Turtle + Fish Aquarium Room STINKS. Please help.

The friendliest place on the web for anyone with an interest in aquariums or fish keeping!
If you have answers, please help by responding to the unanswered posts.


Aquarium Advice Newbie
Jan 12, 2023
I set up a tank in September (350L) for my 2 map turtles (1 year old). I then added 2 small juvenile parrot cichlids and 2 large adult tin foil barbs. I then also added a large 13" common pleco. There is also a reedfish in the tank. The tank didn't smell to begin with, but then suddenly the room would fill with an almost cat urine smell that was horrible. My mother is a childminder and it is in her childminding room so she is furious that it is smelling. The substrate was sand, so i thought i would try and change the substrate, so i used river turtle pebbles instead. I have purchased plants to go in a designated zone. I have purchased a new filter a week ago that should do aquariums up to 1000L big. I have a DIY turtle ramp tile with an artificial grass ramp up to the tile with the basking equipment there. The tank has a lid partially on it due to the ramp cutout. The turtles are fed with a complete turtle mix. I feed the fish frozen food and the pleco algae wafers.
This whole time I have been testing the water:
Ammonia - 0
Nitrate+Nitrite - 0
PH - around 7
Temp - 26
Chlorine - 0

If I don't get this tank sorted ASAP then it will be taken out and all the fish and turtles will go. Please help me.
You have a collection of large poo makers so that may be part of the problem. Also, your turtles I believe have a musk gland so when you add the bigger fish, they may be upsetting the turtles causing them to secrete musk as a defense. As an experiment, I'd remove the turtles to another tank or holding container so they are alone, do a major water change in the fish tank and see if the room still smells.
The cat urine smell is ammonia caused by the turtles and fish, the food they eat, and the waste they produce.

A 350 litre tank isn't that big especially when you have tinfoil barbs and a pleco, all of which grow to over a foot long. Add a couple of turtles and there isn't room for all those creatures. In addition to the tank being small for the livestock, the turtles eat fish and that can stress the fish. Having big fish moving around turtles can stress the turtles. Turtles should be kept in their own tank.

Big (75%) daily water changes and gravel cleaning should help with the smell. Adding some floating plants should help. But ideally you need to reduce the load in the tank. Either get rid of the fish or get rid of the turtles.

The minimum size tank for tinfoil barbs and common Plecostomus is 6 ft long x 2 ft wide x 2 ft high.
Top Bottom