Why Is My Turtle Tank Water Cloudy? (and how to fix it)

Turtles are brilliant pets to have. They are interesting to watch and because they live for a good number of years, they make excellent companions.

Overall, turtles are fairly easy to keep. However, you must ensure that their basking light and UVB bulb are always at the correct temperature. As turtles need a different climate from us, these temperatures must be correct.

Why Is My Turtle Tank Water Cloudy

While turtles do enjoy basking on their basking platforms, most breeds spend the majority of their time in the water. Given this, it is important to ensure that the water temperature is correct and healthy for your turtles.

If you have noticed that your tank water has become cloudy, this can be rather concerning. While it is important to rectify cloudy water as soon as possible, luckily there are a few easy solutions to this.

In this article, we will be covering the reasons why your tank water may be cloudy and how you can rectify this.

Why Is My Turtle Tank Water Cloudy? 

As mentioned in our introduction, there could be a few different reasons why your tank water is cloudy.

In this section, we will be covering these potential issues in more detail.

Unbalanced Water

The main reason why your tank water is cloudy will be due to unbalanced water. Similar to when you keep fish, one of the most important parts of looking after turtles is ensuring that the tank water remains balanced.

A lot of the causes of cloudy water do tend to rectify themselves which is good to know if this is something that you have been concerned about.

The main reason for cloudy tank water is usually linked to having a new turtle tank. This cloudy water can be seen in both tanks for turtles and tanks for fish. It is usually caused because the water is new and not yet settled.

What Causes Cloudy Tank Water In A New Aquarium?

If you notice cloudy water in your turtle tank, you may be wondering what is causing it. In a new tank, the usual culprit is “new tank syndrome”. While this mainly occurs in new tanks, water changes can cause this too. This can occur in turtle and fish aquariums.

When you add new water to your tank, it does not contain any bacteria. While the tap safe will take the hardness and chlorine out of the tanks, it does not add bacteria to the water.

Bacteria are needed for the natural filtration process of the water to begin. While it is beneficial bacteria that you can add to the water to kickstart the process, the process only really begins when your turtle is placed in the aquarium.

When your turtle goes to the toilet, their waste is broken down by the bacteria that is slowly forming in your tank. These bacteria can be found in your filter. This is why it is important not to change your filter too often, as you are taking out both the good and bad bacteria.

The natural nitrogen cycle of an aquarium is as follows. When the turtles produce waste, this causes ammonia levels to rise in the water. When the ammonia levels begin to drop, the nitrite levels then begin to rise. When the nitrite levels drop, the nitrate levels rise.

Too much ammonia and nitrite in the tank can cause illness, and disease and can be fatal for a turtle. This is why it is important to ensure that your filter is working properly and that you are carrying out regular water changes.

When you have a new aquarium, it must go through this process. This will help to build up the number of good bacteria in your aquarium. It is the good bacteria that help to keep your ammonia and nitrite levels down within the water, making it safe for your turtles to live in.

When you first place your turtle into the tank, while their waste does kickstart this cycle process, they do produce a lot of it. If they produce too much waste that the beneficial bacteria in the water can manage, this will cause the ammonia and nitrite levels to rise in the tank – thus causing cloudy water.

How Long Does Cloudy Water Last In A New Aquarium?

The length of time cloudy water lasts can vary. It can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to clear. Fortunately, this problem does tend to rectify itself and you will not necessarily need to do anything to resolve it.

While it can feel tempting to change the water again, you are only adding to the cloud water problem rather than rectifying it. You need to give the good bacteria enough chance to multiply and get to work.

Ways You Can Help To Prevent Cloudy Aquarium Water

While we have already touched upon this slightly, we will go into some more details about how you can help to prevent “new tank syndrome”.

Tap Safe

As mentioned above, a tap safe is a very important additional purchase. Tap water typically contains small amounts of chlorine. Chlorine is responsible for killing bacteria. While this is great in situations where the bacteria needs to be eradicated, such as in swimming pools, it hurts your turtle’s aquarium.

This is why it is important to use tap safe every time you carry out a water change, regardless of how big or small the water change is. Chlorine can easily disrupt the natural cycle process, so you need to do all that you can to help prevent this.

Tap safe is fairly inexpensive to purchase, and you will only need a small amount each time.

