Turtles snore, just like dogs, humans, and other pets. The fact that they breathe through their cheeks, where there are many soft tissues, produces a snoring sound while sleeping. Although you might confuse the sound with illness, vets recommend checking for other signs like crying, mucus discharge, or difficulty breathing. Otherwise, it is very typical for turtles to snore.
Snoring in turtles becomes more evident when they come closer to the aquarium walls. Owners might not hear the snoring if their pet is deeper into the tank. However, the soft tissues in the airway vibrate as the air goes in and out of the cheeks. Snoring in younger turtles is not as loud as in adult turtles, so don’t expect to hear snoring sounds from them.
Why do turtles snore?
Many pets snore, as it is linked to airflow in and out of their respiratory systems. The vibrations produce the snoring sound in the airways. For adult turtles, it is much easier to hear the snoring as they sleep. Although some baby turtles snore, too, it is inaudible. So, unless you identify other symptoms apart from snoring, there is no cause for alarm.
Snoring in humans is often associated with obesity. However, the same does not go for turtles. No medical evidence associates snoring in turtles with obesity. Experts find it normal among adult turtles. Moreover, obese turtles have issues retracting their legs and head into the shell.
You can only confirm illness if you notice the following symptoms:
- Swollen eyelids
- Presence of mucus
- Turtles floating on their sides
- A lack of appetite
So, if you realize any of the following with your pet, rush to the vet’s office because it could be a sign of respiratory illness or other serious ailments. Pneumonia is one of the most common respiratory diseases in turtles. If not quickly treated, your turtle could die within hours.
How to tell your turtle is snoring
Snoring in turtles sounds like humming. A better way to describe it is its similarity to a human’s snoring. Some snore loudly enough to wake their owners up, while others are more subtle and are barely audible. Since turtles are diurnal, they fall asleep at night and are active during the day. Thus snoring is likelier to happen at night. Others like the snapping, green, and stinkpot turtles are cathemeral, and therefore have unusual patterns.
Turtles sleep for about four to seven hours. Therefore, you are more likely to hear snoring at this time. They don’t snore during the day as most turtle species usually rest, although they appear to be sleeping. Any other sounds that don’t match a human’s snoring, like crying, must be checked by a vet.
You will know if your turtle is snoring if it is sleeping underwater, or in its favorite spot in the aquarium. Moving closer to the tank will make it easier to hear. A sleeping turtle is calm and only swims to the surface occasionally at night for some air. Any signs of distress, like difficulty breathing, point out that your turtle isn’t snoring, meaning they are sick and might need help.
Also, it’s essential to realize that some turtles are louder snorers than others. Therefore, if you can’t hear yours, it is among the quieter ones. Scientific evidence does not show that turtles dream since they don’t experience Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep. So, you can be sure what you’re hearing is snoring at night and not dreaming.
Other noises turtles make
Turtles make a variety of noises to express different emotions or situations. For instance, turtles grunt while mating and bellow or cry out when experiencing pain. Grunting while mating is in low frequencies, so humans do not hear it. Whistling is also a common occurrence but is a sign of respiratory infection among turtles.
A turtle’s whistling means there is mucus stuck in the respiratory system. This mucus makes it impossible to breathe properly, thus the whistling sound. Red-eared slider turtles make a whistling sound that resembles squeaking. So, vets recommend that you take in your turtle if you notice these other symptoms:
- Nasal discharge
- Bubbles coming from the eyes, nose, or mouth
Delayed treatment for respiratory infections in turtles leads to pneumonia, which can quickly make a turn for the worst and lead to death. Fungal and viral infections cause pneumonia. Since turtles live in anaerobic environments, they can hide the signs until it becomes severe. Acute pneumonia is more severe than chronic pneumonia. The symptoms develop quicker, and the effects are more drastic. Keenly observing your turtle for subtle signs of illness is crucial.
Hissing is another sound made by turtles to indicate fear or aggression. Turtles are not a fan of being touched by humans, especially if they came from the wild. Thus, they produce the hissing sound if they sense you’re getting too close to them. The sound result from turtles retracting their bodies into their shells.
With time, some turtles become less nervous and stop hissing at their humans. Sea turtle species like Arrua turtles roar while provoked. Roaring is a defense mechanism to prevent predators from attacking them.
Can turtles snore while underwater?
Turtles can snore underwater. Besides, they prefer sleeping while submerged in warm and comfortable regions of the tank. Turtles are more likely to have a favorite spot where they spend most of their time. Therefore, if your turtle is asleep underwater, it is more than likely going to snore.
However, snoring while deep underwater makes it harder to hear. Turtles that sleep near the tank walls are more audible unless your turtle is a loud snorer. If that is the case, you’ll hear the snoring from a distance.
Does snoring mean your turtle is dreaming?
Snoring does not mean your turtle is dreaming. Scientific evidence does not indicate that turtles can dream. When turtles sleep, they do not experience REM sleep (where dreaming occurs). Although they are asleep between four to seven hours, turtles only experience low brain and body activity while sleeping. This shutdown helps conserve oxygen.
Snoring in adult turtles only means your turtle is sleeping and breathing correctly. After all, turtles must wake up at different intervals to breathe in air, depending on the species. So, a turtle’s sleep is more of prolonged rest than deep sleep.
- Sisi Gao, Patrick McGurrin, Arizona State University School of Sciences, Ask a Biologist: Sleep in Animals
- J. M. Siegel, University of California Los Angeles, Department of Psychiatry and Brain Research Institute: The Evolution of REM Sleep
- Ellen Munshower, College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University: Basking Habits of Painted Turtles (Chrysemys picta)