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FAQs About Turtle Systems: Filtration, Cleaning

Related Articles: Turtles, AmphibiansRed Eared Slider Care The Care and Keeping of the Red Eared Slider, Trachemys scripta elegans by Darrel Barton,

Related FAQs:  Turtle Systems 1, Turtle Systems 2, & Further Subdivided FAQs on Turtle Systems: Turtle Enclosures, Turtles & Light (UV plus), Turtle System Heating, Turtle Substrates & Decor, Aquatic Turtle Basking Areas, Turtle System Maintenance, Overwintering Environments, RES Systems, & Turtles 1, Turtles 2, Red Ear Sliders, Turtle Identification, Turtle Behavior, Turtle Compatibility, Turtle Selection, Turtle Feeding, Turtle Disease, Turtle Reproduction, & by Species: Cooters/Mud Turtles, Softshells, Snapping Turtles, Mata Matas, Tortoises, & AmphibiansOther Reptiles

Good sized, easy to maintenance particulate/mechanical filtration material... The ability to add carbon is a plus. AND this to be used in addition to weekly water changes.

Question about water filtration for my aquatic turtle      2/12/16
<Hiya - Darrel here>
My name is Laura.
<Hi. Our name is, collectively, "Crew">
I’ve been researching about filtration systems for tanks of certain sizes. I’m going to be changing my turtles 45gal tank to a 150gal tank.
<She'll like that>
I have an Eastern Painted turtle, she lives with 7 goldfish and a pleco at the moment with a HOB filtration system for up to a 90gal tank. My plans are to use a 150 stock tank, and build a turtle topper over part of it for basking/future egg laying. I have read that I would need at least a filter 2-3x the gal size. I figured if I had a 150gal tank I would need a filter that had a 750gph turnover. The head height I figure to be 25” at the highest point.
I have been searching and searching online for a type of canister filtration system that would give me the correct GPH turnover I believe I’ll need, but I have yet to figure out which brand of filtration system has what I need. Any help in finding a filtration system for my aquatic turtle would be greatly appreciated. I will be awaiting your response.
<Well, I have some good news for you. Maybe good maybe not ... who knows? The good news is that a tank that size that is mostly filled (meaning you're not having 7 inches of water and an in-tank basking area) is a lot of water for 7 goldfish and a Pleco, so your bio-load is going to be very low and that means hardly any strain on the filter.>
<Since you're using a stock tank {for those of you that are wondering, a "stock tank" is pretty much the opposite of a "show" tank -- instead of being very tall and long and narrow a stock tank will be long and wide and shallow .. so a lot of surface area for a turtle and not a lot of DEEP water which they don't care so much about} ....
um ... where was I?
Oh yeah - stock tank will give you a lot of surface area, which helps aerate the water which keeps the odor down ... and it also allows the choice of a high capacity HOB filter or a canister.>
<Now, for my tastes, I'd use two HOB filters at opposite ends of the same side (one right, one left) because I'm more interested in surface flow than deep currents.>
<Just remember that the substrate will have to be siphoned every so often because of the large amount of poop a turtle can produce>

Lieutenant Dan; two legged turtle; sys.: filtr.       9/3/15
I am the proud owner of a 2 legged turtle—I got him when he was about 2.5 inches. Stupid high school boys thought it would be cool to have a turtle and a Camden alligator in the same tank. His missing legs are both on the right side. He’s healed, bouncing off the bottom to swim and around 3 inches.
<I see>
My question and dilemma, I have moved him up from a 30 gallon short tank which I kept filled about 4 inches and kept clean with Tetra whisper 20i (don’t forget that bounce, he needs that to get up for air too) to his now current home long 33. Twice the swimming length. The Tetra wasn’t cutting it, so I bought an Eheim classic 250.
<A very good product, great line>
Got it all going but it seems like the filter isn’t as ‘magic’ keeping that turtle filth under control as everyone claims. Wondering if taking the little screen filter on the intake hose would help? Leery of that—worried he might get sucked on bottom, and can’t block it off because he is a digger (well 1 legged digger).
Tank is only filled around 6 inches deep. Do I give up on Eheim and try something else?
<I'd stick w/ the Eheim, and add a small submersible pump to aid in moving gunk around to aid its effect. Perhaps a small Hydor product>
I’ve raised turtles before and had an under tank filter and it worked great—but every where I read says don’t do that.
And I must admit it was a pain to clean. So—any tips on keeping this think clean?
<Oh yes. Read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fwsubwebindex/turtmaint.html
He will obviously be living alone (don’t want him to get picked on by bigger turtles) and seems very content.
A pre-thanks for any help you can offer.
<Oh; and what do you feed? I'd settle on less-expensive "Koi Pellets" as a staple.... w/:
Cheers, Bob Fenner>
Re: Lieutenant Dan>Turt. sys. filtr.       9/11/15

Well, I gave the submergible pump a go, and still had do do a major clean a week later. I’ve added the Tetra whisper back in today as well.
It’s getting old cleaning the tank fully every week.
<This is about what it takes to keep aquatic turtles. They ARE messy>
He can’t be producing more than other turtles, but dang it sure seems that way. Visited link you supplied and most of it was about red worms. No none of those.
I feed him float sticks and mealworms. I tried veggies here and there but the just get spit out.
Looking forward to a good ol’ clean tank!
<As DarrelL states here and often, I'd use less-costly "Koi Pellets" as my Emydid staple. Less mess and more convenient; oh, and nutritionally complete. Bob Fenner>

Turtle info         5/16/15
I just cleaned my turtles tank and it started splashing around as if he wants to get out of the tank. Swimming back and forth trying to escape.

