How to Maintain Water Quality in a Turtle Tank

Maintaining the water quality in your turtle’s habitat goes a long way. Take our atmosphere for example, without having fresh air, we would not be able to survive properly. The same goes for turtles in their tanks! If you are adept at keeping fish, it might be a bit easier for you to come to grips with all the things necessary, but keeping a turtle habitat safe is a bit tricky to learn. However, we are here to help you with that, and sooner rather than later, your turtle will have a clean and fresh environment to grow up in.

There are a few different factors that come into play when keeping your turtle habitat clean, and it is good to know why these factors help so much. Let’s look into them!

Using A Big Tank

Using A Big Tank

Turtles are messy creatures by nature, and using a big tank to keep them in, is the first step to having a clean habitat. They will excrete quite a bit, and a small tank will easily get swept up in this mess, making them dirtier faster. Not to mention, aquatic turtles tend to swim a lot, making a small tank for them quite uncomfortable. It will also deprive them of the very necessary exercise they need in order to stay fit and healthy.

Just as with every tank, you need to take care of the nitrogen cycle, which involves the breaking down of ammonia. While it is produced in every aquatic tank, a turtle produces more ammonia in general (feces being one example). So, having a larger tank will allow for more space for biological filtration to occur. Biological filtration is also helped by canister filters, which can be very useful for tanks, so it is good to do research on them as well.

Now, you do not want to just get a huge tank for your turtle without understanding the entirety of its needs. So, how do you do that? With the help of ‘the rule of shell’, which is derived from ‘the rule of thumb’. This rule basically determines that for every inch of upper shell (carapace) a turtle has, you add 10 gallons of water into the capacity of your tank. So, for a 3 inch carapace for your turtle, you would be recommended to get at least a 30 gallon tank.

Removing Leftovers & Debris

Removing Leftovers & Debris from Turtle Tank

Turtles won’t always finish all their food, or you may just have given them a little extra at some point. However, it is always a good idea to clean up the additional food particles or debris you may find in your turtle’s tank, before they become broken down into ammonia, causing more harm to your turtle habitat.

An easy way to clean your tank of these debris and food particles is by using a net to grab them as they float around. This shouldn’t be too hard to do, and that is why you should always look to doing this.

Aquariums also need to have water changes done, which can be a good time to feed your fish as well. We will describe it better in a following point, but the water that is removed from the tank can be used to harbor your turtles for a bit, providing you with an easy spot to feed them. However, do not hold off on feeding them to do this, just do this if it aligns with your periodic cleaning.

Cleaning by Vacuuming

Cleaning by Vacuuming in a Turtle Tank

Any aquarium requires the occasional vacuuming, and turtle habitats require it even more so. This is mainly because most aquariums use substrates, which are laid out at the bottom of the tank. The substrate’s job is to hold a lot of debris and suck in problematic substances from the water. That is why, it is best to use a vacuum cleaner to ensure you get it clean before proceeding to do anything else.

A tip for when you are trying to vacuum your turtle tank is to never start a siphon vacuum with your mouth. Turtle tanks, or any tank in particular can contain a multitude of bacteria that can cause harmful diseases, and using your mouth is providing an easy transfer for them.

Using A Good Turtle Aquarium Filter

Using A Good Turtle Aquarium Filter

You can only do so much to manually clean the stink out of your tank, but some things are just better off left to the mechanical devices. That’s where tank filters come into play. You will want to do your research and get the best turtle tank filter you can, in order to clean out your tank and provide it with the necessary filtration.

Tank filters will allow for your tank to have mechanical, chemical and biological filtration.

Mechanical filtration: It is the filtration of debris and gunk in the water. As the filtration system pulls the water in, the mechanical filter media will trap all of that in, and clean your water as it goes for the next stage of filtration.

Chemical Filtration: Chemical filtration is the filtration of microscopic chemicals within the water, and this filtration system is present in most filters, but not all. 

Biological filtration: We’ve already mentioned this one, but there are helpful bacteria that are required to grow in a tank, in order to help the nitrogen cycle. Good filters will have a tray for these filtration media, which work best with high surface area.

Maintaining and Measuring The Aquarium’s Chemical Levels

Maintaining and Measuring The Aquarium’s Chemical Levels

The chemical levels of the water are also very important when maintaining a turtle’s habitat. An aquarium test kit is the best tool for this purpose, and can be found in any good pet store. However, they are different for freshwater and saltwater, so make sure you get the right one!

Let’s list out the optimal chemical levels for your tank, so that you know what to look for!

  1. pH levels ranging from 6 – 8
  2. Chlorine level at 0
  3. Nitrate level at a maximum of 40 ppm
  4. Nitrite level at a maximum of 0.5 ppm
  5. Ammonia level at 0

Water Changes

Water Changes in a Turtle tank

Water changes as aforementioned, are an integral part of aquarium maintenance. There are only a few exceptions to avoid doing this, one would be that you vacuum so frequently, that it is not required. However, it is still recommended you do so every now and then with a schedule.

Water change is done by siphoning some water out of your turtle’s tank, and replacing it with the appropriate water (freshwater/saltwater) based on your turtle’s needs. Always make sure to turn off everything connected to your aquarium, before you start the process of water changes. This includes filters, heaters and everything else. It is best to do your water changes twice every month.

Water Flow

Water Flow in a Turtle tank

It is important to always have water moving in your aquarium. Not because it would be entertaining for the turtles, but because there are quite a few things that happen due to it.

  1. Movement of water molecules helps spread the temperature throughout the tank, making it more evenly distributed. 
  2. Algae growth is slowed down
  3. Filtration is a lot more efficient with more movement. 
  4. More diffusion of oxygen throughout the tank helps the growth of aerobic bacteria and inhibits anaerobic bacteria.

The Takeaway

Hopefully you have managed to learn all the ways that you can help yourself maintain the water quality of your turtle tank, and make its habitat a better place! There are always more ways to improve your tank’s habitat, it all depends on how you do it! As long as your turtle is happy, there’s nothing to worry about!

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