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How To Clean A Turtle Shell

Turtle Shell Cleaning Guide

Cleaning a turtle shell is usually done for 2 purposes. One is to get rid of shell algae and the other is to remove hard water spots.

If your turtle is injured, you may need to clean the shell before you treat the injuries. For tortoises, a good cleaning helps them to rehydrate as well as shed old skin.

Knowing how to clean a turtle shell is an important skill that all turtle keepers (and owners) need. As always, it is important to wash your hands thoroughly after handling a turtle as they can carry salmonella.

Quick Reference Section

Cleaning A Turtle Shell

Unlike semi-aquatic turtles and tortoises, aquatic turtles spend most of their time underwater. As such, they do not need to be bathed/clean regularly.

However, a good cleaning can help stop algae from developing on the shell and can also help remove shed skin. If the turtle suffers from a fungal infection or shell rot, you’d also need to clean the shell.

You can tell if our turtle is shedding by looking for patches of flaky skin on the limbs, tail, and neck. Apart from these circumstances, it isn’t necessary to clean your aquatic turtle’s shell.

Materials Needed

Getting Started

Get a plastic container for the sole purpose of bathing your turtle. Don’t use the container for anything else. Since turtles carry salmonella, it is important that you use the plastic container exclusively for the turtle and nothing else.

Similarly, don’t clean the turtle’s shell in your sink or bathtub. You can use a washtub, plastic bucket, or any container large enough to comfortably hold the turtle. Some turtle keepers have a container set aside for feeding the turtle. This container can be used to clean the turtle’s shell. 

As with the tub any brushes you use should also be solely for the purpose of cleaning your turtles shell and nothing else.

Unless you are told to do so by a veterinarian, you should not use shampoo or soap to bathe or cleanse your turtle. It could be harmful to them. Use lukewarm dechlorinated water.

Turtle Shell Cleaning

Follow these five easy steps to effectively and efficiently clean your turtle.

1. Fill The Container With Water

First things first. fill the washtub with lukewarm water. The water needs to be room temperature, dechlorinated, and deep enough for the turtle to swim in.

2. Use A Toothbrush to Scrub The Shell

Moisten the bristles of the toothbrush and gently scrub the carapace, removing any algae and dirt buildup. Next, clean the plastron. Be gentle as well when cleaning the plastron.

Make sure to clean between the scutes as it’s easier for dirt or algae to build up there. Don’t scrub too hard as it may hurt the turtle. Remember, the turtle has pain nerves in the shell.

After cleaning the shell, you can move on to the rest of the turtle’s body including the neck, limbs, and tail. As these body parts are not as protected as the shell is, proceed with care.

Do not use polish, or soap as the turtle can ingest it. This can lead to illness or injury.

3. Check The Turtle For Injuries Or Any Abnormality

As you clean the turtle, be on the lookout for any sign of disease or injuries. Cleaning time is the perfect time to inspect your turtle.

Symptoms and signs to look out for include discolored patches on the shell, skin abnormalities, swelling, swollen/sunken eyes, swollen ears(yes, turtles have ears), frothy mouth or/and nose, cracks in the shell, cuts and bruises, shell pyramiding, and any irregular growth. If you notice any of these signs, you should have a herp veterinarian to check your turtle.

4. Return The Turtle To Its Enclosure

After you have scrubbed your turtle, you can rinse it with clean dechlorinated water. Pour  the water over the turtle. You can even take this opportunity to clean the enclosure as well. Now you can return the turtle into its enclosure.

5. Get Rid Of The Washtub Water Properly

Salmonella is not a bacteria to mess with, so make sure you dispose of the water used to clean the turtle properly. You should pour the water down a toilet and flush it. Do not pour the water down any sink, definitely not the kitchen sink, bathroom sink, or bathtub

Remember to wash your hands once you’re done.

Cleaning A Tortoise or Semi-Aquatic Turtle Shell

Unlike aquatic turtles, tortoises spend a minimal amount of time underwater. As such, they need to be bathed/clean more regularly.

According to many experts, you should bathe your tortoise every other day. You should fo the same for box turtles, as they too are mostly terrestrial.

Use the tortoise cleaning instructions for box turtles unless it’s a coahuilan box turtle which is the only aquatic box turtle.

Some tortoise keepers even bathe their tortoises every day however, once every 2 days should be good enough.

Materials Needed

You’d need the same materials as you would for an aquatic turtle.

