Perhaps you’ve often observed box turtles in woodlands where water sources are plentiful or observed other turtle species swimming in lakes, ponds, etc., and wondered can box turtles swim, which is essential to know if you are considering getting one as a pet.
The answer is yes if it is an aquatic species. However, terrestrial species can not swim well.
Aquatic vs. Terrestrial Box Turtles
Terrestrial box turtles, such as the ornate box turtle and the eastern box turtle, two of the most popular types of household pets, spend most of their lives on land; therefore, they aren’t the best swimmers.
However, there are also aquatic box turtle species, such as the Terrapene Coahuila, which are more adept at swimming and spend most of their time in ponds, streams, and marshes, where they are drawn to the soft murky bottom and abundance of water plants.
Florida box turtles may also often be observed in water; however, maybe not be as frolicky as more aquatic box turtles.
But as for other box turtle species, they typically only swim if they have to, such as to get from point a to point b. They may also be found in water when they need to cool off. However, they are not typically known to spend lots of time there.
Because of their more land-like features, you should also not expect to see them submerged or swimming underwater.
They are, however, most commonly found near natural water sources, especially after heavy rainfall, when they are known to become especially active in their search for females during mating season.
Do Box Turtles Swim in Deep Water?
Since most common box turtles aren’t the best swimmers, it is rare to find them in deep water.
Instead, they prefer the more shallow waters of streams, creeks, etc., or you may even find them wading in the less deep ends of ponds, lakes, etc., near the shore.
This way, they can swim safely near the surface of the water and easily catch their breath when needed. And if they become submerged underwater for some reason, they can quickly come back up for air.
On the other hand, more aquatic box turtle species may be seen swimming in deeper waters. And it is also not uncommon to spot them swimming underwater due to their adaptation.
However, in most cases, they too are most commonly found swimming on the surface of shallow waters.
Standard box turtles also usually avoid rushing waters where they can be quickly whisked under and drowned.
How Long Can Box Turtles Swim in Water?
Provided the water is shallow enough to allow the box turtle to keep its head above water, it may be able to wade in the water awhile.
However, since most common box turtles species are terrestrial, they cannot hold their breath long in the water, so they aren’t typically found in the water for long periods because they risk drowning.
In contrast, aquatic box turtles can not only swim safely in deep waters, but they can also hold their breath longer, so they are known to spend most of their time in the water.
Younger box turtles may also spend extended time in the water because they rely on more carnivorous food sources, such as fish, small amphibians, and fish eggs, for energy during their first 5 to 6 years of life.
However, after that, they make their way to the land, where they switch to a diet consisting mainly of plants, mushrooms, and fruits. But they may also feed on insects and decaying animals.
How to Provide Your Pet Box Turtle With Adequate Water
If your pet box turtle is a terrestrial species, it is important to supply them with just enough water so it cannot drown.
For instance, a shallow tray or pool will enable you to fill it with the right amount of water for the turtle to stand and still have its head above water.
This way, the turtle can safely drink from and cool off in it with no problem.
For aquatic box turtles that require more water, you will need to invest in an aquarium or other enclosed container that holds enough water for them to be able to swim daily.
However, be careful not to fill the structure with more than 75 gallons of water because it can prevent the turtle from being able to resurface quickly to avoid drowning.
Aquatic box turtles also like to hang out on land occasionally. Therefore, be sure to include a long strip of dry surface area for them to do so at will.
You should also avoid housing the box turtle in the same aquarium as your fish because it may feed on them.
What is the Best Type of Water for My Pet Box Turtle?
The best type of water for your pet box turtle is water free of contaminants, which can irritate their eyes or damage their shell.
This includes tap water, which contains chlorine that can dry out their shell, resulting in chalky, white blotches.
Instead, stick to bottled water for your terrestrial box turtle pet. However, do not fret because you will only need about 1 to 2 liters of water every 2 to 3 weeks.
On the other hand, it is okay to fill your aquatic box turtle’s aquarium using tap water, provided you also add a tap water conditioner to help neutralize the water.
So whether your pet box turtle type swims well or not, it is still essential to provide it with water because all box turtles require a more humid environment. They also need water to drink and to help digest their food.
Just be sure to provide them with the right amount of water based on their type for a happy turtle and to prevent drowning.
You should also clean the water regularly to prevent dirt and feces buildup.