Can Turtles Sleep Outside The Water?

Can Turtles Sleep Outside The Water

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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A turtle may barely compete with cats in sleeping. It does not mean these pets do not sleep. You will find your pet turtle snoozing 4 to 7 hours a day. I have seen owners puzzled by the turtle’s sleeping spot. Where should a turtle take its naps? Can turtles sleep outside the water?

The ideal sleeping spot for a turtle depends on its species. It can sleep underwater, on the water surface, or out of water. While sleeping on the dry land is normal for box turtles, it is not appreciated for the aquatic turtles.

The sleeping pattern of a turtle indicates its health status and so on. In this article, I will discuss whether sleeping out of water is okay for the turtles or not. Also, you will get to know the ideal spot for turtles to snooze.

Can Turtles Sleep Outside The Water?

Most aquatic turtles sleep in the water. But sometimes, they can come out of the water and snooze on the basking dock or land area. This behavior is normal as long as your turtles are healthy, active, and eating properly.

I have talked with many owners whose turtles prefer sleeping on the basking platform. Painted turtles, Reeves turtles, Map turtles, Red eared sliders, and many other species can sleep out of the water. Well, I am not generalizing the whole species, but some aquatic turtles may snooze on the swamp area.

As turtles have weird hobbies, sleeping out of the water can be one of them. But this is not an ideal place to sleep, especially for an aquatic and semi aquatic turtle. So, you must consult with a vet and put your turtle for a thorough check up.

However, not all turtles sleep in the water. Box turtle is an exception. You know this species is terrestrial and so, they prefer sleeping in the dry area. In the wild, box turtles bury themselves with grasses or fallen dry leaves while sleeping. A log hole, swamp, or shallow land can make the perfect sleeping spot for the box turtles. They may also burrow into fallen trees or under rocks at the napping time.

How Long Can Turtles Stay Outside Water?

A terrestrial turtle, like the box turtle sleeping in the land, is normal. But for an aquatic or semi aquatic turtle, this is unusual. Usually, a turtle sleeps for 4 to 7 hours. So, can the water turtles stay out of water for that long?

According to experts, in most cases, turtles will survive around 8 hours out of the water. If the temperature is cool, the pets may live for a week or more. So, sleeping in the basking dock will not cause severe medical conditions to the turtle. Just to be sure, you can take your turtle to the vet. Also, encourage your aquatic turtles to sleep in the water.

Why Is My Turtle Staying Out Of Water?

I have mentioned above for an aquatic or a semi aquatic turtle, water is the perfect spot for sleeping. But in some cases, your pet may find it comfortable sleeping out of the water. It is healthy as long as your pet is eating properly and doing daily activities. However, in most cases, turtles napping outside the water indicate medical conditions or improper terrarium management. 

Here are the reasons why turtles sleep out of the water:

  1. The water temperature is too low or too high
  2. The pet turtle is sick
  3. The tank mates are bullying the pet

The water temperature is too low or too high

The turtles drop their metabolism to sleep underwater for a long time. For this, the enclosure temperature must be one or two degrees less than the usual. It helps the turtles have a sound sleep.

What if the temperature becomes too low or too high? In most situations, the turtle will come out of the water and spend time on the basking platform or land area. Even it will sleep there too.

The chilly water and environment force the turtle to hibernate. To avoid hibernation, and keeping the body warm, the pet will not go back to the water until the temperature gets back to normal.

However, if the water temperature rises, it will become unbearable to the turtle. In this scenario, the pet tries to swim deep in the pond or river. As it is not possible in house tanks, the turtle will come out of the water and sleep or do all activities on the land area.

Both situations are not healthy for your pet turtle. It can happen due to the poor quality of your tank heater. Experts advise installing high quality digital tank heaters in the enclosure. This device can track the water temperature and does not allow it to cross the safe range. Get the 4 best water heaters for turtles by clicking here.

The pet turtle is sick

Aquatic or semi aquatic turtles sleeping outside of the water is not something you should appreciate. In most cases, it indicates that the pets are sick. Respiratory infection, eye infection, rotten shell, skin infection, etc often make the turtles sleep out of the water. Among all these conditions, respiratory infection can be severe.

Excessive basking and sleeping on the basking platform are the two main signs of respiratory infection among turtles. Difficulty in breathing is another symptom of respiratory infection. If your pet matches these signs, take it to the vet as soon as possible. After recovering, the pet will continue sleeping in the water.

The tank mates are bullying the pet

You know turtles can be aggressive towards their own species or the tank companions. If they are not compatible, the adult and strong ones will start dominating the weak ones. Sometimes, turtles sleep out of the water due to bullying.

Bullying can easily stress out a turtle. So, if you notice anything like this, take immediate action. Separate the pets or determine the exact problem. Provide them enough food and space for swimming and basking. It may solve bullying.

Do Turtles Sleep In Water?

By now, you know water is the perfect sleeping spot for the turtles. Depending on the species, the pets will choose different places to sleep. For example, map turtles sleep at the bottom of the water among low vegetation. Red eared sliders, painted turtles, musk turtles prefer burying themselves with mud or dirt underwater while sleeping. Sea turtles choose the deepest spot to take a nap.

Each turtle has a favorite place where it loves to sleep. The pet will not move from that place unless it is forced to. Even in captivity, you will find your turtles sleeping at the bottom of the tank among rocks and small plants.

To make the terrarium suitable for your turtle’s sleep, you need to do the following things:

  • Put a thick layer of the substrate at the bottom of the tank.
  • Plant small vegetation and place rocks around the substrate.
  • The water level should not be too deep for the turtles.
  • Install a high quality tank heater and water filter.
  • The basking light should be turned off during the night. Excessive basking may cause shell peeling in turtles.
  • Set up a night viewing light to observe the pets.

Get more details on a turtle’s sleeping habit and pattern from this article.


If you own an aquatic or semi aquatic turtle species, make sure it is sleeping in the right spot. Sleeping on the docks mostly indicates diseases and sickness. Consult a vet if necessary.

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About Author

Muntaseer Rahman started keeping pet turtles back in 2013. He also owns the largest Turtle & Tortoise Facebook community in Bangladesh. These days he is mostly active on Facebook.


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