How Much Water Does A Box Turtle Need? Swimming, Drinking, Living

Published Categorized as Turtles
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Have you ever seen a box turtle swim? Did you know they’re able to? Yes, box turtles can swim, but they’re not very good at it. Still, they love water and enjoy taking a soak in shallow pools. If you’re considering getting a box turtle as a pet, keep reading to find out how much water they need.

How Much Water Does A Box Turtle Need
Asian Box Turtle

What Is A Box Turtle?

Box turtles are one of the most common wild turtles in the United States. They are recognizable by their large, bulbous shells and their bright colorations.

There are many species of box turtles across the United States, and most are quite similar. But, if you’re considering keeping one as a pet, you should look up the key differences in their care.

These are some of the most common box turtles species kept as pets:

  • Eastern Box Turtle
  • Three-Toed Box Turtle
  • Gulf Coast Box Turtle
  • Ornate Box Turtle

Although they’re common, their populations are dwindling. It’s illegal to take them from the wild in most states. Wild caught turtles won’t live happily in a man-made enclosure anyway. They become easily stressed and don’t adapt to captive life well.

Do Box Turtles Live In Water?

If you plan on keeping a box turtle as a pet, you should consider where you’re going to keep them. They are not as easy to care for as other turtle species. They thrive better in an outside enclosure than inside.

How To Create The Perfect Enclosure

If you provide them with an outside home, they will likely live long and healthy lives. Most box turtles live to about 25-35 years, but it’s possible for them to live to be 100.

How much water does a box turtle need? This is an important question to ask if you’re planning to make an enclosure for your new pet.


It’s better to keep them in an outside enclosure, so does that mean you’ll have to build a box turtle pond? Fear not, box turtle’s do need water, but they don’t really live in it.

The Coahuilan Box Turtle

The only box turtle that lives in water is the Coahuilan box turtle. These box turtles are the only aquatic species of their kind. In the wild, they live in Coahuila, Mexico where they spend 90% of their lives in water.

Coahuilan’s like shallow marshy water where they can hide among the grasses and brush.

You’re not likely to have a Coahuilan as a pet because they’re critically endangered. There are only about 2,000 turtles left in the wild, so they are not sold legally as pets.

You’re not likely to have one as a pet. So, you shouldn’t need to worry about having a sufficient watery habitat for them.

There are some exceptions, though. Some states allow the legal breeding of Coahuilan’s where they can be purchased. Others may require a permit to keep one legally.

The Perfect Habitat

In these cases, you’ll want to make sure you have proper housing for your turtles. Coahuilan box turtles are notoriously difficult to care for. It’s not recommended for beginners.

Their home should be set-up to mimic their habitat in the wild. Since they are an aquatic species, the most important thing is to make sure they have plenty of water. There should be enough water for them to move and swim around in.

A floating log should be kept in the water so they can crawl out and bask when they please. They also need plenty of plants to hide in that mimic their natural marsh habitat. Eleocharis is a plant that is incredibly important for their nutritional needs. Plenty of this should be kept in their enclosure.

Keeping a Coahuilan box turtle is much more difficult than keeping other box turtles. If you’re considering getting one as a pet, you should consult this guide for more information.

Do Box Turtles Need Water?

Despite most box turtles not living in water, they do still need water. Without water, they will quickly die. Most animals cannot survive more than three days without water. Box turtles have it worse, and can only survive about 12-24 hours without water.

They should be given a continuous source of drinking water. They should also be given a dish of water big enough for them to bask in. More on that later.

Do Box Turtles Drink Water?

Box turtles do, of course, drink water. As we stated above, box turtles cannot survive more than 12-24 hours without water to drink. Always make sure they have water available in their enclosure.

How Much Water Does A Box Turtle Need?

Box turtles love water, but they don’t need much of it. Besides their drinking dish, you should give them a tray of water big enough to walk around in.

Box turtles spend lots of time in water, and they enjoy laying around in it to soak.

Although it’s not common, box turtles can drown in deeper water. It’s best to avoid that by keeping their soaking tray shallow. A couple of inches of water is enough to make them happy.

Also make sure there is a ramp leading in and out of the water so that they can easily come and go as they please.

Do Box Turtles Swim In Water?

Box turtles absolutely can swim! Although they can swim, a box turtle in water is an awkward turtle.

An Imperfect Body

Their bodies aren’t really designed to swim like other turtles are. For starters, their shells are round and bulbous like a tortoise’s. Most turtles that swim have flat shells that make it easier to cut through the water.

Most turtles that live in water also have webbed toes. Although box turtles do have some webbing on their feet, it’s reduced and not of much help. Their feet are round and flat like a tortoise, and they have individual toes with claws.

Even with these disadvantages, box turtles can swim, they just look a bit silly doing so.

Preferred Water Sources

Because swimming is not easy for them, they prefer shallow water, and they won’t go far. Unlike aquatic turtles who spend most of their time in water, box turtles only swim if they need to get somewhere.

It is possible for box turtles to swim underwater, but it’s very difficult. They prefer to stay at the surface where their heads and shells stay poking out of the surface.

Box turtles aren’t good at swimming underwater, and they can drown in deep water. It’s not common to see box turtles swimming in deeper water. If you see this, the turtle might be in trouble and need some help.

How Long Can A Box Turtle Go Without Water?

Box turtles can’t go long without drinking water. 12 to 24 hours is their limit for surviving without water.

They also need plenty of humidity in their enclosure to stay happy and healthy. A box turtle’s enclosure should contain humidity of about 60-80%.

Providing them with a large soaking tub will easily keep the humidity up. You may also need to mist the enclosure several times a day.


Most species of box turtles don’t need a lot of water, but they still need it to be happy. Not only do they need it to drink, but they enjoy soaking in it to keep cool and refreshed.

In the wild, you might see a box turtle swimming across shallow bodies of water. This isn’t necessary in a home enclosure, though. Simply provide them with a shallow dish large enough for them to wade in and they’ll stay happy and healthy for years!

Click here to read our guide to whether box turtles like water and here to find out if they like grapes. You can also find all our turtle guides here and our guide to what baby box turtles eat here.

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Frank Kane

By Frank Kane

Frank is a huge animal lover with many pets of his own. He loves sharing all his knowledge of all creatures here and learning more whenever possible.