Why Does My Turtle Tank Smell

Why Does My Turtle Tank Smell? How To Make It Smell Better?

Are you getting some bad odor from your turtle tank of late? Are you wondering how you can make the bad smell go away? If yes, we’re here to help you.

Your turtle tank smells due to the presence of algae and small food particles that get wasted in the water. Poor filtration, small tank size, and the presence of turtle skin shed in the water are additional reasons why your turtle tank may sink.

Our guide below gives you more info on dealing with a smelly turtle tank, what could be causing the bad smell, and steps you can make your smell good.

Why does my turtle tank smell?


We have mentioned above the many reasons behind your turtle tank producing a bad odor. Below, we go into full detail and discuss each of these reasons and how it causes your turtle tank to stink:

Why does my turtle tank smell

Old food particles

One of the most common reasons is the presence of old food particles in the water. Turtles are messy eaters and will always drop some bits of the food you feed them.

These food particles will float around the tank. And if they go uncleaned, they will start producing an awful smell as the bacteria start growing on them


Large quantities of algae in your turtle tank will also make it smell bad. Algae tend to pop up in turtle tanks and produce an unpleasant appearance and a bad smell.

Note that a small amount of algae in your turtle aquarium is okay, but don’t let it take over your pet’s habitat.

Turtle skin sheds

As you may already know, turtles occasionally shed their skin. If you come across some transparent shreds of your pet turtle skin floating in the water, then this could be the reason behind the bad odor.

Turtle skin sheds

Poor filtration

If the filter you’ve installed in your turtle aquarium isn’t powerful enough for your tank size, a bad smell may also occur. But how? Turtles are known to generate a lot of mess compared to other aquatic animals like fish.

They make dirty water faster, leading to a foul smell and bacteria growth. Thus, you should get a filter that’s powerful enough to handle. Also, clean your filter at least once every month to prevent the build-up of organic material and bad smell.

A small tank size

The mess turtles produce only grows bigger as they grow. If your turtle makes a lot of waste and you still have them in a small tank, you’ll also have to deal with a bad smell. This bad smell worsens if you have a big turtle population housed in a small tank.

Why is my turtle tank cloudy and smelly?

Your turtle tank is cloudy and smelly due to dirty water or poor tank maintenance. If you don’t clean your filter frequently (1-2 times a month), it may build up waste and organic material.

The waste will then sit in your filter and start rotting. It will then fuel algae growth which causes a bad odor (algae smells like rotten eggs) and, simultaneously, turns the water cloudy.

Why is my turtle tank cloudy and smelly

When the uncleaned filter becomes overwhelmed with the large amount of turtle wastes it can handle, it will start pushing it out instead of containing it. This will most likely turn your turtle tank water cloudy.

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If, after cleaning the filter, the cloudy water doesn’t go away, you may want to increase the frequency of cleaning the filter to help properly flush it out and keep things smelling good and clean in your pet’s habitat.

Why does the Turtle tank smell like rotten eggs?

If your turtle tank smells like rotten eggs, it is probably due to poor cleaning habits. Leaving uneaten bits of food, molten shell, turtle poop, algae, etc., in the tank will cause them to turn into sludge that causes unpleasant odors.

Consider doing a partial water change (i.e., 20%), give the gravels a good stir, and your tank should have clean water and smell fine.

Why does the Turtle tank smell like rotten eggs

Afterward, make a habit of cleaning your tank regularly, including the filter, to prevent bad smells from coming out of your tank in the future.

Also read: Can Turtles Eat Onions?

Can the smell of a turtle tank make you sick?

No. It is highly unlikely that your turtle tank stinking can make you fall sick. So, don’t panic; you won’t be contracting a disease by having a smelly turtle tank in your home.

Nevertheless, you don’t want to hang around a smelly aquarium as it’s just too uncomfortable for you and your visitors. So, you should still make sure you clean the tank and get rid of the bad smell.