Cleaning Your Filter

When you are cleaning your filter, you must not run the filter pads inside the filter underneath running water. Following on from what we have discussed above, this is not beneficial for your turtle or its aquarium.

This causes the removal of good bacteria as well as bad ones. As the running tap water contains chlorine, again this can cause new tank syndrome.

Instead, when you are cleaning your aquarium filter, you will want to clean it in the water you have just taken out of the tank when carrying out water changes. While this may seem counterproductive, it will prevent chlorine from killing the good bacteria.

Air pump

While a filter will help to remove waste from the aquarium, it is also useful to purchase an air pump. This air pump will stop your water from becoming stagnant.

If the water is stagnant, oxygen cannot enter it. Given this, the surface of the water should be disrupted constantly for the water in your tank to remain oxygenated.

While some filters do break the surface of the water, an air pump is a great addition. Especially if your tank water is currently cloudy.

Other Causes Of Cloudy Water

While “new tank syndrome” is usually the cause of cloudy water, in a new and established aquarium, there are a handful of other causes that could also be adding to this problem.

These things will all add to your aquarium not cycling correctly.

Water Changes and Tank Cleaning

Water changes will affect the balance within your aquarium. Too many water changes will cause too many good bacteria to be taken out of the tank.

While water changes are important, you should never take all of the water out of the aquarium. You should only be charging around 10% to 20% of the water at a time.

In contrast to this, too few water changes can be hazardous too. While a filter and the good bacteria will help to keep the levels balanced within the aquarium if you are not changing the water often or at all, the ammonia and nitrite levels will rise.

This is why it is important to carry out small, but regular water changes, to keep on top of the levels in the water.

If you are cleaning your aquarium too thoroughly, this will remove the good bacteria from the tank and can cause an imbalance. However, if you are not cleaning the glass and ornaments enough, this can lead to too much bacteria being present in the water.

Given this, it is important to find a healthy balance.


While it is important to clean the filter pads in the water you have taken out of the tank, it is also important that you have the correct filter.

While you may have the correct size filter for the aquarium you own, because turtles are larger animals, they need a fairly strong filter. If your filter is not strong enough it will not be able to filter the water correctly. This can lead to cloudy water.

In contrast to this, if your filter is too strong, it can also make the water unbalanced by taking too much waste out of the water so that it cannot cycle efficiently.

If you notice that your filter is not working as it should, it may be faulty. Faulty filters need to be replaced very quickly as this will greatly affect the balance of the water in your tank.


In addition to the waste that your turtle produces, did you know that their food can also add to the build-up of waste in the aquarium too? This is why you must try not to overfeed your turtle.

If you notice that there is leftover food within the aquarium after your turtle has eaten, we would recommend that you remove the excess food so that it does not affect the quality of the water.

You can do this by either using a net to scoop out the food or by using a water vacuum, which is a great way to keep your tank clean.

The Ideal Water Chemical Levels

Now that you know the causes and solutions to cloudy tank water, you may be wondering what the ideal levels are for the chemicals in your water. Here is a useful guide for reference:

  • pH – between 6 and 8
  • Ammonia – 0
  • Chlorine – 0
  • Nitrite – 0 (while the nitrite levels should be 0 if possible, they can range up to 0.5 ppm, but no more than this)
  • Nitrate – 40ppm (again this is the maximum amount and should be as close to zero as possible.

Out of the three chemicals, nitrate is the least harmful to turtles. However, too much present can cause problems.)

You can test the water by purchasing a water testing kit online or from a local pet store. We would recommend testing your water regularly, especially when you have a new tank to ensure that the tank is cycling as it should.

As mentioned above, if you do want to speed up the water cycle process, you can purchase beneficial bacteria that can help to kickstart this. You can also purchase a UV sterilizer that can help to keep your tank clean.

Caution should be taken when using these to ensure that it is not causing an unbalance in the water.


We hope that this article has helped to answer any questions you may have had about cloudy tank water. In the vast majority of cases, the cloudy water will resolve itself, especially if you have just carried out a water change, or if you have recently set up a new tank.

However, if the problem is recurring, there could be an issue with your filter or you could be overfeeding your turtle. If this issue persists, it is important to ensure that you are trying all of the methods we have discussed above to try and resolve this issue.

Always remember to use tap safe every time you carry out a water change and never place filter pads under a running tap. In addition to this, beneficial bacteria and an air pump can help to resolve cloudy tank water.

Dorothy Razo

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