Do Turtles Sleep Upside Down?

upside down red eared slider turtle on rock

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

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I take hours to get settled in bed for the night. Yes, I try to sleep straight, on my side and even on my stomach until I find a comfortable position. Is it the same with turtles? Will they sleep upside down?

Turtles prefer sleeping comfortably, either inside the shell or resting their heads at a height. Turtles feel physically and mentally uneasy when they are upside down. They can not eat or move in such a position. The turtles can die if they fail to flip back on their feet.

How do the turtles get flipped? What can you do to help the pets? Keep reading for more information.

Key Takeaways

  • Turtles can get in an upside-down position because of an accident or a fight.
  • In most cases, a flipped turtle in captivity is not in any danger.
  • A turtle floating upside down is a sign that the pet is suffering from respiratory illness.

Why Is My Turtle Sleeping Upside Down?

No turtle in its right mind will sleep upside down. See, turtles use their shells for protection, not for having fun.

Even when sleeping, these creatures will retract themselves into the shells at best. Napping on a flipped shell is not a turtle-ish thing to do.

Why is your turtle upside down? Well, there is something shady about this scenario. I can think of the following reasons,

1. There Has Been An Accident

Aren’t these turtles little explorers? Just look at them playing in the enclosure. Sometimes it seems like they are on a scavenger hunt.

What happens when you suddenly change the surrounding? It will take the pets days to get comfortable with the new setup. While getting used to the changes, your turtles might fall off on their back while climbing the dock or rocks (Yes, turtles can climb).

See also  Do Turtles Sleep With Their Eyes Open?

It is nothing serious unless the pet has fallen off from a height. Such accidents can crack their shell open, leading to a life-and-death situation.

Solution: Immediate Treatment

If your turtle meets an accident and damages its shell, you must immediately run for treatment. Even though scutes heal naturally, it takes years. Waiting that long will cause shell rot and might lead to physical complications in the pets.

2. Oh! It Is Definitely A Fight

Do not take your turtles as innocents! These little devils get on each other’s throats whenever they get a chance.

Have you ever witnessed a turtle fight? God! It can get bloody.

Turtles will kick, bite, chase and bully one another every way possible when in a fight. Flipping the opponent is a common thing in turtle battles.

So, if you find one of your turtles resting upside down, point a finger at its roommate. These two must have been doing something shady.

Solution: Separate The Turtles

Turtles prefer solitary, and their hate for companions is nothing unknown. So, we better arrange single tanks for each individual. If we plan for a community habitat, we must consider a larger space with enough resources.

Also, it is wiser to separate the turtles if they are fighting frequently.

3. The Weakness in The Limbs

Apparently, weakness in the bones due to diseases or age is often seen among turtles. As a consequence, the creatures can not perform their activities properly. For example, they can lose their balance and end up flipping on their back.

Solution: Regular Vet Checkups

There is nothing you can do about your turtle’s age. Yet, take the pet to a vet and have it checked for any sickness. In fact, I do regular checkups of all my turtles, regardless of their ages.

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4. Is There Any Wave?

The current in the ocean often flips the sea turtles on their shells. It also happens to the freshwater turtles if they live in the streams.

However, I do not think you should worry about the current at all, as you are raising the pets in captivity.

5. Respiratory Illness or Pneumonia?

What can be more severe than respiratory infection in turtles? The disease turns into a life-threatening event if not treated on time.

Generally, in respiratory illness, the lungs of the sick turtles are attacked with bacteria, viruses, or fungi. Eventually, the air trapped in the lungs leads to an imbalance in the pets’ swimming. As a result, you will catch the turtles floating on their back instead of swimming. 

Signs of respiratory infection are very visible. For example,

  • Watery eyes
  • Mucus discharge from nose and mouth
  • Open mouth breathing
  • Puffy eyes
  • Lethargy
  • Frequent basking
  • Floating in the water

Prolonged respiratory sickness can turn into pneumonia. The symptoms are almost similar.

Solution: Take The Turtle To A Vet

The best way to handle the respiratory infection is to take the turtle to a vet. A sick pet can get around with antibiotic medications and a balanced diet. Besides, it is advised to maintain hygiene in the enclosure and arrange all the necessary equipment pieces.

6. The Turtle Is No More

There is a rumor that a turtle gets on its back before dying. See, I had seen my turtles dying, and they bid goodbyes in their sleep. So, I do not know if the claim is 100% true.

However, sunken eyes, turtle resting upside down and a rotting smell in the air definitely indicate a dead turtle. I understand how hard it is to handle the death of your pet. You do not know what to do next. Just for an idea, why don’t you read this post?

I have directed you on your responsibility to your dead turtle. You can bury the pet or cremate it. Also, you have the option to keep a piece of the turtle as a souvenir.

How Do Turtles Sleep Then?

I have been keeping turtles for almost a decade and I have never seen my turtles sleeping on their backs. The reason behind this is turtles feel uncomfortable when they are upside down. So, resting in that position is out of the question.

See also  Can Turtles Sleep Outside The Water?

Usually, turtles sleep curled up or withdrawn inside the shell. Yes, sometimes the pets will take a nap keeping their heads out.

The ideal sleeping spot for turtles is inside a burrow, on leave dumps, or in between rock pilings.

What To Do With An Upside Down Turtle?

I have already warned you that turtles are the least comfortable on their backs. In fact, turtles with flat shells struggle to get back to their normal position. If they fail, there is a high chance that the creatures will die. No kidding.

See, when a turtle is flipped, it can not eat or hunt. This is a very vulnerable position for the creature.

That is even more pathetic if the turtle gets rolled under the sun. In such a scenario, it will die out of hunger and thirst.

Therefore, if you notice any turtle resting upside down, be a bigger man and flip it to a normal position. Remember, the pet is not chilling. It is stuck and might be running out of breath.

Well, if a turtle flips in water, they can return to the upright position independently. But the task is very tough on land.

However, some species with high-domed shells and large necks can make this impossible happen. They swivel side to side and flip back on their feet. The large necks work as extra support.

Before You Go

Turtles sleep upside down. It is just a misconception. Many more myths mislead the keepers. Therefore, I have summed up 10 statements in the below article which are worth clarifying.

Top 10 Myths Debunked About Pet Turtles: What Do You Need To Know

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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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