Pet Turtle Diarrhea

A common health issue for pet turtles is the unfortunate case of diarrhea. It can be the indication of a more serious health issue and can cause quite the mess. As soon as you recognize the issue you should have it treated as soon as possible. In this article, I will discuss the causes of pet turtle diarrhea, how to diagnose the issue, and most importantly, treatments for the problem.

Pet Turtle Diarrhea

Diarrhea in turtles can be caused by improper diet, a bacterial infection, or parasites. Luckily, most cases of diarrhea in turtles are treatable.

Below I will review some of the main causes of diarrheia, and then explain how to treat it.


The most common cause is usually related to an improper diet. You should never feed your pet turtle processed foods that are not specifically designed for turtles. Feeding your turtle food high in sugar, such as fruit, can also cause digestive issues leading to diarrhea.

I go into great detail here on the specifics of a turtle diet. You can read through my diet recommendations and feeding frequency recommendations. 

Turtles will often eat as much food as you give them as they are opportunistic eaters. So make sure you are not overfeeding! Your turtle’s digestive system will struggle to digest food if they consume to much in a small amount of time.

Lastly, if you have an aquatic turtle, you should feed them in the water as this helps them digest their food.

Bacterial infection

Another root cause could be a bacterial infection. To identify a bacterial you should keep an eye out for other symptoms which include shell rot and respiratory problems. Another indicator is if the coloring is green and watery. 

You can help prevent bacterial infections by regularly cleaning your turtle’s tank, and ensuring they have a good basking spot.


Another common cause of diarrhea in turtles is parasites. This includes ticks, mites, or worms. The best way to identify the issue is to closely identify their shell and look closely for any abnormal spots that may be parasites (this is only identifiable if they are external parasites).

Additionally, you will notice your turtle not eating as much and experiencing weight loss and a decrease in energy level. This is the most concerning diagnosis and you will need the help of a vet to identify the root cause and to prescribe a treatment. 

What to do if your turtle has diarrhea?

The treatment of your turtle’s diarrhea will depend on what’s causing it.

Make sure your turtle’s diet is appropriate and that they haven’t eaten anything abnormal (this includes processed foods as well as plastic plants or other aquarium decor). You should also make sure that they aren’t eating any of the substrate in the tank.

You should also avoid making changes to your turtle’s diet abruptly. If you want to switch them over to a new food, slowly introduce it into their diet, instead of switching all at once. It’s also important that you check for other signs that your turtle is sick.

If your turtle’s diarrhea is caused by bacterial infections or parasites, you should do a thorough clean of your tank. Going forward, you should also do regular water changes. Also make sure that your turtle has an area in their tank where they can dry off and bask with a light.

Lastly, make sure that your turtle tank has a strong filter.

If your turtle still doesn’t get better, you should discuss it with a vet. The vet can take a stool sample and help determine if the cause is due to a bacterial infection or parasites

What does turtle diarrhea look like?

A healthy turtle will have firm fecal matter that is mostly black and brown. They are well formed and look like pellets.

In contrast, turtle diarrhea will be runny, may contain undigested food, and may have a greenish tint. Also, if your turtle’s diarrhea is caused by parasites, it might have some blood in it.

If it appears to be attached to your turtle’s tail, it could be prolapse.

How do I know if my turtle has parasites?

If the parasites are external, you can often see them on your turtle’s skin. However, even if you can’t see them, it doesn’t mean that they are not there. A potential sign is if the feces is green and runny. However, the way to confirm for sure is to have your vet perform a stool sample. 

What causes a bacterial infection in turtles?

A bacterial infection can be caused by exposing your turtle to contaminated water. This includes old, untreated water, and even water where many turtles are living in close quarters with other turtles. Make sure you are cleaning the water regularly and closely monitoring the temperature and humidity levels of the tank.

In both the case of a bacterial infection or parasite infection, a vet will probably prescribe antibiotics or anti-parasitic medication.

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