse reaction to seemingly harmless items.

2. Other Tortoise

Male tortoises are more likely to fight than other tortoises. So, when two tortoises are fighting, they attempt to turn each other onto their shells.

One guaranteed strategy to win a battle and win over the other sex is to flip their competitor onto their back. While it may seem absurd to us, tortoises consider it entirely typical behavior.

What To Do:

There’s not much you can do if your tortoises are always at war with one another. Tortoises should be separated if they start fighting each other.

Female tortoises often argue with one another. It’s OK to let them interact with one another, but you should keep a closer check on them.

3. Ailments And Injuries

Although it’s upsetting to consider the possibility of one of our pets getting sick or wounded, such consideration is sometimes necessary.

They may be sick or injured if they start turning over unexpectedly.

What To Do:

If you notice any changes in their feeding or toileting habits, you should take them to the vet.

What Should You Do If Your Tortoise Is Lying On Its Back?

Don’t panic if you arrive home to discover your tortoise lying on its back. Your tortoise may be having habitat or health issues if you find it flat on its back. However, it might just be an accident your tortoise had while exploring.

You should just cautiously and gently flip the tortoise over in the proper direction. If you turn your tortoise around too rapidly, you risk injuring its digestive system.

Tortoises may easily get dehydrated, so be careful to monitor them and give them some shade to rest in.

What Can You Do To Stop Your Tortoise From Flipping Over?

While we like our pet tortoises, one drawback to having them in custody is the increased likelihood of their rolling over on their backs. There are a few steps that you can take to prevent your tortoise from turning upside down:

Improve Habitat

There are several hazards in the manmade habitat in which we keep our tortoises. The tortoise is more likely to flip in custody compared to in the outdoors because we install elevated items and barriers in their habitats.

Although it may be challenging, a pen lacking right angles (90°) would be ideal for tortoises, since they have a habit of going toward the corners of their enclosures.

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Tortoises always seem to roll over on their backs at a 90° angle. If your tortoise has a habit of turning over onto its back, you may prevent this behavior by placing an object, such as a piece of wood, to round out the edge.

A tortoise’s natural curiosity will be piqued if its cage has thin boundaries that it can look over through the tops. You can prevent your tortoise from attempting to escape by increasing the height of the enclosure’s walls so it can’t look over the top.

There’s not much you can do about your tortoise’s desire to mount the walls. We shouldn’t attempt to prevent a tortoise from exploring by any means other than ensuring its safety.

Monitor Your Tortoise From A Distance

The use of nanny cams might be helpful if your tortoise has a habit of turning over while you’re not present to watch it.

There are a plethora of low-priced Wi-Fi cameras or nanny cameras accessible nowadays. Setting up a camera facing the tortoise’s habitat will help you figure out why it keeps toppling over if you’re having trouble figuring it out.

The process and rationale behind your tortoise’s flipping-over behavior and how to fix it will become immediately clear to you.

Put In A Stiffer Foundation

Your tortoise will be able to correct itself if you provide it with a solid object to press against. Although straws and other flimsy substrates are common, they are not suitable for a tortoise’s home.

The ideal material for a tortoise cage is hard, cloggy gravel or dirt. The substrate that is solid and distinct from a straw texture is now available from many various manufacturers, making it perfect for tortoise cages.

What Happens If Your Tortoise Stays Too Long On Its back?

The exact length of time a tortoise may remain on its back before it dies is unknown, but if you don’t help it get back on its feet, it can be lethal.

Your tortoise’s life is not in immediate danger, however. Changes that occur when a tortoise lays on its back includes:

Contorted Digestive Tract

When your tortoise is tipped over unexpectedly, this is more probable to happen. It’s possible to get this by lying flat on its back for too long.

Take your tortoise to the doctor immediately if you notice that it has stopped defecating or is becoming agitated after being rested on its back.

While this may not seem like a big deal at first, your tortoise may get thirsty if you don’t change its water dish often.

Because of the great size of the lungs, the insides of your tortoise will be pushed up against the roof of its carapace, causing it discomfort.

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Because of the stress and strain on their internal organs, they may feel compelled to throw up. If your tortoise breathes in its own vomit, it may develop respiratory issues and choke.

If your tortoise is unable to correct himself, it will become stressed both physically and emotionally.

Your tortoise may become sunburned and parched if they can’t correct themselves while they’re outdoors.

You shouldn’t worry too much about your tortoise being attacked by other creatures. But flies may and do produce eggs on and inside of an inverted tortoise.

As terrifying as these scenarios seem, be assured that your tortoise will be quite alright if you discover it on its back and correct it immediately.

Can Tortoises Turn Themselves Over?

Tortoises can, in fact, straighten themselves if they roll onto their backs. They can utilize both their heads and their feet for the purpose.

The form of their shells gives certain tortoises an advantage over others, and your tortoise’s wellness will have a big influence on how well they do.

There is no way the tortoise could have adjusted to living in the wild for such a lengthy period of time. The most noticeable evolutionary modification in tortoises is the dome of their shell, which aids them in righting themselves if they fall over on their backs.

A healthy tortoise is considerably more likely to be able to correct itself than an unhealthy one. How well your tortoise is able to correct itself depends much on the conditions in which it lives. A tortoise will struggle to turn over if the ground is too sloppy.

It takes a lot of good luck for a tortoise to right itself, and it’s not a given that it will. The proper environment, however, should make it easy for your tortoise.


Tortoises are at grave risk if they are allowed to spend extended periods of time on their backs. You can make your tortoise’s habitat a lot safer by following some simple guidelines.

Tortoise mortality from being on its back is quite uncommon, but it’s still important for us as pet parents to monitor this behavior.

Many tortoise owners are caught off guard by their pets’ lethargic movement, yet tortoises are really very curious and exploratory creatures.

In most circumstances, if our pet tortoise gets on its back, it doesn’t imply we’re bad pet caretakers. instead, it indicates that our tortoise is quite the explorer.

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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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