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FAQs About Turtle Disease: Parasites

Related Articles: Treating Common Illnesses of the Red Ear Slider (& other Emydid Turtles) by Darrel Barton, Turtle eye diseases; Recognising and treating eye diseases in pet turtles by Neale Monks, So your turtle has the Flu? Recognizing and treating respiratory infections in pet turtles by Neale Monks, The Care and Keeping of the Red Eared Slider, Trachemys scripta elegans  by Darrel Barton,  Shell Rot in Turtles, Turtles, AmphibiansRed Eared Slider Care

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Shell Rot, RES Disease, Turtle Respiratory Disease, Turtle Eye Disease,


Yellow Bellied Sliders Parasites?      6/22/14
Hell Crew!
<Dang Jake!>
My name is Jake.
<Hiya - Darrel here>
I have 2 baby yellow bellied sliders and one common snapper. I have had the snapper for around a year and the yellow bellies for about 3 months. When I first got the yellow bellies, I noticed these little white worms about 3mm long that float near the surface or cling to the glass of the tank. I totally freaked out and cleaned everything in the tank including the tank itself (including the turtles). I sprayed everything down with water, and did this for around 2 hours (I used no soap or anything). I also got new tank gravel. I then put everything back into the tank including the turtles. This was about 3 months ago. Today, while watching my turtles eat, I noticed about 30 of the worms floating around. I also noticed that there were none visibly on the turtles, or in the floating pellets. There WAS worms in the turtle's poop that was lying on the ground of the tank. I figured out that many of the smaller worms were coming from under the
gravel. I thought this was strange and researched for about an hour on the subject. I read this article- Very small worms in turtle tank?(PICS)? - Yahoo Answers (link) and figured out that these were some type for "harmless" worms that might be living inside of my turtles. I found out that the person that had the problem just sprayed down the tank with warm water and that was what I'm thinking about doing.
<Sterilize the tank w/bleach.
Basic sterilization technique:
First find a temporary home for the living things {that you care about} in the tank then fill their tank an extra inch higher than normal and add 1/2 cup of bleach for every 5 gallons of actual water (not tank size, but actual water volume).
Next, remove your filter media and throw it away but keep your filters running during this sterilization -- assume that the worms or their eggs are everywhere the water touched or went.
Now, run the entire setup for 24 hours (make sure you have ventilation - chlorine fumes are bad news) and then drain, refill with clean tap water (1 inch higher than normal) and then run for 4 hours
Finally, now you can break down the setup, rinse the rocks, ramps, stones & hoses under running water from the sink … and then -- refill with tap water, run the setup and then reintroduce the pets.
The best thing about chlorine bleach is that it dissipates naturally, so if there is any residual chlorine at all, it will go away on it’s own.>
What I REALLY need help about is how to get the worms out of my turtles. This is seriously bothering me that my turtles may have worms inside of them. Info you may need: This problem never occurred when it was just the snapper in my tank. The turtles have a basking area about 6 inches long and 4 inches wide that I keep around 90* Fahrenheit. The turtles have been eating the same, and act the same. I have a filter in the tank which works well. The turtles interact with each other, but don't hurt one another. None of the turtles have ever had any medical problems since I've had them. I change the filter cartridge regularly. Also note: One of the turtles is very lazy and basks more then half the day. The other turtles are extremely active. Also the turtles do not try to eat the worms and do not even notice them. PLEASE HELP ME!!! -Jake
<No worries, Jake. You do not need to de-worm the turtles as you would a mammal. Once you break the egg/larvae cycle, the worms will not be a problem. It make take two or three cycles to rid the system of the worms, but eventually your attention to cleanliness will pay off.>

red ear slider with worms?    3/23/14
hello i have a two and a half inch RES and she looks like she might have tapeworms.
<The technical term here is ... EWWWWW!>
I take care of her and feed her freeze dried shrimps and baby pellets.
<Sounds good>
Yesterday i looked at her and there was a few inch string hanging from her anus. i pulled it out with no problem, but I'm just wondering if i NEED to go to the vet or if she even has tapeworms.
<No. Without seeing what you're seeing it's hard to make a diagnosis, but usually they get the worms from contaminated live foods such as feeder goldfish. In your case, take her out of the tank, wash the tank and everything in it with soap and water, refill and get on with your happy lives. You MAY need to repeat that once or twice over the next six weeks, but usually turtles excrete their intestinal parasites and the cycle will break if you keep the tank clean>

