How Long Can A Snapping Turtle Be Out Of Water?

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

Snapping turtles are aquatic turtles. It means they need water to survive. But they also need oxygen from the air to survive. They also come to the land to nest or search for new habitats. However, they cannot spend much time out of water. So, how long can a snapping turtle be out of water?

Snapping turtles can spend about 8 hours out of the water without getting dehydrated. They can survive without water for 3 days. How long a snapping turtle can live without water depends on many factors. 

In this article, I will discuss the factors determining how long snapping turtles can be out of water. You will also learn why water is essential for snapping turtles. 

How Long Can Snapping Turtles Stay out of Water?

Has your pet snapping turtle escaped from its enclosure? Now, you are wondering how long it can survive without water. It should be alright if you find your turtle within 8 hours of its escape. A snapping turtle can spend a day without getting dehydrated in cool weather. But the longer a snapping turtle stays out of the water, the more dehydrated it gets. 

If a snapping turtle does not get into the water in 3 days, it will not survive. Some say they have seen snapping turtles survive out of the water for more than 3 days. There are some factors that influence how long a snapping turtle can live without water. 

Some of these factors are:


Age is a crucial factor that influences how long a snapping turtle can stay out of water. An adult snapping turtle can spend 8 to 12 hours outside water without getting dehydrated. But a baby snapping turtle cannot survive such long hours without water. 

Baby snapping turtles have yet to develop. They cannot store much water as adults. They also do not have the energy to survive on dry land. 

On the other hand, adult turtles can store much more energy and water in their bodies, enabling them to live a few days without water or food. The same cannot be said about baby snappers. 


Temperature is a significant factor that determines how long a snapping turtle may last without water. The hotter the temperature gets, the harder it becomes for the turtle to live without water. 

The water on the snapping turtle evaporates faster in hot temperatures. Eventually, the turtle has to use up the water stored in the body. Thus, it gets dehydrated. So, a snapping turtle may live only for 1 or 2 days without water at a high temperature. 

In cooler temperatures snapping turtles can stay healthy for more time without getting seriously dehydrated. If fresh drinking water is available, a snapping turtle may last more than three days. 


Humidity is another factor to determine how long a snapping turtle may survive outside water. The more humidity the air has, the less dehydrated a snapping turtle will get. 

In the US, turtles of different species are found more in areas where humidity is between 70 to 80 percent. So, we can guess that humidity is important for a turtle’s ideal living condition. 

If your snapping turtle escapes where humidity is high, you do not have to worry much, as the turtle will be able to survive a few days without water. In high humidity, turtles use stored water in their body slowly. But in low humidity, a snapping turtle will use stored energy and water fast. Thus, it cannot last long in a dry area. 

Can Snapping Turtles Breathe on Land?

Since snapping turtles are aquatic, many people think they cannot breathe on land like fish. Snapping turtles can breathe on land. They are reptiles. They need to breathe in oxygen from the air. They spend most of their time underwater but come to the surface for oxygen. 

As discussed above, you should know that snapping turtles cannot stay out of water because of the temperature and humidity outside the water. They have no problem breathing on the land. 

Why Do Snapping Turtles Need Water?

Snapping turtles can breathe on land. So, why is it crucial for them to stay in the water? They are not fish. They are reptiles, right? Well. There are many reasons why snapping turtles live in water. 

A long time ago, snapping turtlers were land animals. But they were slow and unable to protect themselves from vicious predators. Eventually, they started to spend time in the water to be safe from land predators. Thus, they have evolved for millions of years to be able to live underwater. But they still need air to survive. 

Aquatic turtles cannot live out of water for a long time because their body has adjusted to living in the water. They need water to stay hydrated and keep themselves cool. Without water, snapping turtles become weak and eventually die. 

Now, snapping turtles live in lakes and ponds as they have plenty of food available underwater. They cannot eat or digest their food without water. Hence, snapping turtles cannot live without water.  

Why and When Do Snapping Turtles Come out of Water?

Snapping turtles cannot survive without water. But they also need to come to the land for various reasons. You may see a wild or a pet turtle coming out of the water. The reasons can be: 

Breathing Oxygen

Snapping turtles live at the bottom of the water. You can see them coming to the surface to breathe in oxygen for a few seconds. 

How often they come to the surface depends on their activities. They can go on without breathing for up to 50 minutes when they are not much active. But if they are swimming or hunting, they have to come to the surface more frequently. 

Sometimes, pet snapping turtles try to escape when there is a lack of oxygen in the tank. In that case, make sure the filter system is working correctly. 

Nesting Season

During summer, female snapping turtles come to land to find a suitable place to lay their eggs. They may travel up to 10 miles to find a spot to build a nest. As snapping turtles are slow, it can take hours to find the perfect place. After laying her eggs, a female snapping turtle returns to the water as fast as she can. 

Scarcity of Food

Food scarcity is another reason for snapping turtles to leave the water. Food is essential for snapping turtles to survive. Snapping turtles mainly prey on fish and insects under the water. When they do not have enough food to eat, they come out of the water in search of food. 

Cold Water

Water temperature is another factor that makes a snapping turtle leave the water. If the water temperature gets below 70 degrees Fahrenheit, your pet snapping turtle will try to avoid the cold water. So, use a water heater to keep the water temperature at 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Search for New Habitat 

Sometimes snapping turtles decide to leave their habitats for a new one. They come out of the water in search of a new habitat. It can be for many reasons. Sacristy food, increased attack of predators, or water quality can influence a turtle to come to the land. 

What To Do If You Find a Snapping Turtle Away from the Water?

So, what should you do when you find a snapping turtle away from the water? If your pet turtle leaves the tank, check the water quality and temperature first. After solving issues with the tank, put your snapping turtle back in the tank. Feed it well so that it does not starve.  

You may find a wild snapping turtle in your backyard or on the road. It is better to let the turtles do whatever they are doing. But sometimes, it can be dangerous for a snapping turtle to cross a road as it can get under a car. Or it can be attacked by predators. It might also be out of water for a long time. 

In that case, you should call animal control in your area. Do not touch a snapping turtle if you do not know how to pick it up correctly. Snapping turtles can bite hard and injure you badly. So, it is better not to go near a wild snapping turtle. 


By now, you must have learned how long snapping turtles can be out of water. Snapping turtles feel safe underwater. Sometimes they come out of the water to the land for various reasons.

Snapping turtles can spend hours without any problem when the weather is cool. However, they can get dehydrated and weak without water in hot weather. So, it will be best not to let your snapping turtle stay out of the water for too long.

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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