Do Turtles Smell? (Why They Smell And How To Clean Them)

Image of a woman smelling bad smell

Turtles are beautiful animals and are considered as exotic pets. So, you might wonder if turtles smell just like dogs or cats.

Turtles do not have a smell of their own. They produce unpleasant smell if they are not clean or if the tank in which they reside is not clean. Usually, particles of food or the vegetation surrounding the turtle get stuck on its body. These stuck particles emit a foul odor if they are not cleaned.

Now that you know turtles can smell let’s understand in-depth as to what causes turtles to smell. Also, let’s see if there are ways by which you can prevent the bad smell of turtles.

Why Do Turtles Stink?

Turtles do not smell foul if they are clean. In the wildlife, turtles roam around freely. So, food particles can get stuck on their body. Also, in the wild, there is vegetation surrounding the turtles. Many times, this vegetation sticks on their body. Due to this, a foul odor is emitted, and turtles smell bad.

On the contrary, if you have a pet turtle, chances of it smelling bad are less if you take proper care of it. Hygiene needs to be maintained to prevent any foul odor from your turtle.

Let us now understand in-depth as to what causes a turtle to smell.

Given below are the most common reasons why turtles stink:

  • Unhygienic Conditions: Hygiene is of utmost importance for any pet. Your turtle will smell unpleasant if it is not cleaned properly. It is one of the main reasons for a turtle to smell foul. Bacteria that gets created because of the unhygienic conditions will cause the turtle to smell bad.
  • Left-over Food Particles and Algae: Left-over food particles in the tank also produce a foul odor. Whenever you feed your turtle and if the entire food is not consumed by it, then the left-over stale or rotten food emits a foul odor. For example, greens and spoiled food that is left uneaten produce bad smell. Also, a hot tank will grow algae rapidly, which produces a foul odor. So, if you have any plants in the tank and any parts of them rot, it can create an unpleasant odor.
  • Waste Produced by Turtles: Unlike fish, turtles tend to grow a lot and become bigger in size. So, they produce a lot of waste. And if this waste is not cleaned immediately, it starts to smell awful in a short span of time.
  • Molted Shell Skin: Turtles regularly shed the skin from their shells or scutes. The extra skin that is shed by the turtle can clog the filter in the tank, just like the excess food that is uneaten by the turtle. This again can smell foul if not cleaned or cleared.
  • Tank Not Clean: The tank of your turtle needs to be clean. Otherwise, it will smell foul. Apart from the turtle waste, the presence of any old substrate also creates a bad smell.

Alright! You now know why turtles stink. But what do they smell like?

What Do Turtles Smell Like?

All turtles might not smell the same. The smell of a turtle will depend on what has got stuck on its body and the smell of its surroundings.

It is believed that reptiles do not have an odor, and so do not smell. This is not true. Turtles do produce unpleasant smell if they are not clean.

Moreover, turtles have glands that emit a foul smell whenever they feel threatened. Among all species, Snapping turtles smell the worst. They do have a distinct smell.

Turtle smells can be prevented if you maintain proper hygiene and keep their tank clean.

So, let’s now talk about how we can get rid of a turtle’s bad smell.

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How To Get Rid Of Turtle Smell?

In general, turtles do not smell. They emit a foul odor if they are not cleaned and washed properly. The tank of a turtle can also smell bad if it is dirty or hygiene is not maintained.

So, given below are various ways to prevent the bad smell of turtles:

  • Wash Your Turtle Thoroughly: Your turtle must be clean to prevent any foul odor. For cleaning your turtle, a soft toothbrush should be used. You should also ensure that there are no bacteria on the toothbrush while cleaning your turtle. Once you wash your turtle, you can then put it back in the tank.
  • Get A Big Tank: The size of your tank is another important reason why your turtle might smell bad. Turtles produce a lot of waste, and if the tank is smaller in size, it will become unhygienic quickly and emit foul smell rapidly. So, a bigger tank should always be preferred to accommodate an adult turtle.
  • Clean The Filter: Powerful aquarium filters are recommended for turtles. A powerful and efficient filter reduces bad smells. In addition, you should always change the filter media frequently. This is the place where bacteria gets accumulated and multiplies, thereby increasing the bad smell.
  • Cleaning The Tank: Debris accumulated in the tank produces a bad smell. So, you should always clean the tank once a week. However, the debris should be removed daily without fail. Also, any left-over food particles should be removed to prevent foul odor.

Note: You should never use any scented, deodorizing cleaning products or air fresheners to prevent the bad smell. These products are harmful to your turtle and can prove fatal if used. However, you can use disinfectants that are safe for reptiles.

Okay! By now, you are well-versed with the ways to prevent the bad smell of turtles. But what if the tank of your turtle smells bad? If that happens, then you will still smell that foul odor even if your turtle is clean.

So, the tank also needs to be maintained to prevent any bad smell.

Let’s now see the various ways to get rid of the turtle tank odors.

Interesting Further Reading:

How To Get Rid Of The Turtle Tank Odors?

Anything that is not clean produces a foul odor. Turtle tank also emits unpleasant odor if it is not maintained properly. Regular maintenance helps in keeping the tank free of any bad odor, and at the same time, it keeps your turtles healthy.

Given below are the various ways to get rid of turtle tank odors:

  • Clean The Tank By Removing Uneaten Food: The turtle’s tank should be periodically cleaned to prevent any bad smell. You can use a skimmer net to remove the left-over food floating on the surface of the tank. Also, if you feed any greens to your turtle, it also needs to be cleared immediately. Greens tend to clog your filter, thereby preventing adequate circulation of water.
  • Maintain Suitable Temperature: Temperature is another criterion that needs to be maintained in the tank. The majority of semi-aquatic species, including turtles, thrive in water temperature in the range of 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit. Also, turtles require a light heated basking area to dry up their shells. So, maintaining adequate temperatures in the tank and basking area helps in controlling the foul odor to a great extent.
  • Clean Dry Tank: If you have a dry tank with a box turtle, it also needs to be cleaned. You can use a dirt scoop or reptile sand to remove the uneaten food or waste excreted by your turtle.
  • Clean Molted Shell Skin: As mentioned earlier, turtles shed the skin from their shell regularly. If not cleaned, the shredded skin clogs the filter in the tank and produces a foul smell. So it needs to be cleaned periodically.
  • Water Quality: Water quality should be maintained to prevent any bad smell. A cloudy tank will always smell foul. That is why periodic water change should be done. You can do a partial water change once in a week if the tank has a large water area. Also, complete water change should be done 1 to 2 times a month to maintain its quality.

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Parting Thoughts

Turtles are a great pet if proper care is taken.

Turtle smell bad if they are not clean or if the tank is dirty. They can also emit a foul smell when they feel threatened by predators.

However, there are various ways to keep your turtle and its tank clean to prevent any foul odor. All of the steps to clean your turtle and its tank are described above.