Skip to Content

Can Turtles Breathe Upside Down? (Read This First!)

Just like other animals, turtles have their struggles as well. From surviving to spending life in the wild is part of their existence. Many also pet turtles.  When we bring them into our lives, we need to know how to care for them appropriately.

Turning upside down is one of the challenges turtles face. Can they survive in such a condition? To know more, we suggest you read the article.

Can turtles be upside down?

Yes, turtles sometimes go upside down. However, most of them can turn back to normal. Each species of turtle grow up with a unique shape. Therefore, the way they will turn over will vary. Nevertheless, a lot may fail.

It again depends on the location. A small turtle under the sun may only survive for 1 hour. It is because they become dehydrated. The bigger the size is long they will have the chance to live. Hence, dehydration due to direct sunlight will hurt the turtles if they are upside down.

In addition, a turtle with respiratory illness can go upside down frequently as they tend to swim tilting sidewise. Turtles upside down in shallow water cannot return to normal. They fail to stretch their heads out of the water to breathe air. 

As a result, the turtles drown and eventually lose its life. Nevertheless, turtles can flip back to normal in deep water when going upside down.

Can turtles lose life from being upside down?

Most turtles may survive being upside down as they can turn back over. However, if they fail for a long time, there is a possibility of losing life. Small-sized turtles are more vulnerable to this. 

If a turtle is exposed to heat from sunlight when upside down, it will become dehydrated. Turtles are cold-blooded reptiles and cannot regulate their body temperature, neither can sweat. Therefore, dehydration may lead them to life loss. 

Again, it is harder for a turtle to breathe upside down. Some may have hard times, while, some cannot breathe at all. 

Moreover, in shallow water turtles may not survive when flipped upside down. Since they use their neck and head with their arms and legs, it becomes difficult to pull their heads up in such a situation. They suffocate from drowning and eventually lose its life. 

In deep water, though, they can straighten them up and, hence, avoid accidents.

Can turtles breathe upside down?

Turtles can breathe upside down. However, it is restricted. For some, it becomes more difficult to breathe. Turtle’s other organs put pressure on the breathing system. If they fail to flip to normal, they may lose life from suffocation. Again, heat and shallow water lessen their chances of survival.

Going upside down is unnatural for a turtle. They not only have difficulty in breathing but may also lose life. Turning upside down, turtles may not have enough air left in the lungs.  

Yes, they can breathe, but that is minimal for their survival. Many turtles can, however, fight by flipping back to normal. Nevertheless, not all turtle’s body shape is the same. Hence, after some struggle, some can come back to normal while, some cannot. 

There are even some who experience more difficulty in breathing.   

In addition, the lung of a turtle is on the top of the shell. It allows them to stay afloat. During the upside-down position, the stomach crushes the lungs, their breathing organ. It implies why they struggle to breathe.

Moreover, direct sunlight in this position may also lead them to life loss. Turtles cannot control body temperature and become dehydrated, resulting in life loss. The small ones are more at risk compared to the bigger ones.  

Again, a turtle with vitamin A deficiency and respiratory illness swim tilted. It also increases their probability of life loss from going upside down. Moreover, in shallow water, turtles cannot flip back to normal. It is also a cause of turtle life loss. 

How do turtles breathe upside down?

Here’s in short how turtles breathe when flipped upside down.

Experiences difficulty:

Turtles tend to use their neck and head in conjunction with their arms and legs. Their lungs are on the upper part or below the shell. When upside down, their lungs get pressure from the other organs. It may lead them to suffocation or difficulty in breathing. 

Some struggle more compared to others. Some may not even breathe at all. They, however, can hold their breath for long.

Different location:

Turtle how long are able to breathe depends on the locations they got flipped. If they are under direct sunlight, they may get dehydrated fast, especially the smaller ones. It thus lessens their breathing period leading them to life loss.

Again in shallow water, they may fail to turn themselves back from upside position, opposed to deep water. In shallow water, turtles tend to drown from failing to stretch their heads properly for breathing. They will drown since their legs are of no use. 

In deep water, they find it easy and automatically flip back underwater.

Pressure on breathing organs:

Turtles have no gills. They need to breathe from the air. That is why they must bring their heads to the surface to breathe appropriately. When they are on their back, they cannot raise their head above water. Thus they struggle to get air for breathing.

Once again, when upside down, their breathing organ is put under pressure. The stomach and other organs seem to crush the lungs. It leads to difficulty in breathing.

Do turtles suffocate upside down?

When upside-down, turtles may have difficulty breathing and suffocate. The lung of the turtle is on the upper part of the body. When they are on the back, the lungs go down. It will get a push from the other organs. It will make them feel suffocated. 

Again if they are in shallow water, they cannot raise their head for air to breathe. They may drown, experience out of the air, and fall into life loss. 

How long they will survive also depends on the location and their size. For example, in a sunny area, the heat from the sun will worsen their breathing condition. The smaller turtles get hurt more than the big ones. 

Again, it won’t be easy for them to flip back in shallow water. They will struggle to breathe. However, in deep water settings, they survive by recovering from the upside-down position at the instant. 

How long can a turtle stay upside down?

For how long a turtle can stay upside down depends on various conditions. First of all, the location. It is crucial where they experience this situation. 

If it is direct sunlight, turtles may get exposed to heat. They are cold-blooded and cannot control their body heat like mammals. Hence, they give up and become dehydrated. It may cause them to lose their life within an hour.

Again, the size of the turtle matters. The bigger ones survive a lot better in such a situation. 

Moreover, a turtle may survive in an upside-down position in deep water. In shallow water, they cannot flip back to normal. Fail to breathe since cannot extend the head out of water. 

Turtles can survive without water for hours to a few days. However, an upside-down position would be harmful as they cannot live long when fail to turn back to normal. 

What happens if you put a turtle upside down?

When a turtle flips upside-down, these are the few possible things that could happen.  

Get trapped: 

When turtles accidentally go upside down, they may become trapped. They are unable to move. It means that they can no longer wander around for food. Also, they may not have access to water. It leads to quick dehydration. The direct sunlight may add to the discomfort. 

In such a condition, they may not survive for long.  

Vulnerable to predators:

When turtles are on their back, their movement becomes restricted. They can, however, hide inside their shell but cannot flee from the spot. Hence, grows their chance of being caught by a predator. When predators break their shells open they may not live long. 

Experience dehydration:

Turtles are cold-blooded. They cannot regulate their body temperature through sweating like mammals. They require water to cool down their body. So if they experience heat from direct sunlight, they get subject to dehydration. And their chances of survival dim gradually. 

Breathing problem:

Turtles on their back fail to breathe normally. Their lungs are on the top of the shell. Therefore, once they go upside down, their lungs may get crushed by the other organs. It leads to suffocation. 

Final Thoughts

When upside down, turtles can breathe. However, some experience suffocation and some cannot breathe at all. It depends on the location. Heat and shallow water, for instance, lessen their survival chance. When upside down, the lungs cannot function properly because of the push from other organs.