How Long Can a Red-Eared Slider Live Without Water?

It’s a cold, rainy day outside and you sit there and watch your red-eared slider basking on a rock under the sun lamp. You wish you could switch places and get some of that sunshine. You might wonder, how long can a red-eared slider live without water?

Red-eared sliders are regarded as semi-aquatic animals. That means that they need water to survive and grow properly. If it had to, a red-eared slider could live without water for at least a week. However, this would cause the turtle to become dehydrated and its health would be compromised if it had to go without water for a longer period of time. There is one exception which we’ll discuss a little later.

In this article we’ll go over how long a Red Eared Slider can live without water and what happens to them during this time period.

Do Red-Eared Sliders Need Water To Survive?

As I mentioned above, red-eared sliders are aquatic animals. This means that they absolutely need water to survive. Because they’re cold-blooded animals, they need water to regulate their body temperature.

They also prefer to munch on their food while they’re in the water. This is because the water aids in digestion and stops the turtles from choking on their food. You see, red-eared sliders do not have saliva to help break down their food. Therefore, they need the water to make it easier.

Most importantly, red-eared sliders also need to drink water just like other animals including humans. Plus, the water keeps their shells hydrated.

How Much Time Do Red-Eared Sliders Spend In The Water?

You’ll find that red-eared sliders will probably spend around 75% of their time in the water. The other 25% of the time they’ll spend basking on a rock in the sun. They do this to dry out their shell and to warm up.

Remember that because red-eared sliders are cold-blooded, they cannot regulate their own body temperature. Therefore, they swim in the water to cool down and then sit on a rock under a heat or sun lamp to warm up.

So, if you think about this logically, you’ll realize that it’s not really healthy for a red-eared slider to be without water for a long period of time. There is one exception though.

red eared slider in water

When Red-Eared Sliders Can Go Up To 6 Months Without Water

There is one exception when red-eared sliders are able to survive without water for up to six months and that is during hibernation or brumation. In the wild, it’s common for red-eared sliders to go into hibernation during the cold winter months.

During this time, the turtle will slow down its metabolic rate and become totally inactive. In fact, the heart rate drops so low that it is only just keeping the turtle alive.

The reason that these turtles go into the state of brumation is that there’s usually not a lot of food available in winter. Plus, the weather is too cold for the turtle to be able to bask in the sunshine.

Many times, a red-eared slider will hibernate in the water at the bottom of a pond or stream. However, sometimes these turtles will brumate on the bank and hide under a litter of leaves. This inactivity means that the turtle can go without food and water at this time.

However, pet turtles that we keep in a tank generally don’t go into hibernation. This is because we supply them with ideal water and basking temperatures and a constant supply of food.

What Type Of Water Do Red-Eared Sliders Need?

Ideally, you should keep your red-eared slider in a large tank that has been filled with de-chlorinated water. You can get a water conditioner to put into tap water that will remove the chlorine. Better still, if you have a water filter that removes all the additives in tap water, you can use the water from it.

Red-eared sliders also need water that is constantly clean and fresh. You can easily supply this by putting a water filter into the tank to clean the water on a regular basis. Remember that your turtle will both eat and defecate in the water, so a filter is a must unless you want to replace the water on a daily basis.

This leads us to water temperature. Ideally, you should have the water at a temperature of around 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. If you use a digital thermometer in the tank, you should be able to monitor the temperature on a daily basis.

And lastly, remember that red-eared sliders need a lot of water in the tank or aquarium. They need to be able to swim in the water for the better part of the day. Ideally, you want to provide your turtle with around 10 gallons of water for every inch of the turtle’s shell. So, if your turtle’s shell measures 6 inches from top to bottom, your tank should have 60 gallons of water in it.

How Long Can Red-Eared Sliders Be Underwater?

Even though red-eared sliders are aquatic animals, they do need to breathe oxygen under normal circumstances. Therefore, they can only stay submerged underwater for around 30 minutes before they have to come up for air.

The exception to this is when the turtle is in hibernation. At this time, it can stay underwater for months because it can actually breath through its cloaca or butt. This allows the turtle to take the small amount of oxygen that it needs to survive from the water itself.

So, you need to remember when setting up your turtle tank for your red-eared slider, that it must include an easily accessible spot for the turtle to sit on out of the water.

What Happens If Your Red-Eared Slider Is Left Without Any Water?

Let’s face it, sometimes you have to take your turtle out of the tank so that you can clean it completely. If you can, you should do this when the weather is cool and not when it’s hot and dry.

In warm weather, the turtle will lose much more body water than it would during cooler weather. This means that your turtle can stay out of the water for a longer period of time when the temperature is cooler.

You’ll also find that when there’s a lot of humidity in the air, the turtle will not lose as much moisture either. Moisture in the air also helps to keep the turtle’s shell from drying out completely.

So, even though red-eared sliders can live without water for a short period of time, it’s not ideal to keep them out of water for very long. Especially if the weather is hot and dry.