How Long Do Turtles Live?

baby turtle swimming
Pixabay

It’s no secret that turtles are known to live longer lives than many other animals. Even some species of tortoise can live 100 years or more! Several common species of pet turtles can theoretically live into their 40s, though there are many factors that will influence how long your pet turtle lives. Your turtle's lifespan depends on its species, its diet and other aspects of its lifestyle that you can control.

If you're hoping to estimate your turtle's lifespan, first identify the species of turtle your little friend belongs to. Red-eared sliders who survive their first year or two of life are relatively likely to survive into their 30s. Tortoises can easily live past their 50s and even into their 80s, which means it’s quite possible that your turtle or tortoise will outlive you. Time to draw up that will! (No, seriously.)

The bottom line is that most turtles will easily live at least a few decades if they survive past the first few years of life.

Lifespans of Popular Pet Turtles in Captivity
Red-Eared Slider 25-35 years
Map Turtle 15-25 years
Wood Turtle 40-55 years
Eastern Box Turtle 50+ years
Painted Turtle 25-30 years
Russian Tortoise 40+ years
Greek Tortoise 100 years or more
Leopard Tortoise 100 years or more

Larger turtles and tortoises can live extremely long lives. The smaller species that are more common as pets are shorter-lived but still may survive several decades. There are many records of tortoises that have lived nearly 200 years (or even more). It’s hard to verify these claims because the tortoises obviously outlived their owners! Adwaita, an Aldabea giant tortoise, is probably the longest-living tortoise on record. Adwaita lived in a zoo in India and died at the age of 255, if claims are to be believed. These dates haven’t been verified.

Other famously long-lived tortoises include Timothy, who died at the age of 160; Harriet, a Galapagos giant tortoise who died at the age of 175; Jonathan, a Seychelles giant tortoise who died age 187; and Tu’i Malila, a radiated tortoise who died at age 188. Almost all of these dates are estimates that can’t really be confirmed.

The Keys to Your Turtle's Health

Of course, feeding your turtle a healthy diet is an important component of helping him or her live a long and healthy life. Turtle diets can vary widely depending on the species. Some species, like the softshell turtle, eat mostly fish and meat. Other species, like the red-eared slider, eat a mix of insects, fruits and veggies.

Be sure to properly research the ideal diet of your new pet turtle. Many turtles do well with a mix of pellets and fresh foods, but the exact proportions and types of pellets and fresh foods will vary widely. A proper diet can help avoid Vitamin A deficiency, one of the most common health problems for pet turtles.

A diet isn’t the only component of a healthy turtle. Be sure that your turtle is well-cared-for with regular vet visits. A clean enclosure with enough space will also go a long way to keeping your turtle disease-free. Dirty living conditions and the stress that comes with them can dramatically shorten your turtle's life. The proper temperature is also important for keeping your turtle happy and healthy.

Common Threats to a Turtle's Lifespan

Be aware of the typical diseases that threaten your chosen species of pet. This will help you know how to prevent them or catch the symptoms early. Abscesses, shell infections, respiratory infections, and parasites are all relatively common in pet turtles. Abscesses and respiratory infections are often secondary to a Vitamin A deficiency, whereas shell infections usually come from a poorly-healing injury. You probably won’t notice parasites unless you have your vet do regular fecal screenings for your pet.

Turtles that live in outdoor ponds or tortoises that live in the back yard are more vulnerable to predation and the elements than their indoor-dwelling counterparts. The daily risks in life for an outdoor turtle are much higher than the risks for an indoor turtle. An outdoor pet turtle may get eaten or harassed by other pets and wildlife. It might escape and be run over, or it could be exposed to diseases from wild species of reptiles.

While supervised outdoor time can be a great way to enrich your tortoise’s life, a fully outdoor lifestyle is likely to shorten your pet’s life dramatically.