How To Keep Turtle Tank From Smelling? [9 Causes & Solutions]

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

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Remember, I talked about a friend whose turtle aquarium smelled like shit? I paid him a visit yesterday, and the setup looked tidy. He did work on the tips I gave him, and the results were magical. For your convenience, I will write down the tips on how to get rid of turtle tank odor here.

The best way to keep a turtle tank from smelling is to change the water regularly. Check for algae and any waste buildup at the bottom of the tank. Feeding the turtles in a separate container helps keep the tank clean and smelling fresh. It is also recommended to clean the tank and filter every month.

Catch how I keep my turtle aquariums clean and prevent them from stinking in the article below.

Key Takeaways

  • Do not blame your turtle for the odor. Turtles have a specific smell, but the tank is stinking due to unhygienic conditions.
  • Maintain a regular water change and habitat cleanup.
  • Aim for a bigger enclosure with a more powerful filter if possible.

How To Get Rid Of The Turtle Tank Odor? With Reasons

Before I dive into the article, answer my question. How do you keep your house from stinking? Air freshener? Well, maybe.

But you mainly focus on dusting and cleaning, and every once in a while, you change the sheets. Right?

That’s all we need to do with a turtle’s habitat. No, not the dusting. But cleaning is all it takes to remove the nasty smell from your pet’s tank. How are you going to do that?

Here is how.

1. Cloudy Water Fix

In my previous write-up, I discussed what makes turtle tank water fuzzy. One of the major reasons was filthy water.

Turtles are either aquatic or semi-aquatic creatures. It is obvious that they will spend most of their time in the water.

Not changing the tank water regularly will not only make it cloudy, but you will also notice a stinky odor in the air.

Don’t be this lazy. Just get up and do the siphoning today.

The ultimate rule is to replace 25% of the existing water with fresh water weekly.

Besides, change the entire tank water at least once a month. This will remove the odor from the tank for sure, and the water will be hygienic for the turtles. If you use tap water, do not forget to add conditioner to eliminate contaminants.

2. Kill The Algae 

Algae thrives in moist places with temperatures ranging from 60F to 80F and receives 10 to 15 hours of sunlight. Puzzle for you! Does this home condition sound familiar?

Yes, your turtle’s enclosure has a similar temperature setting with a UV bulb on for 10 – 12 hours. So do not hit your head over why algae is there in the tank. They are destined to be there! Kidding.

I am an algae hater. Judge or cancel me. But I am. I tried so many tricks to remove these green organisms from my pet’s aquarium, but they keep coming back.

See also  Do Turtles Eat Their Own Poop?

Okay, they can proliferate in the tank. That’s not the main issue. I am troubled by the damp odor they leave in the room. It stinks both the habitat and my house.

So, I scraped the internet and came up with a plan. I slightly moved the turtle tank away from the window. No additional light means less algae in the tank.

Besides, I installed a UV sterilizer. It neutralizes the UV exposure for algae, reducing their growth.

Have I had success in my mission? Not entirely. I can still see the green stains on the wall of my turtle tank. But at least the odor is not there.

3. Switching The Feeding Location

Turtles are messy eaters. They will enjoy their yummy meals and leave the food scraps all around.

The leftover food settles at the tank bottom or gets trapped between the decorations. Days go by, and the food scraps start rotting. The stomach-sickening smell of the turtle enclosure might be coming from here.

Of course, I can not teach my reptiles any manners. That would be just absurd. Instead, what I do is change their feeding location.

Yes, I have a separate bowl, large enough to accommodate 5 turtles, which I use as a feeding habitat for turtles. Whenever it is lunchtime, I fill up the container and transfer my turtles there. I toss my pets’ favorite foods and allow them to eat peacefully.

The reptiles are free to make a mess in this temporary enclosure. I will throw away the water later, anyway. This way, turtles can enjoy their meals without stinking their aquariums.

Well, turtles are a bit complicated. I am sure you have figured that out already. They might refuse to eat in a separate bowl all of a sudden. So, you have to proceed with patience.

First, introduce the turtles with this new feeding setup and make them comfortable. Offer them some delicious items and treats afterward. With time, your reptiles will adjust to these feeding settings.

4. Collecting Poop

Where do you think your turtles poop? Yes, in the water. They drink and shit the same water.

