Why Does Red Eared Slider Shed?

Why Does Red Eared Slider Shed

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

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If you own a red eared slider you may have seen its skin peeling off. It’s essential for red eared sliders to shed as it’s a procedure of their growth. You don’t have anything to worry about if they shed.

But excessive shedding is a problem. So, to assure your red eared slider’s health and natural growth you have to know about its shedding habit. This article will help you to gain insight into this shedding behavior of the red eared slider. Proper knowledge of your pet’s behavior is important to take care of its basic needs.

Why does red eared slider shed? Well, the skin of red eared slider shell sheds as a part of their growing process. It allows new and larger scutes to substitute the older ones.

Red eared sliders are a semi-aquatic animal. It’s their nature to grow by molting.  So if you are worried about its skin peeling, don’t be. Though it only goes for the regular shedding. If the turtle’s skin starts to peel off in an unnatural way then it may indicate a bacterial infection.

Why Does Red Eared Slider Shed?

In the case of turtles, there are two kinds of shedding of skin: the skin of the shell and the skin of other parts of the turtle’s body.

A turtles shell is basically a collection of bones. The shell is covered with scutes (a thin layer of epithelium). Scutes are scales. Their composition is almost the same as that of fingernails. Their function is to protect the inner bone of the shell. As the turtle grows the inner bone forms a new layer of scutes beneath the older one. As the new scutes expand, that of older ones starts to tear to make way for fresh ones.

In the case of most turtles and tortoises, the scutes don’t tear or shred. They became the layer over the fresh one. Eventually, it thickens the shell. But in some species of water turtle, the case is different. Genus Trachemys turtles are among those who shade and don’t keep the skin intact with the body after the arrival of new skin.

What happens in the case of other species is that their skin grows over the older one. But the animals of this genus grow their new skin under the older ones. Red eared sliders are a member of genus Trachemys. Shedding is a normal part of their growth. They shed the outer layer of scutes annually so as not to accumulate more and more scutes.

If the scutes don’t shed when a new layer is formed then it adds to the layer of the shell. It makes the shell heavier. It makes it hard for the turtle to swim underwater. To make the action of swimming easier the process of shedding occurs naturally.

Though the shedding of skin on turtle’s shell is normal, the same kind of shedding of skin of other parts of the turtle’s body is not.

The shedding may occur during the growth of the whole body. The turtle doesn’t have elastic skin like a human. So when the body grows it forms new skin along with it. The newer skin causes the older skin layer to shed.

Red eared slider normally sheds once a year. But multiple shedding isn’t unusual among them. The frequency of the shedding tends to slow down as the turtle grows in size.

From here it can be said that shedding is an effect of growth. Or it can also be said as the way of letting the body grow with fresh skin.

But not all kinds of shedding is natural in appreciated ways. Some detrimental issues can trigger shedding in the red eared slider.

How Does Red Eared Sliders Shed?

A red eared slider goes through the process of shedding as an effect of its growth. Regular shedding is a sign of a healthy turtle. Given the proper environment, it will shed once every year.

Before the process of shedding begins the skin of the red eared slider may take a hazy look. It is the old skin separating from the body. Unlike other reptiles, the skin of the red eared slider doesn’t peel off all at once. It sheds bit by bit, scute by scute.

Small bits of tissue disconnect from the body and get completely separated. If you notice a turtle during its shedding period you may see it leaving small bits of tissues behind as it swims.

But never try to pull off the molt on the turtle’s body as it may not be separated properly. Let the skin peel off in its natural course.

An important thing to remember is to clean the left behind skin of the turtle after shedding. It can bear bacteria and it will obviously add to the filth in your tank. It’s easy to forget to clean the left out skin as it happens only once a year. So do keep it in mind because it’s important to keep the turtle’s environment clean.

But the shedding isn’t the same for the infected or ill turtles. If the shedding is not the part of the turtles growing process then it is likely to come off not in scutes but in small bits. Even if they shed by scutes they tend to be thicker. Look at the skin after they have come off (again, do not force it to peel the skin off). The shedding skin of the turtle should be thin and they are supposed to be translucent.

This kind of skin shedding may be the result of fungal or bacterial attack. So do look after that. Try to clean off any algae on the turtle’s shell. Be as delicate and gentle as possible.

Your turtle will shed only once a year. So it’s no toil observing she shedding closely to determine whether your turtle is sick or not.

Assisting Your Red Eared Slider To Shed

By now you probably know how important it is for a red eared slider to shed. It’s the most essential part of its life when it comes to growth.

