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Do Barnacles Hurt Turtles? Find Out Here!

do barnacles hurt turtles

Are you curious about whether barnacles can hurt turtles? As a turtle lover, it’s crucial to understand how to keep these beautiful creatures healthy and thriving. While barnacles are common on turtles’ shells, many people wonder if they can cause harm.

Do Barnacles Hurt Turtles?

As a turtle owner or enthusiast, you may wonder if barnacles hurt turtles. The answer is not straightforward, as it depends on the quantity and location of the barnacles on the turtle’s shell.

Most turtles have barnacles on their shells, which is normal. Barnacles are crustaceans that attach themselves to hard surfaces, such as rocks or shells, and feed on plankton. In most cases, barnacles do not harm turtles.

However, if there is an excessive cluster or infestation of barnacles on a turtle’s shell, it can be harmful to the turtle. Too many barnacles in one area can make it difficult for the turtle to move, swim, or breathe properly. It can also cause discomfort and provide an open target area for following infections.

Why Do Barnacles Attach to Turtles?

sea turtle

Barnacles are a type of crustacean that attach themselves to hard surfaces, such as rocks, boats, and even sea turtles. They do this to avoid being swept away by ocean currents and to have a stable surface to feed on. But why do barnacles attach to turtles in the first place?

When sea turtles swim through the ocean, they disturb the water, attracting small organisms, such as plankton and algae. These organisms are a source of food for barnacles, so they attach themselves to the turtle’s shell to have a constant food supply.

However, not all barnacles attach to sea turtles for food. Some species of barnacles attach to turtles for protection. These barnacles are known as commensal barnacles, meaning they benefit from the turtle’s presence without causing harm.

Commensal barnacles use the turtle’s shell as a place to live and grow, and they also benefit from the turtle’s movements, which help them to feed and breathe.

Is It Good to Remove Barnacles from Turtles?

sea turtle swimming

If you spot barnacles on a turtle’s shell, you might be tempted to remove them. However, it’s essential to consider whether this is a good idea for the turtle’s health.

Firstly, it’s worth noting that barnacles do not always harm turtles. While they can cause discomfort and irritation, they do not threaten the animal’s well-being. Some marine biologists argue that barnacles can even protect turtles, as they can deter predators and parasites.

There are situations where it may be necessary or beneficial to remove barnacles from a turtle’s shell. For example, if the barnacles are particularly numerous or large, they may impede the turtle’s movement or cause damage to its shell. In these cases, removing the barnacles can help improve the turtle’s quality of life.

You should approach barnacle removal with caution. Attempting to remove barnacles yourself can be dangerous for you and the turtle. Barnacles attach themselves to the turtle’s shell very firmly, and removing them can cause pain and distress to the animal. In addition, improper removal techniques can cause further damage to the turtle’s shell or skin.

If you believe that a turtle requires barnacle removal, it’s best to seek the assistance of a professional. Marine wildlife rehabilitation centres have the expertise and equipment to safely and effectively remove barnacles. They can also provide additional care and treatment to ensure the turtle remains healthy and comfortable.

How Do Turtles Remove Barnacles?

If a turtle has too many barnacles, it can cause problems for the turtle’s health. So, how do turtles remove barnacles? There are a few ways that turtles can get rid of barnacles from their shells


One way that turtles can remove barnacles is by mating with their partners. While mating, the partners rub their bodies against one another, and by doing that, some barnacles can fall from their bodies.

Rubbing Against Hard Surfaces

Another method is for turtles to scrape barnacles off their bodies by rubbing their backs against hard surfaces like rocks, corals, and reefs. This is a natural way for turtles to remove barnacles, but it can be painful for the turtle if the barnacles are too numerous or too firmly attached.

Do Barnacles Fall Off in Freshwater?

The answer is yes if you’re wondering whether barnacles fall off turtles in freshwater. Barnacles are marine organisms that attach themselves to the shells and skin of turtles, but they typically don’t survive in freshwater environments.

When turtles move from saltwater to freshwater, the barnacles on their shells or skin will die. This is because barnacles require saltwater to survive. As a result, they will eventually fall off the turtle’s shell or skin.