How To Clean A Turtle Tank?

How To Clean A Turtle Tank

Turtles that live in a turtle tank become very prone to bacterial infections and allergies. It is more likely for them to get sick if the space they live in is uncomfortable and unhygienic. Hence cleaning the turtle tank is a task that one needs to carry out very often to keep the turtle healthy. Living in the moist can turn dangerous if proper cleanliness steps are not undertaken. 

Not changing the tank water often or dirty tank water promotes algae growth. The situation turns ugly when these algae start growing even on turtle’s shells, preventing them from taking UV rays from the sun. This can result in shell rot or turtle being calcium deficient in the long term. Turtle waste releases ammonia and nitrates, which are harmful to turtles, so regular cleaning of turtle tanks is very important. 

If a turtle tank is not cleaned regularly, it becomes very smelly due to the growth of algae and bacteria and turtle waste. Living in unhygienic conditions can turn dangerous if proper cleanliness steps are not undertaken.

Related Article: How To Stop Algae Growth In Turtle Tank?

What do we need to clean a turtle tank?

You will need to have some products to clean your turtle tank efficiently. Below we are giving the list of recommended products along with their purchase link. If you want you can order these products online or shop from your nearby pet shop.

Image Product Price Purchase Link
Binano Turtle Aquarium and Tank Kit $59.99 Buy on Amazon
Boxtech Vacuum Siphon Water Changer Pump $18.99 Buy on Amazon
Lukovee Aquarium Gravel Cleaner $17.99 Buy on Amazon
Aquarium Glass Cleaner Scraper $12.99 Buy on Amazon
API Safe & Easy Aquarium Cleaner Spray $9.78 Buy on Amazon
API Turtle Water Conditioner/Beneficial Bacteria $7.79 Buy on Amazon
API TAP Water Conditioner $6.93 Buy on Amazon

How to clean a turtle tank?

Below is a step by step process that one should follow to keep their turtle tanks clean.

Step 1: Shifting of the turtle from the tank

The first step clearly should be removing everything from the tank. Make sure everything from the inside is removed. It is instructed to remove the turtle from the tank and keep it in a water-filled bucket. It is best if you have a spare tank. Otherwise, one can also use the bowl in which they feed. The space to which you are shifting the turtle must be big enough and have sufficient water so that they can swim.

Moreover, it should also contain something as hard as the rock where they can climb on. Also, do not forget to wash your hands before you touch the turtle. Since turtles may carry Salmonella bacteria, which can make a person sick, wearing a glove and washing hands properly would be best.

Step 2: Emptying of the turtle tank (removing the accessories)

Draining out the water from the tank will make things easier for you. The size of the tank is clear enough for you to understand if you can carry it somewhere else and clean it. Draining the water beforehand makes it relatively lightweight.

For removing water out of the tank you can use Boxtech Aquarium Vacuum Siphon. It complete this task of draining the water susceptible.

In the case of gravels, pour out most of the water and then try and remove them. Lift them using both of your hands. It, therefore, becomes easier to carry the tank.

Then start by switching off the electrical devices like light fixtures, filters, and the heater. Once you switch them off, please remove them and keep them in some safe place or container. Once this is executed, focus on removing the more oversized items like the plants, other decorations, basking platforms, rocks, etc. Place them on a separate container as performed in the case of the electrical devices.

While doing this, it is important to remember their respective locations as, in the end, everything should be placed back to their places. This is to make the turtle feel comfortable and feel that it is returning to the same ambience. Hence there remains no chance for it to get stressed. Ensure to replace the organic substrates, unlike the gravels and rocks, which can be returned after cleaning.

Step 3: Rinsing of the substrates

Substrates include sand, gravel, wood shavings, and mostly rocks. If your tanks have substrates, rinsing them off is required before cleaning the tank. A bathtub faucet or a hosepipe would be required to help you fill the tank quarterly and rinse the substrate. Refill and empty the tank consecutively 4-5 times until the water looks clean and dirt free.

Related Article:
Best Substrate For Your Turtle Tank
Best Gravel For Turtle Tank

Step 4: Preparing the cleaning solution

The two widespread cleaning solutions you can combine to clean up your turtle tank are chlorine bleach and distilled white vinegar solutions. You can preferably use a 5% of chlorine bleach solution. That is approximately 120ml of bleach solution in every 3.8 liters of water.

