Why Is My Turtle Shell Peeling (Do Turtles Shed And What It Means)?

The skin and shell of a turtle will shed and this is normal. Whilst most other reptiles shed their skin, a turtle has a shell that is infused into the rest of its body.

This shell is made up of around 60 bones and covered by a thin layer of epithelium. The epithelium produces the outer layer of the shell known as the scutes. 

As a turtle grows, it will shed its scutes to accommodate the growth of new scutes as the shell expands. The head, neck, legs, and tail of your turtle are coated with leathery skin. This skin does not have any stretch and will also shed as your turtle grows. 

Although it is normal for your turtle to shed its shell, there are some instances where this can be a sign of disease. 

Below, we have addressed the potential reasons why your turtle’s shell is peeling and whether or not it is healthy. 

Healthy Shell Shedding

For turtles, a peeling shell is a natural part of the growth process. As they grow, their shell also grows and the scutes fall off to allow the newer, larger scutes to grow.

A turtle will continue to shed its scutes when it is fully grown, especially aquatic species that spend a lot of time in the water. This shedding will prevent the shell from rotting and will also help to stop the development of parasitic infections. 

As the scutes shed, they should be thin and practically translucent. The shell beneath these scutes should look normal.  

Causes for Abnormal Shedding

There are some instances where abnormal shedding may occur and this is a condition known as dysecdysis. 

It may be an indication that your turtle is suffering from a disease or fungal infection. For example, your turtle may have liver or kidney disease. Another issue that may be causing this shedding is bacterial shell rot.

If the ammonia levels of the water have exceeded a normal level the scutes may begin to shed. This is likely to be an issue if your turtle’s tank is not equipped with a powerful filtration system.

Another cause of abnormal shedding is overfeeding and this can be particularly problematic for turtles that are still growing.

Feeding your turtle too much is going to result in rapid growth and this will cause it to shed its scutes much more regularly. Whilst overfeeding your turtle can affect the regularity in which it sheds its scutes, it can also lead to other health problems. 

All turtles require a basking spot inside their tank. If the basking spot is too hot, you may notice that your turtle starts to shed its scutes excessively. 

Why isn’t my turtle shedding its scutes?

Whilst certain conditions will cause your turtle to shed its scutes abnormally, there are also conditions and factors that may prevent your turtle from shedding its scutes at all. 

If your turtle’s diet is deficient in calcium and vitamin D, its growth is going to be affected. To ensure that this isn’t an issue, you will need to make sure that your turtle is accessing all of the nutrients that it needs through its diet. 

Turtles require exposure to UV light in order to grow healthy. Over time, the bulbs will start to deteriorate in quality, becoming weaker and this can impact the regularity in which your turtle sheds its scutes. You will need to make sure that you replace the bulbs every 6 months to avoid this problem.

Another reason why your turtle may not be shedding its scutes is because the temperature inside the tank is too high or too low. You must ensure that the temperature inside your turtle’s enclosure is suitable for its species.

For the majority of species, the recommended water temperature should fall within the range of 70 or 80 degrees. Ideally, the basking temperature should be around 90 degrees. You can use a thermometer to monitor the temperature of the water in the tank. 

How often should a turtle shed its scutes?

The regularity in which a turtle sheds its scutes can vary depending on the species. Aquatic turtles tend to shed their shells a lot more than other types and this is due to the amount of time that they spend in the water. 

Other species of turtles will shed their scutes much less frequently. For example, there are some that they will shed annually. 

Treating and Preventing Shell Peeling

Shedding is a natural part of your turtle’s growth and because of this, it isn’t necessary to prevent it. To avoid this problem escalating into a more severe issue, you must make sure that you maintain the correct environment. 

If your turtle is suffering from severe dysecdysis, you will need to make slight adjustments to its enclosure. 

First and foremost, it is important to make sure that the tank is free of any sharp objects. This will reduce the risk of your turtle’s scutes getting caught and possibly tearing. Aside from this, you will also need to ensure that your turtle is fed a diet that provides it with all of the necessary nutrients.

Furthermore, you will also need to pay close attention to the quality of the water. The tank should be equipped with a good, strong filtration system. 

You will need to consult a vet if the problem doesn’t seem to improve even after these changes have been made. It may be the case that your turtle is suffering from an infection or disease that requires more serious medical attention. 

Final Thoughts

In response to the question, there are several reasons why your turtle’s shell may be peeling, some of which are healthy and others that are more abnormal.

It is important to make changes to your turtle’s habitat if you notice that their shell is peeing excessively. Remember that the scutes should be thin and translucent as they shed and some turtles will shed more often than others.