How Do Turtles Poop? [FAQs Answered]

Turtle Basking

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

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New turtle owners have many questions about their turtles. Interestingly, a lot of questions are about turtle poop! The anatomy of turtles greatly differs from us humans. So, it is normal to be curious about how turtles perform their bodily functions.

Turtles have only one orifice on their rear, which they use for many purposes. Do they use it to poop as well? And how do turtles poop?

Turtles poop through their cloaca. It is an orifice locked close to the end of their tail. Turtles use the cloaca not only for defecating waste but also for mating, laying eggs and breathing underwater.

In this article, I will tell you how turtles defecates and what healthy turtle poops look like. Understanding your turtle’s pooping habits can tell a lot about its health. So, whether you feel disgusted or not, you better know your turtle’s poop. 

How Does A Turtle Poop?

Like any other animals, turtles eat food. The food gets into the stomach. Then the secreted uric acid and stomach muscles digest the food. The processed food travels through the gastrointestinal tract to the cloaca and comes out. Turtles also use the cloaca to urinate. 

Humans and many other animals have separate orifices for defecating and urinating. But the turtles have only one orifice. Besides pooping and urinating, they use the cloaca to mate and lay eggs. Many aquatic turtles even use the cloaca to breathe underwater. 

What Does Healthy Turtle Poop Look Like?

It may sound weird, but your turtle’s poop can indeed say a lot about its health. So, you should pay attention to the colour and texture of your turtle. Healthy turtle poop looks brown or slightly green. The shape is like a pellet or a small log. Also, the texture should be solid, but not completely hard.

But remember, the colour and texture of your turtle’s poop depend on what they eat. For example, a turtle’s poop looks greenish and darker when it eats mostly vegetables. Turtles that eat protein-based food defecate brown colour poop. 

The faeces of terrestrial turtles can be white because of their diet. Terrestrial turtles, like box turtles, may produce more uric acid compared to aquatic turtles. It is visible in their faeces. Aquatic turtle poops generally lack uric acid. So, you should not see any white in their poops. 

To have a clear view of your turtle’s poop colour and consistency, make sure the tank water is clear. As the colour of the faeces can change depending on consumed food, you should observe your turtle’s poop for a few days. 

If you find your turtle’s poop colour unusual or the texture runny, take it to the vet for a health check-up. You will learn more about unhealthy turtle poop in the next part. 

What Does Unhealthy Turtle Poop Look Like?

You might see abnormal poop in your turtle’s tank. Is your turtle poop black or white? Does the texture of the poop look thin or runny? Then your turtle might have some health problems. Here is more about unhealthy turtle poop:

Black Poop

Is your turtle defecating black poops? You may also see dark red spots on the poop. It is a sign that your turtle has serious internal damage. 

Turtles bite on almost anything in their tank. Your turtle might eat pieces of sharp objects or rocks. These objects can cut the insides of your turtle. As a result, the turtle faeces will come out black. There is not much you can do about it. So, you must consult with a vet as soon as possible.  

White Poop

As mentioned above, white poop is not uncommon among turtles. Turtle poops often have traces of uric acid. It comes out as a form of white paste. But the presence of a high amount of uric acid indicates your turtle may have a kidney problem or problem with digesting food. 

Poop mixed with uric acid is normal for terrestrial or land turtles. Sometimes, aquatic turtles may also produce white faeces depending on their diet. But the texture should be log-like and dense. Runny white poop means your turtle has diarrhoea. 

Parasite in Poop

Does your turtle poop contain white stringy substances? These white strings look different from white poops. In fact, they are small worms living in your turtle’s intestine. Roundworms and tapeworms are common parasites in turtles. 

These intestinal parasites are dangerous for your turtle’s health. They live on the food your turtle eats. Hence, the turtle will not get the full benefit of the food. Worms can also cause severe diarrhoea. When you see worms in your turtle’s poop, take them to the vet right away.

How Often Do Turtles Poop?

While it is normal for baby turtles to poop every day, adult turtles defecate 3 to 4 days a week. How often your turtle will poop is affected by how often you feed it. 

