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How Long Can a Red Eared Slider Go Without Water?

Nicole Cosgrove

June 30, 2021

Red Eared Slider has become the most popular turtle pet in most homes, thanks to its quiet and relatively undemanding demeanor. In addition, they are quite hardy reptiles and can endure a good deal of harsh conditions more than other species of turtles.

The Red Eared Slider is semi-aquatic, just like other turtles. But unlike the rest, it tends to leave the water and bask on land for longer hours. The Red Eared Slider can live without water for up to a week or more.

These pets should not go without water for long periods, however, and there’s a good reason for that. Keep reading to find out why.

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How Long Can Turtles Stay Out of Water?

Generally, turtles cannot stay out of water for too long. However, how long a turtle can survive out of water depends on the species and the environment it lands on.

If the environment has cooler temperatures, the creature can stay out of the water for a couple of days. However, these reptiles can only stay out of water for around eight hours overall.

Turtles need water for optimum digestion, metabolism, and to stay hydrated. They will run into severe digestion issues and get seriously dehydrated if they can’t access water.

red eared slider in the water
Image Credit: Pixabay

Red Eared Sliders – What Do They Need?

Red Eared Sliders are among the hardiest, versatile, and most rewarding reptile pets you can ever get. They are multi-colored, rocking fantastic yellow and green spots, along with notable red patches behind their eyes. These pets are easy to handle, adapt easily to any environment, and quite affordable.

Red Eared Sliders may not need much maintenance and care, but their initial cost can break a bank. Being freshwater aquatic animals, they need a proper aquarium and not a terrarium you would use for a land reptile such as a tortoise or snake.

You need an aquarium because these reptiles require a good amount of water.  The majority of Red Eared Sliders grow up to 7-12 inches. But, believe it or not-others can be bigger than that.

A small Red Eared Slider may need a tank with a capacity of up to 60 to 90 gallons. The golden rule of thumb is to keep 10 gallons of water per shell inch measured from top to bottom.

red eared slider in the tank
Image Credit: Pixabay

The Ideal Water Temperature for a Red Eared Slider

A Red Eared Slider requires freshwater, with temperatures ranging between 74-78 degrees Fahrenheit. Baby Red Eared Slider turtles require much warmer conditions, about 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

You can maintain the temperature in the aquarium by using a digital thermometer. A portable heater is also handy if the water seems to range at the 70s or lower.

Do Red Eared Sliders Require Regular Basking Moments?

Red Eared Sliders might be aquatic creatures, but they also spend a good amount of their existence outside of water. This length of time might not be similar to that of a terrestrial tortoise, but it something you should take into account.

Ensure that you provide all resources and amenities the turtle needs when basking out in the sun. If you can’t let it outside, get a UV lamp to allow it to bask and get the necessary vitamin D your pet needs to flourish.

red eared slider turtles_Piqsels
Image Credit: Piqsels

What Happens When You Let a Red Eared Slider Out of the Water?

The most important thing to understand is that the environment’s temperature has a lot to do with what will happen to your turtle when it’s outside.

These turtles’ bodies are ideally 68% to 78% water. They are also cold-blooded, which means that they cannot control their body temperatures independently.

For this reason, a heated environment will cause them to lose excess body water, especially on the limbs and shell. The turtle will lose water a lot faster during the hot weather than it would when it’s cooler. Therefore, only allow it a couple of minutes if it has to be outside of water, at least with a fresh water source nearby.

Cooler weather doesn’t have as adverse effects as hot weather, so the turtle tends to lose water much slower at this time. So, you can allow it longer hours outside when it’s cool.

Humidity also plays a vital role regarding the length of time your Red Eared Slider can spend outside of water besides temperature. A higher relative humidity translates to longer basking hours since there is usually limited or no water loss.

Weather conditions like rain or fog cause an increase in humidity in the atmosphere. In such instances, the turtle can maintain its moisture, especially on the shell.

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Image Credit: Sergii Votit, Shutterstock

When Do Red Eared Sliders Go Up to Six Months Without Water?

You must know by now that Red Eared Sliders cannot survive for more than a week outside of water. However, there are instances when it can go up to six months.

This only happens during winter, when the creature is brumating. Red Eared Sliders go into some form of “shut down” during winter because nothing grows at this time to serve as their food.

A turtle’s body metabolic rate drops during winter, making it inactive so that the body does not demand lots of energy for sustenance. The heart rate also drops so that it only beats a couple of minutes to keep the reptile alive.

These low activity levels and a system that’s “shutting down” buy the turtle more time, especially because it rarely goes outside to bask when it’s cold.

red-eared slider eating grass
Image Credit: Pixabay

How to Take Care of Your Red Eared Slider

Red Eared Slider turtles are pretty hardy, and there’s little you can do to change that. That doesn’t mean that they don’t need proper care, though. In fact, with a little more concern, you can help your reptile clock up to 20 years!

Here’s what you can do.

1. Change Water More Often

These turtles might be small, but they can be messy. For example, they can make the water dirty with the food you provide.

Change water so that bacteria caused by the accumulation of food particles find no place to breed. Use distilled water instead of tap water.

2. Use a Water Heater

Red Eared Sliders cannot regulate their body temperatures. However, you can employ a water heater to help maintain the temperature at an optimum level, especially during cold months.

3. Use UV Lamps

UV lamps should help when there’s no enough sun for the turtles to bask and acquire vitamin D. This nutrient is vital for shell maintenance and development.
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Summary

Basking for Red Eared Sliders is as essential as eating, so they require to do so frequently. However, always watch out for your pet to prevent it from overdoing its stay outside of the water as it’s not good for its shell and health.

Also, look out for an increased desire to stay out of the water. It can indicate that your turtle is unwell, the water is too dirty, or other turtles are bullying it in the case of a multi-pet aquarium.


Featured Image Credit:  Pixabay

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.