How Much Water Do Turtles Need To Drink?

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

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Many people think turtles do not drink water. Is that true? Can turtles live without drinking? If they do drink, how much water do they need?

You can not accurately measure how much water turtles drink per day. The reason is the creatures stay in water and drink when swimming. Some professionals suggest an adult turtle consumes about 10 – 20% of its body weight. The amount may vary depending on the weather and surroundings.

You will find details in the following article.

Key Takeaways

  • Turtles need to consume water about 10 – 20% of their body mass.
  • These creatures can absorb water via their skin or sip from the dish.
  • Dehydrated turtles have flaky shells, dry skin, and sunken eyes.

How Much Water Do Turtles Drink?

Turtles do not drink water as frequently as humans. They stay in the water. During the swim, these creatures absorb enough water to keep them hydrated. Besides, they drink water when they are in the tank.

These are the reasons why you can not track how much water your turtles have in a day. However, some researchers mention that turtles require water 10 – 20% of their body weight. So, if you have a 200-gram turtle, it will need 20 grams or mL of water.

Another publisher has claimed that saltwater turtles drink around 550 mL of water per day. The water consumption for the larger freshwater turtles can hit up to 150 mL daily. Well, I haven’t found any solid background to these claims.

Basically, the water demand varies with turtle size and its diet. When you add water-rich foods to the meals of an omnivorous turtle, it will require less water. Similarly, the pet will consume more water if the diet is full of dry foods.

Furthermore, the surrounding temperature and humidity level can also affect the turtle’s thirst. For example, these creatures barely drink water in a highly humid environment. In fact, turtles can survive a week out of water when the moisture content in the air is high.

Additionally, a cool temperature also reduces drinking frequency in turtles. Of course, the pets have to drink more when the heat is unbearable.

Owner: Sarah Miller

Do Turtles Drink Water?

All animals on this planet require water to function their body fully. Turtles are no different. This species is, in fact, known as a water creature. It means they spend 75% of their lives in the water. So, how can they go without drinking?

Turtles need water to keep their metabolic process checked. In one of my blogs, I mentioned that turtles can not stay without water for too long. They may survive a maximum of a week.

In short, turtles drink water to keep their life cycle going.

How Do Turtles Drink Water?

I know many of you want to understand how turtles actually drink water. Surprisingly, there are several methods turtles use to stay hydrated. For example,

  1. There is a popular belief that turtles drink water through their cloaca. Well, recent experiments have rejected this theory. But yes, turtles can absorb moisture through their skin. Hence, swimming in the pond or tank is enough for these pets to stay hydrated.
  2. Apparently, turtles can lick water through their tongue, too. They create a suction to pull water into their mouth.
  3. The most common method turtles use is sipping. Turtles of all sizes, especially the large ones, sip water from the bowl.
  4. Turtles can fulfill their water demand from their diet, too. Usually, a meal consisting of water-rich vegetables is recommended to beat dehydration.
  5. While most turtles live in the freshwater, the marine ones are adapted to saltwater. The sea turtles have special glands behind their eyes to turn the salty water into freshwater.
Owner: Sarah Miller

Why Do Turtles Need Water?

Each animal is biologically different. Turtles have evolved to stay underwater. Yes, they can come to the land. But they are more adapted to swimming.

The key reasons why turtles need water are,

1. Hydration

If you have ever touched a turtle, you know the pet has elastic skin. Also, the shell has a shine in it. When you dehydrate a turtle, it loses all these charms in a short time.

Mind it. Dehydration is never good for turtles. They face complex physical and organ complexities because of it.

2. Feeding Habit

Most turtles prefer to eat in water. They refuse the diet if you put it on the land. Drinking water during meals helps the pets digest food better.

3. Defeceting

Turtles have a habit of peeing and pooping in water. It means the pets will not release any waste on the land. Hence, keeping turtles away from water can cause constipation.

4. Temperature Maintain

There is a misconception that turtles love high temperatures. Well, yes. They are cold-blooded creatures and rely on the external heat to stay warm.

But a too-high temperature will make turtles uncomfortable. Water allows these pets to cool off when the basking dock is scorching.