As in nature, red eared slider will complete the whole shedding process by itself. Depending on the condition of the environment it will take its time to complete the shedding progression. But if you want to make sure of the efficiency of its growth you can help your red eared slider in the process. You can keep these things in mind when your red eared slider begins to shed.

  1. Red eared slider will not only shed in the water. It will need both the dampness of the water and the heat of basking. So make sure your turtle has the access to both the water and the basking light. See if it’s not in the water all the time because if it stays in the water with its molted skin it will rot. Rotten skin will cause severe damage to the turtle.
  2. Maintain the temperature of the water and the basking spot. Keep the water ph level to normal.
  3. Keep the tank clean. You don’t want your turtle’s new skin to be exposed to dirt.

These simple steps will help your red eared slider to shed more effectively and without any risk of damage. After shedding if you see your turtle eating the leftovers of its skin then don’t worry, it edible to them.

Abnormal Shedding:

Shedding is a normal natural part of a turtle’s life. It’s something that is very much necessary for its growth. The normal routine of shedding of a red eared slider is once a year.

Red eared slider sheds the skin of its shell as well as other parts of its body to assist in growth. But its normal shedding is limited to once a year. If the shedding becomes more frequent than usual then it may indicate to diseases or abnormality of the turtle.

Abnormal shedding is very much harmful to turtles. It makes the turtle exposed and vulnerable to more diseases and illnesses. Also, abnormal shedding can be a sign of bacterial infection. Such problems can cause permanent damage to the shell.

Abnormal shedding can occur for various reasons.

  1. Overfeeding can lead to excessive shedding of skin. It can result in rapid growth that causes skins to shed more often than usual.
  2. External injuries by anything hard can cause the sensitive tissue of the turtle’s skin to peel off. The turtle’s skin is very much sensitive and fragile. Any kind of hard or soft blow can cause unusual shedding.
  3. If the basking area is too hot then it can cause severe damage to the turtle. And the first damage attacks its skin.
  4. Bacterial and fungal infection can cause the skin of shell or of any part of its body to shed.
  5. The condition of the water impacts greatly on the turtle. The health and growth of a turtle depend on the water it lives in. If the water consists of a high level of ammonia then it can cause many problems. Irregular shedding is one of the consequences.

These problems are very serious. It can cause the turtle to suffer for a long time and can even lead the turtle toward death. So to ensure a good health and proper growth of the turtle it is necessary to fix these problems.

You never want your red eared slider to go through these situations because the consequences are unbearable. To ensure your turtles well being you have to:

  1. Make sure it isn’t exposed to anything hard or sharp. No sharp rock or any such object should be within the reach of its inhabitant.
  2. Maintain the water temperature to normal. And check if the basking spot is too hot. For grown-up red eared sliders, the water temperature should be between 26 to 28 degrees Celsius. Keep the basking spot 23 to 25 degrees Celsius. This is the ideal condition for a turtle’s inhabitant.
  3. If your red eared slider is shedding in irregular pattern then change the water immediately. As bad water has detrimental effect on the turtle, change it to meet the turtle’s need. Use distilled water if possible. Try to avoid putting the turtle in hard water. It causes damage to the turtle every way possible.
  4. Use filter to keep the water clean.
  5. Maintain the correct diet for the turtle.
  6. If the turtle catches bacteria then clean the shell with delicacy. Use a soft brush to clean the rotten part of the shell. Take a bowl of lukewarm water and dip a soft-bristled brush in it. Then slowly brush the surface of the shell. Be careful while brushing the skin of other parts of the body.
  7. Consult a veteran if the condition seems severe. They may give antibiotics. Use those as prescribed.

You can use these methods to help your turtle to make it through the stage of unusual shedding. But even after taking care of the damage it has already gone through there is still the chance of it being the victim of the same problem. It increases the risk of a turtle’s life.

Prevention is better than cure. It always is. As the problem decreases the quality of the shell, the best is to prevent it from happening again. What can one do to prevent this from happening? There are certain measures that you can take. You should consider these small yet very much important things for a turtle’s wellbeing.

What you should focus on at first is the quality of the water your turtle lives in. You should take care of it from the very start. Make sure the water is clean and suitable for your turtle. Check the basking spot. Make sure the turtle is living in an appropriate environment. This is the most important thing to do to ensure your turtle’s growth and health.         


Seeing your turtle grow can be satisfying. It lets you know that you are taking care of it properly and providing it with the things it needs. You were maybe worried why does red eared slider shed? But now you know there is nothing to worry about.

Even if the shedding is the effect of something detrimental, now you know how to handle it. So keep your red eared slider safe with you and watch it grow.



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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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