Can Turtles Flip Themselves Over?

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There are so many different turtle species around the world. Turtles also have a long lifespan. Most of them can live up to 20 years or more. Bigger turtle species can even reach up to 400 years or more. They can thrive in the wild for many years. Even in captivity, they can live for a long time.

Turtles have become a symbol of longevity because of this. They are tough and can live in almost any condition. As pets, turtles are easy to care for. When they are in the wild, they can take on almost anything around them. But turtles can’t deal with it when they turn upside down.

Seeing an inverted turtle can make them look cute and funny. However, it’s a matter of life and death for turtles. When they accidentally go upside down, turtles will panic and get stressed. Some turtles will try to move their legs frantically until they lose a lot of energy before calming down.

Turtles panic because they will be more exposed to predators. They are in their most vulnerable position when they are upside down. Their shell is the turtle’s armor to protect them from their predators. They will be in a position where they can’t even fight back if they get attacked.

Can Turtles Flip Themselves Over?

Luckily, turtles can flip themselves over when they are in an upside-down position. It can save the turtle from its doom. They have their unique shape and it varies depending on the turtle species. Most of them can turn over. Others may struggle more compared to other turtles.

But how can turtles flip themselves back over? Turtles may look inflexible because of their hard shell. If a turtle is upside down, it can think of a way to flip over. Turtles can use their head to tilt themselves back. It will tilt its head outside the shell on one side so that its body shifts a little.

After that, they will use their feet and push them off on the ground. It will give the turtle some leverage to flip back into their side. The turtle will go back to its original position and can walk again. Although not all turtles can do this maneuver, most of them can turn themselves over.

Why Do Turtles Flip On Their Backs?

1. Copulation

It’s not easy for turtles to stay on their feet when mating. This can be dangerous for them, especially for male turtles. The need to mount the female turtles to mate. Doing this can put them at risk of being upside down. It can fall backward and end up on its back. Turtles can possibly die if they were not able to flip over.

2. Predators

A lot of predators are waiting for turtles to be in a vulnerable position. Turtles have soft underbellies that will make it easier for predators. If the turtle is laying down on its back, the predators can take advantage. That will be an opportunity for them to have an easy meal. Turtles can’t fight back in that position.

3. Turtle Fight

During the mating season, the male turtles will fight because of female turtles. It’s common for animals to fight each other to win their possible mate. Turtle fighting is more interesting since the males usually flip each other on their backs. The last one standing will be the winner and have the female turtle as its mate.

4. Animal Cruelty

Some people find it funny to put the turtles on their backs. Either they don’t have an idea that it’s dangerous for them or they are just plain cruel to animals. They find it entertaining to see a turtle struggle from that position. Turtles can die if they are left alone while they are still flipped on their backs. People should stop doing this.

What Will Happen to the Turtle if It Stays Flipped Over?

Turtles should not stay flipped over for a long duration. Their intestines can get twisted especially if it’s an attack. It will be dangerous and even fatal for them. If the turtle shows severe stress or other signs of pain, make sure to bring it to the vet right away.

This could mean that the turtle damaged its bowels and bladder. Although it’s not serious, it can make them dehydrated. Their internal organs will press against their lungs. It will fill in the top half of the turtle’s shell. It can be stressful for them over time and the turtle might get very ill.

They might also vomit from the unnatural position and pressure of their organs. Turtles might aspirate and can end up choking. This can also result in respiratory problems. They will be more stressed physically and even mentally. Being flipped back will make the turtle sick.

If it continues, the turtle will be more dehydrated and even get sunburned. Parasites can also attach themselves to the turtle and stay there. It will also starve and become dehydrated over time. After a long period in this position, the turtle will die if not rescued.

How Can Turtles Flumble Over?

The turtle’s shell shape can contribute to why turtles flipped over. They are not always on their backs and can be topped over. It can use its shell as its leverage to flip towards the other side. Their neck can also help them push their bodies to go back to their natural position.

Turtles have their tail and legs to help them fumble over. It may not be that strong but it will be enough if they abuse it all together. Some turtles have longer legs and others have long necks. These traits can help the turtle from getting out of that uncomfortable state that they have.

How Long Can a Turtle Stay Flipped Over?

Turtles should not stay flipped over for a long time. If it was flipped upside down under the light, it can be dehydrated. The turtle will be unable to go to the water to cool down. They need to be in the water like other aquatic turtles. If they can’t move away from the heat, it can kill them.

