Can Turtles Live In Tap Water?

Sep 13, 2021

Can Turtles Live In Tap Water?

Most beginner hobbyists will be confused about using tap water, bottled water, or distilled water for their turtle tank. And there is nothing wrong with asking the obvious questions (Yes, I’ve been there too).

Turtles live, breed, mate, and eat in water – so it is of utmost importance to know what elements are there in the water you house them in.

So, without delay, let’s discuss whether turtles can live in tap water or not.

Can Turtles Live In Tap Water?

Although turtles are tougher than fish, they will have a hard time acclimating to tap water. In most regions, tap water contains chlorine and fluoride, which don’t match with the optimum water parameters required for turtles to thrive.

The drinking water that comes into our homes is chlorinated to make it safe to drink for us. But, the same cannot be said for turtles because turtles in wild aren’t exposed to chlorinated water.

In the wild, turtles live in a freshwater ecosystem where they spend most of their time in the water. As pet owners, we must try our best to mimic their habitat in wild. And treated tap water doesn’t quite emulate the water chemistry they need. So, we shouldn’t keep our turtles in tap water.

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Will Tap Waters Kill My Turtle? What Happens When You Put Tap Water In Turtle Tank?

No, your turtles won’t die immediately if you keep them in tap water. But it indeed will cause several health problems, eventually becoming fatal for your turtles. For example, too much or too frequent exposure to tap water can lead to respiratory infections.

Some common symptoms of respiratory infections in turtles are excessive mucus in their mouth; bubbles blowing from their mouth, nose, and eyes; open mouth breathing; loss of appetite; etc.

So, just because your turtle doesn’t seem visibly uncomfortable or doesn’t react to it right off the bat, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are okay and will put up with living in tap water.

Serious health complications will soon follow, and it won’t be up to you when the time comes.

So, it is advised not to keep your turtles in the tap water tank.

Signs of Discomfort In Turtles

Your turtles will often display some visible signs of discomfort when living in tap water.

First and foremost, they will cut their swimming sessions short. Turtles find it hard to swim in chlorinated water; so, they will bask instead.

Furthermore, as they are unwilling to go inside the water, they will gradually become dehydrated, which will lead to complications like shell rot. 

Optimum Water Parameters For Turtles

Here are the optimum water parameters required for turtles.

  • pH value: 6.0 to 8.0
  • chlorine level: 0
  • Ammonia level: 0
  • Nitrite level: 0
  • Nitrate level: less than 40 ppm

What Kind Of Water Do Turtles Need?

Turtles need freshwater – free of chlorine and ammonia – in their habitat. So use either distilled water or dechlorinated tap water in their tank.

Let’s dissect both these options.

Dechlorinated Tap Water

It is the most viable source of water for your turtle aquarium. The water we drink is chlorinated to kill bacteria and other various pathogens. However, even a minuscule amount of chlorine can wreak havoc on your turtle’s health.

So, you first need to check whether the tap water you use for the turtle tank has chlorine. If yes, you have to dechlorinate it using a water conditioner.

If you are unsure whether your drinking water has chlorine, you might want to check it using a water test kit.

Here’s the water testing kit I use for my turtle tank.

Distilled Water

Distilled water is another safe option to use in your turtle tank. If you are using distilled water, you won’t have to use a water conditioner. In most cases, distilled water will be free of harmful particles, microbes, or other contaminants.

However, distilled water is comparatively expensive. So, it will be better to opt for tap water and have it dechlorinated with a water conditioner.

What Kind Of Water Conditioner Should I Use For Turtles?

There are several options for you to choose from. They are readily available both online and offline.

If you don’t want to bother visiting a store just for a water conditioner, here’s a reliable option from API that I use for my turtle tank.

Can I Use Bottled Water For Turtles?

Tap Water For Turtles

Yes, you can use bottled water for turtles. But, the expense will be much higher than the standard alternative – dechlorinated tap water.

Can I Use Tap Water For My Turtle If I Have A Filter?

Yes, filters help in purifying your turtle’s tank by removing ammonia and nitrates. But, it doesn’t dechlorinate the water. So, you will still need to use water conditioners to keep it free from chlorine.

How To Dechlorinate Tap Water?

Remember, there shouldn’t be any traces of chlorine in the water you use for your turtle tank. But, if there’s any, you have to dechlorinate the water using this simple process.

Here’s how you can dechlorinate tap water for your turtle tank.

  • First, you need to take your turtle out of the tank. If there are other tank mates, you have to take them out too.
  • Keep them in water that closely mimics the tank’s parameters.
  • Read the label carefully, and add instructed amount of the conditioner into the tank.
  • Leave it for about 15 minutes. Larger tanks take time to circulate water – so, wait for at least 30 minutes before putting your turtles back.
  • After the wait is finished, you can put your turtles back into the tank.

Different water conditioners have different concentrations. So, you need to look at the label and adhere to the instructions to the T. Usually; most conditioners come with one cap for 10 gallons.

These conditioners will remove the traces of chlorine and chloramine present in tap water.

Alternative Way To Dechlorinate Tap Water

There’s a subpar way to dechlorinate your turtle tank. However, this shouldn’t be considered as a full-proof way to dechlorinate water in your turtle tank.

You can use an air pump to aerate your turtle tank to dechlorinate tap water.

Aerating also helps in removing chlorine from your turtle tank. These aerators will circulate the water by constantly creating water bubbles and thus, removing chlorine in the process.

Final Words On Can Turtles Live In Tap Water

Though there’s no immediate effect of tap water on your turtles, they will suffer from chlorine present in tap water in the long run. Even a minuscule amount can have adverse effects on your turtle’s health.

When turtles cannot acclimate to tap water, they will reduce their swimming time and bask for extended periods.

And as it goes without saying, wrong water parameters will effectively stress your turtle. White spots on shells and loss of appetite are some of the signs of a distressed turtle.

The use of water conditioners and aerators definitely helps in removing chlorine and other harmful microbes present in tap water.

Relevant Readings:

How To Tell If A Yellow-Bellied Turtle Is Male Or Female?

How To Tell If A Mississippi Map Turtle Is Male Or Female?

Can Turtles Fart? Why Do Turtles Fart? (With Audio And Video)

rohit gurung author at urbanfishkeeping

About Rohit Gurung

My never-ending love and fascination with Aquascaping started when I received a red-eared turtle for my 10th birthday.

Apart from researching and writing, I spend hours gazing at my 3 turtles. And yeah, I bask alongside them too.