Reasons Why Turtles Die at Home (& How to Prevent It)

Turtles are becoming one of the top choices when you want to have an exotic pet.

Unlike other domesticated animals, turtles have special needs that must be fulfilled for them to survive in captivity.

It is every turtle owner’s fear to come home and discover that their charming, hard-shelled reptiles have died suddenly.

So why do turtles die at home and what are the effective ways to avoid such heartbreaking scenes?

Why Do Turtles Die At Home?

Turtles die at home primarily because of inadequate caring. Poor guardianship means your turtles’ living conditions constitute a small tank, improper setup of habitat, unsanitary environment, poor quality and insufficient diet, stress, and unadministered illness and injuries.

Small Tank

If you are planning to get a turtle, your first concern should be its home.

What kind of habitat should your new pet have? How tall and how wide should it be?

Because turtles are quite slow, you may think that they don’t need much space as they will probably just stay in one corner the whole day.

Well, you are mistaken as turtles need a wide area where they can easily wander around.

They are active, curious, and playful creatures that need exercise!

A small aquarium will do for small, young turtles. However, as they grow up, you should also increase their enclosure based on their sizes.

Some turtles are active swimmers so a shallow tank is not ideal for them. They need deep water where they can swim, play, and linger.

With a small tank, you will be lacking space for their basking area too.

If the size of their habitat is not appropriate for them, their growth, personality, and health can be affected.

Improper Setup of Habitat

Having a large and deep-sized tank is not the end of setting a suitable habitat for your turtles.

You should also consider the lighting and temperature as these are vital for your turtles’ survival in captivity.

Your turtles need sufficient lighting to become healthy; likewise, it helps in their breeding and energy.

Turtles are cold-blooded animals so they need enough heat to retain the temperature of their body.

If your turtles will live in a dark and cold aquarium, you should not get shocked if you find them not breathing anymore in one corner.

Unsanitary Environment

A clean environment is essential for the survival of turtles in captivity.

In the wild setting, the habitat of these creatures will be refined by nature. Whilst in your home, your turtles’ tank will not be neat and hygienic without your effort to clean it.

Basically, most of them depend on their lives in water and so, your turtles will die, for sure, if the water in their tank is dirty and not properly dechlorinated.

Unclean habitats are the perfect place for bacterias to grow.

These bacterias will kill your turtles once they’ve caused infections to your pets.

Poor Quality and Insufficient Diet

Before getting a turtle, it is a must for you to research the right food that it needs to sustain living a healthy life.

Various species of turtles have different food requirements at times.

Turtles can be herbivores, carnivores, or omnivores. You should know what kind of diet your turtles have so you can feed them based on their food requirements.

The amount and kind of food to be fed to your turtles also depend on their age. You should be careful not to overfeed them!

Now, you might actually be thinking that you are doing a great job by feeding your turtles every meal with lots of food. Well, you are doing really wonderful if each meal is packed with various nutritious foods.

Your turtles might be loving berries which are very healthy, of course. But serving them a full nutritious meal does not mean giving them a full bowl of berries every day! This will definitely not help them to get all the nutrients they need.

Poor and insufficient feeding will lead to nutritional deficiencies. This can cause decreased blood flow, low energy, low heart rate, and a weak system to fight sickness and heal injuries.


The mental health of your turtles is equally important as yours!

If you feel stress, they feel it too which could lead to depression.

Stress is greatly contributed by their poor living conditions. If they are lacking space, food, and becoming bored, they can get stressed out!

They can also feel stress if they are living with other turtles with which they are not in a good relationship.

Unadministered Illness and Injuries

As a turtle owner, you should always allot extra time to spend with your pets. This is essential as, within this period, you can check their health and wellness; are they sick or do they have wounds?

Undiagnosed diseases and untreated injuries can definitely lead to a worst-case scenario of your turtles dying.

How To Prevent Turtles From Dying At Home?

