How Long Can Red Eared Sliders Be Underwater?

How Long Can Red Eared Sliders Be Underwater

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

Being semi-aquatic reptiles, red eared sliders dwell both on the ground and underwater. But most of the time you will notice your red eared slider underwater. This is where they sleep and relax. This might make you wonder how long can red eared sliders be underwater?

Red eared sliders generally can stay about 30 minutes underwater. During hibernation, they can spend months underwater without any problem.

Basically, water is where red eared sliders dwell. In nature, red eared sliders can stay underwater for months. This happens mostly in winter.

From this article, you will get to know more about the red eared slider’s living behavior. It’s important to know where they are staying at particular hours. You have to ensure that they are both hanging around in the water and rising above the surface to breathe and bask.

How Long Can Red Eared Sliders Be Underwater?

Both the aquatic and semi-aquatic turtles live underwater. Most of them don’t survive holding their breath. They basically absorb oxygen dissolved in water. While underwater, the turtles breathe through the cloacal cavity. It’s a part of the turtle’s respiratory system located under its tail.

Red eared sliders can also store oxygen in their blood. Depending on their needs, they get above the water. Breathing and basking is basically the major reason for turtle to get above water.

In the tank, red eared slider, like other turtles, will get above the water in about every 30 minutes to breathe. The size of the tank plays a big role here. The smaller the tank, the smaller the amount of water, thus lower the level of oxygen. Considering everything, 30 minutes is the average time of red eared slider being underwater before rising to breathe.

In nature, this time can expand to months. Red eared slider can spend up to 3 months underwater. During other seasons they can spend days without getting up to breath. This is because of the natural environment of the surrounding. Natural habitat can hold more oxygen than a tank.

Whether it is 30 minutes or 3 months, they will eventually get above the water surface. They can’t always live down there.

How Does Red Eared Slider Breathe Underwater?

Red eared sliders don’t need to breathe underwater like other aquatic creatures. They can absorb oxygen from the water through their skin. As red eared sliders are semi aquatic, they can also breathe oxygen from the air when they are above ground.

Just like any other animal, red eared sliders need oxygen. But as the red eared sliders are semi-aquatic animals their respiratory system is quite different. Their respiratory system is designed to breathe from the air and to absorb oxygen from water.

Red eared slider’s respiratory system allows them to absorb oxygen from water in a different way. They don’t need to breathe underwater. But they breathe oxygen from the air in the same manner as any other living being when they are staying above the ground.

When it comes to absorbing oxygen from the water, semi-aquatic turtles such as red eared sliders use cloaca. Cloaca is a cavity located in a turtle’s rear end, just around the rectum and urinary system. By contracting and expanding muscles of cloaca the red eared slider takes in water and gush it out.

In this process, the turtle absorbs oxygen from the water through their skin. Then the oxygen is passed to the blood vessels. The oxygen is then delivered throughout the whole body from here.

What about during hibernation? Well, red eared sliders don’t hibernate, they brumate. During brumation, they become less active. But they still breathe oxygen through their skin. In these times the whole process becomes slow.

As they don’t move much during this time, the slow process doesn’t harm them. They don’t need much oxygen at that time.

Why Red Eared Sliders Stay Underwater?

For every semi-aquatic reptile, water is their basic habitat. Here they rest and spend most of their time. In nature, red eared sliders get most of their resources from under the water.

Red eared sliders are called semi-aquatic turtles because water is their constant habitat and ground is a secondary need. They need to bask daily in order to survive. Basking helps their metabolism. So from time to time they get up from the water and bask in the UV light.

But ultimately they need to get back to the water. Here’s why:

  1. The skins of red eared sliders are very sensitive. If exposed to too much heat or air their skin will wrinkle. And there is a high possibility of the shell being damaged. Water keeps their delicate skin and shell healthy.
  2. Red eared sliders are tiny reptiles. They can’t eat or digest hard solid food. Water soaks up the food making it easily chewable. It helps the turtle to digest.
  3. Red eared sliders are highly responsive to light and noise. They can’t sleep if the surrounding area is loud and bright. Water helps with this problem. Water reduces noise and light. Thus the turtle gets a serene place.
  4. In order to indulge in intercourse, red eared sliders need to sink deep into the water. Without water, they can’t mate.
  5. As red eared sliders are tiny beings they are vulnerable to a lot of things. Living in water protects them from many animals. It also saves them from the attack of several diseases.

There is no doubt that water is the home to red eared sliders. Here they stay most comfortable. But not always do they prefer to swim around in the water. They leave water from time to time.

Why Red Eared Sliders Stay Out Of Water?

Red eared slider stays out of water if it becomes sick. Some other probable reasons can be dirty water, improper temperature, bullying of other tank mates etc.

Though water is the natural habitat of red eared sliders, they don’t live there all the time. They swim out from the water and dwells on land. The reasons and effects of this are not always detrimental but in some cases, it can indicate several problems.

