How Long Can African Sideneck Turtles Be Out of Water?

Copyright: EcoSnap

The African sideneck turtle is a popular type of turtle. It’s also known as Pelomedusidae which is its official name. This turtle species can be found in the Sub-Saharan Africa region. It’s a freshwater turtle that grows from 7 to 12 inches. They can grow large as they mature.

They are called African sideneck turtles because of their inability to squeeze their neck directly back to their shells. It retracts its long neck sideways instead of under its shell cover. This allows the turtle to hide in its shell to avoid predator attacks. It’s their defense mechanism to avoid being prey.

This turtle species can do well even in captivity. The African sideneck turtle is recommended for beginners. Due to their hardiness and adaptability, they are easy to care for. They are large types of turtles and they can live for a long time. It requires commitment because of this.

It’s a good choice if you want to have a pet. They can live more than 50 years if you care for them well. The African sideneck turtles are aquatic so they spend most of their time in the water. Although they can also spend some time on land. But how long can African sideneck turtles be out of water? Continue reading to learn more.

Basic Information About African Sideneck Turtle

Scientific Name – Pelomedusa subrufa

Family – Pelomedusidae

Care Level – Easy to Intermediate

Temperament – Calm

Color – Tan, dark brown, gray, black

Lifespan – 25-50 years

Size – 7-12 inches

Diet – Omnivore

Minimum Tank Size – 70-100 gallons

Temperature – 70-85 degrees Fahrenheit

Water Conditions – Freshwater

Tank Mate Compatibility – Prefer being alone

How Long Can African Sideneck Turtles Be Out of Water?

African sideneck turtles are aquatic turtle species. Although they can still be out of water for a few weeks. The reason for this is because of their natural habitat. It’s not uncommon for them to experience being out of the water. A lot of rivers in Sub-Saharan Africa become dry.

This dry season can last for several weeks or even a few months. That’s why African sideneck turtles were able to adapt and survive without going into the water. They can live for weeks in the wild. But it does not mean that you should keep it out of the water. As pets, the African sideneck turtle should be comfortable.

Do African Sideneck Turtles Need Water?

Yes, like other aquatic turtles they need water to survive. The African sideneck turtle should stay in the water if possible. If you want to keep this turtle as a pet, you need to have water in the turtle tank. It is an essential requirement so that they can live to their maximum lifespan.

How Much Water Does an African Sideneck Turtle Need?

It depends on the size of the African sideneck turtle. The water should be according to their size. If the turtle is about 10 inches, the water should be at least 100 gallons. That is the reason why it is uncommon to keep the African sideneck turtle in an enclosure or a turtle tank.

If you like to have the African sideneck turtle, make sure to get a large turtle tank. The turtle should be comfortable inside to swim around. The turtle should also be able to access the water easily. It should also be able to get out without any problems. They can still drown if they get stuck in the water.

Can I Take My African Sideneck Turtle Outside?

They are semi-aquatic animals and also reptiles. The African sideneck turtles live in the water. If you want to keep it outside the house, you should have an artificial pond for them instead. These turtle species need to be in the water most of the time. Their habitat should also have a land area.

Do Sideneck Turtles Sleep Underwater?

Like other freshwater turtles, African sideneck turtles normally sleep underwater. They will go to the surface every now and then to breathe. Most aquatic turtles can hold their breath for about 30 minutes. That means that they have to wake up to get some air from the surface of the water.

What is an Ideal Turtle Tank Size for African Sideneck Turtles?

The ideal turtle tank size for the African sideneck turtle should hold at least 110 gallons of water. It has to be 1.5x deep from the length of the turtle. The bigger the turtle tank, the better t will be for the turtle. Avoid housing more than one sideneck turtle in one tank.

If it is possible, the sideneck turtle will do better in an outdoor pond. That will provide the turtle with a bigger space to live. If you can have that, the pond must be only 1.5x deep from the turtle length. The retaining wall should be about 24 inches tall. It should also be buried 6 inches to the ground to avoid it from escaping.

Do African Sideneck Turtles Need UV Lamp?

Yes, they also need to have a UV lamp to absorb UVA and UVB rays. It’s a requirement for sideneck turtles to maintain good health. Adding UV lamps to their tank will provide them with the vitamin D3 they need. It’s important for their well-being as well to have a strong immune system and good metabolism.

The UV lamp must be half the length of the turtle tank. You can put the UV lamp near the heat lamps. Place it between 13 to 14 inches above the basking area. Keep in mind that it needs to be replaced at least every year. That will ensure that your turtle will always have enough UV exposure.

What Should Be the Temperature for African Sideneck Turtles?

Turtles cant control their body temperature internally like mammals. They can only do this by relying on their environment. The tank for the African sideneck turtle needs to have a temperature of 95F. The water temperature should be under 85F but not lower than 70F. That is the ideal temperature of their habitat.

