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How Long Can Yellow Belly Turtles Stay Out Of Water?

How Long Can Yellow Belly Turtles Stay Out Of Water?

Hailing from the family of slider turtles, yellow-bellied sliders are among the most sought-after pets worldwide. But before keeping them as pets, one should make an effort to know the basic rearing etiquettes. 

Although we will never know everything under the sun, let’s take one step at a time and learn new things about these wonderful reptiles.

How Long Can Yellow Belly Turtles Stay Out Of Water?

Yellow-bellied turtles are semi-aquatic turtles and can be out of water for about 6 to 8 hours, depending upon the climate they are in. However, if the environment has low air moisture, they will not stay out for long. That’s because they will need to rehydrate their body more often.

As I mentioned, the duration a yellow-bellied turtle can remain out of water is subjective to the weather. 

If the temperature isn’t too hot or too cold, they can stay on land for days. Alongside temperature, humidity level also accounts for the duration of their stay. 

The higher the humid level, the longer the turtle stays out of the water.

Turtles have to keep their body constantly hydrated; otherwise, their skin will become dry, and scales will flake off. 

One peculiar thing about turtles is that they need to be in the water to swallow food, which is why they cannot remain too far from the water bodies. 

Yellow-bellied slider turtles spend about 75% of their time inside water. 

Now that you know how long yellow belly turtles stay out of water let’s move on to how long they can remain underwater.

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How Long Can Yellow-bellied Turtles Be Underwater?

For regular breathing, yellow-bellied sliders will use the nares above their mouth, which helps them stay for about 30 to 45 minutes underwater. 

However, when hibernating, they will perform cloacal respiration, allowing them to stay underwater for about 6 to 8 months. 

Yes, it is surprisingly true that the slider turtles and other semi-aquatic turtles can stay for that long underwater. 

Thanks to their bizarre breathing technique, this has allowed them to survive several mass extinctions. 

This breathing technique is called cloacal respiration. The cloaca (butt) has a high blood vessel density that facilitates anaerobic respiration underwater. 

Anaerobic respiration means breathing without air.

The blood vessels in the cloaca absorb minuscule amounts of oxygen from the water itself.

Anaerobic respiration is only possible when turtles are either hibernating or aestivating.

Their bodies will be at rest and have drastically lower metabolism during that period. So, although the oxygen intake is profoundly limited, it will be just enough to keep them alive. 

If you want to know more about this baffling breathing technique, check out this article: 

How Do Turtles Breathe? Butt-Breathing To Living Without Oxygen!

How Long Can Yellow-Bellied Slider Turtles Live Without Water?

A healthy adult yellow-bellied turtle can live without water for over 7 days. Any longer than that will cause dehydration. 

As I previously mentioned, the duration yellow-bellied turtles can live without water depends upon the climate they are in. If the environment is humid, they can survive even for a month.

Sliders can stay out of water for an even longer period if they hibernate underground.

They will dig a hole deep enough to cover their body. When buried, they absorb water from the earth. Turtles do that during hibernation and aestivation. 

However, as for baby yellow-bellied turtles, they cannot stay for that long without water. 

How Long Can Baby Yellow-Bellied Slider Turtles Live Without Water?

Baby yellow-bellied sliders cannot stay without water for over 2 to 3 days. They are in a formative stage where they need constant food and water. And without water, they won’t be able to ingest their food. 

Even more, their bodies aren’t developed enough to handle dehydration. This makes it even harder for baby turtles to live without water.

Further Readings:

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Do Yellow-Bellied Slider Turtles Need Water All The Time?

Yellow-bellied slider turtles are semi-aquatic turtles, which means they need water to keep their body hydrated, consume food, and excrete waste. This is why they spend a great deal of time in the water. 

However, they will get out of water when they have to bask to absorb vitamin D. Another time they have to come out of water is during nesting. 

Apart from the mandatory basking and nesting, turtles also come out of water when they have to scavenge for food. 

Why Is My Yellow-Bellied Slider Staying Out Of Water?

There’s no need to get alarmed if your yellow-bellied slider turtles come out of the water occasionally. However, if the frequency increases or your turtle seems to avoid water all the time, it should raise eyebrows.

Reasons behind your yellow-bellied slider turtle staying out of water could be incorrect water temperature, wrong water parameters, bad tankmates, or pregnancy. 

Incorrect Water Temperature

The ideal water temperature for yellow-bellied slider turtles is 74 to 84 degrees Fahrenheit. Any lower than this range will cause your turtle to leave the water for basking or to go into hibernation. 

And if the water is too hot, the turtle will avoid being in the water. This can lead to severe dehydration. Hence, you have to monitor the water temperature. 

Use a water heater to regulate the temperature inside your yellow-bellied turtle’s tank. 

Here’s a highly praised heater from BinChang. The price is pretty reasonable for a 500-watt heater. 

Wrong Water Parameters

Though yellow-bellied turtles are hardy creatures, they still need suitable water parameters to thrive. 

Like every turtle, their messy eating habits and frequent pooping will leave the tank polluted. And an unclean tank translates to a spike in ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels.

And this will cause your sliders to escape their tank. 

Therefore, if your turtle isn’t going back in the water, it is time that you re-evaluate the water parameters. 

Here’s a water testing kit from API that I use for my turtle tank. 

Mean Tankmates

Yellow-bellied slider turtles are solitary animals and like their own company. If there is more than one turtle, it could lead to territorial disputes. 

The bigger and aggressive turtle will try to inflict damage upon the smaller one to assert dominance. 

A bullied turtle will be stressed and head for the land. 

If you plan to keep two turtles in the same space, you better get a large tank. The rule of thumb is 10 gallons per inch of the turtle. 

This means that you have to get a 40-gallon tank for a 4-inch-long turtle.

And you will have to get an 80-gallon tank if you keep two sliders with a length of 4 inches each.


Pregnancy can lead to change in a turtle’s usual ordeals. A gravid slider turtle will display signs like a change in appetite, an unusual basking routine, and relentless attempts to escape the tank. 

Therefore, if your yellow-bellied slider turtle is basking for a lengthy period and isn’t going back to the water, chances are that it could be pregnant. 

For further information on pregnant turtles, you can read 

3 Signs of A Gravid Turtle | Don’t Make These Mistakes To Avoid Ruptured Eggs

Final Words On How Long Can Yellow-Bellied Turtles Stay Out Of Water

Aside from the humidity level in its surroundings, a turtle’s ability to stay out of water depends upon its health, too. If it is well hydrated, it can remain outside water for a long period. 

However, staying out of water for a lengthy period isn’t healthy for turtles. But who are we to decide? Turtles themselves know better when they need to come out of the water and when they have to go back in. 

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