red-eared slider worms & setup   8/15/11
<Hiya - Darrel here>
I recently acquired a red-eared slider from a little girl who is moving and not allowed to have it at her new apartment. I knew absolutely nothing about the animal when I got it a week and a half ago. The turtle came in a one gallon tank. The turtle is about 2 inches long and it looked like the tank was way too small so now I have it in an old 10 gallon tank.
It didn't have a basking rock but my dad cut a piece of slate from the yard. I have yet to see the turtle get on it, though it is clearly capable of doing so, and I have even put it on there a couple of times myself. All it does is hop right back into the water a second later!
<He's scared, nervous and using the water for comfort>
The light it came with is a UVB/UVA light I believe. I put the light on the Plexiglas lid of the aquarium above the basking rock and I leave it on all day, but turn it off when I go to sleep.
<The Plexiglas {or as we SHOULD call it "the Plexiglas Brand Acrylic Sheet"} will filter out almost all of the beneficial UV rays. The lamp should shine directly on the basking rock say from 8 to 12 inches above>
The tank also came with a little bubbler (I'm not sure what it is called). It is foam-looking and releases bubbles into the water. It is connected with a clear, thin tube to a little pump outside of the tank. I have been using that.
<That circulates the water a bit, but otherwise not a lot of good>
The girl I got it from hasn't unpacked the food yet, but I fed it grasshoppers from my yard until the day before yesterday, when I finally bought some turtle food. I read that they eat crickets, so I thought grasshoppers would have relatively the same nutritional value :D The turtle eats whatever I feed it and appears to be in good health.
<The best food for a Red Eared Slider is Koi Pellets. Virtually identical to the world-class "ReptoMin" food sticks, just less money>
So, that's my setup. I would like to know if that is all right for the needs of the turtle.
<Here is an article that you can read that covers every part of the basic care & needs for water turtles. It's not only complete, but as you'll see - nothing relating to their care has to be expensive: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/RESCareBarton.htm >
Also, the one-gallon tank the turtle came in had worms in it today. Little red, wriggling worms, about 3 or 4 mm long, and smaller than a mm wide. The turtle hasn't been in the tank for two weeks. The tank has been sitting on the floor of my room... yuck!
<Some sort of worm eggs were laid, eggs hatched, it happens>
The worms looked like they couldn't get out of the water, so I think my room is un-contaminated. I was wondering if turtles could get that type of worm (whatever that may be), and if so, how to take care of it myself (I live very far from a vet that does reptiles) I wish I had thought to take a picture of the small tank today before I dumped it in the yard (oops!!!).
<No need. The turtle likely does have some parasitic worms in his intestines. All you have to do is keep the water clean: break down the tank once a week, drain it, wash it with soap and water and rinse well. Then refill, etc. A couple weeks of that and the problem will take care of itself. After that, just see that some water is changed every week and the entire volume changed monthly or so>
Thanks for your help in advance!
<No Charge!! Again: read up: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/RESCareBarton.htm >

