Do Barnacles Hurt Turtles?

You’ve probably seen a turtle before and noticed that there’s something small stuck to its body. Those are barnacles, and they’re the kind of crustaceans that attach themselves to turtles. If you’ve ever wondered whether or not barnacles hurt turtles, this blog post is for you.

Due to the fact that most barnacles only cling to the outside layer of the shell or skin, they pose little threat to sea turtles. Some burrow into the host’s skin, which can be both painful and an easy entry point for subsequent infections. An unhealthy turtle may exhibit symptoms, including excessive barnacle growth.

However, one barnacle won’t hurt a turtle, but if the number of barnacles gradually increases, the turtle could slowly lose its vision and damage tissue.

If you have been wondering whether or not you should remove barnacles from a turtle’s body, this blog will explain everything. Keep reading to find out more!

Why Do Barnacles Attach to Turtle?

Before asking why barnacles attach to turtles, you should ask, “What are barnacles and what do they do?” Barnacles are small, sticky crustaceans that attach to turtles’ shells to thrive. They eat plankton and are crustaceans.

Barnacles also eat debris in the water. They catch their food with their legs while sticking on top of turtle shells. Barnacles are from the Arthropoda phylum and have more than 1000 species. They are all around the ocean, sticking to hard surfaces to thrive.

Barnacles on a Turtle

In their larval stage, barnacles cling to solid surfaces. They produce an adhesive that allows them to stick to any nearby hard surface. It is very common for turtles to attract barnacles as they have hard shells.

In order to survive, barnacles cling to turtles because they provide the constant water movement they require. Whenever a turtle passes by a barnacle, it will take the chance to attach itself to the turtle’s shell and thrive.

Are Barnacles Harmful?

Turtle shells with just one or two barnacles on them are not harmful. Most turtles have barnacles on them, which is normal. However, if there’s a cluster or infestation of barnacles on a turtle’s shell, it can be harmful to turtles.

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Too many barnacles in one turtle shell can make the turtle suffer in many ways. A turtle’s health can be in danger if too many barnacles are on its shell. A turtle can go blind or lose its eyesight because of barnacles.

If there are clusters of barnacles in a turtle’s shell, the turtle will lose its swimming ability. The turtle won’t be able to swim because of the weight of those barnacles. The turtle’s movement will slow down over time. And the turtle cannot hunt its prey or search for food.

The turtle will become weaker and closer to death if it doesn’t get enough food. Barnacles can also damage the tissue they are growing on the turtle’s skin. That is why it is important to monitor if the turtle has too many barnacles on its shell or skin.

Is it Good to Remove Barnacles from Turtles?

Knowing that barnacles can be harmful to turtles, you would want to remove them from turtles wherever you see them. Here you can harm the turtle even more by trying to remove barnacles from it.

It may be painful and harmful for the turtle to try to remove them, especially from soft tissue regions, because they burrow into the host’s skin, irritating it and creating an open target for additional infections. A normal person cannot remove barnacles from turtles; you have to be professional.

However, it is good to remove barnacles from turtles. It will bring back the turtle’s swimming motion and let the turtle live without suffering. But without any professional experience, you could harm the turtle by trying to remove barnacles.

Forcibly removing the barnacles’ risks causing both external and internal damage to the turtle, which has a soft carapace and plastron and is also a small, delicate animal. Excessive barnacles are a sign that something is seriously wrong with the turtle and that it most likely has been ill for some time because a healthy turtle can regulate its barnacle load.

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Are Barnacles Parasites to Turtles?

A parasite lives on other living things and survives by deriving nutrients. Parasites cannot survive outside of any species’ body. Does that mean barnacles are parasites on turtles?

Barnacles are technically not parasites of turtles because they do not derive nutrients from turtles. They are only attaching their bodies to themselves with turtle shells or skin. But sometimes, barnacles can harm turtles. Barnacles will still survive without turtle shells.

Since they are only externally attached to the shell or skin of sea turtles, the majority of barnacles are not harmful to them. However, some burrow into the host’s skin, which may be uncomfortable, leaving an open wound that can be used by subsequent infections. An excessive amount of barnacle growth could indicate a turtle’s general ill health.

Barnacles are the most noticeable ectoparasites—organisms that live on the turtle’s exterior. These aren’t parasites per se, but when they multiply too much, they do become parasitic and dangerous. Barnacles come in various forms, including the embedding and glueing types, known as sea turtles.


How do turtles get rid of barnacles?

There are so many ways a turtle can get rid of barnacles. Sometimes turtles can get rid of barnacles 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.

Another method is for turtles to scrape barnacles off their bodies by rubbing their backs against hard surfaces like rocks, corals, and reefs.

How long do barnacles live?

The average barnacle lives for ten to twelve years. If the barnacle is stuck to a turtle, shark, or other hard surfaces, it can live for 5 months to 10 years.

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Do barnacles do anything good?

Acting as filter feeders, barnacles play a vital role in keeping the ocean clean by consuming the plankton and decomposed detritus that float in the water. Barnacles are not only a source of food for other animals, but they can also use them as bedding material.

Can you scrape off barnacles?

You can use a putty knife or paint scraper to pry the barnacles off. Scrape under the barnacles’ edges slowly and methodically. Metal scrapers are stronger but are careful as they might also scratch your boat. You should primarily round off any sharp edges.

Can barnacles infest a human?

Despite the fact that barnacles are primarily found on other animals, such as whales and turtles, there are certain instances where a human may become infested with barnacles.

In marine environments, a human can suffer from what is known as “barnacle belt disease” if they swim too frequently in seawater. The condition typically results from chronically wet skin being invaded by many small barnacles, which cause irritation, redness and, ultimately, infection.

At first, these barnacles may be so small that an affected person might not even notice them – however, bruising may form over time. Fortunately, this issue can be addressed through proper hygiene and careful drying of one’s skin after each swim in saltwater.


So, do barnacles hurt turtles? You have already gotten your answer. In the future, if you ever see a turtle with barnacles, do not try to remove them with your hands. Even if you remove the barnacles, make sure to visit a veterinarian so they can repair any damage the turtle may have sustained.

Barnacles can hurt turtles if there are too many. So, make sure you monitor your pet turtle to ensure they don’t have barnacles.

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