Why Do Turtles Slap Each Other? [And How To Stop Them]

Image of turtles about to slap each other

Seeing turtles slap each other in the face can be quite entertaining. But if you’re wondering what it’s all about, there can be a few reasons why turtles slap each other.

Turtles slap each other to show affection or dominance over each other. Slapping is quite normal in turtles, and it is usually done by male turtles to impress the female turtles. However, a male turtle can also slap another male turtle when it wants to show its dominance over the other male turtle.

This type of fast slapping is usually seen in small breeds of turtles and not in the big sea turtles. Sea turtles definitely slap though. They just slap more like humans, one big slap after which they usually move away.

Why Do Turtles Slap Each Other In The Face?

Depending on the situation, there could be different reasons. Given below are the three main reasons why turtles slap each other:

Male Turtle Slapping Female Turtles In The Face

This is mostly seen during springtime when the turtles want to mate. It’s one of the ways in which the male turtle shows his affection towards the female. This can last anywhere from 10 to 45 minutes. In a way, the male is caressing the female’s face with his claws.

Sometimes they’ll also gently nip the female’s neck, legs, and tail to get her attention. If she isn’t interested, she’ll turn her shell at him and snarl. The male turtle usually takes the hint and moves on for some time, but you can be sure he’ll be back to these antics later. It’s ok though, as he doesn’t hurt her during the process.

If the female welcomes the advances of the male, she’ll move to the bottom of the tank where she’ll be willing to mate for around 10 to 15 minutes. If she doesn’t accept his advances, she’ll resist and not give him any of the attention he desires.

Young Turtles Slapping Each Other

Young turtles that aren’t yet mature enough to mate can also be seen slapping or fluttering their front legs in the faces of other turtles.

At this point in their lives, it’s more of a playful action than anything else, almost like puppies roughing each other up while playing.

A Male Turtle Slapping Other Male In The Face

Male turtles also slap other males in their faces to display dominance over their territory.

A game of “Who has the biggest claws” ensues. This usually happens due to insufficient space in the tank, a stressful environment, or because you are not feeding them daily.

If you have fighting turtles, follow the advice below.

Recommended Further Reading:

How To Reduce Turtle Aggression?

There are a few things that you can do to lessen the aggression of your turtles.

Provide Plenty Of Room For The Turtles

As your turtles grow, they’ll require different amounts of space. If you have two or more turtles in one tank, multiply the below figures by the number of turtles you have:

  • A minimum of 20 gallons of water is required for one small turtle.
  • The length of the water surface should be 5 times the turtle’s length.
  • The width of the water surface should be at least 3 times the length of the turtle.
  • The depth of the water should be at least twice the length of the turtle.

If you have more than one turtle, you should also have more than one basking area.

Create Different Secluded Areas Within The Tank

Without filling your tank up with too many things, strategically place rocks and other objects inside it. This will help the less dominant turtle to get out of sight when it needs to.

If the more dominant turtle can’t see the other turtle, he’ll be less likely to fight with him.

Keep The Water Clean

Dirty water can also make turtles unhappy and aggressive.

Make sure to install a filter that can handle three times the amount of water you currently have. If you have a 50-gallon tank with two small turtles inside, use a filter that will be able to handle 150 gallons of water. This is required because turtles produce more waste compared to fish.

We also suggest avoiding the use of real plants in your tank as they’ll quickly be destroyed by your turtles and dirty the water.

Feed Your Turtles Daily

Many turtles build up aggression due to food scarcity. To avoid this problem, simply feed them every day so that they don’t get hungry. This is one of the most effective ways to reduce fighting turtles.

If you implement these techniques and still don’t notice any improvement, you’ll have to separate the turtles completely, or they’ll harm each other. Turtles are very territorial, and sometimes there’s just nothing you can do to change it.

Related Further Reading:

How Do Turtles Fight With Each Other?

When turtles fight with each other, it usually starts out with the front legs fluttering in the face of another turtle. The more dominant turtle is telling the less dominant turtle to get out of his space. If the less dominant turtle retreats from the area, the fighting will normally end there.

However, there are times when the more dominant turtle will chase the other turtle. If he gets really aggressive, he’ll even bite the other turtle on the tail, legs, and neck. Not in the gentle way that he nips a female. These fighting bites can actually cause some damage, and if you see this type of behavior occurring with your turtles, you’ll have to separate them.

How Do Turtles Show Affection?

Turtles don’t show much affection towards each other or to humans. The best sign of affection towards other turtles you will get is them not fighting with each other. They may also flutter their arms in the other turtles’ faces in a playful manner.

If a turtle does show affection for a person, it will do so by moving towards you. If you’re really lucky, it might stretch its neck out for a rub, and if it leans into your rubbing, that’s turtle affection. Just wash your hands well afterward before touching your face, as turtles can transfer nasty bacteria.

Related Further Reading:

Do Turtles Bond With Each Other?

Not really. Like most reptiles, turtles are solitary creatures. Meaning they go about life just fine without any company. Of course, they will interact with other turtles when they’re looking to mate or when they want to defend their area.

If you keep two or more turtles in the same environment and they don’t fight with each other, you can assume that they’re bonding purely because they put-up with each other.

Since turtles don’t really care to move around together as many other animals do, you can take for granted that they don’t care much for bonding either.

How Do You Know If Your Turtle Is Happy?

There are many ways in which you can read your turtle’s mood.

Here are the most indicative behaviors of a happy turtle.

Eager To Eat

If your turtle is eager to eat during feeding time, it’s a sign that he’s happy. This is especially true when you’re feeding them live food like worms and insects. If they don’t show much interest in the food you’re giving them, they’re probably stressed out or sick in some way.

Splashing Around The Water’s Surface

A happy turtle will splash around at the top of the tank when it becomes excited. You might see this behavior when you enter the room or when it’s feeding time.

Happy Turtles Like To Bask

Happy turtles enjoy basking every day. Basking is important for them to stay healthy as it prevents fungal infections and diseases.

Lively And Energetic

Your turtle should be swimming around enjoying their environment, occasionally digging at the bottom of the tank in the gravel. This is how they find food in the wild, and it’s another sign that your turtle is happy and healthy.

Clean And Clear Eyes And Nostrils

A happy and healthy turtle has clear eyes and a clean nose. If there’s any mucus coming out of these areas, it’s a cause of concern, and you should have them checked out at the vet.

Interesting Further Reading:

Final Takeaways…

So it turns out, when turtles slap each other, it could mean that they’re trying to get the attention of their female counterparts. They also sometimes give the female turtles soft nibbles on the legs, tail, and neck for the same reasons. This happens frequently during springtime.

Male turtles also slap each other when they want to show dominance and chase the other turtle away. This type of slapping can turn into fierce biting. So you should separate them if you see them aggressively biting each other.