How Long Can a Tortoise Go Without Water

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Tortoises are known to be able to withstand some pretty harsh, arid environments that few other animals can bare.

While it’s certainly not optimal for a tortoise to go without water for a period of time, sometimes they have no choice when in the wild.

Depending on the environment they live in results in how long they’re able to go without water.

A tortoise can go without fresh drinking water for a maximum of one week in low-humidity environments. Longer than two days is already difficult for a tortoise as it should take in fresh drinking water every day.

Some tortoise owners can, unfortunately, get the idea that tortoises can live a long time without food or water because they’re able to live in difficult environments.

However, this is far from the case as they’re more likely to live long and healthy lives without any unfortunate health problems when given an adequate amount of water on a daily basis.

How Long Can a Tortoise Go Without Water and the Effects

Like most other animals, tortoises will live a sub-optimal life if they don’t consume fresh drinking water on a daily basis.

Regardless of how much or little of a heat lamp they’re exposed to or any other environmental factor, any more than a couple of days without water can cause serious health damage to your tortoise.

There are several health problems that can occur with your pet tortoise if they go without drinking water including:

  • Urinary/renal system backup
  • Articular gout
  • Kidney failure

The major reason these common health problems in tortoises occur is dehydration.

When your tortoise goes without fresh drinking water for too long, its body wants to retain as much water as it can while also needing to remove built-up toxins inside its body.

Sadly, many pet tortoise owners believe that their tortoise will be able to extract enough water from the food they feed them.

This is simply not the case and can lead your tortoise to be exposed to various health risks which we’ll get into now.

One of the worst outcomes of dehydration with tortoises is the accumulation of solidified uric acid inside the urinary system.

Unlike mammals and amphibians, reptiles are known to remove some of their bodily waste through uric acid as opposed to urea (or urine).

Without an adequate amount of water, this uric acid buildup can result in an unfortunate, painful disease for your tortoise.

You might have already heard of gout in humans, but tortoises that experience episodes of dehydration are also quite susceptible to this disease.

Similar to the cause of urinary system backup, articular gout is caused by a buildup of uric acid.

However, in this case, the uric acid is built up in specific membranes located near your tortoise’s toes and other parts of their body, which can cause a lot of discomfort and pain.

In the extreme case of dehydration experienced by your tortoise, kidney failure is among one of the worst outcomes.

Sadly, the serious health issue of kidney failure can lead to death in your tortoise if not caught early enough. This can creep up on any tortoise that doesn’t get enough drinking water on a daily basis.

Depending on the humidity of the environment your tortoise is living in, they may be able to go without water for long periods of time.

While I’m certainly not advising you to test this theory out, it should be known that less humid climates allow for living creatures, including humans and tortoises, to live without water for longer periods of time.

This also means that you need to stay extra hydrated in exceptionally humid climates.

When your tortoise drinks water, you may see them excrete uric acid while drinking up the water you gave them.

While some pet tortoise owners might find this cause for concern, it’s actually completely normal as they’re making room in their bodies for the freshwater.

The thing is, tortoises have learned over generations not to let out their liquids if nothing is coming in, which is why buildups can occur when they go without water for long periods of time.

It’s important to stress that your tortoise can live without water for a period of time, but it’s at the expense of their health.

If your tortoise goes without fresh drinking water for too long and too often, it can easily become sick and be diagnosed with one of these harmful health problems.

Remember, food alone, even food packed with water, is not adequate enough to sustain their water requirements.

Tortoises should be given fresh drinking water on a daily basis.

Can Tortoises Drink Tap Water?

Ensuring your pet tortoise has the right amount of drinking water at all times is important for keeping them out of harm’s way health-wise.

Some have debated over different kinds of water to provide for their tortoises, including hard, soft, filtered, mineral, and spring water, which really depends on your preference.

For most people around the world, giving your tortoise water straight from the tap is more than fine.

I’ve been giving my tortoises tap water every single day of their lives and they are in tip-top shape when it comes to their health.

Where I live, the water is perfectly fine, so I don’t worry about it at all.

tortoise drinking water
a tortoise drinking tap water

There are some countries where people won’t drink tap water, but they still give it to their tortoises.

I bet it’s still fine as long as the water isn’t dirty or dangerous. However, if the water makes you or anyone you know sick, then it’s probably not a good source of water for your tortoise.

If you don’t drink your tap water, maybe you should ask yourself why and then decide if your tortoise should also avoid it.

How Tortoises Drink Water

If you get a good look at your tortoise’s mouth, you may be surprised how they could even drink out of it. Well, they certainly can but it’s not the same way as other animals.

Since they have a more rigid bone structure in their face compared to other animals, it poses a bit more difficulty.

Tortoises drink water by submerging their face into the water and slowly drinking it up. If you see your tortoise doing this, don’t worry. It’s completely normal.

Baby Sulcata Tortoise drinking water

You may also note that they don’t gulp down the water or create excess bubbles. That’s because they drink it in one fluid motion as well as through their noses.

There’s also a rumor that’s gone around that tortoises are able to consume water through the rear vent in their shell.

Well, after much deliberation and research, it turns out the only way for them to properly consume water is through their mouth and nose.

While a tortoise can theoretically absorb water through their pores, like people and other animals, it’s not a sufficient amount.

By making sure your tortoise has enough water in its bowl, you’ll be sure they live a long and happy life without any unnecessary illness.

Be sure to have their bowls filled with sufficient amounts of water so they can get their heads in there enough to drink properly.

Best Watering Holes for Tortoises

We all want to make sure our tortoises are given adequate amounts of water when they need it.

Whether they get to submerge themselves into the water or simply stick their heads into it, allowing them to have the right amount on a daily basis requires high-quality watering holes for tortoises.

Zoo Med Reptile Ramp Bowl
  • Completely washable with no micro pitting
  • Ramp bowl allows easy "in and out" access 
  • Made in the USA!

One of the best ways to make sure your tortoise has the right amount of water is to get them a ramp bowl, which is why I wholeheartedly suggest you take a look at the Zoo Med Reptile Ramp Bowl.

Not only does this bowl hold a good amount of water, but it also allows your tortoise to completely submerge themselves in the water.

This ramp bowl by Zoo Med is made of a high-quality resin bowl that’s tough to break and very easy to clean.

Specifically designed for small reptiles, your tortoise will be safe submerging themselves into their drinking water without risk of drowning.

It also has an easy access ramp that allows for easy access for your tortoise to go in and out whenever they please.

Fluker’s Repta-Waterer
  • Thick-wall, durable construction made to last
  • Anti-tip base prevents spills
  • Easy to clean and fill

It’s always nice when a product you buy is able to do your job for you for a period of time in case you forget to do it yourself.

Well, the Fluker’s Repta-Waterer will make sure your tortoise has enough drinking water for an extended period of time in case you’re not able to refill their bowl every single day.

This self-waterer by Fluker’s is a great product for pet tortoise owners who are busy and need a bit of assistance.

Not only does this waterer help you out when you need it, but it’s also highly durable and designed specifically with a wide anti-tip base.

In reality, this is ideal for tortoises and all kinds of reptiles based on its design, convenience, and ease of use.

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

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