N.B. Even though turtles require water for healthy living, the pets do not always need to be in the water. Allow and motivate your turtles to take a break from the swim and bask for some time. The lack of basking or land in the enclosure will entice bacterial or fungal growth.

How Do You Know If Your Turtle Is Drinking Water?

Your turtles are hydrated if they have access to a water tank or pond. So, the aquatic turtles barely get dehydrated. The keepers are mainly concerned with the semi-aquatic and box turtles.

The semi-aquatic turtles get a fair share of land along with a water area. They tend to spend time on both land and water. These turtles will refuse to go for a swim when they are sick. Staying away from water or less water consumption for too long will lead to dehydration in semi-aquatic turtles.

Unlike the aquatic and semi-aquatic turtles, the box turtles barely get into the water. In fact, box turtles are not that good at swimming. As these turtles stay away from water, they are highly likely to get dehydrated.

red eared slider closeup
Owner: Heather Powell

Generally, dehydrated turtles show the following signs,

  • Lethargic
  • Flaky shell
  • Dry skin
  • Dull and cloudy eyes
  • White gum
  • Constipation
  • Less appetite
  • Dry feces
  • Sunken eyes
  • Enlarged pupils, etc. 

Never take dehydration lightly. It can damage the internal organs, reducing the turtle’s lifespan. You can beat dehydration in these pets by,

  • Allowing them an easy-to-access water source
  • Offering them a regular soak
  • Providing them with meals including water-rich foods
  • Installing a humidifier in the enclosure for semi-aquatic and box turtles
  • Misting the land area every day
cute red eared slider
Owner: Vivi Hernandez

Do Turtles Need A Bowl For Drinking?

The answer is no for the aquatic and semi-aquatic turtles. They have access to a bigger water source. But for box turtles, you should definitely use a bowl or shallow dish as a water body.

The edges and walls of the dish should be low. Otherwise, the turtles will struggle to access water and might refuse to drink altogether.

Change the water in the water bowl every day. Also, clean the dish or bowl at least once a week.

For the aquatic and semi-aquatic turtles, replace 25% of the tank water once a week. Then, change the water at least once a month. You should do the aquarium cleaning around this time, too.

Why Do Turtles Eat In The Water?

Most turtles are habituated to eating in the water. Well, unlike us, turtles do not salivate. So, they need additional moisture to digest most meals.

Eating in the water allows the turtles to process the food easily. The pets can even eat dry meals in this scenario.

Moreover, turtles feel more comfortable eating in the water because of their instinct. In the wild, turtles prey underwater and enjoy their meals there. So, this can be another reason why turtles love eating in the water.

Well, not all turtles prefer their meals in the water. Each pet has its favorite dining spot. Find out your turtle’s preference and let it fast there.

Can Turtles Drink Salt Water?

Freshwater turtles, for example, red eared sliders, map turtles, snapping turtles, etc., can not drink salt water. They need access to freshwater sources.

Some turtle species, like diamondback terrapin, perfectly adjust to brackish waters. In fact, studies are showing that diamondback terrapins can live in water bodies with mild to high salinity.

Yes, diamondback terrapins will survive in the ocean, too. However, they do not have the physical characteristics of the marine turtles. Therefore, the creatures will end up dead soon.

Sea turtles also depend on the salt water. Apparently, this species has a gland behind its eyes named the salt gland. The gland can convert the saltwater into freshwater.

Do Turtles Need Distilled Water For Drinking?

Your tap water is safe for turtles if it does not include a high amount of ammonia, chlorine, and nitride. You must use the water conditioner to purify the water. But the best option is to install a water filter.

Many keepers prefer offering their turtles distilled water. Of course, distilled water is a safer option but not mandatory.

Before You Go…

Well, it goes without saying that water is a must for all turtles. But do you know the filthy water can backfire, ruining your pets’ health? Thus, you must install a quality filter to keep out the dirt and provide your turtles with clean water. You will find my top filter choices in the attached article below.

5 Best Canister Filters for Turtle Tank [Review & Buyer’s Guide]

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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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