Why Is My Turtle Shedding White Skin? Is It Dangerous?

Nov 16, 2021

Turtle shedding

Image Credit: Will Glynn (Creative Commons License)

Turtles shed skin like every other reptile. They even shed their shells. People often get confused when they find scutes falling off their turtle’s shell. 

It is even more panicking when you find your turtle shedding flaky white stuff. This is actually your turtle shedding skin. 

So, Why Is My Turtle Shedding White Skin?

When a turtle sheds, you will notice white flaky stuff around its neck and limbs. You need not worry because this is what normal shedding looks like. While growing, baby turtles often shed, and as they get older, the shedding frequency declines. 

Turtles shed while growing. Some say it is the same as snakes, which shed to grow its body. But experts say that turtles shed to clean their bodies. Let me explain. 

In the wild, they spend most of their time in either mud or water. As a result, they gather bacteria, parasites, algae, and many other residues on their shell. So, turtles shed to keep their bodies clean.

Another reason turtles shed is the aforementioned one, i.e., to make more room for their growing body. This is common in reptiles and invertebrates. They will shed their old skin and develop new ones.

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Why Is My Turtle Shedding Excessively?

Before jumping onto reasons, you should first be able to distinguish if the shedding is really in excess or it’s happening at a normal rate.

While shedding, there can be several (4 to 6) strands of old skin clinging to your turtle’s body. These long shreds can give the impression that your turtle is shedding excessively. However, this is normal.

Now, let me tell you about excessive shedding in turtles.

First, here’s what excessive shedding looks like:

5 Reasons Your Turtle Is Shedding White Skin Excessively

If your turtle is shedding excessively, there are certain factors that you should focus on, like a rise in ammonia levels, overconsumption, high temperature, fungal infections, and vitamin A deficiency. 

Let’s have a quick look at these factors.

Spike In Ammonia Levels

Increment in ammonia can cause a turtle to shed excessively. As a result, both the shedding frequency and duration will increase drastically.

If you have an old filter for your turtle tank, it could be the reason behind the increase in ammonia levels. 

Turtles are messy pets and can make a tank ten times dirtier than fishes. This is why you should monitor water parameters and the filtering equipment constantly. 

Overeating

When turtles overeat, they grow faster than usual. A larger body requires more skin. This is why turtles shed excessively when their body makes new skin to house the expanding body. 

Be mindful of how much you feed them. A rule of thumb is to give them the quantity they can finish within 15 minutes. 

Baby turtles will always ask for more, so do not succumb to their cute antics.

High Temperature

Excessive shedding can also be triggered by the overheating of your turtle tank. The basking area’s temperature should be between 85 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. And the water temperature should be anywhere from 75 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Fungal Infections And Diseases

Fungal infections are common in turtles. But it is more common with the shedding of scutes rather than skin. When a turtle is infected, the fungal growth will spread widely and cause its skin to fall off. 

Wounds and diseases like shell rot also cause your turtles to shed off skin and scutes. See a vet immediately to address this problem.

Vitamin A Deficiency

Did you know that lack of vitamin A also causes excessive shedding in turtles? Yes, peeling of the skin is one of the major symptoms of vitamin A deficiency.

Other signs like raw skin and visible ulcers are also seen. 

To fulfill the demand for vitamin A in turtles, feed them food like carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, leafy veggies, and whole fish.

And If you want to add reinforcement, here’s a vitamin supplement I use for my turtles:

Should You Help Your Turtle With Shedding?

It can be appealing to peel these white skin strands hanging from your turtle’s skin. But you shouldn’t force turtle shedding. It will be better to leave them be and let nature take its course. 

Correct water parameters, a proper diet, and enough room to bask and swim are all you should focus on while raising a turtle. Shedding is a natural process, so you should leave that one to turtles themselves. 

Some turtle owners help their turtles shed by peeling off their stuck scutes, but you shouldn’t try peeling your turtle’s scutes if you are new to this. 

The only time you should interfere with a turtle shedding is when it sheds excessively. In most cases, the reason behind excessive shedding is a spike in ammonia levels, vitamin A deficiency, and high temperature. Maintain these three parameters, and monitor your turtle’s shedding.

How Often Do Turtles Shed Skin?

Turtles shed their skin once every one to two months. This is because they mostly dwell in water and are prone to parasitic infections. This is why they frequently shed to remain healthy. 

Turtles shed excessively when they come out of hibernation. This is the time when they will need the most heat. So, they will shed off both their skin and scutes to absorb as much heat as possible. 

Final Words: Why Is My Turtle Shedding White Skin

Shedding is normal in reptiles. They shed when they are growing. However, excessive shedding can be a problem when it is caused due to factors like a rise in ammonia levels and overheating. 

A fungus-infected turtle is also known to shed skin, as their system naturally removes infected skin from their body.

You also need to make sure that your turtles are getting enough vitamin A from their diet. Lack of vitamin A also causes excessive white skin shedding in turtles.

As a responsible turtle owner, you should inspect all these factors and help your turtle shed its skin as naturally as possible. 

Relevant Readings:

What Happens If A Turtle Bites You? Can They Chop Off Your Fingers?

Do Alligators Eat Turtles? Watch The Video Evidence!

Can Snapping Turtles Swim? Faster Than Michael Phelps?

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.