If the turtle gets flipped over without dangerous elements, it might survive for a couple of days. But it doesn’t usually happen, especially in the world. Many predators will take advantage of that situation. Either the turtle will become the meal or it will get dehydrated.

The turtle lungs can also be the biggest threat for them. It is located from the outer part of their backs. When a turtle gets flipped over, its weight will put a lot of pressure on the lungs. It will have a difficult time breathing in this position. The turtle will also get stressed and panic.

How Long Can a Turtle Survive Upside Down?

Being upside down is uncomfortable for turtles. It’s also dangerous and can be fatal for them eventually. Although it depends on different things how long turtles can survive upside down. It will be better for them to have less time in that situation.

In the wild, it will be impossible for the turtle to last the whole day upside down. Their predators will soon find them and end up becoming their meal. But when in captivity, they might have a better chance of surviving for a couple of days.

Does a Turtle Die If It Flips Over?

Turtles will not die when it flips over or at least not right away. When they are turned upside down, the turtle will feel trapped. If they can’t move, it means that there is no way to find food. Turtles can’t last for a long time without food and water. Without access to water, it will be dehydrated.

Wild turtles will have a hard time surviving when it flips upside down. Although they can retract in their shells, they can’t fight back if there are predators around them. It’s also possible that they don’t have access to sunlight. That will make them have an illness and die eventually.

Can Turtles Breathe Upside Down?

Yes, but it will be hard for them to breathe if they are upside down. It’s also possible for them to drown since they can’t swim if they are flipped over. They will not be able to go to the surface of the water to breathe as well. Even if turtles don’t consume too much oxygen, they still need air.

Flipping the turtles’ upside down while they are in the water will kill them. Their lungs are also located on the top of their shells. It helps them to stay afloat in water. Being upside-down can also crush their lungs when they are on land. It’s bad for them to be in this position for a long time.

What Causes Turtles to Turn On Their Backs?

1. Illness

The turtle might have a severe respiratory infection. That can cause it to flip over while swimming. Vitamin A deficiency can cause them to tilt on their backs. Lack of vitamin A can change the turtle’s mucous membranes. That includes their eyes, mouth, and respiratory tract.

The early signs of infection will include nasal discharge, swelling and discharge on their eyelids, ear swelling, and bubbling. Turtles will also have a lack of appetite when they don’t feel well. When they start to tilt or turn, it’s already too late.

2. Fighting Turtles

Keeping more turtles together can cause them to fight for territory. If you find one turtle is always flipped over, that means they are fighting. Multiple male turtles with one female turtle can also cause this from happening. When the breeding season comes, they will compete for the female turtle.

If you want to have multiple turtles in one tank, make sure to only have the same gender. That will avoid them from fighting over for a female turtle. It’s also best to have the same species in one turtle tank. That will ensure that they will not end up fighting and one might get flipped.

3. Issue with Turtle Tank

The turtle tank should have the right setup. If there are some issues, it will be fatal for the turtle. Make sure to provide the right tank size so it can swim freely. The length of the turtle tank is also important. The basking platform must have the right setup as well. If not, it will cause the turtle to flip over while trying to climb on it.

Why Do Turtles Die When Flipped Over?

If a turtle gets stuck on its back in direct sunlight, it can overheat. It’s fatal for the turtle and it only takes several minutes for them to die. When the turtle goes upside down underwater, it can drown. It’s also possible for turtles to starve to death. It can be stranded in cold water and may die due to the freezing temperatures.

It depends on the turtle’s species if they have the ability to get up after flipping over. As an example, the flat shell turtle lives in freshwater and has a long muscular neck. It can easily get up when it accidentally flips on its back. But not all turtle species have this ability.

What Turtles Can Get Up After Flipping Over?

For some turtles and tortoises, it will be hard for them to get up. Terrestrial turtles and tortoises have shorter legs and necks. It will make it hard for them to get up when they get flipped over. In some stories of the past, early explorers even used to kill giant land turtles. It’s their source of meat so they will keep them upside down to avoid it from escaping or fighting back.

However, some turtles are lucky to have shells that can automatically help them to get up when flipped over. Just like the very tall domed shells of star tortoises. It has a natural tendency to roll back to get to the right position. Thanks to its monostatic shape, it will automatically correct its position when the turtle is flipped over.

