why turtles are aggressive

Unleashing turtle aggression its causes and solutions

Turtles are often seen as gentle and docile creatures, but sometimes they can become aggressive. Many turtle owners may find themselves asking why their pet has suddenly become hostile and what can be done to help the situation. Understanding why your turtle is behaving aggressively will give you the best chance of finding a solution to the problem. This article looks at some of the most common reasons why turtles might show aggression and what can be done to help them become more relaxed and friendly again. Turtles are often thought of as gentle animals, but recent studies have shown that they are capable of being quite aggressive. In some cases, this aggression is so extreme that it can lead to physical injury or even death. This article will explore the causes and effects of turtle aggression, as well as examining the different methods people use to try and control it. It will also provide advice on how to best manage aggressive behavior in turtles and how to reduce the risk of serious injury or death.

Why Is My Turtle Aggressive? Here Is What to Do:

This is something that can happen to a lot of new turtle owners. I was also faced with this problem when I got my first turtle. Fortunately, this is something that can be easily solved. So let’s see why your turtle is so aggressive.

A turtle will usually become aggressive when it feels threatened. In the case of pet turtles, aggressive behavior is usually caused by improper handling, stress, or improper living conditions. There are quite a few things that can make a pet turtle become aggressive towards you. To make things easier I will split all of them up into 9 different causes. And we will start with the most common one, stress.


Turtles get stressed very easily. They can get stressed by excessive noises, by other pets, improper handling, and many other things. And in response to stress turtles can become aggressive.

Aggressiveness is not the only thing that turtles do when they get stressed, they might also stop basking and eating, and sometimes they will even try to escape from their tank.As for what can be the cause of the stress, well, there are a lot of possibilities. A loud stereo system that is placed right near the tank can cause a lot of stress for a turtle. A cat or a dog that is always trying to get in the tank can also cause a lot of stress. The best way to figure out if something is stressing the turtle is to try to put yourself in the turtle’s place. If you think that something would stress you, then it stresses the turtle.

After you eliminate the stress sources your turtle should start to calm down soon, and it will go back to its normal behavior.

Water Temperature:

Most turtles need a temperature between 75 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit ( 24 and 27 degrees Celsius). They can live in water that is slightly colder or slightly warmer, but if the difference is too big they will try to get out and find a better place. And when you will try to interact with them, they will believe that you want to stop them, so they can become aggressive.

he solution for this problem is very simple, you simply have to adjust the water heater, or if you don’t have a water heater you simply have to get one.

If you need to buy a water heater make sure that you get one with adjustable temperature, otherwise you won’t be able to properly control the temperature of the water. If you need help choosing a water heater you should check out the recommended page, there you will find my recommendations for the best turtle care products, including water heaters.

Dirty Water

This is usually a big problem for new turtle owners since turtle tanks can get extremely dirty surprisingly fast. If the water gets too dirty your turtle will try to leave, in search of a better and cleaner place where it can live. And again, if you try to interact with your turtle while it’s trying to escape from the tank, it can become aggressive. The solution is very simple, just change the water and clean the tank properly.

Improper Diet

While turtles are not very pretentious when it comes to food, if you don’t feed them enough food, or if you don’t give them the right food, they can either try to bite you due to hunger or because they feel more vulnerable since they are weakened. To solve this problem you have to adjust the amount of food you give to your turtle as well as the food itself. One great and simple way to give your turtle the correct amount of food is to use the size of the head method.

To put this method into practice is to find a small container, like a medicine cup, a shot glass, or a bottle cap. This container has to be approximately the same size as the head of your turtle, without the neck. Then you fill that container to the top with food. This is the amount of food that you should give your turtle every day.

As for the food itself, the right type of food will differ from turtle species to turtle species. But overall most turtle species are omnivores, which means that they eat fruits, vegetables, and meat. So a balanced turtle diet will contain all of the following.:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Dried Insects
  • Fish
  • Meat
  • Pellets

Mating Period

This one only applies to male turtles.

When the mating season comes, male turtles will try to establish their dominance over other turtles, or if there are none nearby, over other beings, in this case, you. Different turtle species have different mating periods, but for the most, it happens between March and July.

Unfortunately, there is not much that you can do in this case, you have to wait for your turtle to calm down. From my experience, the aggressive behavior shouldn’t last the entire mating season, just for a week or two. But every turtle is different so in some cases it might stop sooner, and in some cases, it can last longer.


This one only applies to females.

A pregnant turtle will act very strangely, she will stop eating, she will stop basking, she will try to dig everywhere, and she will try to escape the tank, or they might become aggressive. Pregnant turtles don’t do this not because they don’t like you, they do this because they want to protect their eggs.

