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Do pond turtles hibernate in the winter like fish?
Ask Our Pond Experts
Ask Our Pond Experts

Do pond turtles hibernate in the winter like fish?

Asked By: Virginia of Brillion, WI

A: Are you wondering where your pond turtles go in the winter? Turtles are cold-blooded critters that need to hibernate when temperatures drop. Depending on the species, you may find them chilling on the bottom of the pond with your fish or buried in the earth near the surface. Learn more about turtle hibernation, known as brumation, in this quick guide.

Turtle Hibernation Homes

When temperatures get chilly and food becomes scarce, turtles slow down their metabolisms and look for a place to hole up for the winter. Different turtle species prefer different types of winter homes.

Water-loving terrapin turtles swim to the bottom of the pond, where water temperatures remain constant throughout winter. Land-based turtles, like box turtles, burrow in an insulating pocket of mud at or near the surface.

Metabolism Changes

Like fish and other ectothermic creatures, turtles stop eating as their metabolism slows to a cold-weather crawl. During brumation, they require very little energy since their heart rates slow to just a few beats per minute. They mostly sleep the winter away, occasionally rousing for drinks of water before fully waking in the spring when temperatures increase.

Turtle Pond Winter Aeration

Though turtles don't need to breathe while hibernating, they appreciate a pond with clean, oxygen-enriched water. Provide them with a comfortable winter home by completing your fall-maintenance chores, like cleaning up dead or dying debris. Ensure you keep your turtle pond aeration system running in the winter so oxygenated water can pass over their blood vessels through cloacal breathing.

Give Hatchlings Shelter

While mature turtles have enough stored mass for a healthy hibernation, hatchlings are less prepared for this prolonged fasting. Bring young, domesticated turtles indoors for their first winter so they can grow big and strong enough for brumation next year.

Turtle Hibernation Questions

Now you know what pond turtles do in the winter! If you have more questions about caring for your shelled sidekicks, contact a pond expert at 866-766-3435 for helpful advice. Plus, explore more winter care guides below:

Snapping Turtles 101
Do Koi Sleep?
Overwintering Koi in Your Pond