Do Turtles Like Being Out Of Water?

Do Turtles Like Being Out Of Water

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

I am sure you have seen turtles moving both in water and land. These little creatures seem to enjoy both areas. But where do they feel more comfortable? Do turtles like being out of water?

Aquatic and semi-aquatic turtles basically prefer staying inside water. On the other hand, box turtles feel more comfortable on the land and a shallow water space will be okay for them.

How long can a turtle survive without water? Is it healthy for them? If you have the same question in mind, then this article is for you.

Do Turtles Like Being Out Of Water?

Turtles are adapted for their water life. But from time to time, they will come to the land area for basking and free roaming. On the other hand, tortoises prefer moving in the dry area.

Sometimes people confuse turtles with tortoises. And they think like tortoises, turtles love to be out of water. But that is not the fact for turtles. They prefer being in the water and their survival becomes questionable when they are out of water for several days.

So, for a few hours, turtles may enjoy being out of water. To be honest, they can not always stay inside the pond or river. It will damage their shell and skin. They need to come out of the water several times a day. But if you are talking about spending days in the dry area, the turtles will become weak and sick.

However, this scenario is only applicable to aquatic and semi-aquatic turtles. But for terrestrial turtles, like box turtles, the condition is totally opposite. These turtles prefer land areas and swim only to wet their shell. The box turtles will fall sick if you put them in a pond without land.

Why Do Turtles Come Out Of Water?

Terrestrial turtles live out of the water all their lives, while aquatic and semi aquatic turtles live in any freshwater source. But to maintain a healthy life, these turtles have to come to the surface. Mainly, the aquatic and semi-aquatic turtles fulfill 2 of their basic needs in the land area. Such as,

  1. The breathing techniques of a turtle and a fish are not the same. Though turtles can breathe underwater, the amount of oxygen is not enough for these pets. So, they have to come to the surface to replenish their lungs with oxygen.
  2. Another reason, the turtles have to come out of the water is basking. Every turtle has to bask to maintain a healthy life. Otherwise, the pet will fall sick or suffer from severe health conditions.

While turtles can take a breath by just floating on the surface, they have to come out of the water for basking. If your tank lacks a basking platform, your turtles will fall sick in no time. Basking boosts the metabolism of the turtles. At the same time, it dries the wet body and eliminates any risk of shell rot or bacterial attack.

Check this article to get details on the necessity of a basking platform in the enclosure.

Can I Take My Turtle Out Of Water?

Now you know, not even the aquatic turtles stay in the water all the time. So, can you take your pet out of the tank sometimes? The answer is yes.

The experts believe that letting your turtles out of the tank and walk on the floor is actually healthy. This is a great form of exercise for turtles. You can take your turtles out of the water several times every day.

Here is one thing you need to consider. Handling or touching the turtles too many times may stress them out. So, it is great that you are letting your turtles explore and roaming around your house. At the same time, consider their moods and mental status. Also, make sure, the pets do not get out of your sight.

How Long Can Turtles Stay Out Of Water?

According to a study, a turtle spends 60% of its entire life in water and the rest in the land area. Usually, a turtle can stay out of water 8 to 12 hours a day. You know turtles bask around 10 hours a day and that is the approximate hours it stays out of water.

But what if there is no water source where your turtle can dive back again? How long will it survive? The scientists claim the estimated time is around 1 day to a few weeks. Remember, surviving is not the same as healthy living.

If the temperature is low, the turtle may live a bit longer. But it will seriously damage the pet’s digestion system and health.

There are a few factors that can influence the time frame of a turtle’s survival. Such as,

  • Age
  • Weather
  • Hibernating or not
  • Species


The hatchlings and young turtles need more water to stay healthy and lively. It is because their bodies are not developed yet for the survival game. Also, living without water requires much body energy, which the baby turtles surely lack. So, the adult turtles will be able to go for more hours without water.


