Turtle First Aid – Turtles and Algae

Algae on Turtle

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What do you do when you see Algae on your turtle?

Well nothing really, generally speaking it is not harmful to your turtle.Algae growing on a turtle shell is normal. In fact most wild turtles have some algae growing on their carapace.

That being said you can’t completely ignore the algae on the shell. There is a possibility that it is hiding something due to a previous disease or infection. As a responsible pet owner you should inspect your turtle once a week or so to make sure it is healthy.

Sometimes algae will grow under partially shed scutes, which could cause water to accumulate and a local shell problem like shell rot may develop. This is rare.

Please note that peeling scutes are normal but you should be vigilant to ensure it looks normal. If the shell looks deformed, rotten, damaged, the shell feels soft, has exposed bones, or is discolored; it is advisable to take your turtle to the Vet.If the scutes are not falling off completely or if the turtle is continuously shedding you should also seek medical advice.

Algae in the turtle tank can be a good thing. While it looks a bit messy, it helps to clean the water and provide a more sterile environment.

Reducing or Eliminating Algae

Slider turtle with algae on it

Algae needs sunlight and nutrients to grow, if you deprive them of both you will either eliminate it or reduce it significantly.

Using a filter or aerator to keep the water moving will also help as it is harder for algae to grow in this environment.Changing the water on a regular basis, brushing off the algae in the tank, along with adding a small bit of salt to the water can help as well.Chemicals are available at per stores to kill algae, but we don’t recommend them.

Removing Algae from your turtle

To remove algae from the turtle, brush it with a SOFT brush (old toothbrush). It may take a bit of work to remove all the algae so be patient and gentle with your pet turtle.

Different Types of Algae

Just as there are many different turtle species, there are many different types of algae. They can grow in clean water, or in a nasty swamp.

General Guide:

Algae that looks dark green and that grows in carpets or patches is fine.

Then there are the long, stringy, slimy algae.

This is not the good kind and you will want to reduce or eliminate it.

Steps to take include:

  1. Change the water more often
  2. Get a filter, or bigger filter if you already have one

If your turtles shell is slimy or slippery but you cannot see any algae, it is more than likely bacteria. This is bad. You will want to brush it of using a SOFT brush (old toothbrush) and continue this every week until the issue is resolved. If left unattended future health issues could occur.

If the water in the tank has a lot of bacteria this can happen, or maybe your turtle isn’t basking enough.

Be sure to provide a good space for basking and ensure the water is clean using a filter and changing it as needed.

What Next? Well… Check out the links below!

About the author

Brock Yates

Brock Yates has a passion for educating people about turtles & tortoises. He manages several websites and has a goal of getting everyone the best and most accurate information to help them with their turtle & tortoise care.


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