Do Red Eared Slider Turtles Hibernate?

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Do Red-Eared Sliders Hibernate

If you’re like most turtle owners, you may be wondering if it’s necessary for red eared sliders to hibernate. This article will explore the topic of hibernation and brumation in red eared slider turtles and offer tips on how to create a hibernating environment for your pet.

It is estimated that red-eared sliders are the most popular type of pet turtle in America. When it comes to caring for them, there are several things you should know about their natural habitat and what kind of care they will require as pets.

Many people are interested in whether or not red-eared sliders hibernate because they are native to the American southeast, which has fairly mild winters. The answer is that they do not hibernate, but instead they brumate.

To understand brumation, you must first know how hibernation works.

Hibernating animals go through four stages:

  1. Coming out of dormancy
  2. Entering a state of deep sleep
  3. The deepest part of that sleep where it is more difficult to wake up
  4. Finally waking up and emerging from the den

Brumation, on the other hand, is different because is technically not a type of true hibernation but is instead it’s a way for them to adapt depending on the climate or change of environment.

The thing with cold-blooded animals like turtles is that they are still awake during brumation and their metabolism is slowing down.

They will also drink during brumation and show a lot more activity on the warmer days than on colder ones.

Difference Between Hibernation and Brumation

Hibernation is a type of inactivity in which the animal’s body temperature, heart rate, metabolic rate, and respiratory rate all drop.

The distinction between hibernation and brumation is that endotherms (warm-blooded animals like mammals) undergo this process of hibernation and brumation is used for ectotherms (cold-blooded animals, specifically, reptiles and amphibians).

When we hear the word “hibernation,” many of us think of bears. Bears are not real hibernators, though. Instead, they enter a mild form of hibernation and go into a state of torpor.

Torpor is a lighter version of hibernation.

True hibernators include ground squirrels, deer mice, and certain bats.

Animals in a state of torpor save energy and food during the winter when food is limited, according to studies. They are not true hibernators, however, they may more readily wake up during the winter to forage for food.

Hibernation is a more advanced and extended form of torpor.

Brumation is only applicable to reptiles and amphibians that enter a state of “deep sleep” where their body temperature, heart rate, metabolic rate, and respiratory rate all drop as far as possible.

Brumation, therefore, is a state of controlled hibernation to make it easier for turtles to survive in the wild when they cannot find food.

Where do Red Eared Sliders Brumate?

Red-eared sliders are native to North America and can be found in many different locations all over the continent.


During brumation, they will only go into the water during the day so that they can breathe. Turtles can’t breathe underwater, but in this state they don’t need to

At night, when it is warm enough, they will come out of the water onto land to sleep.

Turtles have a very limited sense of sight and will only be able to see a few inches in front of them so it is hard for them to be active during the day.

They will usually stay very still with their eyes closed. If you try to touch them, they might wake up and get startled and could possibly bite you.

If you find a turtle on land during the day, it is most likely brumating.

How Does a Red-Eared Slider “Hibernate”?

Red-eared sliders brumate in the wild over the winter at the bottom of ponds or shallow lakes, in October, when temperatures drop below below 10 °C (50 °F).

Red-eared sliders in captivity usually “hibernate” when the tank or house temperatures drop.

During this time, your turtle will become sluggish and he will start to eat less until he has stopped eating altogether.

They will slowly become lethargic, but don’t worry it is normal for them to go through this process.

At the end of hibernation, your turtle will most likely be at its thinnest and may only weigh one or two pounds.

RELATED READING: The Best Food for Red Eared Sliders

What Happens When a Red-Eared Slider Brumates

red eared slider in sand

Although it is not known exactly how long turtles can brumate, it has been recorded that they can survive two to three months without eating.

If your turtle does not go into “hibernation” (turtles are very sensitive about their own territory) then you should be extra careful when picking him up or changing his tank. He may be irritable and can bite.

When your turtle does go into brumation, there are several signs you should look for to make sure he is doing okay.

First, his eyes will become cloudy or sunken in.

Second, his limbs may become swollen, and third, his shell might have a blue tint to it.

If your turtle shows any of these symptoms, or if his behavior changes drastically then you should consult a vet.

If your turtle is in brumation and shows no sign of any discomfort then you don’t have to do anything.

If the weather is warm enough then they may not go into “hibernation” at all. To find out when your pet turtle sleeps, research their natural habitat and living patterns in the wild.

