Do Tortoises Smell Bad as Pets? [Turtles too?] – ANSWERED!

Tortoises are odorless. The enclosure can smell, I suppose, if it is not kept clean.

One of the primary concerns of first-time pet owners is the effect an animal will have on their lives and household. In the midst of all of this anxiety is the issue of smell.

This is especially true for new tortoise owners, as a result of the abundance of misinformation on the internet.

To be honest, if you’re not prepared for what owning a tortoise will be like, you may be in for a nasty surprise.

So, do pet tortoises have an unpleasant odor? Tortoises do not stink and do not have a strong natural odor.

They may smell mildewy or simply have an outdoorsy, musky aroma. However, if their enclosures are not cleaned thoroughly enough, they can become breeding grounds for bacteria and other odor-causing organisms.

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A foul-smelling tortoise may indicate infection or illness.

As is the case with most things, this is far more complicated than a yes or no response. Fortunately for you, we are well-versed in tortoise care.

This includes an understanding of how they smell and how to use your nose to identify problems before they become life-threatening.

Do Tortoises Smell

What Do Tortoises Smell Like?

Many people believe that all reptiles stink without ever having come into contact with one. That is unjust to reptiles. If you ask any tortoise owner if their pets stink, they will almost certainly all agree.

Tortoises do not have an unpleasant odor. They do not stink in the way that a dog or a cat’s dirty, sour fur can. This is not to say they are completely odorless. They do have an odor that some people despise.

We’ve heard the smell described as musky. They have been described as smelling like fresh hay by some. Generally, they smell like whatever substrate is used in their cages.

Do tortoises smell like turtles?

Tortoises are frequently described on the internet as musty, smelling like a damp basement. However, if we are completely candid, the “wet” descriptors are more accurate for turtles. Turtles spend their lives in and around water, so it’s natural for them to smell damp.

Tortoises are exclusively terrestrial animals. If they are damp or wet and it is not bath time, there is an issue.

Typically, it is the Tortoise Tank that stinks.

If you overheard someone complaining about smelly tortoises, they were probably in a room with a filthy enclosure. Tortoises, on their own, do not smell bad. Frequently, it is the tank that stinks.

Because tank odors can originate from a variety of sources, it’s always prudent to rule out the following possibilities before blaming the tortoise.

  • Too Much Tortoise Poop

Tortoise feces can be quite offensive if left in the tank for an extended period of time. While it is not uncommon for tortoises to poo in their bath water, not all do. That means you must be vigilant for new poop each day to ensure it is cleaned up promptly.

While the poop itself has a mild odor, if left unattended for an extended period of time, it will begin to attract unwanted visitors. The smell of older tortoise poop will attract flies and other insects. Bacteria will also begin to grow rapidly.

Tortoise poop, if left alone for an extended period of time, can begin to mold!

  • Substrate That Is Wet

Even the most meticulous tortoise keeper can be taken aback by damp, odorous substrate. It is not always possible to determine the location of your tortoise’s urination because they do not always poop or pass thick, white urates.

They might simply urinate in a corner and continue on their way.

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At first, tortoise pee does not have a strong odor. That means that unless you see a wet spot or witness your tort defecate, you may be surprised a week or so later by a stinky, damp, hidden spot.

As with the poo debacle mentioned previously, urine left in the cage can begin to stink. It’s an ideal breeding ground for bacteria, which results in the odor. It’s also an excellent way to rot your tort shell.

Damp substrate can also occur as a result of a tortoise bathing. Tortoises enjoy a nice, long soak, but all that water has to go somewhere.

If you do not adequately dry your tort, they will bring the water with them and track it throughout the enclosure.

This is not an issue if the enclosure is large and open, or if the tort spends the majority of her post-bath time sunning. The shed water will have an opportunity to evaporate before causing odors.

  • Food That Is Not Visible

Occasionally, tortoises will drag food to a quiet corner to munch alone. At other times, they accidentally bring a piece of food with them. In either case, an errant piece of food can quickly transform an otherwise pleasant tortoise enclosure into one that smells.

Vegetable matter degrades rapidly. It will rot even more quickly if left in the warmth of a tortoise enclosure, tucked beneath a rock or in a moist hide.

  • Scrupulous Water Dishes

Even the cleanest-appearing water dish can have a slimy, gross bottom or sides. This scum gradually accumulates and begins to emit a foul odor. Simply draining the water and refilling it will not suffice.

You should give it a thorough cleaning every now and then. It’s something we do at least once a week.

  • Bacteria Are Found in Food Dishes

It is a fact that pet food dishes serve as a massive bacteria buffet. Even if your tort consumes every morsel of food you offer, a residue will always remain in the bowl. As with the water dishes, thoroughly clean them every few days.

