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Do Red-Eared Slider Turtles Sleep?

It seems like an odd question but it’s only natural to wonder… Do red-eared slider turtles sleep? If so, when do they do it?! Well, like any other freshwater turtle, red-eared sliders do indeed sleep and they do it at the same time that most of us do — at night.

Red-eared sliders are diurnal, which means that they are active during the day, although aside from their nightly sleep they will also spend many hours during the day relaxing in their favorite basking spot. The turtle does this to ensure that it dries off and absorbs UVB radiation from the sun.

This is essential to the synthesizing of vitamin D3, which helps them to process calcium for strong bones and good health!

The red-eared slider likes to sleep during the night when the temperatures are low and the environment is dark. If you keep the red-eared slider as a pet, it’s important to turn the lights off at the same time every night, so that you can simulate a natural night and day cycle for them.

To better understand their sleeping habits, let’s take a closer look so that you’ll understand how your turtle ‘gets their Z’s’ and what you need to know to help ensure that they’re getting a good night’s sleep!

When do red-eared sliders sleep?

A red-eared slider sleeps in the water, not on land.
A red-eared slider sleeps in the water, not on land.

Sliders need rest, just like any reptile, and that means whenever you turn off the lights in the evening or if they’re in the wild when the sun sets and it gets dark outside.

If you are keeping the turtle as a pet, maintaining a reliable day-to-night cycle is a must. This means that the lights within the enclosure have to be on for 10 to 12 hours and off for 10 to 12 hours.

In other words, turn the lights on when the sun comes out and turn the lights off when the sun goes down – easy-peasy!

If the turtles are housed indoors, you’ll want to turn off the turtle’s lights AND the lights in the room where they are housed at the same time every evening. Having the lights on during the night can mess with the turtle’s sleep pattern, so you’ll want to be careful not to disturb them.

This is something to keep in mind when you are deciding where to keep their enclosure. If they are in a room where lights will be needed late at night, then you’re going to need to move the enclosure somewhere else.

If the turtle doesn’t get enough sleep, it WILL end up stressed and unhealthy – just like you would if you weren’t getting enough sleep.

So, be sure to create a ‘day and night’ schedule for your turtle that you can keep up with or get timers for their lights – that way, your turtle will always have a restful, refreshing sleep.

Still, setting up your turtle tank and need some lighting tips? Take a look when you’re done here at the 9 best UVB Bulbs for Turtles!

Where do red-eared sliders sleep during the night?

While red-eared sliders may occasionally doze in a basking spot, like all aquatic turtles they actually prefer to sleep under water. When sleeping underwater, the red-eared slider will hold its breath, but it won’t be uncomfortable — sliders can breathe for several hours at a time!

Aquatic turtles, such as sliders, can sleep underwater for up to 7 hours, although most will sleep anywhere between 4 to 7 hours. During sleep, the turtle will sometimes resurface to breathe, before resuming its sleep underwater. They tend to resurface about once every hour, although it can be more or less.

The red-eared slider will sleep in a spot that is comfortable, usually at the bottom of its enclosure, or even near the surface and yes — some have been known to even rest at their basking locations, as the warm light and cozy temperatures in the enclosure can lull them into pleasant naps.

How long do red-eared sliders sleep?

Sliders are diurnal, meaning they are active during the day.
Sliders are diurnal, meaning they are active during the day.

Red-eared sliders can sleep for several hours a day, but they sleep the most at night. During the day, you’ll catch them closing their eyes for a bit (especially when basking) but it’s usually not sleep – they’re just enjoying themselves.

If your turtle is sleeping underwater during the day, this might actually be a red flag that they are unwell, so it’s definitely something to watch for.

Normally, the turtle will sleep on a semi-regular schedule, between 4 to 7 hours each night, and the length of time spent sleeping varies from individual to individual and also varies according to the season.

If you allow your turtle to brumate during the winter (a process for reptiles similar to hibernation), it will remain at the bottom of the tank for days or even weeks.

It will occasionally come to the surface to breathe or to bask, but at a much-reduced frequency compared to when it’s warm and they’re more active. If you do not allow your turtle to brumate during winter, it will sleep less during this period.

Instead, your turtle will spend more time basking. Since the water is cooler during the winter, sliders in the wild prefer to bask more often when they aren’t brumating, as this regulates their temperature and keeps them warm.

By contrast, during the summer, sliders will spend more time sleeping. The water is warm, and like a cat in a sunbeam, the heat makes them comfortable and sleepy, so that they’re inclined to enjoy it and get in some restful naps.

What if your turtle is sleeping for more than 7 hours?

Well, if your turtle isn’t brumating, then it definitely shouldn’t be sleeping more than 7 hours a day and it may be time for a vet visit. Oversleeping is sometimes a symptom of illness or improper maintenance of the enclosure, so get the vet involved right away if you are seeing this behavior.

Keeping your turtle’s tank clean doesn’t have to be a huge chore – it’s all about doing it right. Find out how in our handy turtle tank cleaning guide!

