Do Turtles Get Cold? (Complete Beginner’s Guide)

Image of a turtle feeling cold

Temperature is of vital importance for the survival of an animal. When it comes to turtles, it is even more significant since these animals are cold-blooded. Turtles cannot regulate their body temperature. They depend on external sources of heat to stay warm because they cannot generate heat themselves. So, do turtles get cold?

Yes, turtles do get cold. They have natural adaptations to cope with low temperatures and winter. When the temperatures fall, they slow down their metabolism and hibernate. However, they can’t endure temperatures below a certain point and can perish if exposed to extreme cold for longer durations.

Let’s talk about this in detail now.

Why Do Turtles Get Cold?

Turtles are reptiles. Now, you may know that reptiles are ectothermic animals.

It means that these animals cannot control their body temperature. They depend on the heat in their surroundings to stay warm and cozy.

If you look at their daily routine, you will notice that turtles alternate between spending time in the water and basking in the sun. When they swim in the water, their body temperature adjusts to the cold water. After a while, they start feeling cold and climb ashore to spend time in the sun.

This activity, called basking, is very important for turtles. Basking helps them synthesize Vitamin D and calcium. Additionally, the heat from the sun helps in raising their body temperature. It compensates for the heat they lost while swimming.

However, the turtle cannot stand too much heat. Once it starts to feel warm, it will return to the water to cool off. Thus, the cycle continues.

When the surrounding temperature is just right, turtles will flourish. However, if it fluctuates and their surroundings get too warm or too cold, turtles struggle. If they must endure wide temperature fluctuations for extended periods, they become sick.

Recommended Further Reading:

How Cold Is Too Cold For A Turtle?

Depending on the species, different turtles have different endurance levels for cold and heat. Most pet turtles need temperatures in the range of 75°F to 86°F. Even if the temperature falls below this range, the turtle may survive. However, the cold will affect its metabolism and cause the animal’s activity level to fall.

Although a turtle can withstand cold temperatures by hibernating, it cannot indefinitely survive the cold. A prolonged winter or exposure to extreme temperatures can kill a turtle.

Now, turtles cannot survive on land when the temperature touches the freezing point. Box turtles are the only exception since these animals have higher endurance. Other types of turtles will die. However, most turtles can survive freezing temperatures if they are in the water.

Nonetheless, the surface of the water must not freeze and deprive the turtles of oxygen.

What Do Turtles Do When It Gets Too Cold?

Turtles are vulnerable to the cold. They cannot resume their normal activities in a cold environment for too long.

As their surroundings become cold, their metabolism slows down. When this happens, the turtle goes into a restful state.

The activity levels fall, blood circulation reduces, and the turtle becomes lethargic. You will feel as though the turtle is sleeping.

By reducing their metabolic rate, turtles can cope with lower oxygen levels. They need less energy for their activities and rely on their fat reserves to survive until the temperature levels improve.

How Do You Know If Your Turtle Is Cold?

Simply observing your turtle will help you identify if your turtle is cold. Your turtle will seem quieter and less active. It will look tired and sloppy. You may notice that it spends most of its time sleeping. Your turtle may also not eat much.

If the water in which your turtle swims gets too cold, you may see it basking for much longer. It will spend extended durations of time under the basking light or frequently climb ashore to warm its body.

If your turtle seems to display any of these signs, it is a good idea to check the temperature of its enclosure. Leaving it to cope with low temperatures for too long may force it to hibernate. It can be dangerous if your turtle is underweight or ill.

If you do not spot the signs early, your turtle may also end up becoming sick. Continuous exposure to cold or hot temperatures is not too good for a turtle.

To prevent your turtle from becoming sick, constantly monitor the temperature of their surroundings. You can use a thermometer to check the temperature. If it falls, use an internal heater to raise the temperature to a comfortable level.

For turtles that spend most of their time in the water, you can use an internal water heater to raise the temperature of the water they swim in.

Related Further Reading:

Do Turtles Get Cold In The Winter?

Pet turtles have the luxury of living in a regulated environment. Their owners will tend to their feeding requirements and ensure that their habitat conditions are correct.

However, turtles in the wild are at the mercy of nature. In winter, these animals must endure extremely hostile conditions.

Interestingly, wild turtles survive freezing temperatures in winter. They do this by going into a deep sleep till the weather improves. This process is called hibernation or brumation.

Now, you know that wild turtles depend on the sun for heat. In winter, less sunlight is available. Hence, turtles cannot find enough heat to stay warm and regulate their metabolic activity rate.

To compensate for this, they must reduce their activity levels. So, these animals become inactive. Their heartbeat reduces, and blood circulation slows down. In this manner, turtles become stunned and immobile.

During this period, they use their fat reserves to stay alive. Since they are inactive, they need minimum energy. They remain like this until the harsh winter passes.

Once spring arrives, turtles awake from their long sleep and resume normal activity. By foraging for food and regulating their body temperature with the help of sunlight, they get back to normalcy.

However, if the winter is a prolonged one, these animals will go into extended shock. They may run out of fat reserves and succumb to the cold.

Do Turtles Get Cold At Night?

The temperature is low during the night than during the day. Since turtles are cold-blooded animals, you may wonder if the temperature drop at night affects their well-being.

Now, you should remember that turtles have a day-night cycle, just like us. They are active during the day and rest at night. When they take rest at night, their metabolism slows down. They do not need much energy or heat.

These animals will usually wedge themselves into rock piles, logs or bury their bodies under leaf piles to feel warm during the night. So, if you have a pet turtle, you can turn off the basking light at night.

By replicating the conditions in the wild, you can keep your turtle healthy and happy.

Interesting Further Reading:

Do Aquatic Turtles Get Cold?

Like terrestrial turtles, aquatic turtles too cannot regulate their body temperature. They depend on heat sources in their surroundings to stay warm.

Now, aquatic turtles spend most of their time in the water. Hence, the quality and temperature of water affect their health and well-being. If the water becomes too cold, they can become sick. Similarly, if the water is too hot, the turtle can get burnt.

Depending on the species, some aquatic turtles may tolerate cold water. However, these turtles will climb on rocks or logs and bask after a swim to raise their body temperature.

When turtles sense the approach of winter, they brace themselves for the cold. Most aquatic turtles will stop foraging for food. They go into a pond or lake and bury themselves in mud and leaves. They do everything slowly and even stop eating.

As the cold increases, their metabolism further reduces. They become immobile, and their energy needs reduce. When the weather becomes too cold, the aquatic turtles hibernate.

These animals will usually hibernate in water since the water temperature is more stable than land. If the entire water in the pond does not freeze solid, they will survive.

Have you ever wondered how these animals breathe if they stay immersed in the water in winter? Interestingly, they take up dissolved oxygen from the water through their skin for breathing.

Now, a long winter or extreme cold can prove detrimental for aquatic turtles. Adult turtles cannot tolerate ice and will die if ice falls on them.

Baby turtles are more sensitive than adults. If they are very young at the onset of winter, they may not make it through the winter. However, baby turtles of most wild species that are at least six months old can cope with harsh winters.

A cold winter should not pose a problem for pet turtles since they live in a controlled environment. You can use an aquarium heater to regulate the temperature of their enclosure during winter.

Unless the water in their tank gets too cold, they will not go into hibernation mode. Hence, they will continue to be active and remain unaffected by the outside environment.

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