How To Bath Your Tortoise? [Beginner’s Guide]

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

You can not be too careless about bathing your tortoise. Providing the pets with a water container is definitely not enough. Instead, you must be present while soaking the tortoise and ensure the pet is cleaned up.

To bathe your tortoise:

  • Pour lukewarm water (85F – 95F) into a shallow container.
  • Soak the tortoise for 20 – 30 minutes.
  • Use a soft-bristled brush to scrub the dirt and algae on the shell and skin.
  • Rinse the residue with more water.
  • Finally, pat the tortoise dry with a clean towel.

Catch a detailed bathing guide in the following article.

6 Step-By-Step Guide To Bathe Your Tortoise

Some keepers find it unnecessary to assist the tortoises in soaking. But I beg to differ. Ensuring the hygiene and hydration of tortoises during the bath is essential.

There are a whole set of rules for soaking these pets. Allow me to show you how to bathe your tortoise the right way.

1. Collect The Supplies

I do not recommend bathing the tortoises in your shower. Instead, tortoises enjoy a soak under the open sky on a sunny day. So, you require bathing supplies for the pets.

Here is a list to help you,

Shallow Pan/ Tray/ Container: Tortoises can not swim. Thus, bathing them in the pond is a bad idea. You can use a shallow bathtub for tortoises.

A Kitty litter pan and large baking dishes are useful for bathing your pets. However, I have customized the soaking tub for my pet tortoise. The modification steps are as follows,

  • Take a large container, big enough to accommodate the tortoise.
  • Cut 1/4th of the wall from one side. Leave 6 – 10 inches of wall to hold water.

Whether you modify the tub or use a commercial one, make sure it is made of porcelain or opaque plastic. Otherwise, the tortoises will make an effort to escape the container.

Oh yes! You can use a shallow-lined pool to bathe the tortoises too.

Soft-Bristled Toothbrush: There will be a lot of rubbing and scrubbing during the bath. So, you better buy a brand new toothbrush for the task. The bristles must be soft so that the brush does not scratch and irritate the tortoise’s skin.

Of course, you can go with a used brush for the scrubbing. But as hygiene is important, make sure to sanitize the brush. Of course, you can reuse the scrubber but wash it every time after a bath.

Pro-Tip: Avoid towels or rugs with micro-scrubber tags.

Towels/ Cotton Swabs/ Cotton Balls: You can not let the tortoises roam in the wet body. So, use a soft, dry towel or cotton ball to pat the tortoises dry.

The cotton swabs serve a one-time-use purpose. You can reuse the towel to dry the tortoises but sanitize it beforehand.

Small Cup: You need a container to water the tortoise’s upper shell and skins. Small watering cups come in handy to rinse the pet’s body.

Thermometer: An ice-cold bath is definitely not appropriate for the tortoises. Instead, the pets require a lukewarm soak to keep their body functioning. A thermometer can help you track the bath temperature and adjust it according to the tortoise’s comfort.

2. Prepare The Bath

Pour warm water into the tub. Too hot water can burn the tortoise’s skin. The ideal bathing temperature for these reptiles is 85F to 95F, but some species prefer a warmer soak of 100F.

The water level should be such that it only reaches half the tortoise’s height. Make sure that the pet can stand on the tub, sticking its head out of the water.

If you fill the container, the tortoise will struggle to rest its head. So, a chin-deep water bath is safe and ideal for tortoises.

If you haven’t modified the tub, just tilt it to one side, anchoring the end on a book or box. It will create a deeper and shallower pool end. Now, the tortoise can rest its head on the shallow side.

Pro-Tip: Do not add any soap or detergent to the water. It may cause skin or shell irritation and damage.

3. Soak The Tortoise

Now that the bath is ready, gently place your tortoise in the lukewarm water. Your pet may take 1 – 2 minutes to get used to the water. The creature will leave the bath if the water temperature is unsuitable.

Let the tortoise enjoy 20 – 30 minutes inside the tub. Taking a bath helps the pet not only to hydrate but also to eliminate its waste. So, the toothpaste-like substances you notice in the water are the dumps of your tortoise.

No! You do not need to change the water because of the poop and urination. Tortoises do not mind bathing and pooping in the same water.

However, if the tub temperature falls, you may have to replace the existing water. In such cases, scoop out the cold water and pour fresh, warm water.

Pro-Tip: Do not leave your tortoise unattended. The pet can flip on its back and drown to death.

4. Pour & Scrub

Take the small cup and pour water on the tortoise’s carapace, skin, head, and limbs. This way, the pet gets thoroughly hydrated.

