Do Box Turtles Live in Water – Do they Need Water or Land?

Do Box Turtles Live in WaterTurtles come in many shapes in sizes. Some live in water, some prefer dry land, some eat meat, and some are vegetarian.

However, many times, turtles fall somewhere in between. They like both the water and the land, or they eat both animal protein and vegetation.

What’s important is to understand the ratio of these necessary conditions and adapt to make your box turtle feel as comfortable as possible.

Let’s see if Box Turtles Need Water to have a happy life.

Do Box Turtles Live In Water?

Box turtles, in fact, do not live in water, but they do live near water. Water is essential to their living conditions, they just don’t need to be submerged in it 24/7. Here is one reason why they need water: hydration. Just like every other living creature, water equals life. Box turtles live mainly on land and prefer warm locations but that runs the risk of dehydrating very quickly.

They enjoy catching some sun and lounging in the rays and so they need access to fresh and clean water to stay healthy and hydrated.

Do Box Turtles Like Water

Box turtles love water and rely on it to regulate body temperature because they are cold blooded reptiles. They cannot regulate their body temperature on their own. So, they lay in the sun to get nice and toasty, and regularly need to slip into shallow and fresh water to cool down and then chill in the shade. It’s the same way we like to tan for hours and then dip into the pool or ocean for a quick cool down, and then read a book under the shelter of palm trees. What a sweet life box turtles have!

Can They Swim In Water

The short answer here is yes. Box turtles can swim, but they are not particularly good at it. They may spend a lot of time in water, but that is for reasons different to other aquatic turtles and their water of choice is usually very shallow. Box turtles, unlike their aquatic kin, do not have long webbed feet. Instead, their feet are quite short and have individual toes. Of course, box turtles could swim if their survival depended on it, but not only are they very clumsy swimmers, they probably couldn’t do it for very long. They are most commonly seen swimming on water surfaces such as ponds or lakes, and that is usually just to get to land or a creek on the other side.

box turtles need water

Do Box Turtles actually Need Water?

Box turtles absolutely need water. As we have already discussed, they drink water regularly, but also need equal access to sun, water, and shade to ensure their survival and health. Box turtles shift between these three temperature regulators during the day as they cannot do this on their own. Human bodies, for example have a part of the brain called the hypothalamus. This part of the brain works with other parts of the body such as sweat glands and skin to keep our body within the normal temperature of 37 degrees.

The hypothalamus gets the body to sweat or shiver or burn up when our body temperature is off, or the body is being attacked by disease or bacteria. We do this without having to think about it. Our body is essentially constantly active and working to keep us alive. Box turtles don’t have this function and must balance sun, water, and shade to keep their bodies healthy. Box turtles don’t have a hypothalamus, they are the hypothalamus!

Are Box Turtles Aquatic

Box turtles are considered to be semi-aquatic. This is because of a few major differences between aquatic turtles and box turtles. Aquatic turtles live in the water, eat in the water, forage and sleep underwater, and rarely set foot on land. Box turtles don’t dive or eat underwater. They don’t usually swim and reside on land. But they do need and enjoy a daily dunk in the kiddie pool, if you will. Box turtles love relaxing in water, but it needs to be shallow, so they are not completely submerged in it. Additionally, they may not hunt or eat underwater, but they do enjoy eating by or sitting in water.

What Do You Keep A Pet Box Turtle In

If you are considering having a box turtle as a pet, the responsibility of regulating their body temperature falls to you. Many people suggest an outdoor enclosure with lots of space, a nice body of water, and enough area to burrow and hide in the shade. An outdoor enclosure would be perfect for people living in warm countries. This way, as long as you provide your turtle with a little shallow pond and some long and shrubbery to play hide and seek in, they will be good to go.

Just remember to make sure the enclosure is safe from predators. Indoor enclosures are recommended for people in colder countries or countries with unreliable weather. In this case some research will be required as you will need to purchase things such as heating lamps, UVB lights, and other tools to help keep your enclosure humid, airy, and temperature regulated for you lovely little pet.

Can Box Turtles Live In Ponds?

Box turtles can often be found by ponds, rivers, and lakes. Ponds seem to be a perfect area as they usually provide lots of shelter and privacy, as well as great sunny spots to bask in, and shallow and freshwater surfaces for box turtles to cool off in. I had box turtles growing up and when they became too big for us to keep the at home, we released them to a pond with many other turtles at our neighbourhood park. There they had many rocks to lounge on, tall grass to hide in, and murky cool water to play in. We still go to visit them sometimes.

Related Questions.

How long can a Box Turtle go without water?

On average, box turtles can go without water for about 12 hours. However, there are factors to consider into this. For example, if it has been a particularly hot day and a box turtle has been sun bathing, they might get dehydrated a lot faster, and if they do not have access to water, illness and death can come about a lot faster.

Do Box Turtles need to swim?

Box turtles do not need to swim and probably prefer not to, since their bodies and particularly their feet are not those of skilled swimmers.

Do Eastern Box Turtles Live In Water?

Eastern Box turtles, like the common box turtles, live near shallow bodies of water such as ponds and woodlands and use water or shade to regulate body temperature.

Do Baby Box Turtles Live In Water?

Baby Box turtles need water to drink and bathe in too. Since they are a lot smaller, the water they lounge in needs to be a lot more shallow so that they do not drown.

Can a Box Turtle drown?

Because of their web-less feet box turtles are unable to swim for long periods of time, and the fact that turtles do not have gills, there are chances of box turtles drowning if they are in deep waters.


There you have it. A breakdown of Box turtles and their relationship to water. I like to think of box turtles are permanent holiday goers. They prefer the chill lifestyle and a healthy mix of sun, water, and wind-down time. Add that to a varied and colorful diet of fruit, veggies, and meat, box turtles are living my beach holiday dream life!