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How Long Can Sea Turtles Stay Underwater?



How Long Can Sea Turtles Stay Underwater?

Sea turtles are stunning aquatic animals that spend of most their lives swimming underwater. It is quite intriguing how these reptiles have adapted themselves to their habitat. 

In case you didn’t know, sea turtles have to hold in their breath for the duration that they stay submerged in the water. Unlike fish, they do not have a mechanism that allows them to survive without breathing air. Naturally, you could wonder how long these magnificent sea turtles can stay underwater?

Sea turtles have the ability to hold their breath for about 5 to 10 hours. However, the duration depends on the species and the age of the turtle. If they are active, the animals need to get a breath of fresh air after every few minutes. When resting in water, they can hold their breath and slow down their bodily processes for a few hours. It is pertinent to note that an unhealthy, aged, or even stressed sea turtle can’t survive more than a few minutes without breathing.

Sea turtles have adapted spectacularly to make it easier for them to stay underwater. If you’re wondering how they achieve this feat, read ahead.

Can Sea Turtles Breathe Underwater?

Sea turtles like other turtles do not have the ability to breathe underwater. In other words, sea turtles have lungs that they utilize to exchange gases like us. They utilize the nares above their mouth to inhale air. After every few minutes, these animals tend to go up to the surface of the water so that they can breathe.

Even if you have a sea turtle in an aquarium, it still needs to raise its head from the tank’s water surface so that it can find some air to breathe. When preparing your tank for the turtle, don’t forget to leave sufficient space for the turtle to breathe at the top.

Sea turtles can stay underwater for a long time because they can hold their breath. Through the process of evolution, these marine animals have learned how to do this better than humans. Therefore, you will find your turtle swimming around the aquarium rather nonchalantly even though it is holding its breath.

How Do Sea Turtles Hold Their Breath Underwater?

Sea turtles can slow down their heart rate and reduce their movements so that lesser energy is consumed while they are underwater. Essentially, their metabolic rate slows down allowing them to be more efficient with their oxygen reserve. 

If the turtle is resting, its heart may not even beat for a few minutes. This control that the sea turtles have on their body allows them to hold their breath for significantly longer than other species.

Why Can Sea Turtles Stay Underwater Longer Than Other Turtles?

Sea turtles can stay underwater for way longer than other turtle species because sea turtles have the advantage of evolution on their side. They are biologically built in a way that allows them to slow down their metabolic rate.

This allows them to conserve energy to use for longer periods. Even though sea turtles can easily stay underwater for 45 minutes when they are active, they tend to go up to the surface every 5 minutes to catch up some breath.

Since sea turtles have the fortune of evolution that allows them to sustain themselves underwater for longer times, they can even sleep and hibernate there. While this may be walking into death for other species, sea turtles can do it because of their unique biological properties. 

So How Long Can Sea Turtles Stay Underwater?

Sea turtles can stay underwater anywhere between 5 to 10 hours if they are resting depending on their species, age, and health. However, if they are active, they can usually stay underwater for about 45 minutes.

It is important to note that even though a turtle can stay underwater for longer, it usually comes to the surface of the water every 5 minutes to catch some air.


Sea turtles are terrific animals that spend a considerable portion of their lives underwater. You’d be surprised to know that a sea turtle doesn’t have the ability to breathe underwater. Therefore, it holds its breath to stay underneath the terrain.

When resting a turtle can stay underwater for 5 to 10 hours depending on its overall health, species, and age. However, when active it can stay inside the water for up to 45 minutes.

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