How to Clean a Turtle Shell? (Beginner’s Guide)

Copyright: leisuretime70

If you’re a new turtle keeper, you may think that you have to also clean the turtle’s shell regularly. But that’s not necessary if you clean and maintain the quality of the turtle tank water. The turtle’s shell may no longer need to be cleaned anymore if that’s the case.

However, if the turtle shell looks unclean, that means it’s time to clean it. The turtle tank may be unhygienic already. It can be caused by hard water or algae growth. Having a dirty shell can also be a sign of something more serious. Your turtle may be suffering from shell rot without even knowing it.

That’s why it’s important to maintain a clean environment in the turtle tank. If the water on the tank has been for a long time, it’s time to change it. The land area of the turtle should always be clean as well. If you see something odd on the turtle’s shell, that’s the sign that you should clean the turtle’s shell as well.

How to Clean a Turtle Shell?

Cleaning the turtle shell can help your pet to avoid serious illnesses. But it’s important to be extra careful with your turtle to avoid stressing it out. Before you clean the turtle’s shell with a brush, make sure that it doesn’t feel rough. Their shells are sensitive and the turtle can feel the pressure from their shells.

Avoid putting too much pressure while cleaning the turtle shell with a brush. Make sure it’s just enough to take off the dirt and algae growth. The turtle is sensitive and it can end up getting wounded from scrubbing too hard. Do it as if you’re cleaning your skin so be gentle to ensure that the turtle will be fine.

How to Tell if the Turtle Tank Has Hard Water?

It’s not hard to tell if your turtle tank’s water is hard. It will show on the turtle’s shell since it will look dull. The shell will also be covered with a fine white don’t. It will look chalky when it’s dry. But don’t worry since this is not going to harm your turtle. It may look as if the shell has dried out but your turtle will be fine.

The white spots are only residues from the dissolved minerals of the hard water. In the US, tap water is considered hard water. There are dissolved minerals on it which are mostly calcium and magnesium. It’s alright to drink it and will not harm your turtle either. Although it can leave white spots on its shell.

How To Clean Hard Water Spots On the Turtle’s Shell?

  • Fill the bowl with the right amount of distilled water.
  • Add a few tablespoons of Apple cider vinegar to the bowl and mix it using an old soft bristle toothbrush.
  • Make sure that the turtle’s shell is dry then dip the toothbrush on the mixture.
  • Brush the turtle shell for one to two minutes and make sure to scrape every part of its shell.
  • Allow the turtle to dry completely before returning it to the tank.

Those are the steps you need to take to take off the hard water spots on the turtle’s shell. Although there’s another step you have to take afterward. That is to gradually replace the hard water with distilled or treated water. Doing this gradually will avoid messing up the tank’s natural habitat. Turtles can sense if there is a change in their environment.

This takes a few weeks or even months to achieve so disturbingly it is not a good idea. The best way to do this is to put the turtle in a safe container first. Use a water conditioner or softener to get rid of the minerals. Once the tank isn’t easy, you can put back the turtle inside the tank. The water should no longer give your turtle white spots.

What is the Turtle Shell Algae?

Wild turtles usually have a bit of algae growth on their shells. That’s normal for them to have since that’s what happens in nature. But if you have an indoor turtle tank, the algae growth is no longer normal. Although a few of them in the tank may appear sometimes.

There are two types of algae and one of them is bad for the turtle. The first type is the green spongy and carpet-like algae. It’s alright if you are this on the turtle tank. But when you see the long, stringy, and slimy disgusting-looking algae, the turtle tank is in trouble.

This is a sign that there’s something wrong with the turtle tank. When it happens, it means that the water temperature is too hot or too cold. It also means that the water filtration system is not strong enough for the tank. Plus, the biological cycle of the tank’s water is off.

If the algae growth is not taken care of, it can cause shell infection or shell rot for turtles. These conditions are fatal for them so make sure to check for these signs. If you find the slimy and disgusting algae in the turtle’s shell, remove them right away. That can save your turtle’s shell and its life.

How to Clean the Algae on the Turtle Shell?

  • Use the sink or bucket to place your turtle for cleaning the algae from its shell.
  • Make sure the water temperature is just right for the turtle.
  • Run the water on the turtle shell.
  • Use an old soft bristle toothbrush to take off the algae.

The turtle may try to run away if you do this for the first time. It’s a normal reaction so make sure to keep it in place and scrub for less than two minutes. That will avoid the turtle from feeling uncomfortable for a long time. Allow the turtle to dry in a secure location. After that, sanitize your sink or bucket to avoid getting Salmonella.

