Turtle Night Vision: Can Turtles See In The Dark?

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Whether sneaking up on their unsuspecting prey or hunting for their food on sea and land, night vision will be essential for animals.

Turtles are no exception when it comes to this.

It will be fair to mention that hunting at night has proven to be one of the best ways for turtles to find food without a hassle.

But the biggest question is, do these turtles see in the dark?

Can Turtles See in the Dark?

There is no denying that turtles boast of one of the best visions at night.

That these animals will comfortably locate their food and even move around at night is no secret.

Thanks to the increased number of rod cells in their retinas, these animals have a vision akin to daylight. Besides, these light receptors come in handy in cushioning their eyes against light sensitivity.

While at it, turtles tend to adjust their eyes depending on the quantity of light at their disposal.

For instance, you are likely to start having better vision whenever you stay in the dark for a relatively long time.

The same can always work for these turtles and their eyesight at night. With time spent in the dark, these turtles will be able to see much more clearly.

You will get smitten by how powerful the turtles’ eyesight is, as they will effortlessly discern different shapes and patterns in a moment.

The ability to adapt their vision to land and water is impeccable.

However, it will be best to keep in mind that these animals barely have reliable peripheral vision.

Peripheral Vision

That means they are more susceptible to attack from the sides.

One study that proved the clarity of their vision is when a group of researchers blindfolded several turtles.

Interestingly, these turtles comfortably found their way back to the sea in the long run.

This little experiment shows that beyond clarity, vision adjustment is part of these animals

Can Turtles See Color

It is one thing to see in the dark and another to see color.

If you thought that turtles could not distinguish or see color, you thought wrong.

Turtles pride themselves on impressive color distinction abilities, allowing them to differentiate what foods they eat and which predators to avoid.

Typically, this ability comes in handy as a defense mechanism too.

While at it, various studies indicate that despite their color perception, turtles can only clearly distinguish three colors.

Orange, yellow, and red are the only colors that turtles see correctly.

how turtles see in the sea

However, they are enough to make more explicit and logical judgments in the long run.

Once they see these colors, the turtles will investigate whether it is a prey they should avoid.

Do Turtles Have Good Night Vision

It will be fair to say that turtles have excellent night vision.

As mentioned, these animals come with retinas that have increased numbers of light receptors.

Thanks to these rods, the turtle will readily see its environment regardless of the prevailing light conditions.

sea turtle eye showing its lens

This retina will ensure that repurposes the cells in different light conditions, boosting visual information in the long run.

Usually, these turtles tend to adjust to different light conditions with time.

As long as you leave a turtle in the dark for a relatively long time, the turtle’s vision will keep improving.

This way, it will comfortably discern shapes and appearances.

How Does Turtle Night Vision Work?

Typically, a turtle’s night vision is reliant on adaptation.

Turtles tend to pull their eyes in different directions, in and out of the shell.

Pulling the eyes into the shell will often result in vision obstruction, but this will barely happen at night.

During limited light, turtles will barely have their eyes in the shell.

Thanks to the oblique muscles in the eye socket, the eyes will adjust to position when moving the head.

Various light receptors will come to life, ensuring that there is enhanced vision in the long run.

These turtles usually see a little more red than other animals, including humans.

That means that their vision tends towards red more than grey when looking at the sky.

Besides, it takes a relatively short time for the turtle to adjust to the darkness.

It will take no more than a few minutes for them to start seeing a full spectrum of light.

How Well Can Turtles See in The Dark

Undoubtedly, while turtles can see in the dark, their vision might not be as sharp as it could be during the day.

We could attribute this to the fact that they barely need to use their night vision.

Remember, turtles tend to be more active during the day, unless otherwise.

It is for this reason that we could label them diurnal.

Do Their Eyes Glow?

Have you ever asked yourself why turtle eyes glow at night? Usually, animals come with a layer on their eyes called a tapetum lucidum.

tapetum lucidum of a cat's eye

It usually acts as a lens that magnifies the light, assuring them of impeccable vision.

Whenever you shine any light on this layer, it will often reflect, producing a glow.

Typically, it is a feature that you will see among cats and dogs, too, as they come with that layer also.

Regrettably, turtles do not come with a tapetum lucidum in their eyes. That means that they will barely have glowing eyes at night.

cats with glowing eyes

Should I Give My Turtle Night Light?

As long as your turtle is indoors, it will be best for you to create nights and days.

That implies the need to invest in reliable night light, as this will provide them with enough lighting whenever necessary.

Usually, an aquarium light timer will come in handy for you at this point, as it will ensure that turning on and off the night light is seamless.

turtle aquarium

On the other hand, if the turtle is in an open pond, there will be no need for you to invest in a night light.

This habitat allows the turtle to enjoy between 10 and 12 hours of UV light from the sun, which is enough. Once darkness sets in, let the turtle rest.


From their low maintenance costs to how quiet they are, you will instantly fall in love with turtles.

But beyond that, it will be best to understand the patterns in their vision.

Thankfully, you now have insightful information on whether they can see or not.

Please do not shy away from having them in your home.

About the Author
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Chafik Abderrahman is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of SmallPetsHQ.com.

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