Aquarium Turtles

The waiting room of my eye doctor features an aquarium with two rather large turtles. I have no idea what kind. What struck me was that there was no apparent way for these guys to get out of the water if they wished to. Are there any turtles who spend 100% of their time in the water?

The mata mata turtle is an ambush predator that lies in wait in the rotting leaves at the bottom of a pond- after hatching, they almost never come out of the water except to lay eggs.

Same with snapping turtles and sea turtles.

On the hand, I seriously doubt that the turtles in the tank are sea turtles, mata matas or snappers. And it’s probably stressful for those turtles to have no place to bask- they probably won’t live a long or healthy life. The basking (in captivity two types of UV lights are required for this) gives them the vitamin D they need. The turtles are probably calcium deficient too- another nutrient that turtles rarely get enough of in captivity.

Yeah, most turtles need at least the option for basking out of water, even if they won’t use it very often. The problem for a decorative tank is that most basking option block the light and don’t look all that attractive. I’d like to assume the dentist gives them some options when the office is closed, but that’s probably just wishful thinking.

You could shop them to the animal rights crowd. But maybe turtles aren’t cuddly enough for them.

I forgot to add that turtles risk a lot of problems if they never get a chance to let their skin dry out completely every now and then- skin infections from bacteria and shell rot are issues if a turtle never has access to land.

I’m going to guess they were red-eared sliders since those are so common as pets. Did they have red stripes behind their eyes? If they were, yeah they need a place to bask out of the water.

My neighbor keeps a couple of red eared sliders in a large tank with no place to clime out. He does change the water frequently and chlorinates it for a disinfectant. They have survived like this for years but I doubt it is good for them. Seems like it would be hard to get any sleep if you had to keep comming up for air.


Snappers are not exclusive to water. They spend considerable time out on the bank, lolling about. When the mood strikes, they will traverse great distances (for a turtle) across dry land seeking new territory. I’ve seen them crawling down roads and in pasture fields on occasion: One time, approximately 1/2 mile from the nearest water source.