Help! I Own a Reptile!
Reptiles are often considered by the public as being more difficult to care for than dogs and cats, but who ever needed to take their snake for a walk, or had to buy new toys for their lizard?
Reptiles do have specific care requirements, but those familiar with keeping them will readily agree that they are no more difficult to understand than Fido or Mr. Whiskers. Some reptile keepers would even say they're easier! That being said, many people are still very confused about the nuances of reptile behavior, illness, and care, in the same way that people are confused about basic dog and cat related topics.
There is a lot of help out there if you only look. For example, the internet has a variety of reptile-related resources such as the Kingsnake, Fauna Classifieds, and Reptile Forums where one can ask for advice and get helpful answers from fellow keepers who have been there and done that too. And I have gathered together a rather bloated list of numerous reptile-related questions that I have received in the past, which may be helpful to some readers seeking advice about their little companions.
1. Is it normal for my snake to shed 2 months after she completed her last shed?
The rate of a snake's shedding cycle varies largely depending on the age, the type of snake, and how fast the animal in question is growing. Snakes' shedding cycles are mainly based on food intake and correspond with their subsequent growth. Very young snakes that are being fed appropriately can be seen shedding every 4 weeks, whereas seasoned adults, who have very little growing to do, may shed only a couple of times a year.
Also to be mentioned is a snake's health - a snake will shed extra if it is experiencing skin problems such as those caused by mites, scale rot, or other wounds. Two months is normal for a growing snake, however. You have nothing to worry over.
2. Why does my Columbian rainbow boa keep opening her mouth wide only on one side?
Something to note about the Epicrates cenchria species of snake is that they are lovers of humidity and can readily fall prey to issues such as respiratory infection if the climate is too dry. Having said that, if you witness your snake opening his mouth widely this may just be a case of him readjusting his jaw, which is a common sight if they have fed recently. When snakes eat, their lower jaw dislocates and spreads apart to allow the intake of food much larger than their head. After dinner, a snake will need to do some readjusting to get things back in place. This behavior can sometimes seem like yawning or gaping.
Be sure to listen to the breathing of your animal and note the time that he spends with his mouth agape. Squeaky noises, spit bubbles, or prolonged periods of open mouth breathing or "panting" is abnormal and may be a sign of respiratory distress
3. How can I raise the humidity in my snake's enclosure?
Many people will tell you that in order to maintain proper air quality you need expensive foggers, complicated misters, wet towels over the top of the tank, room humidifiers, and constant, religious misting 4 times a day. All of this can understandably seem like a colossal amount of work for such an otherwise simple animal, and in all reality, you do not need to partake in such rigorous methods. When it comes to snakes, keeping proper humidity is quite simple due to their own confining-box-loving behaviors. I am here to tell you what I do for my Brazilian rainbow boas, a species of snake that are renowned for their obsession with wet, heavy air.
Controlling the humidity of a small portion within a large tank is easier than controlling humidity in the entire tank. I accomplish this by providing each of my snakes with one or two simply constructed humid hides. Humid hides are small hiding places where a snake can not only retreat to for darkness, but also for the benefit of the humid mini-environment within. Humid hides are not typically sold at pet stores, and I have never found a commercial item sold that worked as well as a plain ol' tupperware container with a single hole cut into the lid. As you can already guess, the humid hides I use for my critters are just appropriately sized plastic containers that I find at grocery, retail, or thrift stores. Opaque containers work best, but if you cannot find one of those, simply bury the container under the animal's bedding or cover the container with duct tape. The darkness within the container will entice a snake to lay inside it.
The next step is going to be filling the container with a water-absorbent material. Sphagnum moss and vermiculite are excellent in this regard, and I use both products extensively. You want the substrate in the container to soak up hot water until all the bits are moist, but not dripping. Squeeze the substrate over a sink so that any excess water can drip out. Once satisfied, put the substrate in the container, close the lid, and place your new humid hide in a location within the tank that is half on and half off of the heat pad (if you are using a heat lamp, make sure half of the container is under the warm area). The container will need to be changed out weekly or every two weeks to prevent buildup of stagnant air and harmful bacteria.
In addition to the humid hide, I would continue misting the entire cage whenever you feel the air is dry, but you won't need to rely on it. Another helpful way to raise humidity is to place the animal's water dish directly under a heat lamp. This will promote evaporation and lead to more water in the air.
