My sister got two turtles a while back, and it was great at first. Though now it seems it's too much for her to properly take care of them. Their tank is very dirty, though she claims they like that. A quick google-search suggested she doesn't know what she's talking about. Though to be sure I wanted to ask here, since I don't know how bad it is.

Here are some photo's:

Their tank. enter image description here

This used to be a white dinosaur skeleton. There were also only little pebbles at the bottom, so the sand-like stuff you see are (I guess) turtle-droppings and sunken food. Also, the filter you see doesn't work any more. There's no water flowing through it any more, I guess it's clogged up. enter image description here

Please advice me, because if it's as bad as I think I'm taking action. Then the turtles will be given away to someone who does take proper care of them.

Thanks a lot!

  • As a help in keeping the tank clean, you can add some fish. They will eat the sunken food, the turtle droppings and the algae at the glass. We have a yellow bellied slider with one big goldfish, some guppies (they proliferate enough, that the turtle can accidentally eat one or two) and some catfish against the algae. The catfish need hide-out, because they are to slow to flee the turtle. Jul 3, 2019 at 7:43

1 Answer 1


I would be interested in hearing her reasoning for why a turtle would enjoy living in a dirty tank. Just to be clear, the tank isn't dirty because there's an excess of dirt, it's dirty because there's an excess of rotting food and feces. Basically, the turtle is living in a toilet bowl that never gets flushed.

So, why is it important to keep the tank clean other than the grossness of it? Here are 3 reasons I can think of from the top of my head. (Excluding my personal favorite of simply being able to see the animal).

  1. It keeps you from getting sick. With a good (running) filter, there is enough water flow that it prevents any of the bad bacteria and chemicals that thrive in stagnant water. I'm guessing no one handles the turtle much right now, because touching dirty water like that increases the chances of getting sick if you don't clean it all off afterwards.
  2. Promoting a neutral smell. Let's face it, bad water smells bad, dirty animals smell bad too. While there is a certain smell to reptiles, you shouldn't be able to smell it unless your smelling the reptile directly. It's similar to how cats have a certain smell, but if you can smell the cats from across the room then you have a problem.
  3. It keeps the turtle from getting sick. One of the big problems you're going to want to look for is shell rot. It's exactly how it sounds, in that it's bacteria eating away at the turtle's shell. It's something you wouldn't really have to worry about in a clean tank, but in a dirty one like this, I wouldn't be surprised to see it starting at least. Here's a photo for reference:

Turtle with shell rot(Source)

  • 1
    She said because it are swamp turtles they like the dirty water.
    – The Oddler
    Apr 8, 2014 at 8:30
  • 9
    @TheOddler tell her there is a distinct difference between mud and feces Apr 8, 2014 at 13:21
  • 6
    Thanks! There was a little family drama over this. Now the turtles are moving to her boyfriend's home, he has more time to take care of them. They are also getting a new filter.
    – The Oddler
    Apr 8, 2014 at 15:35

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