Painted turtles are beautiful reptiles that you will find in Canada, the US, and even Northern Mexico. They have olive to black shells, yellow markings on their heads, and like to live in slow-moving water.
How long can a painted turtle stay on land?
Although these turtles love water, they spend brief periods on land too. In this article, we will investigate what drives many turtles to land and how long they can stay on it.
Painted turtles must live in water; you must not force them to spend time out of water. Wild turtles will spend several hours a day basking out of water. Female turtles will stay on land overnight after laying eggs, and some species migrate over land for days during droughts.
To find out why both younger turtles and adult painted turtles must live in water, check out the extended guide up next in this article.
Table of Contents
How Long Can A Painted Turtle Be Out Of Water?
Painted turtles (Chrysemys picta) are aquatic animals that love being in water. They jump in and out of it all day between foraging and other activities.
But there are some instances where a painted turtle must leave the water and spend some time on land.
Why do they do this? How long can they be out of water?
Let’s find out.
- A painted turtle will stay out of water for about 2 hours while basking.
- A turtle might walk several kilometers over the course of a few days to get to a new body of water.
- A female painted turtle will stay on land overnight after laying its eggs.
Coming up next, we are going to discuss the situations where painted turtles must stay out of water in a little more detail.
Basking Time for Painted Turtles
Painted turtles are cold-blooded reptiles. This means they must use their environment to warm themselves up, and they do this by basking about 3 times a day.
Painted turtles sleep in water, and this cools them down, so they must begin basking when the sun comes out in the morning. A painted turtle will usually bask at sunrise for several hours before beginning to forage in the morning.
After that, the turtle will get back in the water and begin foraging. This will continue until it is time for the turtle to start basking again at about midday.
Again, the turtle will stay out of the water for about two hours in its basking spot until it warms up. After this, the turtle will get back in the water and resume foraging.
The third and often final basking time will occur in the early afternoon. Yet again, the painted turtle will stay out of water for a couple of hours, soaking up the rays of the sun.
So, can painted turtles live out of water?
No, they cannot live out of water. Although they will spend several hours a day basking in the sun out of the water, they will always return to it when they finish.
Where Do Painted Turtles Bask?
The basking spot of a painted turtle is completely out of the water. Here is a list of the most common basking spots of these aquatic turtles.
- Large rocks
- Sand bars
- The banks or shores of the body of water they live in
These aquatic turtles bask for about 2 hours at a time.
Depending on how quiet and undisturbed the body of water is where they live, a painted turtle might travel quite a distance to get to a secluded place where it can bask. This involves staying out of water for even longer.
Painted turtles do most of their basking during the warmer months of the year. The months of April to September are most commonly used for basking, but some will bask in the winter months, too, during warm spells.
Female turtles will bask for longer than the males during their nesting season in May and June. They stay out of water for even longer during this time.
Juvenile turtles, however, do not bask for as long as adult turtles, but they do have the same basking routine of getting out of the water about 3 times a day.
Drought and the Painted Turtle
Painted turtles live in water all throughout the year. But when a drought comes and affects their habitats, the turtles find themselves obligated to move and get to a more permanent water body.
Although a drought could dry up a turtle’s habitat and cause it to die, some painted turtle species are very reluctant to leave the water and look for a better home.
So, do painted turtles need to be in water?
Yes, they do need to be in the water. But when a drought diminishes their habitats, they must leave.
Let’s see how some painted turtle species react to this.
The southern painted turtle (Chrysemys dorsalis) is the least likely to get out of the water even though its habitat is in danger. A few of the species will migrate when this happens, but most will remain in the drying pond and will die due to a lack of water.
This tragedy happens even when there are large bodies of water nearby, and the turtle wouldn’t have to migrate far. The southern painted turtle only leaves the water to nest and bask; it does not like being out of water.
The eastern painted turtle (Chrysemys picta picta), although also very reluctant to leave the water, will do so in the case of a drought. This is a very aquatic turtle that does not like leaving the water.
The western painted turtle (Chrysemys picta bellii), however, is not quite as set in its ways and has been known to travel several kilometers to find a mate and to find more permanent bodies of water during droughts. This journey can take several days, and the painted turtle can survive out of water all of this time.
However, if there is a way for these turtles to travel to better bodies of water without getting out of the water, they will do so by navigating through bogs and shallow water.
Nesting and the Female Painted Turtle
The painted turtle is an aquatic turtle, and it will live in water all year round. But during the nesting season, a female will have to leave the water to bury her eggs.
The female will build her nest between 200 and 600 meters from the water’s edge where she lives. Yes, that is quite the trek out of water for the turtle.
Nesting is usually done after noon, and if the day is particularly warm, nesting may take place even later in the day.
This is not a quick process as the female must find the perfect spot to put the eggs by testing the soil. She must also build one or more trial holes to put the eggs in.
The whole nesting process can take a female painted turtle over 4 hours to complete. But it doesn’t end there, as after building the nest and laying the eggs, the female will often stay on land overnight.
Yes, the female turtle does spend several hours on land during nesting season.
What Happens When Painted Turtles Stay Out of Water
We now know that painted turtles can stay out of water for periods of time according to their circumstances.