To provide heat for the turtle tank, use two halogen flood heat lamps. Clustered them on the basking area to generate heat as the sidenec turtle bask. Avoid bulbs that are not effevtive such as ceramic heat emitters, blue buls, and red bulbs. If the sideneck turtle is living outdoors with a warm temperature, there is no need for heating devices.

How to Keep the Water Quality for African Sideneck Turtles?

Keeping the water quality good for your sideneck turtle is required. They always stay in the water unless they are basking. Therefore it’s important to maintain the water quality on their tank. The water should be clean all the time to avoid turtles from getting sick. Get a good filtration system and do routine water changes.

When it comes to filtration, get a canister-style filter. It must be capable of the handle at least twice the amount of water in the turtle tank. If you have 110 gallons of water, get a filter that can handle 220 gallons of water. It’s good to invest in your turtle thank setup to avoid health issues.

Aside from a good water filter, make sure to have routine water changes. It will help to maintain the cleanliness of the tank. You can do the water changes every week or two. Remove 30% of the water from the turtle tank and replace it with clean water.

Even if you have a strong filtration system, changing the water must be done. Doing so will prevent toxic compounds on the tank. You can use a water pump to make it easier to change the water. It will help to keep your sideneck turtle healthy and avoid having to visit the vet.

How to Decorate the African Sideneck Turtle Tank?

Decorating the African sideneck turtle tank is important. They are semi-aquatic turtles which means that they also need a land area. The basking area should be included so that the turtle will have a space to bask. Adding a basking platform is one of the requirements for keeping a turtle.

The land area of the turtle tank should have enough space. The turtle must be able to walk around, burrow, and bask. Although sometimes it’s not possible but using a simple basking platform is a good option. Make sure that it’s as big as the turtle and tall to allow the turtle to dry off.

When decorating the turtle tank, make sure that it will boost its functionality. Having an attractive tank is not a priority but how it will benefit the African sideneck turtle. You can add live or fake plants, driftwood, hollow logs, or substrate. These will not only make the tank look nice but the turtle will also be happy about it.

What is the Behavior of African Sideneck Turtles?

The African sideneck turtles are calm and easy-going turtle species. Altho they can also be aggressive with other animals. They are not the ideal tank mates and they prefer to be alone. When you add a fish or other reptiles in the turtle tank, sideneck turtle will eat them for sure.

However, you can add another African sideneck turtle in one tank. They are not aggressive on the same species. Just make sure that the tank has enough space for two turtles. That way, they will not end up fighting for territory.

The African sideneck turtles are calm around people. But they can be aggressive when they feel threatened. They dont like being handled by humans so minimize holding the turtle. Even if the sideneck turtle can tolerate you, it can get stressed if handled frequently.

How African Sideneck Turtle Looks?

This sideneck turtle looks like it has barbells on its lower jaw. They use these as their sensory organ. Some people mistake them for beards but they’re not. This turtle has web feet that come with long and sharp claws. Their large round eyes are hard to miss especially their smiling mouth.

Their color varies from dark brown, gray, tan, and black. Most sideneck turtles have darker skin tones on their underbelly. But some have lighter skin tones. There’s a wide yellow area on their bodies as well that you will notice right away. While the head is brown with a black mark.

Some entomologist who works for the African sideneck turtles reported that they have a unique appearance. They also have different structures than other turtles. This turtle species seems to lack the ardent reptilian feature. While they have a cute smile plastered on their mouth.

Their size also varies from one turtle to another. Some African sideneck turtles can grow up to one foot in their adulthood. Some can grow into twenty inches long while others can stay to eight inches or smaller.

Why African Sideneck Turtles Have Long Necks?

Another characteristic of African sideneck turtles is they have long necks. It’s a good feature for the turtle since it can help them to hunt. Besides, a long neck will let them extend it further to capture their prey. If they do not have long necks, they will have a hard time surviving in the wild.

Aside from hunting, the long neck of this turtle can be used to help them swim better. They can maneuver theihght the water. That meant that it can move more efficiently. It can also hell the to go back when they get flipped. It can be a matter of life and death for turtles.

The long neck of the sideneck turtle also plays a role major in their balance. Having a long neck can make it easier for them to hunt in the wild. Although they no longer need to do that in captivity. They can still use it in case they get flipped over. It will save them if nobody is around to help them.

What Do African Sideneck Turtles Eat?

Like other turtles, the African sideneck turtles are omnivores. They will eat both plants and animals. It allows them to get the nutrition their body needs. The feeding schedule is based on the age of these turtles. It also depends on the type of food that they should eat regularly.

If the African sideneck turtle is less than one year, it needs to have 50% animal protein and 50% plant protein food every day. Feed them turtle pellets every other day to ensure that they can get all the nutrients they need. Make sure to feed the turtle vegetables every day.

If the turtle is more than one year, 25% protein and 75% vegetables protein food twice a week should be provided. The vegetable food must be given every day. While the turtle pellets can be given two to three times per week. You can also follow the guide below on what to feed them.

Animal-based Foods:

  • crickets
  • earthworms
  • dubia roaches
  • freeze-dried shrimp/krill
  • frozen bloodworms
  • silkworms
  • snails
  • guppies
  • mollies
  • platies
  • mosquitofish

Vegetable Foods:

  • collard greens
  • dandelion greens/flowers
  • endive
  • green leaf lettuce
  • kale
  • red leaf lettuce
  • romaine lettuce
  • raw grated squash
  • carrots
  • green beans
  • raw grated sweet potato

Turtle Pellets:

  • Omega One Juvenile Turtle Pellets
  • Omega One Adult Turtle Sticks
  • Tetra ReptoMin
  • Zoo Med Natural Aquatic Turtle Food
  • Mazuri Aquatic Turtle Diet

Do All Turtles Need Light at Night?

Not all turtles need light at night especially when they are already adults. Hatchlings and juveniles may still need the night light. It doesn’t matter if you are using red or blue lights. As long as it’s not too bright for the turtle, that should be fine. You can use the infrared heat lamp for night viewing.

Why Do Turtles Open Their Mouth Wide?

Also called gapping, turtles open their mouths wide for diff reasons. It can be because of their hurt or even angry. They may also open their mouths wide to yawn. If the turtle seems to open its mouth wide all the time, it may be a sign of pain. Make sure to visit the vet if this occurs.

How Big African Sideneck Turtle Gets?

The African sideneck turtle can grow between 7 inches to 12 inches. They are moderate in size compared to other turtle species. The male sideneck turtles can only reach up to 10 inches in adulthood. Females are larger than their male counterparts like other turtle species.

Do All Turtles Sleep Underwater?

Many turtle species sleep underwater since it’s the safest place for them. In the wild, they will be vulnerable to predators as they sleep. Both freshwater and marine turtles sleep underwater. They go to the surface periodically to breathe. Turtles have lungs so they need oxygen.

Do Turtles Like Staying Out of the Water?

Turtles can live out of water since they are reptiles. But they still need to have access to water to cool down. Aquatic turtles like to stay in the water more since it’s their natural habitat. Aside from that, their food is normally in the water when they are in the wild. It’s not a good idea to let them stay out of water too long.

Will Turtles Die if the Water is Too Cold?

It’s important to maintain the proper temperature in the turtle tank. The water temperature should be warm enough for the turtle to swim comfortably. Although the turtle will not die with a cold temperature, it can get sick. If the water is too warm, they will end up basking more which will have the same result.

How Long Turtles Live?

If they survive through adulthood, the turtle’s lifespan varies depending on the species. The African sideneck turtles can live up to 50 years. Other turtles like the American box turtle can live for more than 30 years. While sea turtles can reach up to 70 years or longer which is a long time.


1. How Often Should You Feed African Sideneck turtles?

The African sideneck turtles will eat anything since they are opportunistic animals. They adapted that mindset from the wild where food can sometimes be scarce. Hatchlings should be fed once daily to grow. Juveniles should be fine being fed every other day. Feed the adult sideneck turtles twice every week.

2. What is the Lifespan of African Sideneck Turtles?

The African sideneck turtles can live 30 to 50 years. Make sure that you can commit to taking care of it for a long time. They are omnivores which means they eat insects and vegetation. These turtles dont like tankmates and prefer to be alone on the turtle tank.

3. Will Turtles Die in Tap Water?

No, turtles will not die in tap water. But it’s better if you treat it first before adding it to the turtle tank. Tap water can irritate the turtle’s eyes because of the chlorine content. Although it will not kill the turtle in case you forget to treat the water first.

4. What to Feed African Sideneck Turtle?

They are omnivores which means they eat both plant-based and animal-based food. The African sideneck turtles like to eat insects, worms, small fish, and more. When it comes to plants, they should eat vegetables every day. It’s a part of their healthy diet. Provide your turtle balance and nutritious food depending on their age.

5. Where Do African Sideneck Turtles Lay Eggs?

They dug the nest and lay eggs on land during the dry season. Their eggs will eventually hatch in 8 to 10 weeks. The female African sideneck turtles can lay between 6 to 18 eggs yearly even if they did not mate with a male. Their exact nesting and hatching periods vary depending on their habitat.

6. Why Do My African Sideneck Turtles Don’t Want to Eat?

The African sideneck turtles may refuse food because of slowed metabolism. It can happen if they are lacking UVA light exposure. If the temperature is low, it will also affect the turtle’s metabolism. Although there are times that their metabolism may slow down on certain periods naturally.


The African sideneck turtle is an ideal pet for beginners. But avoid letting it out of the water since it’s an aquatic turtle. They need to stay in the water most of the time. That will keep them healthy and active.

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