Why Is My Turtle Restless

If you have a pet reptile (turtle or tortoise), then the chances are that it will become agitated

So you may wonder – Why is my turtle restless?

There are many reasons for this and some may be more obvious than others.

For example, if you’ve just brought home an injured or sick animal, there’s bound to be stress involved in bringing them back from their ordeal.

Similarly, a new owner with no prior experience dealing with reptiles might find themselves feeling overwhelmed by all the different species they own.

Whatever the reason, turtles generally get very upset when left alone without human interaction.

If this happens often, it could indicate that something isn’t right.

The following list provides some possible causes of anxiety among captive animals.

Once we identify what’s causing distress, we can take appropriate action.

Why is my turtle hyper?

A healthy turtle should remain calm most of the time.

When things don’t go as planned, however, it’s not unusual for your pet to show signs of emotional unrest.

Some common behaviors include:


While turtles aren’t known to “pace” like dogs, they’ll walk around repetitively, either on land or in water.

It helps relieve boredom and nervous energy.

However, excessive pacing can also cause health problems such as kidney stones.


Bite marks help regulate temperature and stimulate nerves.

But biting too hard can damage shell tissue, leaving behind scars.

Hard bites tend to occur during periods of excitement or fear.

During these times, turtles need our understanding rather than punishment.

Check out my article – Why is my turtle biting himself?


Swimming requires lots of energy, which makes it difficult to conserve while trying to relax.

A good way to reduce agitation is to put him/her into a box filled halfway with sand, making sure the lid stays shut tightly.

Or try placing him/her inside a small aquarium containing gravel.

Check out my article – Why does my turtle keep swimming against the glass?


Hiding behavior seems counter-intuitive at first glance.

After all, hiding means withdrawing from sight, doesn’t it?

Yet, turtles feel vulnerable when separated from other individuals, especially babies who haven’t yet learned social skills.

Hideaways provide shelter from predators and weather conditions.

In addition, hideaways give us the opportunity to interact with them.

Since turtles spend much of their lives submerged underwater, it’s crucial to make sure they stay safe.

Related article – Why is my turtle hiding in his shell?


Vocalizing is another form of communication used by many reptiles.

Turtles use sounds produced through air sacs located near their mouths.

These noises range between hissing and growling, but they’re mostly meant to convey anger or pain.

Often, vocalizations reflect frustration over being unable to escape from confinement.

Many types of aquatic turtles live solitary lifestyles.

They eat only once every four days or so, and must rely on hideaways to avoid attack from predators and competitors.

Although turtles seem quite content living out their existence within tight spaces, they actually prefer spacious surroundings, similar to lizards.

So any extra room in captivity can improve their quality of life.

When turtles are kept together, even in large containers, aggression usually arises when two males fight for territory.

Females typically lay eggs under moist layers of substrate and leaves.

Occasionally, females may nestle alongside each other to protect their young until hatchlings emerge.

As soon as they reach maturity, male turtles leave the area to search for mates.

Males compete against one another to mate with multiple partners, resulting in frequent fights.

Although territorial disputes commonly lead to violence, turtles can also suffer psychological trauma due to abuse, neglect, illness, malnutrition, dehydration, loneliness, and isolation.

In order to prevent behavioral issues, it’s important to handle turtles gently whenever possible.

Caregivers should always treat captives respectfully and never harm them unnecessarily.

Remember that turtles have limited control over certain bodily functions.

Therefore, they require consistent access to food and fresh water.

Make sure to check temperatures regularly, keeping them warm enough to survive comfortably.

Finally, keep turtles away from bright lights, loud noise, odors, chemicals, and sharp objects because they can trigger seizures.

Related article – Can a baby turtle live with a big turtle?

How do you calm a turtle down?

There are several ways to approach calming anxious turtles.

First, remember that although turtles possess little physical mobility compared to mammals, they still benefit from affectionate attention.

Just taking care of basic needs can help alleviate mood swings.

Next, consider using positive reinforcement training methods to establish effective communication.

Simply saying words can sometimes confuse turtles.

Instead, pick specific actions, gestures, or tones that mean the same thing to turtles.

Try repeating those cues consistently whenever necessary.

Next, look for opportunities to engage with your turtle.

Spending time outdoors allows them to enjoy natural sunlight while interacting with other wildlife.