Most turtle species are considered adults when they become over 4 to 5 inches long. You do not have to feed adult turtles every day. Feed them well 3 to 4 times a week, and they will be alright. So, it is normal for an adult turtle to defecate 2 to 3 times a week. Turtles can take a long time to digest their food. Hence, it takes time to defecate. 

On the other hand, baby turtles below 4 inches eat every day and even several times a day. So, they should defecate every day. 

If your adult turtle does not poop at least once a week and a baby turtle does not poop every other day, then you should be concerned. Your turtle can be constipated. Again, adult turtles should not be defecating every day or defecating more times than they eat. In such cases, check the colour and consistency of the faces. 

You can learn more about constipation and other problems in turtles in later sections. 

Where Do Turtles Poop?

Most turtles prefer to defecate in the water more than on the land. Not only the aquatic turtles even the land turtles and tortoises prefer defecating in water. Experts have given some reasons behind such psychology of turtles. 

Warm water helps the turtles to empty their bowls and discharge faeces. Aquatic turtles feel more safe defecating in the water as there is less chance of getting attacked by predators. Pet land turtles may defecate in the water expecting the water to wash away their smelly poop.  

Turtles also defecate on the land. So, it is alright if you find turtle poop on the land area of the turtle tank. But aquatic turtles emptying their bowls frequently on the land might mean there is a problem with the water temperature. Turtles avoid water colder or hotter than their ideal temperature. 

How Long Does it Take Turtles to Poop?

Knowing when your turtle might poop helps keep the turtle tank clean. You can also see the fresh turtle faeces to understand its health condition.

Many turtles defecate about 15 to 30 minutes after having their meal. But this is not a universal behaviour of turtles. Some turtles may poop 5 minutes after eating, and others may poop the next day. Baby turtles generally poop within 5 to 10 minutes of eating. 

You can track your turtle’s pooping habits to know when it typically defecates. You can feed your turtle in a separate bowl. Let it stay in the bowl for an hour or two. By then, your turtle should finish its business. This way, you do not have to worry about removing faeces from the tank. 

Does Turtle Poop Smell?

Turtle poop can smell really bad. But the smell is not as strong as the faeces of other animals. It also depends on what your turtle eats. 

The smell can get stronger if you let the turtle faeces accumulate in the tanks. So, it is better not to leave turtle poop in the tank for more than a week. 

Do Turtles Eat Their Poop?

If you have multiple turtles in a tank, you might have seen turtles eating the faeces of other turtles. Yes, it seems disgusting. But turtles eating their poop is not uncommon. In fact, it is beneficial for their health. 

Healthy turtle poops have a good number of beneficial bacteria and nutrients. Sometimes, young turtles will eat the poops of older turtles to absorb nutrients. Turtles may even eat their own faeces to maintain symbiotic bacteria in their body. 

How to Clean Turtle Poop?

If you do not want your turtle to eat poop, keep track of its defecating time. Whenever your turtle empties its bowls, scope out the faeces as soon as possible. You may not always be able to clean the tank right away. Thus, the faeces of your turtle may get slowly dissolved in the water. 

You can install a high-quality water filter in the tank. The filter can get rid of the faeces fast and prevent your turtle from eating them. 

My personal favourite is the Marineland Magniflow Canister Filter. The three-stage filter keeps the water clean and maintains a safe environment for the turtles. It is available in three sizes from 30 to 100 gallons. 

Do Turtles Poop Out of Their Mouths

You probably know that turtles can breathe through their butts. So, many people ask if turtles can poop out of their mouths. The answer is no. Turtles cannot poop out of their mouth!

Turtles use their cloaca to poop. When turtles digest their food, the waste travels through the intestine to the cloaca. The same orifice is used to urinate, reproduce, lay eggs, and even breathe underwater. 

If your turtle produces any waste from their mouth, it is most probably vomiting. Turtles can vomit when they have digestive problems. 

Why Is My Turtle Pooping A Lot?

