Can Terrapins Live Out of Water?

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Written by Anthony

I am a content creator by profession but exotic animals are one of my great passions in life. Over the course of my adulthood, I have had the pleasure of looking after stick insects, terrapins, an Egyptian tortoise, giant African land snails, a crested gecko, a Chilean rose tarantula, a couple of curly-haired tarantulas, and a selection of millipedes, centipedes and worms!

Last Updated on October 22, 2020

Terrapins are fascinating creatures that can live for up to thirty years in captivity, provided they are well cared for of course. While they are quite small when juveniles, adult females can grow up to about 25cm in length while males can reach around 21cm. Some species, such as the red-eared terrapin for example, have been known to grow up to 30cm.  

Part of proper terrapin care is providing the right environment for it, which means having adequate housing. At a bare minimum you will need to have a large enough tank for the terrapin to swim around in. Just note that terrapins are freshwater creatures, being found mostly in streams or ponds in the wild.

In captivity, their water should be warm (between 75F and 80F) and there will also need to be an area on which they can sit and bask under an artificial heating lamp that offers both UVA and UVB light. This allows them to dry out as well as providing them a chance to synthesize vitamin D3 (this helps their shells and bones to grow and remain healthy).

So as you have probably gathered by now, terrapins live both in and out of the water.

How Long Can a Terrapin Hold its Breath?

What you might not know though is that terrapins eat their food in the water. They are omnivorous (meaning they eat both meat and plants) but their diet consists mainly of meat. While small fish and insects are popular food sources, they will also eat a number of human foods if it is offered to them. These can include raw chicken, beef, and pork, all of which needs to be cut up into very small, manageable pieces. As terrapins do not have saliva glands, they have to eat their food underwater.

Nevertheless, these animals do breathe air, so this leads us on to the question of how long can they hold their breath for and, consequently, how long can they stay under water. You might also be wondering if terrapins can drown.

If you have a terrapin, you will probably have noticed that it spends quite a lot of time swimming about in the water. Well, some terrapin species can hold their breath for up to thirty minutes before surfacing for air; others can happily remain underwater for a much longer period of time. Some even sleep underwater, occasionally surfacing for breath before heading below the surface once more.

A question we are often asked is whether or not a terrapin could drown. The answer to this question is yes, they absolutely can drown. As you have read in the above paragraphs, terrapins need to breathe air and they need access land as well as water.

Consequently, without a basking area or the ability to climb onto land, a terrapin could become extremely tired in the water and eventually drown after becoming exhausted.

How Long Can Terrapins Live Out of Water?

Terrapins typically spend more of their time in the water than out of it. Your terrapin will, however, spend quite a bit of time basking under a heat lamp before heading back into the water. But how long can terrapins live out of water?

As terrapins breathe air, they can live out of water for quite some time. Nevertheless, they would eventually become dehydrated without access to water. They do need both air and water to survive and although it is likely that without water a terrapin could survive for a couple or so weeks, any longer than this will result in death from dehydration.

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