How Long Do Aquatic Pet Turtles Live? [Captivity vs Wild]

How Long Do Pet Turtles Live

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

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There is no definite answer to how long do pet turtles live. It depends on many types of factors such as species of the turtle, if it is getting proper care etc. if properly taken care, most pet turtles can live more than they would in the wild. On the contrary, with poor and improper care, their lifespans will get shorter than they would in the wild.

Pet turtles generally live 20 to 50 years in captivity. Wood turtles are known to live longer, around 60 years. Reeve’s turtle can live around 20 years.

Though it is not quite possible to exactly pin down the lifespan of an aquatic turtle, most owners should know that most of the aquatic turtle species can live for more than decades. When you are getting a pet turtle, you should keep in mind that it can be a lifelong family member.

In theory, species like red-eared slider and painted turtles can live for 40 years. Though we don’t have any record of them living longer than that, they can possibly live for a longer time than that.

Some other species like mud turtles and African Sideneck turtles can live for 25 to 30 years. Box turtles can live more than a century in wild. In captivity, their lifespan can be around 40 to 50 years.

These lifespans mostly depend on how well the turtle is taken care of. With a proper turtle tank setup, a turtle can live for more than its average lifespan in captivity or wild. On the other hand, your turtle may die within a few years if you are not properly taking care of her.

Generalized Lifespan of Pet Turtles:

Here is a generalized lifespan of some of the popular pet turtle species. Please note that these lifespans are only a generalized number. The actual lifespan will depend on many other factors mainly how well you are taking care of the turtle.

Turtle SpeciesLifespan in CaptivityLifespan in Wild
Red Eared Slider20-40 years20 years
Painted Turtle15-25 years5-10 years
Box Turtle50 years50 years
Mud Turtles15-20 years15 years
Musk Turtles30-50 years30-50 years
Map TurtlesUp to 30 years15-20 years
Wood TurtlesAround 60 years40 years
African Sideneck TurtlesAround 50 yearsFew Decades
Reeve’s Turtle20 years10-15 years

Pet Turtle Lifespan & Size Chart

pet turtle lifespan and size

If you want to get a printable version of this amazing chart, click here!

Why Turtles live so long?

The very long lifespan of turtles is still a mystery to the biologists. However, the main reason behind their long lifespan is slow metabolism rate. Due to the slow metabolism rate, the rate of aging and disease in turtles are also slower than other animals. Also, turtles can live for a long period of time without any food or water due to this slow metabolism rate.

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Turtles even have the ability to go into hibernation if the environment gets too rough. In the hibernation state, turtles can live for months underwater without any access to oxygen, food or water. Their anaerobic metabolism helps them to process different biological functions at a different rate than other animals.

How to Improve Lifespan of Pet turtles:

You can improve the lifespan of your pet turtle by giving him proper care. The first thing you need to provide is the correct temperature range for your turtle. Every species has its own ideal temperature range. You’ll need to check the range for your pet turtle species and keep your turtle enclosure at that temperature. For most aquatic turtle species, the temperature of the water should range between 78 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit with a basking temperature of 80 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

Your turtle also needs a dry basking place with a heat lamp and a UVB lamp. UVB is crucial for healthy turtle growth as it aids in metabolism. The heat lamp keeps your turtle dry in the basking place. these two things are extremely important to keep your turtle healthy and stress-free.

The last thing you need to pay attention to is the diet of the turtle. the diet should consist of a mixture of commercial turtle food along with vegetables and other sources of protein. Vegetables such as dandelion leaves, Romanian lettuce are a great way to balance your turtle’s diet. For additional protein, you can use mealworms, insects, shrimps, chickens etc. The diet also varies on what species of turtle you are keeping.

You should only get a pet turtle if you can commit to it. A turtle can be a lifelong pet for you. So, if you are ready to take responsibility for it for your whole life, then go for it. You’ll also have to spend a smart amount of money to make a decent habitat for your turtle. You can either go for an indoor turtle setup or an outdoor turtle enclosure, whatever you wish.

How To Tell How Old Your Turtle Is?

If you bring a turtle to your home, it’s natural to become confused about its age provided that you haven’t seen it when it was born.

However, there’s an easy way to determine the age of your little pet- by carefully taking a look at its shell. You can tell the age by measuring the size of the shell and sometimes, its color.

To measure the size of the shell, in other words, its length, you’ll need to use a measuring tape. Hold the measuring tape from right where the carapace begins and go along its length to the bottom. Make sure to include the center of the carapace for accurate length. Then use the measured length to compare to the size chart of a specific turtle.

If you’re unsure of your turtle’s actual age after measurement, you can ask a professional who is experienced in reptiles. They will be able to enlighten you with more information than what you have collected.

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Why Do Some Turtles Live Longer Than The Others?

You’ll often find some turtle species, like the Greek Tortoise living longer than other turtles. They can live as long as 100 years or even more! Some of the factors that affect the lifespan of a turtle are mentioned below.  

1. Temperature

The first factor that contributes to the lifespan of a turtle is the temperature of its surrounding environment. Turtles are ectotherms, which means their body temperature varies according to external temperatures.