Soaking the tortoise in the bath loosens the dirt or algae on the pet’s shell and skin. Use the soft-bristled brush to scrub away any residue from the tortoise’s body. Do not forget the folds on the necks and limbs. There is no need for any soap or shampoo for scrubbing.

Be gentle with the strokes. Otherwise, you may end up injuring the tortoise.

Once the scrubbing is done, pour more water to rinse the tortoise clean.

Pro-Tip: You can use a Q-tip to reach the pits and folds of the tortoise.

5. Dry The Tortoise

Right after the bath, use a dry towel or cotton swab to pat the tortoise dry. Once the tortoise is pat-dry, place it in the pen under the basking light.

Remember, allowing the tortoise to roam in the wet body only attracts more dirt and infection. Take no such risk.

6. Disposal

Tortoises and turtles are most likely Salmonella carriers. Therefore, washing your hands before and after bathing the tortoises is wiser. You can minimize the risk of Salmonella by wearing gloves when handling the pets.

After the soak, dispose of the water and cotton swabs. If you wave used brush and towels, sanitize them with disinfectants.

Why Do Tortoises Require A Bath?

It’s not like your tortoise needs to impress someone. Then why bother bathing these pets at all?

See, soaking the tortoises is not an optional task but a mandate. It serves more than 1 purpose. Such as,

1. Top-Notch Hygiene

Tortoises can get quite adventurous. They roam around and roll in the enclosure beddings. As a result, sometimes infectious organisms start growing on their skin and shell.

Allowing bacterial or fungal growth only harms the tortoise. Thus, it is necessary to maintain the hygiene of the pet and the habitat.

Cleaning the enclosure twice a month and replacing the bedding every 4 weeks will ensure sanitation. Likewise, you must bathe the tortoise regularly to maintain hygiene and prevent infectious diseases.

2. Combat Dehydration

Dehydration is never good for tortoises. It can cause physical complexities, for example,

  • Abnormal weight loss
  • Sunken eyes
  • Dull appearances
  • Flay skin and shell
  • Lethargy
  • Kidney failure, etc. 

One of the ways to prevent dehydration is to bathe it regularly. During the soak, the pet’s skin and shell replenish with water content. Other ways of rehydrating your pet are mentioned here.

3. Take A Dump

Apparently, most tortoises prefer to release their biological waste when soaked in water. So, a regular lukewarm bath encourages the pets to poop and urinate.

Sometimes tortoises refuse to excrement if they have no access to water. As a consequence, the creatures may suffer from gallbladder stones.

Are Soaps Safe For Tortoise Baths?

I am sure you will catch controversies on this topic. While some keepers think bathing the tortoises with soap is harmless, others are against this idea. Well, I fall in the second category.

See, soaps work wonders in cleaning the tortoise’s body and killing bacteria. But sometimes, the formula includes harsh chemicals that cause irritation and inflammation. This is why I use plain lukewarm water to bathe my tortoises.

A soapy bath is only necessary when the tortoise is covered with dirt. In such scenarios, use soap with organic formula. When rubbing the bar on the tortoise, make sure that the foam does not get into the pet’s mouth, eyes, or ears.

Can You Prevent Tortoise Shell Rots From Bath?

Shell rot starts from a small wound on the scute, which grows bigger. Basically, a filthy habitat and dirty shells are responsible for the condition.

So, bathing the tortoises regularly can somewhat restrict bacterial growth in their bodies. Maintaining hygiene will help you prevent shell rot or skin disease to an extent.

However, allowing the tortoises to roam in a dump shell after a bath can be dangerous. It entices bacterial or fungal growth, leading to shell rot.

Therefore, do not forget to dry the tortoises after each bath.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Often Should You Bathe Your Tortoises?

The baby tortoises require a daily soak for the first 6 months. Once the hatchlings turn young, you can switch to a bathing routine twice a week or thrice a week.

How Long Should You Soak Your Tortoise?

For baby tortoises, a 15 – 20 minutes bath is enough. But the adult tortoises prefer a long soak of 20 – 30 minutes. Sometimes, the pets enjoy the soak so much that they can rest there for around 1 hour.

What Is The Ideal Bathing Temperature For Tortoise?

Tortoises prefer a lukewarm bath of 85F to 95F temperature. However, you can adjust the temperature depending on the region and the pet’s comfort.

Before You Go

The bathing principles for all tortoise species are the same. Yet, if you want a specific soaking guide for your Sulcata tortoise, read the article below.

How To Soak Your Sulcata Tortoise?

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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