If you own a turtle, you need to take proper care of it, which starts with the turtle tank maintenance. Hence, it is essential and mandatory to know how to clean the turtle tank. While many turtle owners may ignore the importance of cleaning the tank, it is necessary for turtle health.

That importance being said, you may require cleaning the turtle tank at least once in a month to keep it healthy and in the right condition. The tank cleaning involves changing the water, waste removal, rinsing the tank interior, and lastly, arranging everything in proper state.

So, let’s begin the turtle tank cleaning procedure.

how to clean a turtle tank

How to Clean A Turtle Tank

Cleaning the tank of turtle once every three to four weeks is essential to keep the turtle healthy and happy. Also, every week you should at least replace 50% of water.

Well, you need to be patient to clean the turtle aquarium since it is a time-consuming task.

Replace the turtle:

The tank maintenance must kick off with replacing the turtle into a secondary tank. The process should be easy since you can handpick the turtles and keep them in the other tank.

This tank doesn’t need to be as broad and decorative as the main turtle tank. Also, you can use the tank to feed turtle separately, which will help you keep the primary aquarium cleaner. Also, when turtles become sick, you can use it as a quarantine tank too.

Note: You should properly clean your hand before handling the turtle to avoid any unnecessary problems later.

Removing the tank components:


A turtle tank comprises of UV lights, fixers, filters, and a heater. You should turn off these electrical components at first and then remove them one by one. Also, place the UV lights and filters securely in a table to clean them later.

Once you have removed the electrical component, you can begin with the large ones. It includes decorative items, plants, rocks, and basking platforms. You should put these components separately from the electrical devices in another container.

Note: Before you remove all the components from the tank, memorize what element was situated where. It will help you organize the tank likewise earlier. It will allow you the turtle to remain calm and relaxed in the tank with the proper and similar arrangement of the components.

Replacing the tank water:

After you have removed and put all the components separately in the containers, next, you will require replacing the tank water. If the turtle tank is too large, you may want to bring the tank close to a cleaning position for easy cleaning and water replacement.

If such is the case, you may take help from a family member.

However, use a small bowl or container to remove the tank water, and then you can move the tank quickly since it will become lighter. Also, you can additionally remove the substrates to make the tank even more lightweight.

Now, take help from a family member to bring the tank in the desired cleaning position. Then, you can start rinsing the tank interior.

Rinse the tank substrate:

A turtle tank substrate may consist of gravels, pebbles, or rocks. While you can’t actually rinse the sand, you can wash the gravel or rocks. For this, mix some liquid detergent with the cold water and pour the rocky substrate in it.

While you clean the tank interior properly, keep the substrate in the detergent mixed water. After a while, rinse off the substrate and repeat the rinsing procedure two to three times to clean the substrate correctly.

Cleaning The Tank Interior And Components

After you have rinsed the tank substrate, you may turn your focus on the tank itself and its components as well. Now, we will describe the steps one after another for your convenience.

Cleaning the tank interior:

You will need to prepare a proper tank solution at first to clean the tank inside. I personally prefer using a 5% chlorine-based bleaching solution for it. You can mix one part bleaching solution to thirty parts of regular water.

Ideally, it would be best if you poured about 100-120ml bleaching solution to approximately 1 gallon of water. However, if you don’t have chlorine bleach ready at hand, you may use white vinegar too. For each gallon of tank water, you should pour a half cup of white vinegar on it. Before you prepare the cleaning agent, don’t forget to wear gloves for safety precautions.

Use a tablespoon or stick to stir the mixture, so it dilutes correctly.

Once the mixture is adequately diluted, you can use a sponge to dampen the tank. The steps include:

  • Find a clean sponge and drip it into the cleaning solution.
  • Then use it to wet the tank inside and outside gently. Dab the sponge gently and wipe out the debris from the tank walls.
  • Then, use a second sponge or rag to wipe off the walls. You may pour some clean water on the walls and then use the sponge to rinse off the walls properly.
  • Depending on the severity and amount of debris and waste you have to clean from the tank, it is admissible that you repeat the process two to three times.
  • Make sure all the harmful microbes, algae, and dirt are eliminated from the tank.

Cleaning the filter:

Cleaning the filter is a bit sensitive. You need to be cautious about the biological filtration media. And you don’t want to eliminate the beneficial bacteria colony from the filter media. So while cleaning the tank, make sure the biological filter media is not dried out and never use detergent on it.

You can use the tank water to rinse the media thoroughly. For the mechanical filtration part, if required, change the synthetic cotton or sponge. Also if you are using activated carbon as chemical filtration you need remember that they have an expiry date and after certain period they stop working.

Cleaning the fixers and heaters:

Now, start with the heater. While you shouldn’t use water to rinse the heater, we recommend you to use a clean rag. Use it to clean the heater correctly.

Use a similar rag or microfiber clothing to wipe out the outside of the fixers or UV lights. Once cleaned correctly, the fixers and lighter will look like new.

Also, clean the plants and other decorative items before placing them in their original position in the tank.