4. Is it possible to keep two ball pythons together?
Providing you have an adequate cage large enough for both snakes, Python regius do wonderfully well together. It is best to keep males with males and females with females, unless you are intending to breed - often times the male can stress out the female if she is unreceptive, which could cause one or both of the animals to refuse feeding. If you are not sure of your snake's gender, consider bringing it to a veterinary clinic that has someone experienced with reptiles for a quick probing session.
I would also like to mention that offering multiple hiding places within a multi-snake habitat is the key to success. If you only offer one area as a heat source, and only offer one hiding place near that heat source, you will undoubtedly see both snakes trying to cram themselves into the same hiding place, which, again, can lead to stress and anorexia later on.
5. My snake escaped! What do I do?!
Follow the walls that the snake's cage is up against until you reach furniture, another room, etc. Snakes travel along the walls, and they can usually be found in the nearest closet or other similarly quiet, dark place.
Whenever you lose a snake, just ask yourself, 'where would I go if I were a snake?' It helps if you actually get down on the ground and envision your surroundings from their view. If you're a snake, you want to go somewhere dark and removed - usually a closet, but sometimes there are dark vents on the floor or wall, or holes under a cupboard that are just as inviting. In the past I have found the majority of my escaped snakes in the corners of my closet floors (under piles of clothes). But some I found wrapped up inside the mechanisms of leather couches, under washing machines, or chilling out down in the basement.
If you don't find him at first, don't worry. Snakes usually always turn up again, sometimes a month after they're lost. Search dark places before you search for warm places. Snakes on the run first and foremost want somewhere dark and quiet to hide in; heat typically does not play into their list of needs.
6. Why type of heating does a garter snake need?
Thamnophis do not necessarily require heat pads or lamps to survive, and in the wild they are used to hunting, sleeping, breeding, and thriving in weather below 70 F. However, they will grow much faster and live a much healthier life if you offer them a heat pad appropriate for the size tank that they would be living in.
Put the pad under the tank on one side, leaving the other side cool so that the animal may escape the warmth if he so wishes. Heat emitters or incandescent heat bulbs, housed above the tank and fitted within a heat lamp, also do well. Overheating a garter snake is something that can happen, and ideally you only want the warm side of their tank to be around 75-85 degrees. The cool side can safely be 10-20 degrees lower than the warm side without adverse effects. Garter snakes are very resilient and tolerate a wide range of temperatures.
7. Can I get a snake off of Craigslist?
I see nothing wrong with getting snakes from Craiglist, in fact, I applaud it if done responsibly. There are hundreds of ball pythons and corn snakes that are abandoned every month because their owners lose interest, don't understand them, or can no longer afford their care. These 'second hand' snakes can oftentimes be the sweetest lil' things you'll ever meet, and sometimes you find impeccably sweet deals. Some people may disagree and will caution you against buying from unrepeatable sources (aka: anywhere that is not directly from a breeder), but I find this to be painfully unfair for the animals that need adoption. Humane societies do not regularly take in reptiles, and only have room for so many (one or two at the most). A large number of them are euthanized.
There is nothing wrong with perusing Craiglist for a new pet, and nobody says you are forced to buy the animal in question when you go to scope it out. You are able to meet the animal before you buy it and assess its health using your own judgment. If you are not snake or reptile savvy, I recommend bringing with you someone who is, so they may assist you in choosing a healthy animal. You always have the right to tell a seller "Hey, I'm sorry, but this isn't what I was looking for." If you are unhappy with the animal's quality, don't buy it!
8. What should I look out for when buying a new snake?
No matter where you get a snake, you want to make sure it's healthy before you "seal the deal" and make a purchase. Reptiles, unlike puppies and kittens, do not display a wide range of emotions or outward expression, and thus are very difficult to assess sometimes. But if you are vigilant and observant there are many things that would give away an unhealthy animal. When you go to acquire a new snake, you want to bring along a mental check list of the following things:
- A snake with a healthy, firm grip around your hands and arm as you hold it.
- Active, attentive, responsive.
- A healthy weight (you do not want to be able to feel the spine.)
- Shiny, clear eyes with smooth surfaces and no dimpling.
- A clean mouth with no bubbles, dried blood, or odor.
- Clear, silent breathing with no cracks, whistles, or sneezes.
- Smooth, white (depending on the type of snake) underside with no discolored ventral scales.