Should I be worried about him?
<Did you use dechlorinator in the water? While turtles aren't as sensitive as fish to untreated water, their eyes can still be irritated by the chlorine and Chloramine used to sterilise drinking water.>
Is that normal?
<Turtles are "prey" in the wild, and don't like being moved about or having their surroundings suddenly changed. So yes, it's normal for them to be a bit skittish at times. But if this always happens when you clean the vivarium, do think about things you could do to reduce stress.>
Thank you,
<Welcome. Neale.>

Red ear slider turtle mechanical filter system.      2/24/15
I just got a red eared slider and I am trying to find a decent filter without spending a small fortune. Will the Marineland Penguin 200B filter system work for 20gallon tank with one RES in it?
<Mmm; will be hard to have sufficient dry room with having to fill the aquarium so high to fit this filter... but can be done for a while. You realize this animal will get much larger I hope/trust. Please read here re all:
We are exactly sure what we are doing. We are new to all of this! �� Any help would be greatly appreciated!!!!!
Thank you,
Holley Westendick
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>
Re: Red ear slider turtle mechanical filter system.      2/24/15

Okay. Let me ask this as a temp set up until I can get a bigger set up would a basking light and the florescent reptile light with water and a basking area in the 20 gallon tank be alright and I would need to completely change out the water 2 or 3 times a week since I don't have a filter system correct?
<Mmm; better for all (you included) to have one. READ where you were referred>
Thank you so much. I just want to have the baby as happy as possible until I can get him a bigger environment. He is just so sweet and beautiful.

Red Ear Slider bug problem      3/21/15
To whom this may concern,
<Hiya - Darrel here and it concerns me>
We have owned 2 red ear slider turtles for about 8 years and have had them since they were about silver dollar sized. They are now about 7" sized and we just started having this strange bug problem. The fly/mosquito like looking bug just appeared one day in their cage and rapidly multiplied over night. We cleaned out their cage washed the rocks and cleaned the pump and filter assembly. The bug problem went away for about 2 weeks and then have come back. The cage is in my house and has always been there too. These bugs are nowhere else in my home except in the turtle cage. We have other aquariums with fish and they have not had any issues in them. We are puzzled as to what we can do. We have contacted several local aquarium establishments and they have had no answer for us. Aquarium Masters here in Corpus Christi gave us your info and said that y'all would be the best to contact. We hope you can help us.
<We may be able to. But that said, it's not an easy solution because there are too many variables and not enough constants. This is my guess. Through some means, the turtles ingested some material that contains the bug eggs, and so while you cleaned out the system, you didn't clean out the turtles and so the system perpetuates itself.>
<In a situation like that here's what I do: First, I relocate the turtles to a temporary home, like a bathtub or plastic storage container with high and/or slippery sides. This new home is dry -- the turtles are going to live a dry life for a week, getting a shirt bath once a day right around feeding time. If using the bathtub, fill the tub with lukewarm water to about an inch in the shallow end. Most turtles will take this transition from dry to wet as a sign to A) Drink B) Poop C) Eat. At the end of 10 minutes, you drain the tub and since away any remaining food, feces and any possible insect pupae.>
<Meanwhile, che Turtle is undergoing a bit of fumigation. Fill the water level to 110% of normal -- that is to say that everything at or below water level is wet AND anything right at the edge of water level is also wet. Add 1/2 cup of chlorine bleach per 10 gallons or actual water and run the system for 24 hours. What we're doing here is exposing EVERY surface the water touches to the bleach - including the inside of filter tubes and hoses - until nothing organic remains. After 24 hours drain the water and refill with fresh. You can, if you want, repeat this procedure at this point - a second bleach cycle. After the final bleach cycle, drain the water and fill with fresh, run 24 hours, then drain and refill again. Then run for 24 hours.>
<So what you have is bleach for 24 hours, optionally another 24 hours in bleach, 24 hours in rinse and then a final 24 hours in rinse.>
<Now a final drain and fill to normal level and start the system.>
<So now we've rinsed the tank AND we've rinsed the turtles. Put then back together and you should be bug-free unless the bugs are coming from an outside prevaricator as some sort of joke ….>
<Slowly bends head and looks at Stephen ….>
Very Respectfully,
Stephen and Dena

Water quality for overpopulated tank of Red Eared Sliders      8/18/14
Thank you for your web site and resources. I have searched your site and others and can't get exactly what I'm looking for. I'm hoping you can help me with a technical problem.
First, let me explain that these turtles are not mine, they belong to a nearby university , and I'm trying to improve their miserable situation.
There are four (2 adult, 2 younger) Red Eared Sliders in a 65 gallon tank which is half full.
It's a bad situation.
<Doesn't sound ideal, no.>
I'm in the process of building a wet/dry filter, and combining it with a carbon filter and a chemical filter.
<I wouldn't bother with carbon or zeolite. Both need to be replaced very frequently (couple of weeks?) otherwise they don't do anything, so you may as well focus on mechanical and biological filtration. I'd aim for a roughly 50/50 mix of coarse media (to filter out solid waste like faeces and decaying food) and finer media (to process ammonia, positioned downstream of the mechanical media). Do bear in mind you're unlikely to get zero levels of ammonia or nitrite in a turtle aquarium, and often the best approach is to focus on water changes rather than relying solely on biological filtration. For sure high ammonia levels can irritate the eyes and skin, but unlike fish, turtles can clamber out on the land when they need to, and swim only to cool down and to feed (at least, if we're talking about Sliders; some more aquatic turtles are indeed more sensitive).>
Also, I'm getting some starter bacteria and to get the filter media started and some bacteria to help with the high volume of waste.
<Assuming this aquarium isn't sterile (!) then it's probably very well supplied with bacteria to start the filter maturing. Do remember the "good" bacteria live on any solid surface with a good flow of water and oxygen, including rocks, plastic plants, top 1 cm of gravel.>
What is the correct water chemistry for RES? pH, GH, and KH.
<Water chemistry isn't critical; the old "avoid extremes" mantra works here; 2-20 degrees dH, pH 6-8. So provided your water isn't strongly peaty and acidic, or conversely, isn't brackish/saline, it's probably fine. The ideal is probably slightly hard and alkaline primarily because this favours the best biological bacteria growth (the "good" bacteria we want don't do well in soft/acid conditions).>
Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
<Hope this helps.>
I need to make a good attempt at helping them, because I'm not sure the politics will stay friendly to me for long.
Thank you,
<Sounds like you're making a valiant effort here; good luck! Neale.>

