Red eared Slider Shell Rot – Signs, Causes, & Treatment

Red-eared sliders are friendly creatures and are known for their adaptability and resilience. Although, this does not make them immune to common illnesses such as shell rot. This article will provide a complete guide on why shell rot occurs and how to prevent and treat it.

Shell rot is a common illness in red-eared turtles. It occurs when a turtle’s shell gets soft and slowly crumbles. This illness generally happens because red-eared turtles are part of aquatic life and are around or in the water regularly. There are different types of shell rots, and they are hard to notice in the early stages.

What Is Shell Rot and How Do They Look Like on Red-Eared Sliders?

red eared slider shell rot

Red-eared sliders are easily susceptible to shell rot and shell peeling as well as they are aquatic creatures. Shell rot is a bacterial or fungal infection that slowly softens the shell of your pet slider. If a red-eared slider has a shell rot, its carapace will become discolored and eventually begin to deform. If you notice these signs, you should visit an experienced vet immediately, as shell rot can even cause death.

Shell rot is caused due to various factors, such as poor water quality, an unbalanced diet, or injuries to the shell. The decoloration can create white, green, or mold markings on your red-eared slider’s shell. If you do not treat a shell rot in time, the infection will spread and cause various health problems for your pet. Here are two types of shell rot to look out for.

Dry Rot

red-eared slider dry rot shell

Dry rots can cause decoloration in red-eared sliders. Your pet’s shell will develop a light color with a white and tan hue. You can quickly notice dry rot as it causes your pet’s shell to crumble and break. The crackling and crumbling of the shell make it weak and more susceptible to infections. It is essential to take them to a vet if their shell has started deteriorating, as it can be tough to repair.

Wet Rot

red-eared slider wet shell rot

Wet rots are more dangerous than dry rots and should be taken very seriously. If a red-eared slider has wet rot the shell will have a foul smell and be critically infected. You can also notice a yellowish-white discharge on the shell, making it easy to identify. Young red-eared sliders are more susceptible to wet rots as their shell is still soft and can easily be infected. If you notice this occurring, take them to a vet immediately.

Editor’s Note
You should provide your red-eared sliders with clean water and a healthy environment to prevent shell rot from occurring.

Signs of Shell Rot in Red-Eared Sliders

Shell rot is a common illness in pet turtles and is caused due to various reasons. If you own a red-eared slider, it is essential to keep an eye out for shell rot in your pet. Here are five signs that your red-eared slider has shell rot.

Discoloration or Softness in the Shell

red-eared slider shell discoloration

One of the signs of shell rot in red-eared sliders is softness or discoloration. If your pet slider has a white or moldy green discoloration on its shell, it indicates they have gotten a fungal infection. 

If you do not stop this infection in time, it will start to soften the shell and make it spongy. In the case of dry rot, your pet’s shell will crumble and slowly deform. If you notice this decoloration or softness occurring, consult your nearest vet and stop the infection in time. Doing so can even help save your pet’s life.

Foul Odor

Another noticeable sign of shell rot is a foul odor from your slider’s shell. Any unpleasant smell from your red-eared slider means they have caught a bacterial or fungal infection. This smell is followed by a yellowish-white discharge liquid oozing from the pet’s shell.

If you see any discharge coming from your pet’s shell, it is evident that something is wrong, and they need immediate help.

Loss of Appetite

Like any other illness, shell rot also causes a loss in appetite in your red-eared sliders. If you notice that your pet has suddenly stopped eating or not pooping as usual or barely eats any food, it can be a sign of shell rot. 

Shell rot can cause a lot of pain and discomfort, which can cause a loss of appetite. Provide your pet with additional care and ensure they are not losing much weight. Losing weight rapidly can lead to malnourishment and make them more susceptible to infections. Shell rot can even affect a turtle’s ability to regulate its body temperature and should be treated immediately.

Lethargic Behavior

lethargic red-eared slider

If a red-eared slider has shell rot, it will move around sluggishly and inactive. Lethargic behavior is another sign of shell rot in your pet sliders. Due to the illness, they will hardly eat food and will not have a lot of energy. They might also feel pain and discomfort and will rarely go for their daily swims.

You will be able to notice this behavior quickly, as red-eared sliders are active and curious creatures. A sudden loss in activity is a common sign that they have developed an infection.

Visible Wounds

red-eared slider wound

If your red-eared slider has recently been injured or has an open wound, they are more likely to conceive shell rot. Check for any signs of cracks, the softness of the shell, or discoloration to provide immediate treatment if necessary. Open sores or visible wounds mean that shell rot has started to get infected and needs immediate treatment.

Causes of Shell Rot in Red-Eared Sliders

red-eared slider tank with dirty water

Now that we have learned how to identify a shell rot in red-eared sliders, let’s discuss what causes it. Various factors can make your pet’s shell rot. If you have a pet slider, you should know about these factors to avoid them. Here are five causes of shell rot in red-eared sliders.

Poor Water Quality

Poor water quality inside the enclosure is the primary cause of shell rot in red-eared sliders. Red-eared sliders are aquatic animals and spend most of their time in or around water. Poor water quality can easily contaminate the environment inside the tank and become a potent zone for bacteria to breed in. You should also be extra careful if your pet turtle is injured, as the wound can easily be infected in such an unhealthy environment. 

