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How Long Can A Red-Eared Slider Be Out Of Water?

How long a red-eared slider can stay out of water depends on the turtle’s age, health, and the temperature of its environment. A healthy adult turtle can stay out of water for up to two weeks. An elderly, juvenile or sick turtle may only be able to stay out of water for a few days.

Have you ever wondered how long a red-eared slider can be out of water? 

Well, wonder no more. We’ll explore the water requirements of red-eared sliders, what happens if they get dehydrated, and some tips on keeping your reptile healthy and happy.

So whether you’re a new reptile owner or just curious about these creatures, read on to learn everything you need to know about red-eared slider hydration.

How Long Can A Red-Eared Slider Be Out Of Water?

A healthy adult turtle can stay out of the water for up to two weeks, granted that they remain moist. Young, elderly, or sick turtles are not as resilient to stress and could only last a few days out of the water.

Just like all living things, turtles need water to survive. Red-eared sliders are semi-aquatic, so they rely on the water more than terrestrial species. 

How long they can survive without water depends on four factors:

  1. Temperature
  2. Humidity
  3. Age
  4. Health

Temperature & Humidity

Environmental factors affect moisture retention of your red-eared slider. Moisture loss is high in hot temperatures. Water is essential for cooling off and rehydrating after basking. 

If your red-eared slider experiences high temperatures while out of the water, it won’t survive as long as if the temperatures were cooler.

In mild temperatures, moisture retention is higher due to lower evaporation rates[1]. If the temperatures drop below 50°F, red-eared sliders go into a state of brumation, and all their bodily functions become more energy efficient.

A brumating red-eared slider can potentially last months out of the water. Red-eared sliders usually brumate underwater but sometimes brumate under piles of moist leaf litter on land.

Related: Red-Eared Slider Water Temperature

Red-Eared Slider Size


Humidity refers to the relative moisture in the air. Humidity can make a big difference to the survival of a red-eared slider out of the water for an extended period.

They last a shorter time in low humidity as they quickly lose moisture to their surrounding dry environment. They can survive for weeks in higher humidity by absorbing moisture from the air.


When a red-eared slider first hatches, they spend the first few days on land. They get their nutrition and moisture from the retained egg yolk and can survive without a water source.

Young turtles have a higher requirement for water and food. Their bodies have a faster metabolism for growth. They need constant food and water to fuel this growth. They have a lower tolerance to periods without water and a higher risk of dehydration.

Turtles age slowly. Signs of aging don’t appear until 25+ years in the red-eared slider. 

Over time, bodily functions do not work as efficiently, so elderly turtles cannot go as long as healthy adults without water.[2]

Life StageAgeSurvival without water
Hatchling< 1 week2–4 days
Baby1 week to 1 year1–2 days
Juvenile1–4 years3–7 days
Adult4+ years3–14 days
Elderly25+ years1–3 days

Related: How Long Do Red-Eared Sliders Live?


Turtles that are sick or injured are not as efficient at absorbing or storing moisture. Some diseases can cause excess moisture loss or the ability to use water within the body[3]. This can cause the individual to require a constant water source, and they may not survive a day without water.

What Do Red-Eared Sliders Eat In the Wild

5 Reasons Why Red-Eared Sliders Need Water

Like all animals, red-eared sliders rely on water for their basic bodily functions. For this semi-aquatic species, water is vital for many of their behaviors, such as

  1. Eating
  2. Drinking
  3. Movement
  4. Thermoregulation
  5. Reproduction

1. Eating

Red-eared sliders do not produce any saliva. Without saliva, sliders have to eat in the water to ensure they have enough moisture to take food from their mouth, down the esophagus, and to their stomach.

Related: What Do Red-Eared Sliders Eat?

Red-Eared Slider Diet & Feeding

2. Drinking

It’s easy to forget that aquatic species need to drink water when they are in water all the time. Water is vital for red-eared sliders to drink as their internal cell functions need water to operate just like other animals.

3. Movement

While red-eared sliders can move around on land, they are a lot quicker in the water, allowing them to evade predators. 

They have multiple adaptations that allow for efficient movement in water:

  • webbed feet
  • streamlined shell shape
  • streamlined neck to reduce drag
Red-Eared Sliders movement

4. Thermoregulation

As ectotherms, red-eared sliders rely on their external environment to thermoregulate their body temperature. 

When red-eared sliders get too hot basking, they cool down in the water. Without a way to cool down, they risk overheating.