- A clear vent with no sign of discharge or obstruction. Inside the vent it should be the same pinkness as the mouth.
- Note any kinks in the spine or abnormal masses or bumps along the sides and underside.
- Note any significant scars, scale rot, or external parasites.
After the physical, you want to ask the seller some questions:
- How old/what gender?
- When was the last time the snake shed?
- When was the last time it ate?
- Is it eating frozen/thawed, pre-killed, or live - rats or mice?
- If not from a breeder, then what's the reason they are getting rid of the snake?
- If from a breeder, then what is the snake's specific care requirements?
Asking the right questions will help you to feel more confident about the animal you are buying. If you are uncertain about the legitimacy of someone you are buying a snake from, assess the situation to be sure that this is really the right snake for you. Remember, it's okay to say "no thank you!"
9. Is a vine snake's venom potent? Do they make good pets?
Ahaetulla nasuta are not 'venomous' in the same way that cobras or vipers are. They are a rear fanged snake, and their venom is very weak. They could not inject you unless they somehow accidentally perceived your hand as a food item and began to chew on it for many minutes. Its effect on you would most likely be minimal, similar to a bug bite or sting. Most feint attack when they are livid, but do not actually bite.
Pet stores do not usually sell these guys as their care requirements are very high. You may have to buy one from a wholesaler or breeder by visiting one at a local reptile show, or by ordering one from online. They will cost you about $30 or $40 bucks. They are cheap because they are, to my knowledge, all wild caught.
This is a very delicate snake, not recommended for beginners or intermediates. They need large cages, and their feeding requirements are through the roof. Trying to get these guys to take mice over lizards is like trying to fight a bull with a plastic cup. Lizards as food transmit a wide variety of parasites, and unless you are medicating the food or the snake, things can quickly go sour. I would not recommend this snake to most people.
10. I want a tiny snake but rosy boas look kind of boring... What are my other options?
Lichanura trivirgata come in very few colors, and in my opinion are one of the most boring looking snakes available in the trade. Basically you're looking at two different patterns: gray with black stripes, or gray with orange stripes. Rosy boas are very docile and they do not exceed 4 feet in length, so if those are the only two things that are important to you then a rosy boa may be an excellent match. If, however, you want something of similar shape and size but with a more appealing pattern, I would recommend you consider the following:
- Kenyan sand boas - These animals are renowned for their calm temperaments and ease of care. They come in a few different colors, but their normal pattern is a brilliant orange base contrasted by shiny black splotches. The males rarely exceed 2 feet, and the females rarely exceed 3. They are a very stocky, forgiving snake, and who can say no to that face?
- Children's pythons - Being snakes from Australia, these guys are obviously awesome. They stay a manageable 2 to 3 feet in length, and have a faint, yet attractive, rainbow sheen on their scales when held in the right light. These snakes are friendly and fairly easy to care for. As with the others I have suggested, they are forgiving and would be suitable for a beginner should they get their hands on one. These are not commonly found in pet stores.
- Western hognoses - A personal favorite of mine, hognose snakes are entertaining and full of personality. They eat like pigs, they have the most adorable expression, and their short, fat bodies draw in even the most fearful of snake avoiders on account of them actually looking "kinda cute." Yes, they are kinda cute, and they will stay cute forever since accounts of them reaching a 4 foot length are practically unheard of. These are not commonly found in pet stores.
- Gray banded kingsnakes - There are many different kinds of kingsnake that you may see at the pet store, but this is one of the smaller ones (rarely reaching 4 feet.) All kingsnakes have similarly simple care requirements, and as a rule are excellent feeders.
Many people might recommend corn snakes and ball pythons, but both of those snakes are known for exceeding 4 feet lengths, and ball pythons in particular can be feisty, anorexic, and difficult for first time snake owners to care for appropriately.
1. My bearded dragon is panting while he sits under his basking spot, but he wont move! Is he just stupid?
This is perfectly natural, healthy behavior that bearded dragons exhibit when they bask for long periods of time. Bearded dragons belong to a certain group of lizards that are sometimes affectionally referred to as sun worshipers. They like a lot of heat, and they like to spend a lot of time under it. Sometimes when they do this they need to expel excess heat from their body, and so, much like how a dog pants when he is hot, a bearded dragon "gapes", or opens his mouth, to help regulate his body temperature.
