Why is My Aquatic Turtle Sleeping So Much?

Stinkpot Turtle

Written by Lisa

When not researching and writing about weird and wonderful animals, Lisa enjoys spending time with her 'two' families: her husband and 3 kids, and her 3 dogs, Sooty the cat, Frank the terrapin, and Bob the bearded dragon.

Last Updated on February 4, 2021

It is important to learn more about your pet’s sleeping habits so that you are in a position to determine whether or not it is sleeping too much. You are likely to be aware of what is considered normal for your own turtle unless it is new.

Aquatic turtles can hold their breath for extended periods of time, and many will actually sleep in the water. Some might sleep at the bottom of their tank while others will sleep while floating about in the water. Yet others prefer to sleep on their basking areas.

Turtles can sleep for between one and ten hours at a time, but if they are sleeping underwater then they will need to come up for air in between. Species such as the red-eared slider can typically hold their breath for around five hours so it would need to get some air before returning under the water for more sleep.

Is Your Turtle Sleeping Too Much?

Aquatic turtles are nocturnal creatures, meaning they are most likely to be active at night when their owners are usually sleeping. This can lead some new owners to assume there is something wrong with their turtle as they appear to be sleeping most of the day.

How active a turtle is at night will usually depend on the species and how old it is. Older turtles tend to be far less active than juveniles.

What you should be aware of however is that while wild turtles will usually sleep throughout the day to avoid predators and wake up at night to look for food, captive turtles usually develop a slightly different schedule over time. This can happen when the environment in which they are kept is quite busy during the day (people moving about often) and if they are fed during the day. The longer you have your aquatic turtle, the more likely it is to become more active during the day, preferring to sleep at night when the house is quieter.

It is much easier to determine if your aquatic turtle is sleeping too much, when sleeping habits change. For example, if your turtle has regularly been active during the day and moving from the water to the basking area but has now started sleeping more often, you will become concerned that there is a problem.

Mississippi Map Turtle
Mississippi Map Turtle

Incorrect Water Temperature

One of the main causes of inactivity in an aquatic turtle is the water temperature being too cold. Some owners do not heat the water of their turtle’s tank and this is not usually a problem when the room temperature is quite warm. It is important to note though that the temperature of the water will be cooler than the air temperature and as a rule turtles do need their water to be in the mid-to-high 70s Fahrenheit.

If your aquatic turtle is sleeping too much then, it may be down to the fact that the water is just too cold. If this is the case, then it is probably best to invest in a water heater and a thermometer so that you can keep the water at a constant temperature. If interested, know that Amazon sells a good collection of aquarium heaters. Click here to check them out (opens in a new tab). One of the problems of an aquatic turtle getting too cold is that its immune system will become compromised, which will cause issues when it comes to fighting off infection.

Brumation

Brumation is similar to hibernation and is something that aquatic turtles tend to do in the wild. Brumation is a prolonged period of inactivity during the winter months where turtles will eat very little, if anything at all. This behavior is not uncommon in captive aquatic turtles; indeed, some will become quite inactive and stop eating for a period of time during the winter months.

Illness

Illness can also result in lethargy and a loss of appetite. It is important to be alert to other symptoms of illness to ensure that your turtle gets treatment as soon as possible if required. Look out for the following:

  • bubbling around the nose and mouth
  • swollen or watery eyes
  • heavy breathing
  • abnormal feces
  • swollen limbs
  • weight loss.

Conclusion

If your aquatic turtle seems to be sleeping more than usual, try to identify the cause. Check the water temperature and look for signs of illness. If you are unable to establish the reason for the inactivity, it might be worth contacting a vet for advice.

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