HomeTurtle CareCan Turtles Drown? - Everything You Should Know!

Can Turtles Drown? – Everything You Should Know!

When it comes to turtles, one might wonder if they are capable of drowning. In this post, let’s explore the fascinating topic of “Can Turtles Drown?” and uncover the truth behind this commonly asked question.

Turtles are incredible animals that have been around for millions of years. An often-asked question is if they can drown.

The simple answer is Yes; they can drown. Though turtles are adapted to water, it is possible for multiple reasons that we will discuss today!

We tend to think of drowning as a mammal or human trying to stay above water, but turtles have adaptations that help them in aquatic environments. They have shells for buoyancy and special respiratory systems that let them survive underwater.

So, let’s embark on this exploration together and discover the underwater secrets of these remarkable creatures.

Can Turtles Drown?


Turtles can glide through the water endlessly. However, they can indeed drown.

Though they can hold their breath for a while, they are not immune to suffocation if they cannot reach the surface.

Turtles still need oxygen, just like other creatures, and possess adaptations that permit them to stay underwater for a while. These include a slower metabolic rate, and organs called cloacal bursae, which help extract oxygen from the water. But they still have to visit the surface for fresh air.

Sadly, turtles face many threats, which can lead to drowning. They get caught in fishing nets or plastic waste and can’t reach the surface.

Pollution and destruction of habitats also affect the availability of places to live safely.

We must take action to protect these creatures from drowning. By increasing awareness of responsible fishing and conservation, we can help turtles to thrive.

How Do Turtles Breathe?

Turtles are amazing animals, and they can live on both land and in water. To understand how they breathe, knowing they have a special respiratory system is important.

Unlike humans, who breathe with their noses, turtles have cloacal bursae structures in their cloaca. This opening is for reproduction and excretion.

These structures act like lungs and get oxygen from the air.

When underwater, turtles can hold their breath for a long time. They absorb oxygen from the water through blood vessels called papillae. This adaptation helps them stay underwater without drowning.

Some species of turtles absorb oxygen through their skin when underwater. Their skin is thin and has many blood vessels, which lets them absorb oxygen from the water. This ability helps them survive in water.

The loggerhead turtle is remarkable. It can dive 1000 feet and hold its breath for over four hours. They have adapted to low oxygen levels to live in tough conditions.

How Can A Turtle Drown?

Surprisingly, turtles are at risk of drowning.

The susceptibility of a turtle to drowning relies heavily on a multitude of elements, a key one being the turtle’s specific species.

Take Red-eared sliders, for example.

These creatures predominantly spend their lives submerged, engaging in activities such as swimming, feeding, and resting. They are incredibly adept in aquatic environments.

On the contrary, most box turtles are far from proficient swimmers. The absence of webbed feet makes them gravitate towards shallow aquatic zones.

Tortoises, they fare the worst in aquatic scenarios, and they lack the convenience of webbed feet and are entirely unaccustomed to aquatic environments, which would lead to a rapid demise if they were to be put into a deep body of water like a lake or pond.

They have lungs to extract oxygen from the atmosphere and specialized glands to get oxygen from underwater skin. Still, they need to surface and breathe fresh air periodically.

Be aware of dangers that may stop turtles from returning to the surface. If you see one in distress, help or alert local authorities. 

Are Turtles Capable Of Underwater Breathing?

Turtles have a unique way of breathing. They can survive on land and in water.

Unlike fish, they don’t breathe underwater. But they can hold their breath for long periods.

Turtles take oxygen from water through specialized glands in their cloaca. Bursae cloacal glands absorb oxygen and supply it to the turtle’s bloodstream.

Turtles also can slow down their metabolism, which conserves energy and lets them stay underwater longer.

They slow their heart rate and reduce activity levels, which reduces oxygen consumption and lets them stay submerged.

Some species, like the painted turtle, hibernate in ponds and lakes. When these water bodies freeze over, a layer of ice forms above them.

The turtles must breathe through their bursae cloacal as they can’t break through the ice. This lets them survive in freezing conditions for months without suffocating or drowning.

What’s The Duration Turtles Can Spend Underwater?

Turtles are great swimmers and can hold their breath for a long time.

Their strong lungs and slow metabolism help them stay underwater for hours. This is because they use stored oxygen in their lungs and bloodstream.

Turtles also have special adaptations that enable them to extract oxygen from the water.

Leatherback sea turtles have a record for staying submerged the longest. Research shows they can stay underwater for up to 85 minutes!

Also read: Turtle Open Mouth – What Causes Turtles to Keep Their Mouths Open?

