Cloudy Turtle Tank Water & Ways To Fix It

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Last week, I received an email from a reader complaining about cloudy turtle tank water. He mentioned his turtle tank water was always foggy even after installing a powerful filter. I know many of you face the same issue, and I have decided to address it. Usually, bacteria, low-quality tank filters, and unhygienic habitats cause cloudy water.

Ways to fix cloudy turtle tank water:

  • In case of a new tank, leave the water for a few days to weak and let the bacteria establish their colony
  • Install a high-quality water filter
  • Clean the habitat and filter regularly, and change the old water as well

When to apply which solution? Do not worry. You will find the detailed answer in the following article.

Cloudy Turtle Tank Water & Ways To Fix It

I have given this cloudy turtle tank water much thought and come up with 10 probable causes. Not everyone will face the issue due to the same reason. You have to go through each factor and determine what fits your condition the most.

Here are the 10 mistakes that cause cloudy turtle water,

  1. New Tank Syndrome
  2. Unhygienic Tank Environment
  3. Inefficient Filtration System
  4. Frequent Water Change
  5. Dirty Filter
  6. Trying Out New Substrate
  7. Using Tap Water
  8. Algae Blooms Are Taking Over
  9. Decoration Is Not Perfect
  10. Too Much Light

Let’s find more details on each factor,

New Tank Syndrome


When someone comes to me with a cloudy turtle tank issue, the first question I ask is, “When did you set up the tank?”

Trust me. The most common answers are within the last 5/7 days.

I reply to them with a smile, saying it is nothing but the new tank syndrome. Is the term unknown to you? Well, let me explain.

The odds are if you have set up a turtle or fish tank for the very first time, the water is kind of hazy. Even when you change the water after days, you witness the cloudy water. But why?

When we set up a turtle tank, we try hard to replicate the wild environment into a specific area. But there are many natural factors we can not copy within days.

In nature, an ongoing nitrogen cycle keeps the pond or river water clean. What is the nitrogen cycle?

Most aquatic or semi-aquatic turtles have their meals in water and release their urine or poop there. If you fail to remove the waste, it will pollute the water and make it an inhabitable place for the turtles. So, what happens here?

Fortunately, millions of good bacteria break down the waste-produced ammonia into nitrite and later on nitrate. Both these elements are less harmful. Nitrite or nitrates are consumed by the live plants or removed by the filtration system.

The whole procedure is referred to as the nitrogen cycle or nitrogen conversion. Thanks to this process, the water source remains clean.

Now look at the condition of the newly set enclosure.

The bacteria got no chance to colonize, establish, or build up there. As a result, the turtles are producing waste, but not enough media is present in the water to break it down. Why in the world will the water not be cloudy?


New tank syndrome is common, and the solution is way easier than you think. What do you have to do? Nothing.

Yes. You have to do absolutely nothing.

The bacteria require a few days to a few weeks to set up their colony and settle in the tank. You have no responsibility during those days. It is even better if you keep your turtle away from the tank too.

How would you know if the bacteria colony has been established?

The bacterias spread the population and reach a safe number that will contribute to the nitrogen cycle. Surprisingly, the cloudy water will turn crystal clear overnight when the time comes.

Unhygienic Tank Environment


Now, what if you have set up the tank a long time ago and still have cloudy water? Well, in that case, you have to focus on the maintenance.

You already know turtles feel comfortable eating in the water. I have seen pets refusing food if not served in water. But when you feed them in water, they create a mess there.

I feed my turtles natural food most of the time. Every time I offer them a meal, they devour the items they love and leave behind the scrapes of small pieces. It is hard to remove the foodscape each time you feed the turtles.

For these reasons, I prefer feeding the turtles pellets. I mean, these items are more convenient and less likely to create a mess. But unfortunately, I got no luck.

Turtles still produce food waste while ripping apart the hard, chewy pellets. Sometimes the pets spit, and food scraps come out of their mouth.

Hence, food scraps often are responsible for making the turtle tank cloudy. Many times, the food waste spreads a foul odor.

I think this is one of the disadvantages of feeding a turtle in the water.

So, the water becomes hazy and hampers your turtles’ healthy life due to the food wastes floating in it.


