how to keep a turtle tank clean

The Ultimate Guide to How to Keep a Turtle Tank Clean

Just imagine a scenario- you have brought a pair of turtles newly and kept it in the tank. Sadly, within a couple of days, the tank water turns into dark cloudy, and it starts sting like a public restroom forcing you to stay away.

Undoubtedly, the sight isn’t a pleasing one. Nor is it a healthy condition for the turtle health. Therefore, you will have to keep the turtle tank clean for the turtle health and your sake as well. But do you know how to keep a turtle tank clean?

I guess you have heard people saying it is a challenging task.

But what if I say that keeping the turtle tank clean isn’t as laborious as most people think?

Wondering how? Then, continue to read the article.

How to Keep a Turtle Tank Clean

Turtles are one of the messiest creatures you may ever come across. No matter how dirty their tank is, they show no sign of cleaning it. Hence, as an owner, the responsibility is on you to keep their tank clean and help them live happily.

Use A Spacious Tank

The first rule to keep the turtle tank clean is to bring a large enough container for turtles. A small tank is firstly hard to clean and, secondly, not suitable for turtles.

You might take assistance from the ‘rule of shell’ to determine how large a tank you need to purchase for your pet. According to the rule, for each straight length of turtle carapace, the tank needs to hold 10 gallons of water.

It means, if your turtle carapace is 2.5 inches long, the tank needs to have 25-30 gallons of water.

Use The Right Tank Filter

The best way to maintain the turtle tank water is to use an appropriate tank filter. We recommend you to use a quality canister filter for the process.

Canister filters have large pumping capacity and perform both biological and mechanical filtration within the turtle tank. Thus, it will immensely reduce your effort to clean the tank water and also increase the water replacement period by keeping the water cleaner for an extended period.

The canister filter is particularly essential for aquatic turtles since these are messier than any turtle species and soon turn a tank into a dirty space.

Vacuuming The Leftovers

Turtle is infamous for leaving a significant portion of their food uneaten and unattended. Thus, it causes the tank water to become foul and pull of harmful ammonia.

Ammonia often generates gas that can make the tank water unhealthy and causing sickness to turtles. Thus, it would help if you never ignored the ammonia formation since it boosts the bacterial to continue the nitrogen cycle. It is utterly harmful to pet turtles.

Hence, it would be ardently best if you cleaned up the tank bottom using a proper vacuuming system at least four times a month. When you choose the vacuum for tank water cleaning, make sure it is BPA free and has an extended nozzle. The BPA-free materials assure that it is turtle safe, and the long vents help in easy and satisfactory cleaning.

An important note

Using a quality canister filter will reduce the vacuuming to 1-2 times per month since the screen has an internal mechanism to boost the growth of the beneficial bacterial colony. It prevents ammonia formation.

Sterilization of Tank Water

Before I proceed further with the process, I want to warn you that the turtle tank doesn’t need regular UV-light sterilization, likewise consistent filtration and vacuuming. So, perform the sterilization process only when you feel it necessary- probably twice in a month or even more.

Sometimes, the tank water might turn into dark green or cloudy. It happens because of the excess accumulation of organic materials within the tank water. It can cause several health complications to the pet turtles.

At this point, you need to perform proper and total sterilization using UV-lights. You might need to wait 3-4 days for the sterilization to take place after you have installed the UV-lights. It is beneficial to keep the tank water clean and tiptop.

Change The Tank Water Regularly

One way to keep the turtle tank clean is to change the tank water periodically. The water change frequency will depend on a few things-

  1. How many turtles you have
  2. The capacity of the tank
  3. How good is your filtering

Assuming that you have a sufficient tank with a sound filtration system, you might need to change the water once in a month. Also, if you use a siphon type of water vacuum to clean the tank, you might not need to clean the water as frequently as in the average case.

It is possible since the siphon vacuum will change around 25% of tank water during the cleaning. Also, note that you need to turn off the tank heater while replacing the water. It will help the heater cool off when you change the tank water.

Aerating The Tank Water

Although turtles breathe in oxygen directly from the air, proper aeration of the tank water will help them live merrily. Proper ventilation will reduce the growth of anaerobic bacteria that often dislike oxygen. So, aeration keeps the oxygen abundant in the tank.

Use Freshwater Floating Plants

Once you can set-up a few floating plants in the turtle tank, it will automatically reduce the maintenance period of the container. The plants employ nitrate and ammonia as their growth fertilizer. So these plants soak up the majority of nitrates and ammonia to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria.

All these will result in a cleaner tank. Some of the highly popular and decorative tank water plants are listed below.

  • Water lettuce
  • Dwarf duckweed
  • Hornwort
  • Amazon frogbit
  • Giant duckweed

You can choose other plants, too, but make sure it proliferates and doesn’t surpass the tank size.

Add Working Fish and Shrimp

Shrimps and even some fish species are famous for self-cleaning characteristics in the tank water. The shrimps will eat up the leftovers and algae in the tank. The pleco’s and Oto’s are also scavenger types of fish that live mostly on leftovers and algae.

Adding one or two cherry shrimps or working fish will also make the tank presentation colorful and attractive.

Final Words

I hope you now know how to keep a turtle tank clean with ease and less effort. So, before we conclude the piece of write-up, here’s a quick recap of the tricks and tips to maintain and clean the turtle tank effortlessly.

  • Replace the canister filter media once every two months.
  • Clean the tank water 3-4 times each month.
  • Use UV-sterilization once in a fortnight.
  • While vacuuming, replace 25%-30% tank water.

While you maintain these four rules, the turtle tank will remain clean for the desired period. Also, use working fish and floating plants to reduce the maintenance effort form your end. Rejoice and enjoy it! 

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