But what happens when they do this?
To lead a healthy life, your painted turtle needs constant access to water. This is what happens to these reptiles when they stay out of water.
- The water evaporates from their bodies. This is common while the turtles bask.
- The turtles will begin to lose weight. They will lose weight with each passing day they spend out of the water. They will gradually get weaker.
- They become dehydrated. Hatchling painted turtles dehydrate very quickly.
To fix this problem and prevent health issues, make sure your painted turtle gets back into the water as soon as possible. These turtles rehydrate very quickly.
FAQs About Aquatic Turtles
Aquatic and semi-aquatic turtles are so interesting. There is so much to learn about them.
Do you have some questions about these exotic animals?
Then you’re in luck, as up next, we’ll be addressing the most asked questions about painted turtles. Check them out!
How Long Can I Leave My Pet Turtles Out of Water?
The painted turtle is a cold-blooded animal and must be able to get in and out of water as it pleases to regulate its body temperature. Pet turtles must have constant access to water and their basking spot on land.
Never deprive your pet turtles of access to water. Pet turtles that do not get enough hydration through swimming will soon die.
Do Painted Turtles Live In Water or Land?
Painted turtles live in water. They only go on land to bask, nest, and, on occasion, find new places to live.
This turtle species likes to live in slow-moving water. It likes bodies of water with muddy bottoms and lots of sandy soil.
How Long Can Painted Turtles Stay Underwater?
Painted turtles that live in colder climates in the Northern Hemisphere will go through a hibernation period each year. During this time, the reptile will hibernate in shallow water staying within 2 meters of the water’s surface.
These turtles essentially hold their breath the entire time they are underwater. While they do not breathe underwater, these aquatic turtles absorb oxygen through their skin if their environment allows them to do so.
These turtles will stay underwater, hibernating for months at a time, and only come up to the surface on warmer days.
Do Painted Turtles Prefer Water or Land?
The painted turtle needs access to both water and land to be healthy. It does not prefer one over the other.
The turtle’s time on land will be spent basking, nesting, or migrating to a better water source. Other than that, the turtle’s body will always be in water.
For example, painted turtles eat in the water because they struggle to manipulate food on land. They sleep underwater, often resting themselves on a ledge of some sort so they can completely relax.
Red-eared sliders are a type of semi-aquatic turtle that also needs both water and land. Although these reptiles spend most of their time in the water, red-eared sliders will also come onto land to bask.
Fun Facts About Painted Turtles
We all love investigating everything there is to know about painted turtles. And there is a whole world of interesting things out there to learn about them.
That’s why, in this section, we will share our most mind-boggling facts about these reptiles. Dive right in!
- Southern painted turtles are the smallest of all the 4 subspecies of painted turtles. They measure just 4 to 6 inches long. Because of the small size of the southern painted turtle, the baby turtle is not often sold to the public because of links of small reptiles of this nature to salmonella.
- The midland painted turtle is the only one in the subspecies with a dark, symmetrical, butterfly-like pattern on its bottom shell. This shadow lies on a yellow background and helps you distinguish midland painted turtles from eastern ones.
Painted Turtle Size Facts
- The largest painted turtle is the western painted turtle. The female’s shell can measure as long as 10 inches!
- Regina, a western turtle in Virginia, is the largest painted turtle alive right now. This turtle’s shell measures almost 10.5 inches.
Painted Turtle Enclosure Facts
- The water temperature in your pet’s enclosure must remain between 75 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
- To prevent metabolic bone disease, your turtle must have access to enough UVB rays like it would in the wild. You must install a UVB light in its enclosure.
- The water quality in your turtle’s tank must be good. Remove and replace 25 to 50% of the water once a week.
- Your turtle’s diet must include a mixture of plant and animal matter. A proper diet is based on your painted turtle’s species and requirements.
- There is no reliable system for telling the age of an older painted turtle other than tagging it by drilling a hole in its shell, releasing it into the wild, and then catching it again years later.
- Some say you can count the growth rings on a young turtle’s top shell to find out the turtle’s age. But most believe this system only works while the turtle is in the first few years of its life (up to 4 or 12 years of age, depending on the turtle breed).
- Painted turtles spend a lot of time underwater, leading some to believe that they can breathe properly underwater, but they cannot. Painted turtles must come to the surface of the water to breathe oxygen.
- Turtles can absorb the oxygen in the water to help them remain submerged for longer. They often use this technique when hibernating in the winter. This is possible when their surroundings allow them to do so.
Keeping Your Painted Turtles Happy
Painted turtles are not sea turtles, but they are not land turtles either. This makes it tricky for some to know what kind of environment these reptiles should live in.
Thanks to the help of this article, we have seen that painted turtles must live in water. These turtles stay in water all day and night and only come out when it is time to bask, nest, or migrate to a new home.
Did you find this article interesting?
At Oddly Cute Pets, we always strive to provide you with the best articles about most turtle species, such as painted turtles, mud and musk turtles, red-eared sliders, box turtles, and many other animals. For further information on how to set up a turtle tank, how to determine your turtle’s species, and how to take care of baby turtles, check out our website.
Thanks for reading!