Don’t eww! Hygiene is not the main factor here. Turtles are okay with drinking the shitty water. The problem is if you let the poop stay in the water for longer, it will smell.

What I do is collect the poop (No EWWS, please) with a net and throw them out of the water. I do this every day.

This trick will come in handy if you decide not to arrange a separate feeding bowl for the turtles. Let the pets eat in the home and make all the mess they want. Later, use the net to remove all the residuals.

Well, this is not the most convenient way to eliminate food scraps, to be honest. The cramps are too tiny to trap in the nets. So, a separate feeding bowl is always recommended.

5. Are Your Turtles Healthy?

Turtles shed skin and scutes like any other reptile. This is a healthy and natural process. However, sometimes, overfeeding can lead to unhealthy shedding and excess growth in the reptiles.

These dead skins can accumulate in the water, enticing bacterial growth. In many cases, those sludges are to blame for the odor in the room.

Of course, we can not force turtles to stop shedding. But it is always better to keep an eye on the pets. Allowing them to swim in lukewarm water and cleaning their body often help these reptiles shed effortlessly. Not to mention, it will reduce the itching or irritation in them.

And about those dead skins. Do not just let them float or sit at the bottom. Remove the flakes as soon as you spot them.

6. A Bigger Tank Helps

Turtles thrive in larger spaces. Even if your pets can adjust in a 120-gallon tank, they will do better in a 150-gallon for sure.

There will be fewer fights, and the turtles can move freely. Another significant change you will notice is less filth and zero odor.

See also  26 DIY Turtle Basking Area Ideas For A Perfect Sunning Spot

Let’s take a real example here. Shall we?

Imagine you and your three friends are living in a 2BHK flat. There is more probability that the apartment will get dirtier soon, and you guys will need frequent cleaning. But what if you guys move to a 4BHK flat? Less filth and less frequent cleanup sessions. Right?

The same philosophy applies to turtles. If your indoor turtle pond has more creatures to cater to, a larger space will always help. You will have less filth to clean, and the tanks will not stink either.

7. An Extra Focus On The Filter

All the tips I have mentioned earlier are okay. But what can drastically change your turtle tank hygiene is a quality filter.

The filters are designed not only to suck in the dirt and circulate fresh water. No! They also remove any trace of harmful bacteria and stinky odor.

All modern filters work in 3 stages (mechanical, chemical, and biological).

The mechanical and chemical stages do the cleanup work. But biological filtration puts an extra effort into promoting good bacteria, eliminating the smell from the dirty water. The activated charcoal and lava minerals are placed there only for this purpose.

Well, just installing any filter will not work. Consider the tank size and the number of members living there. I always suggest a filtration system 1.5 to 2x the habitat capacity.

Furthermore, you must ensure that the filter is working in the proper condition. A manual or technical breakdown will only circulate water but not process it perfectly.

Check my 5 favorite Canister water filters for turtle tanks from here.

8. Don’t You Do Regular Tank Cleanup?

Every turtle tank requires one deep cleaning every month. If you have a large pool, just switch to once every other month cleaning session. That will be fine.

Transfer the turtles to a temporary habitat, drain the water, and remove all the decorations. Now scrape away the slimy layer with a brush and rinse them with water.

Using commercial detergent or soap is not recommended at all. Instead, you use green solutions or specific turtle cleaners for the purpose.

For a detailed cleaning guideline, follow the handy tips here.

9. Filters Do Not Get Self-Cleaned You Know

We have cleaned the water, the tank, and even the decorations. Now what? Well, well, well. The filter is saying hello from the corner.

Filters are designed to strain the filth out. You are right. But where do you think that dirt accumulation goes?

These filths stay trapped inside the media basket, which requires regular cleaning.

If you do not want to get your hands dirty, you have to deal with the stink.

I personally remove the filtration baskets and clean them up once every month. Besides, I replace the charcoal, larvae rocks, and fiber pads once every other month.

turtle tank smell causes & solution: infographic

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

Why Does The Turtle Tank Smell Weird?

Stinking is one thing, and a turtle aquarium smelling like a rotten egg or piss is another. Actually, no. Poor hygiene is the main culprit behind any foul odor from the tank.

Sometimes the food or poop sludges over welcome their stay in the tank and start decomposing. It justifies the rotten egg smell. Likewise, a high percentage of ammonia in the water can spread a stinky piss odor around.

Maintaining the above tips will eliminate any foul smell from the tank.