Fluval 204 won't clean anymore  12/7/11
Dear Crew,
<Hiya - Darrel here>
I purchased and used my Fluval 204 canister filter for 3 months, and it cleaned my 40 gallon turtle tank beautifully.  Then, a clearish scum started appearing on the surface of the water.  Soon after, the water became very cloudy and gross to the point that I could not even see my turtles. And it smells horrible!! I drained the tank and cleaned the filter.  It was only a matter of days before this scum and cloudiness reappeared in a matter of 3 days.  I have replaced the charcoal filters and cleaned everything, and this scenario keeps repeating.  How do I get my clean tank back?
<Cloudy water and gross smells are usually caused by my brother-in-law, but in this case my guess is that it's a fungus.   What you need to do is a major cleaning and breakdown of the tank.  Start like this:  Remove the turtles and any other living things from the tank.  Remove and set aside all filter materials from inside the filter, but reconnect and restart the filter.  Fill the water to perhaps an inch higher than normal, so that everything that even touches the normal water level is now under water. 
Now add 1/2 cup of chlorine bleach for every gallon of ACTUAL water volume (not the raw size of the tank) -- leave the filter running for 24 hours.  
This will kill anything organic in the system.>
<Now the fun part:  Stop the filter and disassemble the system.  Drain the tank, etc.   Wash every component with soap and water; then reassemble the system, fill with water, run for 6-8 hours and then drain the entire system and refill.  Put filter materials back in the Fluval, restart the pump and put the turtles back in once the water comes back to room temperature>
<One thing to note is that NO filter canister will keep a turtle tank clear like it will for a fish tank - there is simply no hope of having enough biological filter base to ever have a working biological filter.  Once a week you have to vacuum the floor of the tank, siphoning off the detritus (waste, scum and dirty) for about 10% to 20% of the water volume and then replace than with fresh tap water.   The canister filter is to help keep the water clear and the odor to a minimum - you have to change the water to keep the water CLEAN.  Once the system gets ahead of you - as this one did, the only choice is to sterilize the entire system and start again.>

Re: indoor pond tank  12/1/11
What type of Eheim filter would you suggest?
<Read here re the turtles:
and on Eheim's site on the Net re their canister filters. BobF>
Linnea McHenry
Animal Care Supervisor/Educator
Re: indoor pond tank  12/1/11

I think I am going to go with a Pondmaster filter.
I love the Eheims but they're too expensive right now
What Pondmaster is the best for 228 gallons?
<The biggest available. B>
Linnea McHenry

turtle help. RES Sys. filtration   11/19/11
<Hiya - Darrel here>
I've got a Red Eared Slider living in a long tank. During the spring/summer he lived in our pond outside (with plenty of shade and rocks). Before that, some idiots kept him in a fishbowl for five years with the water filled up too high and no basking area. Before that, he lived in his natural habitat near Myrtle Beach.
<Is life seems to be improving!! The American Turtle Dream!>
Anyway, he's in his tank now, and the filter I've got is one of these:
And I'm curious - am I doing something wrong with the filters/tank/anything, because I literally have to change the two cartridges every three days. Is this normal to have to change these so frequently?? On the product reviews, the one reviewer said he has only had to change the cartridge once a month.
<No, that's not normal. My first question is - how big is this slider???>
Let me know what you think.
<Turtles are huge poop machines. It's nearly impossible to create a biological filter that will keep the water clean and clear for a turtle like you can for fish - they just eat too much and create too much waste. But that said, it usually makes the water dirty, as the detritus (that's a $5 word meaning "organic waste matter") collects on the floor of the tank. The problem with most filters is that they DON'T clean the water that completely - meaning that most people have the opposite problem you do -- they run a filter that stays relatively clean all the time, yet they have to siphon the bottom once a week and clean the tank once a month.>
<So what's different in your case? Most poop is heavy - it sinks to the tank floor and doesn't make it as far as the filter, so what comes to mind is to ask: what stuff is clogging the filter? Most likely it's too much food and it's the extra food that is floating in the water get sucked up in the pump. Or algae perhaps? I doubt it's the turtle's poop (for reasons already mentioned) which means that it's most likely something that you are adding to the water. With that it mind, go forth and experiment: less food & see. Different food & see. (You should be feeding all the food sticks or Koi pellets he can eat in three minutes, 3 times a week - not much more)>
Thanks for your time.
<No charge. Write back and tell us what you discover>
Re: turtle help   12/3/11

So we're almost to one week of not having to change the filter.  That log was 100% the culprit.  If the filters last through tomorrow, that will pretty much mean that without the log they've lasted twice as long as with it.
So thanks for your help, I think we've got it.  I appreciate it.
<That's what we like to hear, James.  Do us a favor, OK?  When you strike it rich or win the lottery or even knock off a fairly large liquor store '¦ remember us with the "donate" option at the top of the FAQ page, OK?  THANKS!>

Peach Fuzz on my Red Ear Slider  11/4/11
Hello, <Hiya - Darrel here>
I have a little turtle in a 10 gallon tank with a filter, but there is a whitish peach fuzz on the turtle and the rock he sits on. Please tell me what it is and what needs to be done for him.
<Hard to say from the brief description - sounds like a surface fungus.
Swab the turtle with some vinegar (try not to get any in his nose or eyes) and allow him to dry for an hour before putting him back.>
<Meanwhile, break down his tank and clean it with a diluted bleach solution, then rinse thoroughly before setting him back up.>
<The turtle shouldn't be developing a fungus as long as he has proper UV and basking (heat) lamps and the water should stay clear provided it is changed often enough.>
<Read this short article and compare your care standards with the suggestions and you can prevent this little thing from becoming a big thing!><<Yikes! Didn't realize the citation wasn't here till now!>>
Thank you for your time.
<yer welcome!>

