Is Your Turtle Opening Mouth Frequently? 5 Reasons To Know And When To Worry

Turtles are adorable creatures, and yet you can find their nature weird if you are new to these species.

One such behavior is – to keep their mouths open. While this is common for turtles, it could also indicate an underlying issue.

Since we don’t want pet turtle owners to have their mouths open on witnessing this, this article informs you of possible indications from your turtle opening mouth frequently, to save you from unnecessary anxiety.

There could be many reasons behind your turtle’s opening its mouth. They could be eating something, feeling hungry, angry for not having their private space, yawning casually, or even suffering from a respiratory problem. This becomes clear with good monitoring and experience as a pet owner, which we discuss here.

Reasons why Is your turtle opening mouth? 

Editor’s Note: One of the common symptoms that should ease you with such an opening of the mouth is when it is not taking place for a longer stretch of time. On the contrary, if there is any noise associated with this activity, besides longer duration, you should be alarmed.

Let’s dive into various reasons behind your turtle’s open mouth, as well as how serious of a concern it should be for you as a pet owner.

turtle opening mouth


You should know turtles to be opportunistic eaters. Even with an overweight body or despite a Sunday treat, they could still chomp more food if you were to provide them (which might prove to be unhealthy).

Some turtles mouth on anything they encounter on their way. These could be small objects invisible to your eyes, and their mouth movements might invite your concern.

Besides, turtles are intelligent. They register their feeders in their memory. And whenever you are around, they could be expecting some treat. This might make them rush to you and click their mouths, asking for the treat. At other times, they could swim to the aquarium top with the hope of expecting some food drop.

This indicates that – either your turtle has been pampered due to overfeeding or they are not well-fed, which is for the owners to be aware of. In either case, the only concern of the owner here should be to provide a well-balanced diet to the turtle.

Uncomfortable living conditions

As per the professionals, turtles also open their mouths due to uncomfortable living conditions. A few factors that contribute to this are:

  • Clean Water: Nothing is more essential than clean water. Often the water becomes clouded with food leftovers. Changing water could take 20-30 minutes every week, ensuring clean water for your turtle to swim in.
  • Congested Tank: It’s important for you to ensure that your turtle has enough space to swim and enjoy his habitat inside the tank. Turtles are not very social and often enjoy alone time. Experts suggest ensuring 10 gallons of fresh water space for each inch of your turtle’s shell. 
  • Improper Heat & Lighting: Make your turtle comfortable by ensuring him/her the appropriate heat. This includes the right water temperature in the tank, and the right temperature from the heating lamp in the basking dock. Appropriate lighting, for a proper duration, is also an essential factor.
  • No Basking dock: It’s essential to have a basking dock within your aquarium where turtles can come out to dry themselves and bask under the lamp heat (as an alternative to sunlight). This is necessary for your turtles on a daily basis.


You may often find these creatures stretching their mouth muscles to their full extent, which resembles yawning. This is for the purpose of taking more oxygen inside their lungs.

Just as humans yawn when tired, indicating a lack of sufficient oxygen in the brain, turtles yawn too. It indicates that your turtle is fatigued and is taking in more oxygen. At other times, they could be yawning just to gain flexibility for hunting or other reasons. Or, they could be regulating the body temperature by exhaling out heat from their mouths.

turtle opening mouth

Yawning helps turtles (or anyone) breathe better and isn’t a sign of concern. However, it becomes a concern, when they gasp too often.

Respiratory Infection

Having respiratory infections in the lungs causes turtles to open their mouths so that they can breathe properly. This is a critical factor which should be of great concern to pet owners. 

Respiratory infection is a serious underlying condition for the turtles, which is generally incurable. The earlier it is treated, the lesser your turtle has to face. The more it is delayed, the further it becomes permanent. Therefore, timely treatment of the infection is the best way to help your turtle.

Respiratory infections are generally caused due to bacterial attacks within your turtle’s lungs. This can be caused due to multiple reasons including dirty water.