Feeding the turtle inside the tank indeed affects the water quality. The leftover foods might rot and invite harmful bacteria to spread. No wonder why the unhygienic habitat causes the turtles fungal or bacterial infection. I guess I do not have to say anything extra about the foul odor coming from the dirty tank.

Experts suggest offering the turtles meals outside the tank considering the problems of feeding in the water.

The best option is to arrange a separate tank, fill it with water, and feed your turtles there.

The container should not be huge as your turtle will not live there. However, make sure the size is roughly twice the size of the turtle. Fill the tank halfway with fresh water and put your turtle there. The pet might take a few minutes to get used to the attachment at first.

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Now throw all the foods in the water that you usually feed your turtle and leave the items there for 15 minutes. After that period, the turtle will have a full belly, and you can transfer it to its original home. Drain the dirty water and rinse the container thoroughly.

You can definitely use a plastic tub or container for this purpose. Whatever you use, make sure that the turtle can not escape.

What if you do not have any extra containers? What then? In that case, you have to install a powerful filter that can suck all the food scraps and recirculate fresh water. And, of course, regular cleaning of the filter is mandatory.

Inefficient Filtration System


You have no idea how significant a quality tank filter is for the turtles. It keeps the enclosure healthy and hygienic. At the same time, it contributes to the growth of the turtle.

If you decide to house your turtle indoors, you must have the mentality to bear the expenses to build a perfect enclosure. I have seen owners installing low-quality water filters, thinking they will clean the turtle tank more frequently.

Admit the truth. You are too lazy to disassemble and assemble the whole setup that often.

Unfortunately, innocent pets pay for their foolishness.

Imagine you own a 125-gallon tank, and you have installed a less powerful filter. What will happen? The filter in this scenario is useless.

The ineffective filtration systems let out the waste or water. As a result, the turtle tank water becomes cloudy.


Buying a powerful filter will definitely help. Usually, each tank filter model packing has its capacity mentioned on the top. If you do not find it, talk to the salesman.

If you need any help sorting out your tank filter preference, check out my top picks.

Frequent Water Change


You are changing the turtle tank water, but it is still cloudy. Why is that?

Well, I understand your intention. But the clear water becomes hazy after a few hours of pouring due to the bacterial issue. When you change the water, the good bacteria leaves with it, and so the nitrogen cycle is broken. Hence, you witness a cloudy turtle tank water.


Do not change the water that frequently. Replacing 25% of the water once a week and performing a thorough clean-up twice a month will keep your turtle tank healthy.

Dirty Filter


Another potential cause behind cloudy turtle tank water is unhealthy and dirty filters. Yes, you have read it right. Filters do not clean themselves, but you have to do it.

Waste and organic materials start building up inside the filter if it goes uncleaned for a long time. Eventually, the waste will rot and works in favor of harmful bacteria and algae. In the end, you will have a cloudy tank with an unpleasant smell.

The powerful filters might recirculate fresh water for a long time, even after the waste builds up. But the mid-range or low-quality filters are not that powerful. Those devices will circulate water with waste once the build-up overruns the filter capacity.

And now, you have a turtle tank with cloudy water.


The solution is simple. Clean the filter twice a month and avoid the waste sitting on the filter chambers.

Sometimes, the water can still be cloudy even when you clean the filter. There are 2 possible reasons for it,

  1. Your turtles are messier than you have assumed, and the filter requires more frequent clean-ups.
  2. The wash has killed the good bacteria, and the nitrogen cycle is broken. You have to start all over again.

Trying Out New Substrate


Are you noticing the cloudiness after putting in new bedding? If yes, then the substrate is responsible for the cloudy turtle tank water.

The substrates, even the store-bought ones, have dust on them. When you pour water on them directly without washing them first, the whole water source becomes hazy.

It is the same with gravel.


Rinse any substrate you buy before putting them in the turtle tank. Washing out the bedding or gravel can seem a challenge.

I recommend washing the substrate taking small portions at a time to minimize the hassle. Rinse thoroughly and remove the epoxy coating or dust from the material.

Algae Blooms Are Taking Over


Is your water green and cloudy at the same time? If yes, then it is nothing but the algae that are causing the problem.

The algae cells responsible for cloudy greenish water are called Euglena.

The condition is more likely to arise when you house multiple turtles in the same habitat, and the food scraps are unremoved for days. You will see the greenish tone in the water when the algae start growing exponentially.