Do Turtles Sleep Underwater

Turtles have amazed us for centuries, but can they sleep underwater? Yes!

These clever critters can stay submerged without coming up for air, using specialized glands in their mouth and throat to extract oxygen from the water.

They find a safe spot on the seafloor or in sediment to rest. But they must come up for air at regular intervals or risk suffocating and drowning.

Can Sea Turtles Drown?

Can sea turtles drown? Yes, they can!

Sea turtles have lungs, not gills like fish. They breathe air through their nostrils and can stay underwater for a while.

But if they get tangled in fishing nets or debris, it can be difficult to resurface, and they could drown. Plus, if they become trapped in shallow water while injured or sick, they may be unable to swim back up, which could lead to drowning.

So, if you ever encounter a distressed sea turtle in the water, don’t panic! Just notify the local authorities who can help rescue the turtle and ensure it’s safe.

Can Box Turtles Drown?

Box turtles have the power to drown if they can’t reach the air. They can only hold their breath for a while, needing oxygen to stay alive. They can suck oxygen from both air and water. But, unlike aquatic turtles, box turtles haven’t evolved to breathe underwater for long periods.

Without a way out of the water, box turtles can’t survive. They don’t possess gills or lungs like other amphibians or reptiles do. That’s why anyone caring for or meeting them in the wild must know this vulnerability.

We can prevent accidental drowning by providing habitats that look like their natural home and adding safety measures like ramps or stones in ponds or shallow water. Let’s make sure box turtles stay alive and that we can keep enjoying them!

Can Baby Turtles Drown?

Baby turtles have the extraordinary ability to navigate water depths without harm. They hatch with an innate knowledge of their environment and an instinctual drive to reach the safety of the ocean. With their flippers, they glide through the currents, buoyed by their shells.

However, they can be vulnerable to certain risks. Entanglement in nets or debris can impair their mobility and put them in danger. Plus, pollution and habitat destruction can make it difficult for them to adapt and survive.

Let’s help ensure the future of baby turtles! We can start by reducing our use of plastic and properly disposing of waste.

We can also support conservation efforts and organizations dedicated to protecting turtle habitats.

Every small action counts when it comes to preserving the delicate balance between humanity and nature. To secure a brighter future for these remarkable creatures, let’s dive into action.

Can Red-Eared Sliders Drown?

Red-Eared Sliders are a popular pet turtle species that can drown if they can’t reach the water’s surface for air.

They have special lungs that let them absorb oxygen through their skin while submerged. But, if they stay under too long, they could asphyxiate.

So, owners must provide proper care and give their turtles easy access to the water’s surface.

These turtles are semi-aquatic. They hang out on land and in water. Plus, thanks to their closed shell, they can hold their breath for a long time! But, sometimes, they can still drown.

Red-Eared Sliders have a cool trick: they can hibernate underwater in the winter! They bury themselves in mud or hide under rocks or logs. They slow down their metabolism and rely on stored energy during this time.

Though they’re amazing, pet turtles shouldn’t be released in the wild. This can disrupt the ecosystem and spread diseases.

Can A Sleeping Turtle Drown?

Numerous pet turtle varieties doze off underwater. Indeed, the red-eared slider seems to possess the ability to stay submerged in sleep for an impressively extended period. Even a box turtle sporadically slumbers in the water.

However, does this suggest that a hibernating turtle could potentially drown?

The answer is no.

This is standard for turtles that choose to sleep underwater (typically aquatic species such as sliders and painted turtles). What usually transpires is that they will instinctively drift towards the surface, inhaling once or twice.

If they start to linger underwater for an excessive duration, they will awaken and deliberately paddle to the surface to breathe.

Do Turtles Breathe During Hibernation?

Certain turtle species can absorb oxygen through specific parts of their body, but this capacity is essentially restricted to hibernation.

This happens in the wild during the chilly winter months when turtles often bury themselves in mud or water (or both). They obtain minimal amounts of oxygen by breathing through their rear ends.

Generally speaking, turtles cannot breathe underwater and most certainly can succumb to drowning.

What are the primary reasons for a turtle drowning?

Two main scenarios can lead to this:

  1. The turtle lacks a basking spot or a means to escape from deep water, which leads to exhaustion and eventual drowning.
  2. The turtle accidentally flips over and becomes entrapped beneath the water.

These situations, however, are exceedingly rare.

Turtles don’t typically drown; they are relatively intelligent animals and, most of the time, can extricate themselves from any troubling situation they find themselves in. It requires a considerable amount of time to exhaust a turtle.

However, if your tank’s water level is too low, and your turtle overturns and cannot right itself, it could drown. Therefore, it’s crucial to maintain the appropriate water level in your tank.

