Can The Smell Of A Turtle Tank Make You Sick?

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

I do not know why owners show less concern about the environment their turtles are growing up in. See, turtles may look hardy, and they can not withstand unhygienic habitats. Know that a filthy turtle tank poses health hazards not only to these creatures but also to you and your family.

The putrid odor of the turtle tank is so strong it could make you vomit. However, breathing in the foul odor for several days might lead to lung diseases. Germs and bacteria thrive in the unclean turtle tank. These microorganisms can cause infectious diseases among those who care for the turtles.

What should you do to stay safe? How to vanish the foul odor from the turtle tank? Catch details below.

Key Takeaways

  • The foul odor coming from the turtle tank will not make you sick.
  • Stinking turtle habitat is crawling with germs and bacteria. Hence, handling such enclosures can cause infectious diseases, stomachache, or diarrhoea in keepers.
  • Deep clean the tank at least once a month.
  • Wash your hands after handling a turtle.

Can You Get Sick Because Of The Nasty Turtle Tank?

Will the putrid odor of your turtle aquarium make you sick? The answer is maybe.

We can discuss it from different angles. Such as,

1. Respiratory Diseases

See, if you are worried that the stink in the air will make you ill, don’t be. The foul odor will not harm you directly. But yes, experts suggest that inhaling dirt and filth might develop respiratory issues.

I am not kidding. Hear me out.

The uncleaned turtle habitat is nothing less than a trash can. Sometimes, as the food scraps, poop, and other wastes break down, hydrogen sulfide is formed. Inhaling this air for a long time can adversely affect your health.

Not to mention, some people are more sensitive to environmental odors. They might experience nose irritation, headache, etc. Finally, you are also at risk if air-borne bacteria develop from the rubbish.

2. Infectious Issues

The pile of garbage, fuzzy water, and algae outbreak are mainly responsible for the putrid smell in the turtle tank. Such a filthy state (warm and moist) is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria and fungi. These microorganisms not only sicken the turtles but can also affect the keepers.

Say you come in close contact with the turtles and their habitat. You are, too, now exposed to those bacteria and fungi.

Many keepers experience itching, skin irritation, stomach aches, and diarrhoea because of this.

3. Salmonella Attack

Turtles carry salmonella bacteria. You can do nothing to make the pets salmonella-free. Another problem with not maintaining hygiene is that the Salmonella will spread to every corner of the tank.

Therefore, the keepers can get infected with this bacteria when handling the turtles or arranging the aquarium.

Even though Salmonella is not harmful, it will make you feel physically weak. Besides, stomach ache, headache, diarrhoea, etc., are common symptoms of this disease. Medication is available to ease the pain.

In short, the foul smell of a turtle tank does not make you sick directly.

But yes, the leftovers and wastes in the aquarium will entice bacteria and promote their growth. It definitely poses a health hazard for you and your family.

What Makes The Turtle Tank Smell Bad?

See, the putrid odor is not the main issue, after all. It is the dirty tank which is responsible for the foul smell. Here is what makes the turtle habitat stink,

1. Leftovers

Turtles eat in the water. They nibble the food with their sharp beaks and jaws. In this process, they leave behind a load of food scraps after each meal. The crumbs will degrade with time, allow bacterial growth and spread a bad smell.

2. Poop Everywhere

Apparently, turtles barely poop out of water. If you do not remove the faeces, it will break down eventually, making the enclosure stink. Also, ammonia is a byproduct of poop and urates. So, do not be surprised if the room smells like a public toilet.

3. Dead Plants & Fis

In many cases, a dead plant or fish is the source of the rotten smell in the tank. If you have built a community habitat with different species and plants, you might face this situation. Turtles and fish often do not get along. So, a dead fish in the turtle pond is not a big surprise.

4. Algae Outbreak

Algae is very common in turtle aquariums. But if you do not control its growth, this little organism will take over the tank. Thus, the water will turn green, and you will notice a damp smell in the air.

5. Filter Capacity

The main purpose of installing a filter is to process the dirty water. Right? But if you get a low-capacity filter against the tank, the device will fail to strain out the filth. As a result, the enclosure will stink anyway.

6. Recheck The Filter

It can happen that you have bought the right filter, but still, there is a nasty odor in the tank. What should you do then? Well, chances are that the filter has stopped working or the media baskets are clogged. Disassemble the filter and properly check everything.

7. Overcrowded Tank

Forcing too many turtles to live in a congested space has several disadvantages. For the starter, the pets will be stressed, fight more often, and can never enjoy the full carapace growth. Another downside is that there will be more filth around. Of course, the more the turtles inside, the more the food scraps and poops to handle.

8. No Cleaning Routine

All the factors discussed above can be ignored only if you can stick to a proper clean-up schedule. But of course, most owners are too lazy even to change the tank water regularly. Hence, the pets are stuck in the dirty and stinking house.

turtle tank smell causes & solution: infographic

turtle tank smell infographic

Want to get a printable version of this infographic? Click here!

