Some pet owners find it adorable when they notice upside-down turtles. But this adorable incident turns into a nightmare when they figure out those turtles are whistle-breathing, making those pet owners wonder, “can turtle breathe upside down?”
The straightforward answer to this question is yes. Turtles can breathe upside down but struggle to receive the air they need to stay alive. And the worst fact is that they may not live if they stay in this position for a prolonged period.
So, why do turtles flip over if this posture creates inconveniences? How long can they remain in such an awkward position? We will answer these questions through this blog post. Let’s get started.
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Why Do Turtles Stay In Upside-Down Positions?
Turtles never internationally flip over; hence if you notice your pet is on its back suddenly, you must understand one or many of the reasons mentioned below are associated with such an activity. Let’s uncover those causes.
01. Turtle Sickness:
Mostly, turtles suffering from respiratory diseases or infections can tilt upside down. These infections can be severe for your turtle, and if you don’t treat them on time, they can be life-threatening for your pet.
That being said, when you notice any of the signs mentioned below, you must take the turtle to a vet.
Symptoms of Respiratory Infections:
- An Excessive Amount of Mucus in Your Turtles’ Mouth
- Breathing with an Open Mouth
- Inhaling Heavily
- Appetite Loss
- Runny Nose
So, you should pay attention to these signs of respiratory disease or infection.
02. Turtle Fight:
If you tend to pet myriad turtles and keep them together, there is a high chance these reptiles will fight. It happens when you keep many male and female turtles together.
FYI, male turtles often compete with other males to lure females. During the fight, turtles can flip over.
03. Inappropriate Turtle Tank Setup:
Your tank’s setup is quintessential when it comes to keeping those turtles protected. A wrong turtle aquarium can lead turtles to flip over and eventually make them die. That’s why you need to choose your turtle tank cautiously.
You must ensure your turtle tank offers adequate space to let those pets swim freely. Also, it must have the ideal basking platform and a steep incline to prevent turtles from tilting upside down.
Lastly, decorate your turtle aquarium wisely because turtles are poor climbers and often flip over while climbing vertical materials. Thus, you need to keep this fact in mind when decorating the tank.
Newly brought turtles are more susceptible to the activity of staying on their backs. It’s because they remain curious about their environment and venture virtually everywhere.
They climb vertical walls or small rocks and fall off on their backs. Hence, after bringing turtles, you shouldn’t keep anything inside your aquarium that turtles can climb and flip over.
05. Aged Turtle:
Aged turtles are prone to flip over due to having weakened muscles. With time, their muscles get debilitated; thus, these reptiles often tilt to an upside-down position.
06. Unhealthy Shell:
Turtles with unhealthy shells tend to flip onto their backs more frequently than turtles with healthy shells.
Their shells can be infected for various reasons, and we have listed some of the causes below. Let’s check them out.
- Bacterial Infestation
- Fungal Infection
- Parasites Attack
- Damaged Shell
These reasons contribute to turtles’ flipping behavior. So take your pet to a vet as soon as you notice any of the causes.
07. Wounded Turtles:
Injured turtles are prone to flip over. Turtles quickly lose balance with wounded shells and tilt upside down. So, whenever you encounter your turtle in such a posture, you should check out its shell.
After checking, if you figure out that your pet has a damaged shell, you should take essential steps for its treatment.
08. Dead Turtle:
The last and most distressing cause a turtle can be upside down is that it’s dead. Such a tragic event can happen when a turtle gets old, suffers from an illness, or is attacked.
However, when you find a dead turtle lying upside down, you should either properly bury it or give it to the local vet. So, these are all the causes of why a turtle stays upside down.
How Long Can A Turtle Be Upside Down?
There is no definitive answer to the question of “how long can a turtle stay upside down in the water?” as it entirely depends on turtles and their circumstances. Generally, most turtles can live for a few minutes to a few hours when lying upside down in the water.
However, when you see a turtle staying on its back, you can turn it over, and if you fail to do so on your own, you can ask for a professional’s help.
Do Turtles Suffocate Upside Down?
It depends on where they are when flipped. If turtles are in shallow water and are on their backs, they will have difficulty breathing and suffocate.
FYI, turtles contain no gills and need to breathe from the air like us. They must come out of the water’s surface to breathe air. But when upside down, these reptiles can’t raise their head above water and struggle to get air, consequently suffocating.
Besides suffocating, they need to deal with other challenges. During the upside-down position, turtles’ lungs reach down from the upper part of the body and get a push from other organs like the stomach, enabling turtles to suffocate.
What Difficulties Do Turtles Face While Breathing Upside Down?
While in the upside-down position, these reptiles’ lungs get intense pressure from other organs. As a result, it becomes tough for them to breathe, and most suffocate in this situation.
Some may not even inhale at all, but fortunately, adult turtles can hold their breath for two hours. And if they are on land or deep water, they utilize their necks, heads, arms, and legs to return to normal posture from upside down.
How Long Does It Take to Become Deadly for Upside-Down Turtles?
It can be anywhere from five minutes to a few hours. In essence, it depends on the turtles and circumstances. For instance, a baby turtle can merely survive more than ten minutes while upside down than adult turtles.
Again, if a turtle flips over on land, it will last longer than turtles flipped inside the shallow water. That means there is no specific duration for how long a turtle survives in that posture.
How Does The Location Affect Turtles’ Breathing While Upside Down?
How difficult it will be for turtles to breathe also depends on the location they got flipped over. For instance, if they are flipped in an area where they get direct sunlight, they will dehydrate quickly and suffocate.
On the contrary, if turtles turn upside-down in shallow water, their chances of losing their life are high. Turtles can’t get back to their normal position in shallow water easily compared to deep water. So, they drown and eventually die.
