I have a 13 year old female red eared slider who lives in an outdoor pond with and enclosure. I have had her since she

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Customer: I have a 13 year old female red eared slider who lives in an outdoor pond with and enclosure. I have had her since she was the size of a nickel when she fell in my pool. Every year around the end of October or first of November she begins her hibernation. This summer, I enlarged and deepened her pond from about 600 gallons and 2' deep to about 1300 gallon and a little more that 3' deep. She has come to the edge to sun but has not walked around the enclosure or buried herself at all. It is very cold here in Houston, Texas, in the 30's and 40's and she has been on the bottom of the pond for several days. She is under a pile of leaves and I have not disturbed her. It is possible that she has surfaced without me knowing it, but I think she has remained on the bottom. Can a turtle hibernate under water? She cannot burrow in the pond as it has a rubber liner. What should I do?
Answered by Anna in 2 hours 9 years ago
30+ years of experience

17,036 satisfied customers

Specialities include: Reptile Veterinary, Herp Veterinary, Exotic Animal Medicine, Amphibian Veterinary

Hello and welcome,

I apologize that no one has responded to your question sooner. Different experts come online at various times. I just came online and saw your question. My name is XXXXX XXXXX I'm a biologist with a special interest in reptiles.

Yes, turtles can hibernate under water. In the wild, that's how most of them do hibernate, buried under some mud or leaves at the bottom of a pond. It would be unusual for them to hibernate buried on land. Your new pond comes closer to natural conditions, so your turtle may have instinctively gone to the bottom. Turtles have special blood vessels in their throats and their anuses, which are able to draw oxygen from the water as they hibernate. Their metabolism slows so they don't need as much oxygen. This website has a fascinating account of how it all works:


Hibernation is always a risky time for turtles, whether wild or pets, but most of them do survive. Survival depends on having just enough fat stored for winter, without having food in the stomach, and on water conditions remaining stable. If you have more questions, let me know in a REPLY. I hope your turtle will have a successful hibernation.


My goal is to provide you with excellent service – if you feel you have gotten anything less, please reply back, I am happy to address follow-up questions. Please remember to rate my service only after you have all the information you need. Thank you!
Hi Marilyn,

I'm just following up on our conversation about Dude. How is everything going?


Hi Anna,


Sorry for the slow response. All of the information that you have sent is indeed informative. I am still left wondering about a thing or two, however. I know that the local turtles burrow under the water in the mud. I should think that the mud would be great insulation from the cold. I guess that I left that part out of my question. My concern is also about the cold the lack of insulation for her. In my pond, there is a plastic liner, the pond is not very deep (about 3'), there is a pump that circulates the water from the bottom through a filter and back into the top of the pond and there is very little organic material to provide insulation. Further, the pond is situated on a slope so that one side of the pond is reinforced by a retaining wall which I think might make the water even colder as it is not fully underground. I was thinking about turning off the pump and letting the organic material accumulate over the winter to provide protection for her (though not the look I wanted for my pond as it is really beautiful!), checking the water temp and even providing a drop-in water heater if needed. Heaters can be tricky and I would like to avoid that but will do as a last resort. I am sure that mud would be best, XXXXX XXXXX would mean detaching all of the filtration and storing it elsewhere for the winter, plus cleaning a really ugly mess in the spring. If I had known she would stay in the pond I would have made it a foot deeper! Any thoughts?

Hello again,

While hibernation is a dangerous time for both wild and pet turtles, death and illnesses are not due to lack of insulation. Warm-blooded animals are warmer when well-insulated by earth, snow, their own fur, etc. because they have body heat they can retain when insulated. That's why we humans stay warm under a blanket. Our own body heat is held in by the blanket. Being cold-blooded, turtles have no body heat, so insulation does nothing for them.