Look for the following signs that are indicative of a respiratory infection – puffy eyes, white spots around the neck, lopsided swimming, etc. 

Additionally, if you note your turtle producing sounds like wheezing, snoring, frequent sneezing, whistling, gasping, etc. it is strongly indicative of an underlying respiratory infection.

Respiratory infection is a concerning factor requiring the utmost attention, which should be met with instant measures.

Warning Sign

Turtles are cute reptiles. But at times, mistaking their opening of mouth as cuteness, while they are expressing anger, could prove to be costly.

Generally, turtles are not the type of pets who like to be handled and cuddled a lot. Rather, this stresses them out. Even when they feel sick, caring for them from a distance would be a is the best option. If you find turtles opening their mouths and making an angry noise whenever you come closer to them, take their threat seriously. 

Turtles are not social creatures and mostly love spending time alone. They could also mark their territories with other creatures around them in the aquarium or outside. This makes it important to note their gestures and identify when they are reacting in aggression.

What To Do If Your Turtle Leaves Its Mouth Open?

After knowing the possible causes above, the immediate concern comes – what precautions to take if they are found to be keeping their mouth open, more than often.

While this may not be clear for beginners, let’s bring out the Sherlock Holmes inside you to get this better.

turtle opening mouth

Have a journal and start tracking. As you continue this, you will be able to locate a pattern, why, and when your turtle opens his/her mouth. Once you identify the pattern and track down the reason, you’ll be able to understand the degree of its seriousness and solve it as necessary.

A few common ways to ensure your turtle’s good health to avoid respiratory infections:

  1. Optimum Temperature: Arrange a water heater in the aquarium that will keep the water at the optimum temperature suited for your turtle (75 – 85 degrees Fahrenheit)
  2. Operating Dock: Fitting a good sized dock inside the aquarium, where turtles can dry themselves.
  3. Proper Lighting: Ensuring the availability of UVA & UVB lighting. UVA lighting helps turtles to dry their shells, and keep them warm. UV-B lighting is essential for providing them with Vitamin D3, both serving as substitutes for natural sunshine indoors.
  4. Clean & Filtered Water: It’s a must to ensure clean water inside the aquarium by regularly changing it. One of the ways to do this is by changing 25% of the water every week and performing a full cleaning once a month. Additionally, you can also add antibacterials inside water to kill harmful bacteria inside the water. Installing water filters inside the aquarium also helps in keeping the water clean and healthy.

When To See A Vet? 

If you lack sufficient experience as a turtle owner, you might be wondering when is the right time to take the turtle to a vet.

The best answer is – whenever you sense a threat to your little one’s health. But this could prove to be a costly affair for many newbies.

turtle opening mouth

The general sign to denote that your turtle is opening its mouth for serious reasons like respiratory illness is when:

  1. You find them opening mouths for most of the time.
  2. They’re gasping for air very frequently. Even during their sleep.
  3. You hear sounds when they are breathing or gasping.
  4. They’re lethargic, have puffy eyes, sneeze frequently, have nasal discharge, swim lop-sided, etc.

With such visible symptoms, taking your turtle to the vet shouldn’t be delayed even by a second. The vet would suggest some antibiotics – which are generally unavailable without a prescription.


Why does my turtle keep its mouth open?

This could be for multiple reasons and shouldn’t be concerning unless a respiratory infection.

Why does my turtle keep its mouth open?

A turtle could be gasping for air to derive more oxygen, which is normal. However, if this is frequent, and for longer durations, he needs a proper care and a professional vet.


Turtles are little reptiles with various astounding behaviors. One of them is keeping their mouths open. Due to limitations in expressing themselves, there could be multiple meanings behind this gesture. We’ve discussed various reasons that make a turtle behave in this manner so that our readers are prepared and not unnecessarily bothered. We’ve also discussed the actions that can be taken by turtle owners in order to deal with serious underlying causes such as respiratory infections.

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