Recently while giving my turtle some shell scratching I noticed I could press the plastron (bottom part of shell) and carapace (top part of shell) down closer to each other. This mostly only happens at the extremities of the shell near the head and tail, but it got me worried about whether my turtle's shell is healthy and whether this should be happening.

My turtle has about 6 hours of partial Sunlight exposure through the day with accessible basking spots. I feed it daily, a diet of mixed pellets, worms, chicken, shrimp, and the veggies I have though it doesn't eat much of that. The pellets I use all have calcium, and I do leave cuttlebone floating around in the water, though I'm not sure the turtle shows interest. I also made it some food which is basically mixed pellets with chicken and some veggies, as well as crushed cuttlebone. The turtle is about 3-3.2 inches in shell length and has no signs of pyramiding.

Is the mobility of the plastron and carapace at the extremities something adverse for the shell? What are some ways I could know whether my turtle's shell is healthy?

  • As a side note to "no interest in vegetables": young turtles like food rich on energy, bigger ones like more and more vegetables. One should give them some to try time after time :) Nov 1, 2019 at 15:49

1 Answer 1


Younger turtles do tend to have softer shells, and it may take years for a turtle to fully develop a strong shell. This mobility does show that the shell is soft, but softness at a young age is normal. However, a turtle's shell can get too soft; this happens when the turtle has metabolic bone disease.

In order to avoid getting metabolic bone disease, the turtle has to get sun exposure and should be fed a good source of protein, with a calcium to phosphorus ratio greater than 1.3. Supplementation of calcium is an option; just keep in mind too much of anything is bad. If the turtle has not been basking, supplement its food with some vitamin D. This should only be done when you are entirely sure that the turtle is not basking, as supplementing a basking turtle can be deleterious. Signs of metabolic bone disease include an unusually soft shell, and weight loss.

If the turtle has an appropriate combination of enough calcium and vitamin D in its diet, then even with a soft shell the turtle should be healthy. If the turtle's mass has dropped and the shell has become softer, then measures should be taken to strengthen the shell, through the diet and if possible through placing the turtle for 10-30 min under the sun daily. However, if the temperatures are extremely high, then the turtle should be placed for only a few minutes. Other problems in turtles' shells include shell rot and many others, you can see these by following this link: http://www.austinsturtlepage.com/Care/medshell.htm

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