Re Turtles, couple more questions on filtration and bleaching  11/4/11
Hi Darrel,
I noticed a FAQ you replied to on 10/28 (below) and it made me think of a couple more of my own questions for you about cleaning and filtration!
<Most good answers lead to resolutions. Most of my answers lead to more questions. Hmmmm>
As far as occasionally bleaching the entire system, I've seen you make different recommendations in different query responses for how much to dilute the bleach for this purpose.
<That's cuz I make this stuff up as I go, Sue. What I mean is that I've done it so many different ways, I guess, that I don't have a recipe per se.>
How much dilution do you recommend for the bleach when running it through the entire system?
<Anywhere from 1 per gallon (if you can stand the smell) to half that. Just make sure that's gallons of ACTUAL water, not the designed size of the tank>
And re: filter media -- Given that biological filtration will never be able to keep up with the turtle waste, I assume ammonia build-up could become an issue in between water changes. Does it make any sense then to also use ammonia remover in addition to activated carbon for filter media?
<es, it makes sense, but it's also expensive. While I use Hydrocarbon2 from Two Little Fishies on my Marine Aquarium, I use the cheapest granulated charcoal I can find in the turtle tanks and change it as often as I do service the tanks>
(Of course - as an aside, filtration is not even an issue for me at the moment since I had to evacuate my 2 kids, our cat, and all of our turtles on Sunday from our freezing house/snow-storm ravaged state with 2' of snow and downed power wires all over our lawn and driveway, to a 2nd home that's ironically 200 miles NORTH in the MOUNTAINS - and still recovering from COASTAL Storm Irene!
<That's what happens when you live where it snows. *I* only have to worry about earthquakes and fires>
You would ordinarily think that 2 homes would be enough back-up; unbelievable! So, for the time being anyway, turtles are temporarily living in storage bins on heating pads. KIDS fortunately, though, are faring much better than the turtles (at least candy-wise anyway), with TWO Halloweens this year - the postponed one (date TBD) in our home town, and their 1st ever night-time Halloween parade last night in Rutland, Vermont (very cool - in all definitions of the word! - It's supposedly the largest and longest Halloween parade in the country), where skeletons and other creepy figures handed them bucket-fulls of candy to help them forget their problems in Connecticut! LOL)
~ Sue
<Personally, I'd let the KIDS sleep in storage bins on heating pads and give the turtles the run of the house '¦ but that's just me. Remember '¦ when they turn 15 and you find out with despair that they're too old to leave at a fire station '¦ don't say I didn't warn you>

RES vs. painted turtles tolerance to water quality   9/26/11
I forgot to add that the other reason I'm trying to find a *better and easier way* is that my RES and painted turtles DO seem to react differently to water quality. My RES seems more tolerant than my painted turtles to water conditions, at least when it comes to how their shells react. My painted turtles shells start to feel slimy when only one day goes by without a water change. Maybe because their smoother shells make them more vulnerable to things in the environment settling/collecting/growing on them than the rougher, uneven surface of RES shells?
Since they share one of the same filters and aquariums, that's at least my theory anyway!
<Oh Sue '¦. Once every month you clean and polish the shells '¦ ever heard of Turtle Wax??>
<OK Wait '¦ I was kidding. Don't do that>
<In a turtle tank, the secret is adequate water volume, decent circulation and HUGE amounts of activated charcoal. In my Fluval canisters .. I eliminate the ceramic bio-media completely and the chambers are 1) Old fashioned filter floss 2) Activated Charcoal in bags 3) MORE activated charcoal in bags.>
<Just before cleaning day, you can stir up huge amounts of detritus from the gravel floor, but the water itself is crystal clear and has no odor at all>

Filter intake suction for turtle waste 9/21/11
Hi Darrel,
<Hiya Sue!!>
I noticed your query reply today about filters when checking WWM and it made me think of a question.
<Thank you for noticing>
Your reply said that no water filter will keep a tank clean and you always end up siphoning -- which may be the answer to my question anyway, but I still want to run it by you nonetheless because of the "challenge" I'm having.
<A Challenge --or-- a Problem? What is the difference?>
<A PROBLEM is a situation that is not good and requires direct effort on the part of a person or people to correct said situation so that the negative effects of that situation will cease.>
<A CHALLENGE is a situation that presents an obstacle and an OPPORTUNITY for a person or persons to demonstrate their intelligence, initiative and prowess at changing, moving, creating or otherwise overcoming said obstacle.>
(Someone told me once there's no such thing as problems, only challenges!)
<There are people '¦ many of them populating middle management positions in larger companies, that like to turn "problems" into "challenges" and the reason is as follows:>
<when you have a PROBLEM '¦ you have to get up off your lazy, corporate butt and actually expend some energy to FIX the problem. In the process you might get dirty, you might get wet, you might get hurt and worst of all, you may fail. In spite of your best efforts and energy that nature of the problem may be too big for you and you may fail>
<On the other hand, when you have a CHALLENGE '¦ you get to sit back and analyze it. Take a meeting or two, mull it over during lunch, consult a few other people, exercise team building approaches, write a memo or two, ask for consensus and then eventually staff out any actual ACTION to someone else.>
<In other words, you get to ignore it and hope it goes away.>
(Someone told me once there's no such thing as problems, only challenges!)
<People who say stupid things like that also listen to motivational tapes on their commute! To those people:>
Is there really NO FILTER INTAKE SUCTION (short of manually siphoning) that is strong enough to suck in clumps of turtle poop so that it ever has a hope of even reaching the filter? Even when the turtle poop is literally sitting within 1" of the intake to the filter, the suction even then isn't strong enough to pull it in! And the filters I'm using are rated many times over what I need.
<Yeah - not really. If you have a smooth bottom that is angled so that you have gravity aid, it is possible to place the filter outflow so that it sweeps the poop downward to the intake, but that scenario contains so many 'ifs' and such an ugly visual display that I'll just stick with "no" for now.>
I ask this because with the turtles getting bigger . so is their poop . and the amount of siphoning (AKA Time-Consuming work!) that I'm having to deal with on a daily basis. So much so, that instead of 50% weekly water changes, the amount of siphoning I'm doing is essentially amounting to daily water changes, to one degree or the other. And that's WITH feeding them in a separate bin AND only 3 times a week!
<It's still minor compared to having kids AND the turtles are more responsive, responsible and more affectionate.>
One aquarium guy suggested powerheads, circulators, etc. to try to try to either improve the water flow, or break it apart. However, even with better water flow there are still dead spots, and I'm leery about breaking apart/diluting that much volume of poop into what's not a large volume of water to begin with.
<It's the same problem with trying to create a bio-logical filter. For just a few turtles, you'd need a biological filter the size of a small lake>
As I'm sure you can relate, between kids, taking classes and all the usual other life detractors, I'm reaching the point where I may need to actually have to hire a service to come in and do this daily maintenance because I'm literally spending on average of 2 hours per day now between the 4 aquariums!
<I hear ya>
So I was wondering if you're aware of anything available "in the industry" that can provide a better suction on the intake so that the poop can actually get to the filter (while it's still "whole"; before it disintegrates)? Or some mini-robotic pool device that is made for aquariums and constantly scans over the bottom suctioning up the poop and other sediment? Or any other options that don't entail siphoning manually or with a Python? And/or that is automated and can be set up with a timer to go on and off even when I'm not home (hah, now I must be delusional!)
<What you need to do is go the other way. For example, cover the bottom with larger-sized, river rocks so that the poop falls down in the cracks, so to speak. Add a healthy amount of activated carbon to your canister filter and then let nature do its thing. Turtles are extremely tolerant of water quality issues, the carbon will remove an odor issues -- and then just deal with the siphoning and water changing once a month!!>
<What I'm saying here '¦ and so many people miss this '¦ there are simply situations that you can't control and you can go crazy trying to control them (kids being the prime example) so after a while of swimming upstream, you EVENTUALLY decide to just go with the flow. Sue -- you can't fix the problem, so make amends with the problem!>
<That's what I do and that's what you should do>
P.S. I also saw your (note?!) talking about your Fluval 401 filter. One of my filters is a Fluval 405 and I'm not having the kinds of problems you are with your 401. Just thought I'd pass that along!
<SO --- you're the one. YOU are the one that has no problems AND the one that the engineers all site in their customer satisfaction surveys! AHA! And I bet you leave the tags on mattresses, too '¦ miss goody sue shoes!>
Thanks Darrel, ~Sue
Filter intake suction for turtle waste     9/14/11

