Do Turtles Drink Water? When And How Do Turtles Drink?

Turtles live a lot of their lives in water.

Because of this, many people wonder if turtles drink the water they live in, and, if they do not, what they drink, and whether turtles need water to survive.

Like most living things, turtles do need water to survive and a lack of water dehydrates and can even kill a turtle. Turtles drink the same water they live in, which creates challenges.

The following summarizes all you need to know about freshwater turtles (not sea turtles) and water and their habitat’s importance to their survival.

Turtles Need Water to Survive

when do turtles drink

Whether in the wild or captivity, water hydrates turtles, and even though they spend a lot of time in the water, they still need to ingest some of that water to survive.

Water helps a turtle by:

  • Nourishing cells
  • Helping to swallow and digest food
  • Regulate temperature
  • Manage their metabolism

As ectothermic animals, turtles are cold-blooded and need external sources to help regulate their body temperature.

When you see turtles sunning on a lily pad, rocks, or a log by the water, or on a basking platform, they are warming themselves up. Likewise, water helps keep a turtle cool when the ambient temperature is warmer.

Ingesting water helps with the cooling process. Like a cold drink reinvigorates you on a hot day, drinking water from a cool lake, pond, or river helps the turtle lower its overall body temperature.

In addition, they can submerge themselves in the same water and lower their body temperature even more.

Do Turtles Only Drink Water?

While it is impossible to know if turtles only drink water, it is easy to verify that they mostly drink water and assume water is their primary hydration liquid – just like all other animals.

They will also obtain some of their hydration requirements from the food they eat. For example, fish contain a lot of water, so turtles eating fish will get it through this food.

Some turtles eat fruit which also contains a good amount of water as well. Strawberries, grapes, and other berries are good turtle treats that will also quench their thirst.

And yes, turtles can have too much water and will drown without coming to the surface for air.

How Long Can a Turtle Survive Without Water?

A key part of answering that question is understanding that for turtles, “doing without water” entails being out of the water and not drinking any water. Those distinctions are different from just not drinking water.

Most turtles will be fine without drinking water for 12 to 24 hours. Some turtles will survive up to a week being out of the water but will need access to water to drink. Water also helps regulate their temperature, so the longer a turtle is out of the water, the less it can keep its body temperature at a healthy level.

Drinking water also helps the turtle in different ways. It helps moisturize the eyes and skin. It also helps a turtle swallow food, as turtles do not have salivary glands. Drinking water hydrates, yes, but it also helps a turtle remain healthy and comfortable.

Turtles also have natural mechanisms to survive periods without water during hibernation. One natural defense against a lack of water is brumation.


Brumation is the process of hibernation that reptiles go through when confronted with non-negotiable environmental realities such as extreme cold, lack of water, or extreme heat.

When reptiles hibernate, the following processes are affected:

  • Their metabolism slows down
  • Their heart rate slows
  • They breathe a lot less frequently
  • They rely on stored oxygen and oxygen from water

Each of these functions helps a turtle get through a period where water access is limited. Even if turtles do not go into full-blown hibernation, they can regulate their breathing and metabolism, reducing their need for water.

Other Hydration Factors

Fortunately, like humans, external environmental factors can influence when a turtle needs water and how much they need to drink.

1. Age

Box turtles require more access to water than many turtles.

Hatchlings need water more than older turtles because they dehydrate quicker, and their skin is not as thick or resilient. The organs of hatchlings are also more vulnerable, meaning they are less likely to recover if they become dehydrated.

2. Climate

Turtles drink less water in a humid environment.

They still need the same amount of water to survive, but they dehydrate slower. That means turtles need less water and drink less frequently than in a hot, dry environment.

3. Species

Different turtle species have different hydration requirements.

A red-eared slider, for example, is made to survive hot climates, so it can go without water for longer than a musk turtle, which spends most of its life submerged in water. Painted turtles fall in between those two turtles.

4. Diet

What a turtle eats heavily influences its ability to survive without water.

Lettuce has a lot of liquid, for example, so a turtle that eats a lot of lettuce will need less water than one that eats something else. Fruits can also be a healthy liquid source for turtles, though a turtle’s diet should only be about 20% fruit.

5. Environment

A turtle in the sun most of the day will dry out quicker than one in a water environment.

Dehydrating quicker means that turtles that bask in the sun require more water than one that is mostly underwater during the day. Additionally, extremely hot temperatures can dehydrate a turtle quicker than cooler temperatures.

6. Activity

The activity of a turtle makes a difference in hydration needs as well.

Turtles confined to an aquarium have less activity than those surviving in the wild. Activity levels determine how much liquid any particular turtle needs. A good example of this is a turtle’s food source.

A turtle in the wild has to move around and find its next meal. If the turtle eats animals, like fish, it has to catch the fish.

By contrast, a turtle in an turtle aquarium has its food and water close and available. The energy it expends to get its food is minimal. In an equal environment, it will dehydrate at a slower pace.

7. Environmental Concerns

Because a wild turtle gets its water from its home environment, the cleanness of the water is a factor.

Pollution, both chemical and physical, can impede a turtle’s ability to find drinkable water, and in some cases, pollution can make a turtle sick and more prone to parasites.

The Best Turtle Drinking Water

Do Turtles drink water?

Yes. Many factors dictate how much a turtle needs, but all turtles need water to survive. It doesn’t matter if you have a small breed turtle or large breed – they all need to drink.

Follow these tips to make sure your turtle has the best access to water:

  1. Make sure you choose the right size drinking container for your turtle if they’re not regularly swimming
  2. Keep the container clean
  3. Use a water conditioner to remove chlorine and other harmful chemicals in the water (if you’re using municipal water)
  4. Use a good turtle tank filter
  5. Make sure the temperature is right for your breed

Do these things and your turtle will be drinking happily daily!

Let us know if you have any questions in the comment section below and pin this pin for later!


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