When the dragon reaches his desired core temperature, he will move away from the heat source and cool down elsewhere in your tank. Trust your dragon to know what he needs more than you think you know what he needs. If he is basking, let him bask. But if he is on the cool side of the tank and exhibiting this gaping behavior, be on alert. It may be much too hot in the tank for him!
Occasionally a bearded dragon will gape if he has a respiratory problem. The key is to observe his other behaviors as well. Does his mouth and nose area look healthy, are bubbles present, is there a 'wheezing' noise when he breathes, and does he frequently keep his mouth open, or is it only when he basks? Asking yourself these questions will help you determine the health of your lizard.
2. Do bearded dragons change colors?
Bearded dragons often change their color depending on temperature and the level of stress or excitement they go through. If it's too cold in the tank, or if there is a sound, scent, or sight that is bothering them, a lot of times they will darken. At night they also darken, and it will take time in the morning for them to return to their normal brilliance. Bearded dragon colors will fluctuate throughout the day in little ways as well. They will lose spots in one space and gain color in another. It is perfectly normal. During breeding season, males in particular become very bright.
Ideally you want your dragon to maintain a range of normal to bright colors the majority of the time. If you constantly see your dragon paling, or turning dark, especially around the throat area, your lizard may be trying to tell you he is unhappy about something.
3. How do I know the temperature of my lizard tank?
In order to keep a steady environment in your animal's enclosure, you will need a very special device that will be able to accurately show you the temperature. This very special device is called a thermometer, and there are many different kinds available to the reptile owner.
It is of general opinion amongst reptile keepers that the plastic dial thermometers sold in most pet stores are absolute bull honky. You should not buy a thermometer unless it is a digital one, otherwise you will be wasting your money. Personally, I suggest a for fast, accurate, and mobile readings, but there are many other different kinds of stationary digital readers and guns that will work. I prefer the guns simply because I can check the temperatures of all areas in multiple tanks with an instant readout, whereas with stationary thermometers you are limited to one tank at a time, and the location of the probe is key. Pro Exotics Temp Gun
Please do not limit yourself to reptile-specific temperature readers either. Oftentimes those sold in gardening or motor vehicle stores are of much higher quality than anything you will find at your local Petco.
4. Why does my leopard gecko wag its tail?
Leopard geckos wiggle their tail for many reasons, and there are many speculations, but no hard scientific explanation, as to why they do this. In my experiences it seems to be a certain level of arousal they reach that causes them to perform this behavior, such as right before they catch a bug (the thrill of the hunt), when two geckos meet (how exciting!), during mating rituals (self explanatory), or when they perceive something to be a threat (always a rush). One theory is that geckos wiggle their tail as a distraction, to draw the eyes of predators, and prey, to focus on a part of the gecko's body that is not important, but this does not explain the behavior during breeding.
It is important to note the animal's subtle body postures in order to figure out what he may be telling you. If the tail is wagging slow and the animal is low to the ground or making hissing noises, this can be a sign of nervousness or fear and it means that the animal is much too grumpy and does not want to be picked up. Quick wagging is usually made from a gecko that is an aggressor, such as one who is bullying another or one who is hunting.
It is perfectly normal behavior, but many geckos will outgrow it if kept alone, or will not exhibit it as often as they mature.
5. My bearded dragon won't eat his salad!
Bearded dragons, contrary to the misconception that all lizards eat bugs and meat, are primarily vegetarian as adults. It is definitely best to start offering salads to beardies early on, even if they don't take to it right away. If yours absolutely refuses, don't worry, even if you can't ever get him to eat raw salad, you can gut-load your crickets with salad before feeding them to him so at least he will gain some of his vegetable requirements in that way.
When I am training young bearded dragons to eat vegetables, I find that they show very little to no interest if the food is not moving. What I usually do is a will pick up a small, bite-sized piece of fluffy green (usually romaine, sometimes parsley) and slowly twirl it in between my two fingers so the piece is in motion and the dragon can see it. Sometimes it catches their eye and they come over to inspect it, and bite it, but sometimes they only want to look at it. Looking is better than nothing, and that is progress in and of itself!
Feeding vegetables and fruits that have strong or unique smells seem to attract a dragon's attention as well. I find that crushing parsley over a salad gives it a "minty" scent that many dragons find interesting, and will sometimes investigate. Mango, pineapple, blueberry, non-toxic flower petals such as hibiscus, honeysuckle, rose or dandelion, cactus or prickly pears, mint, cilantro, and basil are all excellent smells that may work for your individual.
