If your turtle’s shell looks dry, it’s probably because one of these three reasons. And fortunately, they are all easy fixes!
Why Does My Turtle’s Shell Look Dry?
Let’s get straight to it.
If your turtle’s shell looks dry, it’s likely because one of three reasons: hard water mineral deposits, retained scutes, or unhealthy humidity levels. Luckily, they are all relatively easy to fix. Here’s how.
Let’s start with hard water mineral deposits.
Your Turtle’s Shell Is Dry From Hard Water Deposits
Hard water is essentially water with a relatively high content of dissolved calcium and magnesium. It is often found in the Western half of the United States, in states such as Texas, Oklahoma, Utah, and Nevada, but can be found in states all over the country. Despite what you might think, hard water is actually safe to drink for you and your turtle. In fact, some studies have shown that hard-chlorinated water can reduce plaque build-up in arteries.
Potential health benefits aside, hard water can ruin the aesthetic of your turtle’s shell. So, how do you know hard-water is the reason your turtle’s shell looks dry?
If your turtles shell is dry from hard-water, you’ll be able to see white residue on your turtle’s shell when it dries off. This is common after recent water changes. If you lightly brush the white residue, it should come off.
How to Fix Hard Water in Turtle Tank?
You can fix hard water with one of these steps below:
- Start putting mineral spring water in your tank OR
- Treat your water with a conditioner first. You can get this turtle water conditioner for $3 on Chewy.
In order to remove the chalky residue stuck on its shell, I recommend the following steps:
- Mix some apple cider vinegar (a few tablespoons) in a bowl with mineral spring water.
- Use an old toothbrush and lightly scrub your turtle’s shell.
- Let your turtle dry off completely, and then put it back into your aquarium.
I wrote a more in-depth article on hard-water and turtle shells if you want to learn more.
Your Turtle’s Shell Looks Dry From Retained Scutes
Retained scutes could be another reason for your turtle’s dry shell. A “scute” is just another part of your turtle’s shell. To the untrained eye, retained scutes can be tough to spot. However, if you know what to look for, you should be able to spot them right away.
As your turtle grows and sheds, the outer scute will fall off and be replaced by the underneath scute. Retained scutes are essentially scutes that refuse to fall off.
You can tell your turtle has retained scutes when parts of your turtle’s shell look very brittle. These areas will look like they will break or shatter when you press on them (but they probably won’t). They should have a white, clear color and you might be able to see your turtle’s healthy scutes underneath. Retained scutes usually occur due to improper nutrition or a faulty UV-light.
Whatever you do, don’t force your turtle’s scutes off! Even if they look really brittle and thin, if they refuse to budge, don’t force them off. This will end up causing more damage than just letting them be.
How To Fix Retained Scutes in Turtle?
Now, how do you fix retained scutes?
First of all, you need to be patient. It took a while for your turtle to develop its retained scutes, and it’s going to take a bit of time to get rid of them. Basically, you’ll need to make sure your turtle’s living environment and diet are adequate.
- Replace any old (older than 6 months to a year) UV bulbs. UV-bulbs lose their ability to produce UV rays quite fast. This is called the “rate of decay”. Without adequate UV, your turtle won’t be able to produce vitamin D3. Here are some of my favorite cheap UV bulbs.
- Make sure your basking spot is completely dry. A turtle that cannot 100% dry off its shell will most likely develop an unhealthy shell. Make sure you have a big basking platform.
- Make sure your turtle’s diet is on point. Ensure that your turtle is getting its needed nutrients almost every day. Make sure your are feeding your turtle plenty of vegetables. Greens, kale, red-leaf lettuce, cooked carrots, and sweet potatoes are all great vegetables you can feed your turtle.
- Start feeding your turtle wheat germ Koi pellets (click here to see the current price on Amazon) at least once a week. This will help speed up your turtle’s shedding process. Turtle owners use them specifically for this reason. They are totally safe and are full of nutrients and vitamins.
Turtle Shell Dry Due To A Lack of Humidity
If your turtle’s shell isn’t dry because of hard-water or retained scutes, it could be from the wrong temperature settings. In my experience, this happens more often with box turtles, but it can also happen to semi-aquatic species like sliders as well. As you probably already know, temperature is directly linked with your tank’s humidity. Humidity is one of the most overlooked aspects of proper turtle care.
If the humidity in your turtle’s habitat is at the wrong setting for a long period of time, it could pose health risks beyond a mere dry shell.
Best Humidity For Turtles?
Below is a chart containing the most popular pet turtle species (Red-eared Slider, Painted Turtle, and Box Turtle) and their required humidity setting. Make sure when you take the temperature that you also take the humidity setting as well. You can increase the humidity of your turtle tank by spraying the inside with room temperature water a couple times a day. You can decrease humidity in a turtle tank by lifting off the lid of your tank.
- If your turtle’s shell looks dry, it is most likely due to hard water mineral deposits, retained scutes, or unhealthy humidity levels.
- Make sure your UV-light bulb is up-to-date and always feed your turtle a nutritious, balanced diet.