How to Bathe a Tortoise

By Ben Team

With little more than a container full of clean water and an old toothbrush, you can bathe your tortoise periodically -- perhaps once per week -- to keep him cleaner and healthier. Additionally, by giving your pet a few minutes to drink before you begin scrubbing him, regular baths help to keep your tortoise hydrated.

The Container

Always use a container -- rather than a sink or tub -- to bathe your tortoise, as tortoises may carry pathogens that may make you sick. Select a container that is large enough for your tortoise to turn around in, and be sure it has no sharp edges, which may cause injury. Containers with a drain -- such as an old ice chest or cooler -- are especially convenient for such purposes. While you should not use soaps or detergents to bathe your turtle, you must wash the container with an anti-bacterial soap and rinse it well after each use.

The Water

Always use room-temperature water when bathing your tortoise to avoid causing him to become chilled. You will need to obtain the water from an indoor source, which supplies both hot and cold water, or you can use an outdoor tap, but you must let the water sit for a while to warm up sufficiently. Dechlorinating the water is not necessary, but you can do so if you wish.

The Toothbrush

An old toothbrush helps dislodge the dirt, grime and debris that often coat your tortoise’s shell, legs and tail. If you do not have an old toothbrush, use a soft sponge. Whichever you use, designate it exclusively to tortoise-care purposes; never try to wash it and use it for other purposes, which may spread germs and disease.

Rub a Dub Dub

Once you have all of the necessary supplies ready and your tortoise in hand, place your pet in the container. With your pet is resting comfortably inside, add just enough water to raise the water level to the bottom of your tortoise’s shell. It is important to err on the side of providing water that is too shallow, rather than too deep, as tortoises are not strong swimmers and can drown quite easily.

Without leaving him unattended, provide your tortoise with the chance to drink some water -- even if he chooses not to do so -- and adjust to his surroundings for about 10 minutes. Do not be alarmed if your tortoise plunges his entire head under the water to drink. This is normal behavior. Afterward, empty the initial batch of water, which may have become dirty already, and re-fill the water to the same level as before.

Use the toothbrush to scrub your tortoise’s legs, upper shell, lower shell, tail and head. Use a gentle touch to avoid injuring your pet, and avoid directly scrubbing his eyes, eardrum or vent. Pay special attention to the bottoms of his feet and claws, which are often the dirtiest areas of a chelonian’s body.

Dry Him Off

Dry your tortoise with paper towels before returning him to his habitat. This will prevent dust, dirt and debris from sticking to him, and negating your previous efforts.