Can Turtles Survive in Cold Water? (Ultimate Guide)

Copyright: kapu

During the winter, everything suddenly becomes too cold for animals. These conditions may be the end for them. Only a few animals can survive the cold weather. Turtles happened to be one of them since they are adaptable. They are one of the most resilient species that can survive even the winter.

In the wild, turtles can live even under a frozen pond during this season. They have their way of dealing with the cold. Generally, turtles can survive in different conditions provided that they have the essentials. But in captivity, not having enough heat and UV light can harm them.

Can Turtles Survive in Cold Water?

Turtles can survive in the cold water because of brumation which is known as hibernation for other animals. During this period, turtles can stay under frozen waters. Their bodily functions will start to slow down to enter brumation. They don’t need to eat or do their activities to survive until the cold season has passed.

However, the turtle’s body cannot be exposed to cold water consistently. The turtle will go into forced hibernation if the temperature is as low as 40 to 50F. Although they can survive in a cold environment, it has limits. They should not live under cold water for an extended period.

Under the cold water, the turtle’s heartbeats and blood circulation slow down. It also causes their metabolism and immune system to decline. If their environment stays this way for a long time, it will have a bad impact on their health. The turtle’s body will be a perfect host for viruses and pathogens that can be fatal.

Turtles like warmer environments and it’s more suitable for them. But if the water temperature increases, it will also be bad for them. Make sure to have the right water temperature for the turtle to stay healthy. Tank heaters can be used to avoid the temperature from decreasing. Ensure that it will not be too hot for them either.

How Cold Is Too Cold For a Turtle?

If the temperature is below 40C, it will be too cold for the turtle to survive. They usually hibernate before the temperature gets too cold. Turtles are ectotherms which means their body temperature matches the environment. When the water temperature is cold, their bodies will have the same temperature.

Turtles are cold-blooded but it helps them to survive. During winter, their body temperature also decreases. Their metabolism slows down and they don’t need as much food or oxygen to survive. During the brumation period, turtles will just sleep until the temperature of their environment rises once again.

Some freshwater turtles survive the cold by submerging their bodies in the water. There are only a few species that can survive in a frozen environment. These turtles dive in the pond since the temperature below will remain consistent. They swim to the surface to get food or oxygen or stick to the water until it’s over.

What Happens If a Turtle is in Cold Water?

When turtles swim in cold water, it will trigger the brumation process. They will be forced to hibernate and their metabolism starts to slow down. It’s how they survive in the wild during the cold weather. This can also happen if you let the water temperature go down in the turtle tank.

When pet turtles are exposed to the cold water in the tank, you will notice that they will be less active. They will not eat much since their metabolism has slowed down. Turtles don’t need much oxygen at this stage since they are hibernating to survive.

Do Turtles Hibernate?

Yes, turtles hibernate and it’s a cycle known as brumation. Hibernation is applicable for turtles in the wild. For turtles in captivity, they don’t need to go on brumation. Pet turtles are being taken care of by their owners. It’s your job to keep them comfortable and make sure they don’t get cold.

An ideal turtle keeper takes care of their turtle’s health and well-being. Make sure that their environment is always clean. They make sure that the turtle will also have a basking area. Monitoring the water temperature on the turtle tank is also important. That way, the turtles will always be safe and comfortable in their tank.

In the wild, turtles don’t have anyone to take care of them. Hibernation is essential for their survival. When a turtle in captivity experiences a cold temperature, it will end up hibernating. It’s their natural way to allow their body to survive the harsh conditions. Prolonged exposure to the cold will be fatal for the turtle.

What’s the Best Temperature of the Water For the Turtle Tank?

Ensure that the water in the tank is not too hard or not too cold. If it gets too hot, the turtle will not get out of the water to bask. It will make the turtle lazy to visit the basking area which is bad for their health. They need to bask to absorb the UV rays.

When the water temperature is too cold, it’s not good for them either. It will force them to hibernate to survive. But if the cold water persists, it can be fatal for the turtle. That’s why you need to know what is the best temperature for turtles to avoid having health issues.

In general, turtles will be comfortable if the temperature of the water is between 78.8F to 82.4F (26-28C). To maintain the right water temperature on the turtle tank, you should get a heater. It will help you to maintain the right water temperature. A thermometer should also be installed in the tank.

Can Turtles Live In Frozen Water?

It depends on the turtle species that will live in frozen water. Some turtles can survive but others cannot. The western turtles can survive these conditions. Although living in frozen water is not an ideal environment for turtles. Most of them like warm temperatures to be comfortable and survive.