What can I put in my turtle tank to keep it clean?

To maintain cleanliness in your turtle tank, you can employ several methods:

UV Light:

Utilize UV lights to sterilize the water which helps keep the enclosure clean and removes bad smells, while also providing your turtle with essential vitamin D3 for calcium absorption​.

Cleaning Shrimp:

Introduce cleaning shrimp species, like Ghost Shrimp, into the aquarium. These creatures are part of the Aquarium Cleanup Crew and help keep the tank and its glass walls clean by eating algae​.

Homemade Cleaning Solutions:

Prepare a cleaning solution using chlorine bleach or distilled white vinegar, mixing 0.1L of either with 3.8L of water to thoroughly clean the tank​.

See also  Can Turtles Smell Food?

Frequent Water Changes:

Regularly change the water to maintain cleanliness and regulate the chemical levels within the tank. The frequency will depend on the number of turtles, the size of your tank, and the strength of your filter​.

Canister Filters:

Use canister filters as they have a larger filtration capacity, allowing for more water to be filtered in a shorter amount of time, thus cleaning and purifying the water more efficiently than standard filters​.

How do you disinfect a turtle tank?

Disinfecting a turtle tank involves several steps:

Step 1: Empty the Tank

Remove everything from the tank and place your turtle in a temporary container with enough room to swim and a rock to stand on​.

Step 2: Rinse the Substrate

Clean the substrate by filling the tank, swishing, and dumping the water several times until it runs clear​.

Step 3: Clean the Interior

Use a turtle-safe cleaner or a DIY solution (like a 1:38 blend of chlorine bleach or distilled white vinegar with water) to scrub the tank. Allow the solution to sit for 10 minutes to disinfect, then rinse thoroughly​.

Step 4: Clean the Accessories

Wash rocks, platforms, and accessories by hand in tap water, using a scrub brush to remove algae and buildup​.

red eared slider swimming upwards
Owner: Carly McEachin

Step 5: Filter Maintenance

Avoid over-cleaning the water filter to protect beneficial bacteria. Clean the filter components with tank water to remove debris without eliminating these bacteria​.

Step 6: Dechlorinate Water

Use a water conditioner to remove chlorine from fresh tap water before adding it back to the tank​.

Step 7: Check Water Chemistry

After cleaning, test the tank’s water for pH, ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels and adjust as necessary​​.

Step 8: Regular Water Changes

Perform weekly 25-50% water changes to keep the tank fresh between deep cleans​​.

Step 9: Daily Debris Removal

Remove waste, leftover food, and other debris daily to maintain tank cleanliness​.

These steps will ensure a safe and clean environment for your turtle.

snapping turtle tank
Owner: Josh Kelley

why does my turtle tank smell after cleaning?

If your turtle tank smells even after cleaning, here are some possible reasons and solutions:

Food Particles: Leftover food can decay and cause bad smells. Feeding your turtle in a separate container can prevent this issue​.

Shed Skin: Turtles shed skin, which can contribute to the smell. Ensuring a balanced diet can help manage excessive shedding​.

Algae: Excess algae growth can create odors. Use a magnetic sponge to clean the algae effectively​.

Inadequate Water Filtering: Ensure you have a proper filter for turtle tanks, not just fish tanks, as turtles produce more waste​.

Tank Size: A small tank can get dirty quickly and smell bad. A larger tank can help mitigate this problem​.

turtle tank smells like poop: what to do?

If your turtle tank smells like poop, consider these steps to address the issue:

  1. Remove Waste Promptly: Clean out feces and leftover food daily to prevent odors.
  2. Improve Filtration: Use a more powerful filter designed for turtle tanks to efficiently clean waste particles from the water.
  3. Water Changes: Increase the frequency of water changes to reduce the accumulation of waste.
  4. Tank Cleaning: Ensure you’re cleaning the tank thoroughly, including the substrate where waste can accumulate.
  5. Check Diet: Ensure your turtle’s diet isn’t causing excessive waste; overfeeding can lead to more waste production.
  6. Tank Size: Ensure the tank is adequately sized for your turtle; a cramped tank can get dirty faster and smell worse.

Before You Go…

Changing turtle tank water is mandatory. But how often should you do it? As you know, frequent siphoning can make the water cloudy. I have talked more about this topic in the article attached below.

How Often To Change Turtle Tank Water?

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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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