Getting Started

Again, get a dedicated plastic container just for bathing the tortoise. This can be a washtub, a bucket, or a large enough Rubbermaid container. Both aquatic turtles and land tortoises carry salmonella. Salmonella is quite resistant to disinfectants.

As such, it is important to use the bathtub for the tortoise alone. As with aquatic turtles, any tools you use should be for the sole purpose of cleaning your tortoise.

Unless you are told to do so by a veterinarian, use just lukewarm dechlorinated water for cleaning the tortoise. Do not include soap, shampoo, or any detergent.

Tortoise Shell Cleaning

Follow these six easy steps to effectively and efficiently clean your tortoise.

1. Place The Tortoise Into The Bathtub  & Fill It

The first thing to do is to place the tortoise in the washtub and then slowly fill the washtub with lukewarm water. The water needs to be at room temperature and dechlorinated.

The water should be up to the tortoise’s chin and no higher. Tortoises can’t swim. The washtub can gently be sloped to create a shallow and deep end. If you do this ensure that the deep end is still shallow enough that the water has a depth of the tortoise’s chin.

Place the tortoise in the washtub with the head towards the shallow end, tortoises cab drink through their anus and this ensures that it keeps well-hydrated through the bathing process.

Let the tortoise soak in the water for about 15 minutes or so. The tortoise can use this time to drink and hydrate. Of course, the tortoise will most likely soil the water.

Pour out the soiled water and refill it with clean dechlorinated water for cleaning the shell.

2. Use A Toothbrush to Scrub The Shell

Moisten the bristles of the toothbrush and gently scrub the carapace, removing any dirt buildup. Next, clean the plastron. Make sure to clean between the scutes as dirt builds up there.

Don’t scrub too hard as it may hurt the tortoise. Remember, the tortoise has pain nerves in the shell. After cleaning the shell, you can move on to the rest of the tortoise’s body including the neck, limbs, and tail. As these body parts are not as protected as the shell is, proceed with care.

3. Inspect The Tortoise

As you clean the tortoise, be on the lookout for signs of disease or injuries. Symptoms and signs to look out for include fuzzy/discolored patches on the shell (which can be an indication of shell rot), skin abnormalities, swelling, swollen/sunken eyes, swollen eyes, frothy mouth or/and nose, cracks in the shell, cuts and bruises, shell pyramiding, overgrown beaks, and any other irregular growth.

If you notice any of these signs, you should have a herp veterinarian to check your tortoise.

4. Dry Off The Tortoise

After the scrubbing, rinse the tortoise with clean dechlorinated water with the help of a pail or a pitcher. Place the tortoise on a clean towel and wrap the towel around the tortoise and thoroughly dry the tortoise thoroughly.

5. Return The tortoise To Its Enclosure

You can even take this opportunity to clean the enclosure as well. Now you can return the tortoise into its enclosure.

6. Dispose Of The Washtub Water Properly

As salmonella is not a bacteria to mess with, make sure you dispose of the water used to clean the tortoise properly.

You should pour the water down a toilet and flush it. Do not pour the water down any sink, be it kitchen sink or bathroom sink. Also, do not pour the water in a bathtub.

Remember to wash your hands once you’re done.

Conclusion

Cleaning a turtle shell has several benefits and should be a routine activity. Turtles do not need to be cleaned as much as tortoises as they spend most of their time underwater.

When cleaning the turtle shell it is important not to use soap as the turtle can ingest the soap. Cleaning the turtle’s shell reduces dirt or algae buildup. A good cleaning helps turtles to shed easily.

Also if the turtle smells bad, regular cleaning can help reduce this smell. Similarly, it is also important to clean the entire enclosure regularly.

Let us know how you clean your turtle or tortoise below in the comments!

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JOAMN

Wednesday 26th of August 2020

I am a turtle ever since a little kid and I have been raising two turtles thinking they were two girls at first until those recently like a few months ago I realized that I had a boy and a girl I have been already named him Romeo and Juliet. Romeo has been fascinating Juliet recently and I do believe that she will be having babies soon this is something new to me. How do I or what do I or how is the best way to go about keeping track of these baby turtles, what kind of what can I do to keep them as safe as possible and how old do they have to be to give away cuz I have three other Turtle lovers in the family and they want a baby. How many babies can they have? And what is the best way to take care of them I got all kinds of stuff from the pet store but I still would like a professional advice. Thank