How can I stop the water in my turtle tank smelling and empty it easily? It needs changing every two days.

Buy a special fish-keeping gravel siphon that allows you to drain out the water into a bucket. Those operating off batteries are very easy to use. Just flick a switch to start the water flow. Never ever suck water through a piece of tubing to create a siphon. You may unexpectedly swallow some of the tank water, and this could make you very ill. Don’t try to lift the tank with the water in it either. It’s surprising just how heavy even a partially-filled tank can prove to be, with each gallon of water weighing nearly 4kg (9lb).

If you are feeding your turtles on fish or meat, the water will be rapidly polluted by leftover food. You could transfer them instead to a separate lightweight acrylic feeding tank, which will help to prevent unnecessary fouling of the main tank. But it is actually much better to use a balanced pelleted-type food such as Tetra's Reptomin. This will contain all the ingredients you need to keep your pets in good health, unlike meat or fish. Feed just enough to meet your terrapins' appetites, and fit a power filter in their tank.

The filter will remove much of the resulting dirt from the water, and save you having to strip down the whole tank three or four times a week. You should then only need to clean the tank and filter about once a week, with the gravel cleaner removing dirt that the power filter missed. It is also possible to obtain a special deodorising product, in the form of a beneficial bacterial cocktail, which prevents any unpleasant odour emanating from the water.

The other alternative would be to remove the gravel altogether, as it is really only decorative. This then makes it much easier for the power filter to operate. In order to choose the right model, you need to have an idea of the volume of water in your tank, or at least the tank's dimensions, so you can choose a correspondingly powerful filter with a high flow rate, usually quoted on the packaging in litres/hour. There is now at least one model available which is specially-designed for turtle tanks.



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