How Long Can Turtles Stay Out Of Water?

Turtles, being amphibious creatures, have the unique capability to survive both on land and in water. However, there is no exact duration for which a turtle can stay out of water depending on a variety of factors, such as the turtle’s age, temperature, and humidity.

From sea turtles that spend most of their lives in the ocean, to freshwater turtles that inhabit rivers and lakes, and terrestrial turtles that spend most of their time on land, these creatures have developed specialized adaptations to survive in their specific habitats.

Factors That Affect How Long Turtles Stay Out Of Water

Although most species of turtles are semi-aquatic, the duration they can stay out of water can vary significantly depending on a number of factors. Here’s a comprehensive look at what influences a turtle’s ability to stay out of water.

Age of the Turtles

Turtles’ ability to stay out of water varies depending on their age. Hatchlings and juvenile turtles are not as hardy as adults and can only stay out of water for 6 to 8 hours, provided the surrounding conditions are not too hot or cold. Adult turtles, on the other hand, can survive at least 12 hours out of water​​.


High temperatures make it harder for turtles to stay out of water, as the water in their bodies can evaporate faster. On the other hand, cool weather does not affect the time turtles spend out of water as much. The ideal temperature for them is between 75 to 86°F​​.


High humidity can allow turtles to stay out of water longer, as they are less likely to become dehydrated. This mostly applies to turtles in the wild, as pet turtles usually have access to water in their tanks​​.


Different species of turtles have different tolerances for being out of water. For instance, Slider turtles lose water from their bodies faster in hot weather, meaning they can’t stay out of water for a long time. In cooler weather, they lose water more slowly and can stay out longer. During a period called brumation, similar to hibernation, sliders can go without water for months​​. Sea turtles, who spend the majority of their lives in water, rarely leave the ocean except to lay their eggs​​.

Aquatic Turtles

Even aquatic turtles, who live primarily in water, come out for basking. They can spend between 2 to 8 hours out of the water for this reason. Hatchlings and juveniles of these species don’t usually come out of the water, as they are not fully developed enough to survive out of it​​.

Reasons for Coming Out Of Water

Turtles come out of water for a few reasons, including to search for food when there is none available in the water, and to breathe oxygen. For pet turtles, ensuring a sufficient oxygen level in their tank is important, as they will come out of the water if there isn’t enough​​.

Understanding these factors is vital, not only for researchers studying these fascinating creatures, but also for pet owners seeking to provide the best care for their turtle companions. By taking into account these variables, we can better ensure the health and well-being of turtles, whether they are in the wild or in our homes.

What Happens When Turtles Stay Out Of Water For Too Long?

While terrestrial turtles, or tortoises, are designed to thrive on land, their aquatic counterparts require more careful considerations concerning their exposure to water. But what happens when aquatic or semi-aquatic turtles stay out of water for too long?


The most immediate concern for turtles out of water for prolonged periods is dehydration. Turtles, especially aquatic and semi-aquatic ones, derive most of their hydration from the water they swim in. Without it, they may suffer from dehydration, leading to poor health or even death in extreme cases.


Turtles are ectothermic, which means they rely on their surroundings to regulate body temperature. Water acts as a coolant for aquatic turtles, so prolonged exposure to warm, dry conditions can cause overheating.

Difficulty in Feeding

Many aquatic turtles are adapted to catch and eat their prey underwater. When they are deprived of water for extended periods, they may face difficulties in feeding, leading to malnutrition over time.

Difficulty in Excretion

Aquatic turtles often excrete waste in water, and they can face trouble excreting waste effectively on land. This can lead to potential health problems such as constipation or urinary tract issues.

Increased Stress Levels

Turtles are sensitive to changes in their environment. Unnaturally long durations out of water can cause increased stress levels, which may have a severe impact on their overall health, making them more susceptible to illness.

Skin and Shell Problems

Water plays a crucial role in maintaining the health of a turtle’s skin and shell. Dry conditions can lead to skin issues, and even more seriously, shell degradation or pyramiding.

Threat to Life

In extreme cases, keeping a turtle out of water for too long can be life-threatening. This is especially true for species that are predominantly aquatic, as their bodies are not adapted to survive without water.


In conclusion, understanding the factors that impact the time turtles can spend out of water and the potential health risks associated with extended periods on land is crucial for ensuring their well-being. Taking proper care of turtles, whether aquatic or terrestrial, helps ensure their long-term health and happiness.