Dry Docking Injured Turtles

This page has been written to offer some general advice only. The reasons to dry-dock a turtle vary with each individual set of circumstances. Please contact me if you would like specific advice.

Sometimes turtles need to be dry-docked (or kept out of water). This is done to keep an injury dry so that it can heal properly. Examples include cracked or broken shells, missing limbs, wounds from animal attack or following an operation.

Injuries such as these present a unique problem: How do you feed an animal that can only eat under water if it cannot go in water? The solution is to provide a water container that turtle can get its head down into.

The extent of the injury will determine how long a turtle needs to remain in dry dock. Wherever possible, dry-docking should be a short term treatment method. 

Basically, you need to set up an enclosure (such as a large plastic tub) with a false floor in it. The floor can sit on bricks or something similar. Cut out a hole for the water container. The container needs to sit flush with the floor, so that the turtle can get its head down into the water. Make sure it is not raised (like a dog bowl). The turtle cannot drink or eat if it the water container is raised.


The water container will also need to be small enough so that the turtle cannot get its wound wet. A long, narrow container will achieve this. If it is too deep, the turtle will not be able to comfortably reach the bottom to eat. The size of the turtle will determine the size of the container.

Set the container at a 45 degree angle, to the left. A large percentage of turtles are left handed. If your one happens to be right handed (i.e. won't eat left handed) you simply flip the false floor.

Make sure you feed the turtle a natural diet - no red meat, no turtle dinners and no pellets.