When they need to warm up, they bask in the sunlight, and when they need to cool themselves down, they sit in the shade.

Turtles, in general, can’t withstand colder temperatures, except for hatchling painted turtles that can withstand temperatures as low as -2 degrees Celsius.

2. Diet

The diet of a turtle also plays an important role in its lifespan. They feed on plants, pellets, and insects. While they can also consume fruits, it is easy to put on weight. They also require regular calcium intake to keep their carapace strong.

3. Enclosure Conditions

Turtles require frequent exposure to sunlight to prevent metabolic bone disease. So, a UVA/UVB lamp is a must-have in turtle enclosures. Moreover, the water they swim in needs to be filtrated to remove debris and toxic substances.

Apart from that, the size of the tank also needs to be large enough for turtles to swim freely.

4. Size

Generally, large-breed turtles tend to live longer than smaller ones. But, they won’t be able to live as long as the expected lifespan if they are subjected to a poor diet and environment.

5. Gender

Male turtles generally have shorter lives than females due to their aggressive behavior. Getting into a fight with other turtles can lead to injuries and stress.

6. Genes

A single gene can have an effect on a turtle’s lifespan. If a turtle has a single or multiple unusual genes, it can lead to a shorter life.

7. Breeding History

Turtles lay eggs on land, but sadly, they don’t care about them. The laid eggs have to fend for themselves. So, the lifespan of a turtle also depends on its breeding history.  

8. Care

Lastly, the extent of care you give to your turtle also contributes to its lifespan. If you keep your turtle in a clean environment, provide it with adequate food, and promptly treat any illness, they are likely to live longer.

sea turtle life cycle infographic

The Life Stages Of A Turtle

Turtles are known to live in different environments- the sea, desert, and cold regions. Despite these differences, all turtles go through the same life stages. They start as an egg, then grow as a hatchling, and then an adult. Here’s an explanation of the three phases.

Stage 1: Nesting

In this nesting stage, the adult female turtle lays eggs in sand or mud. A female turtle on average can lay up to 100 eggs in a clutch. They bury the eggs in the ground to keep them safe from predators. The only exception is the Chelodina rugosa, an Australian freshwater turtle because it lays eggs underwater.

Once the eggs are buried, they are left to develop from spring to summer. There won’t be any further involvement of the mother turtle, except for the Asian giant tortoise that remains near their eggs. It usually takes about three months to hatch.

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Stage 2: Hatchling

The gender of a turtle depends on the temperature of the developing eggs. Warmer egg temperature indicates a female, while cooler temperature indicates a male. The hatchling uses its caruncle or egg-tooth to break through the pliable eggshell. It then directly moves toward the water.

Sea turtles spend their first year in the ocean, while those that live on land dig their feet on the soil for keeping themselves cool. Moreover, they hide inside their shell to protect themselves from predator attacks.

Stage 3: Adult

The time it takes for a turtle to become an adult depends on the species. For example, sea turtles can take about 30 years to fully mature, whereas red-eared sliders can take only five years.

Once they’ve grown into adults, turtles start living on both land and water. When living in the water for long periods, they often come to the surface to breathe in the fresh air. Unlike fish, which have gills, turtles have lungs, and so they need air to breathe.

Breeding starts with a male turtle approaching a female turtle. The male turtle will stroke her head or neck. If the female responds to the gesture, she will invite the male turtle to swim to the bottom of the water. Mating will occur when both turtles go underwater.

During the breeding period, the male turtle rubs against the female, bites her head, or bumps her shell. Within three to six weeks after mating, the female will lay the first clutch of eggs. Before laying eggs, she will examine the land to find a suitable place for laying. Once she finds her desired location, she will lay the eggs and bury them for protection.

Can Pet Turtles Survive in the Wild?

No, pet turtles can’t survive in the wild. You should never release a pet turtle into the wild. Turtles that are grown in captivity as pets can’t adapt to the rough wild environment. There are also possibilities that the pet turtle may not be native to your local area and can’t interbreed with the wild turtle species.

There are also cases where pet turtles carry certain types of diseases that may harm the wild turtle population. This is why you should never release your pet turtle into the wild. If you can’t commit to the responsibility, then you’ll have to find another responsible owner for your turtle.

If you want help, you can look for a local herpetology society around your area. There are also many wildlife websites from where you can get help.

Can Turtles Live up to 500 years?

galapagos tortoise

Though scientists have not yet confirmed any turtle species living for 500 years, it is very possible that some endemic turtle species are living for 400-500 years, such as the Galapagos tortoise. Scientists couldn’t yet measure the age accurately as it takes 100s of years.

How long can a Turtle live out of water?

It generally varies on species, however, most aquatic turtle species can live weeks out of water in a damp or humid environment. Though it is not recommended to deprive an aquatic turtle of water, the turtle can survive being out of the water if the need arises.

If you need to transport your turtle to another home, it’ll do fine without any water for a few days. It is better if you can keep the transport box humid. I love to spray some water inside the transport box to make it more humid.

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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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