Do Turtles Drink Water?

do turtles drink water

Water is the lifeline for every living animal. Whether aquatic or land, all animals need water for their survival. Turtles mostly live their life underwater. As turtles are shy, people don’t have much knowledge about them. One very common question asked about turtles is if they drink water or not. As a turtle owner, I am in a good position to answer this question. 

Turtles are cold-blooded animals, and they rely on water and sunlight to maintain their body temperature. You must have seen turtles basking under the sun, and then they went back to the water. This is a technique they use to maintain their body temperature while absorbing vitamin D. 

It is very clear why turtles live underwater, but it is still not clear whether turtles drink water or not. So keep reading to learn about this. 

Related Article: How Long Can Turtles Stay Out Of Water?

Do turtles drink water?

Yes, turtles do drink water. As turtles live underwater, it is difficult to tell when they drink water. Turtles don’t have salivary glands, and so the water helps them swallow the food. Water keeps them hydrated and supports digestion as well.

Turtles require water not just for swimming, but it is also very important for keeping them hydrated. Water is equally important for them as it is for humans. Turtles can not produce saliva or other fluid in their mouth. Due to this, swallowing food is a trouble for them. 

To ease the trouble, turtles always eat food underwater. Water makes it easy for them to swallow food. This is the most obvious time when turtles drink water. 

All species of turtles drink water. Turtles that live on land fulfil their water requirements by eating juicy vegetables like cucumber or watermelon. They also soak themselves in water to keep themselves hydrated.

Do turtles ever get thirsty?

Yes, they do feel like gulping water, but thirsty would be the wrong word. Turtles usually get dehydrated when on land, and it is what thirst means for them. 

Dehydration is very common for turtles. They spend most of their time underwater but come on land to lay eggs to bask in the sun. It could be very dangerous for aquatic turtles to keep them away from water for longer than a few hours. They are meant to be in the water. Water helps them maintain their temperature and keep them hydrated all the time. 

Several factors like climate temperature, humidity and age of the turtle determine how much they can survive on land. The older the turtle, the less vulnerable they will be to dehydration. Turtles are more likely to become dehydrated on summer days due to evaporation.

Why do turtles need water?

Turtles need water to keep them hydrated. Water also helps them swallow food easily. These little animals don’t have salivary glands, so they depend on water to push their food down their throats. 

Turtles are cold-blooded animals. They can not regulate their body temperature as humans do. Instead, their body temperature depends on the surrounding temperature. Water helps them maintain their metabolism, and also it is a key player in regulating their body temperature. 

Another reason why turtles need water is that it helps them digest food and avoid choking. Turtles always eat their food when in water. If you feed them by hand, they will hold the food and go back in the water to eat them. 

What kind of water do turtles need?

The kind of water used for the turtle’s tank plays a critical role in determining the turtle’s health. For a wild turtle living in a lake, the type of water is not that important as lakes usually have a balanced microbiota. Various good bacterias and other living organisms in the lake make the water healthy for turtles to live in. 

On the other hand, for pet turtles, the tank water has no such aquatic diversity. The turtles living in a tank rely completely on the type of water you give them. Let’s understand what kind of water do turtles need for a healthy life. 

Turtles require soft, clean and warm water for their survival. These animals are very sensitive and can not live longer in salty water. 

Turtle’s kidney is not effective in filtering out excess salt from their body. They have secretory glands (lachrymal glands) located in the corner of each eye to remove excess salt. But this also has limits, and turtles can not handle too much salty water for too long.

Turtles need clean dechlorinated water in their tank. If you are using tap water, make sure to use a water conditioner before giving it to the turtle. Tap water can contain added chemicals and chlorine, which is harmful to turtle health. However, you can use well water directly, and it is safe for them to consume.

The water filter in the turtle’s tank is also very important for cleaning the water. Make sure to have a good capacity water filter installed in their tank. Water filters available in the market are usually for fish tanks, and it is crucial to check the capacity of water they can clean. 

As turtles excrete much more than fish, buying a water filter with double capacity is always better. For example, if your tank has 40 gallons of water, go for a water filter having the capacity of cleaning 80 gallons of water. 

Do turtles need distilled water?

Distilled water is safe for turtles. The main advantage of using distilled water is that you don’t need to do water conditioning. Distilled water is the best choice for your turtle’s tank if you are not worried about the cost.

Distilled water does not contain any added chemicals, and so it is safe for the turtle. However, you may need to add minerals like iron and calcium in distilled water before putting them into the tank. Another way you can use distilled water is by mixing it with the existing water in the tank. 

Is it bad for pet turtles to drink the same tank water where they live?

Turtles release their faeces and urine in the water itself. Good bacteria and other organisms help remove these waste products in the lake and make the water clean. However, this is not the case in pet turtles living in tanks.

When faeces and urine break down, it releases ammonia, which is toxic for turtles’ health. Drinking this contaminated water for so long can cause serious illness to the turtle. Ammonia dissolved in water increases the chance of eye irritation and could even permanently damage a turtle’s eyesight.

3 ways to keep the tank water clean for a longer time  

Bigger tank

One of the main advantages of having a big tank is that you don’t need to change water frequently. A bigger tank means the water volume is also a lot greater, so the impact of ammonia would have been less significant. It makes your life much easier as you don’t have to worry about changing tank water every day. 

Water filter

A water filter is a must for a turtle’s tank. A water filter helps in removing waste products from the water, making it clean for turtles. It is a good idea to install a high power water filter according to your tank size. Water filters only increase the interval for changing tank water. However, you still need to change the water once in a while.  

Changing the way you feed the turtle

As turtles eat underwater, it makes the water dirty. You can not change how the turtle eats, but you can make the water clean for a longer time with some easy steps. Try feeding your turtle in a separate tub, and put them back in their tank once they are done. 

Make sure you are not using the tub for any other purpose. Turtles carry harmful bacterias, which can induce troubles like stomach ache, vomit, or diarrhea if it gets in your stomach. 


All living animals, including turtles, drink water. As turtles mostly live underwater, it is very difficult to tell when they are drinking. As they don’t have salivary glands, they rely on water for pushing food down their throat. Aquatic turtles usually gulp water when they eat. Land-based turtle species fulfil their water requirement by eating vegetables containing water like cucumber and watermelon.