Turtles are ectothermic species and solely dependent on the surroundings to generate body warmth. If the temperature drops, the turtles slow down their body metabolism to cope with the environment. As part of the process, the turtles stop eating and drinking or any physical activities.

The lesser activity the turtles do the lesser energy will be wasted. Thus, the more days the pets will be able to pass without water. In normal weather, a turtle can go 8 hours to a few days in this condition.

On the other hand, if the temperature is low and the humidity in the air is high, the turtles will probably survive for weeks. The humidity in the air helps the turtles to stay hydrated for hours. So, heat and humidity have opposite effects on the turtles’ bodies.

Hibernating Or Not

I guess you already know what a hibernation process is for the turtles. These pets hibernate during the winter season to cope with the severe cold. While hibernating, the turtles go for a long sleep for 4 to 7 months. In this time frame, the turtle barely comes out for eating or drinking.

The Hibernation cycle is mostly observed among the wild turtles. In captivity, the owners maintain a gradient temperature inside the enclosure, even in the winter. So, the turtles do not have to go through this process.


Many of you might not know but the survival hours depend on the turtle species. For example, the box turtles live on the land area as they are non aquatic species. The dessert box turtles go months with a very small amount of water or no water at all.

Even some aquatic and semi-aquatic turtles also have this ability. Take the musk or mud turtles for instance. These turtles live in shallow areas. They will probably survive months in the dry land area without the drop in temperature or hibernation.

How Long Can Turtles Go Without Water?

Like all other animals, turtles require food and water to store energy. What will happen if your pet does not get to drink at all? How long will it live?

The scientists suggest that a turtle needs water as much as any other animals or humans. They will probably go several days or a week at best without water. Throughout the period, the turtle will be weak and less active due to dehydration.

After a week or two, the turtle will probably die. For the hatchling and young turtles, the period will contract as they need more water and food to live.

But there are some other factors you need to consider. Such as the hibernation or brumation process. In this period, the turtle stays less active and sleeps burrowing in the mud or dirt. They barely come out for water or food. So, at the time of hibernation, the turtles can go months without water.

How Long Can Turtles Stay In Water?

A turtle needs to be in the water as it is adapted for this. If you force the turtle to stay in the land area for too long, the pet will probably die due to dehydration and weakness. Most aquatic species spend most of their time swimming in the water. Even these pets sleep underwater without any issues.

Generally, a turtle can stay underwater for 45 minutes or more. The sea turtles can be in the water for almost 2 hours. If the temperature is a bit low, the time frame will extend. During the winter season, the turtles go for a long sleep where they spend around 4 to 7 months underwater.

My Turtle Won’t Come Out Of Water: Why?

Generally, aquatic and semi aquatic turtles are very fond of water. For example, the softshell turtles barely come out of the water for basking or any activity. So, if the turtle is spending more time underwater, the pet loves swimming or water.

Another probable reason is, the tank temperature is too low. You know when the enclosure temperature drops, the turtles stop doing any activity and prepare to enter into the hibernation process. Or the pets sleep a lot. In both conditions, the turtle will stay at the bottom of the tank for hours and refuse to come out.

Turtles staying underwater is normal. But if the pets refuse to come to the land at all, then there is a problem. It will develop shell rot, respiratory diseases, or other severe diseases. So, what can you do?

The best thing is to provide the turtles with a basking dock. A proper basking spot will encourage the pets to come out of the water and spend at least 8 hours on the land. Another solution is to provide the perfect tank temperature.

The standard enclosure temperature is around 75 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. It will vary depending on the turtle’s species. Install a tank heater for assuring the turtles’ health. Get the best tank heaters for the turtles from this link.


You can not imagine turtles without water. Even the non aquatic turtles need water for a healthy life. A turtle may enjoy being out of water for several hours. But when the time extends, it becomes impossible for the pets to survive. So, make sure, your turtles are getting enough water inside the tank for swimming and other activities.

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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