Can My Turtle Drown? How Long Can A Turtle Hold Its Breath?

Can My Turtle Drown
When you a pet Turtle, one of many questions that surface is that, can my turtle drown? It might make you wonder at 3 AM on your sleepless nights? Well, we often see them hovering on the land with their cute dwarf legs; also, you must have seen those videos where these tiny little turtles are seen swimming in a large ocean; it all must be confusing, and this dual nature of turtles is primarily the reason that makes us think, whether they are good walkers or swimmers. It most certainly causes us to wonder, can my turtle drown?
You are not the only one who deliberates on this question; there are a whole lot of people who ponder over this question; some own turtles like you do and some just out of curiosity.
Let us answer related to the question can my turtle drown here in this article.

Can Turtles Breathe Underwater?

Your inquiry, can my turtle drown, is highly dependent on the fact whether a turtle breathes underwater or not. Well, a positive answer is here for you, turtles can breathe underwater; however, there is a twist! They do not breathe the way you imagine. As they do not have gills like fishes, they cannot take oxygen from the water. Instead, they have a unique way of breathing underwater. 

They are capable of intaking oxygen from the water using their scales as they contain red blood cells. So, as they move underwater, these turtles can intake a small amount of oxygen from the water molecules.

But the amount of oxygen turtles receive through this method is so minuscule that it is only sufficient for turtles when they are brumating underwater during the winter days when the water is freezing. 

During the brumation period (like hibernation for the amphibians), it does not move around or use any excess energy; hence, it can adequately manage with this minimal amount of oxygen. 

For example, sea turtles can hold their breath for several hours if they are resting; however, a foraging turtle or a turtle swimming actively in the water will not be able to remain underwater for long; they would want to surface often in need of oxygen. 

Can My Turtle Drown?

Can my turtle drown? Well, do you know what the funny answer is? Turtles can drown because they cannot breathe underwater. It’s entirely conceivable that turtles can drown; Turtles don’t have gills as fish do; they have lungs like all the land animals, including two-legged animal humans, and using the organ breathe air. 

Hence, if you happened to see video footage showing turtle drowning was not fake? Just like you have learned the art of swimming, they also need to master the art of swimming; otherwise, they will drown. 

Whether you believe it or not, there is evidence and reports that show turtles drowning in the shallow pan of water. While drowning, turning them upside down will surely kill them. If they have even a little bit of air left in their lungs, turning them upside down will decidedly take away their last chance to live. 

Moreover, the accurate answer to can my turtle drown entirely depends on the species of turtle you have. For instance, red-eared sliders love water and live in it, enjoying swimming, and eating. They seem to be excessively comfortable in the water. 

On the other hand, box turtles are terrible swimmers; they do not have webbed feet, making them poor swimmers. However, they can do well in shallow water areas. 

Also, if you are a too bad swimmer like me, don’t worry, you won’t feel bad after knowing the tortoises. They are worse swimmers, as they don’t have webbed feet and thus easily drown in the water.

Hence, you would want to know what type of aqua pet you have at home or in your tank, a turtle or a tortoise; then it will automatically answer your query, can my turtle drown or not?

How Long Can Turtles Breathe Underwater?

This question again directly relates to your inquiry can my turtle drown. How long a turtle can breathe under the water entirely depends on the type of turtle you have.

For instance, sea turtles are reported to stay at rest and breathe underwater for about 4-7 hours. Painted or other turtles from temperate zones tend to brumate during the winter months while breathing underwater for several months.

Another Australian species named the Fitzroy River turtle hardly stays on surfaces. They usually obtain oxygen underwater by pumping the ocean water through their cloaca or posterior opening; it’s called cloacal breathing.

On the contrary, pet turtles can usually remain underwater for 45 to 60 minutes. However, in general, they dive into the water and resurface every 4 to 5 minutes to breathe in the fresh air few seconds and plunge back into the water.


Related Readings: Can A Fish Drown?

How Do Turtles Drown?

Now that you know that it’s highly plausible for a turtle to drown, we can address the question, how does a turtle drown? Well, turtles cannot live entirely underwater. As they are reptiles, they use their lungs for breathing in the air. 

A turtle typically holds its breath underwater for a long time. Besides, these turtles also use their scales for breathing in minute amounts of oxygen underneath the water surface. 

However, they often need to come to the water surface to breathe air properly. If something prevents the turtles from reaching the surface for too long, they can get stuck underwater, eventually leading your turtle to drown. 

When there is an obstacle under the water, which stops the turtle from reaching the surface will agitate or create more panic in your pet. Due to this reason, the stored oxygen in your turtles will be exhausted. And this can make them breathe excessive water into their lungs, resulting in their drowning. 

Just imagine how pathetic the situation might get! So, while petting turtles in tanks or ponds, make sure there are no obstacles, such as a net where they can get tangled up in their path to traverse back to the water surface.

Another potential reason for your turtle to drown is when the turtle dive into deeper water, searching for a lounging spot to laze around, and gets exhausted; with no energy to return to the surface, your turtle may drown.

How Long Does it Take for a Turtle to Drown?

It is difficult to say how long does it take for a turtle to drown. Depending on the species and the circumstances, turtles can spend from minutes to hours, even months underwater. However, how long it will exactly take for a turtle to drown depends on its oxygen level.
Turtles are ectothermic reptiles, meaning they rely on external heat sources to keep them warm. Their metabolism entirely depends on the environmental temperature; you will see an increase in their metabolic rate as soon as water or air warms up. With the rise in the metabolic rate, it needs more oxygen.
Some turtles can hold their breath for about 45 minutes; however, the duration depends on the types of species and metabolism. In a household habitat, the temperature, in general, is warmer than its natural habitat.
How long it takes for a turtle to drown, is entirely depends on the turtle’s metabolic rate and the metabolic rate directly depends on the water temperature.

