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Why Is My Turtle Not Moving?

Has your turtle recently stopped moving, and you wonder what could be wrong with it? Or you have not had your turtle very long, but you’re concerned because it doesn’t seem to move a lot. 

There are many reasons why your turtle may not be moving. Some possible causes include infection or disease, food intolerance or dietary preferences, pregnancy, laziness, and hibernation. 

Another possibility is that your turtle may be dying, but there will usually be other symptoms. 

There are ways to figure out why your turtle may not be moving, and there are several things you can do to get your pet moving again. 

Keep reading to learn what to do if your turtle is not moving and how you can hopefully get it moving again. 

Five Reasons Why Your Turtle May Not be Moving 

Five Reasons Why Your Turtle May Not be Moving

There are quite a few reasons your turtle may be less active than usual, and most of them can be corrected. 

Dietary Issues

There are a few dietary issues that could be causing your turtle to be immobile. 

They may have a food intolerance or sensitive stomach.

The food you are giving your turtle may be making them sick. Turtles cannot communicate like people, so their behavior is one way to determine that something is wrong. 

If your turtle is less active after they eat or refuse to eat, it could be the food that is the problem. 

They may not like the food you are giving them.

If you notice that your turtle is not eating, but they do not appear sluggish or sick, they might not like the food you are feeding them. 

While the food itself is not making them sick, not eating could lead to less energy and illness. 

Your Turtle Might be Lazy or Bored

Your turtle may not be moving because they are bored or lazy. In most cases, environmental factors cause boredom in turtles, leading to immobility. 

They may not have enough room to move.

Your turtle might want to move, but its tank may be too small. 

They will get bored trying to move around in such close quarters. They should have enough room to swim around and a basking area. 

They may be bored

Boredom is one of the most common causes of non-movement in turtles, especially if you only have one turtle. 

Exercise is crucial for a turtle’s physical and mental health. 

Infection or Disease 

Another possible reason your turtle might not be moving is that they have an infection or illness. 

They could have an abscess or swelling from an infection or disease that is painful and causing them not to move. 

Here are some signs that your turtle may be ill:

  • You hear them gasping or wheezing
  • You notice spots or discolorations on their shell
  • They have discharge coming out of their eyes, ears, or nose 
  • Bubbles are coming out of the turtle’s mouth

If your turtle isn’t showing any interest in moving and has displayed some of the above signs, notify your vet as soon as possible. 

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Your Turtle Could be Pregnant

Another reason your turtle might not be moving is that they are pregnant. Pregnant turtles can be unpredictable and may not move much, or they may try to escape the tank.

Even if you only have one turtle, she can still become pregnant and lay eggs if that turtle is female. 

If a male turtle has been around a female turtle and she becomes pregnant, there is a good chance that the eggs are fertilized, and baby turtles will hatch out of the eggs.

They Might be Basking or Hibernating

Some turtles nap when basking, so they will be perfectly still. 

If your turtle is in their basking area or on a dry surface close to the light and not moving, they are probably basking. 

They may also be hibernating. Hibernation is not necessary for turtles, but some prefer to hibernate or sleep more during colder conditions. 

If the tank’s temperature is frigid, it could cause your turtle to want to hibernate. It can also cause them to get sick. 

Four Signs Your Turtle May Be Dying 

Four Signs Your Turtle May Be Dying

If your turtle is not moving and they are displaying or have displayed any of the following symptoms, your turtle might be dying, and you need to take it to the vet right away. 

Lack or loss of appetite

Lack of appetite is usually one of the first indicators that a turtle has an underlying condition. If left untreated, some illnesses can lead to death.

Lack or loss of appetite, along with other symptoms, is cause for concern. 

If you know that your turtle does not have any dietary issues and is not hibernating, something more serious may be going on.

They are lethargic

Dying turtles will have very little energy or no energy at all. They will sleep more and move less.

Another sign of lethargy that may be linked to illness or death is that their limbs will protrude from their shell when they are not sleeping.

If your turtle is normally active but is suddenly lethargic, something could be wrong.

Respiratory or Skin Problems 

The following respiratory and skin issues are signs that your turtle might be very ill or even dying:

  • Swelling in their ears, eyes, or shell
  • They have holes, scratches, or open wounds
  • Discharge in their eyes
  • They have bubbles coming out of their nose or mouth when they breathe
  • They wheeze or gasp for air

Foul Odor 

An unpleasant odor coming from the tank or turtle itself means that they might have an infection. 

If you smell a terrible odor and your turtle has not moved for several days, it may already be dead. 

What to do if Your Turtle is not Moving

Determine that your turtle is still alive

If your turtle is not moving, first make sure they are still alive.

Check to see if they are breathing. Their chest should fully expand when they inhale and deflate when they exhale. 

Also, check to see if they respond to stimuli like noise, light, and food. If you cannot determine that your turtle is breathing and it does not respond to stimulation, they have probably passed. 

Find the cause of their immobility. 

See if you can pinpoint the reason they are not moving. Do they not have enough room? Are they stressed or bored? Are they sick?

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Once you determine why they are not moving, it will help you figure out how to get them moving again. 

Notify a regular or reptile vet

If the problem is that they are sick or have dietary issues, then you will want to take them to the vet. 

If you live somewhere with access to a reptile vet, that is great! If not, taking them to a regular vet will be fine. 

If your turtle is sick, the vet can diagnose their illness and tell you how to treat them properly. 

If your turtle is not moving because of dietary issues, your vet can help give you different food ideas that might get your turtle eating more and moving again. 

Ways to Encourage Your Turtle to Move

Ways to Encourage Your Turtle to Move

If you have determined that your turtle is not sick, pregnant, hibernating, or dying, here are a few things you can try to get them moving again.

Check the water temperature in their tank.

It is essential to check and maintain your turtle’s tank’s air and water temperature. 

Uncomfortable water or air temperature can lead to non-movement in turtles. And if you are not careful, it can also lead to sickness and death. 

The exact temperature will vary by turtle species, so you will need first to determine their species and research water and air temperatures for that specific turtle type. 

But most turtle species, including red-eared sliders, painted turtles, and box turtles, require a water temperature between 70-80 degrees(F), a basking temperature of about 90 degrees(F), and an air temperature between 75-85 degrees(F). 

Make sure the water is kept clean.

Turtles produce a lot of waste, but they can get bacterial infections from water that is not cleaned regularly. 

Use a filter to keep waste filtered out as much as possible and replace old water with clean water at least every other day. 

Make sure the tank is big enough.

Confined spaces may limit your turtle’s movement. They need plenty of room to swim and play, as well as an area for them to bask. 

The best way to ensure that your turtle has enough room to move is to measure their shell. You need to allow them ten gallons of tank space per inch of shell length. 

Try different approaches

There may be more than one reason your turtle is not moving. 

If it is their diet, you may have to try several different things before finding something that works. 

Remember to keep trying, and do not give up!


There can be several reasons why your turtle is not moving, and not all of them are bad. 

Your turtle may need more room to move, more excitement in their environment, or a different kind of food.

Make sure the tank you use is big enough to house your turtle and that they have room to swim and a basking area. 

Maintain water temperature and clean the tank and water regularly. 

If you do all these things and take them to the vet as needed for checkups and illness, you should have a happy, active turtle!