Can Turtles See In The Dark?

can turtles see in the dark

You must be wondering whether your turtles can see? and if they can see, then can they see clearly, or does everything appear unclear to the turtles?

There is not much difference between our and turtle’s eyes. The one difference observed so far is that they see more red than humans. The turtles have very good eyesight. They have sharp vision and easily differentiate shapes, patterns, and colours. Due to this ability, they are able to protect themselves from predators.

The question here is if they have such good vision, are they able to see even in the dark? You will get all your answers, so keep reading.

Related Article: Are Turtles Smart Or Dumb?

Can turtles see in the dark?

Yes, turtles can see in the dark. If you immediately switch off the lights, just like human eyes, the iris will take some time to adjust and allow more lights into the eye. After the adjustments are made, the turtle will then be able to see, although not very clear. 

Turtles can see in the dark just like humans, but they can see more red colour. Turtles are not nocturnal animals. 

Nocturnal animals are those animals who sleep during the day and are active during the night. They have specially adapted eyesight. Nocturnal animals like cats and owls have pupils that, when wide open, cover the entire front of the eye.

Many nocturnal animals have a mirror-like layer called the tapetum lucidum behind the retina, which helps them make most of the small amount of light. The light that passes through the retina is reflected off the tapetum lucidum, giving the retinal cells a second chance to sense it. This makes some animals eyes shine in the glare of the very bright lights or car headlights.

Now that you have understood the correct meaning of the nocturnal animals and their eyesight, you must know that turtles don’t have tapetum lucidum. They cannot see as clearly in the dark as the nocturnal animals( consisting of tapetum lucidum) can see.

How far can a turtle see?

Turtles are sensitive to wavelengths of 400nm to 700nm just like humans; they also seem to be more sensitive to shorter wavelengths of 300nm to 370 nm( that is within the wavelength of Ultraviolet rays).

Turtles can even distinguish between humans. So if you are wondering whether your turtle recognises you? Or does he know that he is your pet? Then probably he does. This must have made you happy, right? Of course, knowing that your pet can recognise you and distinguish you from others is a great feeling.

Related Article: Do Turtles Have Feelings?

Are turtles able to see underwater?

We now know that turtles have eyes just like us. Also, they can see in the dark same as us. We cannot see very clearly underwater, but since turtles spend most of their time underwater, their capability to see underwater is more.

Turtles hunt underwater and hence require good vision to catch their prey. Thus they are gifted with excellent underwater vision. They are farsighted underwater.

The only obstacle to your turtle’s eyesight can be the dirty water. As a turtle owner, if you don’t change the water from the water tank often, there is a possibility that your turtle might be having difficulty seeing around. 

You must have heard about crocodile tears, but have you heard about the turtle tears? It is said that crocodiles weep after killing their victims. Well, it’s not the same in the case of turtles, but the only similarity between both of them is they shed tears without getting hurt, and it’s amusing.

Turtles use the liquid, or informally called tears, to maintain good vision. These tears help them to protect their eyes from excess salt or bacteria.

These tears are often diluted and cannot be seen. They can only be seen immediately when the turtle comes outside the water. These tears help keep them hydrated and prevent them from drying out during the hours it takes to nest.

Can we keep the lights on at night for the turtle?

No, turtles do not need lights at night.

You must have noticed your turtle roaming around the tank with very little or no light at all. As mentioned above, turtles are not nocturnal animals and do not have night vision, although they can see as much as humans can. They require proper sleep just like we do, so don’t keep your lights on and disturb your turtle.

If you keep the lights on, there is a possibility of your turtle getting stressed and losing appetite, contributing to further health problems.

If you still want to keep an eye on your turtle at night. You can use very dim night lights, which are not bright enough to disturb your turtle’s sleep. There are dim night lights of two colours: red and blue available, which you can use for your turtle to get a sound sleep. By doing this, even you can check if they are sleeping safely.

Related Article: Can I Use A Regular Light Bulb For My Turtle?

Can turtles suffer from eye disease?

Yes, eye disease is a common issue found in most turtles.

There are two types of eye diseases found in turtles: Eye infection and swollen eyes. 

Let us learn more about the causes, symptoms and cure of the problem.

1. Eye Infection

Bacteria cause eye infections in turtles. Dirty water can be one of the causes of eye infection. The bacterias in the dirty water can affect the turtles’ eyes and cause an infection. The symptoms of the eye infection are Watery eyes; the turtle will often try to rub or scratch his eyes, conjunctiva, and the tissues surrounding it will appear red. If you find any of such symptoms, it is always better to see a veterinarian and get the tests done before they worsen.

2. Swollen eyes

Swollen eyes are often caused due to vitamin A deficiency or the quality of water. If there is a high chlorine concentration in your water tank, it will result in puffiness or swelling in your turtle eyes. Also, if you don’t provide your turtle with an appropriate diet, it can lead to vitamin A deficiency which is one of the reasons for this problem.

In case you notice swelling in your turtle’s eyelids, redness in the eyes, turtle weeping that is a liquid secretion from the eyes, then these are the symptoms of the disease. This is a serious problem and requires to be treated immediately. If you find any of the symptoms, do consult the veterinarian.


Turtles are not nocturnal. They do not have night vision, but they can see in the dark just like humans. Turtles can even distinguish colours, patterns, humans and everything around them. They take time to adjust in the dark light but can often move around in the dark. Turtles are farsighted underwater and have better sight than humans underwater.

Turtles don’t need lights at night, so if you are a turtle owner, try not to keep the lights on and let them have a sound sleep. Turtles can often face eye infections and eye swelling so ensure that they do not come across any bacteria or have an inappropriate diet that can lead them to these diseases. Keep an eye on them frequently to check that they don’t develop any such symptoms and if you find any symptoms, make sure to consult a veterinarian.