Do Red Eared Slider Turtles Hibernate in the Winter?

Red-Eared Slider Turtles are commonly kept as pets and are usually easy to care for; however, many owners are concerned about how well they can withstand cold temperatures during the winter months.

While it’s true that Red-Eared Sliders are amphibians and therefore cannot tolerate extremely low temperatures, they do not hibernate in the same way that warm-blooded animals do. This means that they don’t need to be brought indoors or given special housing during the colder months.

So let’s take a look at if they hibernate or brumate, and how you can help them survive the winter and wake up feeling great in the spring.

Red Eared Slider Turtles Brumation

What Is Brumation for Red-Eared Sliders? While true hibernation is deep sleep and greatly reduced metabolism, brumation is a winter state of dormancy where turtles slow down their activity and food intake without completely freezing.

They can be easily woken up during brumation to eat or bask in warmer conditions before returning to their dormant state. Unlike most other species of turtle that hibernate through cold winters in burrows on land or at depths below the frost line, red-eared sliders will experience two separate dormancy (or states) over one season: brumation followed by estivation.

So what’s with red-eared slider hibernation vs. brumation vs. estivation? How are these three states interconnected in water turtles, especially red-eared sliders?


The term hibernation is derived from hibernate, meaning to spend the winter. It describes any natural condition where an organism spends time resting during the year. Depending on the species, it can be daily, seasonal, year-round, or inter-seasonal.


Brumation is a reptile adaptation to hibernation, and it serves many of the same purposes as hibernation. The biggest difference between brumation and hibernation is that brumating reptiles typically don’t need to enter an actual physical state of being (like hibernating mammals do).

As long as their environment allows them to slow down their metabolism and become inactive, they are considered to be brumating.

Generally speaking, if you find your red-eared slider turtle is lethargic one day and then doesn’t move at all for two days straight, it’s safe to say he might be taking a little rest from being awake (Brumating)


Estivation is a state of dormancy or reduced activity that occurs in hot-climate species during dry periods. In contrast, hibernation is a state of dormancy or reduced activity in cold-climate species during winter. Biologists are uncertain about whether what turtles do constitutes true estivation.

Since red-eared sliders also have an annual hibernation cycle during cool months and estivation under heat, many scientists think they do not truly estivate, as do some other turtle species and crocodilians.

What Happens When a Red Eared Slider Turtle Doesn’t Hibernate?

There are many different species of turtles, and each one has its special way of hibernating. For example, red-eared slider turtles are also known as red-eared terrapins and come from North America, East Asia, and Southeast Asia.

Unlike most reptiles, red-eared sliders will not die if they do not hibernate. It’s common for these reptiles to leave their natural habitats because they enjoy warmer climates; however, if kept under safe conditions, they can often survive through even extreme temperatures and still emerge healthy after a few months have passed.

It should be noted that red-eared slider turtles will only hibernate if there is plenty of food available around them – especially aquatic plants. However, if food is limited, they may choose to remain active all year round instead of facing starvation by entering an inactive state.

What Months Do Red-Eared Sliders Hibernate?

Red-eared sliders (Trachemys scripta elegans) usually remain active year-round, so they don’t hibernate during the winter months. However, if conditions are cold enough, they can brumate underwater for extended periods to keep their body temperature from dropping too low.

During brumation, their metabolism slows down, and their heart rate drops to conserve energy. They also have fat stores that help them survive long periods without food or oxygen.

As a result, red-eared slider turtles that live in colder climates may not come out during extremely cold weather, while those living in milder areas may be active year-round.

Even though red-eared sliders do not hibernate, when temperatures drop below 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius), they won’t bask much either.

How Cold Is Too Cold for a Turtle?

At a temperature of 50°F, most turtles stop eating, become sluggish, and seek safety. You may notice that your pet slows down and spends more time at the bottom of the tank during colder weather.

While they don’t technically hibernate, they slow down when temperatures drop below 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

The best you can do is shelter them from cold drafts, provide them with plenty of shade, and not feed them any extra food if they seem lethargic or sluggish.

What Can Live With Red-Eared Sliders?

Red-eared sliders are excellent beginner turtles for those who have never owned a turtle before. They are easy to care for and handle, relatively long-lived, and produce hatchlings that will eventually grow up to be captive pets in their own right.

That said, there is some debate about what species of aquatic creatures can live successfully with red-eared sliders. However, they cohabitate with painted turtles, cooters, and sliders.

Do Red-Eared Sliders Hibernate or Brumate?

Red-eared Sliders do not hibernate but brumate. During this period, they become less active and rise to the surface for air and food. And can sometimes spend the entire winter months at the bottoms of shallow lakes and ponds.

Additionally, If you live where it gets extremely cold over winter, your turtle might need a little help staying warm. Put it somewhere warmer than normal and avoid drafts (especially on drafty windows). Keep an eye on its temperature to ensure it isn’t too hot or cold.

How Long Should My Red-Eared Slider Hibernate

The length of time a red-eared slider turtle needs to hibernate depends on its age and health. Most healthy turtles will enter hibernation if given their ideal habitat and can build up sufficient fat reserves. While younger turtles might need more than one winter nap, healthy adults should be able to remain dormant for several months at a time.

What Month Do Red-Eared Sliders Hibernate?

There is no way to know for sure, but many people claim that these turtles become less active when colder weather arrives. So if a red-eared slider isn’t eating or swimming as much, it may be preparing for hibernation.

How Do I Know My Red-Ear Slider is Hibernating?

You have to know your turtle’s behavior before you can understand how he or she is hibernating. For example, if your red-ear slider buries itself deep within its enclosure (within a thick layer of wood chips or other material), then it might be hibernating. But if it stays on top of its substrate layer, it probably isn’t asleep but rather dormant because of environmental conditions like temperature and humidity.

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