Can Turtles Swim In Chlorine Pools
If your pet turtle is like many others on the block, he lives most of his life outside — where there’s plenty of room to stretch out. Most turtles spend their adult years basking or sunning themselves under a shady tree or rock. They’re not big fans of water at all until later in life when they decide to take up sculling as an exercise activity.
With that said, if you do have a turtle who enjoys wading around in shallow waters, then you should be aware of one potential hazard: Chlorine toxicity.
In general, any animal that spends time near or in chlorinated water will develop health problems within 24 hours. This includes humans, fish, birds, other reptiles and yes, even turtles.
For this reason, before you bring your new aquatic friend home, make sure you familiarize yourself with basic information about chlorine and how it affects animals. (I talk about what chlorine is at the end of the article)
Is chlorine harmful to turtles? In Detail
It turns out that turtles are particularly sensitive to chlorine.
While small doses won’t harm them outright, prolonged contact with higher concentrations may cause serious injury.
Turtles require lots of calcium from food sources, and the same goes for chlorine.
When ingested, chlorine can deplete essential nutrients responsible for healthy bone development.
Other symptoms include diarrhea, weight loss, lack of appetite, lethargy, weakness, irritability, difficulty breathing, seizures, tremors and paralysis.
If left untreated, these conditions can lead to death.
Fortunately, treatment usually involves removing the affected individual from the contaminated environment immediately followed by medical attention.
But some turtles are especially susceptible to chlorine poisoning.
Their bodies contain little or none of the enzymes necessary to metabolize certain toxins, making them extra vulnerable to contamination.
Also, turtles are generally slower moving creatures compared to larger land mammals.
As they move through the water, they encounter higher concentrations of chlorine.
Because turtles don’t run away from danger, they get caught in areas containing excessive quantities of chlorine for longer periods of time without escaping.
These factors increase the risk of developing chlorine toxicity.
While it doesn’t kill turtles instantly, overtime the toxin causes numerous bodily ailments resulting in painful death.
Even though turtles aren’t able to fight back against chlorine poisoning, they still deserve compassion from us human beings.
Is it safe to put a turtle in a swimming pool?
In theory, yes.
However, it isn’t recommended to keep turtles inside aquariums or terrariums due to limited space.
Since turtles live outdoors, they tend to spend more time in direct sunlight.
During hot summer months, light rays pass right through glass containers and reach directly onto turtle backs.
To avoid heat exhaustion, turtles prefer cooler environments.
You shouldn’t place them next to open windows either. Instead, choose a location away from bright lights and air conditioning units.
Additionally, it’s best to leave them alone during peak daylight hours.
Also, just remember that unlike dogs and cats, turtles often share spaces with people.
Keep them away from children and try to limit access whenever possible.
And never intentionally expose them to dangerous chemicals, fertilizers or household cleaners.
Some examples of chemical hazards are ammonia, bleach, cleaning fluids, pesticides, insecticides, herbicides, paint remover, weed killers, car exhaust fumes and cigarette smoke.
Another thing to consider is the age of your turtle.
Younger ones are much more prone to chlorine poisoning.
Once they’ve grown older, however, they’re better equipped to handle it.
Still, most experts recommend keeping young hatchlings indoors because they might escape and wander into outdoor ponds full of deadly contaminants.
Older turtles also come in handy for research purposes because they’re easier to house and manage.
A good idea would be to set aside a separate tank specifically for them instead of sharing a single enclosure.
Can I use a kiddie pool for a turtle?
Absolutely! Just follow these simple guidelines:
First, fill the container with clean river, lake or pond water.
Then add a few drops of liquid dish soap.
Next, pour in approximately two inches of gravel and gently spread it across the bottom of the pool.
Finally, lay down a thin layer of sand atop the gravel.
Afterward, cover the entire setup with a lid or plastic sheet.
Nowadays, many manufacturers offer specially designed enclosures made exclusively for turtles.
Although expensive, these products help prevent accidental escapes while allowing proper drainage.
These steps effectively mimic nature, giving turtles everything they need.