Common Brumation Behaviors

  1. Slower movements
  2. Decreased or no appetite
  3. Preference for Hidden Areas
  4. Sleeping more

Should I Brumate my Turtle?

The most important thing to know is that not all turtles brumate, go get to know your turtle’s species and where they are native from and look at the winter climates in those specific areas, and try to mimic those conditions.

Because a turtle can brumate, it doesn’t mean you should let them. There are a few criteria that a turtle needs to meet before doing so.

  1. Make sure they are more than a few years old
  2. They are eating well and show a lot of activity
  3. No signs of illness or disease
  4. Make sure they are safe from predators if you want your turtle to brumate outdoors

Where Should you Keep Red Eared Sliders during Brumation

During brumation, your turtle will need a dry terrarium with fresh water. Make sure the temperature is around fifty-five degrees Fahrenheit.

The easiest way to maintain the correct temperature is to use an aquarium heater or reptile lamp.

Make sure your turtle doesn’t get too hot by placing these appliances in a safe place away from the water.

You should also provide a hiding area for your turtle. They need somewhere to feel safe and secure when they are sleeping.

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Should you Brumate your Turtle Outdoors?

It’s a normal question to ask, right? It must be the best thing for them because that’s how they do it in their natural habitat.

Even though I highly recommend brumating your red-eared slider indoors, you can safely brumate your turtle outdoors too.

Here are my following recommendations for doing so:

  • Make sure your climate is similar to a red-eared slider natural climate to decrease the chances of complications during brumation
  • Provide plenty of hiding areas for them since they enjoy hiding in the shade in their weakened state
  • Decrease your filter flow rate so your turtles can get easily around to hiding spaces and to get air from time to time
  • Be aware of predators and have the red-eared slider enclosure be predator-proof.

I’ve heard cases, where chicken wires get scratched and opened easily by raccoons so be aware.

You could try using plastic mesh tarp over the top of the enclosure and make it hard for big birds of prey to spot your turtle

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RELATED READING: The Best Tank for Red Eared Sliders

Preparing for Brumation

Before your turtle goes into “hibernation”, you should make sure all the equipment is working properly.

Inspect the tank for any leaks and make sure the water levels are high enough. Make sure to scrub the substrate properly before using it because reptiles can’t live in unclean or dirty habitats.

Make sure the temperature is not too hot and that you drop the temperature of your turtle’s water to about three degrees Fahrenheit a week and the light exposure to about 30 to 60 minutes a week.

When the water temperatures get below 73 degrees Fahrenheit they will stop eating altogether.

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Before getting your turtle into brumation you should give your red-eared slider two weeks of fasting period before you throw them into brumation.

Turning the basking light off it’s also a good idea because they can easily regulate their body temperature despite the water’s temperature.

If your turtle is healthy and has no health problems, then it should be fine to brumate them in their usual tank. However, you should always consult a vet if your turtle has any health problems before going into brumation.

What Happens After Turtle Hibernation?

When your turtle comes out of brumation he will be very hungry and ready to eat. Make sure you don’t overfeed him and that his tank is clean and has strong filtration.

Typically they will lose about 10 percent of their body weight during brumation, which in my opinion is normal, but if one turtle is losing weight much faster than others you may need to bring them out of brumation sooner.

It might take him a few days to get back to his usual self but when he does, he will be back to his usual active self.

Waking Up Tips

  1. Gradually increase the water temperature
  2. Gradually increase the light exposure
  3. Start feeding with water temps above 76 degrees Farenheit
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Side Effects of Brumation

If your turtle wakes up early during brumation, or if he is not in hibernation at all then he may be weak for a couple of weeks.

During this time, he should be kept in a warm dry terrarium with fresh water until he regains his strength again.

Turtle brumation can be a tricky thing to get right and your pet turtle should only brumate if he is healthy and comfortable.

If you are keeping your turtle indoors then it is best to consult a vet before putting him into “hibernation”.


As this article has hopefully shown you, red-eared sliders do go into brumation to preserve energy when the temperature drops, there is not enough food around or when they need to escape their natural predators.

Brumation can be dangerous for your turtle if you don’t know how to do it properly, so please consult a vet before putting your pet turtle into hibernation.

During hibernation, you need to provide the right environment and leave your turtle alone.

If you follow the advice in this article, then you should have no problem getting your red-eared slider into brumation.