Can Baby Turtles Drown?

If your pet turtle is still a baby, you would want to watch them closely as baby turtles are more prone to drowning as they do not have much experience in swimming, and their body is still frail. 

Besides, it is pretty difficult for a baby turtle to climb up the ramp, which can eventually tire them. It can also happen that the ramp or entry area of your basking dock is much slippery, which prevents them from climbing up.

If the dock is too steep or rugged for baby turtles to climb up, you risk drowning the baby turtle. Thus, you would want to set up your tank correctly in keeping with the view of your baby turtle so that your cute baby little trudging rock can climb effortlessly out of the tank and not drown. 

Can Turtles Drown While Sleeping?

Turtles tend to drown if they get stuck underwater and cannot come out of the water body after waking up from sleep. Otherwise, while asleep, these bulwarks will not die due to reduced activity; they hardly require any oxygen, which prevents them from running out of oxygen supply.

Can Turtles Swim?

Yes, turtles can swim; though they are not entirely aquatic reptiles, they need a decent amount of water to thrive. However, not all turtles are the same and need the same amount of water.
For example, the red-eared ones are great swimmers and can enjoy large water bodies, while box turtles usually do good on the land rather than in water.
I would recommend you do diligent research about their needs and habits before deciding which type of turtle to get.

Can Turtles Sleep in Water?

Well, the answer is yes, they can sleep in the water! Most of the pet turtle species can sleep under the water for at least an hour or so. Then they again swim up to the water surface to breathe some pure air from the atmosphere. 

Does it sound a bit confusing to you? Well, as we have seen earlier, that they could typically stay for 30 minutes underwater; you might be wondering now, how can they remain an hour under the water while sleeping? 

Well, while swimming under the water, they exert- more energy, which demands more oxygen. On the contrary, while sleeping at the bottom of the water body, turtles do not exert much energy as they slow down their metabolism, which calls for very little oxygen. Hence, the oxygen drawn in through their scales from the water molecules suffice their oxygen demand.

However, sometimes they even prefer to sleep at the water surface area. 

Do Painted Turtles Sleep Underwater?

Yes, painted turtles like map turtles, sliders, mud turtles can sleep underwater. They even bury themselves under the sand or mud at the bottom of the pond while drawing little oxygen from the water molecules. They slow down their metabolism to lessen their oxygen requirements. And by doing so, they can even sleep for many months under the water. 


Can Red-Eared sliders sleep underwater?

Red-eared sliders are usually excellent swimmers and spend a long time submerged underwater; they are more like aquatic species. They can stay underwater swimming for 20 to 30 minutes. 

They can sleep underwater for at least an hour, and Red-eared sliders can brumate for an extended period of 3 to 6 months.


How to Know Whether Your Turtle is Dead?

If your turtle is inactive in the water for a long time, it can be a real cause of concern whether the turtle is dead or alive. If you suspect that your turtle has drowned, do not turn it upside down. You can kiss goodbye if at all the slightest chance left to survive.

Here are some means to check if your little turtle is alive or dead:

  • A dead turtle, which has drowned, will float on the water surface. It so happens due to the build-up of gas in your pet after death. However, some funloving amniotes might float on the surface of the water simply because they choose to.
  • To check if your turtle is dead or alive, you can set it on a surface and start to stimulate by trying to push and pull its legs. Generally, turtles do not appreciate disturbing them; hence a live turtle might fizzle or retreat into its shell. Moreover, pushing and pulling of the legs can help to eject out water from the lungs. 
  • If your turtle does not respond to your touch, apply a bit of pressure between the cloacal and tail. Living turtles will react to it by trying to escape through this. 
  • While examining your turtle, look out for visual clues of life because turtles can hold breathe for a long time. Observe the area between the tail and the cloacal region and the neck and the legs for breathing movement; generally, the breathing movements in Turtles are subtle.
  • Check the odor coming from the turtle. If it smells foul due to decomposing, then your turtle is undoubtedly dead. 

Before giving up on your turtle, you can let a vet examine your turtle; don’t forget, they are known to survive against incredible odds.


How to Revive a Drowned Turtle?

Drowning always does not mean that your turtle is dead. Your turtle might get unconscious or struggle to survive after drowning; it may seem dead for a long time, but it might come back to life after several hours, and sometimes even after a day or two. 

If you think even for the slightest moment that there is a possibility your turtle could be alive, here is what you could do to try to revive:

  • Gently remove the turtle from the tank; take care not to turn upside-down.
  • Hold the turtle’s head behind its ears at the base of its skull and pull the neck area.
  • Try to hold your turtle vertically with its head pointing downwards and open its mouth. 
  • Grasp the tail of your turtle with your hands and pull it upwards while pointing its head downwards. Make sure water drips out of its mouth.
  • As water stops dripping out of its mouth and nose, you can place the turtle on its belly on a completely flat surface.
  • Pull the front legs out and keep the legs straight, push it back to the turtle’s shell; you may repeat pulling and pushing the legs few times.
  • After doing all these steps, ensure to visit a vet.

While reviving your drowned turtle, never try to give mouth to mouth; you risk damaging its lungs. Also, never force a straw to breathe into because if you feel any resistance to opening the turtle’s mouth, the chances are that the turtle is alive, and inserting a straw can damage its mouth and cause further distress.


Can My Turtle Drown – Wrap Up:

We have reached the end of the article can my turtle drown; Yes, your turtle can drown though it’s not an everyday incident. Don’t forget turtles symbolize longevity, a personification of immortality and fertility. They are known to have survived against the odds of life.

So chill! Drowning your turtle in your home aquarium highly unlikely; take care not to have any obstacle in their habitat.

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