In a pond deeper than the frost line, the water in the lower part of the pond will stabilize at 39*F. That is the ideal temperature for hibernation. It slows the metabolism and is the perfect temperature for the turtle's body to absorb oxygen. Higher temperatures can result in suffocation. Lack of oxygen is the biggest risk, not coldness. I would turn off the pump for the winter because it causes the water to circulate. during the winter we don't want that water at 39*F at the bottom brought to the top and recirculated because that will result in an unstable water temperature.If the surface of the pond freezes over, a small surface de-icer to maintain a slight opening will allow more oxygen to enter the water. As opposed to a heater, de-icers are simple to use and not tricky at all. You plug them in, they float on the surface of the pond, and maintain an opening. They only operate when the air temperature is cold enough to freeze the water surface. They don't interfere with the temperature deeper in the pond. This link will show you the one I use in my pond:


I live in the upper midwest where temperatures drop as low as 20* below zero, and often there is only about 1/2 inch of unfrozen water around the de-icer, but that's enough.

I sense that you are having a lot of doubts about this. I strongly suggest that you read this article:


If that doesn't reassure you, then you may want to consider bringing the turtle inside for the winter and skipping hibernation completely. I have written a slider turtle care sheet which I'll provide at the end of this post. It will tell you all the requirements for an indoor habitat if you choose to do that. If you need anything else don't hesitate to ask.


(If you're satisfied with the information I provided, please take a moment to rate my answer. I don't receive pay or credit until you do. Thank you very much).


Well-cared for sliders can live 30 years or more.

The Tank

It's recommended that a baby slider have at least a 15 gallon tank. By the time the turtle is 3-4 years old, it will need a 60 gallon tank, so it's best to get the biggest you can in the beginning. You can also use a large RubberMaid tote. That's not as pretty as a tank, but costs a lot less. Set up the tank so there's a land area and a water area. Put the basking light at one end so the whole tank doesn’t get too hot. You want the water to be about twice as deep as the turtle is long. If the turtle is two inches long, you'll want four inches of water.

Temperatures and Basking Area

Turtles need certain types of lighting and need to be warm. Air and water that are not warm enough can lead to fungal and respiratory infections and unhealthy shells. Turtles must have a basking area where they can get out of the water, dry off, and bask in very warm light. The ambient air temperature in the tank should be around 75 *F (24*C) , with the basking area warmer still. Over the basking area there should be some sort of lamp that will take a 40-60 watt incandescent bulb (or you can buy a ceramic light fixture made just for reptiles). If you live in an area that has farm stores, you can buy a metal light fixture made to keep baby chicks warm for just a few dollars. Don't buy the accompanying bulb, however. You need an ordinary incandescent bulb in the basking light. Hardware stores sell similar fixtures as work lights. The basking area should be kept at 85-90*F (29 to 32*C). Use a digital probe thermometer to be sure. You can adjust the temperature by raising or lowering the light fixture.The lights that come with the covers on aquariums are not suitable for turtles. You'll also need a submersible aquarium heater that will keep the water 78-82*F (26 to 28*C).

UVB Light

It's extremely important that you buy an additional light that produces UVB rays. A Reptisun 10.0 is a good brand that does. If you choose another brand be absolutely certain it provides UVB rays. Don't take the word of pet store personnel, but read it for yourself. Full-spectrum, DayGlo, SunGlo, UV, or UVA are not the same thing. I'm putting a lot of emphasis on this because it's crucial to your turtle's health. Without this light, Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD) will develop because your turtle won't be able to produce vitamin D. Vitamin supplements are not a good replacement for the proper lighting. MBD causes a very slow and painful death.UVB bulbs must be replaced every six months as they lose their effectiveness after that, even though they may still look fine. Light that comes through a window isn't sufficient because the glass filters out most of the rays turtles need to stay healthy. To prevent MBD, turtles also need calcium. The easiest way to provide it is to place a cuttlebone in the tank. Cuttlebones are sold in bird departments of pet stores.


Turtles are very sensitive to water quality. Even if you change the water every day, it can still contain harmful chemicals. A good filtration system is essential. Water changes are also needed even with a filter. If the tank is too small, no filter can keep up with the amount of waste that turtles produce.


Feeding is an area where pet stores often give out bad information. Commercial food should make up only 1/4 of the diet. Animal products (cooked meat, earthworms, canned cat food) should make up another 1/4. The remaining half should be plant foods (dark lettuce like romaine, bits of strawberry or melon, etc.). Hatchlings should be fed every day. Older turtles should be fed 3 times per week. Overfeeding can lead to gout and kidney failure.

For Further Reading

This is among the most reputable sites on turtles.


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