Do red-eared sliders close their eyes when sleeping?

a red-eared slider with its eyes closed
Red-eared sliders sleep and also sometimes bask with their eyes closed

Similar to humans, the slider sleeps with its eyes closed. This is to prevent light from entering their eyes. The red-eared slider will also avoid light when sleeping, just like most people do. During the day, the turtle may close its eyes just to rest for a bit, but this is generally not sleep – the turtle is simply relaxing.

Too much sleep can be a sign of lethargy, which is generally a symptom of illness. The turtle having its eyes shut isn’t enough to determine whether or not it is ill. You’ll have to factor in other changes in its behavior.

For instance, Is the turtle sleeping more than it usually does? Is it keeping its eyes shut longer than usual? If the answer to both questions is ‘Yes’, then the turtle may be unwell, or if the enclosure is cold, then it might be preparing to brumate!

This is why it is recommended to have thermometer stickers and handheld thermometers to gauge the temperature of the enclosure – that way you’ll know that it’s not too hot or too cold and can rule out brumation or overheating if your turtle is sleeping too little or too often.

Reasons why your red-eared slider is sleeping too little

Under-sleeping, just like oversleeping, is often a cause for concern. Determining whether your turtle is sleeping less can be difficult to track, as they are light sleepers and tend to wake up easily. Additionally, they often wake up several times during the night to breathe.

With that said, over time you’ll get to know your turtle’s habits very well, so any changes in their sleeping patterns will be fairly easy to spot.

As with all reptiles, sleep is important and necessary to be healthy.

There are many different reasons why your turtle may be sleeping less. These reasons range from poor husbandry to illness, but really the biggest thing you need to check is their water. Since this is where they spend a minimum of 70%, you’ll want to check and fix any issues there first.

If that does not work, then you should get a veterinarian involved right away so that you may determine the issue and so that it won’t have time to worsen.

How to check your turtle’s water (and what to look for)

Temperature

The temperature of the water has to be JUST right, or your turtle won’t feel comfortable resting. The water temperature should be between 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. If you are unsure that this is the case, you’ll need to check it with a thermometer.

So what should you do if the water temperature is too low? If the water temperature is too low, then you need to install an aquarium heater or replace your current one if it’s not up to the task. A good water heater usually comes with a thermostat, so that you can set the perfect temperature.

This will ensure that your turtle doesn’t get too cold and then start brumation behavior or that it doesn’t get too hot — which can be fatal!

A great aquarium heater to consider is the  Orlushy Submersible Aquarium Heater for a water volume of around 55 to 80 gallons. If the turtle’s tank is huge, then you need a more powerful aquarium heater such as the Fluval E300 Advanced Electronic Heater.

Checking pH and other chemicals

Testing your turtle's water is important
You’ll probably use testing strips, but it still FEELS a little like this

The pH level of the water also needs to be within the right range, with the ideal best pH level being a neutral one of 7. It can be a bit acidic or a bit alkaline, but try to get it as close to 7 as possible, with a pH range of 6 to 8 being acceptable parameters.

While you are correcting the pH level, you might as well correct other chemical imbalances. The nitrite level needs to be below 0.5 ppm (parts per million) and the nitrate level has to be below 40 ppm. The ammonia, chlorine, and chloramine levels all need to be at 0.

Acquire a testing kit and water conditioners to correct chemical imbalances. Some test kits include the  API Freshwater Master Test Kit and the  JNW Aquarium & Fish Tank Test Strips. A good water conditioner you can try is the  API TAP Water Conditioner.

Cleanliness check

The water in the tank has to be clean. There are several reasons why the water may not be clean. For instance, the water volume may be too little for the turtle or the filter pump installation may not be powerful enough for the tank.

You may not be changing the water regularly enough or the substrate in the tank may have trapped organic matter such as bits of food. So, check that it’s clean, or if it’s been a while, simply go ahead and clean it to rule this out!

Cleaning the tank should be a monthly to bimonthly activity. Clean the tank with a mix of water and bleach solution.

You need to clean all the objects in the tank including the substrate. If you cannot properly clean the substrate, replace it with a fresh batch. Sand, for instance, can be difficult to clean. You can replace old sand with new sand. Peebles should also be cleaned.

As far as filter pump issues, the first thing to do is ensure that you have a filter pump used rated for twice that of water you will be filtering. For instance, for a 50-gallon tank (with about 50 gallons of water) install a filter pump marked for a 100-gallon tank.

Here are some filter pumps that work well:

Water volume is also important

As a rule of thumb, for every inch of the turtle’s carapace (upper shell), you should provide 10 gallons of water. So, a 5-inch turtle needs 50 gallons of water in their tank. You may wish to house several turtles within the same enclosure, and for this scenario, it’s a little different.

For every additional turtle, add 5 gallons of water, so that for two 5-inch sliders, the tank should have about 75 gallons of water.

Reasons why your red-eared slider is sleeping too much

There are times when your turtle may decide to sleep all day or even for days and depending on the conditions, this may be completely normal. If your turtle is brumating, for instance, full days or even weeks of sleep is the norm.

