How Long Can Softshell Turtles Be Out of Water? [The Surprising Truth]

Have you ever wondered How Long Can Softshell Turtles Be Out of Water? It’s not uncommon for these adorable creatures to roam on land, but how long is safe for them? Well, the truth may surprise you!

How Long Can Softshell Turtles Be Out of Water

In this blog post, we’ll dive into the world of softshell turtles and reveal the surprising answer to this common question. So get ready to learn something new and exciting about these fascinating reptiles!

The Truth About Softshell Turtles and Their Time Out of Water

Most people assume that softshell turtles spend most of their time in water, but this is not the case. These turtles are equally comfortable on land and water and often bask in the sun to regulate their body temperature. Softshell turtles can stay out of water for 6 to 8 hours a day without any ill effects

It’s best to give softshell turtles an outdoor habitat for plenty of time out of the water. An outdoor habitat should include a pond, a few logs, and plenty of sandy or muddy areas for hiding and nesting. Softshell turtles also require UVB light and basking spots, so provide these in your habitat.

Like all reptiles, monitoring the temperature in your turtle’s environment is important, as not all areas are suitable for them year-round. Remember, too much time in the sun can cause dehydration and overheating.

Ensure to provide plenty of water inside the enclosure and mist it down daily so your pet can stay cool during hot summer days.

Softshell turtles make great pets, and their adaptability to both land and water ensures they can live comfortably in various environments. With the right care, your pet softshell turtle will be happy and healthy for many years!

How Long Can Softshell Turtles Be Out of Water?

A general rule of thumb is that turtles can be out of water for one hour for every four inches (10 cm) of shell length.

This means that a small turtle with a shell length of four inches (10 cm) could theoretically be out of water for up to four hours. However, this is only a general guideline, and many other factors must be considered.

Many factors must be considered when determining how long a softshell turtle can be out of water. The type of turtle, the size of the turtle, the temperature of the environment, Age, and the humidity all play a role in how long a turtle can survive out of water.


1. The type of turtle:

A softshell turtle is a freshwater turtle that is particularly vulnerable to dehydration. Since they have softer shells than other turtles, they will dry out more quickly if left without access to water.

2. The size of the turtle:

Generally, turtles can be out of water for one hour for every four inches (10 cm) of shell length. However, smaller turtles will dehydrate faster than larger ones as their body volume and surface area ratio are higher.

3. The temperature of the environment:

Higher temperatures increase the rate at which water evaporates from a softshell’s shell and skin, so animals in hotter climates may not last as long out of the water as those in cooler climates.

4. Age:

Younger turtles are much less tolerant to long periods outside of water than adults as they have less developed physiologies and internal systems that help them regulate their body temperature and hydration levels.

5. Humidity:

The amount of moisture present in the air also affects how quickly a softshell turtle can dehydrate. High humidity reduces evaporation rates and thus increases how long a softshell turtle can remain outside its aquatic environment without suffering adverse effects.

Potential Health Risks of Keeping Softshell Turtles Out of Water for Too Long:

If you’re considering getting a softshell turtle as a pet, you might wonder how long it can go without being in the water.

After all, they are turtles, so they must spend a lot of time in the water, right? Well, it turns out that softshell turtles can stay out of water for quite some time – but there are potential health risks to consider if you’re planning on keeping your turtle out of its tank for extended periods.

1. Dehydration:

A softshell turtle can be dehydrated if it is kept out of water for too long. Symptoms of dehydration in turtles include lethargy, sunken eyes, and wrinkled skin.

If you notice any of these symptoms in your turtle, getting them back into their tank as soon as possible and giving them plenty of fresh water is important.

2. Shell damage:

Softshell turtles have softer and more flexible shells than other turtle shells, making them more vulnerable to damage if they aren’t kept in water. If a softshell turtle is kept out of water for increased periods, its shell can dry out and crack if not properly moisturized.

3. Respiratory issues:

Turtles rely on their gills underwater to help them breathe and absorb oxygen. So when a turtle is kept out of water for extended periods, it can struggle to breathe and may even become stressed due to the lack of oxygen.

This can strain the turtle’s heart, lungs, and other organs, so it’s important to ensure your turtle gets regular access to clean, oxygenated water. 

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4. Bacterial/fungal infections:

Softshell turtles are more prone to bacterial and fungal infections when kept in dry environments, so it’s important to keep your turtle’s tank clean and provide plenty of fresh water.

If these infections persist, they can cause serious health issues for the turtle – including eye infection, shell rot, and even death. 

It’s best to keep your softshell turtle in its tank as long as possible at all times. If you need to take your softshell turtle out for a while, ensure you provide plenty of clean and cool water to drink and bathe in. Doing so will help ensure your softshell turtle stays healthy and happy for years!

How long can a species of softshell turtle stay in the water?

