Why Does My Turtle Swim Frantically?

Why Does My Turtle Swim Frantically

Turtles are primarily aquatic creatures who spend most of their life in water. Turtles consist of webbed feet and a streamlined body structure that helps them swim. While swimming, they extend their legs with the webbed feet to paddle inside the water.

If you have seen a sea turtle, it can move very fast under the water, unlike fresh turtles. This is because they consist of flippers, due to which they can swim very fast. But have you ever seen a turtle behaving differently? Like turtle swimming towards you or away from you or swimming frantically?

If you have ever seen such behavior in your turtle and wondered why your turtle behaves like that, then keep reading to know the answer.

Related Article: How Often To Clean Turtle Tank?

Why does my turtle swim frantically?

Turtles are believed to be very sensitive reptiles. Even the slightest change in their environment can affect them. So, change in their surrounding is a major reason for the turtles to swim frantically. Turtles may also show this behavior due to stress, fear, too cold or hot water, pregnancy, and poor diet. 

Let’s understand all the possible reasons for turtle’s swimming frantically in detail:

1. Stress

Turtles get stressed over petty things. They get stressed even when you lift them abruptly. Touching or petting on their shells can also make them stressed. If you make noise around the turtle, it can get stressed too. Turtles like peace, and they often get stressed if they don’t find it. This is one of the reasons why turtles swim frantically. So to keep your turtle stress-free and healthy, you need to keep the turtle tank in a noise-free area and avoid touching or lifting them because they don’t like too much attention. 

2. Fear

When you just have introduced your turtle into the tank, it’s normal for them to get scared. Everything is new to them, and so they might behave differently or weirdly and perhaps swim frantically. Changing the turtle’s habitat can make them anxious and scared. Turtle also gets scared when predators threaten it. You need to give it some time to adjust to the new environment. With time it will automatically socialize and interact with you.

3. Water Temperature

If the temperature in the tank where you keep your turtle is not correct, the turtle will try to move frantically in search of the correct water temperature. The water temperature should not be too cold or too hot for the turtle. You need to adjust the water temperature by using a water heater. The preferred water temperature is 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit. Here is a water heater you can purchase for your turtle.

Tetra Fauna Aquatic Turtle Water Heater

  • Appropriate for heating up to 30 gallons of water.
  • Automatic thermostat maintains water temperature at 78 Fahrenheit.
  • Protective plastic cage to prevent breakage.

4. Basking Area Temperature

The temperature of the basking area needs to be between 85-90 degrees Fahrenheit. Basking area temperature is very important for your turtle as it gets heat and UV rays in that area. If they do not get enough heat in the basking area or the temperature is too low or too high. In this case, there is a possibility that the turtle swims frantically, searching for basking, which consists of the correct temperature for it. You can make use of heat lamps and UVB bulbs and adjust them so that the turtle gets enough heat.

Related Article: Can I Use A Regular Light Bulb For My Turtle?

5. Pregnancy

Pregnant turtles can behave weirdly most of the time. Especially when it is in water because it can’t lay its egg in water and search for a nesting spot where it can dig and lay the eggs. The turtle swims frantically to search for a nesting spot because it gets concerned that the tank cannot provide it. Hence when the turtle is pregnant, you need to provide a nesting spot for your turtle. Also, you need to take care of your turtle during that time to make sure that it is safe.

6. Diet

If you don’t give your turtle a proper diet, it will swim frantically, searching for good food. You need to give the turtles a proper and well-balanced diet to get essential nutrients and proteins. Turtle food varies depending on the species. Some turtles are omnivorous; some are herbivorous, while others are carnivorous. It’s also a fact that most turtles are believed to be omnivorous. So depending on that, provide your turtle with vegetables, meats, and pellets. A well-balanced diet can keep your turtle stress-free and healthy.

Related Article: Can Turtles Eat Fish Food?

Why does my turtle keep swimming against the glass?

The turtles keep swimming against the glass when confused or stressed, have a bad environment within the tank, have improper water or basking temperature. It is normal for a turtle to swim against the tank, but you need to keep a note to ensure they have a healthy and safe environment and water condition to live in.

The turtle mostly swims against the tank when they are stressed. They try to find a place where they are safe. Your turtle may also be confused by the glass in the tank. When the turtle is new to the glass tank, it finds the glass tank unfamiliar as they don’t have tanks in the wild, and that’s why they try to escape from the tank. That is perhaps another reason they try to move away from the glass and swim against it.

Water temperature and basking temperature also play a crucial role in turtles’ lives. If the temperature is not proper, it can negatively affect turtles’ health and make them vulnerable to diseases. The turtle then tries to escape the place by moving away from the glass. If you do not wish your turtle to get sick, it is important to provide them with the required water temperature.

Another reason your turtle is swimming against the glass is the basic condition of the glass tank or the base environment in which you keep them. If you don’t clean the tank often and it gets dirtier with algae growth and cloudiness, then the turtle cannot live in such a condition. In that case, the turtle tries to escape from the place in search of a clean place to live in.


Being a sensitive reptile, any change in the environment can affect the turtle, which is why it swims frantically. The turtle swimming frantically is not a cause of concern, but you can take some precautions to avoid them swimming that way. Sometimes when the turtle is scared or confused, the turtle swims frantically. The turtle gets scared by petty things like lifting or petting their shells. There is a possibility that the turtle is pregnant too. Bad temperature, bad diet, and stress are the other causes. If the tank’s condition is not good, then the turtle swims against the glass to escape from that place.