I have mentioned above that a healthy baby turtle should defecate every day. But is your adult turtle doing the same? Also, is it pooping more than once a day? If yes, then your turtle may have diarrhoea. 

Check the colour and texture of your turtle’s faeces. Healthy turtle faeces have a firm and solid texture. If the poop is liquid and soft, it confirms your turtle has diarrhoea. 

Here are the reasons your turtle can get diarrhoea and poop a lot:

Poor diet: 

What your turtle eats directly affects its health. Your turtle may lack the nutrients to maintain a healthy immune system. Hence, it cannot fight the bacteria that cause diarrhoea. Feeding too much fibre can also cause diarrhoea. Turtles can also get diarrhoea from eating too many fruits, especially citrus fruits.   

Parasite: 

Have you seen white, stringy things in your turtle’s poop for some time? It means your turtle has been suffering from worm infestation for some time. These parasites live on the nutrients your turtle gets from food. Hence, your turtle cannot maintain a strong immune system because of a lack of nutrients. Diarrhoea can be a symptom of visible and invisible worms inside your turtle. 

Protozoan Infection: 

Worms are not the only parasites that can cause diarrhoea. A parasite called protozoa can infect your turtle, which can cause diarrhoea. The parasite thrives on dirty tanks. You can take a sample of your turtle’s faeces to the vet to check if your turtle has a protozoan infection. 

You obviously do not want your turtle to get diarrhoea. So, feed your turtle a balanced diet. Besides, keep your turtle tank clean to avoid infection. If your turtle has severe diarrhoea, contact a vet for help.  

Why Is My Turtle Not Pooping?

Baby turtles should poop every day, and adult turtles should do it 2 to 3 days a week. You may have noticed your turtle not following the regular pooping schedule. So, why is your turtle not pooping? 

The answer is your turtle may have constipation, or it has eaten an object that is blocking its poop. Sometimes the water temperature can be a reason your turtle is not pooping in the water. 

Constipation

Baby turtles not pooping over a day, and adult turtles not pooping at least once a week is a clear sign of constipation. Turtles can suffer from constipation the same way we do. 

Turtles get constipated when they do not get fibre from their food. So, add vegetables and fruits to your turtle’s daily diet to provide fibre. Your turtle should also drink lots of fresh water

You can help a constipated turtle at home by following some simple steps. First, take a bowl and fill it with warm water. The water temperature should be 80 degrees Fahrenheit to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Then gently take your turtle out of the tank and put it in the bowl. Let it bathe in the water for about ten minutes. The warm water soothes your turtle’s tummy and helps to soften the faeces. 

Impaction 

Impaction happens when a turtle has severe constipation. It can also happen if a turtle eats a foreign object and the object block the defecation. It can be a serious threat to your turtle’s life. Therefore, you must act fast. 

Turtles are curious animals. They may try to eat anything. Thus, they can accidentally eat small pieces of fake plants, rocks, or other objects. In such cases, you have to take your turtle to the vet. The vet will tell you what should be your next step to help your turtle. 

To avoid such a problem, you should remove artificial plants and small objects that your turtle can swallow. Replace harmful decorations with more friendly items. You can keep live aquatic plants in the tank instead of fake plants. 

Water Temperature

Turtles are ectothermic, which means they cannot control their body temperature. They rely on their environment to maintain their body temperature. 

If the temperature of your turtle tank is low, your turtles will have a slow metabolism. Hence, it will not be able to digest food properly. As a result, your turtle will not poop. Therefore, you must maintain the right temperature for your pet turtle. 

The water temperature should be between 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit, while the basking area temperature should be 90 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Conclusion 

By now, you must have learned how a turtle poops and all the related answers you need to know. Now that you have learned a turtle uses the cloaca for defecating and other functions, you should be less confused about your turtle’s anatomy. 

Having a turtle as a pet can be fun. As the owner, you must keep your turtle healthy to keep it happy. Interestingly, your turtle’s faeces can give you a lot of information about its health. So, do not ignore your turtle’s poop!

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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.

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