Can Turtles Live Without Water? And For How Long?

Image of turtles sitting outside water

Turtles are one of the oldest living creatures on earth. They can live on land as well as in water. You may have seen several turtles living on the land comfortably. But, can turtles live without water?

Turtles cannot live without water for too long. For how long they can survive without water depends on the turtle species and temperature. Turtles need water to stay hydrated, for proper digestion and metabolism. Turtles with no access to water will dehydrate, become weak, and will eventually die.

Now that you know turtles need water for survival, let’s talk about the importance of water and what factors determine how long turtles can stay out of the water.

Why Do Turtles Need Water?

All living beings of this world require water in some form or the other for their survival.

Some creatures like fish cannot survive without water at all, while others like land turtles can survive with less water.

Nevertheless, water in some quantity is a pre-requisite for everyone. No one can thrive without water for too long.

Turtles also need water. They need water to keep themselves hydrated and cool themselves.

Without water, turtles get dehydrated and can become weak.

When the weather is hot, turtles cannot survive for long without water.

They will eventually succumb to the rising temperature.

Additionally, turtles need water for metabolism and digestion.

Aquatic turtles cannot survive without water for too long.

In contrast, land turtles like box turtles need water in small quantities.

Also, there are some turtles who can live on the little amount of water that they derive from the food they consume.

All species of turtles are different, and so their water-resistant power varies accordingly.

However, water is essential for the survival of every species of turtles.

Alright! So, turtles cannot survive without water for too long, but can turtles stay out of water? And for how long?

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How Long Can Turtles Stay Out Of Water?

Most species of turtles thrive in or near water bodies. Turtles need constant water to keep them cool from the soaring heat in summer.

However, they can spend a considerable amount of time outside water.

The amount of time that they can stay out of water depends on factors such as the turtle species, age, hibernation, and weather conditions.

Let’s now discuss how each of these factors determine how long a turtle can stay out of water.

Turtle Species

The turtle’s specie is the foremost factor that determines how long it can stay outside water. Turtles live on land as well as in water.

Land and aquatic turtles will spend a varying amount of time outside the water.

Some marine species, such as sea turtles or freshwater turtles, spend most of their lives in the water and do not come out of the water often.

The female sea turtles come on the land to lay their eggs, and then they go back to the sea.

On the contrary, land-dwelling turtles such as box turtles spend a considerable amount of time outside water.

Even red-eared sliders are hardy and adapt themselves to live out of water.

Though these species can live outside water, it does not mean that they do not need water at all to survive.

No turtle can live without water for too long.

If a turtle has no access to water, it cannot survive and will eventually succumb to death.

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Turtle Age

Age is another crucial factor that determines the time a turtle can stay and survive out of water.

An adult turtle can spend a considerable amount of time outside the water without much difficulty.

However, it is not the same for a young turtle.

A young turtle cannot spend the same amount of time outside water.

This is because a young turtle is not fully developed as compared to an older turtle.

When a turtle is outside the water, it uses the energy and resources stored inside its body to survive.

A small turtle will not have too much energy. So, it cannot stay outside water for too long as compared to older turtles.

Turtle Hibernation

Turtles can spend the entire hibernation time outside water. Hibernation is a state in which turtles sleep all the time.

Turtles usually hibernate during cold weather. They have a slow metabolic rate during hibernation.

They do not eat or drink at all during hibernation. They use the energy stored in their body during this state.

Turtles usually hibernate for 2 to 5 months, depending on the climate.

They usually hibernate at the bottom of the lake.

However, if they do not find a place at the bottom of the lake, they hibernate on land.

To hibernate on land, they sometimes dig a hole in the ground; or hibernate in a tree hollow or pile of leaves.

When turtles are hibernating, they can spend the entire time outside water without any difficulty.

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Weather Conditions

Climate plays a crucial role in determining the amount of time a turtle can live outside water.

The hotter the climate, the less will be the time a turtle can live out of water.