How to Keep a Tortoise Cage from Stinking

This is so ridiculously straightforward that this will be a very brief section. To keep a tortoise cage odor-free, simply clean it. While you do not need to clean it daily, a little daily maintenance can save you a lot of time in the long run.

Sift the substrate daily if possible. Remove any feces immediately. Any damp areas should be dried. At least once a week, wash the food and water dishes with tortoise-friendly cleaners.

It’s that straightforward! A small amount each day will go a long way!

What to do if your Tortoise Smells Bad?

You’ve cleaned the tank and checked for hidden poops or food scraps, but the tortoise continues to stink. That is not encouraging news. If you are certain it is the animal itself that smells bad, an infection may exist.

To begin, inspect the area around each limb, tail, and neck where they meet the shell opening. Occasionally, tortoises develop rubbing injuries—raw, red, irritated areas. These can easily become infected if left untreated.

Give one of these sore spots a quick sniff if you come across one. If it smells particularly foul, there is almost certainly an infection present. This is a veterinarian trip! Even if a sore spot does not smell bad, if there is oozing or bleeding, you should see a veterinarian.

Tortoises do not heal these wounds well on their own, so your little friend will require assistance.

If you are unable to locate any sore spots on the skin of your tortoise, check the shell. You must inspect both the carapace (top) and the plastron (bottom) for cracks, holes, or soft spots.

Any crack or weakening of the shell provides an entry point for dangerous bacteria.

A shell infection will be nearly imperceptible. If you cannot see anything wrong but the tortoise continues to stink, consult a veterinarian.

Do Dead Tortoises Have an Odor?

As with all animals, a dead tortoise will have an unpleasant odor. This is partly due to the fact that bacteria and microorganisms begin eating away at the flesh in order to decompose the body. This rotting process can produce an unpleasant odor.

The almost sweet tang of a rotting tortoise, on the other hand, is caused by molecules formed when the tortoise’s proteins degrade. These include cadaverine and putrescine. The greater the number of these molecules, the stronger the smell.

The rate of decomposition of a tortoise is also determined by its environment. A dead tortoise kept in a very humid, damp environment will almost certainly produce a stronger odor (and at a much faster rate) than it would in a dry environment. You may notice the odor after 2-3 days, or even a week.

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Why Does Tortoise Poop Have Such a Bad Smell?

Tortoise feces does not smell bad by nature. This is contingent upon:

  • The tortoise species
  • Its dietary habits
  • The rate at which it digests

For instance, a Russian tortoise’s poop is known to be more pungent than that of a desert tortoise. This is due to the species’s unique gut flora.

Apart from that, if your tortoise digests slowly, the waste produced is more heavily processed and may have an unpleasant odor. It should not be overwhelming, but should be noticeable.

If your tortoise grazes casually on plants or grass within its enclosure, the food will be nutritious but unappealing. These meals will be more nutritious if you include tortoise leafy greens, fruits, and vegetables from the grocery store.

While this provides flavor and nutrients for your tortoise, it also results in more smelly excrement.

The majority of owners who complain about foul poop smells have an enclosure that has not been cleaned on a regular basis. Bacteria can attach to excrement and create a breeding ground, which produces a foul odor on its own.

Additionally, it may attract insects or other animals that feed on excrement, resulting in increased waste production. According to Insecta Mundi, various moth species feed on tortoise poop and use it as a nest for their larvae.

Does Tortoise Pee Have an Odor?

Tortoise pee has no immediate or distinguishable odor. The majority of tortoise urine does not emerge as a liquid but rather as a white-ish paste. This is because the tortoise processed the water it drank several times internally, wringing out as much liquid as possible.

According to the American Physiological Society, the leftover urate crystals are passed through the body in a manner similar to poop.

As with all urine, if it is allowed to accumulate, it can develop an odor. Once saturated, the enclosure will smell foul.

How to Make My Tortoise Smell Less

As previously stated, if your tortoise stinks, it is most likely due to smelly microorganisms in its enclosure. To revert this trend, devote additional time to the cleaning routine.

Not only should your tortoise be bathed on a regular basis to maintain good hygiene, but its enclosure should be cleaned on a regular basis to remove any bacteria or parasites.

Why Does My Tortoise Have A Fishy Smell?

While tortoises have their own distinct aroma, it should not be ‘fishy’. Often, a ‘fishy’ odor is indicative of a parasitic infection and originates in the urine. As a result, it is recommended that you have your tortoise checked and examined by a reptile veterinarian.

They will be able to prescribe the appropriate medication and discuss the best course of action with you.

Is It Possible To Give A Tortoise A Bath?

