Why Does My Turtle Tank Smell?

why does my turtle tank smell

A bad smell can irritate a lot, right? If you find any of the areas in your home that is smelling awful, you first brainstorm why it’s smelling and then find a solution to the problem, either by cleaning that area or spraying deodorant to get rid of the odour.

Keeping a pet in your home will surely create a mess, and you need to clean it before it starts to smell. If you don’t clean, it will deteriorate further and create a bad smell.

Having a turtle as a pet could be difficult sometimes. One common issue with the turtle is that they create a lot of mess. If you are a turtle owner, you must be wondering why your turtle tank smells and what precautions you can take so it does not smell. This article will give you insights into everything you need to know.

Related Article: Why Is My Turtle Tank Cloudy?

Why does my turtle tank smell?

The turtle tank smell mainly because of the leftovers in the tank or the build-up of algae. The other possible reasons are that you are not regularly cleaning your tank, water filter, or shedding turtle skin.

Now that you got an idea let us understand why this bad smell problem occurs. 

You must have heard about the snake shedding its skin, but have you heard about turtle shedding its skin? Yes, that’s a fact. The skin on their shells sheds often. It’s known as “moult”, the skin peels off and floats in the water inside the tank. There is a possibility that the skin which the turtle sheds clogs the filter, which ultimately results in a bad smell in the tank.

Another important factor is the food that you give to your turtle. Turtles eat in the tank, and their leftover food dissolves in their tank. These food particles remain in the water and muster up a bad smell.

Algae is another reason why your tank might be stinking. Algae do not create a bad smell unless they grow excessively inside the tank. These are unhealthy for your turtle and can eventually create a bad smell if it grows numerously.

Cleaning the tank is also important. If you do not do it regularly, there comes the point when foul odour coming from the turtle tank is intolerable for you. Also, if your turtle tank is small, it creates a mess more frequently and an unpleasant smell.

How to get rid of the turtle tank smell?

You can help keep the bad smell miles away from your turtle tank. When the turtle sheds its skin, make sure to remove it from the tank before it starts troubling the filter. Turtle shed skin while moulting. These moults can clog the filter and result in the filter’s dysfunction. 

Choose a good quality filter for your turtle tank and try to clean it regularly so that your tank remains clean and free from any bad smells.

Also, make sure that your turtle has a balanced diet. You must feed them with live food and vegetables to get proper nutrients and proteins. This will ultimately lead them to less skin shedding so that the filter will remain intact, and there will be no foul smell.

You can also add some of the fish in the tank, which eats the leftovers of the turtle. You can try putting shrimp or suckerfish in your tank. But before doing so, make sure to place hiding spots in your turtle tank; otherwise, your turtle can prey on them. 

Cleaning the tank regularly is the best way to get rid of the bad smell. Remove the algae present in your turtle tank often. If you keep the tank clean, it will rarely create any foul smell. Learn more about how often to clean the turtle tank here.

Another way you can try is to use a bigger tank for your turtle. If the tank is small, it will create mess more often and smell more often. Turtle’s waste releases ammonia which has a foul odour and can be hard to control in a small tank. However, larger tanks prevent overstocking and can withstand the ammonia release in the tank for a longer time.

Do turtles smell bad in the tank?

Turtles do not have their smell. However, they produce unpleasant smells if they are not clean or their tank is not clean. 

Turtles produce an unpleasant smell if they are not clean. They also emit a foul smell if they feel threatened. Their smell can be prevented if you maintain proper hygiene and keep their tank clean. 

You need to wash your turtle with a soft toothbrush. Ensure there are no bacteria on the toothbrush and it is clean before you wash your turtle with it. Once you wash your turtle, you can keep it back in the tank.

Among all the species, the snapping turtle smells the worst. They have a distinct smell. Hence it needs to be cleaned regularly to avoid a foul smell.

One thing you needs to consider for your pet turtle is Salmonella. This bacteria can cause your turtle to smell. This is one of the downsides of owning a pet turtle. 

Salmonella is a bacteria most commonly found in pet turtles, and they can carry it on their shells and skin. Salmonella can be very dangerous if contracted by humans.

The symptoms of Salmonella infection in humans include fever, nausea, headaches, vomiting, Diarrhoea. Make sure to bathe your turtle if it smells bad to ensure nobody in your family gets sick and also your turtle remains safe and healthy. After you give a bath to your turtle, make sure you wash your hands with warm water and soap to get rid of any bacteria.

If even after cleaning the tank and giving your turtle a good bathe, it still smells, there is a possibility that he has a fungal infection called shell rot. Shell rot occurs if there is any injury or infection. Shell rot is a serious infection and needs to be treated soon before it gets worse. You need to keep an eye on your turtle if it smells because of any such infection. If you suspect any of such things, you need to consult a veterinarian.


There could be several reasons why your turtle tank stinks. A few common reasons are leftovers of the turtle in the tank, the unclean filter, not cleaning the tank regularly, skin shedding of your turtle, algae, etc. The leftovers need to be filtered out, and the tank needs to be cleaned regularly. You also need to clean the filter because the turtle skin could clog the filter, resulting in a bad smell in the tank. The turtle can also get smelly if something gets stuck to its shell. Give a bath to your turtle regularly to wash out any such parasites or bacteria. Also, keep checking your turtle if they are suffering from shell rot, as it could also cause a stinky smell from the tank.