Leech? Turtle...   7/24/10
One day at the park some fisherman caught a turtle and my wife had to have it.
<Hmm usually a bad idea.>
We went to the pet store and stocked up and put him in a 35-450 gallon tank.
<? 35 gallons or 450 gallons? There's a big difference there! An adult Turtle really needs upwards of 55 gallons.>
It's been over a month and the turtle is doing fine.
<So far. The best that can be said about Turtles is that they take a long time to die. Please make sure you read here:
By far the majority of pet turtles die prematurely, being killed through inappropriate care or diet.>
He doesn't fear us - in fact he sticks his head out of the water and follows us around as best as he can from within his tank. My wife overfeeds him and turtles don't seem to be the cleanest animals in the world (it's an aquatic turtle; I can't remember it's name but it's dark brownish-green with yellow caught in eastern Georgia).
<Again, do read above. Turtles create a lot of mess, and it's up to you to provide adequate filtration and water changes. They're certainly cleaner that humans, but they still do produce substantial amounts of urine and faeces.>
Today our toddler noticed something wormlike stuck to the side of the tank. I *think* it's a leech.
<Could be. Or a planarian.>
It's about an inch long. It has a sucker on both ends - a little one on its narrow end and a larger one on its broader end. It's clear-ish, but has horizontal stripes of sorts. It is very flat. It is capable of moving by attaching one sucker and then pulling its body along, but mostly it just seems to reach it's tiny end out in the water as if searching for something.
<Sounds like a leech. Leeches "inchworm" about, though they can also swim quite well. Flatworms/planarians glide across surfaces.>
It looks a lot like the image at the top of your FAQs on Freshwater Flatworms page ( http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fwsubwebindex/planariafaqs.htm?h=leech ), but I've read most of the comments on the page and it's several orders of magnitude larger than the things people are complaining about.
<Oh, leeches can get very big, 10 cm or more. They do have a "sucker" at each end, one of them with teeth, the mouth.>
One last bit of information - my wife did 100% water change yesterday (there's only one fish in there with the turtle, and it's a minnow we caught by accident then kept because we figured the turtle would eat it... but that was a month ago...). That involved cleaning the entire tank and everything in it. The worm was not in the tank, meaning it was presumably attached to the turtle.
<Possibly, or attached to plants or rocks.>
I suppose it's remotely feasible that it was attached to the filter and my wife didn't notice.
What could this be, are there more somewhere, and is it a problem?
<If everything in this tank came from the pond in the park, I'd return the leech to the pond. Not all leeches are parasites, and in fact many of them are useful predators that eat all kinds of small invertebrates. On the other hand, some are parasitic, so you don't want to risk keeping the thing in your vivarium. If you don't know where the leech came from, then humanely destroy it -- dropping it in some beer should do the trick.>
The reason I'm not convinced it's a leech is b/c if it is, it was attached to the turtle 24 hours ago, yet it's flat and clear now... wouldn't it be full of blood? Thanks.
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Leech?

African Side Neck with Odd Algae, possible parasites?   3/23/09
Hello WWM, I realize you are extremely busy and will try my best to be  clear and concise. However, as I have a horrible digital camera I can't send you any pictures that will be of use. I received an African Side Neck turtle about a month ago from a friend. When I got Leroy his shell was severely peeling, he had no filter and nothing in his tank save him, 3 rocks, and about 3" of water (it didn't even cover his shell). Since receiving him I have done lots of research and increased his water to about 8", put in gravel, kept the rocks, a basking lamp, heater, filter and a turtle dock, all in a 20 gallon tank. His cage is constantly kept at 79 - 80 degrees Fahrenheit, occasionally a bit warmer when I change the water as I don't always get the temp perfect out of the faucet, but never above 84. I think he is still growing as he is only about 4" wide (maybe 5" long). I clean his cage with a weekly 50% water change and bi-weekly complete cage overhaul, taking everything out, wiping it down with a cage cleaning solution as well as cleaning the rocks and dock with solution and lightly brushing his shell with a toothbrush. His shell peeling has cleaned up, he is very active and eats both ReptoMin turtle pellets and occasionally feeder fish.
<Mmm, this last is a very poor idea... too fatty, too much chance of introducing parasites... And you need to include a vitamin supplement...
Very likely this animal is suffering from deficiency... as evidenced by the shell condition>
Anyway, what worries me is the algae that is growing on his shell. He came with some, but it seems to be increasing. It is little green patches all across his shell.
I have tried lightly brushing with a clean toothbrush to get it off (as the former owners recommended) but he does not like firm pressure and I'm afraid to hurt him.
<Best not to handle period>
Also there is some sort of white string-like patches in his shell, they are concave (not sticking out but in) and about a 1/4" long each, there's three in one area. There may be more small patches appearing at another part in his shell, but I'm not sure. Recently he has been "scratching" his back against the bottom of the turtle dock as if it's itchy. I have tried putting Dr. Turtle's into the tank, they say they help with common turtle diseases and it is a dissolvable tablet (I did two consecutively, once one dissolved, the other in), but it didn't seem to help at all. Most recently his skin has started to peel a bit and he keeps biting himself as if to get off excess or itchy skin. Is this serious enough to warrant a vet visit or is there things I can do to help him at home? Thank you so much for your help!
<Do read re Vitamin D involvement with these Chelonians... and provide better nutrition: See the Net re... or read at least here:
The problem with the shell can only be solved from "the inside out" by providing better living conditions and foods over time.
Bob Fenner>

