One of the most common questions I get is that someone has several turtles
that they usually got as juveniles. They lived together happiliy for up to
several years, and then one turtle (often but not always a male) starts
biting the others.
While young and juvenile turtles live together in harmony, once they
enter puperty, their macho side comes out, and they not only have to show each
other who is the best and strongest, they only have to be as rumbunctious
as possible towards their chosen mate.
Usually, an encounter starts out with some kind of show-off: dancing around
each other, waving front-paws, gaping. This is the same for males being
macho and males trying to impress females. If there is no resolution, or
if the female is not responding, the next step is nudging or biting.
Injuries are rare, since the "attacked" turtle will turn such that its
side of the shell faces the attacker, or it will simply run away and hide.
These kinds of behaviours are also part of courtship behavior, and males
will often bite females on their paws and neck to get them into the mood.
An uninterested female will run away or bite back. Since the females are
usually bigger than the males, a female can easily put a pushy male in
its place. An interested female will, after playing coy for a while, give
in to the male's advances. Turtle copulation requires cooperation; unless
the female is interested, the male won't get anywhere.
In the wild, if one turtle starts pestering another, the weaker one will
eventually run or swim away and hide. Turtles are not the fighting kind,
and most of their fighting is really just bluffing and show. However,
in captivity, where turtles are often kept in small enclosures--any indoor
enclosure is too small by some measure--and there are no good hiding
places, a bigger, stronger turtle can persue and snap at a smaller, weaker
turtle until there are injuries.
Often, what starts out as just a little bit of showing off, will later turn
into more serious chasing and biting. After all, the turtles really don't
have much else to do in a tank!
In other words, the primary cause of injuries from fighting is CROWDING.
So, what are you to do?
* Unless you can provide a very large enclosure, you may consider only getting
* Don't crowd turtles. Give them the largest enclosure you can provide.
* Keep turtles well fed. However, this can lead to obesity, and then you have to
put them on a diet. So this only works some.
* Give the turtles plenty of plants, rock caves, and other hide places to get away.
* Give the turtles stuff to chew on, like carrots, other veggies, and a cuttle fish
* Build a separator screen into the tank that will keep the turtles away from each
* Get a second tank, or give away one of your turtles.
* Build a pond or buy a large tub and move your turtles outdoors, at least for
summer. This is good for them anyway!
If you have an injured turtle:
1) Evaluate the situation. How badly is the animal hurt? Do you need to see a vet?
See: Veterinarians: When Is It Time to See One?
2) Separate the injured animal from your other turtles.
3) Keep the injured animal in a very clean, warm environment. Warmth helps
turtles heal, because their immune system works better if they are warmer.
4) If the injury is an open wound, or if a piece of shell is broken off,
keep the turtle outside the water for a few nights (put it into the water
during the day) in a warm, non-drafty box. Drying out will help heal.
If the injury is minor, you should see improvement within a day or two.
Complete healing can take weeks, though. Be patient.