Can Turtles Survive Winter In A Pond?

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

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It’s a big deal to a lot of people to know which species of water turtles are allowed to live in the ponds. A common concern is whether or not turtles can survive the winter in the pond water. Whether turtles can tolerate cold water, or will the turtles perish due to the harsh conditions of the pond is a common question.

Turtles can survive winter in a pond. It’s true that certain turtle species can even endure subfreezing temperatures. However, during the colder months, it’s important to maintain the turtles in the habitats and temperature indicated for their species.

Obviously, we wouldn’t survive being buried in a pond whose water temperature was near frost and whose surface was topped by a lid of ice. The reason is that we lack the coolness of a turtle. And I don’t only mean awesome when I say “cool” I literally mean “cold.”

In addition to this, you won’t be able to breathe via your butt. However, turtles can, and this is just one of the many reasons why turtles rock. Read on for additional information about turtles, about whether or not they can survive the winter in frigid water in the pond.

Where Do Turtles Spend The Winter In Ponds?

The majority of turtles spend the winter submerged underwater. That’s correct, they may remain submerged for more than a hundred days at a time. Normally, turtles dive through the frozen surface of a river or pond to reach its bottom.

The temperature of the water is much more consistent and typically warmer than that of the temperature of the environment, which is why turtles spend the cold weather in the water of the pond.

Because while turtles are cold-blooded creatures, they are unable to live for long periods of time in temperatures that are much below freezing.

The water provides a safe haven in which the temperature will not go beneath freezing and will always remain above icing temperature.

They could make their way to the surface periodically for meals or oxygen, but for the most part, they will remain submerged in the pond until spring.

This strategy for surviving the winter is effective for turtles, but it may be fatal if the pond ice is allowed to freeze over for an excessively extended period of time.

How Do Submerged Turtles Breathe?

You are probably curious at this point about how it is that turtles can breathe while they are submerged in water.

The typical response is that they cannot and that in order to obtain oxygen from the air, they must ascend to the surface of the water.

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Nevertheless, when a turtle dives deep into the pond to spend the winter, they go into a procedure termed brumation.

The blood arteries of the turtle are able to draw oxygen from the surrounding water even when it is in its dormant state, known as brumation.

It is interesting to note that the part of a turtle’s body known as the “butt” has the highest concentration of blood arteries. This process of absorbing oxygen is referred to by its technical name, which is cloacal respiration.

Even while the blood arteries take in a much less amount of oxygen in comparison to the lungs, this amount is still sufficient for the turtle to be able to spend months submerged.

This is due to the fact that a turtle’s metabolic activity slows down significantly while it is submerged during brumation.

They also experience a significant reduction in their pulse rate. This is because both the low degree of mobility and the frigid temperature of the water contributed to this result.

When a turtle’s metabolic activity is slow, they have a considerably lower need for both energy plus oxygen.

Outdoor turtle pond setup guide infographic

For a printable version of this infographic, click here!

Do Turtles Hibernate To Survive?

To use a more precise definition, turtles don’t really hibernate. Brumation is the term for the procedure that they go through instead.

When turtles spend the winter submerged, they enter a state known as “brumation,” in which they become lethargic and their level of activity drops significantly.

The turtle will enter a state of brumation that is analogous to a profound slumber, although it will still be able to move about somewhat.

This process is somewhat comparable to hibernation, which is displayed by warm-blooded creatures. However, brumation is displayed only by cold-blooded species and often entails minimal mobility.

Brumation is a behavior that is often seen in lizards and snakes.

Do All Turtles Bromate In The Pond?

It’s not true that all turtles pass the winter submerged in pond water. Turtles that inhabit colder locations are the only ones who spend the winter submerged.

There are also certain species that endure the harsh winters in a manner that is distinct from others. For the purpose of keeping warm during the colder months, for instance, box turtles often dig a hole in the earth.

Snapping turtles:

Bromating is something that snapping turtles do. During the winter, when ice builds on the surface of lakes and ponds, they bromate deep below the surface of the water.

The cloaca, the skin, the hinds, and other areas of the snapping turtle’s anatomy all have blood arteries, which allow it to collect large amounts of oxygen as it runs over it during the bromating period. This allows the snapping turtle to live.

Painted turtles:

Painted turtles also bromate.  In order to bromate, they dive to the bottom of freezing ponds and lakes.

Painted turtles spend many months dormant in settings with little or no oxygen, known as hypoxia and anoxic, respectively.