During brumation, your turtle becomes inactive or at the very least, much LESS active. Turtles that brumate may also come out of brumation every now and then to move about, bask, or even get a quick snack.

Sliders brumate when temperatures are very low, and a water temperature of 50 degrees Fahrenheit will trigger brumation. Any temperature below 65 degrees Fahrenheit, however, can cause the turtle to become inactive as it conserves energy.

You should check on the water temperature regularly and ensure that it isn’t too cold.

Turtle owners will sometimes trigger brumation before they breed their turtles, as this is good for their reproductive health and raises the chances of a successful breeding session later.

However, not every turtle should be allowed to brumate – only strong and healthy ones! Brumation is a stressful ordeal and not all turtles can survive it. In the wild, red-eared sliders must brumate if they find themselves in a locale with cold winters. It’s a survival trait and quite similar to hibernation.

As previously mentioned, a great aquarium heater to consider is the  Orlushy Submersible Aquarium Heater for a water volume of around 55 to 80 gallons. If the turtle’s tank is huge, then you need a more powerful aquarium heater such as the Fluval E300 Advanced Electronic Heater.

When do you see the veterinarian?

Find a veterinarian that has experience with turtles - this is very important!
Find a veterinarian that has experience with turtles – this is very important!

If the tank is clean and all the conditions are right but the turtle still struggles to sleep, then it’s best to get a vet involved right away. While red-eared sliders are hardy creatures, their health can decline quickly if they are ill, so whenever you are in doubt it is best to get the vet involved immediately.

Turtles that are unwell generally sleep often, with lethargy being one of the most common symptoms of illness. Other symptoms of illness include discharge from eyes, nose and mouth, excessive basking, fatigue, wheezing, difficulty breathing, gasping, and refusal to eat or loss of appetite.

Once you’ve owned your turtles for a while, then you’ll get much better at catching correctable issues on your own, but until then it’s best to defer to the vet to get your turtle back to being happy and healthy as soon as possible!

If this is your first red-eared slider, then when you’ve finished here be sure to check out our in-depth red-eared slider care guide – you’ll find lots of useful tips to help ensure that your turtle stays happy and healthy!

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I know if my red-eared slider is sleeping?

When turtles sleep, they close their eyes but keep in mind that red-eared sliders prefer to sleep underwater. If they are basking with their eyes closed, then the odds are that the turtle is awake, and simply enjoying the heat from the UV light.

If they’re underwater with their eyes closed and inactive, then your turtle is probably asleep.

How many hours do red-eared sliders sleep?

Red-eared sliders typically sleep underwater for stretches of 4 to 7 hours. During sleep, the turtle will usually resurface to breathe once an hour before resuming its sleep underwater, although they can hold their breath for many hours.

Can red-eared sliders sleep out of water?

While sliders generally sleep underwater, they can sleep out of water if conditions are right. These conditions include high humidity, such as after rains, and a cool temperature. Red-eared sliders in the wild can and do sleep out of water every now and then, but only when they feel very safe and comfortable.

Do red-eared turtles need light at night?

No, they do not, and the presence of light is likely to disturb their sleep. If you are keeping a red-eared slider as a pet, then you need to maintain a day-night cycle. This means that the lights within the enclosure should be on for 10 to 12 hours, and then off for another 10 to 12 hours.

Simply put, just turn the lights on at dawn and turn them off when the sun sets — easy as pie — and you can even purchase timers to do it for you if you’re out of the house often.

When housed outside, the lights within the vicinity ALSO need to be off, so that they won’t disturb your turtle’s sleepy-time. The idea is to give them a normal and reliable day and night cycle, just like they would get in Nature.

What happens if turtle water is too cold?

If temperatures are too cold, then your turtle will brumate. A water temperature of 50 degrees Fahrenheit will quickly trigger brumation, but any temperature below 65 degrees Fahrenheit can cause the turtle to become inactive.

Is tap water safe for turtles?

Tap water is relatively safe for turtles however due to chemicals such as chlorine, you need to condition the water first to correct any chemical imbalances.

The pH level of the water has to be between 6 and 8, the nitrite level needs to be below 0.5 ppm (parts per million), and the nitrate level has to be below 40 ppm. Finally, the ammonia, chlorine, and chloramine levels need to be 0.

Conclusion

So do red-eared slider turtles sleep? You bet they do! They sleep every night for about 4 to 7 hours and typically, they’ll be sleeping underwater. During this time, they’ll come up every now and again for air, usually once every hour.

To ensure that your red-eared slider sleeps well, make sure that its water conditions are ideal. The water pH has to be neutral and it should be clean and well-filtered.

There has to be enough water for the turtle, too, with 10 gallons per every inch of carapace for a single turtle and 5 gallons per inch for every extra one.

If the turtle sleeps too little or too much, then it may be unwell, but if you use the tips that we’ve shared today, you should be able to quickly rule out the most common causes. If your turtle is still having sleep issues, however, then get the vet involved right away.

After all, it’s always best to err on the side of safety and your turtle’s good health!

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