How To Clean A Turtle Tank In 8 Simple Steps

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Taking care of turtles at home is so much fun. It could really make an adrenaline rush as these pets are adorable creatures which could live for several years. Although these animals are easy to take care of, their habitat needs to be cleaned occasionally. Maintaining their tank clean and tidy will certainly make them healthy and happy. Turtles eat, poop, and pee on the same water they are swimming. They defecate more often compared to fish. This poop generates ammonia which is harmful to the animal in high level, which could make them sick and even worse, it could kill them.

The water filter in your tank may not fully suction the amount of ammonia the turtles produce, that is why you have to replace the water in the tank at least once a month. Once you are adept in cleaning and taking care of the tank’s hygiene, you will find that it does not take so much time and effort in giving your turtle a clean habitat where it can be happy and healthy. This article features one popular method on how to clean a turtle tank that will make you an expert in just simple steps.

What You Will Need To Do This Tutorial

These are the things that you have to prepare before you do the cleaning:

  • 5-gallon bucket.
  • Pieces of clean cloth.
  • Scrubber.
  • Water conditioner (such as an AquaSafe Solution).
  • Thermometer.
  • Aquarium Testing Kit (such as Tetra EasyStrips brand).

Step By Step Instructions

The first thing you must remember after you are done cleaning the tank is to set the proper temperature of the water and its proper chemistry. Keeping the water essentially clean for drinking and swimming will make your turtle as healthy as ever. Here are 8 simple steps on how to clean a turtle tank.

Prepare The Tank For Cleaning

Before you transfer the turtle to a bucket, make sure that it has enough space to swim and roam around the bucket freely. If your 5-gallon bucket is not enough, pick the one with a bigger size. Take away the tank’s decorations (plants, substrate, rocks and other ornaments) as these will also be cleaned. Put these in a clean container and don’t let them touch the floor. Always remember the arrangement of your ornaments and devices and put them back to where they are located after cleaning is done. This will avoid disorienting the turtle.

Some Piece Of Advice

By the way, before we go on with our tutorial, here are some important advice from the experts: The size of your tank should be large enough to enable the turtle to swim and play inside the tank. One determinant to know how big your tank should be is the popular “rule of shell”.

This rule suggests that for every inch of the carapace (the turtle’s hard outer shell), you would need at least 10 gallons of water. Therefore, if your turtle has 3-inch carapace, you should have 30-gallon capacity inside your tank. For every additional turtle, size your tank with the biggest turtle and add half of the volume of water according to the length of the second turtle’s carapace. So, for further illustration, if you have a one 3-inch and one 2-inch turtle, you should have a tank capacity of 40 gallons (30 + 10 gallons).

Transfer The Turtle In A Clean Bucket

Fill the bucket with water more than enough to enable the turtle to swim and keep it hydrated. Then, transfer the turtle into the bucket. Do it slowly and carefully as the turtle might be hurt with your grip. Also, turtle bites and it might hurt your hands. So, do it gently but with caution. Put some peat and rocks inside the bucket to give your pet something to climb into.

Unplug And Remove Filters/ Heater

Unplug the filters and heater before you take them away. Put them in the sink, making sure it is clean. You can later clean these devices without detergent.

Cleaning The Tank

Bring the tank outside of the house or in your kitchen sink or wherever you are most comfortable. If you can’t do it alone, summon someone to help you. Make sure that your drain will never be clogged up by solid objects (such as shredded shells and other debris) from the tank. Pour all the content of the tank carefully so as not to damage the tank. Then, using a scrubber and a clean piece of cloth, scrub and wipe all the debris that adheres to the tank’s walls and floor.

Never use detergent as this will make your pet sick because of the toxins it contained. Detergents are proven to damage turtle’s respiratory system. When you are sure the tank’s interior and exterior are totally free of debris, rinse the tank thoroughly (3 to 5 times will be sufficient enough). When you are sure that the tank is totally clean, dry it up with another piece of clean cloth, then put it where it was before cleaning.

Clean The Substrate, Ornaments, And Devices

After you have cleaned the tank, clean all the decorations, substrate, and devices. Again, do not use detergent to wash these things. Just rinse them thoroughly with running water to clean out dirt, soiled food, and other debris. If dirt can’t be removed by wiping, try scrubbing them gently.

Fill The Tank With Water

If you are using water from the tank, which is commonly the case, be sure to put some dose of water conditioner into it to dechlorinate the water. Chlorine is toxic to turtles, so better be sure that the water has no any trace of the chemical which is always present in tap water. Fill the tank half full with water.

Add The Substrate, Ornaments, And Devices

Then put the cleaned filters and heaters where they were before you clean the tank. Add the ornaments and place them in the same spot as where you have taken them. This will minimize stress on the turtle and consequently avoid confusion.

Let the filters and heater run for about an hour and afterward test the water’s chemistry using Tetra EasyStrips (or similar brand). The pH level should be between 7 and 8; while ammonia, chlorine, and nitrite levels should be zero. The nitrate level must not be over 40 ppm. Set the tank’s water temperature between 70 to 75F (21- 26.6C). There are additives you can buy from your local pet store if any chemical level is not acceptable. These additives will lower or raise the level of each element.

Put The Turtle Back In The Tank

After the water is in its right chemical composition, and the temperature is set to its right level, you can put the turtle back in its favorite spot. Be sure to give it the most delicious worm or its favorite food. You have now successfully cleaned your turtle’s tank!


Did you enjoy this tutorial? How to clean a turtle tank is truly easy and need only simple tools you can at home. Now that you have the knowledge to do it, you can certainly do it again with ease and confidence.

Like us and share if you really have fun doing this tutorial. Please share what you have in mind for this useful tips with your comments.

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