Why is My Turtle Tank Cloudy? (And How to Fix It)

When it comes to purchasing a new pet, there are always going to be ups and downs. After all, bringing a new animal into your home is a learning experience and will take some time to get used to – especially if that animal is a little more unconventional than a cat or dog. 

Bringing a reptile into your home is always going to come with its challenges, and turtles are no different. Not only do the aquatic creatures need food, comfort and care, but they also need a tank to act as their home and a tank is not an easy thing to maintain.

So if you have recently bought a new tank and have found that the water keeps getting cloudy, then there could be various reasons why this is the case. 

Below, we have compiled some handy information concerning turtles and how you can keep the water in their tanks clean. We have also outlined the numerous elements that could be making your tank cloudy and how they can be easily avoided.

So if you are concerned about the well-being of your reptilian friend, then this article has everything you need to know. 

Why Is My Turtle Tank Cloudy?

Unfortunately, there is no one clear answer to this question, as tank cloudiness is often caused by various elements. However, there are three primary causes that could be contributing to the poor environment of your turtle’s home and these causes are as follows: 

  • Bacteria
  • Dirty Filter
  • Poor Maintenance

So to help you understand the issue of tank cloudiness, we have outlined these three causes down below and the various methods that can be used to combat them and keep your tank water clean. 


Bacteria is arguably the most significant cause of cloudy water in your turtle’s aquarium, and something you may experience if your tank is new or has been recently cleaned. 

In the wild, turtles are known to produce a vast amount of waste, which contains a high level of ammonia. This ammonia is then targeted by bacteria in the water, breaking it down and transforming it into nitrates. 

This process is called the nitrogen cycle and we also use it in tanks to keep the water clean and transparent. However, a newly set-up tank will not have the necessary bacteria to absorb the reptile’s waste and it can take some time for the bacteria to colonize. 

So the cloudiness in your tank could simply be bacteria that are trying to break down your turtle’s poo. 

How to Fix It?

If you have discovered that bacteria is the cause of your mother’s cloudiness, then the only thing you can do is wait, as it can take a long time for the bacteria colony to be fully established. 

New tanks will often suffer from ‘new tank syndrome’ which refers to the poor biochemical properties of the newly created environment. Once the beneficial bacteria has had enough time to establish itself, the cloudy water in our tank should begin to clear overnight. 

We do not advise changing the water until the bacteria have fully colonized, as this could risk restarting the whole bacterial process. 

Dirty Filter

Another main cause of cloudy water is a dirty tank filter, which could be the result of a lack of cleaning or maintenance on your part. 

Not cleaning your turtle’s filter every month can cause a build-up of waste and organic material, which can then begin to rot and cause the water to grow hazy. 

A dirty and over capacitated filter will also begin to pump the harmful waste back into the tank, which again can cause cloudy water and be harmful to your pet turtle. 

How to Fix It?

Of course, the easiest solution to not cleaning out your filter is to clean it on a more regular basis – with many turtle owners choosing to clean out their filters by following a weekly or bi-weekly schedule. 

Cleaning your filter every two weeks is a common practice and is very good for the overall cleanliness of your tank. However, you can also clean your filter whenever you begin to notice a drop in quality or water cloudiness. 

Your tank filter contains the bacteria used to break down ammonia for the nitrogen cycle, and this can be disrupted if you clean or remove the bacteria substrate. These are materials that aid in bacteria growth and often look like plastic rings. 

If you remove the substrate, you could risk having to begin the nitrogen cycle all over again, which can also make your tank water cloudy. Cleaning or removing the substrate is a  part of the process that comes down to your preference. 

Poor Maintenance

As we have previously established, turtles are messy animals that can produce a high level of waste in their tanks. They can also be messy eaters, which means that feeding them in their tanks could result in cloudy or dirty water. 

Even feeding your turtle solid food such as pellets can lead to a tank full of particulate matter, with the water becoming contaminated with high levels of protein from the undigested food. 

Not only does this cloudy water look unattractive in your tank, but it can also cause a foul odour and partially blind your turtle, which could lead to future health problems. 

How to Fix It?

Because feeding your turtle in its tank can lead to dirty water, the best solution is to remove your reptile from its tank during the feeding process. 

This is a common method that is practised by turtle owners all over the world, as it ensures the cleanliness of your tank and the balanced diet of your beloved aquatic pet. 

Feeding your turtle outside of its tank is a simple process and we have outlined the best approach in the following step-by-step guide: 

  1. Remove The Turtle: Take a small bowl, roughly twice the size of your turtle, and fill it halfway with water from the turtle’s tank. You must make sure that the turtle can’t climb out or you could risk your pet escaping. 
  2. Add The Food: Take your turtle’s usual food and add it to the bowl, following the same method that you would usually use to feed your pet. 
  3. Take Some Time: Wait for around 10 minutes, or until your turtle has eaten its fill and is ready to be taken out. 
  4. Put The Turtle Back: Once the turtle is full, remove it from the bowl and carefully place it back inside its tank. 
  5. Clean The Bowl: Pour the water in the container down the drain and clean it out. Store away until the next feeding session.