Do Turtles Need Water? (Distilled, Dechlorinated, Warm, Or Cold?)

Image of a turtle drinking water

Turtles need water to stay hydrated and for better metabolism. Apart from swimming, turtles need water to drink. Since turtles don’t have a salivary gland, they depend on water to push the food down their throat. Also, water helps in digestion and avoiding choking while swallowing the food.

Not all turtles have the exact water requirement; it depends on the turtle species. So let’s learn about this.

Why Do Turtles Need Water?

Turtles need water to stay hydrated, regulate their body temperature, and support their metabolic processes.

Aquatic turtles spend most of their time in the water and can’t survive for too long outside the water.

Besides, turtles need water while eating.

Turtles prefer to eat food while they are in the water.

It’s because turtles don’t have a salivary gland that produces water or lubrication for the food to go down.

Hence, they drink water in between to push the food down their throat.

Also, water helps turtles digest the food and avoid choking.

If you feed food from your hand, your pet turtle will run into the water to swallow it.

Turtles can eat food without water, but it’s more difficult for them to swallow it.

In the wild, if turtles pick some food on the shore, they hold it in their mouth and rush toward the water to eat and swallow the food.

Sea turtles are well-adapted to eating underwater without swallowing too much water.

They extend their neck and head to suck the food and water into their mouth while eating.

What Kind Of Water Do Turtles Need?

Turtles need fresh, warm, and clean water. The best kind of water for pet freshwater turtles is dechlorinated water.

If you use tap water, you need to use a water conditioner before using it for turtles, as tap water can contain chlorine and other harmful chemicals.

On the other hand, you can directly use well water in the turtle tank.

The most important thing is that the water needs to be clean as a whistle.

Contaminated water can make your turtle sick and prone to diseases.

So having a well-functioning filtration system that is cleaned regularly is a key to ensuring water quality.

Besides, regular water changes are crucial for tank maintenance.

Different species of turtles have varied temperature requirements.

For example, land turtles can retain body heat for a prolonged duration than aquatic turtles.

Hence, depending upon the species, you can maintain the water temperature.

Usage of a thermometer is recommended to monitor the water temperature.

Another point to consider is the water quantity in the tank.

The tank water needs to be deep and wide enough to accommodate your aquatic turtle’s adult size.

Do Turtles Need Warm Water Or Cold Water?

Turtles are ectothermic animals. They can’t regulate their body temperature.

Instead, turtles rely on external heat to warm their bodies.

Turtles need warm water for optimal growth. Most of the aquatic turtles do well with a water temperature of 72°F and 77°F (22°C to 25°C). On the other hand, sick and hatchling turtles need water temperature above 75°F.

The ideal water temperature for turtles depends on their size and species.

Also, while maintaining the water temperature, you need to ensure that the water is neither too hot nor too cold.

If the water is too hot, turtles will avoid basking. This can prove harmful to the turtle’s health.

In contrast, if the water is too cold for a prolonged duration, it can lead to lethargy and a lower heart rate.

You can install a heater in the tank to maintain the ideal water temperature.

Do Turtles Need Dechlorinated Water?

Turtles need dechlorinated water as chlorine can be harmful to turtles.

Unlike fish, turtles are not very sensitive to chlorine. However, chlorine can be an irritant to their eyes.

Chlorinated water destroys the beneficial bacteria of the tank water. It adversely affects the nitrogen cycle and the breakdown of waste products. Hence, dechlorinated water is recommended for pet turtles.

When it comes to filling the tank, tap water is widely used by aquarists.

However, since tap water contains chlorine and possibly fluoride, which can upset the pH balance, you must use water conditioners before putting tap water in the turtle tank.

Do Turtles Need Distilled Water?

You can use distilled water for turtles as it’s safe. However, it is expensive.

The advantage of using distilled water is that you don’t have to condition the water.

Distilled or filtered water doesn’t contain chlorine or other additives found in the tap water.

However, distilled water is stripped of most of the minerals.

Hence, you need to add minerals to the water before putting it in the tank.

Specifically, minerals like iron and calcium need to be added to distilled water.

Instead of filling the entire tank with distilled water, you can use it to top up the existing water.

With proper remineralization, distilled water is one of the best options for a healthy turtle tank. Besides, distilled water is good for exotic turtle species or ones that are sensitive to chemicals and water changes.

Which Turtles Need Water?

Water is necessary for all turtles and is needed at all times for swimming, drinking, and soaking.

Aquatic turtles mostly drink the same water that they swim in.

For land turtles, you can have a separate bowl for drinking and soaking purposes.

Given below are some of the turtle species that need water:

  • Box turtles,
  • Baby turtles,
  • Desert turtles,
  • Eastern box turtles,
  • Red-eared turtles,
  • Eastern painted turtles,
  • Sea turtles,
  • Gopher turtles,
  • Snapping turtles,
  • Longneck turtles,
  • Mud turtles,
  • Musk turtles,
  • Mississippi turtles, and
  • Ornate turtles.

Do Land Turtles Need Drinking Water?

Land turtles need drinking water to stay hydrated.

In the wild, they eat fruits and vegetables with high water content to fulfill their water requirement.

If you have a box turtle as a pet, you need to feed it water consistently for its well-being.

Besides, you can keep a water bowl for your turtle to drink, soak, and defecate in.

However, while keeping a water bowl, you need to ensure that it’s clean and potable. Or else your turtle can fall sick.

The best option is to have a wide and shallow pan for water supply.

You can create ramps or have logs that aren’t too high so that the turtles can have easy access to the water pan.

If your pet is a box turtle, you need to have a shallow water dish.

Since box turtles are not efficient swimmers, they can easily drown in deep water.

Also, the water bowl needs to be kept on a flat and stable surface that’s not easy to tip over.

Do Aquatic Turtles Need Drinking Water?

Just like land turtles, aquatic turtles also need drinking water. However, they drink the same water that they swim in.

In the wild, turtles live in large water bodies.

Over there, the water has many good bacteria that remove the harmful bacteria and excrements from the water, making it safe for turtles to drink it.

The same isn’t true in a home aquarium. Since a home aquarium is much smaller, water gets contaminated quickly.

Polluted water, if consumed by turtles, can prove harmful.

Pet turtles eat and excrete in their enclosure. Drinking water with excrements is not healthy and can lead to sickness.

You can keep the tank water clean by regular water changes and installation of a filter.

The other option is to have separate drinking water.

But this is not feasible as aquatic turtles spend most of their time in the tank water.

Adding a separate bowl of water to a tank full of water is not easy.

Your turtle won’t have easy access to that water, and hence keeping the tank water clean is anytime better.

Do Turtles Need To Come Out Of Water?

Most of the turtles are semi-aquatic, meaning they spend time in the water as well as on land.

Turtles need to come out of the water mainly for basking.

Turtles are cold-blooded animals.

Hence, they rely on external forces such as sunlight and water to regulate their body temperature.

Turtles spend more than half of their day swimming in the water. They explore their environment in search of food.

In the other part of the day, turtles come out of the water to bask in the sunlight and dry out their shells and skin.

Besides, turtles also absorb UVB light during basking, which is vital for their shell development.

Apart from basking, turtles also need to dry out their skin and shell to avoid any fungal infections.

Fungus needs moisture to grow. Drying the skin and shell ensures that there is no growth of fungus on their body.

Sea turtles usually come out of the water during the night to lay eggs.

Once the female turtle lays all her eggs, she returns to the sea.


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