White String Fecal Matter On Map Turtle 05/05/07 I have 2 turtles in the same tank, a red ear slider, and a map turtle.  Today when I was  adding some water to their tank, and saw my map turtle had (what looked like) white string (almost floss looking) coming out of its bottom. It was very long and the turtle became a little agitated by it, is there anything wrong with my turtle?? Thank you, Jen < Could be worms. Take a fecal sample to a good turtle vet to be examined. The vet will be able to provide a suitable treatment.-Chuck>

Turtle With Eye/Head Problem   1/4/07 Hi, My boyfriend and I came home yesterday from a three week vacation to find one of our painted turtles completely disoriented.  It's left eye socket is swollen about twice its normal size, his head is cocked completely to the left, as if it is stuck and he cant move it back straight, and he can only swim/walk in a tight circle. We called a pet store in Detroit last night and they told us the turtle may have gotten too hot and suffered brain damage, but I don't see how that is possible. Is there another reason? Some sort of disease that would cause this? Should I attempt to gently pull its head out to straighten it? I appreciate your prompt attention to this matter. I live in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and have no access to vets or anyone with knowledge of exotic animals. Thank you, Brie <If your turtle is wild caught then there is a host of parasitic worms that may be at work here. Go to Kingsnake.com and contact a good herp vet that may be able to walk you through a proffered treatment for this problem. In the meantime raising the temperature of the environment to 85 F may work like a fever and help treat the disease.-Chuck>

Wormy Turtle Tank   2/13/06 Hi guys, I am lately finding very tiny red worms in the water when I clean the habitat of my RES? Is this a parasite? What should I do? Thanks, Therese < Could be a parasite. Clean the tank and treat with Fluke-Tabs. This will kill any worms in the water. If you still find worms then take a fecal sample to a vet for analysis and further treatment if needed.-Chuck>

Turtle With Little Worms  12/2/05 Hi, I have recently noticed tiny white parasites that are swimming in my RES habitat. I have a 55 gallon for him. They look to me to be round and mostly on the glass, but they are throughout the environment. I was wondering if you have any info as to what these are and how I can get rid of them? Could they be some sort of worm, like I have read about on your forum? < Treat the tank with Fluke-Tabs to remove them. Take a fecal sample to a qualified veterinarian that deals with turtles and see if there is an internal parasite problem.> Chubby has had a great appetite but I noticed today that these parasites are eating his pellets, in turn my RES is ingesting them also. What could come of this? <Hopefully they are really not parasitic and just a by product or contaminant that came in with some food or substrate.> These parasites are so annoying and disgusting. I have been looking for some answers but haven't found anything that really sounds like what I'm dealing with here. My turtles health has been excellent and I would like to keep that way. I'm not sure what ingesting these could do to him. Please help ASAP!! I do have some big rock on the bottom that I'm going to take out, to hard to get the yuk out of the bottom. What would you recommend for the substrate, I would like to put some sand down, if so what kind and where should I purchase it? < I would recommend a very fine well rounded non-abrasive sand. The small size means a smaller pore space between the sand grains and less junk getting trapped in there. Get it from an aquarium shop.-Chuck> Also, I don't have any live plants or fish in with him.  Thanks for any information that you could give me. Tammy 

