Turtle Shedding Skin – Why They Do It?

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turtle shedding skin

Shedding for a turtle’s skin is an important method for them to accommodate their new, larger physique.

The first thing that we need to understand is that turtles are reptiles. And all reptiles will shed their skin at one time or another. The difference is that turtles will shed their skin in small and fine quantities and it’s difficult to see them actually shedding.

While turtles start to grow the skin will thin and eventually the turtle will start to lose pieces of skin. This is completely normal and there’s no need to worry.

Some turtles will shed all of their skin at once and it can look pretty scary. But after a few days, you’ll see a brand new turtle with a fresh coat of skin. And they’ll be ready to take on the world again.

RELATED READ: Turtle Shell Peeling

Why Is My Turtle Shedding Skin?

A turtle’s natural inclination is to shed its skin in order to allow growth. However, poor tank conditions and different types of diseases may also cause your turtle to lose its skin.

If you’re concerned about your turtle’s shedding process, the best thing you can do is take a look at its skin. If the skin looks healthy and there are no signs of illness, then you can assume that the shedding is simply a natural process.

If the skin looks unhealthy and the skin peeling is excessive, you should take your turtle to the vet for a check-up.

RELATED READ: Turtle Shell Care

Things You Can Do When Turtle Skin Is Shedding

Things You Can Do When Turtle Skin Is Shedding

You may simply brush the skin with a soft toothbrush or cloth.

Never try to remove skin that isn’t ready to shed away. This can result in damage and bleeding and removal of too much tissue may leave the skin susceptible to infection. If your turtle’s skin isn’t coming off properly, its diet might be the issue.

Other things you can do to help your turtle have an easier skin shedding process is to have clean water with the correct pH levels, a healthy and varied diet with supplements that his missing, and the right basking area temperatures.

How To Help A Turtle With Shedding Skin?

Normally this is a process that the turtle can handle alone since the amount of skin shedding will be very small. However, if the shedding is excessive you will start to see large clumps or strands of hair-like skin hanging from them.

RELATED READ: How To Clean A Turtle Shell

How Often Do Turtles Shed Skin?

Turtles shed their skin once every two to three months. Because they spend the majority of their lives in water, they are prone to infection by parasites. This is why they must regularly shed in order to stay healthy.

When turtles emerge from hibernation, they lose their skins frequently.

RELATED READ: White Film Over Turtles Eyes

Signs Of Healthy and Unhealthy Skin Peeling

A healthy turtle will shed skin once it starts growing which is an indication of healthy skin. The turtle’s body grows and the skin once in a while will try and keep up with its new size thus making the turtle shed.

Some turtles, for example, bite at their legs and peel off the white skin and ingest little pieces of it as a normal shedding process.

An unhealthy skin shedding is indicated by how many times it happens in a period of time. If the turtle skin excessively peels in a short amount of time, it’s an indication of unhealthy skin shedding.

Here is a list of causes for when a turtle can excessively shed its skin:

  • Overfeeding
  • High water temperatures
  • Poor water quality
  • A skin condition
  • Infection throughout its body

RELATED READ: How Much Water Should Be In A Turtle Tank?

Turtle Shell Shedding

Besides shedding its skin the turtle is also able to shed its shell, which is unique amongst reptiles.

The turtles’ shells will grow normally until they reach a juvenile stage, at which point the keratin layer will peel off in a thin layer as the turtles mature and get older. This is basically shell peeling and it’s completely normal for a turtle.

The most usual reason for a turtle’s shell to peel is because of natural wear and tear, but it may also be a defensive strategy in order to ward off off-shell rot or other turtle illnesses.

RELATED READ: Can A Turtle Shell Repair Itself?

Skin Shedding Or Skin Fungus?

Red-eared slider white skin
Red-eared slider white skin

There are a few skin fungus conditions that may cause a turtle to lose its skin which may look like skin shedding for an untrained eye. If you’re not sure what the shedding skin looks like, it’s best to bring your turtle to the vet for a check-up.

A fungal infection will cause the skin to thicken and harden. As the infection progresses, the skin will start to crack and bleed. In severe cases, the fungus can cause the skin to slough off in large chunks.

This is an uncommon problem, but it can happen. If left unchecked, this condition may enter the circulation and become septicemic, resulting in organ failure.

The following are some of the treatments that individuals have followed and recommended for treating shell and skin issues, which has given excellent outcomes. You’re seeking signs of healing while treating, and this might take a few days before you notice any difference.

Here are some steps to help aid in the treatment of skin fungus:

  1. Use a strong, undiluted betadine, iodine, or Nolvasan solution to clean the infected areas completely. Allow the turtle to air dry in a warm place for about 45 minutes.
  2. Apply a thick layer of Silvadene lotion. Make an effort to target the area where the infection is most intense. Alternatively, Neosporin is a good option.
  3. For 18-20 hours each day, leave the turtle dry and warm.
  4. The next day, clean the affected area with one of the previously mentioned solutions.
  5. Place them in fresh, clean water. Allow them to swim, drink, and eat for about an hour.
  6. Repeat the procedure from step 1.

This treatment should show you improvements within a week to 10 days.

RELATED READ: How to Make Tap Water Safe for Turtles?

Types Of Turtles That Peel Their Skins

There are several turtles that shed their skin, but we’ll list on the most well-known and common kinds of turtles:

  • Diamondback terrapins
  • Map turtles
  • Musk turtles
  • Mud turtles
  • Red-eared sliders
  • Yellow-bellied slider
  • Painted turtle (all 4 sub-species)

RELATED READ: Turtles For Beginners


Turtles shed their skin for a variety of reasons, but the main reason is that they have to keep up with growth spurts.

Healthy turtles will shed once every so often and this is an indication of healthy skin.

Some turtles may also bite pieces off as part of their regular shedding process; however, if there are signs of unhealthy shedding it’s best to bring your turtle to the vet.