Do Softshell Turtles Need Air?

Are you the proud owner of a softshell turtle or considering getting one as a pet? One question that many new owners often ask is, “Do Softshell Turtles Need Air?”

Do Softshell Turtles Need Air
Do Softshell Turtles Need Air

It’s important to consider because proper oxygen intake is critical for their overall health and well-being.

In this blog post, we’ll dive into the world of softshell turtles and explore everything you need to know about their unique respiratory needs. So take some deep breaths, and let’s get started!

How Can You Provide Proper Oxygen Levels in a Softshell Turtle Tank?

Most softshell turtles are from warm climates and need air temperatures between 75 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. They also require a basking spot where the temperature can reach 95 degrees.

Oxygen levels in the water should be kept high, around 8-10 parts per million. A good way to provide proper oxygen levels is to use an air stone in the tank. 

A strong filter system is also needed to help keep the water clean and well-oxygenated. Planting live plants, such as anchors, hornwort, or similar types of aquatic vegetation, can also help provide oxygen in the tank. A good rule of thumb is to replace about 25% of the tank’s water weekly.

This will help to remove debris and maintain proper oxygen levels. Be sure to use de-chlorinated water when doing a water change.

Additionally, it is important to ensure the turtle has enough room to move around and swim in its tank. Softshell turtles are active turtles and need plenty of space to roam. Too small of a tank can lead to stressed-out or undersized turtles.

How Do Softshell Turtles Need Air?

Softshell turtles need air to survive. The turtle’s ability to breathe underwater comes from an organ called the cloaca which functions like a gill and allows them to absorb oxygen from the water.

While this means that they can spend long periods submerged, it does not mean they can exist without access to oxygen in the atmosphere.

Softshell turtles need periodic access to air to survive and can die if deprived of oxygen for too long.

Providing them with safe areas to surface, such as shallow pools or basking rocks, is essential for their well-being.

In addition, ensuring their environment is free from possible sources of toxic contamination is critical for maintaining healthy populations within their natural habitat.

Through proper understanding and care, softshell turtles can live safely in captivity, with their needs being met properly.

Common Mistakes Made by New Turtle Owners

They are a common mistake as a new owner:

1. Choosing the wrong species:

Not all turtles are the same, and some species have different requirements regarding enclosure size, tank decorations, and basking sites. Research the differences between species before purchasing a turtle to ensure you make the best decision for your pet.

2. Underestimating the size of the habitat:

When starting with a new turtle, many owners underestimate the size of the habitat required for their turtle to thrive. Make sure to find out what type of environment your turtle requires, including tank size and decorations needed.

3. Overfeeding:

It’s easy to overfeed your turtle when starting, especially if you don’t know how much food is appropriate for your pet’s species and size. Many turtles can become overweight if given too many treats or fed too often. Feeding them in appropriate amounts will help keep them healthy in the long run.

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4. Neglecting water quality:

It is important to regularly test the water in a turtle’s habitat and make sure it meets acceptable quality standards prescribed by reptile veterinarian professionals. Poor water quality can cause serious health problems for your pet over time.

5. Not providing adequate:

Basking sites are essential for your turtle’s health and well-being, allowing them to dry off, warm up, and regulate their body temperature. Make sure your turtle always has access to a warm, dry place for basking to stay healthy.

6. Not giving adequate UVB exposure:

UVB exposure is essential for a turtle’s health and should be provided by a quality UVB light source. Every turtle species needs different amounts of sun or artificial UV light, so make sure to research the needs of your particular species before setting up their enclosure.

7. Not seeking professional care:

Turtles are delicate creatures, and regular vet visits are essential for their health and well-being. Find a qualified reptile veterinarian in your area who can provide regular care for your turtle.

By avoiding these common mistakes, new turtle owners can provide their pets with a healthy and happy life.

What Are the Oxygen Requirements for Softshell Turtles?

While softshell turtles can stay underwater for long periods, they do need to come up for air occasionally. The time a softshell turtle can stay underwater varies depending on the species, but it is typically between 30 minutes and 2 hours.

Not all softshell turtles are equal when it comes to their oxygen requirements. The amount of oxygen a softshell turtle needs depends on the turtle’s size and the water’s temperature. Larger turtles and those living in warmer waters need more oxygen than smaller turtles and those living in cooler waters.

If you are keeping a softshell turtle as a pet, providing an aquarium or pond with ample oxygenation is important. A good rule of thumb is to have 1 gallon (3.8 litres) of water per inch (2.54 centimetres) of shell length. You can also add an air pump to ensure enough dissolved oxygen in the water.

Good water quality and maintenance are essential for any turtle species, but softshell turtles are especially important since they are more prone to dehydration. Water should be changed regularly, and the turtle should receive various clean and natural feeds.

Tips for Ensuring Your Turtle Gets Enough Air:

  1. Keep the water clean – turtles need clean water to breathe properly. If the water is dirty, their lungs can become infected.
  2. Don’t overcrowd the tank – if there are too many turtles in one space, they won’t be able to get enough oxygen.
  3. Provide a basking area – turtles need to be able to get out of the water to warm up and dry off. This also allows them to breathe more easily.
  4. Using an aquarium filter will help keep the water clean and ensure enough oxygen for the turtles to breathe.
  5. Keep an eye on your turtle – if you notice it is having trouble swimming or breathing, take it to the vet immediately.
  6. Keep the lid closed – turtles need plenty of air to breathe, so always keep the lid on your turtle tank closed when not in use.
How to Care for a Softshell Turtle! (Quick care guide)


In conclusion, Softshell turtles, like all species of turtles, need air to survive and breathe. When keeping a softshell turtle as a pet, it is important to give them ample access to the surface so that it can soak up the oxygen they need.

Even if their tank has adequate filtration and aeration systems, providing regular shallow water dips or allowing them a few minutes at the surface daily will ensure adequate air.

By understanding how much air softshell turtles require, we can provide them with an environment close enough to what nature provides and allow these unique reptiles time to thrive in captivity.

I hope that Softshell turtles are fascinating creatures with unique requirements and needs regarding their environment.

While softshell turtles need access to air, they also require other elements like adequate water temperature, humidity levels, and visibility.

To provide the best possible life for your pet turtle and maintain its health, ensure you meet all necessary conditions as much as possible. A softshell turtle can live a long and healthy life with proper care!

My name is Shayan Mondal, and I am a passionate turtle owner and enthusiast who enjoys sharing my knowledge and experience with fellow turtle lovers. As a proud owner of several turtle species, I understand the importance of proper care, habitat setup, and nutrition for these delightful creatures. This website regularly updates the latest insights into turtle health, diet, and conservation efforts.

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