Hi Darrel,
I noticed your query reply today about filters when checking WWM and it made me think of a question. Your reply said that no water filter will keep a tank clean and you always land up siphoning -- which may be the answer to my question anyway, but I still want to run it by you nonetheless because of the 'challenge' I'm having. (Someone told me once there's no such thing as problems, only challenges!)
Is there really NO FILTER INTAKE SUCTION (short of manually siphoning) that is strong enough to suck in clumps of turtle poop so that it ever has a hope of even reaching the filter? Even when the turtle poop is literally sitting within 1' of the intake to the filter, the suction even then isn't strong enough to pull it in! And the filters I'm using are rated many times over what I need.
I ask this because with the turtles getting bigger '¦ so is their poop '¦ and the amount of siphoning (AKA Time-Consuming work!) that I'm having to deal with on a daily basis. So much so, that instead of 50% weekly water changes, the amount of siphoning I'm doing is essentially amounting to daily water changes, to one degree or the other. And that's WITH feeding them in a separate bin AND only 3 times a week!
One aquarium guy suggested powerheads, circulators, etc. to try to try to either improve the water flow, or break it apart. However, even with better water flow there are still dead spots, and I'm leery about breaking apart/diluting that much volume of poop into what's not a large volume of water to begin with.
As I'm sure you can relate, between kids, taking classes and all the usual other life detractors, I'm reaching the point where I may need to actually have to hire a service to come in and do this daily maintenance because I'm literally spending on average of 2 hours per day now between the 4 aquariums!
So I was wondering if you're aware of anything available 'in the industry' that can provide a better suction on the intake so that the poop can actually get to the filter (while it's still 'whole'; before it disintegrates)? Or some mini-robotic pool device that is made for aquariums and constantly scans over the bottom suctioning up the poop and other sediment? Or any other options that don't entail siphoning manually or with a Python? And/or that is automated and can be set up with a timer to go on and off even when I'm not home (hah, now I must be delusional!)
P.S. I also saw your (note?!) talking about your Fluval 401 filter. One of my filters is a Fluval 405 and I'm not having the kinds of problems you are with your 401. Just thought I'd pass that along!
Thanks Darrel, ~Sue
Re: How about an undergravel-canister combo filter along with river rock to suction up the turtle poop?!   9/26/11

Hey '¦ How did YOU know my old boss?!! LOL! However, the one *corporate perk* you DO GET by being the *Dumpee* of Middle Management *Challenges* is that you DON'T wind up WITH a lazy, corporate Middle Management *BLEEP*! Revenge is sweet in the end!
<I used to tell my employees: One day you'll start your own business and you'll have employees that treat you the way you treat me. It was fun to see the look of horror on their faces>
So I guess the net-net of your reply is basically that although we have become technologically advanced enough to launch a 2000 ton rocket into space, we still haven't yet developed the technology to send even an mcg of turtle poop to a filter! Really? Well, Darrel I'm disappointed. I thought for sure you must have devised some way around this!!
<Well yeah, there IS a way '¦ but it's ungainly and impractical. IF you have a completely bare bottom (the aquarium, not you personally) you can arrange the filer returns to fan out across the bottom with water jets that point to the filter intake, which is also positioned at the bottom - although at the opposite end. With enough current, you can more or less sweep the detritus across the bottom and into the intake.>
I do have a question, though, about your river rock suggestion (which is an interesting suggestion, thank you). In your (uh hum, *right* TM or *correct* TM !) opinion, what about along with the river rock, also adding an under-gravel filter THAT IS ATTACHED TO a canister filter? Do you think possibly the combination of these two filters attached together might be enough to suction the poop down through the rocks into the intake/filter? And do know if they make under-gravel filters for larger aquariums? (Again, using an under-gravel filter in my situation would ONLY be if it's attached to a canister filter; by itself it most likely wouldn't be enough).
Thanks Darrel!
<In a word: NO! Undergravel filters are never the way to go. They were "it" back when our primitive science told us that an oxygenated gravel bed would encourage beneficial bacteria to break down the waste product. What that science didn't tell us was that you needed a gravel bed the size of Minnesota in order to fully break down the waste from just an ordinary aquarium. The result is that under gravel filters end up being the OPPOSITE of what we want: They enable a build-up of fine grade organic particles on the floor of the tank below the filter in a place where we can't ever get to them without breaking the entire system down. So - NO UNDERGRAVEL FILTERS! They make work, they don't save work.>
<If you use sand or small gravel, use a layer just thick enough to cover, but thin enough that you can easily stir down to the bottom and what you'll have is a surface that siphon-vacuums very easily.>
P.S. RE: Mattress tags: I think you must have me confused with that *other Sue*, or *Suzy*, maybe *Coupon Suzy*?? Well, maybe not THAT Suzy, she clips EVERYTHING!!