How To Clean the Turtle Tank Algae?

  • Check the water temperature and make sure it’s between 76 and 85F.
  • The basking area should have a temperature of 80 and 95F.
  • Make sure that the water filtration system is strong enough for the amount of water in the tank.

It’s better to have the best filter for the turtle tank that you can get. This will keep the talk clean and it can also provide moving water. If the water is moving it can avoid and remove the algae growth on the turtle tank. It will not also end up on the turtle’s shell that way. So make sure to get a good filtration system.

But if you already followed the instructions above but still have algae issues, try to remove the tank under the sunlight. It will speed up the algae growth so it’s best to relocate the tank. That will make the algae more manageable. You can add a few pinches of salt as well every week to keep the algae under control without hurting the turtle.

What is a Turtle Shell Rot?

Shell rot and fungal infection are caused by the bad conditions of the tank for a long time. These diseases will not develop right away which means something wrong is going on for a long time. The good news is, you can treat it easily if it’s still in its early stage.

It’s not hard to fix the issue if you know what causes this problem. Shell rot is a fungal infection that is caused by poor lighting, water condition, temperature, and overall habitat condition. Prolonged exposure to these bad conditions will eventually make the turtle show the symptoms of shell rot.

At first, shell rot will appear as white parched on the turtle’s shell. You will notice that some bits and pieces of shells look missing. If you touch the infected part, it will feel soft. In some cases, the flesh may also show as well. That’s a severe case of shell rot so don’t wait for it to happen to your turtle.

It will look similar to a fungal infection on human skin. This will show some white patches on the shell. The skin of turtles should be bright and have prominent colors. If the turtle’s skin looks dull or gray, it’s a sign of fungal infection or a bad diet. Shell rot can be fatal if not treated immediately.

What is a Turtle Shell Rot Cure?

There’s a cure for shell rot and fungal infection for turtles. So you don’t have to worry in case it happens. Nature Zone Turtle Shell Saver is an example of a product that you can use to cure shell rot. Depending on the shell condition, it should be enough to cure the turtle’s shell rot problem.

If it doesn’t work, you can try another method. You need to have a bottle of povidone-iodine or betadine. Prepare some Q tips, tissue, and a box where you can treat the turtle. You also need to make sure that the turtle is completely dry before you start the treatment.

Dip a Q tip in no-one or betadine solution and apply to the infected areas. Just to make sure that the shell will be completely treated, apply it to a larger area. Do this carefully to avoid it from getting in the turtle’s eyes, ears, or mouth. Just avoid the head area to prevent the solution from harming the turtle.

Once the turtle has been treated, place it in a container or a box. Allow the turtle to bask under the UV light for a few hours. Don’t let the turtle go in the water all day. Can’t let it in for an hour to avoid dehydration. It’s best to keep the turtle with a shell rot in a different container without water for several hours.

Keep on doing this until the shell rot and fungal infection has been cured. If the shell rot seems to not improve or worsen, it’s time to seek better medical treatment for the turtle. The vet can provide a stronger medicine that can cure severe shell rot. So it’s best to bring your turtle to a vet if nothing seems to work.

Can I Boil a Turtle Shell to Clean It?

No, you should never boil the turtle shell to clean it if the turtle is still alive. The boiling way will hurt the turtle or worse, kill it. If you want to clean the turtle shell, you should get a bucket or tub to clean the turtle. Have some lukewarm water instead of hot or cold water.

You can also use a water conditioner and wait for 24 hours before you use it to clean the turtle. Get a soft bristle toothbrush ready and get a cup to scoop the water when rinsing the turtle. Once ready, you can start cleaning the turtle shell and let it dry afterward.

How Often Do You Clean a Turtle Shell?

It’s not a requirement to clean the turtle shell often, especially if it doesn’t look dirty. As long as the turtle tank is being cleaned regularly, the shell should no longer need cleaning. Their shell will be cleaned automatically by the moving water from the filtration system.

However, if the turtle shell has some algae build-up, they need to have a good scrub. If there are scratches, white or soft spots on the turtle shell, you should clean it right away. It’s also important to do the same with the turtle tank to avoid shell rot.

How to Handle the Turtle When Cleaning to Reduce Stress?

When you clean the turtle, make sure to support it with one hand and use the other hand to clean it. Never turn the turtle upside down if you need to clean the plastron or its belly. It will be stressful for the turtle since it will feel vulnerable when it’s on its back.

Instead, tip the turtle around a 45 angle with the head pointing up. That way, the turtle will still be in the upright position while cleaning its underbelly. Remember that it’s a living being and always be careful when you need to handle the turtle for cleaning.

