What Is Dry Docking Turtles?

What is dry-docking, and why do you need to know about it?

What is dry-docking used for about turtles?

Should all turtles go through a dry docking phase?

Dry-docking a turtle is used in various scenarios and is usually performed to help speed along a turtle’s healing process somehow.

As you may tell from the name, dry-docking a turtle involves keeping it out of the water. 

Let’s explore what dry docking is, what this method is used for, and when and how to do it yourself.

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What Is Dry Docking Turtles?

Dry-docking a turtle refers to the practice of forced basking, meaning the turtle is kept under a basking light for a certain period. This practice is used to help dry the airway, skin, and shell and aid in the healing process of various health issues, including respiratory infection and open external wounds.

Much like dry-docking a boat, dry-docking a turtle essentially means keeping it entirely out of the water. 

The whole point of this practice is to keep your reptile warm and dry.

Pet turtles are excellent animals to keep, but taking proper care of them is sometimes more work than new owners are aware of. 

For example, enclosures for semi-aquatic turtles need adequate ventilation and ample space for a basking area.

When these requirements are not met for semi-aquatic turtles, they will sometimes develop health issues. 

Dry-docking is often an easy at-home solution when caring for sickly semi-aquatic turtles.

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When To Dry Dock A Turtle

Keeping a turtle out of the water and in a forced state of basking is a practice used on many turtle species for several reasons.

Introducing a new turtle to an aquarium with turtles living with you for some time is one reason this method is used. 

If you are a reptile owner and have decided to introduce a new turtle into an enclosure or tank which already houses other animals, briefly quarantining your new pet in a forced basking area is an excellent way to ensure it does not bring any bacteria or spreadable illnesses into the shared tank or water.

Treating visible wounds is another common reason for dry docking a turtle. 

Shell rot in turtles is one example of the various turtle shell injuries treated with forced basking. 

Wound recovery time depends upon the severity and cause of the wound.

Turtle illnesses come in many forms, including the rotting of the shell. 

If your pets are suffering from shell rot, part of the recovery process will involve removing the sick turtles from the tank and cleaning the entire enclosure. 

This condition is often caused by bacterial, parasitic, or fungal infections.

Constant contact with water tends to slow the healing process down. 

Be sure to keep the turtle in question warm and dry while you are disinfecting the enclosure.

Respiratory disease is another common reason owners will decide to dry dock turtles. 

Many semi-aquatic turtles require some level of humidity; however, illnesses may arise if humidity levels in a tank are not controlled.

Many turtle species are at risk of suffering from respiratory infections. 

The recovery process requires the turtle’s airway to be dried out. 

This treatment is usually achieved by removing the turtle from the humid tank and placing it under a basking light.

Dry Docking Procedure

If your pet is suffering from any of the previously mentioned turtle health issues, or if you are introducing a new turtle to a shared enclosure, follow these steps to create a dry dock tank.

Your dry-docking area will be a place of forced basking, so you will not want the enclosure to be too large. 

For adult turtles, 10-gallon enclosures usually work nicely as quarantine tanks. 

This process is often considered a stressful treatment method for turtles, so you do not want to place them in anything too small.

Placing sections of paper towels on the bottom of rehabilitation tanks is a common practice. 

You will need to place a heat lamp and UVB light over the dry docking enclosure.

Many retailers sell reptile light bulbs which act as both a heat and UVB ray source. 

The heat lamp will dry your reptile and keep its body temperature up. 

The UVB rays will help heal your turtle’s shell by allowing its body to synthesize vitamin D3.

The final item you will need in your dry-docking area is a thermometer. 

Thermometers allow owners to keep an eye on the temperature so they can regulate the environment appropriately.

Once you have your quarantine enclosure set up, remove your turtle from its current home and prepare it for the dry docking experience. 

Gently wipe the shell and down with warm water. 

This will help remove any excess bacteria and fungus from its body. 

Next, dry your turtle and place it under the basking light.

You will want to keep your turtle in the dry docking tank for several days.

You will need to remove your turtle from the tank to treat its wounds throughout these days of quarantine. 

Wipe down your turtle with sterile water and apply any treatments necessary for your pet’s specific condition.

You will also need to remove your turtle from this environment once or twice per day and place it in sterile freshwater. 

Keeping it in water for one or two hours will allow the turtle time to eat and drink and keep it from dehydrating.

You will want to repeat this process for several days. 

If you are approaching the one-week mark of dry-docking your turtle and you do not see the results you hoped for, it is time to take your pet to the vet.

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Final Thoughts

Dry-docking is a standard method used to quarantine new turtles and treat a turtle with open wounds or shell rot.

If you are dry docking your turtle for the first time, be sure to observe your turtle’s behavior throughout the process.

Some turtles may become more stressed than others, and it is essential to monitor their recovery and the conditions of the dry-docking tank.

If you follow all of the necessary steps for dry-docking your turtle and treat its wounds or infection and are not seeing the results you hoped for, take your pet to seek medical attention. 

It is best to catch infections in the early stages to avoid further complications.

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