How To Get Your Tortoise To Drink Water [Pro Tips]

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

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Tortoises are not fans of water. They do not swim, nor do they drink water every other minute. In normal conditions, a healthy adult tortoise will drink water 2 – 7 times a day. But what if your pet does not want to drink water? What then?

You may have to adopt the following tricks to get your tortoise to drink water,

  • Make the water source reachable for the tortoises
  • Soak the tortoise regularly
  • Add more water-rich veggies to the meals
  • Mist the enclosure every day

Get a detailed view of these tips in the following article. You will also get many answers related to tortoise dehydration.

5 PRO Tips To Get Your Tortoise To Drink Water

Of course, tortoises are not heavy drinkers. Yet, the species require a minimum amount of water to stay hydrated. Dehydration can cause flaky skin, dry scutes, and internal organ complexity.

Considering the downsides, you must not dehydrate your pet tortoises. But how can you keep your tortoises hydrated?

Here is how I make my tortoises drink water,

1. Water Source Should Be In Reach

Tortoises definitely do not require a water pool like turtles. Neither do they drink a lot of water like dogs or cats. Still, you have to build a water source for the tortoises inside their habitat.

You can use a shallow water bowl or pot as a water source. Again, some owners build water pools with minimum depth for the tortoises. No matter which water source you use, make sure it is not deep.

Tortoises can not swim at all. Falling into a deep water source will make the pets drown to death. Check this article to learn how to revive tortoises from death.

Well, providing a water source is not enough. You have to make the water accessible to the tortoises. These lazy pets will not work even a bit to reach the water.

Hence, place the water bowl in one corner or beside the dining spot. The tortoises will drink from the pot whenever they need.

A shallow source is mandatory. Tortoises can not reach the water level when the bowl walls are higher.

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Moreover, keep the bowl on the cool side or under the shades. Placing the source under the direct sun will evaporate water into vapor. Furthermore, change the water regularly to avoid any bacterial growth.

2. Give Your Tortoise A Proper Bath Regularly

Experts suggest that tortoises tend to drink water when they bathe. While showering, tortoises suck in water via their cloaca tissues. It keeps these creatures hydrated for days.

Also, tortoises absorb water via their skin and scutes during this soaking time. It also fulfills the hydration requirement of these pets.

Many beginners have no idea how to bathe the tortoises. In my previous write-up, you will get a detailed guide on soak tortoises. Here, I am adding the process in brief,

Prepare The Bathtub

I have customized a big plastic tub for bathing the tortoises. First, I removed ¼ of the walls, leaving a 6 – 10 inches base to hold the water. This way, the water level is not so deep for the tortoises. Also, they can walk out whenever they feel uncomfortable.

I have seen keepers setting the tub at an angle. It is because tortoises rest their heads when bathing.

Soaking Time

Filling the container with lukewarm water is mandatory. A 90F – 100F temperature is suitable for soaking.

Of course, you can bathe the tortoise in cold water. But warm water is recommended as it influences the pets to release waste.

Allow the tortoises to soak for 20 – 30 minutes. In the meantime, splash water on their shells and do the necessary scrubbing.

Dry The Pet

Next, remove the tortoises from the bath. Later pat their body with a soft, dry towel.

The ideal bathing routine for tortoises is twice a week. Also, do not use chlorinated water for the soaking. Instead, fresh and dechlorinated water is suitable for pets.

3. Maintain Humidity Inside The Pen

Another thing that leads to dehydration is dry enclosure. No matter which species you have, the tortoises require a highly humid environment.

Usually, 40% – 70% humidity is ideal for the pen. But for some species, you may increase the humidity level to 100.

You can easily track the humidity inside the enclosure using a hygrometer. But how to maintain a humid environment?

Well, misting the substrate every day is the only way to do it. Use a spray bottle for this purpose.

Again, there are specific rules to moisten the environment. For example, you can not use chlorinated water. Moreover, mist the substrate two hours before you turn off the heating lamp.

In any case, do not overdo the misting. Remember, a damp substrate entices bacterial growth and risks the health of the tortoises.

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4. Select The Food Carefully

It is no secret that tortoises absorb a good amount of water from their diet. Around 80% of the meal of these creatures is made of vegetables and grass. The water content in those items is high and contributes to keeping the tortoises hydrated.

No wonder how desert tortoises can go without water for days. The cactus pads are a great source of water for this species.

