White vinegar is a very popular natural cleaning solution. The acidic nature helps to break down dirt and grime on the walls of the tank. Vinegar is also one of the preferred cleaning solutions for glass, which is what your turtle tank will be made from.
How often should you clean your turtle tank?
We advise you to deep clean your turtle tank at least once a month, preferably once every 3 weeks. This will help to keep the water inside the tank clean, making it more pleasant for your turtle and reduces the risk to your turtle’s health.
How to Prepare Your Turtle Tank for Cleaning
Before you start to clean your tank, you must first remove your turtle. Gently pick them up and place them in a transfer container of water to rest while you do the cleaning.
This bucket should only ever be used as a temporary home for your turtle and no other function – this will prevent sanitation issues from arising.
This container must be large enough for your turtle to turn around in as they swim. We advise placing peat or rocks inside this bucket to allow your turtle something to climb on.
Take out any filters and heaters that are inside the tank. Unplug anything that is connected to the mains power and place them in another bucket to be cleaned later.
We recommend taking photos of where they were located in the tank, particularly if you are new to owning turtles. This means that you will be able to replace them in the correct locations once the tank is clean. This prevents your turtle from becoming confused and disoriented.
Remove any large objects, such as plants, wood, and rocks. Transfer these items to a third container for cleaning.
Once the tank is bare of decorations, we advise moving it to the area where you will be doing the main cleaning. Good ideas include a bathtub or in your backyard.
As turtle tanks are large and heavy, we advise asking another person to help you carry them to this area. This reduces the risk of you dropping the tank and injuring yourself. Lift the tank from underneath to carry it safely.
Gently lift one side of the tank to pour out the contents. If your tank has a layer of substrate at the base, this can be left in. This only applies to sand and small rocks. If your substrate is made from organic materials, such as nut or peat shells, these should be discarded along with the water.
How to Clean a Turtle Tank
If your substrate is remaining in the tank, your first step will be to clean this thoroughly. Fill the tank about ¼ of the way up with some fresh water.
Swirl this around the substrate and then pour it off, as if you are rinsing rice. Repeat this process 4 or 5 times, until the water that drains off is relatively clean and clear.
You should then make your cleaning solution using white vinegar and water. The recommended ratio is ¼ cup of distilled white vinegar to 1 gallon of water. Take great care using this solution in your backyard as the acidic nature of the vinegar can kill off vegetation.
Grab a mildly abrasive sponge and submerge it in the vinegar solution until it is completely Use this to scrub all of the walls of your turtle tank vigorously. Take extra care to focus on scrubbing the interior corners of the tank, as this is where the most dirt will accumulate.
If you have left your substrate in the tank, tilt it to one side to force the substrate into one location. You will then see the entirety of one wall of the tank and can clean the entire pane of glass properly.
Once all of the walls are clean, you should try to scrub the substrate layer at the base.
After this, you will then need to clean all of the mechanical devices and tank decorations that you removed earlier. You need to pay close attention to the tank’s filter, and we advise looking at the owner’s manual for directions on how to disassemble it properly.
Use your vinegar solution to clean all of the component parts and then rinse it well. If you have any small cuts on your hands, we recommend asking a friend to do this step for you.
Bacteria can easily enter your body through these abrasions and this can lead to an infection setting in. The filter bag should be replaced with a fresh one every month.
Use the solution to scrub all of the other tank decorations, rocks, wood, and any plastic plants. Rinse everything off well and then set them aside to dry out.
Rinse the entirety of the tank and substrate once more with clean water. Make sure no residue of the vinegar solution remains. You have rinsed the tank sufficiently when you can no longer smell the vinegar. Use a clean towel to dry the exterior walls of the tank.
Return the tank to its original location and place all of the tank decorations back inside. Add the filters and other mechanical devices back to their original positions, taking care to reinstall them without causing damage.
Refill the tank with clean water and use some animal-safe dechlorination tablets or drops. This is because tap water contains high levels of chlorine that can cause harm to your turtle.
Check the temperature of the water. It should be between 70 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit – around an average room temperature. If the temperature is wrong, wait for half an hour and recheck the temperature.
Check that the pH levels fall between 7 and 8 in the water. You should also check ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels in the water to ensure you do not harm your turtle.
Add in 1 teaspoon of non-iodized salt per gallon of water. Finally, return your turtle to its fresh tank.