Can Turtles Live In Cold Water?

Can Turtles Live In Cold Water?

When you first get a turtle, there might be some confusing topics that you’re worried about. Of course, you want to give your turtle the best care possible, but there is a lot of misleading information on the web. So today, we answer your question about turtle care straightforwardly. 

So, can turtles live in cold water? Permanently - no, most of them can’t. Let us elaborate on the topic, and then you can decide what your next go-to step is. Every turtle is different, and you have to be mindful of your species at home.

Turtles are reptiles, which means they are cold-blooded, and the environment they are in dictates the temperature of their bodies. This is why staying in cold water for a long time can be very dangerous for certain turtles that don’t hibernate or brumate often.

Most turtles have to get out of the water to warm themselves up, and they go back into the water when they need to cool down. This form of self-regulating does a great job for almost all species, and it’s much better than just leaving your turtle in cold water - it might get sick, and it might even die, as it will struggle to self-regulate.

What actually happens is, the turtles enter a state of semi-hibernation - their heartbeat rate becomes slower, their blood circulation is impaired, and they are essentially kind of shocked. Some species do better with this type of adjusting, while others die after a few hours. Such fragile turtles should be kept in water that’s between 20 and 25 degrees Celsius, sometimes even up to 28 degrees for those that are purely domestic.

You must know that turtles that live in the wild adjust to temperatures much better, although they, too, will enter shock if they hibernate in freezing water for too long. There are some extreme species like the western turtle - these can survive in freezing water, too, as well as red-eared sliders. However, most don’t have these unique turtles at home, and they have to treat their domestic friends much differently.

So, long story short - if you have a domestic turtle or a turtle from the wild that’s been domestic for some time (with the exception of a few species), you should not expose your turtle to cold water at all times. You can either have them live in room temperature water or make a small pond with cold water they can visit and leave when they feel like it. But, do not force them to be in cold water all the time.

Turtles on stones

More Advice On Turtle Care

Now that we have gone over our main question, we also want to discuss some popular advice for turtle care. There are many things to pay attention to, not only the temperature of the water, so let’s start discussing those right away.

What is the best aquarium for your turtle? Turtles love to live in tanks and ponds, and they’ll enjoy living in groups too. If you decide to put them in an aquarium, you should aim for about 55 gallons of water or more - they like to swim and need their space. Also, they care about the water quality they’re in, which is why getting a filter is a good choice for most. Finally, line your aquarium with gravel for the best results - this seems to fit them very well.

Do I need a thermometer? Many ask about thermometers and whether they need to buy those for their turtles, and the answer is yes! You should get one that checks the water temperature and another one that will check the temperature of the dry side of the tank. Both of these are very important, as the turtle will switch positions in the tank.

What’s also beneficial is getting a heat lamp made for night use, as these are reptilian-friendly. These bulbs will keep the temperature optimal, but they cannot replace an underwater heater that you might want to get to keep the water temperature high enough. We've talked about the optimal water temperature previously, but we also want to mention that the dry side of your turtle’s home should be anywhere between 29 to 32 degrees Celsius.

What about the light? Turtles can be very active during the day, especially aquatic turtles. They need light to properly understand day-and-night differences and allow for optimal movement and sleep. If you keep your turtles somewhere dark, and they do not have access to natural light, we suggest you get a UV a or UV B bulb that should shine for about 12 hours each day. Night-specific bulbs are great for turtles that lay eggs, but you can look into those after first figuring out the daytime settings.

What are some red flags in turtle behavior? As important as it is to take proper care of your turtles, you also need to know how to detect whether there's anything wrong with your pets. When turtles are upset, sick, or not feeling well, they tend to hide a lot. They do not eat or drink, and they lose weight. You might notice that they don't move as much, and they might have swollen joints.

There might be some discharge from their eyes, nose, and possibly even their mouths in some cases. In addition, their skin will look different - not only can the color change, but there might be some wounds and lesions too. Make sure to visit the veterinarian if you notice any of these signs.


In the end, we want to assure you that your turtle will be just fine if you monitor it closely and make changes that will benefit its lifestyle. In the beginning, it's often very tough to find temperature settings and light settings that your turtle enjoys, which is why you just need to look at the way they move and act and monitor whether they eat enough. Then, as you continue to switch the experience up, you will find them happy and healthy, moving around more and feeling playful. Good luck!