HELP! Yellow Bellied Slider Turtle 7/3/2011
Dear Crew,
<Hiya - Darrel here>
I have a full grown male yellow bellied slider turtle in a 55 gallon fish tank with a couple of med. sized goldfish.
<Did the goldfish start out as feeders that the turtle never ate? And now they're additional pets to worry about & care for?>
I put some driftwood I bought from the fish section at Petco into the tank about a week ago. Ever since then I've been having to do small water changes every couple days cause the water would turn a light caramel color. Well I noticed both today and yesterday my turtle wasn't eating and had red streaks in the bottom of his shell. He has also been basking out of the water a lot. At the times he IS in the water, he sometimes has his legs spread out and acts as if he's going to throw up. I ended up taking the wood out this morning, and it smelled bad and had white moldy spots on it (the wood not the turtle). I threw it away, cleaned out the filter, did a big water change, like 40%.. and put the turtle out to bask in the sun for a good 45 minutes. He's acting a bit better but still not good. What's wrong with him and how can I help??
<He may simply improve with time. At the very least do another water change, but what I'd REALLY recommend doing is to sterilize the entire setup. Put the goldfish in a temporary tank, take the turtle out and put him somewhere warm and dry for the. Fill the water to the regular "full" level and maybe even an inch more. Add 1 cup of chlorine bleach per approximate gallon of water. Even a bit more is OK as long as you can ventilate the room so no one breathes the fumes. It's important that you leave the filters on and running during this process. What we want to do is kill the mold & fungus everywhere -- inside the tubes, down in the impeller -- all the places you'd never reach with even the most thorough cleaning. After 2 or 3 hours, you can drain the water, break the system down and clean everything. Rinse, use soap and water, rinse again & then set it back up.>

pet turtle trauma   4/13/11
Dear Crew
<Hi, Darrel here>
I have a 3 yr old painted turtle that got his front leg caught in the suction end of our filtration system (Eheim water filter) <<Where is/was the intake screen? RMF>>. Not sure of how long he was caught in it, less than 8 hrs. His leg is swollen, water retention/stress and has a bubble on the paw area and his claws are almost turned upwards.
<Not good>
He's unresponsive and doesn't look to be breathing!
<If he was caught underwater for anything longer than 30 minutes it's unlikely he'd survive. While they CAN hold their breath for hours and sometimes even days under the right conditions, being caught in a filter is not one of those conditions>
Not sure if he's in shock or, God-forbid, deceased. I'm hoping he's in shock and has gone into hibernation mode.
<I'd doubt that>
I hope he isn't dead.
<That is the likely outcome, Robin. Sorry to have to say that.>
He's just a little guy, about 3 inches in diameter. And he was my Christmas gift...my little Urtle. We did turn off the filtration system and had removed his leg, placed him on a floating dock. He did move his head when placed on the floating dock and I swear I saw his left back leg move when I picked him up this morning. I'm hoping it was not rigor mortis but his body isn't stiff and his flesh is normal color. He's just limp.
I had gotten a slight response
Can you advise?
<I'm sorry to be the bearer of bad news, Robin, but if he hasn't recovered overnight, there is nothing that really can be done. The only thing I've done in similar circumstances is to place them head-down on a steep incline. Since turtles have a fixed rib cage, they can't cough and the only way to expel water from their lungs is to let gravity drain them. Beyond that there is really no first aid for this kind of disaster. I have squeezed shells from time to time - in the hopes of helping to start a heart, but there's no science to that, just something to try ... but all of this would have to have been done within minutes of his being freed.>
<I'm so sorry, Robin. I wish I had better news>
<If, as I suspect, it is too late for Urtle '¦ I hope that he meant enough to you to encourage you to get another and continue to try. There are so many animals in pet stores - that can never hope to have the kind of caring home you have provided'¦ what I'm saying, I guess, is that if it's too late to save Urtle I know that there are many, MANY turtles in pet stores than can still be rescued.>
<On behalf of Bob Fenner and the entire crew, we wish you the best, Robin>

slime in my painted turtles tank  3/1/10
How do I get rid of the slime in my turtles tank
<Make sure the tank is big enough and properly filtered for one. Also make sure the turtles aren't overfed for another.>
I have scrubbed the tank over and over again I change the filter frequently I wash of miss T ALL WITH PLAIN WATER !! she is covered with some sort of slime
<This slime is probably bacterial in origin, if grey or off-white, and grows because there's too little water movement and too much organic matter in the tank.>
the filter gets clogged with this stuff HELP the slim is a pale green/gold color the consistency is egg white or (sorry) drippy snot it has a smell to it like feces or something rotten .
<The "rotten" may be part of the answer: there's decay going on in this tank. The thing with reality is stuff happens whether we like it or not, and organic decay will happen wherever you have warm, wet conditions and lots of organic matter (food, faeces, dead skin, etc.). In this case, I'm betting your tank is relatively small and the filter rather pokey. In a big tank with a strong filter problems like this don't tend to occur. So, review the vivarium you have, and make sure it meets some sort of baseline in terms of size and filtration. There's a nice summary here:
Note that while a small tank might be fine for a juvenile turtle, a big turtle needs a big tank with a big filter.>
I can't seem to get rid of it. I shows up two or three days after cleaning the entire tank I change the filter every three to four days please help asap
<Linda, can you do me a favour? Take a moment to read your messages before you send them out. This one has missing full stops (periods) and words that simply don't make sense. I'm not being picky here; it was really quite difficult to understand what you were saying. Perhaps you're 8 years old, or dyslexic or something, in which case forgive me, but like any volunteer, I can do more to help you if you make my life easier. Cheers, Neale.> 