I have heard of some people who had success spraying salad lightly with a mist of 100% organic fruit juice such as orange or apple juice, which will help keep the salad fresher longer and also may attract diners with its sweet, inviting smell. Every dragon is different, maybe yours will prefer one smell over another. The only way to know is to try to see.
Bright colors also attract attention, especially the color red (which is why hibiscus and rose petals work wonders). Try bell peppers, squash, or brightly colored berries to attract him over to a salad. A dragon will very rarely approach an all-green salad right off the bat. If you really want to try to get him to eat, explore other varieties of vegetables that may spark his interest.
Make sure to keep the salad in all day, and leave him alone with it for a while. A healthy bearded dragon should not starve himself when food is available. Do not give up hope. It's his stubbornness versus your willingness.
6. My crested gecko is not eating his crickets, what do I do?
What size is the enclosure? What is his temperature and humidity set at? Do you provide him with UVA and UVB lighting? Does he have enough places to hide, enough places to climb? Do you leave the crickets in the cage so they can walk all over him and bother him while he sleeps? When a reptile is not eating, this is a chance for you to take a step back and try to assess the animal's living situation and possible needs.
Many animals will refuse food if they are too cold or too hot, the cage is too dry or too wet, or they are not being stimulated through UV rays. They will also refuse food if stress is affecting their normal living, which is a common occurrence with lizards that constantly have crickets in their cage. This continual "swarm" of bugs stresses them out, so it is important that the food items are in the cage no longer than an hour. Try to provide a quiet, well furnished sanctuary for your animal that caters to his sense of security. You can accomplish this by offering multiple places to hide in, and a significant nighttime period free of light or disturbances.
, a commercially manufactured powdered food, can also entice a stubborn cresty to eat, and arguable he should be eating that instead of crickets anyway. If you are unable to get a hold of CDG right away, then a mashed fruit and unsweetened yogurt mixture may work temporarily. Crested geckos seem to favor fruits like mangoes, peaches, figs, and bananas. Crested Gecko Diet
7. Can I buy a bearded dragon from Petsmart?
There are many unsavory tales of misery surrounding the "perils of pet stores," and Petsmart routinely falls under a poor light in the eyes of animal advocates due to their corporation status. I am here to tell you that it is not the title of "pet store" you should be concerned about, but rather the quality of each individual store's pet care.
The rumor that Petsmart orders all of their animals from the same wholesaler/breeder is unfounded and untrue. How could a single company produce enough animals to supply the entire Petsmart franchise (over 1,145 stores)? Petsmarts will use different suppliers for their reptiles depending on location, and truthfully quality is not always consistent.
The rumor that all reptiles sold in pet stores are wild caught is also completely untrue. Bearded dragons, for example, are always captive born, captive bred animals due to the strict regulations in Australia that protect against the import and export of native fauna. There are no wild caught bearded dragons in any pet store, let alone Petsmarts, which abide by the technical legalities of the pet trade (whereas mom-and-pop stores will routinely have "slightly illegal" things).
I see no problem with buying from Petsmart, assuming you do your research first, and assuming you know how to choose a healthy lizard from a sick lizard. Ask the right questions and look for the right things. But I will caution against taking a pet store employee's information as verbatim - with animals, it is never wise to use just one source of information. Please read books, pamphlets, articles online, and talk to as many people as you can. A pet store employee may not know everything, and they may have some false information - but hey, so do some books. Educate yourself, do not rely on someone else to give you all the answers.
8. My iguana has a cut on his arm! What do I do?
For superficial wounds, blisters, and burns on reptiles, household Neosporin (also known as Triple antibiotic ointment) works wonders. Be sure to flush the wound first with Betadine or sterile water before applying any ointment or bandage. The ointment should be applied nightly, or twice daily (morning and evening), until the wound has healed over. Make sure that the animal's enclosure is kept cleaned and disinfected to prevent possible infection of wound sites. Assuring the animal is kept in the warmer range of its optimal temperature requirements will help with healing rate, as will the continuation of a proper diet.
If the wound is deep, substantial, showing signs of festering, or you feel uncertain about its severity, take the animal to a veterinarian as soon as possible.
