How to Give Your Turtle a Bath? [Step-by-Step Guide]

If you didn’t have a turtle you might not know about bathing. Yes, your turtle needs regular baths in order to remain healthy. Nevertheless, not many turtle owners know how to bathe their turtles. It is not as simple as it might seem. So, how to give a turtle a bath? 

Read the article below in order to find out how to take care of your turtle and remove all the build-ups that can infect your little pet. Enjoy!

Why it’s Important to Bathe your Turtle?

two hands holding a tiny turtle

Your turtle’s hygiene depends entirely on you. It’s your responsibility to take care of their shell and, eventually, their skin. There are some reasons you need to bathe your turtle regularly. 

The first and most inoffensive one is the algae build-ups. They are completely inoffensive for your turtle, algae aren’t feeding on your turtle and don’t hurt your turtle at all. However, your turtle won’t be able to move as freely with a lot of algae on its shell.

Therefore, you should clear all the algae that get on your turtle. Moreover, it just doesn’t look very good to have a turtle covered in algae. Even if it isn’t unhealthy, it sure does look like it is. 

Secondly, there is the fungus. Fungus is a type of infection that can get to your turtle through skin and shell. While it is better for your turtle to not catch this infection in the first place, you can take care of it by washing your turtle and combining baths with medication and disinfection. 

Of course, baths can have a prophylactic effect as well. For example, the chances of catching a fungal infection while taking regular baths are very low. On the contrary, turtles that aren’t bathed regularly have higher chances of catching not only fungal but also bacterial infections. 

If we are talking about bacterial infections, these health issues can also be prevented by taking regular baths. You need to know that once a turtle has gotten an infection and the bacteria got into the bloodstream, there are high chances that your turtle will end up dead. 

Now, regular baths can take care of that. Bacteria are usually waiting for an opportunity to enter the turtle’s body. It lays on the skin and shell and once your turtle gets a cut or a bruise, it gets in.

Now, if you wash your turtle regularly, the levels of bacteria are significantly lower and, once your turtle gets a cut, the chances are bacteria won’t even be there. 

Also Read: Best Pet Turtles for Beginners

How Often to Bathe Aquatic Turtles?

an aquatic turtle swimming

Aquatic turtles, as you might know, are permanently living in the water. As a consequence of that, you might think they don’t need baths at all. Unfortunately, it is not like that. Yes, aquatic turtles don’t require a bath in order to get the fungus and bacteria away. That is because aquatic bacteria and fungus is dying a lot more quickly in the sun. Thus, you need to get your aquatic turtle out to bask. 

However, no matter how quickly can the sun kill the bacteria and fungus, you need to take your time and wash all the algae that get on the shell and skin. Although the skin and shell aren’t damaged by algae, they still need to be clean and shiny. 

Also, without the algae build-ups on the shell and skin, your turtle will swim and move more freely in both water and on the surface. That is because algae affect the smoothness of the surface and, as a consequence of that, the reluctance of the turtle is higher. 

Also Read: Red-Eared Slider Turtle Care Guide

How Often to Bathe Non-Aquatic or Semi-Aquatic Turtles and Tortoises?

Non-aquatic and semi-aquatic turtles and tortoises should be bathed no more than 3-4 times a week. This periodicity should help you clean out all the dirt and bacteria that can harm your turtle and, in addition to that, won’t hurt your turtle with chemicals and shampoo. 

Also, this periodicity will ensure that bacteria and fungus won’t spread around. Also, cleaning your turtle 3-4 times a week will prevent algae from spreading. The thing is, if your turtle will be clean and safe, the water in the aquarium will get constantly cleaner, and, with time, you won’t need to clean your turtle as frequently. This will happen on the condition that you will get a filter for the water in the aquarium. 

If you have more turtles in the aquarium, you might need to clean them more often. That is because they get in contact with each other and exchange bacteria, giving it the chance to survive a lot more and in higher numbers. 

Turtle Bathing Step by Step

Not many turtle owners know how to bathe their turtles. That is because it is not exactly common knowledge. There are some particularities that you need to take into consideration in order to succeed in this thing. 

Here is a guide that will get you through every step and will help you along the way. By respecting all these steps you’ll get your turtle clean and shiny in no time. 

Get a Special or Improvised Turtle Bath

a blue turtle tub

While you might think that washing your turtle in your bath or in your sink is a good idea, it isn’t. Turtles have a high risk of salmonella infection that could get to you if you’ll get the bacteria on the skin and, after that, in your nose, eyes, or mouth. 

In order to avoid this infection, you must get a special or an improvised turtle bath. Also, remember to wear gloves, use a special instrument, and don’t interact with the instruments that you have used. However, if your turtle is tested and doesn’t have any infections, you can wash it in your sink or bath. 