Those who have flatter shells, they have two stable positions. The front and back of their shells are stable enough to avoid them from being flipped over. There’s a slim chance of ending up on their backs. Some turtles are equipped with shells that have more stable points. Having this type of shell made it impossible for them to flip on their backs.

How to Help When a Wild Turtle is Upside Down?

In the wild, there are different ways that you can help the turtles. That way, they can continue to thrive. When you come across a turtle on its back, approach it carefully. You can turn the turtle gently and make sure that it will not get hurt.

Luckily, there are many people who will do this when seeing a turtle struggling. It will definitely save the turtle’s life. Don’t just pass by a turtle in need. When a turtle is on its back, that means it needs help. It will have a better chance of survival if you provide a little help for the turtle.

Stop when you see a turtle on its back while driving on the road. Helping the turtle will save its life. Just be careful when approaching wild animals. Turtles can bite if they feel threatened and they are in a vulnerable state. You cannot blame them if they are scared of humans.

There are other ways to help turtles that are having a hard time. Aside from helping them get back to their feet, you can stop when they are crossing the road. A lot of turtles are getting killed every year. By letting them cross the road in peace, you’re helping their species to thrive.

As long as you’re being careful when you hold the turtle, you can help it to get out of the road. Make sure to pick it up gently by grabbing the turtle shell on the sides. When you already have a good grip, carry it in the direction where it’s heading.

How to Help When a Pet Turtle is Upside Down?

Pet turtles can fall on their backs and may have some problems. Although different types of turtles are capable of moving on their own, they can still end up on their backs. You still need to watch your pet to avoid incidents. When they flip on their backs, they can drown.

Some turtles are better at getting up compared to others. They can end up running out of their energy if they try to get up. When it happens, they cannot keep their neck up anymore. Your turtle could drown from the water inside the tank. Although it’s not common, it’s still best to watch your turtle especially if it’s a juvenile.

Make sure that the decorations on the turtle tank are safe. Different types of rocks and some structures can make the turtles flip on their backs. Turtles will try to climb a rock or other decorations. When it falls down, the turtle will end up on its back. Pet turtles are not the best climbers and this can end up in a disaster.

A lot of turtle owners don’t normally have this problem. Although it’s better to be careful and always check the turtle tank. See if your turtle is doing well in its habitat. If you own a turtle that seems to always end up flipping over, set up the tank without any possible hazard. Your pet might end up stuck on its back.


1. How to Know if a Turtle is Drowning?

When turtles float on the surface of the water, it means that it’s already dead. It happens due to the gasses that build up when they die. These gasses make them buoyant and float. Although some turtles just float along the surface. They usually do that to bask especially sea turtles.

2. How to Tell If a Turtle is a Water Turtle?

The appearance of land turtles and water turtles is easy to distinguish from each other. Aquatic turtles use their feet to swim so they have webbed feet. You can tell them apart from their claws and feet. Water turtles have skin between their claws. It helps them to swim well.

3. Can Turtles Feel It When You Pet Their Shell?

Yes, turtles can feel it when you pet their shells. Their shells are made of bones and are covered with scutes. They have nerve endings even on their bones. It’s sensitive to touch and pressure. If you touch the turtle’s shell, it will feel the pressure. That means that they can also feel pain from their shells.

4. Can Tortoises’ Shells Grow Back?

Tortoises can fracture their shells and it happens when they get attacked by predators. They can also get hit by a car as they cross the roads. Some vets can treat their shells and repair them with bonding material. But since the tortoise’s shell is made of living materials, it will repair itself and grow back slowly.

5. How to Know If a Turtle is Happy?

If the turtle is healthy, that will be happy as well. Their eyes should look clear without any discharge. Turtles should be able to breathe well without difficulty. If the turtle’s eyes are swollen, cloudy, or weepy, that means that it’s sick and unhappy. Make sure to visit the vet to have the turtle treated to make it well again.


Now you know about the effect of turtles getting flipped over. Even if they are tough animals, this thing can potentially kill them. But most turtles are smart enough to go back to their feet when they get flipped. Although some turtle species may find it more difficult than others.

Make sure to always check on your turtle since they can die if gone unnoticed. Not every turtle species has the ability to flip back. It will be best to get rid of the potential hazards of them flipping over their backs. That can be dangerous for turtles and also fatal for them.

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