My Red-eared slider’s eyes are swollen!

My Red-eared slider’s eyes are swollen!

They say the eyes are the windows to the soul. Well, apparently this applies to turtles as well! Many of the red-eared slider’s health issues are displayed through its eyes.

A quick and regular check on your red-eared slider’s eyes goes a long way in keeping your turtle healthy as the eyes are one of the most obvious tell-tale sign when something is wrong with your little creature.

Red-eared slider eye problems are usually classified into 2 main types. Swollen eyelids and infections.  It is easy to tell if your red-eared slider is suffering from any eye problems. A healthy red-eared slider turtle’s eye should be bright and clear. The turtle should appear lively and have no difficulty keeping its eyes open. The applies to both on land or in the water. Turtles suffering from eye problems usually goes hand in hand with other noticeable traits. Such as lethargic, sluggish movements, difficulty in breathing, loss in appetite and refusal to swim.

Red-eared slider healthy eyes
Red-eared slider healthy eyes


Swollen Eyelids

red-eared slider swollen eyes

Swollen eyes of your red-eared slider, if left untreated, can effectively render the turtle blind. Turtles suffering from swollen eyes will have eyelids appearing to be puffier, in extreme cases like balloons. The swelling presents difficulties for the turtle to open its eyes. The reduced or loss in vision makes it difficult for your red-eared slider to feed, putting your turtle at risk of starvation.


Eye infections

red-eared slider infected eyesSwollen eyelids and bacterial eye infections are not mutually exclusive, they usually come hand in hand. Symptoms of bacterial eye infections include redness at the conjunctiva and its surrounding tissues, watery eyes as well as difficulty in breathing as the bacteria can easily move from the eyes to the respiratory tracts, causing multiple infections. Symptoms of respiratory infections include bubbly sounds when breathing, loss of balance whilst swimming, and mucus secreting from the nose and mouth area. In certain cases of eye infections, there may also be a cloudy film like substances around the eyes affecting its vision.


What are the possible causes and how to remedy them?

Vitamin A deficiency

One of the most common problems is Vitamin A deficiency. We have stressed numerous times that red-eared slider turtles require a diet that consists of a mixture of both meat and plant. When it comes to dietary needs of red-eared sliders, often the focus is placed on protein and calcium intake and Vitamin A are rarely discussed.

Vitamin A plays an important role in the immunity and overall wellbeing of your red-eared turtle. Like humans, lack of vitamin A impairs the immunity systems, adds stress to the kidney and liver, and can cause night blindness.

If your turtle is getting its fair share of dark leafy vegetables, Vitamin A deficiency should usually not be a concern. The deficiency of Vitamin A, also known as Hypovitaminosis A (Yeah try pronouncing that!). Lower quality pellets that with a high amount of fillers may be the cause of any nutrient deficiencies. Even if your turtle diet is predominantly of high-quality turtle pellets, you might want to consider upping its intake of dark leafy, as well as bright colored vegetables.

Read more about red-eared slider diet here!

How do I add more Vitamin A for my red-eared slider?

Some of the food higher in Vegetable contents are Carrots, Kale, Sweet potato & Spinach. Carrots might not be the easiest food to be munched down by your turtle. One way to add carrot to your turtles diet would be the use of organic carrot puree. simply mix the puree into its food for that extra beta-carotine.

Another great alternative for added Vitamin A to your turtle’s diet would be dietary supplements.

Turtle eye vitamin

The Nature Zone Turtle Eye Vitamin is a hassle-free solution to provide additional Vitamin A. The Nature Zone eye vitamin is a balanced formula of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, beta-carotene and phytonutrients that is specifically used for the prevention of eye disorders for your red-eared slider. Provides a full regime of vitamins to prevent eye problems like swollen or puffy eyes and irritation due to lack of vitamin A. Just apply 2-4 drops to your turtle’s food or directly to its mouth.


Another good option as a supplement is the Zoo-Med Repti Turtle Eye Drops.