Can You Shine a Turtle’s Shell?

No, you should never shine the turtle’s shell while it’s alive. Their shell is their protection against their predators. It also lets them cool down. It is not a good idea to shine their shell since it will feel comfortable for the turtle. The underside of their belly which is called the plastron protects that part of the turtle.

The only time that you can shine a turtle’s shell is if it’s no longer alive. Their shells can be used for decorative purposes. It can be polished and shined to make it look great. But while it’s breathing, you can make their shells shine by providing the right diet and a clean habitat for the turtle.

How Do You Sterilize Turtle-Shells?

Cleaning the turtle shell by brushing gently with lukewarm water should be enough. Don’t use soap or other cleaning solutions. It can injure the turtle since it has sensitive skin. Gently scrub the shell and let the turtle dry completely. After that, be sure to clean up to prevent the spread of Salmonella.

Make sure to empty the water in your toilet after cleaning the turtle. Avoid pouring it anywhere, especially where you make your food. Don’t dispose of the water on the sink of your kitchen or even from the bathroom. Make sure to only use the container for your turtle bath. You can just throw the toothbrush or sanitize it. Wash your hands well after.

How to Keep the Turtle’s Shell Healthy?

Keeping the turtle shell healthy means maintaining a clean habitat and providing the right diet. Although you can buy different products to treat shell rot or algae, prevention is still better. The turtle shell has to be hydrated naturally. It’s also important to clean the turtle tank at least twice a month.

For land turtles, the terrarium should be cleaned once every few months. Maintaining the hygiene of the turtle’s habitat will avoid infections and other diseases. Their basking spot should have a temperature of 80 to 95F. Add a UV light and heat lamp to provide them with the warmth and rays they need.

To keep the water in the turtle tank moving, a good filtration system must be installed. It will help to clean the water from turtle’s wastes. The system should have a mechanical, chemical, and biological cleaning system. This will prevent the algae from growing and also control the hard water on the tank.

Does the Turtle’s Diet Affect Its Shell?

Providing a healthy diet for the turtle will keep their skin, bones, muscles, and shell healthy. Aquatic turtles also need to bask every day. It will help them to regulate their body temperature. They will also get the UV rays they need to produce vitamin D3 from the light source. It’s an essential nutrient they need to absorb calcium from their diet.

If the turtle is not basking properly, it will affect their health. But providing excessive amounts of supplements will be bad for the turtle’s health as well. When they are lacking in calcium, it will result in developing metabolic bone diseases. Feed it leafy greens or give the turtle enough calcium supplements.


1. Will dish soap hurt turtles?

Yes, using dish soap or detergent can hurt the turtle. Don’t use it even for just cleaning the tank. It can leave traces that can harm your turtle. Replace the tank with clean water even if you have a filtration system. It will ensure that the water quality will be maintained at all times. Avoid using cleaners since it can be fatal for turtles when they ingest that.

2. What are the white spots on my turtle shell?

If you see some white spots in the turtle’s shell, don’t worry. This is a common issue because of the water in the turtle’s tank. The white spots may appear on the turtle’s neck, kegs, and shell. It’s not going to hurt the turtle since it’s often harmless. It may be caused by mineral deposits and shedding of skin and scutes. But can also be caused by shell rot.

3. How to safely clean my turtle’s shell?

Use a soft-bristle toothbrush to gently scrub the turtle’s shell. Don’t scrub too hard or you might hurt the turtle. Make sure to clean the build-up from the shell. You should also scrub the plastron or belly lightly. Remove the algae growth and dirt that may be stuck in the scutes. Remember not to rub it too hard since the turtle’s shell is sensitive.

4. How often should you clean a turtle shell?

If you clean the turtle tank regularly, there’s no need to clean up the turtle shell frequently. Do a deep clean on the turtle tank once a month. Avoid cleaning the filter with tap water and use the old tank water instead. After cleaning, allow them today before putting everything back in the tank. It will help to keep the turtle’s shell clean automatically by the moving water.

5. How to preserve a turtle shell after it dies?

When the turtle’s life is over, you can still keep its shell. Leave the shell in an open space or you can also keep it in a moist place. You can check after a few weeks. The process may take months so be patient. Wait until the soft tissue decomposes completely. When the smell is gone, treat it with pure bleach.


Cleaning the turtle shell is not necessary if their habitat is well maintained. But it will allow you to check the condition of your turtle. Shell rot can happen if they don’t have the right diet. Exposing the turtle to UV rays is also important for them to have a healthy shell and bones. Make sure the turtle is basking properly to avoid this concern. That way, it will keep the turtle in its top condition.

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