How Long Can A Turtle Stay Out Of Water?

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

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Turtles are aquatic or semi-aquatic reptiles meaning they need water to survive. Therefore, you must provide them with an ideal enclosure with a tank full of water. For some reason, your turtle may not get access to the water area for a long time. Then what? How long can a turtle stay out of water? 

If environmental factors like temperature and humidity are favourable, turtles can live about a week without water. Most turtle species prefer spending most of their time in the water. But they may stay out of water for basking and other activities for about 6 to 8 hours a day. For hibernation, turtles can go months without water. 

In this article, I will talk about how long turtles can stay out of the water and what factors affect the ability of turtles to live outside water. Before knowing how long turtles can live without water, let us know why turtles need water so much. 

Why Do Turtles Need Water? 

Like any other living being, turtles also need water to survive. Your turtle will not only use the water for swimming, but it will also drink the water. Hence, you have to be aware of the type and quality of the water provided in the turtle tank. 

Besides, water is essential for turtles to consume their food. Most pet turtles are omnivores. So, owners can feed them different foods. Since turtles cannot produce saliva in their mouth like other animals, it needs water to eat dry food. You may have noticed turtles eating mostly in water and rarely on the ground.

Turtles even tend to defecate in the water. In the wild, turtles defecate in the water so that the stream can wash away the waste. Pet turtles poop in warm water as it makes bowel movement easier.

Moreover, turtles are cold-blooded reptiles. They depend on their environment to maintain body temperature. So, whenever they feel too hot, they dive into the water to cool down. 

The water temperature needs to be lower than the basking spot of your turtle. So, if the basking spot is 90 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit, the water temperature should be between 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Do Turtles Need To Be In Water All The Time?

As you can see, water is crucial for the healthy life of turtles. But it does not mean turtles have to be in the water all the time. They will need to bask under the light and dry themselves. Hence, they will need to get out of the water from time to time.

In fact, keeping turtles in the water all the time is dangerous for them. Turtles can get cold and develop respiratory problems. They will get out of the water to get rid of the health problem. 

Furthermore, turtles can get tired constantly swimming in the water. They have to take a rest to regain their energy. If they do not take a rest, they will get weak and drown in the water. Besides, they cannot fight fungus and bacteria without drying in the basking spot.

How Long Can A Turtle Stay Out Of The Tank? 

Now, how long can a turtle stay out of the water tank? A turtle owner might ask this question for various reasons. Maybe your turtle has escaped the enclosure and hid in some corner of the house. So, you may wonder if your turtle can survive without water until you find it. 

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Typically, turtles stay outside water for 8 to 12 hours a day without getting dehydrated. They bask for about 6 to 10 hours a day. Hence, it is normal for turtles to stay out of water for many hours every day. 

But as mentioned earlier, a situation may occur where your turtle cannot get access to water for more than 10 hours. Can your turtle survive then? 

There is no need to panic because most turtle species can survive a few days to a few weeks without water. However, how long they can survive outside water depends on some factors. These factors are: 

  • Age 
  • Weather 
  • Species 

Age of Turtles 

A turtle’s age is one of the important factors to consider for calculating how long it can stay out of water. An adult turtle has more chances of surviving long hours without water as they know how to save energy. 

On the other hand, baby turtles can only survive a few hours. Their body is not completely developed. They use up too much of their body energy while trying to stay outside the water. 


Next, consider the weather to determine your turtle’s survival chances out of water. The hotter the weather is, the harder it becomes for the turtles to stay out of the water. Excessive temperature causes water to evaporate from a turtle’s body quickly. As a result, a turtle becomes dehydrated and needs to get into the water fast. 

If the weather is not so hot, your turtle has a much higher chance of lasting outside water. High humidity is also a favourable factor for a turtle to stay hydrated for a few days to a week. 

Turtles also enjoy high humidity in the weather. Therefore, they can live without water for a long time in foggy or rainy conditions. 


How long your turtle can stay out of water depends greatly on its species. There are different turtle species like aquatic, semi-aquatic, and land turtles. 

Aquatic and semi-aquatic turtles live most of their life in water. These turtles leave the water only when they have to. They cannot live without water for too long. Turtles like the mud and musk turtles can survive 2 to 3 days without water. 

On the other hand, semi-aquatic turtles can live to survive without water much longer. Some turtles can live for a week without water in a harsh climate. For example, red-eared sliders can live for days or a week in dry conditions. 

Land turtles or non-aquatic turtles are even more amazing. They can survive without water for weeks. They are not much interested in swimming in deep water like the aquatic or semi-aquatic species. Hence, staying without water for a long time is not a problem for them. 

What Happens If A Turtle Stays Out of Water for Too Long?

Remember, just because your turtle can live without water for days does not mean it can do it with ease. They will survive, but you must prepare to see them extremely dehydrated and weak. 

Without water, a turtle cannot eat or digest food. Its digestive and metabolic systems will be disrupted. So, the turtle cannot generate energy to maintain body functions. Eventually, after a few days, the turtle will suffer from acute dehydration and hunger. 

To hydrate your turtle and nourish it back to health, you should provide fresh water to the turtle as soon as possible. The temperature of the water should be ideal for your turtle’s species. Also, feed them nutritious food timely. 

How Long Can A Baby Turtle Stay Out Of Water?

Hatchlings come out from their nest and dive into the water. Your young pet turtle will prefer to stay in the water more than on the land. They need the water to stay hydrated. They cannot survive outside water so long as adult turtles. Juvenile turtles can stay about 6 to 8 hours outside of water if they have to. 

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They visit the basking spot now and then to get their share of UVB and UVA light. In extreme cases, depending on the species, young turtles may survive a couple of days max. 