9. Is Fluker's green moss safe for leopard geckos?
The Fluker's moss is dyed. It probably won't hurt your gecko, but it's still dye, and that makes me uneasy. It's a pain in the butt; it dyes everything it comes into contact with and it smells manufactured. I stay away from the stuff simply because I have better alternatives at my disposal. When providing humidity and aesthetic touches to a tank, I rely on sphagnum moss. It's lightweight, fluffy, looks interesting, holds humidity for longer, and actually contains antifungal properties which help to cut down on dangerous bacterial growth in terrariums. You can find it at most garden stores for relatively cheap.
10. Can lizards get snake mites?
Snake mites do not target lizards, they are an order specific parasite. There are mites that lizards can get, but they're usually red, whereas snake mites are decidedly black or brown. Melissa Kaplan has a great webpage about reptile mites.
11. How do I care for long tailed lizards?
Akydromus sexlineatus care is very similar to that of green anoles. Starting with tank size, a single lizard should have 10 gallons of room. Two or three lizards can be housed in a minimum tank of 20 gallons.
They need a humid environment, so a substrate of cypress mulch, coconut fiber dirt, repti-bark, sphagnum moss, vermiculite, etc, or combination of all of these are a good choice. As these lizards love to climb and hide amongst leaves, please furnish their cage with many sticks and fake or real plants for them to feel adequately secure in.
You should try to keep the tank between 70-85 degrees, with a basking spot of around 90. Provide UVB as well, as these are active diurnal lizards. Misting should be done nightly, and the bedding should remain relatively damp so as to provide a good amount of humidity throughout the tank.
Diet should be a variety of small insects. They do not like to tackle large prey, and are quite delicate, so make sure the crickets and worms you provide are small enough so that they can easily chomp them up.
12. Is a pothos plant okay for a water dragon cage?
Epipremnum aureum, the pothos plant, is a great starter plant for terrariums. It doesn't require extensive lighting, seems to work just as well in high temperatures and humidity as it does in a cooler living room environment, and the trailing stems it produces adds an exotic and beautiful touch to any enclosure.
It is not so much poisonous as it is containing potentially high levels of acidic toxicity which, if eaten often on a day-to-day basis, could result in problems. The occasional nibble here and there is harmless, and unless you are keeping a very herbaceous species such as a green iguana or a greek tortoise, I wouldn't worry about pothos being harmful.
Water dragons are more interested in tearing foliage up with their claws as they scurry about than they are in eating them, anyway.
13. What does spot checking a lizard's cage mean and how do I do it?
To "spot check" a reptile's cage means to go into the cage every day and pick out anything unsanitary. "Anything unsanitary" includes feces, urates, left-over sheds, uneaten food, etc. This is also a time where the reptile keeper will make sure that all cage furnishings are in the correct place, temperatures are appropriate, water is fresh, and the animal's condition is satisfactory.
1. Will my turtle get impacted if he eats a snail shell?
Snails are a delicious treat for most water turtles. Not only do they relish mollusks, but shells will give them a boost of calcium, which will in turn help them grow a stronger, more beautiful shell themselves. Turtles can digest snail shells, so don't worry if you don't see "shell bits" come out the other side. Impaction occurs when animals consume materials that they cannot digest, such as sand, gravel, or plastic.
2. Where can I find a good turtle breeder in the U.S?
Kingsnake Breeders offers a good list of options to start from. Reputable breeders. Quality animals.
3. Can two map turtles live in a 10 gallon tank?
One map turtle shouldn't even be in a 10 gallon tank! Turtles need lots of room and are quite dirty. Hatchlings should be in at least a 20 gallon tank (a 20 gallon long would be better), which means double if you have multiple little ones. The growth rate of aquatic turtles varies widely, dependent on things like stress, enclosure size, readability of food, and temperature, but at one year a map turtle should be around 3 inches long if kept and fed appropriately. In two to three years you are looking at an animal approximately 6 inches long, and a turtle that size will benefit from living in the largest tank you can realistically afford to maintain. 10 gallon tanks are not appropriate for most reptiles, let anyone any commercially sold turtle.
4. Help! My turtle's shell is turning white!
Please direct yourself to Austin's Turtle Page to accurately identify which shell problem your little guy has.
It's hard for me to tell you what your turtle has without the aid of pictures, but there is a wealth of information on that page with helpful steps on how to get your turtle back on track. Feel free to read the rest of that website as well, especially the Water Quality area, as improper water quality is the leading cause for most ailments in water turtles.