Placing the tank and its components:

Once you have rinsed the tank, both exterior and interior, and the tank components, it is time to arrange them sequentially in the tank. However, before you place the tank in its original position, make sure that it is free of the odor of the chlorine and bleaching solution.

Making the tank free of odor is necessary since turtles dislike the chlorine smell. Also, the presence of chlorine is detrimental for all aquatic species.

Once you have removed the smell, position the tank properly in its original location. Then place the rinsed substrate in it. Once the substrate is appropriately set, place the plants, ornamental items, filters, fixers, and heater in their position.

Note: You can take a photograph of the turtle tank earlier. It will help you arrange the tank components similar to their old positions. It is beneficial for the turtle to reside calmly in the tank.

Replacing The Tank Water:

Lastly, you will need to pour clean water into the tank. However, before you pour water in the tank, you need to ensure that the water has ideal parameters suitable for the turtle. The perfect water parameter for turtles includes the following listing.

Water ComponentsRequired Level
Nitrate and Nitrite0-0.5 ppm of nitrate and 0-40 ppm nitrite
Water Temperature72° to 78°F

The water replacement in the tank requires the following steps.

  • At first, ensure that the water temperature is right. The ideal temperature in the turtle tank for water is around 72°F-78°F. You can ardently use a thermometer to measure the water temperature. If you live in a cold area or the weather is cold, you may want to preheat the water to bring it in the optimal state. And if the water is too hot, keep it in a container and let it cool down.
  • Use a proper and trusted testing kit to measure the pH level, along with the ammonia and nitrate level. In the majority of the turtle tank cases, these should be in the optimum state once came from a tap.
  • Lastly, you need to dechlorinate the water since the slightest presence of chlorine in the water is lethal for turtles. You can use any reputed dechlorinating agent from the market and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the rest.
  • Alternatively, you can use mineral water, but it is expensive.
  • After filling up the tank with dechlorinated and clean water, add about a tablespoon of non-iodized salt in the water. The salt works on harmful microbes and keeps the water healthier for turtles.

Put the turtles back:

Finally, you will have to return the turtles in the tank. If you have successfully positioned all the plants, filters, heaters, UV lights, and ornamental items in their original position, the turtle won’t even notice the tank cleaning. So, it won’t raise their stress level and they’ll thrive calmly in the newly cleaned tank. Positioning the tank components in their original position is essential to keep the turtles happy.

Tips On Keeping The Tank Clean

It is already mentioned that you need to clean the tank and its components in every three to four weeks. However, you need to maintain the tank, its water, and other elements in between two cleaning sessions.

  • The maintenance of the tank starts with finding the adequate tank size for turtles. Smaller tanks tend to get dirty sooner than the larger tanks. Also, an adequately sized tank helps the turtle live happily in it. Ideally, for smaller turtles, you will need 20-5 gallons of water. On the contrary, for larger turtles sizing 5 inches, you need to have 50 gallons of the tank. And finally, add around 20 gallons of the tank for each turtle, if you pet multiple turtles in the same tank.
  • When you remove the leftover after each feeding session, it helps to keep the tank water cleaner for a longer period. You can use an aquarium fishing net to accumulate the bits from the tank bottom. Alternatively, you can use a secondary aquarium to feed the turtles.
  • Another brilliant way to keep the turtle tank cleaner for an extended period is to feed the turtle properly. You should keep an eye not to overfeed the turtle so that it doesn’t have any leftovers.
  • Always use a proper filtering system for the tank. I prefer using a canister filter to keep the tank water in optimal condition. Also, it would help if you used a sponge to replace the tank water for around 20% to 40% periodically.
  • Finally, use a proper siphon mechanism or vacuum to clean the tank water regularly. You can choose from a variety of aquarium vacuum system from online markets to keep the tank neat and clean.
  • Sometimes, the tank water may turn cloudy without valid reasons. If it happens, immediately check the water parameters with a testing kit. If the water parameters such as ammonia, Nitrate, nitrite, and pH level are in optimal condition, the cloudy state will disappear soon. I suggest you dechlorinate and aerate the water to get rid of the murky water. Also, if the gray condition remains for an extended period, the chances are high that the filter is damaged or ruined. So, you would ardently want to replace the filter.
  • Once you regularly clean the tank and maintain it properly, there will be fewer chances of algae growth in the tank. However, you can use an algae scraper to wipe out the algae from the tank interior. Additionally, you can use a vacuum and net to accumulate the algae from the tank bottom to keep it clean and healthy.

Wrapping Up

So, this is all on today’s topic of how to clean a turtle tank. Ideally, you require cleaning the entire turtle tank once in one month or four weeks. The cleaning includes rinsing the tank walls, washing the reusable filters, cleaning fixers and heaters, and finally, replacing the whole tank water.

Finally, you need to dechlorinate the tank water and check the parameters to help the turtle thrive in the tank water. But remember that it requires considerable time and so don’t hurry during the procedure. Good luck.

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