Do Turtles Smell?

do turtles smell

Before getting yourself a turtle, it is important to gather all information about them. One of the most frequently asked questions regarding turtles is how they smell.

Turtles are quite animal, and they don’t require as much attention as your pet dog. However, turtles are messier than most pets. They poop a lot and makes their habitat dirty more frequently. It isn’t easy to keep your turtle clean all the time.

That being said, you must be wondering if turtles smell? Does it smell good or bad? Let dive deep into the topic and find out why turtle smells and what you can do to prevent bad odour from them?

Related Article: Why Does My Turtle Tank Smell?

Do turtles smell?

Turtles don’t have a strong natural smell. However, turtles may smell when they gather dirt or the scent from their surrounding on their skin, which gives them a bad or good smell. The turtles staying in dirty areas smell worse than the turtle staying in a clean area.

Some species of turtles, like snapping or alligator turtles, produces a very bad smell when they are stressed. This smell is so bad that it can be easily detected in water, land and air. As they grow older, the intensity of the smell keeps increasing.

Another example is musk turtles, also known as stinkpot, which has a really bad odour. When in danger, the musk turtles produce a pungent yellow liquid. This yellow liquid smells awful and saves them from predators. These turtles also utilize it during reproduction and courtship. Some sea turtles are also known to be releasing foul smells.

Do pet turtles smell?

No, pet turtles do not have a smell of their own. However, it depends on which condition you keep them in. They don’t naturally smell bad. But they can carry dirt on their shells, due to which they can have an unpleasant smell. There are some exceptions to this. If you have a snapping turtle or musk turtle pet, you might sometimes get a foul smell.

Pet turtles such as box turtles, painted turtles, and red-eared slider turtles do not smell bad or produce any distinct smell. Make sure your pet turtle has a hygienic enclosure with proper arrangements so they don’t smell awful. 

Why do turtles smell bad?

There are some factors due to which the turtles can smell bad. Let us go into detail to learn more.

1. Dirty Water

If your turtle tank does not have clean water, it is most likely to create a bad smell from your turtle. Most turtle owners have reported that the major reason for the foul smell in turtles is dirty water. The dirt in the water sticks to turtle’s shells, and they start to develop a bad smell.

A bad quality filter or chocked filter could be a possible reason for dirty tank water. You also need to regularly change the water and remove the algae present in the water, which can cause dirty water. Regular water cleaning will keep your turtle safe and hygienic, and it won’t smell bad.

Related Article: Why Is My Turtle Tank Cloudy?

2. Feeding the turtle

If you are feeding your turtle in the same tank where it lives, then it can turn to be unhygienic. The turtle leaves some food in the tank. These food leftovers float in the water, get stuck into the shell, and start smelling bad.

You can use a separate container where the turtle can eat and defecate. This will help keep the turtle tank clean for a longer period, and your turtle will not smell bad.

3. Disease

If your turtle still smells after cleaning the water tank and bathing it, then there could be a possibility of shell rot or a wound. Turtle, when it has a wound, can smell unpleasant. It can worsen if not treated on time. The shell rot can also give a very bad smell to the turtles. Salmonella bacteria could be another reason for your turtle being stinky. This bacteria is found on the turtles living in poor hygiene conditions and does not bask regularly.

If you find any such disease in your turtle, consult a veterinarian.

How to make your turtle smell good?

The best way to make a turtle smell good is by bathing it. Wash your turtle regularly with a soft toothbrush in a separate container to keep it fresh and in good condition.

Bathing a turtle removes all the gunks and algae from the turtle’s body. It also helps in shedding and rehydrating. However, be aware of Salmonella because this bacteria can also affect humans.

Follow the below steps to bathe your turtle and make it smell good.

  1. First, place a container with one-third of the water in it. Try to use dechlorinated water in the container. Reduce the water level if it is not an aquatic turtle. Avoid using any shampoo for your turtle.
  2. Then place the turtle in the container. Make sure to lift the turtle gently, as it can bite you because they don’t like to be lifted. Use a new soft toothbrush with no bacteria and detergents on it. If you have more than one turtle, use separate containers and separate toothbrushes for them. Avoid using the same toothbrush for all your turtles.
  3. Wash your hands before giving a bath to your turtle. Don’t use any detergents or cream on your hand while you give a bath to your turtle. Turtles are intolerant to chemicals, so they should be avoided.  
  4. Then using a soft toothbrush, scrub the entire shell. A lot of algae and bacteria can gather under the edges of the shell, so try to clean those areas. Don’t miss out on the plastron and the dirt between scutes and rings. You should also check for any signs of wound or injury during this time. 
  5. Check if you haven’t missed any of the spots. Once you are done cleaning your turtle, rinse it with the lukewarm water from the pitcher before putting it back into the water tank.

Throw the toothbrush away, and do not use it next time you bathe your turtle. The toothbrush contains a lot of bacteria and hence needs to be thrown away. Also, wash the container and disinfect it. Make sure to wash your hands properly once everything is done.

Related Article: How To Make Tap Water Safe For Turtles?


Turtles don’t have any smell of their own. Turtles carry the dirt and scent from their surroundings, giving them a good or bad smell. You need to change the water regularly, as dirty water could be a reason for your turtle being stinky. Change your feeding style as the leftover food particles can get stuck on your turtle skin and give an unpleasant smell. Diseases like shell rot or Salmonella bacteria could also be a possible reason for bad smells. You need to identify the issue and consult a veterinarian if your turtle suffers from such diseases.