How To Know If Your Turtle Is Happy? 8 Signs Of A Happy Turtle

Oct 28, 2021

How To Know If Your Turtle Is Happy?

Turtles aren’t that expressive. They don’t show their emotions very often. But, though they aren’t as articulate as dogs and cats, they still show some subtle signs when they have to express themselves. 

Turtles have personality. So, every turtle has its own way of expressing happiness. Some may be active, while some may be docile. But there are still tell-tale signs to know a happy turtle from an unhappy one.

How To Know If Your Turtle Is Happy?

A happy turtle will show signs like begging for food, splashing the water, basking regularly, hunting and eating readily, being comfortable with handling, and being out and about. But, most importantly, a healthy turtle is a happy turtle.

Signs Of A Happy Turtle

  • Happy turtles beg for food
  • Happy turtles splash water when you are around
  • Happy turtles are comfortable with handling
  • Happy turtles eat regularly
  • Happy turtles hunt
  • A healthy turtle is a happy turtle
  • Happy turtles love basking
  • Happy turtles dig
  • Happy turtles go on an adventure

Happy Turtles Beg For Food

Happy turtles are always ready to eat when there’s favorite food is around. When they notice you walk towards them, they will beg for food like dogs. Some turtles are even found chirping like birds while begging. 

A turtle that isn’t excited to eat is a sign of an unhappy turtle. Something’s bugging it. There could be several factors like incorrect water parameters, or perhaps that particular food isn’t your turtle’s favorite.

Babies and juvenile turtles are the ones that beg the most. Adult turtles, on the other hand, are shy and can go without eating for days. So, it doesn’t always mean that a turtle that doesn’t beg for food is unhappy.

You Might Also Like To Read:

What Does A Turtle Look Like Without A Shell? It’s Surprising!

Can Turtles Eat Spinach? Spinach Have Oxalates!

Why Is My Turtle Stretching Its Neck: EXPLAINED!

Happy Turtles Splash Water When You Are Around.

Sometimes, turtles splash water when you are about to feed them. This is done mainly by happy turtles. They are conditioned to believe that you are the food source, and they are just reacting to it. 

Happy Turtles Are Comfortable With Handling.

Turtles are shy pets. They immediately retract into their shell when they sense danger. So, if your turtle isn’t retracting when you handle it, this means that it is happy and comfortable with you around.

Usually, new turtles aren’t comfortable with handling. But, over time, the turtle will know that you mean no harm, and it will get acquainted with your touch. 

Happy Turtles Eat Regularly.

Happy turtles eat regularly. They will leave little to no leftovers in the tank. Especially, babies and juvenile turtles are voracious and will consume greedily.

Happy Turtles Hunt. 

You need to check how your turtle reacts whenever you put live food like bloodworms, feeder fish, crustaceans, or worms. A happy turtle will go after the prey and hunt it down. 

This means that they are active and happy to hunt for food, just like in the wild. 

A Healthy Turtle Is A Happy Turtle.

It is no exaggeration that a healthy turtle is a happy turtle. A healthy turtle has clear eyes, no mucus discharge, and has easy breathing. 

It will be eating regularly and growing normally. Next, look for the relative size differences between the turtle’s head and the shell. A healthy turtle’s head will be in proportion to its shell. 

Shells tell a lot about a turtle’s health. Check for signs of pyramiding, a disorder that causes a turtle’s scutes to rise in a pyramid-like shape. This is the result of excess protein in their diet. So, a healthy turtle has flat scutes on its shell.

Also, check for algae growth on their shell. This happens when your turtle isn’t active, causing the deposition of algae on its shell. In most cases, a healthy turtle will not have algae growing on its shell. 

Happy Turtles Love Basking

Turtles need vitamin D. They can only obtain it through the UV rays. This vitamin permits your turtles to metabolize the calcium present in their body – thus, strengthening bones and shells. 

So, a happy turtle will bask under the UV lights. Then, it will stretch its legs and necks to increase the surface area to get the maximum amount of UV rays. 

Happy Turtles Dig

Turtles dig when they are in their best element. So you can bury food like worms under the substrate and let your turtle forage it.

Turtles do not have nostrils, but they have barbels, a bump under their chin – which helps them pick up scents. If your turtle is healthy and happy, it will dig and eat the buried food. 

Happy Turtles Go On An Adventure

A happy turtle is always up for an adventure. Turtles like red-eared sliders like to dive in deep and show their swimming prowess. They will swim between the plants and other decorations present in the tank. 

Turtles also like to find hiding places where they can rest while sleeping inside the water. 

