Do Tortoises Need Water

Do Tortoises Need Water?

When we are new to owning a tortoise we have many questions about correctly caring for their needs. One of the biggest learning curves when you first get your tortoise is the diet. What they can and can not eat is high on the list but what about drinking do tortoises need water?

Yes, tortoises need water and it should be provided to them every day. If a tortoise does not drink they can become dehydrated which can lead to substantial health issues. Even dessert tortoises that have little access to water will drink water whenever they get the chance. 

Many when they first get a tortoise as they focus on the food side of a tortoise diet, water and drinking are often overlooked. However, water consumption plays a big part in keeping your tortoise healthy. We take a look at some common questions in keeping your tortoise hydrated and healthy. 

Do Tortoises Drink Water?

Yes, tortoises drink water while a tortoise can last some time without consuming water for best health they should have a constant supply. Some species like desert tortoises are better adapted to not taking on water for longer periods. However, the best practice is to supply your tortoise with water every day.

While it is best practice to offer your tortoise fresh drinking water. A tortoise takes on water not only through the physical act of drinking they take on water through food.

Some will find that their tortoise doesn’t use the drinking bowl placing a small piece of fruit in the middle will encourage your tortoise to their new bowl. Once they have used the bowl you should find that your tortoise uses it regularly without the encouragement needed. 

Don’t try to force your tortoise to drink as they are great at controlling their own water intake.

How Does a Tortoise Drink Water?

It can be quite strange for people who have never seen a tortoise drink and even worrying at first. 

Tortoises drink by dipping their head into the water and takes on water through the mouth and nostrils. Unlike or nose that leads to the back of our throat the tortoise leads to the roof of the mouth allowing them to drink through the nose. 

Your tortoise may not appear to gulp which can be disconcerting at first sight but if they are stretching out their neck you can be assured they are drinking. 

There is a lot of myths around tortoises drinking and saying they can drink with their bum. Your tortoise can not drink through its bum but can soak up water through the cloaca. Its believed that these are the only animal to achieve this feat. 

How To Tell My Tortoise Is Drinking Enough Water?

As tortoise owners, we often worry about or tortoise’s diet and the amount of water they are taking on. We need to monitor their diet to keep them in good health and knowing they are taking on the right amount of water can be tricky. 

Tortoises that are well hydrated will be displaying signs such as bright clear eyes and be active. A tortoise that is struggling to take on the water will have sunken eyes and be lethargic.

Keeping an eye on your tortoise deposits from the Cloaca which is called Urates. When you see a white toothpaste substance this is the Urates. 

The toothpaste consistency is completely normal and means your tortoise is hydrated. However, if you see powdery Urates your tortoise is not getting the right amount of hydration. 

Another way to see if your tortoise is sufficiently hydrated is by gently squeezing the leg of the tortoise. Once let go if the skin bounces back quickly this is a sure sign your tortoise is well hydrated. 

To lean more on tortoise poop see our article: Tortoise Poop What It Tells Us About Our Tortoises Health

Does a Tortoise Need Water to Drink?

Yes, tortoises need water to stay hydrated and they can take it on from both food and psychically drinking. A dehydrated tortoise will have many health issues including and not exclusively bladder stones, digestive issues, skeletal and shell issues.

How Long Can Tortoises Go Without Water?

Tortoises are excellent survivalists and the answer to how long a tortoise can go without water is an ambiguous one. As tortoises take on water not just thought the act of drinking but thought their food. 

A tortoise can go without water for a maximum of one week in a low humidity environment. Tortoises start to become dehydrated after two days and will need to take on water. However, tortoises take on water through food so would survive but become slowly ill. 

How Often Do You Give a Tortoise Water?

You should offer tortoises fresh drinking water every day. However, you should never leave your tortoise without water for more than one week. Your tortoise will start to become dehydrated after two days. 

I never like these questions if I am truthful as we should never try to leave our tortoise without the things they need. If we were to try leaving our tortoise without water it would be an act of cruelty.

We love our tortoises and should never put them through this and supply them with fresh water every day along with their food needs.  

How Do I Get My Tortoise to Drink Water?

If you feel your tortoise is not drinking enough water and they are showing signs of dehydration. You are going to want to get them to take on water to get their health back on track.

In most cases when a tortoise is dehydrated it is down to the care that we are giving them. So we need to change that to allow them to take on water.

Water Dish – adding a water dish to your tortoise enclosure is a must. Some tortoises can be reluctant to take a drink from dishes. Adding a little fruit in the bowl will persuade them to enter and see a dish is a safe place.

Bath Time – Tortoises should be given a regular bath more so when they are young and growing. Once a month you should put your tortoise in a shallow batch this will allow them to take on plenty of water. 

Food – Some foods contain much more water than others. Iceberg lettuce has a bad reputation in the tortoise communities due to the fact it lacks nutrients. Yes, this is true but it contains 96% of water. Making it great to get more water into your tortoise but be careful not to overfeed as it lacks nutrients. 

For more tips see our article: What to do if Your Tortoise Isn’t Eating or Drinking Properly

Can Tortoises Drink Tap Water?

Yes, if your tap water is ok for you to drink then it is more than likely safe for your tortoise to drink. 

Some areas will add fluoride to the water to keep it clean which can add a funny taste your tortoise does not like. Leaving this water in a jug overnight will allow the fluoride will disperse overnight getting rid of any strange tastes.


Tortoises are excellent at looking after themselves in the wild and they are in captivity if we provide them with the correct tools. 

Our tortoises need water and food correctly supplying that and it will allow your tortoise to live a long and healthy life. 

The tips on helping your tortoise take on more water should all be part of the everyday care for your tortoise. However, with tortoises, we are ever learning, and getting little things wrong should never make you feel bad.