Based on research, it may be possible for some turtles to live in frozen waters. But these turtles will need to produce a lot of sugar and urea. The impurities will lower down their freezing point. Although scientists are still looking at this possibility. Pet turtles don’t need to face this situation.

Do Turtles Need a Water Heater?

The water heater is one of the essential tools to maintain the water temperature of the turtle tank. It will help the title to easily adjust to the temperature changes of their environment. The water heater will prevent the turtles from getting sick because of the low water temperature inside their habitat.

Aside from having a water heater, turtles also need to have a basking spot. It will prevent shell rot and keep them warm. Since turtles are exothermic, they cant produce their own body heat. A basking spot will help them to dry their bodies and stay warm. Therefore, a heater and a basking spot are the essentials.

What Happens to Turtles During Winter?

In the wild, turtles go on hibernation during winter. It will help them to survive the cold weather that can last for a few months. The cold temperatures will automatically put them in brumation. Their metabolism will slow down while seizing other activities. After the winter, they will wake up and resume their regular activities.

Turtles are ectothermic creatures and they have their way to surviving the cold. Usually, turtles will not die in cold waters during the winter. They will go on brumation or come out of the water to bask. Both will make the turtle warm. What can kill them is if they are not being cared for the right way.

Do Turtles Like Cold Water?

Turtle species will do well with 78 to 82F when they are still hatchlings. Painter turtles, musk turtles, and red-eared sliders don’t like cold water too much. They feel more comfortable as adults between 72 to 77F. The turtle tank wet area has to be about 75 to 85F.

As mentioned, turtles are cold-blooded and they can’t generate heat to keep them warm. They only depend on their habitat to help them regulate their body temperature. If the water temperature is too cold, their bodies will be at the same temperature. That’s why they need a basking area to keep themselves warm.

However, when the winter comes the temperature will drop. It can be as low as 50F or 10C. Turtles’ way of surviving the cold season is by brumation (hibernation). The turtle lay low at the bottom of the pond or lake during this period. But how can they survive without food and oxygen underwater during brumation?

How Turtles Survive During Brumation?

Turtles have lungs and like humans, they need oxygen to breathe. During the winter, they will be submerged under cold water. It will take months before spring comes. But turtles will still be alive because of brumation. Their metabolism slows down during these times. It means they don’t need much food and oxygen.

Having a slowed metabolism means that they should be inactive. It will decrease their energy consumption. This will also decrease their oxygen demand. Brumation is similar to hibernation since turtles only sleep during this period. They also don’t need to eat but they need to drink water from time to time to survive.

During brumation, turtles only depend on the energy stored from their past digestion. They will rely on their coral respiration to be able to breathe. Turtles can absorb oxygen on their skins and butts without having to use their lungs. That’s how they survive in the wild during brumation.

Pet turtles don’t need to go through this anymore. You can provide them with a warm turtle tank all year round. That will avoid them from going into brumation. So make sure that the water temperature is just right for them. If it’s too cold, it will trigger their brumation process.

Can Turtles Live in Freezing Temperature?

Turtles can survive even in cold water. But how about the freezing temperatures? Although turtles are ectothermic and can hibernate to survive, they still have their limits. It will be hard for them to survive if the temperature hits the freezing point. Turtles cannot survive if it’s too cold already since they need to bask.

However, box turtles can survive even if the environment is already freezing. They can withstand the cold weather. But it’s not the same with other turtle species. When the ice crystals reach their bodies, they will die. But this can only happen if the turtle stays in the ground during the cold.

Turtles can be safer if they go underwater and hibernate there. Even if the water is freezing cold, they have a higher chance of survival. The reason is that water has high specific values. It takes a lot before the water temperature changes. The water will have a more stable temperature.

Turtles will not freeze to death if they stay underwater. Even if the water on the surface freezes, they can still survive under lakes or ponds. Although the oxygen levels will be lower, some turtles will do just fine. The snapping turtle and painted turtles can still survive in this condition.

Those turtle species can survive for as long as a hundred days without oxygen. They can switch their metabolism and absorb oxygen through their skin instead. It’s a big concern if the turtle is in the wild. But if it’s in captivity, they don’t have to worry about that. Pet turtles can just proceed with their activities as usual.

How to Know If the Temperature is Too Low for Pet Turtles?

Pet turtles don’t have to worry about the winter. They have a safe environment provided by their owners. But how will you know if the temperature is too low for your pet turtle? First, you need to know what turtle species you own. Most turtles need to have a basic water temperature requirement between 75 to 86F.

When the water temperature drops a little, turtles will begin to feel cold. If it falls between 38 to 50F, your turtle will start preparing for brumation. If you want to avoid that, set up a digital thermometer on the tank. That way, you can monitor the water temperature easily. When the water temperature drops, you can do something about it right away.