Are algae harmful to turtles? No. But these organisms deplete oxygen and the carbon dioxide content in the water increases. Hence, it is necessary to remove the algae.

How can you do that?

Remember, algae cells have rapid growth, and the population spread can start even from one cell. So, changing water is not a solution. The algae will come back if they leave behind a single trace in the enclosure.

So, what can you do?

UV light filtration is the best way to get rid of algae or green cloudy turtle tank water.

Using Tap Water


Experts believe that tap water sometimes causes cloudiness in turtle tanks.

Many owners scoff at this factor and claim that they use the same water they use for themselves. So, why?

Well, you can not guarantee that your tap water is 100% pure and contamination-free. Can you? Exactly. Tap water often includes ammonia, nitrates, chlorine, silicates, phosphates, etc.

These elements might make the turtle tank water hazy and even worse. The contaminated water can irritate the pet’s eyes.


The solution to unbalanced water is simple. Use conditioners to neutralize the water contamination. Those solutions can level out the pH, ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, chlorine, or any other harmful element level in the water.

Decoration Is Not Perfect


Sometimes when you have just set up store-bought driftwood in the turtle tank, it can discharge color. If this is the case, your tank water will turn light brown and, of course, cloudy. It occurs because the driftwood hasn’t soaked enough water yet to settle in.

Driftwoods release tannic acid while in contact with water. It can mess up with the pH level of turtle tank water.

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A quality filtration can easily clear out the water. Besides, you have to make sure the pH level of the tank is in perfect range.

Too Much Light


You are doing everything right, yet you have a cloudy turtle tank? Let me ask you one more question.

Is your turtle tank near the window and gets direct sunlight? Yes? Then I suppose the algae growth is rapid, and it has taken over the surface and the wall of the tank. Situations like this often cause cloudy turtle tank water.


You can move your turtle tank to a different location with indirect sunlight. Or, UV filtration will also help you get rid of the algae.

How Do I Make My Turtle Tank Crystal Clear? The Alternating Ways

If you are experiencing cloudy turtle tank water, you need to determine the cause first. Then you can take action according to the issue. For example,

  • Cleaning filter
  • Feeding the turtle outside
  • Leaving the tank for a few weeks in new tanks, etc.

I have discussed 10 probable causes for your cloudy turtle tank water. I have also mentioned the solutions to get rid of the issue. Fortunately, those are not the only ways out, and many other options are available to fix fuzzy water. Such as,

Installing Air Pump

The tank water can be stagnant due to the cloudiness and disrupts the oxygen cycle. A filter can definitely clear the dirt but can do nothing to oxygenate the water. In this case, an air pump is an excellent addition to your turtle tank.

Adding Fish To The Rescue

Many of you dream of housing fishes and turtles in the same enclosure. Congratulations! It is totally possible and, of course, beneficial to the habitat.

Working-class fishes excel at devouring algae and scavenging food scraps from the tank bottom. So, your cloudy water problem will be solved in no time. But wait. Can you introduce any fish to the tank?

The answer is no. Fishes too small will end up being the meals of your turtles. On the other hand, the large fishes get involved in a fight with the turtles. So, what to do?

Simple. Go for the medium-sized fish that can swim fast. Generally, Otos, Plecos, and ghost shrimps are excellent choices for the turtle tank. However, the choice of fishes solely depends on your turtle species. So, while shopping for fish, consider your turtle species and nature.

There are many more factors you have to consider. Your tank size should be spacious enough to accommodate both turtles and fish. Hideouts are essential in this scenario. Otherwise, you have to witness more frequent fights.

Again, the number of fish you introduce to the tank is also significant. If the fish are heavy in number, they will bully your turtles. I am sure you do not want that.

Now, measure the water parameters and make sure they are suitable for the fish. They can not help you clean the enclosure if it is not well-aerated.

Aquarium Vacuum Can Be Useful

Now that you know gravels or beddings can trap food scraps and shelter algae, you should do something about it. I have seen many owners use a gravel vacuum clear to maintain habitat hygiene.

The aquarium vacuums are powerful enough to suck out the debris and leftovers from gravels or rocks. However, water also comes out with waste whenever you use the vacuum. Hence, it is wiser not to overuse this device.