Exposing them to unfamiliar sights and smells gives them confidence and boosts self esteem.

Your patience is key here.

Repeated exposure takes longer for younger turtles since they lack instinctual knowledge of how to behave appropriately.

Be patient and practice kindness.

Eventually, turtles learn to associate pleasant experiences with humans.

You can encourage this process by giving treats along with praise and encouragement.

Lastly, turtles should be given plenty of space to move freely.

Don’t worry, they won’t bite!

Most likely, turtles will explore their environment by crawling up onto surfaces or dropping straight down into deep holes.

Keep them busy with toys designed specifically for stimulating their senses.

Consider adding plants, rocks, logs, and various textures that mimic nature.

Fresh air, exercise, and sunshine can also play vital roles in helping turtles cope with stressful situations.

What are signs of a stressed turtle?

As mentioned earlier, turtles are capable of communicating their feelings via vocalization.

Unfortunately, unlike cats and dogs, turtles cannot tell people what’s wrong simply by looking at them.

Still, changes in posture, breathing patterns, body language, and facial expressions can reveal whether turtles are distressed.

Here are some warning signs to watch out for:


Lack of activity indicates low levels of glucose and protein.

If your turtle shows symptoms of lethargy, increase feeding amounts immediately.

Also, make sure the enclosure contains adequate humidity.

Slow eating

Slow eating can be caused by hunger, thirst, constipation, poor digestion, or insufficient nutrition.

To assess proper intake, pay close attention to meals taken throughout the day.

Pay special attention to turtle feces.

Is it wetter than normal?

Are its contents undigested?

Does it appear greasy?

If yes, you need to reevaluate your diet plan and possibly seek medical advice.


Saliva production serves an array of purposes including lubricating joints, cooling bodies, attracting potential mates, building muscle strength, regulating heartbeat, and fighting infection.

If salivation becomes excessive, it’s probably associated with a problem related to reproduction.


Excessive movement indicates high levels of adrenaline, sugar, and salt.

Reduce feeder amounts accordingly.


Panting occurs when turtles are overheating or suffering from respiratory disorders.

Take measures to cool down quickly, perhaps by opening windows to let cooler air circulate.

Give your turtle a chance to recuperate before returning her to her tank.


Groaning suggests serious injury.

Get your turtle checked by your vet immediately.

Your veterinarian will advise you regarding the best course of treatment based upon your particular situation.

Many illnesses, injuries, nutritional deficiencies, parasites, and diseases can contribute to depression.

Taking steps to address underlying causes of distress can significantly impact overall well-being.

Why is my turtle pacing?

Here are some possible explanations for why your turtle keeps walking:

Uncontrollable itching

Itching is a sign of irritation or inflammation.

Turtle shells contain sensitive skin tissues that itch easily.

Check for broken scales and remove debris carefully.

Wash off accumulated dirt periodically.

Use gentle soap and rinse thoroughly after cleaning.

Dry clean only.

Never apply lotion directly to shell tissue.

Temperature extremes

Extreme heat triggers painful spasms in turtle muscles.

Cool down slowly and gradually lower water temperature to accommodate acclimation to colder environments.

Avoid putting turtles outside in cold weather unless absolutely necessary.


Confined turtles exhibit pacing behavior because they’re bored or uncomfortable.

Place your turtle in a larger container and fill half of it with loose soil or pebbles.

Add a few artificial plants and cover the top layer of earth with damp paper towels.

Put a heating pad underneath the towel to create steam.

Let the aquarium sit overnight to allow moisture to seep beneath the paper towels.

Change the towels daily. Repeat this procedure every three weeks until your turtle adjusts to his new habitat.


Frustrated turtles pace around repeatedly because they can’t figure out where to swim next or what direction to turn.

Move your turtle toward the center of the tank, allowing him to decide which side to exit.

Then release him back to his preferred spot.

Practice this technique until he learns to navigate independently.


An injured turtle has trouble swimming and navigating across dry surfaces.

Allow them to recover fully before attempting to reintroduce them to outdoor habitats.


Illness can result in erratic movements, disorientation, and loss of appetite.

Consult your vet for medication recommendations.

Painful memories

Painful memories can provoke flashbacks.

Treat turtle pain promptly to ease discomfort.


Leave a Comment