How Long Can Turtles Stay Out Of Water?

how long can turtles stay out of water

Turtles mostly live underwater, but they often come on land to bask in the sun. All species of turtles require water to survive. Certain land species of turtle, such as box-turtle, evolved so that they do not need to be in the water to survive. However, they do require water for hydrating themselves.

Turtles are referred to as aquatic or semi-aquatic animals. This is because they spend 60-70% of their life underwater and rest on land. Turtles can survive on land, but their body is meant to be in the water, so it is not recommended to keep your turtle away from water for so long. 

In this article, we will find out how long a turtle can stay out of the water. We will also try to answer why turtles come up on land and other related questions. 

Related Article: How Fast Do Turtles Grow?

Do turtles need to be in the water all the time?

Turtles are not fish, and they need not be in the water all the time. The aquatic species of turtles have evolved so that they spend most of their lives underwater. As turtles can not breathe in the water, they eventually have to come upon the land to fill their lungs with oxygen.

All turtles do not need the same amount of water to swim. Some aquatic turtles like sea turtles spend most of their time underwater and only come on land to take oxygen or lay eggs. Other species of turtles like red-eared sliders also love swimming in the water, but they spend more time on land than sea turtles. Box turtles, on the other hand, spend their time outside on the land. They can not swim in the water and so only require a shallow swimming area for hydrating themselves. 

How long can turtles stay out of water?

There can not be a solid answer to this question. A turtle can stay out of the water for weeks or even months, depending on various factors. 

Turtles are cold-blooded animals, and they have to regulate their body temperature according to the outer environment. For regulating their body temperature, they can stay underwater or spend hours on land. 

Turtles need water to hydrate themselves. They can live comfortably on land if they are properly hydrated. An adult turtle can spend days or even weeks on land. However, with every passing day, they will get weaker and weaker due to dehydration. 

In hot climates, this anticipated time is not more than a few days. During hot climates, turtles lose water through evaporation, making the dehydration process a lot faster. 

Generally, you can expect a healthy turtle to survive at least a week staying out of the water. All of the facts above are true. However, it is impossible to predict an exact time for turtles to survive out of the water. 

Turtles are sensitive enough to decide how long they need to stay out of the water. Turtles go on land for several reasons. Turtles come out of the water to bask under the sun; this is important to get UVB rays, which helps maintain vitamin D levels. Spending some time on land keeps their shells dry. It helps them avoid any fungal infection as well as shell rotting. 

How long can baby turtles stay out of water?

The older the turtle, the better they can survive on land. Hatchlings or juvenile turtles are not fully developed, so they don’t have much energy to survive outside. They probably could not even survive for a week if left outside of the water.

Can turtles breathe in water?

No turtle can breathe underwater. However, turtles can hold their breath for a longer time, making it easy for them to spend hours underwater. The study suggests that when turtle holds their breath, their heart rate slows significantly to conserve oxygen as much as possible.  

The number of hours turtles can spend underwater depends on the size of a turtle. An adult turtle can stay much longer in water compared to a younger turtle. Depending on their capacity to hold and breathe, turtles can stay hours underwater.

Some species of turtles have evolved in such a way that they can absorb oxygen while in water. They can stay longer in water than other turtle species. Turtles usually use this method of absorbing oxygen during brumation, which is a state of hibernation. 

Why do turtles come out of the water?

There are three main reasons for turtles to come out of the water. 

  1. It helps them keep their shell dry. By doing so, they can easily avoid any fungal infection and shell rotting. 
  2. Turtles can not breathe underwater. They need to come out of the water to fill their lungs with oxygen. Turtles can hold their breath for several hours, which makes them efficient underwater. 
  3. Turtle shells are made up of calcium. For maintaining their shell’s life, they need to absorb calcium. Like humans, they also require vitamin D for absorbing calcium. To fulfill their vitamin D requirements, they spend hours under sunlight.   

Important factors that influence the amount of time a turtle can stay out of water


Age is an important factor that decides how long a turtle can go without water. Younger turtles can not stay away from water for very long. Turtles in their younger age need more energy to survive outside the water. 

Hatchlings or juvenile turtles are not fully developed, and they can store a very small amount of water in their body. Due to this reason, it is very difficult for them to stay away from the water even for a day.  


Brumation is a term used for reptiles when they go in a state of hibernation. During this time, a turtle slows down their metabolic activities, and they stop eating at all. Turtles in the wild usually show this nature. As they always get enough food and warmth in their tank, pet turtles generally don’t go in this state.

According to experts, turtles can live up to 6 months in hibernation. Turtles usually hibernate during the cold season. The reason behind this is the less vegetation during cold seasons. 

Climate temperature

Climate temperature is another very important factor that affects the time the turtle can stay out of the water. Hotter climates increase the rate of evaporation, which means turtles get dehydrated much quicker than on normal days. 


Humidity works oppositely than the temperature. Humidity is the amount of water vapor present in the air. A more humid environment means turtles can stay longer without water. Moisture present in the air helps turtles hydrate themselves, increasing the time they can stay away from water.


It isn’t possible to anticipate how long a turtle can stay out of the water. It depends on several factors like age, environment temperature, humidity, etc. A healthy adult turtle can live days or even weeks without going into the water. Turtles need water to hydrate themselves. As long as your turtle is hydrated, it can survive on land. If you have a pet turtle, let them decide how long they want to stay on land. You should have a basking area for your turtle in their tank. It could be a rock or other prop where they can climb up and rest for some time.