So, you can hydrate your pet tortoises simply by adding water-rich vegetables to their diet. For example, cucumber, lettuce, cactus pads, etc., include a high water content.

In many cases, water-rich vegetables are low in vitamins and minerals. So, make sure the meal is balanced between everything.

Go through this special tortoise diet chart of tortoises if you are confused.

5. Add Necessary Minerals

Many experts suggest that mineral and vitamin deficiency can also lead to dehydration. But unfortunately, the research in this field is incomplete.

Yet, it is recommended to feed your tortoises enough supplements. Sprinkle vitamin D3 and calcium powder on their meals. You can also add multivitamins if necessary.

Tortoise Refuse To Drink Water: What To Do?

Unfortunately, making your tortoise drink water forcefully is not considered healthy. Of course, you can pour water on the innocent creature’s throat with a dropper. But it can stress out the tortoise.

So, what should you do?

  • First, place a shallow water source inside the pen. It will allow the tortoise to drink water whenever it feels right.
  • Second, use the soaking and misting technique to eliminate dehydration risk. Again, feeding water-rich vegetables also helps in this situation.
  • Check the water condition in the bowl. Sometimes, tortoises refuse to drink just because it is dirty.
  • Finally, determine the cause of why the tortoise is refusing to drink. Then work on it.

Generally, tortoises barely drink water. Therefore, it is harder to spot whether the pet is drinking water.

However, looking out for the signs of dehydration can help you in this situation. Also, keep a close eye on the tortoises to catch any hint of illness. Here are 10 ways to discover that your pet tortoise is severely sick.

Dehydration & Health Complexities In Tortoises

As mentioned above, dehydration is not good for tortoises. It often causes health complications and makes the pets suffer miserably.

The 4 major health issues that arise with dehydration are,

  1. Kidney Failure: Dehydration directly affects the renal system of the tortoises. Lack of water will disrupt the waste management of the kidney, leading to a complete shutdown. The tortoises can even die due to kidney failure.
  2. Articular Gout: Gout is a painful disease for tortoises. In this condition, the joints of the tortoises get corrupted by the uric acid crystal buildups.
  3. Bladder Stone: A dehydrated tortoise does not release any waste. As a result, the uric acid deposits on the bladder and forms a stone.
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How Can You Spot A Dehydrated Tortoise?

It is impossible to keep track of the tortoise’s drinking habit. But of course, you need to regularly maintain all rules of hydrating the pet. At the same time, keep your eyes open to pick up any sign of dehydration.

Look at the symptoms of a dehydrated tortoise,

  • Weight loss
  • No interest in food
  • Lethargy
  • Sunken eyes
  • Flaky scutes
  • Dry skin
  • Constipation
  • Reduced urine
  • Dry poop
  • Shrinking posture 
  • Thick saliva discharge

How Long Can A Tortoise Go Without Water?

Most experts claim that a tortoise can survive 1 week without water. But again, this period is not guaranteed, and you should not keep the tortoise dehydrated in any case.

Generally, the tortoises feel less necessary for water in humid and chill zones. But if the temperature rises and humidity falls, these pets require water. In such cases, the tortoises can not go even for 2 days without water.

What Kind Of Water Do Tortoises Drink?

Of course, your tortoises do not complain about the water quality. Yet, you can not just provide them with any water you get near your hands.

In most cases, tap water, bottled water, hard water, and soft water suit the tortoises. But you need to check the water content to ensure safety. A home water checkup kit is also available in the stores.

Here are the requirements for safe tortoise water,

pH Level6 – 8
Chlorine Level0
Ammonia Level0
Nitrite Level0.5 ppm
Nitrate Level40 ppm or less
Additives, Sweetener, FlavoringsNo

Frequently Asked Questions

How Much Water Should A Tortoise Drink?

There is actually no standard decided for this. A tortoise drinks as much water as it requires to stay hydrated. Tortoises in hot and dry regions may need more water than the ones in humid and chill areas.

Do Tortoises Drink And Pee At The Same Time?

Appearantly, tortoises drink and release wastes at the same time when soaking. But do not worry about the water quality. You can continue bathing the pet with the same water.

Do Tortoises Drink With Their Bums?

Many owners believe tortoises absorb water via their cloaca or butt when bathing. However, several experts have tagged this belief as a myth and baseless.

Before You Go

Just like tortoises, turtles also require hydration. I understand they live in rivers, but how do they drink water? The attached article will clear all your doubts.

Do turtles drink water?

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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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