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Turtle Fungus: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments 🐢

Fungal infections are quite common among pet turtles. While they may be an issue, they can be easily avoided through proper sanitation. The keyword here is persistence.

In order to keep the turtle’s aquarium clean, you have to stick to a strict cleaning schedule. Of course, a water filter goes a long way to ensuring that the water is always clean.

However, if your turtle only feeds in water, it is necessary to clean the water after every feeding. This ensures that the enclosure is always relatively clean.

In addition to this, you must change about a third of the water in the aquarium weekly, and clean the entire tank every month or two.

Spotting Fungus On Your Turtle

Identifying turtle fungus is quite simple. Just look for small green patches on the shells and occasionally on the neck and legs.

Fungal growth resembles tiny raised green patches on the skin. They grow and spread rather quickly.

These patches should not be confused with the white patches associated with the shedding of the skin and shell.

If unsure whether the turtle is actually shedding, you can inspect it closely. You can even use a magnifying glass to aid you in identifying this.

With shedding patches, you can notice a layer of skin or shell coming off a lower layer.

Similarly, turtle fungus can be mistaken for shell rot. Shell rot is usually down to an infected wound/injury.

The rot originates from the injured site and it goes deeper than just a single layer. Shell rot generally gives off a bad smell, and the topmost layer may look blotched and filled with fluid.

They also look especially unhealthy. Shell rot must be treated immediately.

Treatment Of Fungal Infections In Turtles

The most difficult part is identifying the turtle fungus, but once you have identified it, treatment is quite straightforward. We will discuss two different fungal infection treatments and cleaning the enclosure.

Giving Your Turtle A Salt Bath

Salt baths are an easy and quick way to stop the spread of the fungus that thrives in warm wet enclosures (which is most turtle enclosures).

Terrapins are especially messy when feeding. This can easily lead to fungal infections. As already mentioned a fungal infection appears as spots or lumps on the turtle’s body. If unsure, you can always seek the help of a herp/exotic animal veterinarian.

Materials Needed

  • Bath Salts – these salts fight off the fungal infections. I recommend Ahava Bath Salts, Unscented.
  • Clean sponge – use the sponge exclusively for the turtle. Keep the sponge away from soap or detergent, sinks, and plates.

Bathing The Turtle

For terrapins such as the red-eared slider, ensure that the temperature of the water is 75 to 85 F. Just to be sure, check the water temperature using a thermometer.

For 5 gallons of water, add a quarter cup of bathing salt. You will need an extra container for the bath.

A container such as a Rubbermaid should be big enough. The salt in the water should kill the fungus. The salt also has the advantage of disinfecting any punctures.

The turtle should be allowed to soak for about 30-40 mins. Once you remove the turtle from the salt solution, do not pat the turtle dry. Rather allow the salt solution to dry on the turtle’s body.

Repeat this treatment every day for 2 weeks.

Cleaning The Turtle Using Soap, Water, And Iodine

Inspect the turtle. If it carries no injuries and is well, you can clean it using a soft toothbrush, and some fragrance-free soap.

Clean the turtle in a bathtub, small container or bucket (that you use exclusively for the turtle).

As you may already know, turtles carry salmonella and as such, I advise against cleaning a turtle in a sink.

Materials Needed


1. Clean Turtle With Soap

You can use a soft toothbrush and some hypoallergenic soap to clean the turtle. Ensure that you don’t use too much soap. Use just enough soap to soften and remove the fungus. The soap must be fragrance-free.

2. Rinse Off Turtle

After cleaning the turtle, rinse it with clean potable water and allow it to dry off under a lamp. Alternatively, you can dry the turtle with a clean towel.

Next, apply a diluted iodine solution all over the turtle (wipe it all over). I recommend Betadine. It works excellently with reptiles. Use 10 parts water and 1 part betadine. You can always ask your herp vet to recommend a good brand.

3. Apply Betadine/Iodine

After applying the betadine/iodine solution, let the turtle air dry.

Repeat this treatment every day for 2 weeks.

Cleaning The Enclosure

Of course, as already mentioned one of the main causes of turtle fungus is an unclean tank. As such, if your turtle has a fungal infection, then it is necessary to clean the tank. I recommend that you clean the enclosure every month or so to prevent the reappearance of the fungus.

Materials Needed


1. Remove The Turtle

First of all, you need to take the turtle out of the enclosure. I recommend having a separate container for the turtle. This container should be used only for the turtle.

This is because turtles carry salmonella. The container should have enough water for the turtle to swim in and a platform such as a rock for the turtle to rest on.

2. Remove Tank Objects

Next, you need to remove all the objects in the enclosure such as a heater, filter, basking platform and many more.

Place the electronic devices in a comtainer separate from the other decorations such as rocks, basking platform and many more. Place these objects in large containers.

3. Drain The Aquarium

With the help of a device such as the Python No Spill Clean and Fill Aquarium Maintenance System, remove the water from the tank into a bucket and dispose of it in the toilet. Leave rocks or gravels in the tank.

4. Move The Tank To A Cleaning Area

Move the aquarium to where you plan to clean it. This can be the bathtub or the lawn. Do not clean the tank in the kitchen sink, or any other sink for that matter.