How Can You Maintain Hygiene In Turtle Enclosure?

The smell will not do any permanent harm to your health. True that. But as mentioned, the dirty environment can be dangerous for you and your family.

See, the Salmonella bacteria can not affect healthy adults. But it can make the babies suffer miserably. Furthermore, pregnant ladies may face physical complexities if they are exposed to Salmonella.

So why take the risk? You better maintain the hygiene inside the habitat. It will ensure the health of both you and your pets. Besides, you do not have to withstand the odor, too. Some handy tips are,

1. Separate Feeding Arrangement

To tackle the food scraps, I always feed the turtles in a temporary habitat. It is a large plastic bowl with a few large rocks, nothing fancy. I fill the container and bring the turtles only during the mealtime.

2. Toss Out The Sludge

If you spot any poop floating in the water, toss it out now. Don’t EWW. Use a net or anything similar to remove the faecal contents.

3. Control Alage Growth

Installing a UV sterilizer and moving the tank from the window will limit the algae population in the turtle habitat. Also, scrape away these greens whenever you get a chance.

4. Buy The Right Filter

The ideal rule is to set a filter 1.5x to 2x the capacity of the tank. This way, the device can strain out the debris and circulate fresh water. If you ever doubt that the filter is not working right, just turn it off, check the settings, and make the necessary adjustments.

5. A Bigger Aquarium

It is obvious that turtles enjoy a larger space. Not only that, the bigger habitat requires less frequent cleaning.

As per the rule of thumb, you must provide at least 10 gallons of tank space per inch of carapace for the turtles.

Besides, a bigger enclosure is mandatory if you plan to add plants and fish.

6. Clean-Up Sessions

You can prevent the tank from smelling only if you stick to a regular cleaning routine. For example, remove droppings, food scraps, dead skins, etc., daily. Next, siphon 25% of dirty water and replace it with fresh water weekly. Next, deep clean the tank and the filter at least once a month. Change the bedding and filter media baskets if necessary.

7. Personal Hygiene

This tip will definitely not keep the smell out of the tank. But it will surely prevent diseases in you. Start with washing your hands before and after touching turtles. Do not bring the reptiles into your kitchen area or mix their meals with yours. Finally, do not kiss these pets.

two snapping turtles in tank
Owner: Josh Kelley

Is it safe to have turtle tank in bedroom?

Having a turtle tank in your bedroom can be safe if you take the necessary precautions to prevent the transmission of zoonotic diseases such as Salmonella.

Turtles, like many other pets, can carry Salmonella bacteria without appearing ill themselves.

It is essential to maintain good hygiene practices, such as washing hands thoroughly before and after handling your turtle or its habitat, to protect both yourself and the turtle​​.

To further ensure safety:

Keep the Turtle’s Habitat Clean: Turtles defecate in the water they swim in, which can become a breeding ground for bacteria if not cleaned regularly. Proper tank maintenance, including regular water changes and cleaning, is crucial​.

Avoid Handling Turtles When You’re Sick: To prevent the spread of illness to or from your turtle, minimize contact if you are sick, and ensure you wash your hands before and after any necessary interaction with the turtle or its environment.

Refrain from Kissing Turtles: Direct contact with your mouth can increase the risk of transmitting diseases like Salmonella. It’s important to avoid kissing turtles or allowing small children to put turtles near their faces​.

Supervise Children and Other Pets: If you have other pets, be cautious about interactions since they can also be at risk for Salmonella infection. Ensure that the turtle’s enclosure is secure to prevent other pets from accessing it​. Also, keep enclosures away from edges to prevent accidents and secure any cables to avoid tripping hazards or pets chewing on them.

By adhering to these guidelines, you can safely enjoy having a turtle tank in your bedroom without significant health risks. It’s crucial to maintain cleanliness and practice good hygiene around your turtle to minimize any dangers.

Can you sleep in the same room as a turtle?

Yes, you can sleep in the same room as a turtle, but you should ensure the room is well-ventilated, and the turtle’s tank is properly maintained to prevent any odors or increase in humidity.

It is also important to follow hygienic practices to reduce the risk of Salmonella infection, such as washing your hands after handling the turtle or its habitat.

As long as the tank is kept clean and you practice good hygiene, there shouldn’t be issues with keeping a turtle in your bedroom.

Before You Go…

One of my friends once complained that his turtle smelled very bad. But is that true? Do turtles have a distinct body odor? Find it out in the attached article below.

Do Turtles Smell [6 Reasons + Prevention]

About Author

Muntaseer Rahman started keeping pet turtles back in 2013. He also owns the largest Turtle & Tortoise Facebook community in Bangladesh. These days he is mostly active on Facebook.


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