Outside heat evaporates the water inside the turtle’s body.

If the turtle stays out of water for a longer duration in a hot climate, it will feel dehydrated and can fall sick.

So it has to go back to the water in hot conditions to cool itself.

Apart from temperature, humidity also determines the amount of time a turtle can stay out of water.

On a dry sunny day, a turtle can stay out of water for approximately 6 to 8 hours.

If a particular shaded area has high humidity, a turtle can spend more time outside the water.

If the humidity level is close to 100%, then a turtle can spend more time outside water.

In such instances, other factors such as age or heat will not impact the turtle.

As turtles are cold-blooded, they cannot regulate their body temperature as per the climate outside.

So they vary their location from water to land and back to water depending on the weather.

Okay! That was all about turtles in general. But, what about aquatic turtles? How long can they survive outside water?

How Long Can An Aquatic Turtle Live Without Water?

Aquatic turtles live most of their life swimming in water. However, they come to land for basking in the sunlight.

They do not spend a lot of their time outside water as they are not well-equipped to live on land.

In the wild, aquatic turtles mainly come on the land to lay their eggs and for basking.

Apart from that, they usually do not come out of the water as they have access to plenty of food sources in the water.

Baby turtles typically do not come out of the water.

They do not contain the vital energy in their body that is required to survive out of water.

In captivity, there are various reasons due to which your aquatic turtle can come out of water. These reasons are:

  1. Food Scarcity: Food is essential for any pet to thrive. If there is insufficient food in the aquarium, your pet turtle will come out of the water to search for food. This can be particularly dangerous if you have a backyard and your turtle goes there in pursuit of food. It can then get exposed to predators.
  2. Oxygen Scarcity: Oxygen is another vital factor for your turtle to come out of water. If your turtle feels a lack of oxygen in the aquarium, it will come outside to get enough oxygen. You can ensure sufficient oxygenation in the aquarium by installing an external filter, air stones, or waterfalls.
  3. Cold Water: The water temperature is also one factor due to which your turtle can come out of the water. If the temperature falls drastically during winter, your turtle will come out of the water as it cannot handle icy water. During such an extreme environment, you can use a heater to regulate your aquarium’s water temperature.

How Long Can Small Turtles Live Without Water?

Small turtles cannot live long without water.

Small turtles that have access to nutritious food in their early childhood may survive for a little longer than turtles that are not that healthy.

Nevertheless, small turtles require water frequently to live a long and healthy life.

Without water, small turtles will dehydrate more often and will become weak.

This, in turn, will lead to serious health issues.

Besides, if the climate is scorching hot, the absence or lack of water will affect the little turtles a lot.

They need water to keep their body cool.

Just like food, water is also essential for the well-being of the small turtles.

However, if the turtle is in a brumation state, it will survive without water for around six months.

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Related Questions

How long can red-eared sliders live without water? Red-eared sliders are hardy turtles that adapt well to the environment. A healthy and adult red-eared slider can live for a week without water. During that period, it will undoubtedly become weak and dehydrated, but will still survive.

Do turtles drink water? Turtles drink the water they swim in. So, the aquarium water needs to be clean as it is consumed by your turtle. In the wild, the good bacteria present in the water cleans all the toxins produced by animal waste in the water. Therefore, the water is usually clean in the wild, and it does not need to be filtered separately.

Why do turtles spend so much time in the water? Turtles spend a lot of time in the water as they have evolved in that habitat. Marine turtles spend the majority of their life in water. Besides, turtles have access to a lot of food sources in water. The small insects around lakes and ponds are food for the turtles. Also, turtles are slow on land as compared to water. Therefore, their survival chances are more in water as they can quickly catch their prey in water.

Do turtles die if the water is too cold? Turtles are cold-blooded animals. They require the right water temperature to thrive and live a healthy life. If the water is too cold, it is harmful to turtles. They can get sick, and their health can deteriorate. They can even die if exposed to freezing temperatures for a long period.

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