The Zoomed turtle eye drop helps to open and clean the inflamed eyes of your red-eared slider turtle. The Turtle Eye drops are made especially for turtles that can be prone to vitamin A deficiencies.

Repti turtle eye drop
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Water quality

Red-eared slider turtles often develop eye infections when the water quality is questionable.

Dirty water has an extremely adverse impact on your turtle. Red-eared sliders excrete waste constantly throughout the entire day. This will result in build-ups of ammonia and other toxins that are very detrimental to the turtle’s well-being. The ammonia build-ups can cause irritation to the eye If these unwanted wastes are not removed promptly. Not only that, the ammonia will penetrate your red-eared slider’s body and will quickly build up to a fatal point. This is known as ammonia stress or ammonia poisoning.


Besides filthy water, a high concentration of chlorine can also cause irritations to your turtle’s eyes. You can easily check for your tank for chlorine level and water hardness with testing strips. Chlorine can be removed using a reptilian specific water conditioner such as the Zoo Med ReptiSafe Instant Terrarium Water Conditioner. This water conditioner effectively removes chloramines and chlorine from your turtle tank. Even if you are not living in an area where the tap water is known to be heavily chlorinated, the Zoomed Repisafe water conditioner is a great product for your turtle as it also introduces essential ions and electrolytes to your aquarium.

Red-eared slider water conditioner Red-eared slider water conditioner

How to determine if your turtle’s eye problems are caused by the water quality?

One way to determine if your red-eared slider’s eye issue is caused by the water in your aquarium, place your turtle into a separate tank with clean and unchlorinated water. Observe your turtle for the next 12-24 hours for any improvement in its swell, or it’s behaviour. If you don’t have a spare tank, you can always use a collapsible pool for baby or pet bath.

However, it is important to note that this method is not always accurate. There may be instances where the infection or swelling in your turtle is so severe that any improvement may be insignificant and unnoticeable to us. A water change and cleaning of your turtle habitat are always recommended whenever your turtle is known to be suffering from any illness. This is to prevent the bacteria from spreading to other organisms in the turtle tank. Do a water change of at least 75% and replace your mechanism and chemical filter media. It is not necessary to replace or wash your biological media. Doing so will remove all the beneficial bacteria colony. These colonies responsible for breaking down of various bacteria in your red-eared slider tank.

Find out what is the difference between Mechanical, Chemical & Biological media.

Scratches by another turtle

If there is more than one turtle in your red-eared slider tank, the eye infection might be caused by a scratch from another turtle. This might be just an accidental one-off occurrence. However, if there are repeated instances whereby one turtle is repeatedly scratched or bitten, the only thing that can be done is to probably separate them.

As for treatment for an injury to the eyes caused by scratching, it is important to nurse that wound early before it eventually leads to infections. Some people advise using human eye drops for your red-eared slider. We wouldn’t really risk that. For one, we are not exactly sure that every content in the drops is suitable for turtles. Some eyedrops, for example, may contain steroids.

Instead, there are medications that are specifically meant for cleansing your red-eared slider turtle’s eyes. Such as the Fluker Labs Repta Rinse Reptile Eye Rinse.  The repta eye rinse is a non-irritating solution with antimicrobial properties that can combat and prevent bacterial eye infections.

Fluker's eye rinse
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How do I prevent eye infections?

Prevention is always better than cure. Better to take the necessary steps to prevent any infections and injuries than to scramble for remedies and spend loads of money visiting the vet afterwards.

– Feed a well-balanced diet with loads of leafy green or bright coloured vegetables.

– Introduce supplements and multivitamins if necessary.

– Do regular water changes to prevent ammonia buildups.

– Change your chemical filtration media upon ending of lifespan.

– Ensure that your mechanical media is not clogged

– Check if your overall filtration system is adequate for your turtle.

– Use water conditioner to remove any chlorine as well as treat water hardiness.

– Remove any leftover food in the tank that is not eaten by your turtle.


Overall, if you suspect that the infection to your turtle’s eyes is too severe. bring your turtle to a professional veterinary for a full and thorough check-up and diagnosis.