Canister filter problems with air locks on turtle tank   12/15/06 I'm in the process of setting up a 280 gallon turtle tank, in an aquarium that used to be just fish.  All was going well until I dropped the water level about 9" below the top of the tank, tried to restart my Fluval FX5 canister filter, and discovered that it is not strong enough to overcome the airlock. <Ah, yes... actually the "draw" or vacuum is problematical here... Like most canister filters, this ones pump is intended to "push", not pull...> For the time being I am pushing water into the Fluval with an Iwaki pump, but it is very noisy and of course the Fluval was not designed for such use. <Yes... and quite dangerous... could easily "pop" open the canister... flood your floor... I would remove this pump, not use it> What do people usually do to overcome this problem? Frank. <Mmm, many folks use internal filters with turtles... there are powered and air-driven types you could use... do ask your LFS dealer (fish stores) what they have, suggest here. These types of filters require about as regular... weekly, cleaning as a canister. Bob Fenner>

Canister Filter For Turtle Tank  - 09/07/06 Hello Bob, I just found your site on questions and answers today while doing some research on canister filter systems.  My set up is for 2 red eared sliders about 15 years old, 7 and 8 (inches approx.) in length.  The tank (50 gal) is about 80 % full of water.  I have attached a ramp and a flat dry area near the water line with ledgers and aquarium silicone (very basic and not pleasing to look at but you can't have stuff the turtles can fit into their mouths).  I had an old AquaClear outside power filter hanging off the back but it recently got dropped during a cleaning.  It was doing a fine job of keeping the water clear with the sponge and carbon but each time the power went off it would get hot and stop.  Luckily it never burned out. I probably should have done more research but as you know, you can't leave a turtle tank unfiltered.  Stinky!  I would do complete water changes every 7 to 10 days to keep the glass clear and remove the turds.  I purchased a Odyssea CFs 4 and so far no problems.  I have been doing research (belated I know) on this product because I had not heard of it before.  I worked for a local pet store 20 plus years ago and it was not around then.  Info that I have seen suggests that the o rings dry quickly and the on off valves where the hoses attach to the canister are not up to par (don't last too long leak wise and break easily).  It can still be returned for an exchange.  You seem to prefer the Eheim in the info that I have read.  Would you suggest going that route? < This is a new filter that has had mixed reviews. It is cheap, somewhat powerful and a little noisy. I think if your tubing is fairly straight then there is less of an issue with the valves. With sharp bends on the tubing, the valves can't hold the hoses intact and this stress and it creates cracks and leaks. Eheim has been around for many years. Their filters are expensive and not as powerful but they are well made and will last a very long time.> Also the outlet part of the Odyssea seems to create a lot of foam.  They seem to be afraid of the foam.  The falls from the AquaClear did not make foam.  I could lower the outlet into the water because the turtles do not require aeration like fish,  just filtration.  Also would a sterilizer be a good investment? < Not needed for a turtle tank.-Chuck> Thanks you for any information you might have to give me. Alethea

Cleaning the Turtle Tank.  - 02/16/2006 Chuck, Thank you for your response.  We have done 100% water change (I'm going to hate my water bill this month) twice since I sent you the below email.  Within 2-3 days, we can't see the other side of this tank. I did notice when I cleaned it, in the corners and by his heater and dock there were orange/red particles.  I've never seen or heard of an orange algae.  Also, describing it as "cloudy" is a bit misleading.  His water looks kind of like LA smog - a bit of a yellow/orange tinge to it. Below you mention feeding him.   We have been feeding him the same diet and the same amount of food.  Nothing has changed.  We also scoop out any left over food after about an hour. We also bought a brand new Fluval 4 filter and changed the submersible filter. I went to the pet store to look at some algae kill products, but I don't want to hurt my turtle. Any more suggestions? < I don't think it is an algae problem. He is what I think is going on. Is your turtle food and orange color? I am thinking that when the turtle bites into the food it breaks down into fine dust like particles. This dust settles out in the corners of the tank with little or no current. The dust starts to decompose and feeds the algae and clouds the tank. Probably with the food particles. Instead of feeding him the same food I would suggest a change in diet. For one week try mealworms, kingworms, and earthworms and see if the tank clears up. If it does then switch another brand of turtle food and continue to supplement his diet with the occasional worms.-Chuck>

Python Water Changer For Turtle Tank   1/22/06 Hi there! I have been reading these posts all night, and I am impressed. This e-mail isn't to ask a question, but rather to suggest a new post. Many of your readers have asked about keeping the tank clean. I have recently discovered a little gizmo called 'The Python'. It is my opinion that EVERYONE who has turtles should get one because they make life a heck of a lot easier. All it is a tube that hooks to any faucet in your house and the other end goes into your aquarium. You just switch the settings a bit and it sucks the water out of the tank and puts in back in...all WITHOUT a pump!!! It is amazing. I have had my RES for almost 6 years, and she is doing very well and always has. I don't know why someone didn't suggest this to me earlier because it makes the weekly 30-50% water changes MUCH MUCH easier. They come in all different lengths so it doesn't matter how far away your sink is...so go invest...IT IS WAAAAAYYYYY worth it!!!Melanie < Aquarists have used these for years and they do work great. Happy to pass this along to the turtle keepers out there. thanks.-Chuck>

