Shell Rot

red eared slider shell rot
Contributed by Cierra Page Goldsmith

Also known as: ulcerative shell disease.

Shell rot is a fungal and/or bacterial infection that occurs on the turtle’s carapace or plastron. Because it’s caused by poor husbandry, shell rot is an unfortunately common problem among red-eared sliders.


  • Small black holes/pitting
  • Soft spots
  • Soft reddish or pinkish area on shell
  • Hard black spots on shell
  • Faded shell
  • White spots on shell
  • Foul odor
  • Shell is falling part


  • Dirty water
  • Lack of dry basking area
  • Low basking temperature
  • Untreated shell injury
  • Fighting


Regular, gentle shell brushing to remove algae and/or mineral deposits is a good opportunity to inspect your turtle’s shell.

If you suspect that your turtle has shell rot, make an appointment with an experienced reptile veterinarian immediately! This condition is likely very painful for the turtle, and must be aggressively treated to resolve. The veterinarian will likely clean the affected area and prescribe antibiotics and dry-docking.

Shells take a long time to heal, so be prepared for a long recovery.


Lathe, S. (2016, February 21). How I treat shell rot in turtles. Vet Tails; Vet Tails.

Mader, D. R. (2006). Reptile Medicine and Surgery (2nd ed.). Saunders.

Stacey. (2020, April 27). Shell Rot in Turtles & Tortoises: Here’s How to Treat Their Shell NOW… Reptile Guide.

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