Which is Better Distilled or Tap Water for your Turtle?

What is best for your aquatic turtle: Tap water or Distilled?


The water is where your turtle will spend most of it's time. They swim in, eat in, and drink this water so this is an important element to get right. There are two water sources that you should consider: Tap Water and Distilled Water.

Tap Water

This is the easiest and cheapest way to go. If your municipality has good quality tap water (a lot of cities and counties publish water quality reports) you can consider using tap water with a little bit of simple treatment. If you aren't sure what to look for in an water report (I can't blame you, they're pretty technical), here are the highlights to keep in mind:


  • Hard shelled turtles, like Red-eared sliders, are pretty tolerant of PH levels. A range between 6.2 and 8.5 is fine for the more common North American species
  • Soft shelled turtles are more sensitive and probably should not have a PH much lower than about 6.5
  • If you have a more exotic turtle or are not sure about your particular turtle's needs, always consult your vet.


  • Chlorine is not often in a high enough concentration to be a problem for a turtle. However, if you can smell it or taste it, its probably better to use water conditioner or simply put it in a bucket in the sun for a few hours.

Other Chemicals

  • Your municipality probably adds other chemicals to the water to make transmission and storage easier. In most cases you should use a reptile specific water conditioner.

Again, if you decide your tap water is good enough you can use a water conditioner (easiest and probably safest), or just set the water out overnight in a large container to allow the dissolved chlorine to dissipate into the air. Sunlight will facilitate the dissipation.

Recommended Product

Zoo Med Reptisafe Water Conditioner

This will neutralize the chlorine, ammonia, and nitrates. It also slightly decreases PH. This small bottle will condition about 88 gallons. You can also go for the 64 ounce size which will do up to 640 gallons.


This is a more expensive, but safer option for a sensitive turtle. Conditioner isn't necessary for distilled and filtered water since it shouldn't contain chlorine or any other additives found in tap water. Also, PH will be at the neutral 7.0. You can buy distilled water at any grocery store. Many stores also have water filters so getting larger quantities would be easier that way.


In most cases you are perfectly fine using tap water, but you should use a water conditioner unless you've really investigated your local area's water supply. A water conditioner will neutralize the worst chemicals in tap water.

However, if you have an exotic turtle species, or know they are sensitive to water changes and chemicals distilled or filtered water is a better solution.