Can You Revive a Drowned Turtle?

Can you give a drowned turtle new life? It’s possible but not easy.

Turtles are amazing creatures living both on land and in water. But when they drown, it’s much harder to revive them than humans. Their vital organs stop getting oxygen, so bringing them back is nearly impossible.

Still, there’s a chance. If a turtle is removed from the water quickly and gets medical help fast, it can sometimes be revived by experienced vets using special techniques like oxygen and artificial respiration.

Sadly, these success stories are few and far between. Most turtles don’t survive. This reminds us of life’s fragility and how important it is to protect aquatic creatures.

NOAA states that turtles face many dangers, such as getting entangled in fishing gear, pollution, habitat destruction, and climate change. That’s why conservation is so important.

We can’t usually revive a drowned turtle, but we can make a difference by protecting their habitats and reducing the harm caused by humans. That way, we can stop such tragedies and give turtles a brighter future.

Key Takeaways:

  • Turtles can drown: While turtles are adapted for aquatic environments, they can drown if they cannot reach the surface to breathe. It is important to provide turtles with proper water depth and access to the surface to prevent drowning.
  • Turtles breathe through their lungs and can drown if deprived of air: Turtles have lungs and need to come to the surface to breathe. If they are unable to do so, they can drown. It is essential to ensure that turtles have access to air to prevent drowning.
  • Some turtles can hold their breath for extended periods: Turtles can hold their breath for extended periods of time, which helps them survive in underwater environments. However, they still need access to the surface to breathe.

Some Facts About Can Turtles Drown:

  • ✅ Yes, turtles can drown under certain circumstances. 
  • ✅ Turtles do not have gills like fish; they have lungs and need to come up to the water’s surface to breathe. 
  • ✅ Red-eared sliders are comfortable in the water, while most box turtles are not good swimmers. 
  • ✅ Turtles can breathe underwater, but only to a limited extent, and they need to come up for air regularly. 
  • ✅ Sea turtles spend most of their lives in the water and can stay underwater for long periods, but they can still drown if caught in fishing nets. 

FAQs About Can Turtles Drown?

Can turtles drown under certain circumstances?

Yes, absolutely. Although turtles can remain underwater for long periods, they cannot breathe underwater. Under the right circumstances, turtles can drown.

What are the right circumstances for a turtle to drown?

The ease at which a turtle can drown depends on various factors, such as the turtle species. Some species are comfortable in the water and swim well, while others could be better swimmers and are not accustomed to deep water. Tortoises, for example, are not used to water and would quickly drown if placed in a deep lake or pond.

How long can turtles hold their breath underwater?

Research and observations show that most common pet turtle species can hold their breath for 15 to 30 minutes. However, this can vary depending on the species, location, and water temperature.

If a turtle drowns, is there anything you can do?

If a turtle drowns, it is a tragic outcome. However, it’s essential to focus on preventing such incidents from occurring in the first place. Owners should ensure their turtles have a safe and suitable environment, free from potential hazards that could trap them underwater.

Do baby turtles have a higher risk of drowning?

Yes, baby turtles are often at a higher risk of drowning due to inexperience and weaker swimming abilities. It is crucial to provide them with a safe and shallow water area to avoid any accidents.

Can sea turtles drown?

Although sea turtles spend most of their lives in the water, they can still drown. Fishing nets pose a significant threat to sea turtles as they can get caught and exhaust themselves while struggling to escape, eventually leading to drowning.


Can Turtles Drown? Yes, they can!

Even though they can stay underwater for long periods and have adapted to life in water, turtles still need access to air to survive.

No need to go into too much detail – here are some cool facts about turtles:

  • They have lungs and breathe air, just like humans.
  • Some turtle species live solely in water.
  • Their shells let them float around easily.
  • They can hold their breath for hours.

For turtles to be healthy, we must take care of them properly. Here are some tips:

  1. Give them a dry area where they can sunbathe under a heat lamp. This helps regulate their body temperature.
  2. Clean their tank or enclosure regularly. Use a filtration system to get rid of bad stuff.
  3. Feed them a balanced diet of commercial turtle food, fresh veggies, or live prey.

By doing these things, you’ll be helping your turtle stay safe and healthy – and preventing them from drowning. Remember, turtles are fascinating creatures but still need our love and care!

Fishkeeping Expert
Fishkeeping Expert
With years of collective fishkeeping knowledge, we are pleased to share the tank maintenance tips and fish care advice we've picked up along the way. Fishkeeping Expert is home to all fishkeeping tutorials and guides that will help you keep your fish healthy.


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