When kept outdoors, your turtle will roam around every nook and corner. As it grows, it will need more area to meander. 

How Do You Know If A Turtle Is Unhappy?

There are several signs to know if your turtle is unhappy. Here are some of them.

  • Lack of movement
  • Loss of appetite
  • A diseased turtle
  • They make noises

Lack Of Movement

Lack of mobility is often shown by turtles that aren’t happy. It could be due to their health complications or wrong water parameters. The introduction of a new diet could also result in an unhappy turtle, making it sluggish.

However, age can also be a factor behind decreased mobility in turtles. Babies and juvenile turtles are most active, and as they grow older, they will conserve energy and bask all day.

Loss of Appetite

Unhappy turtles won’t eat even if you approach them with their favorite snacks. They will not bother hunting or foraging and will simply stop eating. This is a tell-tale sign of an ill turtle.

Look out for other signs like mucus discharge, puffy eyes, and redness in the neck. These signs usually suggest that your turtle is suffering from respiratory illness.

A Diseased Turtle

Yes, unhealthy turtles are unhappy turtles. So you need to take good care of your turtles to keep them happy. 

To prevent your turtle from contracting potential health complications, you need to take preventive measures like maintaining correct water parameters, feeding a balanced diet, and housing them in a bigger tank. 

If your turtle gets ill even after all that, you need to immediately take it to the vet. 

They Make Noises

Despite lacking vocal cords, turtles can still produce sounds. They bellow, hiss, grunt, chirp, roar, whistle, gurgle, etc. 

An unhappy turtle will often hiss or grunt. It usually does so when somebody handles it without a proper introduction. You need to give it enough time to get accustomed to your touch. 

How To Keep A Turtle Happy

There are several things that you should keep in mind to keep a turtle happy. First things first, there should be enough space to swim and lounge around. Next, add plenty of decorations to keep the turtle occupied and entertained. And lastly, don’t forget to maintain the correct water parameters and feed the proper diet at all times.

Bigger Tank

A bigger tank is an essential factor to keep a turtle happy. 10 gallons per inch is the rule of thumb to go by when getting a turtle tank. So, you need to consider the maximum size they can get to before getting a turtle tank. 

Make sure the tank has more space horizontally than vertically. Most turtles aren’t deep divers, as they have to come to the surface to breathe and bask. 

The first step is to figure out the possible maximum size your turtle can get to. For example, a red-eared slider can grow up to 10 to 11 inches long. So, by the 10 gallons per inch rule, you at least need a 100-gallon tank. 

You can pay more and get a bigger tank now rather than investing in a larger tank later.

Plants, Gravels, Decors, And Basking Areas.

An empty tank isn’t a turtle’s favorite place to live in. They like to roam and get their bearings in their tank. Include plants, gravel, and decors to keep your turtle busy and curious.

Make a basking area where your turtle can get necessary UVA and UVB rays. If you keep more than one turtle in the same tank, you need to allocate more space for the basking area. Otherwise, you will find your turtles stacking on top of each other.

Maintain Right Water Parameters

You need to maintain the optimum water parameters to keep turtles healthy. And as I said before, a healthy turtle is a happy turtle. 

Here’s the optimum water parameter for a turtle tank.

Water Temperature 75 – 85 degrees Fahrenheit on the wet side/ 85 – 95 degrees Fahrenheit in the basking area.
pH Value: 6.0 to 8.0
Chlorine level 0
Ammonia Level 0
Nitrite level 0
Nitrate level less than 40 ppm

Feed Balanced Diet

A balanced diet imploring every sort of nutrient will keep a turtle happy. So, do not fixate on giving only one kind of food. For example, babies and juveniles lean towards a meat-based diet filled with protein, whereas adult turtles become herbivores over time. 

Some food turtles like to consume are leafy veggies, insects, crustaceans, feeder fish, and commercial foods like pellets. 

Final Words On How To Know If Your Turtle Is Happy.

The statement “a healthy turtle is a happy turtle” is all you need to know to keep your turtle happy. When a turtle is happy, it will beg for food, splash the water, bask regularly, enjoy hunting and eating, be out and about, and be comfortable with handling.

Relevant Readings:

Why Is My Red-Eared Slider Making Squeaky Noises?

Why Are There Worms In My Turtle Tank? Methods To Remove Them.

How Many Teeth Do Turtles Have? Zero!

rohit gurung author at urbanfishkeeping

About Rohit Gurung

My never-ending love and fascination with Aquascaping started when I received a red-eared turtle for my 10th birthday.

Apart from researching and writing, I spend hours gazing at my 3 turtles. And yeah, I bask alongside them too.