Can Turtles Lose Life from Being Upside Down?
Usually, many turtles can survive being upside down, but not all can make it. Turtles remaining in such an uncomfortable lying position for too long can die eventually.
It’s because turtles get dehydrated lightning fast when exposed to heat from sunlight. As you know, they are cold-blooded reptiles, and neither can they produce body heat nor can they sweat. Consequently, turtles become dehydrated quickly, leading them to death.
Alongside fighting dehydration, turtles can suffocate while being on their backs. It becomes incredibly challenging for turtles to breathe while flipped upside down, so they can lose their life.
Can Turtles Flip Themselves Over in Water?
Although most turtles can flip them back to normal, it depends on the turtle species. For instance, yellow-bellied sliders can quickly flip themselves back while other turtles struggle to do so.
Yellow-bellied turtles feature strong necks and legs and are skilled in turning themselves. Like them, box turtles can also turn them back to regular positions. So, if you wonder about “Can box turtles flip themselves over?“, there you have your answer.
What Happens If a Turtle Is on Its Back?
When a turtle tilt upside down, many things can occur. We have shared a few possible incidents that may arise when turtles are on their backs. Let’s read.
01. Become Vulnerable:
If you wonder what happens if a turtle is upside down, the first thing that will occur is that these reptiles will feel out of control. They will be vulnerable to predators, and in that situation, they will put all their effort into turning over.
02. Get Trapped:
When turtles accidentally flip over, they may become trapped and can’t move. They can’t consume food or access water. Consequently, they get dehydrated quickly and may not survive for long.
03. Become Dehydrated:
Turtles can’t yield body heat independently and rely on the outside temperature. So, when upside-down in an area where they get direct sunlight, these creatures become dehydrated quickly, and their survival chances dim gradually.
04. Experience Suffocation:
Flipped turtles face extreme difficulty in breathing. FYI, their lungs remain on the top of the shell, and when they turn upside down, their lungs go down, making it challenging for turtles to breathe.
Therefore, they suffocate. So, these are all the incidents that can happen when turtles go upside-down.
How Can You Prevent your Turtle from Flipping Over?
If you are searching for the answer to the question, “what should I do if I see my turtle upside down?” this section is entirely designed for you. Let’s read it thoroughly.
01. Figure Out The Reason & Help It:
When you encounter a floating turtle upside down in the tank, you should first find out what causes the turtle to flip over. It can be the vertical aquarium walls or obstacles you keep inside the tank for decoration purposes.
Also, the reason can be other belligerent turtles you keep together in one tank. Once you identify the cause, you should solve it after helping the turtle turn over with your hands.
02. Separate Other Turtles:
If you tend to keep many turtles in one tank, these turtles, especially males, can fight each other during the mating season. And when they fight, some tilt upside down.
So, we recommend separating other male turtles to avert this problem. FYI, turtles are solidarity and don’t prefer sharing their tank’s space with others. That’s why you should keep one pair in one tank.
03. Select An Appropriate Tank:
Your turtle tank plays a significant role in keeping your pets safe and healthy and refraining them from flipping over. So, you must choose your turtle tank wisely, and we recommend researching turtle species before purchasing one.
For example, pond turtles love swimming, while other species, like the alligator snapper, don’t like to roam along the tank’s bottom. So, you need to consider your turtle species’ requirements while selecting a tank.
Alongside that, you must consider the tank’s depth based on the turtle species you have. To be on the safe side, select a tank that can hold water, which can be two to three times as deep as your turtle shell’s length. Such a depth can help the turtle turn back to its normal position after flipping over.
That stated, we have shared some essential information on various turtle tanks below to help you choose your desired one easily. Let’s read.
04. Shallow Water Tanks:
A shallow water tank can be detrimental to your turtle concerning its flipping trait. If your turtle tilts upside down in a shallow water tank, it will get stuck and may not return to normal posture. So, you should avoid purchasing a shallow water tank and save your turtle’s life.
05. Deep Water Tanks:
A deep water tank is the best-suited option for virtually all turtle species. Turtles can turn back to normal when flipped over inside deep water tanks compared to shallow water tanks.
But turtles can easily get drowned in deep water tanks. Thus, you must avoid decorating the tank hazardously and choosing tanks that are too deep for turtles to reach the tank’s surface.
So, these are all the steps you can follow to resist your turtles from staying on their backs.
Frequently Asked Questions
01. Can Turtle Survive Being Upside Down?
It depends on the turtle species and its environment. While most turtles can flip them back and survive, some don’t, especially baby turtles. They get trapped and start to suffocate and may die eventually.
02. What Happens When A Turtle Is Upside Down In Water?
Most turtles turn themselves back to normal with the help of their legs, heads, and arms. But some can’t, especially those caught under something in the water. Consequently, those turtles drown and can die.
03. Can You Hold Turtles Upside Down?
Although you can hold your turtle in such a position, you should not keep them upright for a long time. It is stressful for them as they feel out of control and struggle to breathe.
04. Does It Hurt Turtles To Be Upside Down?
If the turtle’s carapace remains in the down position, its lung goes down and gets pushed by other organs, hurting the turtle. Besides, a turtle can’t correctly breathe air while upside down.
05. How Often Do Turtles Go Upside Down?
Turtles go upside down occasionally, especially when they flip themselves accidentally. It’s not a chore they regularly perform. You can only sometimes notice them in such an awkward posture.
An upside-down turtle can barely breathe. Most turtles suffocate, so whenever you notice a turtle lying on its back, it indicates that it is dealing with minor to severe inconveniences.
But the astonishing fact here is that you can prevent your little buddy from facing such problems as long as you remain vigilant. That’s all for this article; we will catch you with the next one. Until then, stay connected with us on Facebook, Twitter & Pinterest.
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