How to Make Water Suitable for the Turtle?

You have to learn how to make the water suitable for your turtle. It has to be monitored and maintained all the time. If you are keeping the turtle outdoors, it will be hard to do something about it. This is similar to living in the wild for them. It’s up to nature if they will survive.

However, you can move them to an indoor habitat for them to stay warm. You can control the water temperature in a turtle tank. Use an automatic heater for the tank during the cold months. It will help the turtles to always stay warm. Just choose the best tank heater that you can get.

Many turtle species can survive even in the cold water. But you are aware that they can’t be there for a long time. During winter, you have to make sure that the water temperature is just right. That will avoid the turtle to hibernate and continue on its usual lifestyle inside the tank.

What is the Best Basking Temperature For Turtles?

Turtles need to have their basking area, especially inside the tank. It will keep their bodies dry and warm to avoid getting sick. The basking temperature is also important to be right especially during the cold months. It should be 10 to 12F and must be warmer than the water.

Some turtle species such as sliders painted turtles, and box turtles have different basking requirements. The temperature has to be 90F which is higher than what other turtles need. But avoid having the basking area too warm. It can affect the turtle’s swimming.

Basking Temperatures for Pet Turtles

  • Red-Eared Slider – 85-95F
  • Painted Turtle – 85-95F
  • Box Turtle – 95-90F
  • Mud Turtle – 85-95F
  • Map Turtle – 80-85F
  • Musk Turtle – 80-90F
  • Snapping Turtle  –  85-90F
  • Wood Turtle  85-90F

How to Choose the Best Heater For Turtles?

Heaters can help to maintain the water temperature in the turtle tank. But it can also cause accidents if not used with caution. It can cause burns, electrocution, and more for your turtle. If you have to use them, make sure to choose wisely. Safety, design, and efficiency are important.

Using a heater inside the turtle tank can be dangerous. That’s why it’s recommended to choose a non-glass heater for the tank. It will avoid accidents from occurring since glass heaters can be damaged by the turtle. If you have to use those, buy a protective cover as well to be safer.

  • Safety

When buying a heater for your turtle tank, make sure that it’s safe. Many tragedies have already happened because of heater accidents. Make sure to check the features carefully. These are the auto-shutoff, shockproof design, shatterproof material, and more.

  • Design

In heaters, the design is important while choosing one for the tank. Depending on your tank setup, you have to choose the one that will fit in properly. The most popular are the submersible heaters. But if it’s not good for your tank setup, find a different design to suit the tank needs.

  • Efficiency

Heating efficiency is an important part when choosing a heater. The main reason that you are getting it is for your turtle to feel warm. Make sure to test it first before taking it home. It will heat the water and you need to know if it’s suitable for the turtle tank.

How to Choose the Best Basking Light For Turtles?

Choosing the best basking light for your turtle is also important. It will keep the turtle healthy and it’s essential for them. Avoid buying low-quality lights since they might explode endangering the turtle’s life. Make sure that it can provide the heat and UV lights on the turtle’s basking spot.

After swimming in the water, the turtle needs to warm up. Don’t skip the UVB lights since your turtle needs them to produce vitamin D3. It will help the turtle to absorb the nutrients in food as well. This is essential for their health since it helps them have healthy shells and bones.

Choose the basking lights that can provide heat and the UV lights. You can choose the two bulb setups or get them separately. You can also choose the mercury-vapor lamp. It gives off heat, UVA, and UVB. These will help the turtle to be warm every day during the cold season.


1. Can red-eared sliders live in cold weather?

Yes, the red-eared slider turtles can live in cold weather. When they go on brumation, these turtles will move to the bottom part of the ponds or lakes. They will stay there for a while until spring arrives. The red-eared slider turtles still need to warm up after staying in the cold.

2. Can a turtle die from Cold Water?

Turtles will not die from the cold water directly. Instead, they will prepare for brumation. But because it’s freezing cold, they have to stay underwater. Although some turtle species can die aside from the box turtles who can survive this condition.

3. How can you keep your turtle warm without a heat lamp?

If you don’t have a heat lamp, you can use other sources of heat and light. Outdoor turtles can bask in the sun to stay healthy. While if it’s in the tank, you can use an oil lamp or even candles to heat the turtle tank. But it’s best to get a heat lamp since it’s essential for turtles.

4. Do turtles feel cold?

Yes, turtles can feel cold and warm depending on their environment. They are cold-blooded and they only depend on the temperature of their surroundings. It’s also impossible for them to regulate their body temperature. If it’s too cold, they will also have the same temperature.

Recent Posts