Why Does My Turtle Keep Trying To Escape? Tips On How To Solve This Headache

Dec 19, 2020

Why Does My Turtle Keep Trying To Escape?

You bring a turtle into your house, thinking you will take care of him and make him his new habitat a paradise. But the next thing that happens is you see your turtle trying to escape the tank. And you think why does my turtle keep trying to escape. Let me tell you that this is undoubtedly going to hurt your feelings, but there are some factors your turtle isn’t finding suitable to live in or live with.

That is why you need to know the reasons behind why your turtle keeps trying to escape and make some necessary changes in his habitat.

So Why Does My Turtle Keep Trying To Escape? 

One of the prominent factors could be that the tank is small for your turtle. Other factors can be your turtle getting scared, inferior water quality, scarcity of food, unfavorable temperature or a pregnant turtle. 

These factors are the most common reasons your turtle keeps trying to escape. As a responsible turtle owner, rule out every factor step by step, so you will know which factor triggered him to try his great escape.

You Might Also Like To Read:

How Fast Do Painted Turtles Grow – Vegetables To Grow Your Turtles Fast and Healthy

Can Turtles Get Fat—How To Lose Your Turtle’s Weight

What Can Turtles Eat From Human Food? Avoid These Food

Without further ado, let’s begin with each of the factors and how you can solve them.

Smaller Tank

The rule of thumb suggests that one-inch turtle will need 10 gallons of water. This means you will need at least 30-gallon tank for a 3-inch turtle. Many turtle owners do not follow this rule of thumb and will find their turtle trying to escape now and then.

Turtles require a large amount of space to swim and play. Mostly baby turtles and juvenile turtles will swim most of their time.

A vertical tank won’t be of much help for turtles. This is because they like to swim and cover more distance and, only a horizontally long tank will let them enjoy this swimming space.

Did you know that box turtles can get drowned too? Check out this article on Can Box Turtles Swim? – Or Do They Drown?

Scarcity Of Food

Food is essential for turtles and gives them the energy to swim all day long, especially for baby turtles. The baby stage for turtle is the most energetic, and they will require food that can keep them energized. When turtles do not get enough food, then they will try to escape their tank.

Another thing about food is that turtles in various stages of life will need variation in their diet. Baby turtles are mostly carnivorous and will mostly eat meats which provide them with protein. They will feed on insects, worms, breeder fishes and crustaceans. Get meat containing pellets in their diet to supplement their protein supply. Try both dry and raw meat to give variations.

So if you are feeding your baby turtles mostly veggies, then they will try to escape their tank. So you need to balance both veggies and meat in their diet. I am not trying to say that you should feed meat only because fiber is equally important too. Fiber keeps the hyperactive turtles full, and they won’t keep begging for more right after eating.

If you have an adult turtle, then you need to feed him fiber-containing diets which will keep him full and provide calcium for a sturdy shell.

One other thing that you could do wrong with your turtle’s diet is the feeding schedule. Baby turtle and juvenile turtles will need to be fed daily while an adult turtle won’t need that schedule.

Adult turtles can slow down their metabolism rate and will use little energy to sustain their living.

However, when these adult turtles are about to go for hibernation, they will feed to store their energy for the whole hibernation period. Also, they will be hungry and asking for food right after waking from hibernation.

Low Water Quality Can Also Cause Your Turtles To Escape

Despite the turtles being a messy pet, they need clean water because most aquatic turtle’s habitat is in freshwaters like streams, rivers and lakes. Therefore, you need to maintain the same water quality, i.e. clean water for your turtle’s tank.

If your turtle’s tank is dirty, then they will try to escape their tank. They will try to escape thinking they will find a cleaner place than the current habitat (Imagine how you’d feel if this is the reason).

Therefore, you need to clean your turtle’s tank regularly and properly. There is no alternate except cleaning.

Get a water testing kit that informs you about the level of nitrate, nitrite and ammonia level in your tank.

Most tanks get dirty because of the poop and faeces of turtle itself. You need to change the water in the tank. Algae is also the reason tanks get dirtier. Get a magnet sponge which will help you get off those excess algae from your turtle’s habitat.

Check your filter and unclog them if they are clogged. Often filters get clogged and won’t function filtering correctly and result in a dirty tank. While you are at it, move the siphon and tilt it so that if there’s any dirty water residue in there, it gets cleaned too.

If The Turtle Is Dirty

As I mentioned before, that turtles themselves are messy and can smell bad when dirty. Therefore, your tank will smell and get contaminated. So you need to bathe your dirty turtle. Use a soft brush, or you could use a toothbrush. Put your turtle in a separate container where the water temperature is the same as in his tank.