Turtles usually lay their eggs in piles of leaves or holes that they dig, but never in water. So the tank is definitely not a suitable environment for this. And if your turtle is a female, and you want to know if she is pregnant, then you should read this article where you will find all the info you need: 

How to tell if your turtle is pregnant :

If your turtle is pregnant there is nothing that you can do to make her calm down. You will have to wait for her to lay the eggs. One important thing about turtles is that they can get pregnant even if there is no male around. The difference is that the eggs won’t be fertilized so no baby will come out of them. So even if you only have a female turtle she can still lay eggs.

No Basking Area

If you are a complete beginner when it comes to turtles and you don’t know too much about them, then it’s possible that you don’t know that turtles need a basking area. A basking area is an area close to the tank where turtles can stay on dry land and get UVB light and heat for their body.

In the wild turtles are used to compete for a good basking spot, so the complete lack of one can make them more aggressive.

Basking Area Temperature

If the basking temperature is too high or too low, your turtle won’t be able to bask properly, which can make them become more aggressive.

If the temperature is too high your turtle can get burnt, and they will avoid the basking area. If the temperature is too low then they won’t be able to properly heat themselves.

This is probably the easiest thing to fix. Start by checking the temperature of the basking area with a thermometer. If the temperature is too low, then move the heating bulb slightly closer to your turtle, or get a more powerful bulb. Be careful not to bring the bulb too close, it can burn the turtle if it’s too close.

If the temperature is too high, you can either get a less powerful heat bulb or move the bulb further away from your turtle. In general, the temperature should be between 85 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit (29 and 32 degrees Celsius). But depending on the species of the turtle the temperature can slightly differ. If you are not sure how to properly manage a basking area you should read this guide:

Guide for lightening and heating a turtle tank and basking area:

There you will find every information you need, including the exact temperatures, how far the heat bulb should be from the turtle, and many more.


If you just got your turtle, then it’s absolutely normal for it to behave strangely. So it’s really common to see a turtle be aggressive the first days in a new home. Turtles can get scared very easily, and moving from one place to another can be very frightening for them. They will go from a small cramped tank, that they share with multiple turtles, to a new spacious tank where they can live alone. And if they were sent through the mail, they will be even more scared.

If this is the case for your turtle, you just have to leave your turtle calm down a little. After about a week your turtle will get used to the new environment and will start acting normally. There is nothing you can do in this case, just make sure that you don’t scare your turtle any further.

Do Turtle Bites Hurt? Are They Dangerous?

I did an entire article dedicated to these questions, and in the name of science, I decided to let my turtles bite so that I can tell you exactly how much they hurt. To be honest with you, my turtles bit me even before I wrote this article, and it’s something that can happen from time to time.

Final Thoughts

I hope you will be able to find and solve your problem with the help of this article. But if you tried everything in this article and your turtle is still aggressive towards you, I would suggest you take your turtle to the vet. If there is nothing wrong with the tank, the water in the tank, the diet, and the basking area, there is a chance that your turtle might be sick, and the only way to know for sure is to go to a vet.

Common Questions about Turtle Aggression

Should I leave the light on for my turtle at night? No turtles don’t need a source of light during the night. So there is no need for one. But if you want to see your turtles during the night, there are some special red or blue lights that won’t disturb the turtles and will allow you to see them clearly.

Do all turtles bask? No, not all turtles need to bask. But most turtles that end up as pets need to bask, so you have to provide a proper basking area for them.

How often do you have to clean out a turtle tank? A good practice is to clean the tank once a week. But if you want to be more precise you can always buy a water pH test that will tell you exactly if the tank needs to be cleaned or not.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Generally, the most common reason turtles get aggressive with each other is due to a lack of space in their environment. Males tend to be much more aggressive towards other males, regardless of species.

While it is possible to keep slider turtles together in the same habitat, it is best to segregate them by size. While red-eared sliders (Trachemys scripta elegans) are not highly aggressive turtles, cannibalism can and occasionally does, occur.

But the strongest argument has been that it comes down to aggression in males—mostly due to competing for a mate. In many species, fighting for a mate results in both injuries and high stress levels

The Alligator Snapping Turtle is the world's largest freshwater turtle, and by far the most dangerous.


In conclusion ,the study into turtle aggression has revealed that turtles are, in fact, capable of exhibiting extremely aggressive behavior. This is particularly evident when they feel threatened or their territory is encroached upon. Although it can be difficult to predict exactly how a turtle might respond to another creature, the findings of this study suggest that humans need to take extra precautions when interacting with these animals. With appropriate safety measures and respect for their space, people can enjoy being around these fascinating creatures without fear of provocation.

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