Generally, the aquarium vacuums can handle 70-gallon tanks. But of course, you can aim for a more powerful one.

Activated Carbon In The Filter

You can not ignore the benefits of activated carbon in a tank filter. Nowadays, all high-quality filters include a layer of activated charcoal, which adds another level of freshness to the water. Not only that, the cloudiness or dirt removal becomes easier if the filter includes a carbon layer.


Unbalanced water sometimes causes cloudy turtle tank water. You can solve the issue with a conditioner, a bacteria supplement.

The supplements usually come as a tablet and remove any impurities from the water.

Again, if algae are causing cloudy water, UV sterilizers come in handy. These sterilizers not only kill algae but also work for eliminating viruses, bacteria, or fungus.

Add Plants To The Tank

Live plants indeed work as natural water filters. They offer many additional benefits. Such as,

  • Shelter beneficial bacteria and so, the nitrogen cycle kicks start soon
  • Keep the ammonia, chlorine, and nitrogen level at a considerable level
  • Lesser the chance of cloudy water

Other than these, you will have an aesthetic-looking aquarium, and your pets will get places to hide.

I know it is challenging to care for both the pets and the plants. Here is my guide for adding live plants to a turtle tank. Give it a read if you are struggling to make a decision.

How Long Does It Take For Cloudy Aquarium Water To Clear?

Generally, it takes a few days to weeks for cloudy aquarium water to clear in new tank syndrome. In other cases, you will get crystal clear water in 2/3 days.

If you are experiencing cloudy turtle tank water, you need to be patient and look for the cause. Each issue will lead to a different solution. Hence, problem identifying is vital.

Next, read the techniques I have mentioned to get rid of the fuzzy water. Replacing cloudy water with freshwater is not going to work here.

If you have a newly set up habitat, maybe the new tank syndrome is causing the cloudy water. In that case, leave the water for days, and it will be clear once the nitrogen cycle starts properly.

You can go for the filter clean-up or try out feeding the turtle outside the enclosure. Do not lose hope and activate your critical thinking power to resolve the issue.

Is Cloudy Water Bad For Turtles?

Cloudy water is not harmful if the new tank syndrome is responsible for it. However, if the water is foggy because of the wastes, take immediate actions to clean it. Dirty water can irritate the turtle skin or eyes and lead to infection.

As you already know, different factors are responsible for cloudy turtle tank water. Generally, owners experience vague water right after setting up a new tank. It occurs as the good bacteria colony hasn’t yet been established in the habitat. And so, the ongoing nitrogen cycle is not sufficient enough to process the waste in the enclosure.

The cloudy water will become crystal clear as the bacteria colony is established.

Now, what if your turtle tank water is cloudy because of the leftover food? The food scraps will rot, make the water hazy, and spread a foul odor. Such an environment is suitable for harmful bacteria to grow.

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Turtles fall sick to shell rot, soft shell, eye infection, mouth rot, and many more diseases due to the dirty water.

Take action to clean your turtle tank and the installed filter.

Are you wondering why turtles need clean tanks? See, turtles come from a high quality water environment free from ammonia, chlorine, or other impurities.

So, if you force these reptiles to live in a low-quality tank, they will suffer from the disease. As you know, any severe illness deducts years from your lovely pets.

Turtle Tank Water Cloudy Smells: Why?

Are you noticing cloudy water along with a foul odor? If yes, then the chances are that the leftover foods, algae, and decomposing skins are responsible. The wastes start rotting, making the water foggy and giving off an unpleasant scent.

What can you do to remove the cloudy water and the odor? Well, here are the suggestion,

  • Installing a high-quality filter is mandatory if your turtles create a mess with food. High-quality filters suck up the leftovers and recirculate fresh water.
  • Sometimes the filter chambers are overrun with rotten food. In that case, the device will circulate cloudy water, and the foul smell is a bonus. You have to clean the filter bi-weekly.
  • Aquarium vacuuming comes in handy to remove food scraps from the gravels.
  • Replace 25% of the water every week and perform a thorough tank clean-up at least once a month.
  • Feed the turtles in a separate container to avoid the struggle with leftovers.
  • Use conditioners to keep the ammonia, chlorine, or other elements in a suitable range.
  • Use a UV sterilizer if the algae are causing the smell.
  • Sometimes, the temperature of the enclosure messes up with the smell. Recheck your heating lamp and heater temperature.