Besides providing shelter and protection from predators, natural shelters serve another purpose: absorbing warmth throughout the day.
Turtle shells act like giant thermostats regulating body temperature according to ambient environmental temperatures.
Like many other species, turtles bask in the sun and soak up heat while avoiding intense sunshine.
Basking helps regulate internal temperatures and reduces stress.
When turtles feel threatened, they withdraw underneath protective rocks and hide from predators.
Reptile owners can replicate this behavior in captivity simply by placing a large rock or log nearby.
Now that we understand how turtles work, we must ask ourselves whether we want to play along.
Obviously, the answer is YES.
Here are some tips to keep in mind: Never allow them out of their tanks during sunny days.
Avoid exposing them to extreme cold or warm weather fluctuations.
Make sure to change their water frequently, every couple weeks or month depending on size.
Provide ample hiding spots and provide adequate ventilation.
Lastly, don’t forget to wash your hands thoroughly after handling them.
Not doing so could potentially transmit diseases between different species.
Other things you need to know about chlorine and turtles
Aside from chlorine itself, there are various ways in which turtles can suffer from chlorine intoxication.
One example is poor filtration systems which accumulate solid waste matter.
Over time, decomposing substances create excess nitrate and ammonium ions causing respiratory irritation and suffocation.
Another issue stems from improper maintenance practices.
Water plants present in stagnant water supplies produce hydrogen sulfide gas which can result in nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain.
A final threat comes from improperly maintained commercial pools.
Underwater structures located close to shoreline pose particular risks because of increased nutrient levels.
High concentrations of phosphates trigger algal blooms producing cyanobacteria.
Cyanobacteria absorb nitrogen leading to eutrophication of surrounding waterways.
Eventually, toxic blue green algae develops covering the surface of surrounding water.
Algae produces toxins called microcystins which enter the turtle system via gills.
Microcystin accumulates in liver tissue disrupting normal metabolic processes.
Since turtles rely heavily on calcium, consuming algae results in decreased absorption rates.
Low intake of protein and vitamin D further aggravate this condition.
Withdrawal symptoms include ruffled feathers, weakness, diarrhoea, inability to eat, dehydration, low blood pressure, convulsions, muscle spasms and rapid heart rate.
Depending on severity of illness, turtles may die within several hours after ingestion.
Luckily, treatments exist in case something similar happens at home.
Seek immediate veterinary care and administer medication prescribed by a vet.
You now know enough to protect yourself and your pet.
Hopefully, you won’t ever have to experience anything remotely related to chlorine toxicity.
But if you do end up facing this situation, please don’t hesitate to seek professional assistance.
Your reptilian family member deserves the safest environment possible.
Related article – Why is my turtle struggling to swim?
What Is Chlorine?
First off, let’s talk about what exactly is chlorine? The term “chlorine” refers to several naturally-occurring chemicals found in fresh water. There are three main types of chlorine (Cl) including hypochlorous acid (HCl), sodium chloride (NaCl) and free available chlorine (FC). HCl has been used since 1857 as a disinfectant because it kills bacteria by oxidizing them into oxygen and carbon dioxide. Free available chlorine was first discovered in 1880 but only became widely popular after World War II. FC is measured using colorimetric kits which detect total dissolved solids (which include organic compounds such as algae and proteins) in water. It measures both free available chlorine as well as organically bound chlorine. Unlike NaCl or HCl, FC cannot dissolve in fat molecules so it cannot penetrate skin [sources: NOAA].
The amount of Cl needed depends largely upon its concentration level. Generally speaking, the lower the number, the less likely you’ll find signs of damage. At 0.5 parts per million (ppm), FC levels become lethal very quickly. At 1 ppm, the effects start to show up fairly soon too. At 2 ppm, death typically occurs within 48 hours. Above 3ppm, no living organism could possibly tolerate exposure for more than 10 minutes. So why does our beloved pets seem fine despite being exposed to high amounts of chlorine? Read on to see why we don’t always notice the toxic side effects.