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Red-eared slider:

Certain red-eared slider turtles enter brumation during the colder months of the year.

Conversely, painted and snapping turtles are capable of switching their metabolic activity to one that does not require oxygen to function properly.

This does cause an accumulation of acid in their systems, which over time may be harmful to the tissue.

However, painted turtles particularly are capable of neutralizing that acid by using the calcium that is contained inside their shells.

How Long Does A Turtle Bromate?

The water temperature in which turtles are found influences the rate at which they bromate. Therefore, their position will determine the length of time that they bromate for.

Those who live in the northern region will have a longer brumation period than those who live in the south.

The duration will also change from year to year. The first day of spring does not consistently come on the very same day from year to year. Because of this, various species of turtles go into brumation for varying amounts of time.

The majority of turtles are only able to bromate for a maximum of two to four months every year. However, the majority will not hibernate for such an extended period of time.

How Cold Can Turtles Survive?

Turtles can, in principle, tolerate temperatures lower than freezing as long as they are kept above that point.

However, if turtles are exposed to temperatures that are very low, their bodies often lose a significant amount of their movement.

Because of its reduced movement, the turtle seems unable to search for food or carry out any of the other necessary operations. As a consequence, turtles are unable to endure cold temperatures for a lengthy amount of time.

Adult painted turtles have the ability to stay alive in water as low as 37° Fahrenheit for up to one hundred days with no food or oxygen. Under these circumstances, almost all animals would perish within 3 to 5 minutes.

How Do Baby Turtles Survive Winter In A Pond?

Turtles who have just recently been born have a distinct approach compared to adult turtles. The majority of turtles lay eggs in the fall, and the process involves excavating a hole in the ground or sand, then burying the nest.

For a vulnerable newborn turtle in a state like Alabama or Florida, which has moderate winters, overwintering may seem like a fair approach to get through its first few touches of frost and stay safe from predators.

 In Canada, Michigan, and Minnesota, however, when soil temperatures dip as low as 25 degrees Fahrenheit during the winter months, painted turtle hatchlings burrow just a few inches down the mud of the pond and begin to progress differently.


it is not uncommon for the young turtles to remain in the nest until the next spring after being born in late fall, which is at least a year after the eggs have been placed.

See also  Where Do Turtles Sleep?

This practice, which is known as “overwintering in the nest,” is common with several different species of turtles that can be found living in ponds all over the globe.

The newborn turtles that overwinter may live without food from late summer until the following spring due to their different biological activity or different body constituent. Such as

Higher Body Fat And Oil:

The newly hatched turtles that spend the winter in the pond of  Michigan have a different body constitution than the hatchlings that emerge from their nests in the late summer. 

The eggs of hatchlings that stay in the nest during the winter have a higher relative body fat percentage and oils than the eggs of hatchlings who leave the nest earlier.

Antifreeze Chemicals:

They are able to make it over the long winter thanks to the additional energy. It is claimed that some species of hatchling turtles have the ability to produce antifreeze chemicals.

The levels of glucose levels of hatchling painted turtles that are subjected to temperatures below freezing are dramatically elevated when compared to those that are maintained at normal temperatures.

 It is possible that glucose and other components of the body may act as an antifreeze, however, the exact mechanism behind this action is not understood.

Freezing Of Body Fluids:

An even more significant finding is that certain young turtles are able to live through the freezing of more than half of the water that is found within their bodies.

The painted turtle is among the most vertebrate living forms that are known to be able to endure the freezing of bodily fluids while it is in the dormant state of brumation so can do the baby hatchlings during overwintering.

This does not imply that other creatures are unlikely to survive a situation of this kind, rather, it just indicates that researchers have not yet recorded the phenomena.

Turtle Care In Winter Infographic

For a printable version of this infographic, click here!


Turtles spend the colder months of the year submerged in a pond or lake, often hiding for shelter in the muck at the lake’s or pond’s bottom.

Although they slow down quite a bit during the winter, turtles do not hibernate in the traditional sense. Instead, they enter into the state called brumation.

There is also the possibility of turtles functioning well without oxygen. On the other hand, this will lead to increased levels of lactic acid, which the turtles will need to rid themselves of in the spring by being exposed to UV rays.

It is not very rare for an adult reptile to bromate underwater, nonetheless, the phenomena of hatchlings spending the winter within the nest highlights how convoluted the evolutionary history and adaptability of local species may be.

The capacity of many species of turtles to endure the harsh conditions of winter is a major contributor to the longevity of these reptiles.

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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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