Messy Turtle - Dirty Tank 10/31/05 Hi, I know a lot of people already asked if turtles and fish could co-exist. I kind of have a similar question, but I just want to be more specific. My turtle is very messy and I just don't have the time to keep up with it weekly. I was wondering if I could put cleaner shrimp or cleaner fish in the tank with the turtle to help pick up the mess. He's a North American wood turtle. I'd appreciate it if you could help. otherwise bongo's going to have to find a new home. :-( thanks. God bless, Roxanne < Putting cleaner shrimp or fish would not really be practical to keep you tank clean. Check out the filters at Drsfostersmith.com. Get one that will be easy to clean and at least move three times the volume of the tank water per hour. Add carbon to remove odor and color from the water.-Chuck> 

Freshwater Filter Selection, 5/27/05 I have two small red-eared sliders (3 - 3 1/2 in long) in a 10 gallon tank. I will be moving them to a 30 gallon long sometime in the next few days. Currently I have a Whisper in-tank filter, and I was thinking I could just get a bigger version of the same filter for the new tank, but apparently (from what I've read) in-tank filters don't really cut it in aquariums that big. My tank doesn't have any holes in it, either to let a filter hang down lower on the edge, or to come up through the floor of the tank. What are my options without having to find a way to cut a hole in the tank? <Hi Rebekah, Ryan with you today. There are plenty of filter options that will work for you here- Your best non-drilling option is a sump wet/dry filter with what's called an OVERFLOW. This uses suction to take water from the aquarium over the edge, rather than through a drilled hole. Hang on filters are capable of filtering a 30 gallon tank, however. I'd go with a large hang-on style power filter if all this seems a little overboard. Good luck, Ryan> 

Ammonia Problems in a Turtle Tank 7/16/05 I have a yellow belly slider. We have had it for about 1 1/2 years. About six weeks ago we cleaned the filters and the water all in one day. since then  we have had trouble with the water. It has too much ammonia. We are doing 10% water changes daily. We have 2 canister filters in a 90 gallon tank. I also have put some Zeolite granules in the filter that I have been changing weekly. The water is mucky and a dirty brown. The water did have a smell to it but that is gone. We tested the water and it just shows that it has to much ammonia. Today I notice the area around the turtles mouth was yellow and his shell looked a little yellow. Any suggestions? < When you cleaned everything you removed the good bacteria that breaks down the waste from ammonia to nitrites and then nitrates. The ammonia is the worst. It gives off the smell and odor. Bio-Spira from Marineland will put it all back together in no time at all. To prevent this in the future I would recommend a 50% weekly water change and change each one of the filters every month two weeks apart. So clean one filter on the first of the month and the other on the 15th. Try this and see how it works out.-Chuck>

Filtration Questions, stocking mixed "ponds" Hi, I inherited a 135 gallon aquarium from a friend about a year ago.   Originally, I had the tank separated in half with Plexiglas with one side being land and the other water - for two yellow belly turtles.  After a short while I got a number of other animals for the aquaterrarium like a clawed water frog and a small variety of fish.  At the time the center barrier was 8 inches high and contained roughly 20 gallons of water.  I bought a Fluval 2Plus filter for the tank which seemed to work well and I changed 50% of the water once a month.  However, as I've gotten a few more fish and raised the water level to 12 inches, I've had some problems.  The water isn't filtering well enough (obviously since it now exceeds the specifications for the Fluval 2plus by about 10 to 15 gallons) it is discolored (kind of green/brownish) and I have to change part of the water 3 or more times a month to keep it looking ok.  I've even added algae-eaters and snails to help, but with little avail.  I haven't lost any fish or turtles yet and don't want to so I'm looking for some answers. <These filters are rated using an accepted level of stocking to determine their "per gallon" capacity. IOW, it is very easy to overstock a given volume of water to the point that the water and filter are overwhelmed. You are there my friend. Fish and turtles together can be a tremendous mess, the algae is from overloaded wastes. Consuming the byproduct doesn't address the cause, overstocking, poor filtration, more as addressed below...> I did receive with the aquarium a Fluval 403 model canister filter containing a ceramic, foam, and charcoal for filter medias, but I do not have any instructions for setup or use (do you know where I might obtain some?) and I am not sure if that would be appropriate or not for my tank. <Go to the Fluval website to obtain this. I would use it in addition to the 2 plus.> I use tap water when I fill the tank, and have tried both Biosafe and Stresscoat water purifier/conditioners -- should I be worried about any toxins those may not take care of? If so, what might be a simple and inexpensive solution? <Yes, be concerned with chlorine, chloramine (both will kill your fish/bio-filter capacity/etc.) and possible wastes that contribute to algae (ammonia, phosphate, etc.) A complete water test at your Local Fish Store is a good idea.> I'm also curious whether you think my 100 watt heater is sufficient for my tank I believe it is about 30 to 35 gallons of water. <If this is the actual volume, it is okay.> I appreciate any help you can provide and any comments or suggestions above and beyond answering my questions. <Yes, please read the pond and freshwater questions at WetWebMedia.com esp. on filtration, the nitrogen cycle, stocking. I hope this gets you pointed in the right direction. Craig>

Via Aqua Filters Hi This is a stupid question but I just moved into a house and the previous tenant had 2 turtles in a tank he said he would come back in a few days and pick the turtles up and never did. I don't know any thing about filters or how to keep marine life in general! Any way the water is all dirty so I figured the filter and tank needs cleaning. The tank has a Via Aqua filter but I have no Idea where to begin and If I take It apart water just flows out. I have been to all my local pet stores etc and no one know of these filters. I need to do some thing I feel cruel keeping these turtles in the tank like that. How do I go about Cleaning these filters? <Mmm, easy enough... disassemble, rinse... sometimes renew activated carbon to rid the smell of those stinky turtles... Please see here: http://www.commodityaxis.com/ResourceData.aspx?id=21 or contact Commodity

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