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Red-Eared Sliders, also known as Red Eared Terrapins, are turtles that belong to the Emydidae family. They are semiaquatic animals, meaning that they spend a decent amount of time in the water, but need some time on dry land as well.
Red-Eared Sliders are the most common pet turtle in the United States of America. They are also loved and popular across the globe. This invasive species originates from Mexico and the Southern United States.
If you own a Red-Eared Slider as a pet, it is important to know how long they can stay underwater if you want to take good care of your turtle.
How Long Can Red-Eared Sliders Hold Their Breath?
Typically, Red-Eared Sliders can hold their breath for an impressive 30-45 minutes. They are semi-aquatic animals after all.
The amount of time they hold their breath partially depends on the temperature of the water they are in. In colder water, Red-eared Sliders can hold their breath for a longer amount of time because they need less oxygen.
Can Red-Eared Sliders Drown?
Yes, Red-Eared Sliders can drown if they stay underwater for too long. Just like humans and other turtles, Red-Eared Sliders use two functioning lungs to breathe properly. If the lungs are filled with water, they will drown.
As mentioned above, since Red-Eared Sliders can hold their breath for 30-45 minutes, that is the amount of time they can stay underwater without drowning. Turtles who are actively swimming underwater can only stay underwater for about 30 minutes while turtles who are sitting still can stay underwater for about 10 more minutes (around 40 minutes).
Turtles can also drown if one of their legs gets trapped in something underwater. It is so important to check on your turtle regularly and make sure there are no hazards in their tank that could prevent them from climbing to the surface.
If a turtle gets stuck underwater, it can panic and become agitated which will cause them to use up any stored oxygen. The turtle may also end up breathing extra water into their lungs in an attempt to get oxygen. This only increases the turtle’s risk of drowning.
Should I Try to Revive a Red-Eared Slider?
Turtles can live for minutes to hours (depending on their metabolism and the temperature) without oxygen, so do not assume your turtle is dead, even if it appears to have drowned. The turtle might simply be unconscious or gasping for air. Do NOT flip the turtle over on its back because you might deprive your turtle of the only air left in its lungs.
How to Revive Your Turtle
- Remove your turtle from the tank and hold it upside down vertically.
- Grasp the turtle from behind their ears close to the base of their head. Pull this area to extend their neck.
- With your other hand, grasp the tail. The tail should be pulled up and the head should be pointed down. This will allow water to drip out of the turtle’s mouth.
- Once the water stops dripping, place your turtle on a flat surface.
- Pull the front legs of the turtle towards you and then bring them back. This pushing and pulling movement helps pump the lungs.
- Pumping the front and rear legs for a couple of minutes can help revive your turtle. If you see your turtle coming back to life, make sure to take your pet to the veterinarian right away.
How Long Do Pet Turtles Stay Underwater?
Do Red-Eared Sliders Sleep Underwater?
Yes, Red-Eared Sliders prefer to sleep underwater. Red Eared Sliders can sleep for at least one hour underwater because they have to swim up for air. While they are sleeping, their metabolic rate slows down significantly, allowing them to spend a lot more time underwater than they regularly would be able to. While Red-Eared Sliders do not hibernate, other turtles can hibernate for months underwater.
How do Red-Eared Sliders Breath?
Like all other turtles, Red-Eared Sliders use their nose to breathe. They inhale air into their two lungs and then exhale it. However, turtles do not have flexible torsos, unlike other animals and humans.
When humans inhale air, their torsos get smaller. When we exhale air, our torsos will expand. Our torsos are made up of independent ribs and can be flexible. However, the torso of a Red-Eared Slider is made of a shell that is not flexible.
Since turtles are not as flexible, their muscles and lungs are created in a way where they have much better control over how they breathe. This allows them to hold air in their lungs for a long time with minimal effort. Red-Eared Sliders can also absorb oxygen through the skin when underwater.
Can Pet Turtles Eat Underwater?
Yes, pet turtles can eat underwater. Red-Eared Sliders lack saliva so it is easier for them to eat and swallow food underwater where they can swallow water as well. When turtles eat, they quickly extend their neck and head suck the water and food into their mouth (imagine them slurping noodles). This method of eating also allows them to extend the back of their throat and keep prey inside their mouth.
Do Red-Eared Sliders Spend More Time Underwater or on Land?
Red-Eared Sliders spend the majority of their time underwater. However, they are semi-aquatic animals and will climb to dry land on occasion.
Having a Red-Eared Slider as a pet is a truly enjoyable experience. However, you have to make sure you take good care of your turtle if you want your pet to remain healthy and happy. Knowing how long they can safely stay underwater will help you maintain the turtle’s safety and also take care of the water in the tank.
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