Do Turtles Float When They Sleep?

Why Is My Turtle Floating

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

Turtles are fascinating animals, charming but physically complicated. As a result, you should exercise caution with respect to its behavior regularly. If you have a turtle in an aquarium, or pond, you may have seen it floating there sometimes. Is this usual, though? What causes turtles to float?

Sometimes while turtles are asleep, they may float over the surface of the water, utilizing the air in their expanded throats to keep them afloat. But digestive and respiratory issues cause turtles to float too. Hence, turtles floating in the water require a prompt response action.

No one should take turtles lying on the water surface lightly. It may be caused to anything as simple as gas or napping, or it may be the result of something as serious as an illness of the respiratory system. How about we have a look at the several ways in which turtles sleep and why they may be able to float?

Do Turtles Sleep Floating Or Underwater?

Do turtles have the ability to sleep while floating? As with humans, pet turtles will sleep anywhere they feel most at ease.

Turtles may slumber in a variety of places, including floating at the water’s surface, at their preferred locations for sunbathing, at the container’s bottom, and even when they’re floating halfway between those locations.

Regardless of the environment in which your turtle chooses to rest, it will need air at regular intervals.

Some species of turtles, such as the red-eared slider and the painted turtle, are able to hold their breath for up to five hours.

It’s true therefore that turtles can and do sleep submerged. All turtles, including the painted turtle, map turtle, slider, mud turtle, and musk turtle, spend their nights submerged in water.

Underwater sleeping is not exclusive to sea turtles. In general, marine turtles have highly unusual sleep schedules compared to other types of reptiles.

The average underwater sleep time for turtles is between 4 and 7 hours. The turtle wakes up briefly, takes a deep breath, and then goes back to sleep.

When it’s time to sleep, freshwater turtles like the map turtle dig a hole in some wet grass or moss.

Some turtles native to North America, like the musk and painted turtles, are able to hold their breath when submerged. The water doesn’t disturb them when they sleep.

For underwater breathing, reptiles like the painted turtle and Japanese pond turtle rely on a set of rear muscles that are uniquely adapted for the task known as cloacal respiration.

Conversely, musk turtles have developed specific breathing muscles beneath their necks that allow them to breathe underwater. Several marine turtle species use this method of breathing during bromating.

Because the oxygen content of the water is so crucial, you need to make sure that there is a sufficient amount of it. In order to ensure that the turtles have sufficient oxygen while they sleep, water filtration or a pump should be used in an aquarium of sufficient size.

Do Turtles Float On Their Back While Sleeping?

Sleeping on their backs on the water is abnormal for turtles. This is not typical behavior for turtles, so if you see yours floating on its back for long periods of time, you should take it to the doctor.

If the behavior and hunger of your turtle are regular, yet it continues to float on its back, there may be a problem with the quality of water or another problem concerning the tank.

Without enough vitamin A in their diet, they become weak and sickly, but in this situation, they will begin to move laterally and may even turn over onto their backs.

When coping with respiratory diseases, your turtle may struggle to maintain its buoyancy and may even turn over onto its back.

Turtles may drown if their habitat is not set up properly. If you want to keep a turtle, you’ll need a tank big sufficient for the reptile to swim about in freely. In addition, the water level must be managed well.

If the water in your tank or pond isn’t deep enough, your turtle may be more likely to turn over, and if they do, they may have a harder time getting back up. The presence of hostile tankmates is another possible cause of your turtle’s backward flip.

Having many turtles in a single tank might lead to some of them constantly turning over. Sometimes this occurs when there is just a single female turtle in the tank with many males.

When male turtles are reproducing, competition for a female may get intense, with the dominant male often toppling over a lesser turtle and even the female herself.

How Do Turtles Sleep Underwater

Do Turtles Float Sideways When They Sleep?

Although turtles have been seen floating while dozing off, this is not a normal resting position and might be a sign of serious illness.

Your turtle may be at risk if it is floating on its side. Common causes include issues in the digestive tract.

However, this is not a major issue since the problem normally corrects itself when the turtle expels gas. You can get your turtle some medicines from the vet if you’re worried, however.

If your turtle can’t swim and keeps bobbing sideways, it might drown. This may indicate a severe case of a respiratory illness.

Possible causes include exposure to cold water or an untreated vitamin A imbalance, both of which may lead to pneumonia in your turtle.

Can Sleeping Turtles Drown?

There is no need to bother regarding your turtle passing out and drowning while it is sleeping since it has the ability to remain submerged for many minutes to hours without needing to breathe.

The turtle will come back up for air on its own when it gets low. Only if it is stuck underwater will the turtle perish. Make sure the turtle can escape all potential dangers.