A turtle tank

An unclean tank may be a potential reason behind your turtle falling ill. Just clean it up and get rid of those odors for the sake of your beloved turtle.

How do you get the smell out of a turtle tank?

Knowing how to remove bad odor from your turtle’s aquarium is important as it helps keep their surroundings clean and prevent them from contracting various illnesses.

A good-smelling turtle tank will also make your environment smell better.

a turtle tank

Below, we have discussed various measures you can take to keep bad odors away from your turtle tank.

Always remove any leftover foods

Always ensure you remove any uneaten foods in your turtle tank after a feeding session. A skimmer net or tongs will help you easily catch excess food bits floating in your turtle tank before they can start producing those undesired odors.

Even better, you can choose to feed your turtle using a dish to avoid these food particles from getting in the water.

Remove turtle skin sheds and feces

Besides food parties, you’ll also need to remove those turtle skin sheds and feces in the water. You can do this by simply scooping them and throwing them away.

Clean your tank regularly

Even if you get rid of the above culprits for bad odors in turtle tanks, you should also clean the tank regularly. We suggest giving the aquarium a thorough cleanup after every few weeks.

Be sure to remove the old substrate and use safe cleaning agents and hot water during the cleanup.

IMPORTANT: Turtles are commonly contaminated with salmonella, which can make you get seriously ill. You should, therefore, handle their tank with caution. Make sure you thoroughly wash your hands with an antibacterial solution when you’re done cleaning their tank.

Do water changes frequently

We also advise you to do turtle tank water changes at least once every two weeks. And when doing so, don’t get rid of all the water present.

water changes

Instead, make partial water changes, where you remove up to a quarter of the water and replace it with ideal fresh water (i.e., it should be un-chlorinated and have the same temperature as the remaining water in the tank).

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Upgrade your filtration system

If you suspect poor filtration is the reason behind the smelly tank, consider upgrading to a more powerful model. Get a bigger and more efficient filter to help you get rid of the smell.

On top of this, make sure you frequently change your tank water filter media, as the bacteria responsible for bad smells can multiply here and worsen things.

Upgrade your tank size

If your baby turtles have outgrown their tank, you’d also want to get them a bigger model. In fact, we suggest getting a big tank (adult-sized model) from the word go as these creatures tend to grow rapidly.

Bacteria will likely get more dispersed in larger tanks and minimize the chances of bad smells from your tank.

Maintain the dial tank temperatures

One more thing…make sure your tank always stays at the right temperature. The ideal temperature for a turtle tank is around 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

turtle tank temperatures

This will help keep odor under control in your tank and keep your turtles healthy. Too high temperatures will encourage rapid algae growth, leading to a bad smell.

Also, an overly warm environment will easily contribute to shell rot, another cause of bad odors.


1. How often to clean turtle tank to prevent stinking?

You should clean your turtle tank at least once a week to keep it from sinking. Doing partial water changes will prevent the possibility of stinking. Every 1-2 weeks, clean out the entire turtle tank and refresh the filter. This will help get rid of the bacteria that may cause bad smells.

2. Do pet turtles give off a scent?

Most pet turtles, including aquatic and semi-aquatic species, usually don’t produce a bad smell. However, a musk turtle may produce a bad smell occasionally and is even referred to as a stinkpot. Aside from that, if you find our turtle smelling bad, it may have picked the unpleasant odor from its smelly tank. You should find out what’s causing its environment to produce the awful smell.

Related: Why Is My Baby Turtle Not Eating?

Final Word

A bad smell coming out of your turtle aquarium happens occasionally, and almost every turtle owner has experienced it at some point. The best thing to do is uncover what’s behind the bad smell and then work to solve the underlying problem to get your tank smell-free again.

Remember, there are many potential causes of this bad smell, and your cause of action will be based on what is causing the smell. Go through the above guide to help you easily find the smell-causing culprit in your tank and how to fix it.

Why Does My Turtle Tank Smell

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