You can prevent turtles from dying at home by providing them the best possible care that you can give. Their living conditions at home should similarly reflect their natural habitat in the wild where they can roam freely in wide areas, live in peace in the most favorable hygienic environment based on their needs, and consume nutritious food. You should regularly check their health and wellness as well.

With your tender loving care, your turtles would be living a long life with you, that is for sure!

The first thing that you may want to ensure is to give them a comfortable place to live in.

They will be spending most of their life in their tank so you need to ensure that they can find all their needs inside it.

There will be times when you will play with them and hold them, but not as much as you want.

They are not the type of pets that you can always touch and carry around as they are solitary animals. Holding too much can cause them great stress.

The tank should be spacious enough depending on how many and how big or small are the turtles you are planning to put together.

The standard minimum size for smaller turtles is a 30-gallon tank while for medium-sized ones, a 55 gallon is recommended. For those bigger species that can grow over 8 inches, a 75 gallon to 125-gallon tank is the best selection.

You should also set the inside of the tank based on the needs of your turtles.

Your turtles might be a real swimmer living in the water so you just need a deep tank full of water.

Likewise, they can be some type that prefers to bask under the light; so aside from the water, you also need to allot some land area where they can dig and burrow themselves.

As cold-blooded animals, your turtles need enough light and heat to keep the temperature of their body. To provide these, you need to put a heat lamp and UVB light on your turtles’ tank.

You just need to be careful with this as there are incidents where turtles suddenly die because of overheating.

The recommended temperature of water should be 78°F while the basking area should be 90°F to 95°F. As for the light, you should turn on the light in your tank for 12 hours at maximum.

You must also ensure that your turtles will be swimming in clean water inside their tank. Regular changing of water, using of water filter, and water testing kits can help you to maintain sanitation as turtles can really cause a great mess in their enclosure.

One of the most basic requirements in taking care of turtles is giving them proper nutrition.

If your turtles are vegan, you should provide them all plant-based food. If their major diet is meat, or those insectivores, you should be giving them worms, bettles, and even little fish. If they are omnivores, a combination of plants and small animals or insects should be their regular meals.

It is necessary to consider the age and size of your turtles in feeding them to prevent insufficient feeding or overfeeding.

As stress is also a contributor to the reasons why your turtles die at home, you might want to evaluate their behavior from time to time.

Too much noise can cause anxiety to your turtles. You need to ensure that the tank of your turtles are placed in the safe and quiet part of your house.

Their tank-mate can also be one of the reasons for their despair. As solitary animals, it is not recommended to put turtles together in one tank.

Your turtles can be territorial and aggressive with each other. If your turtles keep on fighting, the best thing for you to do is to simply put them in different tanks.

When your turtles get sick or injured without you knowing, chances are their condition will get worse that can lead to their death.

To prevent this, you should do some regular checking with your pets and ensure they are perfectly healthy physically.

If there are sudden changes in their behavior, activity, or appetite, you may bring them to a veterinarian for check-ups.

Do Turtles Die With Their Eyes Open?

Yes. There are some cases when turtles do die with their eyes open. However, turtles commonly die with their eyes closed.

When you see your turtle not moving, you will certainly get worried and nervous at the same time thinking that something bad might have happened to it.

At first sight, you will not deem it dead with its eyes open. It might be a surprise to you knowing that turtles can die with their eyes not shut.

It will take some time before you finally accept the fact that your turtle is dead. You might even bring it to the nearest veterinary clinic to know what is wrong.

Most of the turtles die with eyes closed that will soon be sunken.

Turtles can die either with closed eyes or open eyes depending on the nature of its death.

Depending on how your turtle looks when it dies, it is unbearable to discover that it suddenly passed away.


Roth, K. (2018, June 5). Turtles can make great pets, but do your homework first. – News and Articles on Science and Technology.

The Humane Society of the United States. (2021). Thinking of getting a pet turtle?

University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine. (n.d.). Reptiles and amphibians.