What is Dry Docking?
Dry docking is similar to quarantine, although without any water. The purpose of dry docking is to keep your turtle warm and dry. This is especially important for promoting the healing of external wounds and respiratory disease.
Why Dry Docking is Important
Although red-eared sliders are semi-aquatic and water is a big part of keeping them healthy and well, the aquatic aspect of their habitat can make them sick if something is off about the overall husbandry. For example, shell rot and fungal infections set in when a turtle doesn’t have adequate opportunities to get out of the water and dry off. Lack of adequate ventilation can cause the humidity in the air to stagnate, potentially causing a respiratory infection.
Dry docking keeps your turtle in warm, dry conditions long enough to allow its airways, shell, and skin to dry off. This encourages faster, more effective healing than the turtle would likely experience if left in the water.
How to Dry Dock Your Turtle
First — Dry docking should not be done without a diagnosis and primary medical care. If you suspect that your turtle is sick or injured, make an appointment with an experienced reptile vet first. Then you can proceed to dry dock your turtle if instructed to do so.
To dry dock your red-eared slider, you will need:
- a 20-30 gallon capacity aquarium or plastic storage tub
- your turtle’s UVB lamp, at the same distance from the turtle as it was before
- your turtle’s heat lamp, at the same distance from the turtle as it was before
- a digital probe thermometer and hygrometer, to measure temperatures and humidity
- paper towels, for substrate
Before setting up the dry dock area, make sure to disinfect the aquarium or tub you will be using first. Think of it like a hospital room. You want to keep it as sterile as possible so there aren’t any germs to complicate your turtle’s recovery. For this you can use F10SC, chlorhexidine, bleach solution, or any veterinary disinfectant.
Line the bottom of the tub or tank with paper towel (this makes cleanup a bit easier), then set up the UVB and heat lamps on one end of it to create a gradient of both light and heat. Set up the digital thermometer with the probe under the heat lamp — you want roughly the same basking temperature as what your turtle had before.
Place the dry dock tank/tub in a quiet, low traffic area to reduce stress. Stress can also interfere with healing.
Although you want your turtle to be dry during this time, you don’t want them to be dehydrated. Allow the turtle to soak in a few inches of warm water for 1-2 hours daily. Young turtles are likely to do better if soaked 1 hour in the morning and 1 hour in the evening. While the turtle is in the water, it’s the perfect opportunity to offer some food.
How Long Does Your Turtle Need to Be Dry Docked?
It depends on how long your turtle’s wound/illness needs to heal, and what your vet recommends.
How To Safely Quarantine A Turtle. (2019, November 17). TurtleHolic. https://www.turtleholic.com/how-quarantine-turtle/
Edmondson, P. (n.d.). How to “dry dock” a turtle. Insectivore. Retrieved from http://www.insectivore.co.uk/articles_turtles_how_to_dry_dock.html
RESTO-Aquatic Turtle Owners (All Species Welcome). (n.d.). Facebook. Retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/groups/RedearedsliderturtleOWW