You can bathe a tortoise. Indeed, doing so is perfectly safe and beneficial. In reality, a tortoise bath is more of a soak in a sufficient amount of water. Additionally, if your tortoise is particularly filthy, you can scrub it with a clean toothbrush.

Simply ensure that the water is tepid and not too deep. Allowing your tortoise to soak for 15-20 minutes is sufficient time for them to rehydrate.

How Frequently Should A Tortoise Be Bathed?

A tortoise should be bathed/soaked once a week. This will keep them hydrated. However, you may need to bathe a tortoise more frequently during this time if they become particularly dirty.

Do Turtles Have an Odor?

Turtles are high-maintenance pets, particularly in terms of hygiene. As a result, determining whether they smell prior to purchasing them is critical in determining whether you can manage them and determine their tank location.

Except for their natural reptile odor, turtles have no strong odor. Pet turtles, on the other hand, will smell if their tank is dirty or if they are simply in need of cleaning. Thus, different turtles smell differently depending on their environment and what is stuck to their bodies; thus, describing the exact smell is difficult.

On the other hand, when threatened, wild turtles emit a skunk odor to ward off predators. As a result, you should never adopt a wild turtle as a pet because, in addition to their foul odor, they can be dangerous to humans.

Due to the fact that pet turtles do not produce this natural odor, you can manage their odor through routine cleaning and tank maintenance.

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Turtles will stink if kept in a filthy enclosure. Turtles require clean water to smell fresh because they spend the majority of their lives in water. Failure to properly clean their tank will result in the growth of bacteria and other odorous microorganisms.

Additionally, if you leave leftover food in the turtle tanks after feeding them, they will smell. Due to the fact that turtles prefer to feed from their tank, you should manually remove any remaining food if they do not finish their meal. Leftover food, particularly vegetables, decomposes and emits an unpleasant odor. If your turtle enters this water, it will smell similarly.

Turtles generate a lot of waste as a result of their large size. You should immediately remove this waste to avoid a foul odor. Additionally, these pets shed their skin through a process called molting. If not removed immediately, this skin can clog the tank’s filters, resulting in a foul odor.

Finally, turtles can smell foul as a result of disease, particularly shell rot caused by an infected scratch or injury. If your turtle and tank are clean but their enclosure still smells foul, you should take your pet to the veterinarian for a checkup. Shell rot is treatable if detected early. However, if it penetrates deeply into the shell, it may take time for your pet to heal or may even kill it.

How Can You Improve the Smell of Your Turtle?

Pets, like humans, require a clean enclosure and body to maintain a pleasant odor. If this is not done, their enclosure will become uninhabitable and will harbor disease.

You should wash and clean your turtle’s tank at least once a week if you want it to smell nice. A soft toothbrush and some water containers are required to clean your turtle.

The toothbrushes should be brand new to ensure that they do not harbor bacteria, and the containers should be large enough to accommodate your turtle.

You can wash your pet in the sink if you do not have containers. However, you should avoid bathing your pet in your bathtub due to the bacteria and microorganisms it may carry that may be harmful to your health.

To begin, cleanse your hand with soap and water to remove any dirt, detergent, or cream. The containers should then be filled with water, ensuring that the water temperature in the tank is maintained precisely.

When washing your turtle, use only clean water free of detergent to avoid irritating your pet. Then, while holding the sides of your pet, lift it and place it in the container containing their bathing water.

When cleaning your turtle, dip the toothbrush in a separate container rather than the one that contains the turtle, as the water in this container is contaminated. Scrub your pet’s edges first, then the top portion of the shell in circular motions.

After that, work your way around the edges, cleaning out bacteria and algae. After completing the top section, gently clean the bottom of your turtle with circular but gentle motions.

You can then place your turtle in a bright area and inspect and clean any areas you may have missed during cleaning. After cleaning, discard the toothbrush and container, as they are a breeding ground for bacteria and algae and thus are not reusable.

After that, you can begin cleaning the tank to ensure your pet is kept in a clean environment.

To begin cleaning the tank, drain approximately 70% of the water. While doing so, reposition the siphon to ensure that the majority of the algae is removed from the tank. The algae can then be removed from the tank’s sides using a silicone ice scraper.

Replenish the tank and reintroduce your pet to its enclosure.


Whatever you do, not everyone will appreciate the natural scent of a healthy tortoise. However, just because they dislike tortoises’ smell does not mean that all tortoises smell bad.

As long as you keep your tortoise’s cage clean, his dishes clean and sanitized, and his body clean and dry, you won’t have a smelly pet.

If your tortoise develops an odor, you now know what to look for. After cleaning the tank and dishwashing, check for injuries or illness. If all else fails, consult your veterinarian to ensure that everything is fine.

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