You guys. Turtles can sleep underwater. I know this because I did a one day stint as a substitute teacher and in the classroom there was, much to my delight, a pet turtle. His name was Ernesto and he was totally great. He also blew my mind and sent me in to momentary panic mode when I noticed him sleeping underwater which I determined, in a full classroom of small children, was his well-planned turtle suicide.
This was incorrect.
I’ve also not been asked back to that job.
So, now that I have ample amounts of time again I felt it best used to Raise a Paw and ask, do turtles sleep underwater?
Turtles are reptiles which mean that they need air in order to breathe. They are not equipped with gills like fish are so they cannot technically breathe underwater. What they are doing, while under there is holding their breath until they need to surface, essentially. While the turtle itself is underwater its long neck with its tiny nose at the tip acts like a snorkel allowing for the turtle to stay submerged while “snorkeling” for air. The amount of time that a turtle can remain totally submerged is dependant upon the species, locality and temperature. For example a Painted Turtle which lives in a very temperate zone will spend the entire winter underwater without coming up for air. However your pet turtle, which is most likely a red-eared slider or box turtle, will stay underwater but close to the surface for no more than 90 to 120 minutes at most.
Turns out, turtles can actually drown and this happens when they stop surfacing for air. This could be due to trauma and illness or old age. So it is important for you to keep an eye on your pet turtle as you would any pet and note any changes in any diet or behavior that might seem odd and take them to see a vet if you think something is up.