Here’s why your red eared slider is staying out of water:

  1. For red eared sliders, basking is as important as eating. Basking is important for red eared slider because it helps them with their metabolism. It also helps them to digest food. Red eared sliders never bask on a wet spot. They get out of the water to bask on a dry basking platform. This is not a problem. It’s completely a natural thing.
  2. Female red eared sliders get out of the water to bask a lot when they are pregnant.
  3. If the water condition is not adequate for turtle’s need, the turtle can be reluctant to get into the water. Imbalance in temperature and pH level can cause turtles to feel uncomfortable. If water causes irritation the turtle won’t stay in the water.
  4. If your tank is dirty the turtles won’t stay inside the tank. Filthy water can damage the turtle in many ways. It can even attack its respiratory system. It will then have trouble breathing. Eventually, they will leave the water.
  5. If your tank consists of more than one animal your turtle can be seen out of water. This can happen because of the bullying and domination of other animals. Scared red eared slider won’t go near the water and stay on basking spot.

You can’t deny the importance of your turtles being underwater. You must do whatever needed to ensure it stays underwater for as much time as it needs.

What you can do is:

  1. Keep your tank clean. Change half the tank water every 2 weeks. And try to clean the whole tank at least once every month. While cleaning the tank make sure to clean everything (plants, gravel, filter).
  2. Maintain the water temperature and pH level. For red eared sliders, water pH level should be between 6.0 to 8.0 and keep the temperature between 26 to 28 degrees Celsius.
  3. Notice if your turtle is being bullied by any other livings in the tank. If it is being bullied then try to keep both the animals separated. But make sure they are getting access to what they need.

So basically, by giving the red eared sliders what they require it’s possible to keep them underwater for as long as they need. But you should never force your red eared slider to stay underwater. If they are avoiding water then try to detect the problem and solve it.

How Long Can Red Eared Sliders Go Without Water?

Red eared sliders can go without water for about 3 to 5 days depending on the age and overall health conditions.

As you already know by now, red eared sliders don’t stay in the water forever. Getting out of water is as necessary as living in it. But it is just temporary. They live outside water only for a little portion of the day.

Red eared sliders normally stay out of water for the purpose of basking. If there is no trouble with water then the turtle won’t stay out for more than 6 to 8 hours. Why red eared sliders need water is because they can’t swallow food without it. As red eared sliders eat once in 2 or 4 days they can afford to stay out for this long.

But otherwise, they can go without water for months. Their respiratory system is like any other terrestrial animal. So it isn’t any problem for them. But it’s better if they don’t have to face this situation. So if you are planning to take your red eared slider to a tour make sure you can give it enough access to water.

Red Eared Slider Won’t Get Out Of Water?

Red eared sliders refuse to get out of the water mainly because of too low water temperature. Some other probable reasons can be poor basking condition, sickness, stress, etc.

Though water is very much essential for red eared sliders, too much of it is harmful to the turtle’s health. As red eared sliders are semi-aquatic beings they need to take oxygen from the air every often. If they don’t normally do it then it can cause several illnesses. It can even cause the turtle to die.

Also, they need to bask at least every day. If they don’t get out of the water and bask then it will greatly affect their health.

Here’s why the red eared slider won’t leave the water:

  1. The most common reason is that they are brumating. During winter red eared sliders brumate. They become less active. During this time they don’t get out of the water and stay where they are. It’s not a problem if they don’t leave the water during this period.
  2. The condition of the basking area may not be suitable for the turtles. If the temperature of the basking spot is not maintained or if the basking spot is dirty your red eared slider won’t climb up there. They will rather stay underwater.
  3. If your red eared slider gets any sign of external predator they won’t leave the water. Water is the safest place for them. The fear of attack will keep them there.
  4. If there is too much noise around then your red eared slider won’t rise above the water. Red eared sliders are very sensitive to noise. It irritates them very much.
  5. A sick turtle can’t move much. If your red eared slider is harmed in any way it won’t go anywhere. Thus it won’t be able to leave the water.

These facts can keep a red eared slider from climbing up from the water and change place once in a while. Leaving water, they mostly land on the basking spot. If they don’t get the perfect situation they won’t reach the basking spot. Their health will decline.

So, to ensure they are able to leave water whenever they need, you have to:

  1. Make sure the basking area is neat and clean. The temperature of the basking spot should never be too hot. The basking area must be 32 to 35 degrees Celsius.
  2. Make sure your turtle is feeling safe. If you own any other animal such as cats and birds be careful and notice if they are in anyway scaring the turtle.
  3. Locate the tank in a serene place.
  4. See if your turtle is sick or injured. If it’s defected in any way take necessary steps immediately.

If your turtle doesn’t bask or leave water then there is definitely a problem. Try to detect those problems and address them as soon as you can

Final Words…

Water is the world for semi-aquatic turtles like red eared sliders. They will spend most of their time here. But how long they will stay depends on the weather, temperature and the condition they are living in.

If you ever notice any kind of unusual behavior of your turtle, try to identify them and take further steps. Follow the instruction given in this article.

Wish you and your turtle all the best!

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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