Can Turtles Sleep Outside The Water?

Have you seen your turtle sleeping outside the water? Where your turtle sleeps depends on its species. Aquatic and semi-aquatic turtles prefer sleeping underwater for 4 to 7 hours. 

On the other hand, land turtles take naps in the land area. It is also quite normal for any species of turtle to take a nap on the basking spot or other parts of the land area. 

However, you should be concerned if your aquatic or semi-aquatic turtle sleeping outside the tank more than usual. Check the water temperature to make sure it is not too cold for the turtles. Sometimes turtles sleep outside the water if they cannot adjust to the water temperature. 

If your turtle gets less active and you see any symptoms of sickness, take it to the vet as soon as possible. 

How Do Turtles Live Without Water During Hibernation?

In the wild, aquatic and many semi-aquatic turtles spend their hibernation period underwater. They can hibernate at the bottom of lakes, rivers, or ponds. But these turtles can also stay in hibernation outside water for 3 to 6 months depending on the climate. They burrow in the sand, under tree trunks, or in other dark places. 

During winter, turtles hibernate (more accurately to say brumate) to survive the cold weather. Hibernation is a sleeping state when the turtles slow down their metabolic activities.

Thus, turtles go without food and water for months. But this is only possible when the temperature gets too low for the turtles to stay awake. Turtles cannot survive such a long period when they are fully awake. 

Why Do Turtles Come Out of Water? 

Aquatic and semi-aquatic turtles live most of their lives in water. However, turtles have to come out of the water for many reasons. Even though turtles can be aquatic, they do not breathe in the water as fish do. They have to come to the surface out of the water to take in oxygen.

Aquatic turtles, like sea turtles, rarely live in the water. The only two times they come up to land are to bask under the sun and lay eggs. They lay their eggs under the sand near the seashore. 

Besides, all species of turtles need to bask under UVA and UVB light, which is necessary for digesting food and reproduction. So, they will come out of the water to warm their body.

If your turtle comes out of the water too often or does not get in as it should, you better check the water quality. The issues with the water can be:

  • The water temperature is lower than the ideal temperature for your turtle species.
  • The water is not clean or the pH level is not right.
  • Your turtle has become sick or suffering from respiratory problems. 

In such situations, make sure the water is de-chlorinated. The water temperature should be between 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. You must always run the tank filters so that the water remains clean.

How Long Can A Red-Eared Slider Live Without Water?

Red-eared slider turtles can be high-maintenance, but they are still one of the most popular pet turtles in the world. These semi-aquatic turtles have a great tolerance for living outside water. If the humidity level is high and the weather is not too hot, you can expect a red-eared slider to last about a week without water. 

Red-eared sliders can even survive for days in harsh weather. But they will become dehydrated, no doubt. So, be prepared to take good care of them. 

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How Long Can Musk Turtles Stay Out Of Water? 

Musk turtles prefer to stay in shallow water. So, many people may think that musk turtles can live outside water for a long time. It is not actually true. Musk turtles are aquatic turtles, and like any aquatic turtles, they remain in close contact with water sources to stay healthy. So, you cannot expect them to survive over three days without water. 

If a musk turtle is left without a water source to dip in, it can cause serious health problems. These turtles depend on water to eat their food. So, without water, they will not only get dehydrated but also suffer from hunger. 

How Long Can Box Turtles Go Without Water?

Land turtles such as the box turtles prefer to spend more time on the land than on the water. Desert box turtles live in dry conditions where deep water pockets are rare. They are not habituated to staying underwater like aquatic or semi-aquatic turtles. A healthy adult box turtle can survive outside water for 2 to 3 days with no health issues if the temperature and humidity level of the area is favourable. 

After 2 to 3 days, box turtles go on for a few more days. But their body will start to dehydrate. They can live for weeks without water if the humidity level is high. 

How Long Can Softshell Turtles Be Out of Water?

How long a softshell turtle can stay out of water depends on several factors, such as age, size, and environmental factors. An adult softshell turtle can stay out of water for about a week in cool temperatures. But softshell turtles might survive only 10 to 12 hours out of water in hotter temperatures.

There are about 30 species of softshell turtles. Most of them are either aquatic or semi-aquatic, meaning they spend most of their time in the water. However, they also come out of the water for basking, hunting, and laying eggs. So, they have to spend some time out of the water.

Adult turtles can stay out of water longer compared to young softshell turtles. This is because adult softshell turtles are larger; hence they can store more moisture and use it in need. On the other hand, baby softshell turtles cannot store much moisture. As a result, they can quickly become dehydrated and stressed out of water.

How Long Can A Painted Turtle Stay Out Of Water?

Painted turtles (Chrysemys picta) are aquatic turtles that spend most of their life in water. They, too, come out of the water for basking, forging, and laying eggs. So, they can stay out of the water for some time. But they should not be kept out of water for a long time. Adult painted turtles can tolerate being out of water for 10 to 12 hours. Young ones can survive only a few hours.

However, some claimed their painted turtles have survived out of water for a few days. Therefore, how long a painted turtle can live out of water is determined by age, size, and environmental conditions. The hotter the temperature gets

If your painted turtle is out of water for some reason, try to put it back in the water within 6 to 8 hours. Spending more than 8 hours out of water can cause series health problems in a painted turtle. They can get severally dehydrated and even die.


So, how long can a turtle stay out of water? By now, hopefully, you have got your answer from here. Every day turtles spend 6 to 8 hours outside of water for many activities. Many turtles can survive even longer without swimming or drinking water. In fact, turtles can stay out of water for days depending on their health and the environment. 

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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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