NEED HELP! somethings wrong with my turtle.
I own an african sideneck turtle and I am somewhat certain that it is a girl. I rescued her from the previous owner and was told she was a girl and about 5 years old. I was also told she was a different kind of turtle.. Everything I know is from researching. She had been living in a cold basement, no uvb, nowhere to dry off and no basking dock at all. She had a heater and a heat lamp and one of those green waterfall really cheap filters. I knew not much about caring for a turtle but I did know she needed a uvb light and that this setup was just so wrong. It was really sad actually. The previous owner said he always fed her a pinch of Reptomin sticks daily. This was about 6 months ago and ever since it has been all about researching and lots of money.. I built her a new basking dock, she has a uvb, and I got the Cascade 1500 elite filter. she has a variety of food (haven't been able to get her to eat fresh veggies though but use a variety of turtle food) I took the pebbles he had out of her tank because of choking hazard, etc. About 4 months ago she started acting erratic and flipping on her back and that is when I found out that females need a nesting area and lay eggs. I have felt for eggs (very gently as I saw someone do on youtube) and could never really tell if she has eggs or not but I do feel something hard most of the time. So I tried putting her into a big rubbermaid tote with dirt (a kind suggested by another youtube video) with a heat lamp to see if she would lay anything after about a month of trying I gave up since she would just try to crawl out the entire time. And she seemed content again no longer acting upset?
Recently however she has been showing signs of being gravid where she restlessly swims at the corner of her tank and basks for much longer than usual (she did it for 7 hours one day) AND at the same time she started having skin shedding. There are no pink spots or anything but skin shedding all over. I have done a lot of searching online and am finding it really difficult to find out how to encourage African sideneck turtles to lay eggs such as if they don't want to lay in dirt but sand instead or it needs to be a certain temperature, ect? My current egg laying spot uses zoo med forest floor bedding mixed with zoo med eco earth bricks (coconut fiber). I keep it under a no-light heat lamp and usually set her next to my desk so I can keep an eye on her if she were to accidentally fall on her back or anything (she hasn't done that but I still worry), though I am not sure if me simply being in the same room as her makes her uncomfortable and not want to lay eggs, I tried putting a small bin of water in there with her and she immediately dumped it over. She never shows signs of not being hungry or wont eat she prefers to eat gourmet and zoo med brand aquatic turtle food. I have spent alot of time researching and alot of money into this turtle. I really am focused on making her life the best possible, I care about her very much. Other info you may want to know.. I have water testing strips that say all is good but always 40 nitrate no matter what I do. Plants don't seem to survive however yesterday I got some water hyacinth and duckweed to try and give her something to focus on besides her new obsessive behavior in the corner of her tank.
So...I read the shedding may be from over feeding.. I would not doubt it. I have switched from daily feedings to every other day with a piece of romaine offered on the off days.. even though she won't touch it.
But could the shedding also be a sign of needed to lay eggs?
The excessive basking?
What should I use in my nesting box? Heat? Light or dark? moist or dry? sand or this forest flooring? Should I leave the room? How long should I leave her in there?
Any help would be SO appreciated! I can not stand the thought of her suffering. Since I got her she has been social and has seemed happy and content, curious.. her behavior right now is so different and I can tell she is not happy. Thank you so much.
I have attached photos of her previous living conditions and her current tank as it is now. Also photos of her shedding skin,, hard to photograph but,,. Thank you.