Home » What Kind of Water Do Tortoise Drink? [Safe vs. Unsafe Types]
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What Kind of Water Do Tortoise Drink? [Safe vs. Unsafe Types]

(Last Updated On: January 17, 2023)

Tortoises stay hydrated by eating food, soaking in water, and through their skin. However, tortoises still need to drink fresh, unchlorinated water.

Tortoises should be given water free from chlorine, additives, flavorings, sweeteners, and contaminants. They can drink tap water, bottled water, hard water, and soft water. Avoid tap water if it’s heavily chlorinated or distilled, as it can leach minerals from the body.

Wild tortoises drink water from lakes, streams, and rain puddles, which may contain bacteria, pollutants, and other contaminants. However, they have a higher mortality rate than pet tortoises.

Do Pet Tortoises Drink Water?

Pet tortoises need just as much water as wild tortoises, but owners may assume otherwise since tortoises can go for days without water as most of their hydration needs are met from food consumption.

Leafy greens, vegetables, fruit, and flowers contain lots of water. A tortoise’s digestive system extracts significantly more water from its meals than other animals.

However, tortoises need fresh water, so you should provide access to clean drinking water. This allows the tortoise to drink when it’s ready, as they can’t survive without water for more than seven days.

Pet tortoises should only be offered clean, filtered water free from chlorine, flavorings, and chemicals.

Can A Tortoise Drink Too Much Water?

A tortoise is far more likely to drink too little water than too much water.

Their low thirst drive is partly because they have an efficient hydration system. At times, desert tortoises even process the liquid from their bladder twice. As a result, it doesn’t pass as urine but as urates.

Tortoises have permeable skin that’s sensitive to moisture. This allows them to absorb liquid externally, especially in humid environments or while soaking in water.

how to give a tortoise water?

Do Tortoises Drink Tap Water?

If the tap water in your area is poor or treated with high chlorine levels, it should be avoided.

Tap water may contain contaminants, like:

  • Mercury
  • Lead
  • Fluorine
  • VOCs
  • Bacteria

Tortoises can drink tap water as long as it’s filtered to remove the chlorine.

Can Tortoises Have Bottled Water?

Bottled water is the safest kind for a tortoise to drink because it’s filtered and bottled to FDA standards.

It doesn’t contain chlorine, nor can it pick up bacteria or other contaminants when traveling through pipes. If your local tap water is unsafe, bottled water is recommended.

Don’t buy flavored or vitamin water, as they often contain added sugars, sweeteners, and flavorings. Likewise, flavored water usually contains synthetic chemicals to improve its taste.

Can Tortoises Have Hard Water?

If your tortoise is from a region with hard water, it’ll be equipped to process the added mineral content. If your tortoise is used to soft water, hard water won’t be damaging, but it may taste odd.

If you have to choose between hard and soft water, slightly hard water is preferred. The mineral content will benefit your tortoise’s immune system, bone health, and blood cell development.

Water with a high alkaline content is beneficial for digestion.

Washing your tortoise or letting them bathe in hard water may lead to a gradual calcium build-up on the tortoise’s shell.

Can Tortoises Have Soft Water?

Soft water isn’t harmful to tortoises, and they don’t need hard water to thrive as long as they have a balanced diet with enough minerals in their food.

Can Tortoises Drink Distilled Water?

There are no scientific studies on whether distilled water is good or bad for tortoises.

Some owners claim that it’s better for tortoises with sensitive digestion or skin. Regardless, there’s reason to believe that distilled water can lead to mineral deficiencies if it’s all your tortoise drinks.

Distilled water is void of mineral content. People lose minerals by drinking distilled water, which can cause minerals to be leached from the body.

Studies have only been performed on humans, and how it affects tortoises is unknown.

How Do Tortoises Drink Water?

Tortoises usually drink water through their mouths. A drinking tortoise will stretch its neck and dip its head into the water bowl. So, its nose and mouth will both be submerged.

Tortoises often sink their entire heads past the water line to drink. However, they won’t gulp or produce bubbles, so you’ll only be able to tell it’s drinking by its neck movements.

Some tortoises don’t open their mouths while drinking. Instead, they take in water through their nose, which is connected to the roof of the mouth.

So, your tortoise can drink through its nose as effectively as its mouth.

Can Tortoises Drink Through Their Tail?

Tortoises don’t drink through their tail or butt. Although sea turtles can absorb some water through their cloacae (anal opening), tortoises can’t. Even sea turtles rely on drinking primarily through their mouths.

Tortoises process water effectively with their butt because of their porous skin, particularly around the cloacal area. When a tortoise passes urates from the bladder, it flushes it through with water from the bladder to the cloaca.

Some water is reabsorbed via the cloaca and returned to the bladder, which ensures tortoises don’t get dehydrated as often, especially if they live in an arid region where water is scarce.

how do tortoise drink water?

How To Give A Tortoise Water

To keep your tortoise hydrated, you’ll need to do the following:

  1. Place a shallow dish of water in a cool, easy-to-access location
  2. The bowl should be deep enough for the tortoise to fully submerge its head in
  3. Check the water level every day, topping it up when necessary
  4. Once a week, sanitize the bowl to prevent bacterial growth

Tortoises aren’t heavy water drinkers because they derive most of their hydration from food and soaking. So, if you feed your tortoise well and bathe it regularly, it won’t drink as much water. However, water should always be available in case your tortoise gets thirsty.

A tortoise’s body is ideally equipped to stay hydrated, but it can run low on water. According to The Journal of Wildlife Management, drought can reduce the population of desert tortoises.

Tortoises can still get dehydrated without fresh water. The signs of dehydration come on gradually, so you may not realize it at first. If the tortoise doesn’t rehydrate, this can be fatal.

The common symptoms of dehydration include:

  • Dry and flaky skin
  • Dry/powdery poop
  • Reduced amount of urine
  • Sunken and watery eyes
  • Lethargy or inactivity
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sudden weight loss

How Long Can Tortoises Survive Without Water?

A tortoise won’t live for more than seven days without water, especially in an extremely humid environment. Ideally, tortoises should drink some water each day.

Check the water level in your tortoise’s bowl regularly. If your tortoise isn’t drinking, a vet should see it.

Tortoises that aren’t drinking can experience various health conditions, including impaction. So, ensure your tortoise has filtered tap water (or bottled water) to drink, and change the water regularly.