5. Reproduction

Red-eared slider reproduction is basic. Prior to egg-laying and mating, a male woos a female with a water-based courtship. He swims up to her and flutters his legs around, gauging her reception. 

This courtship needs water for completion.

Mating also takes place in the water. The female sinks to the bottom, allowing the male to mount her. The buoyancy of the water enables his hard, heavy shell to mount her successfully. Gravity would make this very difficult on land.

Related: Male vs. Female Red-Eared Slider: How to Tell The Difference

Red-Eared Slider Health

How Much Water Do Red-Eared Sliders Need?

Red-eared sliders need at least 10 gallons of water for every inch of size. The depth should be at least twice its length.  A fully-grown female of 12 inches requires a minimum of 150 gallons of water, at least 24-inches deep.

As highly active aquatic species, red-eared sliders should have as much water as you can give them. They need enough space to swim and turn around to maintain physical fitness.

An excellent rule of thumb for determining the minimum tank size is using the size of your slider. Provide at least 10 gallons of water for every inch of your turtle’s length and ensure it is twice as deep as they are long. 

If the water is too shallow, there is a risk of the turtle flipping upside down and being unable to correct itself. The upside-down position restricts their trachea and can cause them to stop breathing.

SizeTank SizeWater Depth
4 inches40 gallons8 inches
8 inches80 gallons16 inches
12 inches120 gallons 24 inches

How Much Water Does A Baby Red-Eared Slider Need?

A baby red-eared slider still needs a decent amount of water like the adults. Following the above table will help determine how much water they need as a minimum.

Even baby sliders are excellent swimmers, but they may not have the same levels of swimming stamina. To ensure they don’t tire themselves out in the water, keep the tank full of furnishings and ramps so they can easily access land.

Red-Eared Slider Habitat & Distribution

What Happens When Red-Eared Sliders Don’t Have Access to Water?

Without water, red-eared sliders dehydrate. Dehydration can cause surface issues such as friction sores and internal problems such as organ damage. Dehydration can be fatal.

Without moisture, red-eared sliders develop a dry shell and skin. Dry movement on land can cause the development of sores on the plastron from friction with the ground, which may escalate to open wounds.

Lack of water also causes internal dehydration, which can be fatal. Without water for bodily functions, organs such as the kidney can get severe damage. Organ failure can lead to death.

Signs of Dehydration in Red-Eared Sliders

Dehydration is rare in red-eared sliders due to their aquatic lifestyle. Without access to water, they can become severely dehydrated[4]

Look for the following symptoms if you suspect your turtle is dehydrated:

  • sunken eyes
  • wrinkled skin
  • poor skin elasticity 
  • lethargy
  • rapid weight loss
  • dry feces


How Long Can Red-Eared Sliders Be Underwater?

Healthy adult red-eared sliders can hold their breath underwater for 30–35 minutes. Babies can stay underwater for approximately 15 minutes. They can stay underwater for months during brumation by drastically lowering their respiration rate and absorbing oxygen from the water through their cloaca.

Can Red-Eared Sliders Sleep in Water?

Yes, red-eared sliders can sleep underwater. They prefer to sleep in the water and rest on the bottom of the pond or tank. They periodically come up for air.

Can Red-Eared Sliders Drown?

Red-eared sliders can drown if they are unable to surface to retrieve air. Pet sliders need furnishing such as ramps that allow them to get out of the water; otherwise, they can drown from exhaustion.

Can Red-Eared Sliders Swim In a Pool?

Red-eared sliders can swim in pools if they do not contain any chemicals. Swimming pools are not suitable for turtles as chlorine can be harmful to them. Pools can be used to provide water in a red-eared slider enclosure, granted that it is set up for turtle use and are chemical-free.

Do Red-Eared Sliders Prefer Water or Land?

Red-eared sliders are semi-aquatic. They split their time between the water and the land. Most of their life will be spent in or around the water, mostly coming to land to bask in the sun.

Why Is My Red-Eared Slider Staying Out Of The Water?

Red-eared sliders may avoid the water if the temperature is too low or it is being kept from the water by other dominant turtles. 

Can Red-Eared Sliders Swim in Deep Water?

Red-eared sliders are great swimmers and swim well in deep water. They are adept at diving and can hold their breath for over 30 minutes.

About Sophie Herlihy (Zoologist)

Sophie Herlihy, a trained zoologist, is a lover of true misfit animals. With a specialty in insects, birds, and rodents, she helps the Misfit Animals craft factual and valuable informational pieces on various animals.

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