Ensure you provide your red-eared slider with a healthy and clean environment and change the water inside the tank. High ammonia, nitrates, and nitrites can build inside the tank and cause irritation, eventually developing into shell rot.

Poor Diet

A poor diet can easily lead to shell rot in red-eared sliders. An unbalanced diet can weaken a turtle’s immune system and make them more prone to infections. A diet deficient in calcium can weaken the shell of your red-eared slider. You should also not give your pet slider a lot of protein as it can quickly build up harmful bacteria.

Inadequate UV Lighting

Red-eared sliders heavily rely on the environment for temperature regulation. Inadequate UVB lighting can weaken your pet’s shell and cause medical illnesses such as MBD. Metabolic bone disease can weaken the shell and make it more prone to infections. This can eventually lead to shell rot.

Trauma or Injury

Another cause of shell rot in red-eared sliders is trauma or injury. Your pet slider can suffer injuries due to many reasons. It could be due to rough handling or fights with other tank mates. You should always avoid overcrowding inside the same enclosure as it can lead to aggression within your pets. These physical injuries will make your pet susceptible to infections such as shell rot.


If your red-eared sliders have parasites, they will be more prone to get shell rot. Different kind of parasites can pitch their tents on your pet’s shell. These parasites will then create an opening around the shell, making it easier for bacteria to dwell in.  The bacteria will then cause infection and decay on your slider’s shell, eventually leading to shell rot.

How to Treat Shell Rot in Red-eared Slider?

If you have noticed signs of shell rot, you should know how to treat it, as it can be fatal for your turtle. Here are some ways to treat shell rot in red-eared sliders.

Improve Water Quality

red-eared slider tank with clean water

Providing clean and healthy water should be your primary step to stop shell rot in red-eared sliders. You should always make sure that your pet gets a safe and comfortable environment to live in. Improving water quality will help treat the shell rot and avoid further contamination. Make sure you clean the tank regularly and provide your red-eared slider with clean water to swim in.

Ensure the water is well-filtered and there is no ammonia or nitrate buildup. You should also check if the water has the proper PH levels and that there are no harmful chemicals or bacteria.

Cleaning the Shell

owner cleaning pet red-eared slider shell with toothbrush

If you have detected a shell rot on your pet, clean it gently with warm water. You can gently crease the infected area with a scrub or a toothbrush. You can also mix some povidone-iodine or betadine inside the water to cleanse the area thoroughly. This will help treat the shell rot and kill the bacteria infestation on the shell.

After cleaning the area thoroughly, pour some warm water and pat it dry with a clean towel. You should do it regularly to get rid of the infection quickly. If the shell rot continues to persist, see a vet immediately.

Apply Antibiotic Ointments

After cleaning a shell, you can apply an antibiotic ointment to prevent bacteria from building up again and again. You can use various off-the-counter antibiotic ointments or betadine to prevent the infection from spreading. Apply a thin layer of medicine and cover it up with a clean gauze pad. This will help treat the infection and provide relief to your pet.

Editor’s Note
You should always be gentle while applying antibiotic ointments and wash your hands before and after the procedure.

Monitor the Turtle’s Progress

Keep a constant eye out for any further infections or deformations. If the shell is healing fine, you have successfully treated shell rot in your pet slider. If you continue to see decoloration or yellowish-white liquid oozing out, the infection has not stopped, and you need to consult a vet immediately.

How to Prevent Shell Rot in Red-eared Sliders?

Shell rot can prove to be fatal for your red-eared sliders. You should know how to prevent it first to avoid going through the treatment procedure. Here are some ways to prevent shell rot in red-eared sliders.

Maintain Clean Water

You should always maintain the cleanliness of water to provide a safe and healthy environment for your pet turtle. Red-eared sliders spend most of their time in water and can produce much waste. This can lead to a high level of ammonia and nitrate levels inside the tank, making it perfect for bacteria to breed in. You should always clean the tank regularly and provide filtered water free of harmful chemicals.

Well-balanced Diet

Provide your pet slider with a well-balanced and nutritious diet to promote a stronger immune system. This will make your pet slider less susceptible to infections and prevent shell rot from occurring. 

Offer your red-eared slider with vegetables, fruits, and pellets to give them all the essential nutrients required. You can also treat them with crickets from time to time, but they should only be given as occasional treats as they are rich in protein. Gut-loading these crickets with calcium powder will also help avoid serious illnesses like MBD.

Avoid Overcrowding

Overcrowding is one of the major causes of physical trauma in red-eared sliders. If you overcrowd a tank, pet sliders might fight each other to attain dominance, leading to open wounds and, eventually, infections. Ensure your red-eared slider gets a clean and safe tank to live in.


Does shell rot go away in red-eared sliders?

No, shell rot will not go away on its own and requires proper treatment. If you ignore the infection it might spread further and prove to be fatal for your pet’s health. Shell rot requires over two weeks to completely heal after starting treatment.

How do you know if a red-eared slider has shell rot?

Shell rot has various visible signs such as discoloration and deformation of the shell. If your pet’s shell has started to look a bit pale or soft it might have developed an infection. White or dark moldy spots is another sign of shell rot in red-eared sliders.

Final Thoughts

Shell rot is a serious infection that your pet slider might develop. You should always provide your red-eared slider with clean water, a well-balanced diet, and essential UVB lighting to avoid this from occurring. Make sure your pet is getting a safe environment and prevent overcrowding of the enclosure.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *