Do Turtles Shed

The fact that reptiles shed their skin on sometimes is one of their most distinctive characteristics. What about turtles, though? Despite being reptiles, they don’t have a lot of skin since their shell covers the majority of their body.

All turtles molt, losing both their skin and scutes. This is a normal procedure that will occasionally take place. But occasionally shedding can be brought on by illnesses, a poor diet, or living circumstances.

Turtles can go through two separate forms of shedding, then. Scoot peeling is another name for the process of skin and shell shedding. Both forms of shedding are extremely different, and you will need to behave differently depending on which one your turtle is going through.

So let’s examine each shedding procedure in more detail to understand why it’s happening, what you need to do, and any potential issues that might arise.

Can Turtles Shed Their Shells?

Around 60 bones, including the backbone, ribs, and breastbone, make up a turtle’s shell. The hard scutes that cover the shells of many turtle species serve as protection for the shell.

The keratin scutes that cover the shell’s bones and epithelium are there to protect them. These scutes undergo a process of shedding.

Scute shedding often happens when a turtle grows. When a turtle reaches a specific age, the shedding process will start.

If the scutes are injured, some of them will be shed to help the turtle get rid of the weak spots in its shell and prevent infection. Scute shedding can be be brought on by an improper diet or living situation.

Shell Shedding and Scute Shedding

Younger turtles that are still developing are more prone to scute shedding. While a turtle’s shell expands as it develops, the scutes on its shell are unable to do so and begin to fall off to create room for new ones.

Adult turtles can shed as well. However, mature turtles often lose their shells to keep them healthy, so it will happen less frequently.

The tiny scales that cover the top and bottom of the shell are called scutes.

What Does It Look Like When A Turtle Sheds?

When a turtle sheds its skin, it doesn’t always mean that its shell will come off of its body; instead, the turtle’s shedding scutes may be seen. The turtle’s skin-shedding mechanism is a component of their molting cycle.

With the turtles’ development, the shell enlarges. Together with the turtles’ scutes, the leathery skin is shed. Scutes are shed by both turtles and tortoises. These reptile species typically go through a process of losing their scutes. Also keep in mind not to touch the turtle shells when the turtle is peeling or shedding its scutes.

If you intentionally remove a turtle’s skin in an effort to assist it, you may be incorrect about this and require expert assistance only if the turtle is unable to shed its skin or scutes. The turtle’s shell peels and its skin both disappear with time.

It doesn’t happen all at once. Depending on the size of its body, the turtle needs one to two months to completely remove its shell.

The bottom scute of the turtle shell emerges when the upper layers of each scute shed like skin, aiding in the elimination of algae, parasites, and other irritants. Comparatively speaking, a baby turtle’s shell shedding is more obvious than an adult turtle’s shell peeling.

The shell scutes of a healthy turtle will easily separate from its shell. The turtle develops as an adult, and so does its shell. In order for a turtle to grow in a healthy way and in accordance with its surroundings, the process of removing its shell is normal and natural.

Do All Turtles Shed?

Not every turtle sheds its shell. Some turtle species have soft shells that don’t shed like other turtle species. Instead of being hard and bony, the soft-shelled turtle’s shell has a more leather-like feel. They don’t have the scutes that other turtle species do.

It is essential to call a veterinarian if a softshell turtle owner notices anything unusual with their shell, even if it seems like shedding, as it is probably caused by a medical issue.

All turtles lose their skin, albeit not all turtle species do. The skin on the head, neck, and legs will eventually fall off as the turtle ages and grows.

Since the turtle’s shell covers the majority of its body, it is more challenging to see the skin shed, however it is normally simpler to see when the turtle is submerged in water.

How Often Do Turtles Shed Skin?

Every year, the turtle shell sheds its scutes, which takes one to two months to complete.

When they are young, the scutes of the species of turtle are shed once a year. The time it takes each turtle to molt may also differ from turtle to turtle.

Annual shell shedding occurs in healthy turtles. Along with the scutes on its shell, the turtle also sheds its skin. The skin of a turtle is significantly unlike from that of a person. Turtles shed their skin and scutes to grow new ones as they age, just like humans do with their temporary and permanent teeth.

Along with turtles, the majority of reptile species are known to lose their skin. The normal process of their body growth results in skin loss.

The skin of the turtle species does not expand or contract with the expansion of the body; instead, it sheds older skin in pieces to make room for the new skin. The skin and turtle shell scutes that are peeling are often normal and healthy.

When skin and turtle shell shed more frequently than is required, it’s time to worry about your pet turtle and seek medical advice. Additionally, environmental problems, an inadequate diet, or an excessive diet of food can cause turtle shells to peel.

Turtles are known to lose their skin more readily in the wild than when they are housed in captivity. This is because they can satisfy their natural needs where they feel comfortable on their own. They shed their skin at the bottom or top of the aquarium or tank they are housed in while in captivity.

Either before or after hibernation, turtles lose their skin and shell. If you have a pet turtle, you may have observed that it shed right before going into hibernation or brumation. This is because as a turtle goes into deep sleep, both its bodily motions and metabolism slow down.

When compared to the shedding occurring in their wildlife, certain species, including map turtles and diamondback terrapins, are reported to shed less regularly.

It is more apparent in turtle species, though, when they shed their skin or shell scutes during a protracted, profound slumber. This is due to the fact that they spend the most of their time in the sun, which gives them adequate calcium for their shell. By totally drying the scutes—not just some of them—instead of in bits and pieces, it makes it easier for turtle skins to shed.

Once a species of painted turtle and red-eared slider reaches sexual maturity, which is roughly 4 inches, shell peeling becomes apparent (10 cm).

What to Look For When a Turtle Sheds

If a shed is nearby, your pet turtle may start sunbathing in the UVB light. In their tank or habitat, you could also see them rubbing their shells against other items.

Around this time, the shell’s color may have slightly changed, and it may appear a little more glossy than usual.

The shell’s scutes will simply fall off or peel away to create room for bigger ones. The individual scutes will fall off as the turtle goes about its daily business. Scutes from sheds are thin and almost transparent.

Pulling the peeling scute off could seem like a good way to speed up the shedding process, but this is not essential. It’s preferable to let the turtle alone and let the shed happen spontaneously as this is a normal process.

There are a few strategies to promote a healthy shed in your turtle. You should make sure they get plenty of the vitamins A and E in their diet since these are crucial for shell development. Additionally, you must have UVB lights accessible or a set-up that allows the turtle to receive direct sunshine.

Within the enclosure or tank, you may add decorations that will help the fish shed, such rocks. The turtle may brush against various items, as you’ll see, in order to assist loosen the scute.

Helping the Shedding Process

It may be tempting to peel a turtle’s scute in an attempt to assist them while they are shedding, but you should not. The health of the turtle will benefit far more by allowing the shedding process to proceed at its own natural rate.

Even though you shouldn’t peel the scutes by hand, you can still assist your turtle with the shedding process.

You may assist them in this process by making sure their food is full of vitamin A and vitamin E. The development of the shell is greatly aided by those vitamins.

Making ensuring they have access to sunshine is another action you may take. Although UVB lights can be quite helpful, nothing beats exposure to sunshine.

Making sure they have something to scratch their backs is another way you may assist. Not a lot of expensive brand-new toys are required for this. A few rocks with different forms will do just nicely. Just be certain to give them a thorough cleaning before placing them in the tank.

Can a Turtle Shed Too Much?

Compared to terrestrial turtles, aquatic turtles shed more naturally. There may be a number of causes if you find your turtle is shedding its skin excessively.

Growth: You’ll notice more frequent shedding while your turtle is young. This is natural, but you should be aware of how frequently it happens because other underlying diseases may be to blame.

Overfeeding: Overfeeding your turtle might result in abrupt growth and shedding. Your turtle’s food intake might need to be adjusted. For guidance, it is advisable to speak with your veterinarian.

Excessive shedding may result from internal tank or enclosure overheating. It’s essential to make sure their environment is at the right temperature.

High Ammonia Levels: For aquatic turtles, high ammonia levels in their water may harm their shells and induce shedding. To confirm that levels are within an acceptable range, you need a water testing kit.

Toxicity/Deficiency of Vitamin A: Vitamin A is a crucial component of a turtle’s diet. Excessive shedding may occur if the vitamin is consumed in excess or insufficiently.

The skin will get thicker and may become toxic from too much vitamin A, which can harm the liver. The skin will become thin and brittle if there is insufficient vitamin A in the body.

Shell Rot: Shell rot is an illness that might be mistaken for shedding because it affects the shell. Unhealthy nutrition, shell damage, unhealthy temperatures, or unfavorable water conditions can all contribute to the illness. You can see white or pink fleshy areas on the shell, indentations, or mushy places, which are signs of shell rot.

If found early, shell rot is easily treatable. Contact a veterinarian right once if you see any indications of shell rot.

What Does Shell Rot Look Like On A Turtle?

The shell rot will never help the turtle shed its scutes; instead, it will cause infections and a rough texture with holes that, if left untreated, will cause the shell to fracture or shatter.

Shell rot poses a serious health risk to turtle species. Depending on the species, turtles may lose their scutes every year or every few years. Turtles don’t always molt their skin, though. If a turtle has a serious illness, the infection can cause its shell to deteriorate over time, weakening the turtle’s shell.

Therefore, it is important to take care of the shell rotting and shell shedding that occur in turtle species, and one should be aware of the differences between the two. The manner in which the scute peeling or shedding occurs differs significantly between the two procedures.

While shell rot won’t do any of those things and instead will result in an uneven shell with pits that will make it more brittle to fracture in the near future, the shedding of scutes is like a thin coating of plastic entirely peeling off their shell.

Since turtles have cold blood, a warm environment is required for them to shed their skin and scutes. The scutes do not shed when exposed to UV rays from the sun instead they become trapped and cause the shell to decay.

Algae or parasites may build up in these lodged scutes, making it difficult for the turtles to live. If left untreated, the shell rot will cause the shell to entirely weaken and degenerate.


Unlike any other reptile, turtles have a special way of losing their skin. While the turtle is growing, it is a typical, natural phenomenon that happens frequently. Less shedding occurs in terrestrial turtles than in aquatic turtles.

Soft-shelled turtles do not shed their shells because they lack scutes. As they develop, all turtle species will lose skin, albeit it is far less obvious than scute shedding.

If you as an owner observe indicators of excessive skin shedding or scute shedding, these may be symptoms of more serious problems but are often caused by overfeeding and the pet’s fast development.

Always keep a veterinarian on hand for any health issues, and make sure you’re following the right husbandry techniques so your turtle may flourish and shed easily.