Can red ear sliders carry worms? We have two small red ear slider turtles and we put them for a few minutes in a small tank we have with ghosts shrimps that our kids enjoy watching. After the turtles swam a while they were taken out and returned to their "homes." Shortly after I notices a long white thin string looking thing in the aquarium with the shrimps that I took to be turtle poop, even though I thought it was odd. A few days later, it was still in the aquarium and while I watched the shrimp swim after their food, I noticed that the "turtle poop" was moving and coiling up and straightening out. The thing is alive. <I imagine that was quite the eye opener...> It makes my skin crawl. <I know what you mean.> It could only have come from the turtles. All we have in the small tank are 7 ghosts shrimps and this thing was not in there until we put the turtles in there to see if they enjoyed it. <Pretty positive that it's an parasitic worm that was in one of the turtles.> Is this possible and should I worry about my children who handle these turtles? <You should always be careful with your children when handling turtles.  Not only for parasites, but also you should be wary of Salmonella.  While usually we associate worms with pet dogs and cats there are many different types of worms that will infest pet reptiles.  The most dangerous of these are called Pentastomid worms, this is probably not the worm in your tank. Those worms are found in the lungs of the turtle and rarely are seen outside the body.  But, I would like to share some info just to give you a bit of warning! They are found in many different animals from snakes, crocodiles, to turtles and lizards.  The eggs of this worm are microscopic and can be numerous in a tank.  If children should put their hands in the water and then eat something they can ingest the eggs.  This isn't meant to scare you away from keeping turtles, just a fact that parents should know.  To treat for these parasites, allow the turtle to dry out for a couple of hours and then place the turtle in a solution of Piperazine for about thirty minutes.>   The We had 3 and one turtle just died one day and we couldn't figure out why. No noticeable infections or anything. Our other turtle looks perfectly fine but the smaller one seems to have lost it's eye sight somewhat. It's always rubbing at his eyes with it's little hands and we have to guide the food into it's mouth because it has trouble finding it. Please take the time to let me know what you think is going on. Do turtles carry intestinal worms? I appreciate your time and hope to hear from you soon. <I suggest you check out some turtle forums to learn more on turtle care.  A really nice article on turtle health can be found here   http://www.geocities.com/dterrapin/disease/  (though, it's a bit hard to read with the green on black type...)  I have found the info to be quite well written and offers many good links to learn more.> Thank you, Maria G. Gonzalez <By washing after handling a herp and by keeping herp cages clean, any risk of disease will be minimized. -Magnus>

Suggested answer to a recent Daily FAQ post Hello there, was looking through the Daily FAQ today (2/21.5) and noticed this post/response: Can red ear sliders carry worms? What caught my eye about it was the presence of ghost shrimp in the tank. Just wanted to note a semi-recent topic on the WWM forums: http://wetwebfotos.com/talk/thread.jsp?forum=3&thread=16157&tstart=15&trange=15 Allivymar had a ghost shrimp with a worm recently and posted photos of the worm, both in and out of the shrimp. I recently encountered one of these as well (I'm DonQuixote on the forums) with a shrimp I purchased recently. The person who sent in the question about the turtles might want to give the photos a look and see if it's similar. If so, the worm might've been in one of the shrimp rather than a turtle. I never even thought to look at ghost shrimp for these things until seeing photos of them both here and on another forum recently. Hope this helps,        Chris Sandusky <Does. Thank you for sending your note. Bob Fenner>

Turtle With Parasitic Worms <Hi, Mike D here again> Now I am seeing white worms coming out of the turtle's feces!<Not uncommon in wild caught turtles, but surprising in captive bred animals>  They are about one inch or small in length and are as thin as a piece of paper.  I got rid of the other two turtles and gave them away to friends.  Now what do I do?  I put some Maracyn Plus medication in the tank, hoping this would help.<This won't help at all, as that medication is for gram positive bacterial infections only>  I started that yesterday (Thursday, July 22, 2004).  My turtle is now not eating <A very bad sign, as the ONLY way to rid it of parasitic worms is through feeding medicated foods containing a vermicide>, but is active.  This is the same one that cracked its shell <I hope his name isn't "Lucky">. I've siphoned the tank yesterday to get rid of the worms that were there and this morning I found more!  HELP!!!<You'll need to  check with your LFS to see what brand of vermicidal food they carry, or even better, a local Veterinarian, just as you would for a puppy or kitten with worms. What you are describing sounds like tapeworms or flukes, with the more common roundworms not flat>

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