The exact measurements are followed while using the distilled white vinegar solution. Half a cup (120ml) for 3.8 liters of water. You can adjust the measurements as per the tank condition. If your tank has much tougher stains and dirt, adding more bleach and vinegar to the solution is a good idea.

Do not forget to wear gloves for your safety before the cleansing procedure starts.

If you are not comfortable with the pungent smell of bleach and vinegar, you can use other commercial products specially packed for cleaning tanks and aquariums and are much easy to work with.

One such product is API safe and easy aquarium cleaning spray. Check the link below to know more about the product or get one for yourself.

One should be careful not to use any household cleaning products for turtle tanks. These products often contain chemicals that are harmful to turtles. The biggest problem with all these products is that they leave residues that are difficult to wash off easily. If it stays in the tank or the substrate, there is a high risk of the freshwater being contaminated with it and may cause your turtle to fall sick.

Step 5: Washing off the tank and its accessories

To wash off the tank properly, you need a clean rag beside the bleach or white distilled vinegar solution. Dip the clean rag in the solution and scrub the tank surface thoroughly. Pay attention to corners, as these corners may have dirt, germs, and bacteria that need to be removed.

Rub the bottom of the tank by tilting the substrates to one side. This will ensure that the entire tank is scrubbed down.

After the tank, pay attention to the rocks, gravels, and other decorations like plastic plants, woods, basking dock, etc. While you do this, the cleansing solution gets time to settle down for about 10 minutes. Rinse them off with clean water, so there is no smell.

Once you are done with tank cleaning, it’s time to clean electrical appliances such as heaters and filters.

These electrical items need to be cleaned carefully. It is advisable to read the product instruction manual before cleaning these appliances.

For filters, it is important to disassemble all the separable components and clean them off properly. Whereas for the heater, cleaning just the outside would be enough. Multi-stage filters contain a layer of good bacteria that may die if you use any chemical on them. So it is important not to use any chemical for cleaning these appliances, rather use plain water.

After all the cleaning and rinsing process of the equipment, please ensure that no cleaning residue or dirt is left over. After rinsing the tank, there must be no smell left of the solutions. It would be excellent if one could even wipe down the complete tank.

Step 6: Fill the tank up with de-chlorinated water

Mineral water is the best example of de-chlorinated water. While some may not afford this, alternatively, you can de-chlorinate the tap water with a de-chlorinator like API TAP Water Conditioner. It instantly neutralizes chlorine, chloramines and other chemicals to make tap water safe for turtles. You should add it every time you change the water.

Related Article: Best Water Conditioner For Turtles

Step 7: Checking off the water temperature

Being a turtle owner, you probably would know how important it is to have the right water temperature for your turtle. If I had to normalize the range, I would say all turtles mostly need a water temperature ranging from 72 – 75 F. However, the actual temperature range may vary slightly depending on your turtle species. A thermometer can help you check the exact temperature of the tank water. Use the water heater in case you need to raise the temperature of the water to its precise range.

Step 8: Balancing the chemistry of water

While API tap water conditioner is enough to ensure safe water for turtles, it would be even much better to use a testing kit that allows you to measure the pH level, ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels. The testing kit should show ammonia and chlorine as nil. Nitrate level could vary from 0 to 40 ppm; as for the nitrites, it is 0 to 0.5 ppm. The pH level is usually seen varying from 6 to 8.

Step 9: Shifting back the clean tank to the display area

Once the cleaning process is carried out thoroughly, shift the turtle tank to its original position. Carrying the empty tank is recommended since the tank filled with water is quite tricky to handle. Once you fill the water, put the decorations, filters and heater back to their respective place in the tank.

Turtles are very smart in identifying any change in their tank. Any wrongly placed item in their habitat may cause them discomfort and stress, so you should be careful with this regard. Once you place everything back to its place, now it’s time to shift the turtle back to the tank.


By following all these steps, you can clean your turtle tank efficiently. Keeping turtle tanks clean and hygienic is important for turtles to stay healthy and happy. Cleaning turtle tanks could be a tedious process. You need to be patient and fully dedicated to cleaning it thoroughly. Follow the mentioned steps, take things out carefully, clean them, and dry them separately. Make sure the water they are living in is de-chlorinated. Apart from this, keep a check on the water temperature. It is crucial to decorate the tank exactly the way it was before when you begin the cleaning; otherwise, the turtle may confuse it with a new enclosure and get stressed unnecessarily.