This is because of salmonella which the tank may be carrying. The tank is heavy, so ask for help if you can carry it yourself.

5. Rinse The Substrate

Rinse the substrate in the tank four times.

6. Clean Tank With Bleach Solution

Use a 5% chlorine bleach solution (approximately 30 parts water and 1 part bleach) to clean the tank. Wear a pair of rubber cleaning gloves.

7. Scrub The Tank

Scrub and clean all the sides, and corners. Clean every inch of the enclosure.

8. Rinse The Tank Thoroughly

When done, the solution should sit on the enclosure for about 20 minutes. Then rinse it thoroughly, ensuring there is no scent of bleach residing on the enclosure.

9. Clean Accessories

While the enclosure sits, clean the filter, decorations, and heater.

10. Put The Tank Back & Fill It

Once you’re done, move the tank back to its location, and place all the content back in the same positions as they were before the cleaning. Fill the tank with water and then install the heater, filter, and other fixtures.


The only way to prevent turtle fungus is to keep a clean aquarium. This isn’t difficult nor is it time demanding.

As compared to other pets, turtles require very little attention. It is advisable to follow the following best practices. They are simple and demand very little.

1. House Your Turtle In An Adequately Sized Tank

Large tanks take up more space and are more expensive but they are generally better for the turtle. The more water the tank holds the longer it takes for it to become dirty.

House tiny turtles (hatchlings and turtles with a carapace length smaller than 5 inches) in 20-gallon tanks.

House turtles with a carapace length of 5 inches in 50-gallon tanks. House turtles with a carapace length of 10 inches in 75-gallon tanks.

2. Use A Good Filter

Polar Aurora 265GPH / 370GPH / 525GPH External Aquarium Filter with Builtin Pump Kit Canister (266 GPH)

A filter ensures that the water in the tank is being continuously cleaned. This ensures that the water is always clean and free of debris. Most herp vets recommend a filter marked for a tank twice the size of the tank you actually use and I agree with this assessment.

Some excellent filters to consider include the  Polar Aurora External Aquarium Filter, MarineLand Penguin, and  SunSun  HW-3000.

3. Remove Leftover Food Immediately

Most turtles feed in the water. As such, after feeding them, there’s likely to be leftover food pieces in the water. Remove these immediately after feeding using an aquarium fish net.

4. Clean The Tank

Python No Spill Clean and Fill Aquarium Maintenance System, Complete Ready-to-Use Gravel Cleaner and Water Changer for Fish Tanks, 25 Foot

Clean the tank regularly using an aquarium vacuum system such as the Python Aquarium Maintenance System.

5. Change The Water

Change a third of the water every week using the Python Aquarium Maintenance System if you have one. Every month or so, you will need to change all the water in the aquarium.

6. Maintain Chemical Levels

TetraFauna AquaSafe Water Conditioner for Reptiles & Amphibians 3.38oz (75077009)

Maintain the right chemical levels with the help of an aquarium water conditioner such as the TetraFauna AquaSafe Water Conditioner. After changing the water in the aquarium, check the pH, ammonia, chlorine, nitrate, and nitrite levels.

The pH level should be between 6 and 8. The ammonia level should be 0. The chlorine level should be 0. The nitrate level should be between 0 and 40 ppm. The nitrite level should be between 0 and 0.5 ppm.


Due to the wet and warm nature of turtle enclosures, turtle fungus is to be expected. However, with the right preventative measure, you can cut down their occurrence to almost zero. However, if your turtle is ever afflicted with a fungal infection, treating it is quite simple.

You can treat turtle fungus with a salt bath, or clean the fungus off with a soft brush and water. Treating the turtle with an iodine solution also ensures you get rid of fungus quickly. To ensure that the fungus doesn’t return, keep a clean enclosure.

Change the water in the tank frequently, use a powerful filter, and scrub down the tank using a bleach solution every month or so. If you have any comments or questions, do leave a message below. Thanks.

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Saturday 29th of April 2023

Hey there, thanks for all the tips. One question, my turtle is a baby turtle, tiny, how deep should the water be when doing the warm saltwater soak? Thanks

Regular table salt be efficient enough to give them a salt bath

Friday 1st of October 2021

Thank you for the in put 🐢 how about if you keep the turtle out of the water for short time can it dry up 🐢

Regular table salt be efficient enough to give them a salt bath

Friday 1st of October 2021

@Regular table salt be efficient enough to give them a salt bath, ok thanks


Saturday 26th of June 2021

Can you use epsom salts to give him a bath with

D. Lawler

Saturday 10th of October 2020

I have a 23 year old Chinese box turtle who has recently developed a fungus infection on the upper, inside part of her back legs. I've been using Betadine swabbed on directly to the area 2Xper day after her baths, left on 15 min., then rinsed off and towel dried. This is the fourth day, and I have yet to see any improvement. How long should it take to show improvement?? Also would treating this condition with salt baths be a better option, and is the use of epsom salts a good salt solution to use on Boxine? Thank you for your time and attention to my query.

Kristie Lundstrom

Sunday 21st of February 2021

@D. Lawler,