The butts of several turtle species are used for breathing. Make sure the water isn’t too deep for the turtle hatchlings. The hatchling turtle shouldn’t have to go all the way to the top to reemerge.

To keep the newborn turtle safe, water should reach approximately halfway up its shell, as advised by several specialists.

The only thing you need to do to protect the turtle from drowning is to remove any potential hazards.

Which Species Of Turtles Sleep Floating?

There are many subaquatic turtle species, each of which has its own unique sleeping habits.

The majority of turtles that hibernate underwater also do it on land, either in mud or sand or hidden beneath rocks, in order to avoid being eaten by predators.

While some are able to fall asleep while floating on the surface of the water. Other kinds of turtles choose to hibernate on land or in marshes rather than in water. The following turtles rest underwater:

Snapping Turtles

In spite of their fondness for resting in the water and on the mud or sand, snapping turtles have never been seen floating in their sleep.

The ability to obtain the water’s oxygen allows snapping turtles to retain their breathing for extended periods of time. These types of turtles are able to slow down their metabolisms and sleep more soundly by consuming less oxygen.

Red-Eared Slider Turtles

The Red-Eared Slider Turtles are considered to be semi-aquatic turtles due to their habitat. They often doze off in the muck or submerge themselves in water.

Depending on the temperature, this type of turtle may sleep for three to five hours at a time, and it is not uncommon to see them dozing on the water’s surface with their expanded throats keeping them afloat.

Painted Turtles

Ponds are the painted turtles’ natural homes and habitats. Turtles like these have been known to be spotted dozing off underwater, buried in the muck.

Turtles with patterns on their shells are also common pets. When they are held in confinement, they will hide in the sand or sleep underwater in their tank in order to avoid being seen. Typically, they will not float.

Why Do Illness Causes Turtles To Float?

As a kind of floating assistance, turtles’ expanded throats allow them to sleep on the container’s water surface.

If your turtle suddenly begins to float, you must determine the cause behind it. The turtle may be gently prodded in the water to check if it drowns.

You know your turtle is in distress if it floats back up like a balloon. Your turtle requires quick medical treatment because something is incorrect.

The turtle may float if it has gas or if it has developed a serious respiratory illness, which may lead to pneumonia. Let’s go through both scenarios.

Why Turtles Float Due To Gas?

To float, a turtle often has gas in its digestive system. The turtle will float if gas builds up within its shell. When this occurs, the turtle will be floating or leaning to one side.

Toxic gas may build up in a turtle if it takes certain drugs or eats something it has never had before.

This is not a major problem and usually corrects itself. Floating owing to gas buildup is not life-threatening for domesticated turtles but may be lethal for wild turtles.

In the wild, a turtle may find plenty of different foods to eat in the water. When turtles eat debris from the water, they accumulate gas.

The material impedes digestion and leads to dyspepsia. The turtle is able to float because of the trapped gas.

The turtle will have a more difficult time diving for food at a deeper depth. Ignoring its nutritional needs may have devastating effects.

Why Turtles Float Due To Respiratory Infections?

Infected respiratory systems may lead turtles to hover in the water. When a turtle starts floating near the top of its tank, you know it’s not feeling well.

It requires urgent medical attention since he is having breathing issues. In the same way, as people do, turtles take in oxygen via their lungs.

To put it simply, viruses, bacteria, and fungus that enter the lungs of turtles and cause illness are to blame for respiratory illnesses.

Increased mucus production in the turtle’s oral and nasal cavities is the first sign of a respiratory illness.

You may even see bubbles emerging from your turtle’s nostrils and mouth. Adverse environments may also cause respiratory illnesses in turtles.

Inadequate nourishment, heat, ultraviolet radiation, and cleanliness of the habitat are all potential causes of respiratory illnesses.

Respiratory infections may progress to pneumonia if they are not treated promptly and effectively.

Your turtle will float strangely and be unable to dive when its respiratory illness has progressed to the latter stages.

After that, your turtle will be listless and have puffy eyes. As the fluid builds up in its lungs, it will struggle to breathe.


To put it simply, turtles are able to float while they are sleeping. On the other hand, a turtle hovering in the waters should not be dismissed as benign.

Gas and other digestive issues might cause flotation. It’s not necessary to rush to the hospital since this may be addressed at home.

Moreover, the fact that your turtle is floating on the surface of the water is a very bad sign. Your turtle may be experiencing symptoms of a respiratory ailment.

Similarly, if a turtle is floating on its side or back, this might be a sign of a medical emergency that needs treatment right once to prevent serious consequences.

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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