Why Does My Turtle Tank Stink

Turtle tanks usually start to smell if you don’t clean them regularly. It stinks due to algae or small particles of food or turtle wasted in the water. Additionally, turtle tanks become stinky because the tank is too small or the water filter is not powerful enough.

So let’s start with some of the most common reasons for the bad smell in turtle tanks.

Why does my turtle tank stink?

The main reason your turtle tank stinks is because of food particles, skin, algae, poor filtration, and a small tank size.

If you want to fix the stinky tank as quick as possible, I recommend you do a full water change. Below is a video where I show you how to quickly do this.

Now let’s talk about what’s causing the stinky turtle tank.

  • Food particles

A common cause of foul smell in a turtle’s tank is old food particles floating around in the tank. A turtle is prone to drop small food particles that are almost invisible to us. Those food particles will stay in the water. After a short time, they will start to create a bad smell as bacteria starts to grow on them.

Aside from moving uneaten food with a net, you should also apply a sludge remover conditioner to remove excess particles and odor. Below are some cheap options:

Eco Clean All Natural Waste Remover

    Price: ~$7

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Cloudy Aquarium Cleaner

    Price: ~$8

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API Turtle Sludge Destroyer

    Price: ~$17

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It is also important that you don’t over feed your turtle, as the leftover particles that your turtle doesn’t eat can cause the tank to stink. It can also cause the water to get very cloudy, like the tank in my video below.

  • Skin

With the passage of time, turtles will occasionally shed some of their skin. You might see some small transparent shreds of skin floating in the water. These shreds are one of the reasons for the bad smell in the turtle tank.

You can learn more in my article on Do Turtles Shed?

  • Algae

Large quantities of algae in the tank will make it smell bad. They can pop up in unexpected places. Too much algae growth will give an unpleasant appearance and an unpleasant smell to the turtle tank. While a little bit of algae growth is normal, you should make sure that it doesn’t take over your turtle’s tank.

  • Poor filtration

Turtles generate more mess than fish do. This makes the water dirtier and can lead to a foul smell and lots of bad bacteria. Not cleaning your filter at least monthly may cause a buildup of smell and other organic material. It is important to have a good turtle tank filter that is powerful enough for the size of your tank.

A tank with poor filtration will certainly cause a smelly tank, and it can cause your turtle to throw up.

  • Small tank size

As turtles grow, they start to produce more and more mess. If the turtles produce a lot of waste and the tank size is too small, it will soon smell awful. The smell factor increases exponentially with the turtle population in small tanks.

How do I stop my turtle tank from smelling?

Regular maintenance of the tank not only keeps your tank odor-free, but also keeps your turtles healthy. The best way to keep your turtle tank from becoming smelly is to remove uneaten food, clean molted skin/feces, maintain the proper water temperature, purchase a water filter, and choose a turtle tank that is big enough.

  • Remove uneaten food

Use a skimmer net or tongs to remove any leftover food particles floating on the surface of your turtle tank. Some turtle owners use a dish to feed their turtles to avoid this problem. You can also avoid bad odors in your turtle tank by not overfeeding your turtle. To learn more, check out my article on how much should you feed a turtle.

  • Clean molted shell skin and feces

The extra turtle skin floating in the tank will clog your aquarium filter. You should be careful enough to dispose of the shedded skin from the turtle tank. Remember to remove any turtle feces you see regularly to cut down on odors. Scoop them up and throw them away.

  • Maintain adequate temperature

You must ensure that your turtle tank has the right temperature. Most turtles thrive at a water temperature of 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. This ideal temperature should be paired with a dry, light-heated basking area where turtles can dry out their shells periodically.

  • Clean the tank regularly

You should opt for a partial water change of your turtle tank at least once every 2 weeks. Remove almost a quarter of the water and replace it with non-chlorinated water with the same approximate temperature. Do a thorough tank cleaning after a few weeks. Remove the old substrate and wash the tank with a safe cleaning agent and hot water.

Pro tip: Turtles can carry salmonella. Use caution when handling your turtle tank. Always wash your hands thoroughly with an antibacterial agent when you are finished.

  • Filtration

You need a powerful filter for your turtle tank. A big and efficient filter will reduce smell more significantly. Always ensure to change the aquarium filter media frequently. This is a place where smell-causing bacteria multiply.

  • Have the right tank size

Baby turtles can thrive in tanks with a capacity of 20 gallons. However, as they grow, they will need a larger tank. It’s better to have a larger tank as turtles will grow rapidly. It’s best to buy an adult-sized turtle enclosure right in the beginning.

Bacteria will also become more likely to disperse if you have a larger turtle tank.

Wrapping up

Smelly and cloudy water in a turtle tank is a common problem with turtle owners. The tank that looks clean can carry ammonia, shedded skin, and feces. Aside from preventing a foul odor, maintaining water quality in turtle tanks is an important aspect of keeping your turtles healthy.

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