Different species of softshell turtles can stay submerged for different lengths of time. Some can stay underwater for several hours, while others must surface more frequently.

One factor that affects how long a softshell turtle can stay submerged is the temperature of the water. Colder water will cause a turtle to surface more frequently to warm up. Additionally, if a turtle is active while underwater, it must surface more often to breathe.

Another factor that affects how long a softshell turtle can stay submerged is the size of its lungs. Larger lungs can hold more oxygen, allowing a turtle to stay underwater longer.

Generally, most softshell turtles can stay submerged for 30 minutes to several hours. However, there is considerable variation among individual turtles and between different species.

Common Mistakes When Handling Softshell Turtles While Out of Water:

There are a few common mistakes that people make when handling softshell turtles while they are out of water:

  • Holding the turtle by its tail. This can cause stress and injury to the reptile, so it’s important to support the neck and upper shell instead.
  • They are pulling the turtles out of the water too quickly. Softshell turtles are air-breathers, meaning they must come up for air from time to time. If you pull them out of the water quickly, it can cause shock or drown for them. Allow plenty of time for a slow, gentle transition from underwater to dry land.
  • Not supporting your softshell turtle properly: Their shells are flexible, requiring extra care and attention when handling them out of the water. They can easily become damaged if not supported correctly with both hands.
  • Allowing your softshell turtle too much exposure to direct sunlight: While they need some natural daily light, they’re also sensitive to extreme temperatures that come with long periods of direct sunlight, so providing them with shelter in warm weather is essential to their health and well-being.
  • Not washing your hands after handling: It’s essential to always wash your hands after handling any type of reptile such as softshell turtles, as they can carry diseases and other parasites easily transferred from person to person. Your health and safety are important too!

What Happens If A Turtle Stays Out of Water for Too Long?

If a softshell turtle spends too much time out of the water, it will dehydrate. The turtle’s body will fade, and the skin will wrinkle. The eyes will sunken in, and the turtle will become lethargic. If the turtle is not rehydrated soon, it could die.

Benefits of Taking Your Softshell Turtle Out of the Water in Moderation:

It’s often thought that turtles, especially those who spend time in the water, don’t need to come out and bask in the sun. However, this isn’t the case for softshell turtles.

While it’s fine for them to stay in the water for long periods, taking them out and letting them dry off every now and then is beneficial for their health.

There are three main benefits of taking your softshell turtle out of the water in moderation:

1. It allows them to get some UVB radiation.

UVB radiation is important for turtles as it helps them absorb calcium, essential for their shell growth. If they don’t get enough UVB radiation, they can develop problems with their shells, including dents and thinning.

2. It helps prevent respiratory infections.

Respiratory infections are common in turtles, who spend all their time in the water. This is because the water can irritate their lungs and make it easier for bacteria to grow. Getting some fresh air and drying off periodically can help reduce the risk of respiratory infections.

3. It gives them a chance to socialize with other turtles.

Turtles are social creatures and enjoy being around other turtles. If they’re always kept in water, they may not have the opportunity to socialize as much as they would like. Taking them out occasionally allows them to interact with other turtles and can help reduce stress levels.

Taking your softshell turtle out of the water moderately benefits its health and overall well-being. It allows them to get UVB radiation, prevents respiratory infections, and allows them to socialize with other turtles.


It is often assumed that softshell turtles can only be out of water temporarily, but this is not the case. Softshell turtles can stay out of water for quite some time, up to 6 to 8 hours a day, without any ill effects.

This is because their skin is much thinner and more absorbent than other turtles, allowing them to absorb oxygen directly from the air.

So, if you’re ever in a situation where you need to keep a softshell turtle out of water for an extended period, don’t worry. They can handle it!

I hope that this article helped answer your question and give you an understanding of softshell turtles.

Some FAQ:

How long can softshell turtles be out of water?

The surprising truth is that softshell turtles can stay out of water for quite some time – up to several weeks! This is because they have a special shell that helps them breathe and stay hydrated. However, if you see a softshell turtle out of water, it’s best to leave it alone and let it return to its natural habitat.

What do softshell turtles eat?

Softshell turtles are voracious eaters and will consume just about anything they can get their mouths on! Their diet consists mostly of insects, small fish, amphibians, and crustaceans. In captivity, they can also be fed commercial turtle food pellets, vegetables, and fruits.

Where do softshell turtles live?

Softshell turtles are found in various habitats, including ponds, lakes, rivers, and streams with strong currents. They prefer warm climates and generally stay close to the water’s edge, where they can easily find prey.

How long do softshell turtles live?

On average, a healthy softshell turtle can live up to 40 years! Their lifespan increases if they are well taken care of in captivity.

Are softshell turtles endangered?

Unfortunately, yes. Softshell turtles are threatened due to habitat destruction, illegal capture and trade, and other human activities. It is important to help protect their habitats so they can remain thriving in the wild.

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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