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How to Deal with Turtles and Algae

If you own a pet turtle and you have a tank for it, chances are that you might have seen some algae growing on its shell. While this is a common phenomenon seen in wild turtles, it might not be healthy when it comes to your pet turtle. 

There are a number of different ways in which you can get rid of the algae on your turtle. While it might not be immediately obvious to beginners and novice turtle owners, cleaning your turtle is a regular part of owning one. 

Even though turtles live in a tank and you might not feel the need to clean them if you change their water regularly, there are some conditions that your turtle will be inflicted with if they’re not cleaned at periodic intervals. 

One of these conditions is the buildup of algae on your turtle’s shell. This article is a guide about turtle first aid – turtles and algae, and it outlines everything you need to know about how to clean and take proper care of your turtle. 

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.

While you should definitely clean your turtle on a regular basis, such as once a week, it’s important to clean them especially when you see any buildup on their shell.

This isn’t only limited to algae but also materials like debris. This might happen if your tank has dirt or soil on the bottom for a more natural look. 

Other tips you need to keep in mind is to never use soap on your turtle. This might cause irritation or inflammation of the skin. Only use shampoos or other products that are recommended by a licensed vet, as these are mild products that are safe for your turtle. 

Also ensure that you don’t clean your turtle over the tank or in a sink, as this might cause the spread of bacteria like salmonella. Use a plastic box or a bucket to clean your 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.

The Bottom Line

While it’s not strictly dangerous or harmful for your turtle to have some buildup of algae on its shell, it’s not something that should be completely ignored. Cleaning your turtle regularly is a part of owning one, and just because your turtle lives in clean water doesn’t mean that you have the liberty to leave them to their own devices. 

In this article, we’ve outlined tips for turtle first aid – turtles and algae, covering everything you should do to take care of your turtle and the right way to clean them. If you follow these steps, your turtle will lead a long, healthy, and disease-free life! 

If you enjoyed this article and are interested in similar topics regarding taking proper care of your turtles, we have a large number of informational articles on our website that would really help you. Feel free to check them out before you go!

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