Do not use soap or any detergent, as this can harm your turtle. Now slowly pick your turtle up and start brushing the top part of his shell in circular motions, after finishing the shell, clean under the shell edges where algae gather, and bacteria form because of it.

Repeat this process if your turtle still seems dirty. I recommend that you don’t overdo it. You can clean your turtle every once in a week. Please put it back in its tank after bathing it.

Not Maintaining Water Temperature

A suitable water temperature for a turtle is around 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit (24 to 27 degree Celsius). And if the tank where your turtle is currently living in doesn’t maintain this temperature, then turtles will try to escape the tank.

Turtles are good adapter, but if the temperature in the water is too low or too high, then they will eventually try to escape the tank.

What you can do to maintain the water temperature is by getting a heater for your turtle’s tank. A water heater will help your turtle be active even during the winter.

If your turtle stops trying to escape the tank after installing a heater, then temperature probably is the cause behind his effort to escape.

No Place For Basking

Turtles need space to bask. They live in the wild, spend their day resting on the beach or on the stone to warm their bodies. They are cold-blooded animals so they cannot control their body temperature like us and need to warm their body by basking and keeping their body dry under the sun.

However, it won’t be possible for a captive turtle to be taken to a beach and have him basked. So you need to locate an area close to his tank where he can bask to get UVB light.

If direct sunlight doesn’t fall in your room, then you can get a UV light and have it near his tank.

You shouldn’t put the UV light too close to the basking area because your turtle’s shell might get discolored from the heat. Also, he will get burnt and will hamper his health. Do not exceed the temperature of the basking area over 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degree Celsius).

If Your Turtle Is Scared Or In Stress

A turtle will try to escape if there are things in the habitat or near it. Loud noise and sudden movements are some triggering factors that cause distress in turtles.

Turtles are solitary pets and can live alone. If you are cramping your turtle with other turtles, then it may feel like the space isn’t abundant for him. He might continuously bump into other turtles and will feel his privacy violated and will try to leave the tank.

Turtles get stressed whenever there’s a loud noise near their habitat. In case of loud noise, your turtle will head towards the areas where there’s less noise, and the only option for them will be to escape. Be mindful on where you keep your turtle.

If you other pets like dogs and cats, they might try to enter or poke into your turtle’s home. This too will cause your turtle to get scared and make them feel stressed. The constant bickering of your other pets will provoke your turtle into escaping the habitat that he is living in.

A stressed turtle won’t eat, bask, and will continuously try to escape his habitat.

So you need to control your other pets and if possible, condition them on not to go into the areas where your turtle lives.

 Another stress-related factor is the new environment for turtles. Whenever you take a turtle from its old home to a new one, it will have a longing feeling of going back to its old home. You need to give your turtle time to adjust to a new one and have his exits blocked whenever he tries to escape.

To calm him down, put on some decorations and playing toys that he might like. Make hiding spots and have some plants in his domain.

If Your Turtle Is Pregnant

A pregnant turtle acts bizarrely. She might not eat what she usually eats and will even stop basking under the UV light. She will try digging through the substrate so she can lay her eggs in a suitable place.

If you are keeping a pregnant female turtle in a tank, then take her somewhere there’s sand and dry because turtles do not lay eggs in water. You need to find a sandy place where she is comfortable enough to lay her eggs.

First, take her outdoors, somewhere in your backyard, and fence it so that your turtle cannot escape. You need to make sure the area isn’t arid. She will need wet earth on which she can dig and lay her eggs.

If you have been using that place before as a vegetable garden, then you might have used chemical fertilizers. So enclose her in a place where you haven’t used chemical fertilizers because turtles can sense chemicals and won’t lay their eggs in such sites.

And if your place doesn’t have any outdoors, then you can try your pet turtle to have eggs indoor. Take a big container and fill it with two-third of organic sand. Wet it and keep it moist so that your turtle can dig when she is about to lay her egg.

Choose a corner and keep it a bit dim than rest because turtles lay their eggs in areas where there’s less light. Turtles usually take two to three hours to lay all their eggs. So leave her be when she starts digging.

Final Words on Why Does My Turtle Keep Trying To Escape

By now, you have noticed some traits and the factors I have mentioned above that relate to your turtle’s escaping. 

What you need to do is test every factor and rule out every possibility, and then you eventually realize that your turtle isn’t trying to get away. A turtle trying to escape is a sign of unhappy turtle so eliminate every factor that is causing him to do so, and you will have a happy and healthy turtle in your care.

Related Articles:

Do Turtles Change Color – Reasons Behind Why They Lose Color

Do Turtles Like Music? The Science and Myths Behind It

How To Play With A Pet Turtle – Best Indoor And Outdoor Games

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.