What Is the White Film Over Turtles Eyes?

what is the white film over turtle’s eyes

What Is The White Film Over Turtles Eyes?

The white film over turtles eyes is a natural translucent film called a nictitating membrane. However, if your turtle is not sleeping and the layer is there for a long time, it could indicate a bacterial or respiratory infection.

What is the Nictitating Membrane? 

A nictitating membrane is a clear, thin, translucent, or whitish layer of thin tissue that turtles. The membrane protects their eyes from dust particles, bright light, and other irritants.  

Often called the third eyelid or the haw, it is also drawn over the eyes to moisten or clear them without disrupting visibility. 

Unlike the outer and inner lid, the nictitating membrane moves horizontally across the eye. 

Should You Be Worried About the Nictitating Membrane in Your Turtle? 

Usually, turtles will use this membrane when they are in the water to help them see better and protect their eyes from water. They also use it when asleep or when they are resting. 

When the nictitating membrane is used, it will look like their eyes have a thin white film over them.

If the white film over your turtles eyes is a nictitating membrane that your turtle is seen using while asleep or in the water tank, you do not have any reason to worry. However, if the thin white layer persists, it can be a cause for concern.  

When Is the White Film a Cause of Concern?

A white film on your turtle’s eyes can cause significant concern if infected or could mean some deficit in your pets diet. 

An infected eye can lead to further complications, and your turtle should immediately be taken to a veterinary doctor for an additional check.  

Following are reasons why a white film can appear:

  1. Bacterial Infection

If there has been a white and cloudy film over your turtle’s eyes for quite some time now, it could mean your pet has some bacterial infection. Generally, the white film is composed of mucus and harmful bacteria. 

If the white film over your turtle’s eyes is a symptom of infection, you must immediately address it by taking your pet to a veterinary doctor. 

  1. Vitamin A Deficiency 

Vitamin A deficiency can lead to the gradual breaking down of epithelial tissues, which can make your pets eyes more susceptible to infections and various swellings. 

As the intake of vitamin A is directly associated with the excellent health of the eyes of turtles, a diet deficient in vitamin A can be a significant cause for the formation of the white and cloudy film layer, which could indicate an eye infection.  

Even if the reason behind the white film formation is a deficiency of vitamin A, it needs immediate medical attention. Do not try to fix it by providing vitamin A supplements.  

  1. Respiratory Infections

If your pet has a respiratory infection, one of the many symptoms could be a cloudy covering over one eye or both eyes. 

The best way to check if the reason behind the white film is a respiratory infection is to look out for other symptoms like difficulty in breathing, outstretched head, gasping for air, lack of appetite, and mucus-like secretions coming from the eyes, nose, and mouth.

  1. Physical Injury

A physical injury caused due to getting poked in the eye by something like an item for decor or sticks present in the pet enclosure can lead to a swollen or puffy, or white eye. Usually, a physical injury will be to one eye, as it is less likely that your pet will get poked in both eyes simultaneously.  

In case of an injury, take your pet immediately to a vet for consultation. Delaying medical attention can cause long-term damage. 

If two turtles are in your enclosure, the physical injury to the eye may have arisen due to accidental or deliberate poking by the other turtle.

What Causes Infection in Turtle’s Eyes?  

Your pet can get bacterial infections in the eyes due to the poor water quality in the pet tank. An enclosure requires more cleaning of the tank water often as turtles tend to contaminate the water frequently.  

If the water in the Tank is contaminated, your turtle is prone to bacterial eye infections, creating a whitish film of mucus over your turtle’s eyes. 

Another reason for eye infections is if the water contains too much chlorine and your turtle cannot tolerate it. 

A lack of Vitamin A also makes your turtle susceptible to getting more eye infections.

Preventive Measures to Avoid Any Occurrence of White Film on Your Turtle’s Eyes

Here are some preventative measures to be taken to avoid any occurrence of white film on your pets eyes:

  1. Provide a Diet Rich in Vitamin A

Ensuring that you provide a diet rich in vitamin A and beta carotene to your turtle will keep your turtle’s eyes healthy. Including green leafy vegetables like spinach, collard greens, kale, and watercress, along with other vegetables rich in vitamin A such as shredded carrots and broccoli, will be helpful to get a healthy dose of vitamin A.

Along with this, ensure you provide high-quality pellets rich in vitamins. You can also feed gut-loaded insects or food items dusted with vitamin A supplements. 

However, note to use only the prescribed amount of vitamin A supplements, as an overdose of vitamin A can harm your pet.   

  1. Keep the Pet Enclosure Clean

Keeping the water tank clean will prevent most bacterial infections. Clean the water tank often and regularly by changing the water. It is also essential to use ample water in the water tank.

Install a good water filter in the water tank. Also, remember to clean out the filter, check if it is working, and clean the water to avoid getting contaminated.

To test the quality of water, use a test kit. The ammonia and nitrate levels should be zero to indicate that the water filter works. 

If you aren’t exactly sure how to clear your turtle’s Tank, this video might help you!

  1.  Avoid placing Any Sharp Decor Items in the Tank. 

Lastly, do not place any sharp objects in the Tank for decors, such as sharp sticks or branches which could harm your turtle accidentally. 


If your pet is asleep or underwater and you observe the white film, which later goes away, it is not a cause to worry. However, if the white film stays on for a long time, it indicates some eye infection or other health problem that needs immediate medical attention. 


How to Set Up a Turtle’s Tank?

Use a sufficiently large aquarium to set up a suitable, safe, and habitable pet enclosure. Ensure that the pet tank has enough water, UVA, and UVB lights installed for adequate light conditions, a suitable substrate, a water filter to keep the water clean, a thermometer, and a heating system to maintain the water temperature in the Tank. 

Avoid adding sharp decor items or gravel stones to the enclosure.  

What Care Should I Take after Handling an Infected Turtle? 

You must wash your hands thoroughly with an antibacterial soap solution after handling your ill turtle. This is necessary as the transfer of pathogens can occur and infect you. A soap solution that includes povidone iodine or chlorhexidine is advisable.  

What Are Some Other Indications That My Turtle Has Eye Infection?

If your turtle has swollen eyes puffy eyes, has shut its eyes completely, or is constantly scratching its eyes, it could indicate an eye infection. It is crucial to take your pet to a veterinary doctor immediately, as your turtle will not eat anything till it does not get proper medical treatment.

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