Nevertheless, you can always be cautious and buy a special turtle bath just in case. Salmonella is a very nasty infection and, while it doesn’t affect reptiles and amphibians, it surely affects human beings. Be careful while you wash your little pet friend. 

Get the Other Supplies 

a wooden toothbrush

You can’t just wash your turtle with a bath and some water. You need instruments, some soap and a pair of high-quality gloves. The gloves are meant to protect you and your turtle from infections. All pet owners think about the fact that their turtles can infect them. 

However, not many think about the fact that we are constantly interacting with infections, bacteria, and other nasty microorganisms. If you don’t wash your hand constantly, it is you who can infect the turtle with some diseases. 

Also, you need a toothbrush to clean all the dirt and bacteria from the shell. The algae are not as easy to clean as they might seem. You’ll need to brush the shell hard in order to get out all the remained particles. 

Last but not least is the soap. You need to choose the least dangerous soap that you can find. Ideally, it would be a vegan soap that doesn’t use chemicals and parabens. This way, you’ll minimize the risk of chemical poisoning. 

Water Temperature

Yes, the temperature of the water should be also calibrated. Turtles are very picky and don’t really love changes. A water temperature change can have a bad impact on your turtle’s behavior. From the loss of appetite to respiratory infections, all these things can happen due to the fact that you change the water temperature. 

All these health issues can be avoided if you calibrated the water you’ll use to bathe your turtle after the water there is in the water tank. For example, if the water in the tank is at 68 Degrees and you have and thermometer, you should try to get the temperature in the bath at this level. 

Scrub Your Turtle

You need to scrub your turtle very hard in order to get all the dirt and impurities away. Sometimes it is very hard to get out all the algae, bacteria, and dust that is getting onto the shell or skin. However, it is better for your turtle and you to use the brush only on the shell. 

The skin, while it seems hard, it is very sensitive, especially if you want to use a toothbrush. You can easily damage the skin and let the infections in. Also, if you use soap, make sure you scrub your turtle with it really well. Not only will it kill all the bacteria, and wash the algae and fungus but also will leave your turtle shiny and clean. 

Rinse Your Turtle

You need to get all the soap away before putting your turtle back into the aquarium. The thing is, no matter how clean and natural the soap might be, it is toxic for your turtle. Especially if you know the fact that your turtle is drinking the water in the aquarium. 

It is better to clean the soap in the temporary bath and let your turtle clean and shiny in the aquarium. This way, you won’t get your turtle intoxicated from the soap and you’ll keep the water clean for a longer period of time. 

Differences Between Bathing a Turtle and a Tortoise

The biggest difference between bathing a turtle and a tortoise is the periodicity of bathing them. While it depends on every particular turtle, tortoises need to be bathed oftener because they live on land and are dirtier and have more dust and dirt on them. 

However, turtles need to be bathed oftener if they are prone to algae build-ups. The algae need to be got away because it is slowing your turtle down and is just not looking good. Also, you need to be careful with their shell. While they seem very hard, you need to understand that if you’ll scrub hard enough you can hurt your turtle even through the shell.

How Long Should You Bathe Your Turtle?

There are no exact time limits that should be kept when you bathe a turtle. You bathe your turtle as long as you see fit in order to get all the dirt and impurities out. However, you don’t need to make hour-long baths. Do you want to know why?

Because you are using soap and soap is not exactly the best product your turtle can swim in. Now, it really depends on the concentration. If the concentration of the soap is high and, on top of that, it is a chemically-based soap, you shouldn’t bathe for more than 20-25 minutes. However, if it is plain water with a little bit of natural soap, you can wash your turtle for more than an hour.

Nevertheless, who wants to wash a turtle for an hour long. The best way to wash the turtle is just by quickly scrubbing all the dirt and algae from the shell and skin and end of the story. 

Do You Have to Dry Your Turtle or Tortoise After a Bath?

No, it isn’t necessary to dry your turtle or tortoise after a bath. Just make sure you get all the soap out with plain water and rinse your turtle in clean water, after that, you can just put it back inside the aquarium. 

Don’t forget, that your turtle is a reptile who loves water. Even if you have a tortoise that is living on the ground, it still loves to swim. Their skin needs water. Moreover, they are hydrating themselves through their skin. Thus, you don’t really need to dry them out after a bath. 


Now you found out everything there is to know about how to bathe a turtle and more interesting information on this topic. To sum up, everything I said, you need to wash your turtle regularly. Just don’t forget about your safety and your turtle’s safety. 

Dorothy Razo

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *