Can My Aquatic Turtles Escape From Their Aquarium And Why?

Copyright: irinbush

Are you an aquatic turtle owner and wondering why your little friends are desperately trying to get out of their container? Will they succeed or are they just playing, while you are getting anxious? In the following lines, you will find clear answers to all your questions!

Your turtles will try to escape from any living space they deem inappropriate. That is completely logical! So “yes”, whether you have them in a container or an aquarium without good filtration, they can escape at any time!

The reasons for which aquatic turtles choose to change their place of residence are many and will be analyzed in detail below. However, there are effective ways to prevent an unpleasant escape and ensure the best conditions for your dear friends. Let’s have a look at the following text, that will enlighten and reassure you completely!

Can turtles climb out of tanks?

Of course, they can! Turtles, although they look like slow-moving animals -because of the shell they carry on their backs-, they are real fighters. They have very curved nails, as well as excellent climbing skills. Provided the surface on which they will climb is not smooth, but rough enough to be nailed with their fingernails. Another way of climbing could be an islet in the center of the reservoir or the fake ornamental plants we usually put in aquariums. A water purification filter could also be a climbing step for your active turtle.

However, our turtles did not wake up one day and decided to escape for no reason. For this to happen there is a factor of discomfort that does not change, as we might have not realized it. It is perfectly normal for a turtle and any animal, in general, to try to escape from a place with unsuitable conditions, in search of better living conditions.

Why is my turtle still trying to climb out of the tank?

If you have one or more turtles in a container of water and you are a beginner with their care, then it is quite common to notice them trying to leave their storage container. Do not be frightened though. This can be a coincidence, but it also signals that something is wrong with living in the tank.

First of all, you should notice if this behavior is presented by all your turtles. Also, you need to see if the escape attempt is something that happens all day or is an isolated incident, in which you happened to be present. As you can see if you notice most of your turtles trying to escape, and taking the time to do so, then something is probably going wrong.

Otherwise, just one of your turtles might be a little more lively or rather smarter than the others, and the escape attempt might be related to its innate curiosity to discover the surrounding space of the tank. It is therefore also a matter of your animal’s temperament.

The most common reasons why a turtle will try to escape are:

  • Water Temperature
  • Dirty Water
  • Improper Diet
  • Pregnancy
  • Improper Basking Area
  • Wrong Basking Area Temperature
  • Stress
  • Fear

It is normal for a turtle trying to escape from a place with unsuitable conditions and being in search of a better life. Do not forget that it is a living being with survival instincts, not a castrated animal on our balcony. In any case, even if there is a problem with living in the tank do not panic. Below are presented in detail the causes of escape of our aquatic turtles, as well as practical solutions to avoid unpleasant surprises.

Improper tank size

If you own aquatic turtles without any prior experience in caring for them, you might have made the mistake of buying a rather small tank to fit your turtles. The pet shop seller might not have informed you that aquatic turtles get large enough, with a final size of 25-35 cm. A small living pot will be useless to you in a few months, in addition to being unsuitable for your turtles.

Keep this knowledge in mind and if you can not initially invest in a larger tank, you will need it in the future. Empirically, we can say that for every inch of your turtle’s shell length there are 10 gallons of water. You should buy the right product, which will solve your hands both in the medium and long term. You do not have to change storage containers constantly. Invest once, in the largest possible container that your pocket can support. You will be compensated.

Dirty tank

Dirty water is a big “wound” for the turtle’s livelihood and long-term health. Think of it this way: the turtle urinates and defecates in this water, while at the same time it drinks to quench its thirst, and its eyes and skin come into contact with it 24 hours a day.

Medically, this translates as follows. If the water is not filtered in some way, it will become toxic in a short time. Nitrate, nitrite, and ammonia levels will increase and it will be unsuitable for drinking even from a turtle. You can do a general inspection with a specialized water test kit. Let us not forget that turtles are animals with intense gastrointestinal activity.

Dirty water also poses enormous risks to their eyes, which are extremely prone to recurrent infections. You do not want to see your turtle’s eyes swollen and the same back. Likewise, their skin can get fungal and need specialized treatment from a veterinarian for exotic animals.

All this trouble for you and your pet will be successfully avoided if you make sure to buy a good water filter from the beginning. It costs a lot including spare sponges, but it will loosen your hands. In addition, good filtration creates the necessary flow of water, with bubbles on the surface of the tank, thus ensuring such vital oxygenation.

If you do not have the budget to support a professional filter, I would suggest that you change the water in your tank twice a day, but you will still have a problem with oxygenation.

Not enough space for hiding places

Turtles are by nature independent animals. They do not particularly like contact with humans, nor are they characterized by their sociability. It is no coincidence that as soon as they see a stranger or hear strange noise, they hide inside their shell. So, if you got the turtle with the prospect of looking at it smiling for hours and interacting, as you would with a dog, just forget it. The turtles want their peace!

An obvious need that you are called upon to satisfy them is the need for a cold. They need plenty of colds. They love to swim between rocks and take refuge in the crevices when they feel threatened. It’s something that happens instinctively. So, as a responsible caregiver, you have to get into the logic to study in depth their features and have them as happy as possible. If the turtle does not have a place to hide it will feel anxiety and threat. And it will just try to escape by finding shelter behind a pot or under a table.

No dry basking area and no UV lamp

As mentioned above, although they do look slow they are not at all! Turtles are excellent swimmers and very naughty animals! Knowing these peculiarities, you should provide them enough space for swimming and a “land” to do the necessary sunbathing, either exposed directly in the sun or under a UV lamp.

To understand how vital a turtle’s daily sunbathing is, it is safe to say that its shell is its entire skeleton. The health of its shell depends on the vitamin D it photosynthesizes from the sun. Strong bones without vitamin D are not possible. So if you do not want to see your turtle with a soft or crooked shell, that is, seriously ill, just invest in the photosynthesis of vitamin D, buying a good UV lamp and large sunbathing land.

Water temperature

Water temperature is -after cleanliness- the second most important factor of good living. The thermoregulatory mechanism of the turtle is extremely important in its good health. Turtles are generally animals that stay awake 9 months a year and fall into hibernation during the 3 cold months of winter. If you did not know it, that is an important knowledge you must possess, so as not to let your turtle fall into lethargy earlier, as it will not have the required fat reserves to withstand hibernation. Nor of course, should you keep the turtle awake in the winter because you just have fun watching it swim all day.

Like everything in nature, balance is needed. Ideally, aquatic turtles live well at temperatures between 75 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit (24 and 27 degrees Celsius). Of course, if the water’s temperature is plus or minus 2-3 degrees, there is no question of their maladaptation. Of course, they will survive! However, if the temperature deviates far from the above limits, your little friends will likely want to escape!

Regarding the practical part, how will you manage to achieve these temperatures? First, buy an aquarium thermometer and leave it inside all year round, so that you have a stable picture of the water’s temperature. For the summer, you will probably need a water cooler and for the winter a special tank heater. Do not look strange or unnecessary. You should know that turtle care is an extremely expensive hobby, which requires dedication and financial investment.

Also, make sure that the UV lamp is not too close to your turtle’s shell, as it will cause burns! Besides, if you had it walking free outside, you would not put it glued to the sun! Any exaggeration can be fatal for your turtle, so be balanced and cool.

Improper Nutrition

The turtle’s diet, as well as that of any living being, is the A and the Z in its good health. If you think that your turtles are happy with some dried shrimps per day, then you are wrong! Turtles are very demanding before feeding. As omnivorous beings, they can eat fruits, vegetables, and meat.

So, get a pencil and paper and take notes!

Vitamin D

As mentioned, it is very important in the function of the skeletal system. Otherwise, their shell will warp and soften, while probably starting to peel off. Your turtle will be very close to death. So be sure to provide your turtle a daily vitamin D supplement from the beginning, usually in powder form, mixed with its food.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A prevents eye diseases. A good dietary supplement will cover you if you do not have the necessary time to boil broccoli and fresh vegetables in your turtles. Otherwise, in case of infection, apply a vitamin A cream topically to the eye area, and in combination with an anti-inflammatory in drops, your turtles will overcome everything in just a few days!

Vitamin K

Give a lot of carrots to your turtles. They will thank you!

Phosphorus / Calcium

A 2: 1 calcium/phosphorus supplement, offered daily, will cover you completely. Alternatively, you can offer desalinated cuttlefish bones to your turtles. They will love them!


Dried shrimp and dried insects are rich sources of protein, which you will easily find in the market. But beware of excesses, because they are rich in cholesterol and this is not good for your turtle’s cardiovascular system! Well-cooked chicken is also a great choice. Do not make discounts on cooking, as chickens are known to be carriers of salmonella.


Fibers are essential for the proper functioning of their gastrointestinal tract. You can find them either in ready-made pellets of high nutritional value or in fresh fruits and vegetables, that your turtles love.

Fresh fishes

If your turtle is large enough, you can feed it 1-2 times a week with small cooked fish, such as sardines or anchovies.

Since we have talked about the problem of variety, we have to focus on the issue of quantity. As with humans, excessive amounts of food can either cause your turtle to weigh heavily or, if restrained, to contaminate your container unnecessarily. There is a rule that says: “the amount of a turtle’s daily food should be commensurate with the size of its head”.


Pregnancy is a wonderful but special period for all animals. Female turtles will instinctively seek to find the right place to lay their eggs. This place is not in the water! Ideally, they prefer to lay their eggs in piles of leaves, or in holes that they dig into the soil. This whole process of finding the right place to give birth can make your turtle want to get out of the container. This obviously will not happen if your turtle is male! But what if you do not know its gender?

Many signs will indicate the sex of your turtle! Males have long slender tails, very crooked nails, and on an average smaller size than females. Female turtles have short and flattened tails, fewer crooked claws, and larger shell diameter. If your turtle is a female and you rest thinking that you do not have a male animal to fertilize it, you should know that turtles can lay hollow eggs, not fertilized! Which obviously will come out, but leave! If you are now sure about your turtle’s pregnancy, consult a qualified veterinarian and arm yourself with patience. Your turtle is just looking for the best for its babies!

Stress and anxiety

If you think that stress is only a privilege of people then you are wrong. For us, it might be a pleasure to watch our little turtle swim, but for it, that would be not some kind of theatrical performance, but its life… An unsuitable living environment can cause stress to your turtle. Avoid placing the container with water in a noisy, crowded place, or other feline pets. Turtles are anxious animals and do not like crowds and darkness. After all, nature did not intend them as predators, but as prey. That is recorded in their DNA and survival instinct!


The first day in a turtle’s new home is a difficult experience for your little friend. Anything new can cause insecurity and isolationist tendencies. Probably the first time you try to feed it, it disappears. Do not panic, you just came to the turtles’ world!

Turtles are not the animals that you will feed shrimp in the mouth, although not unlikely. A trip can cause the same feeling in your turtle as when you brought it home on the first day. If you find signs of fear, the solution is very simple: leave the animal alone. Take care of all the formalities of living and do not force it to socialize or to give you a nice selfie! It just can’t!

Existence of an escape point

Have you heard of the so-called backdoor? Oh yes! There might be one in your turtle’s storage container. And of course, your little friend can take advantage of it and go for a walk outside its microcosm! So before you put it in, make sure you have not bought a defective container or aquarium!

Need to explore the environment

Turtles are very strange and lively animals. They want peace of mind about third parties, but they like to explore the environment on their own. This innate curiosity can lead them to escape from their host, with disastrous results as they will be exposed to external risks. From becoming a smoothie in the mouth of a bird that can grab them, to becoming a tennis ball for your dog.

If the turtle’s container or aquarium does not have the necessary toys, such as artificial or natural algae, other live fish, or turtles to make it feel like a member of a community and not get bored, then it is likely to leave. No living being can stand loneliness.

Their natural position is not in the aquarium but nature

Now I’m going to land you in reality, but this last reason to escape from the aquarium sums up all of the above. So if the owner of the turtle “buys” it just to have fun, then this will be perceived by the animal which will try to escape.

On the contrary, if you are willing to spend time and money for the well-being of your beloved pet, it will still receive it and I assure you that you will not see any tendency to flee. Because very simply: “where can it find a better place to live”?

What can you do to prevent your turtle from escaping?

Address the underlying cause of the problem, as soon as you notice an escape attempt. Ideally, of course, before buying such an animal, you should have thoroughly studied its needs, purchased the appropriate equipment, designed the accommodation, and then procured the animal. Just like you would with a new baby in your family.

However, if you have tried everything to no avail, you should consult a specialist veterinarian. Your pet might be suffering from an underlying illness that has not come to your notice.

Do turtles like being out of their cage?

Turtles are animals that love safety and if they feel good in their shelter they do not leave it easily. Therefore, in theory, they have no reason to move away from the security of their “home”. You will have noticed how badly they react, by sticking out their head or pretending to bite you, when you change the water of their tank.

After this thorough analysis, you realize how much responsibility is required on the part of the caretaker of a turtle, for its smooth living. The home of every living being is crucial for its health and well-being. So take care of everything long before you adopt your favorite turtle, even if those around you consider you excessive.

Turtles are hypersensitive animals and have terrible living requirements. However, in the long run, they will compensate you. They practically avoid almost any risk of disease after the third year of their life! And do not forget that they will accompany you for many years, as they are age-old animals, although their expectation is reduced when being in captivity. As you understand their life is in your hands. Aren’t they worth the best?

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