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Keeping Algae

off the Shell

of Turtles

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What should I do about Algae on my Turtle's back?

You may discover that the shell of your water turtle has
green or brown algae growing on it. This is fairly normal,
even in the wild, but large amounts of algae on your
turtle's shell can lead to shell infections and a condition
called Shell Rot. So, especially if your turtle has had
shell infections before, it is very important to deal with
it regularly.

The simplest thing to do about small amounts of shell algae
is to get an old toothbrush and clean, warm water. Simply
hold the turtle under warm running water (not its head, just
the shell) and brush the algae off the shell. You don't have
to brush it spotless, just make sure it is clean enough for
you to check the shell for infection.

If you see that your turtle's shell is flaking off in small
bits, it is simply shedding, which is a normal process, and
you can usually simply brush the shell a bit to help. In
more troublesome cases you might talk to your vet about
giving your pet a sulpha bath. But, if the shell, once you
clean it, has soft spots and/or has spots on its shell that
smell rancid, your turtle has Shell Rot and needs help
immediately! This disease can be caused by either fungus or
bacteria, and if not treated can lead also to other

If you are an experienced turtle keeper you no doubt know
how to treat this yourself, but if you don't, and the area
of infection is large or your turtle is acting sick, please
take the turtle to a reptile vet immediately. If the spot or
spots are small, you can treat it yourself. Clean the area
and apply triple antibiotic and a bandage. Keep the turtle
out of the water except for eating and one daily soaking to
prevent dehydration; checking, cleaning, and disinfecting
the wounds after each soaking. If healing doesn't begin
right away, you might need to try a fungicide sold at your
pet store for aquarium fish. You should also be sure to keep
your turtle's living area as spotlessly clean as possible,
and change the water as soon as it is dirtied, at least
daily. If, after two weeks, your turtle's shell still has
white spots that don't appear to be healing, please take it
to the veterinarian.

If algae growth is a continual problem and your turtle is
housed indoors, you should research the temperature needs of
your turtle's species, as well as the humidity levels
required. You should definitely also check the water
quality, as that is said to be one of the primary causes of
excess algae growth on turtles.

If there is a small amount of algae growing on the tank and
its inanimate contents that is fine. In fact, the algae help
keep the water cleaner. But an overgrowth indicates a
problem. Algae need sunlight and nutrients to grow, so make
sure you aren't providing too much of either of those. Also,
providing good filtration and keeping the water moving will
help keep algae from settling down to grow on your turtle.
Don't use chemicals that are sold to kill algae, even the
ones from the pet store, they may also kill your turtle, but
a pinch of salt added to the water every couple of weeks has
been recommended to help.

Also, there are different types of algae. For a general
rule, if the algae growth is long, stringy and slimy, it is
a sign of a problem; you need to improve the filtration and
change the water more often. If the algae growth is green
and looks carpet-like, it is not so bad, but you should
still watch for and prevent overgrowth. Giving your turtles
some time daily in real sunlight or at least under a light
designed to approximate sunlight, and making sure the
temperatures are the best for the species is a great preventative.

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