Turtle Tank Odor Neutralizer

Three products that will contribute to neutralizing the turtle tank odor are,

  1. Wardley Turtle Food Sticks
  2. 43000 Eco Clean
  3. Diamond Blend 23 Ounces

The first recommendation here is Wardley Turtle Food Sticks. It is a balanced diet for turtles. At the same time, the item contains probiotics that will spread good bacteria in the tank.

The brand claims that these floating sticks will help eliminate the cloudy water and any foul smell with the blessing of probiotics.

43000 Eco Clean is a solution specially developed for turtle tanks. It can clean out the wastes, which eventually neutralizes the odor.

The third product is Diamond Blend 23 Ounces, which is actually an ammonia neutralizer. However, the conditioner contains carbon that contributes to eliminating the foul smell.

What Is The Ideal Chemical Level In A Turtle Tank?

You know the significance of balanced water for turtles. If any of the elements in the water goes up, it starts affecting the environment. Not only that, the turtles might experience health issues like skin and eye irritation.

So, what is the safe chemical level in a turtle tank? Take a look at the following chart,

pH6 to 8
Nitrite0.5 ppm
Nitrate0 to 40 ppm

Among the above elements, nitrate is the safer one, and it helps prevent cloudy water. However, if the number increases, nitrate can also be harmful to the turtles.

How would you know the contamination level of your turtle tank? Water parameter test kits are available at the local pet stores, or you can always buy them online. If the numbers are high, use a conditioner to eliminate the impurities.

Why Is My Tank Cloudy After Water Change?

An ongoing tank contains enough good bacteria to process the nitrogen cycle properly. As a result, the water is crystal clear. However, when you change the water, the nutrients are drained, and so, the water might seem cloudy for several days.

What can you do? If the new tank syndrome is responsible, you have nothing to do.

Wait for days, and the water will become crystal clear overnight. However, experts believe that the following steps can boost up the bacteria build-up process,

  • Use any purified water in the tank which does not contain chlorine. You know chlorine kills good bacteria and delays the nitrogen cycle.
  • Installing an air pump will help as low oxygen inhibits the growth of good bacteria. If the water gets non-stop airflow, the good bacteria population will spread fast.
  • While cleaning the filter or tank, follow proper rules. You must not kill the good bacteria in the process.

Why Does My Turtle Tank Get Dirty So Fast?

I am guessing 4 reasons why your turtle tank gets dirty so fast. Such as,

  • The tank is not spacious enough for the turtles
  • The tank filter is not powerful enough to bear the load
  • You are not doing an excellent job in cleaning the tank or the filter
  • You change the water too frequently

Turtles are messy by nature. On the top, if you make them live in a narrow space, there will be waste everywhere. Turtles require a large enclosure where they can move and swim freely.

Again, low-quality filters can not process the waste properly. The devices overrun the leftovers in no time and start circulating cloudy water. Sometimes, the owners know little about the cleaning technique of the filter chambers or tanks. As a result, the tank gets dirty within a few days of cleaning.

Frequent change of water is another reason why you experience dirty tanks so often. I have already talked about the new tank syndrome. When you change the water, you are throwing away the good bacteria. Hence, the water will stay cloudy as long as the nitrogen cycle does not start all over again.

How can you get rid of this issue? Well, first of all, you have to provide the turtles with a spacious tank. Then install a powerful tank filter, and it will work as a long-term investment. Next, do regular cleaning of the tank and the filtration system.

How Often Should You Change Turtle Tank Water?

Experts discourage changing the water frequently. The healthy rule is to replace 25% of the tank water per week and do a thorough clean-up of the tank at least once a month.

If your tank has gravel at the bottom, you might want to use an aquarium vacuum cleaner to suck up the waste. Partial water change occurs during this clean-up process. In that case, you might adjust the cleaning session as per requirement.


Cloudy water is anything but not a blessing for the turtles. Well, not in most cases. If you have set up a new aquarium and experienced fuzzy water, it is because of the new tank syndrome. In any other case, the habitat is unhealthy, and you need to take immediate action to solve the issue.

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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.


This site is owned and operated by Muntaseer Rahman. is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to This site also participates in other affiliate programs and is compensated for referring traffic and business to these companies.