Do Map Turtles Sleep Underwater?

Do Map Turtles Sleep Underwater

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

Do your map turtles spend a lot of time underwater? Are you confused if it is sick or sleeping? Well, this the most common question every newbie asks. In this article, you will get your answers.

Like most semi aquatic and aquatic species, map turtles sleep underwater. It is true that map turtles need to breathe, but as their body metabolism drops at night, they can stay in the water without breathing for a really long time.

In this article, I will discuss how long the map turtles can sleep underwater and everything related to it.

Can Map Turtles Sleep Underwater?

I have already answered the question. Yes, a map turtle sleeps underwater. But that does not mean it can not sleep anywhere else.

Most of the aquatic and semi aquatic species like map turtle, red eared slider, painted turtle, etc. sleep at the bottom of the water. But the turtle can sleep in other places like basking dock for several reasons. Such as:

  • Low oxygenation rate in the water
  • Filthy water
  • Water temperature too hot 

How To Create A Sleeping Environment For The Map Turtle?

Map turtles do not like sleeping in the light. If the tank temperature is high, the turtle will not be able to hold its breath for a longer time. That is why you have to create a perfect sleeping environment for the turtle at night. Here are some tips for you:

  1. Turn off the basking light or heating bulb at night. Providing heat for 12 to 14 hours a day is enough.
  2. You do not need to keep the UV bulbs on a night.
  3. Do not turn off the tank heater or filter. But you have to decrease the water temperature so that the map turtle can drop its metabolism a little. This will help the pets to hold the breath for a longer time.
  4. You can set up a night light for clear visibility. These lights do not generate heat and suitable for the map turtles.

How Can Long Map Turtles Sleep Underwater?

Generally, a map turtle can hold its breath for 30 to 40 minutes. The time can increase if the oxygenation system or water filter is good. From time to time, the turtle comes to the surface, breathe air and dives back into the water. Now you must be wondering how it can sleep underwater for a long time?

You know map turtles sleep at night, and at that time, the basking or heating light stays turned off.  The temperature drops a little at that time, and so does the map turtles’ body metabolism. As a result, their heart rate decreases, and they need less oxygen. So, they can stay for a long time underwater.

Map turtles can stay underwater for 4 to 5 hours while they are sleeping. This time range can increase if the tank or water temperature is considerably low (70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit).

Their sleeping cycle is not like humans. Instead, it is like a long rest. The pets sometimes come to the surface, bobbing their head above water to breathe and dives in the water to sleep again.

Where Do Map Turtles Sleep Underwater?

Map turtles are very selective about everything. In most cases, they find a comfortable spot underwater where they usually sleep. But the place can change from time to time. 

Can A Sleeping Map Turtle Drown?

Map turtles are semi aquatic species, and they have excellent survival instincts. Also, these turtles can stay without breathing for several hours. So, do not worry about drowning.

Whenever the pet map turtles need air, they automatically come to the surface. The only situation the turtle can drown if it is trapped underwater with something. So, you have to ensure that there is no such thing or obstacles that can trap your pet map turtles.

Again, the baby map turtles can drown if the water level is too high for them. The hatchlings are indeed good swimmers, but their ability to hold breathe is less than an adult one. So, keep the water level as minimum as possible. I recommend keeping the water level 2.5 times of the hatchling’s length.

You can also set a few high spots underwater where the turtles can sleep. From that height, coming to the surface will be easier, and you will not have to worry about drowning.

Is Your Map Turtle Always Sleeping?

Many of the turtle owners face this situation that their map turtle is always sleeping. So is that normal or the pet is sick? Well, it depends on some factors. Let’s talk about them one by one.

The main reason can be the tank’s temperature. You know that low water temperature can slow down the map turtle’s body metabolism. And eventually, the turtle will be more inactive and sleep more than usual.

In the wild, the map turtles sleep more when the hibernation period approaches, but in captivity, the temperature should not be an issue. If you observe your map turtle is always sleeping, then check the tank’s temperature first. If it is low, set up an additional heater to keep the water warm and suitable for the map turtle. 

Click here to learn the perfect water temperature for the map turtle. Also, if you are thinking about setting up a water heater in the map turtle’s enclosure, you can read this article.

Another reason why your map turtle is always sleeping can be its age. The young map turtles are more active and lively than the adult ones. So with the growing age, you will notice that the adult map turtles are taking more rests than usual.

Map Turtle Hibernation And Sleep

All of us, more or less, know about hibernation. Map turtles are endothermic species, and they need external heat to stay alive. When the temperature drops suddenly in the winter, the turtles go to hibernation to cope with the situation. During that time, the metabolism of the map turtles drops and so they slow down their daily activities.

The turtles generally choose the deep river spots for hibernation. But unlike other species, they do not go into a hole, rather stay exposed. In the captive environment, you can control the temperature with the tank heather and heating bulbs. If you want to put the pet into hibernation, keep the tank temperature around 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

The hibernation period is similar to sleep but a longer one. The map turtles do not eat much and seldom come to the surface. It is difficult to put your turtle in this process if you are raising them in a captive enclosure.


Now you know map turtles sleep underwater and can also sleep on the basking docks in several cares. I hope you have found the information helpful.

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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