Turtle Opening Mouth Underwater

Turtle Opening Mouth Underwater: Is It Normal? Should I Be Worried?

Have you caught your pet turtle randomly opening his mouth underwater? Has this triggered a lot of questions in your mind as to whether something could be wrong with your pet? If yes, this guide is for you.

Turtle opening his mouth underwater is perfectly normal behavior and usually means he is taking in more oxygen from water, drinking water, or even begging for food. However, your turtle opening its mouth underwater could also be a sign of a respiratory tract infection which requires your immediate action.

This article provides you with more information on why your turtle opens their mouth underwater, the various reasons the animal may do it, what you should do, and so much more.

Why is my turtle yawning underwater?


If you’re a new turtle owner and you catch your turtle opening its mouth underwater severally, that’s enough reason to send you into panic mode.

Some turtle owners have observed their pets do this for as long as one minute which makes it even scarier.

Why is my turtle yawning underwater

But you have nothing to worry about! Your turtle is simply extracting oxygen from water, and this will enable them to stay submerged for extended periods of time. However, there are possible explanations for this turtle behavior.

Here’s a full list of reasons why your turtle yawns underwater:

Your turtle is taking in oxygen

The most common reason a turtle opens its mouth underwater is to take in oxygen. Most turtle species, including musk turtles, have a membrane situated in their mouths. It enables them to easily extra oxygen from the water.

Your turtle is taking in oxygen

This oxygen then finds its way into the lungs of the turtle and eventually into its bloodstream. This explains why turtles can stay submerged in the water for long periods of time.

Hot weather

Is your turtle yawning more in hot weather? If yes, it may simply be feeling hot and trying to regulate its body temperature by yawning.

This is based on the fact that taking in extra oxygen helps with cooling down the bloodstream, enabling your turtle to release heat in the hot environment.

Your turtle is hungry

If you notice your turtle opening its mouth underwater whenever you enter the room, then it could be a sign they’re simply begging for food.

As the turtle owner who has been consistently feeding and taking care of your turtle, the animal associates you with food and it’ll open its mouth to beg you for food.

Your turtle is hungry

Turtles are generally opportunistic eaters and will not shy from opening their mouths in readiness for some treat when they see their owners.


Your turtle opening mouth underwater could also be due to tiredness, either mentally or physically, or both.

It could be a sign that he/she needs a nap. Just like we humans! You can keep your turtle from getting worn out by providing them with a large tank with optimal conditions and proper nutrition.

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Also, make sure you provide them with a basking area and ensure it’s comfortable for them to access at any time.

Your pet is eating

Did you observe your turtle open its mouth for a second and then close it? If yes, likely, they’re just drinking and eating food.

Remember that turtles are opportunistic eaters and could be feeding on something so tiny that your eyes can’t see it.

Uncomfortable living conditions

If your turtle feels irritated by the conditions in their tank enclosure, it may also open its mouth underwater.

Uncomfortable living conditions

For instance, inappropriate water temperature, a small tank, inadequate lighting, etc., are some of the conditions that make your turtle enclosure uncomfortable for them to live in.

Dirty tank water can also irritate your turtle.

Respiratory infection

Sometimes, your turtle “yawning” or gasping underwater could be a sign of a respiratory tract infection.

The turtle could be opening its mouth because it has trouble breathing as a result of a respiratory infection.

This is a serious case and you should treat it as fast as possible as it can cause death to your turtle.

However, you should look for other respiratory infection symptoms besides mouth opening to confirm that your turtle is indeed sick.

Turtle Respiratory infection

These include loss of appetite, discharge from the eyes, nose, and mouth, wheezing, and lethargy.

Other reasons your turtle may be opening its mouth include a hunting tactic where wild turtles keep their mouth open for unsuspecting prey to get in and then close their mouth quickly, smell, aggressiveness, and even a mouth injury.

Should I be worried if my turtle yawns underwater too much?

If you spot your turtle with mouth open in its tank once in a while, that’s perfectly normal and you shouldn’t panic. There are many reasons why turtles show this behavior as indicated in the previous section.

Whether it’s eating, begging for food, taking in more oxygen, regulating their body temperature, etc.

The only time you should panic is if your turtle yawns too much and you suspect it has a respiratory infection. Opening the mouth or turtle gasping for air is one key symptom of this illness. However, you should also look for additional symptoms of this disease.

My turtle yawns underwater too much

Once you’re sure your turtle suffers from a respiratory tract infection, then it’s time to call a vet to diagnose your pet and recommend the best treatment options. Don’t take chances with a turtle’s respiratory illness as it can lead to death!

Why is my turtle extending its neck and opening its mouth?

Your turtle extending its neck and opening its mouth are two top signs of a respiratory infection. But don’t jump to a conclusion too fast!

Closely watch your turtle for additional symptoms linked to respiratory infections such as lethargy, loss of appetite, puffy eyes, fluid discharge from nose, eyes, and mouth, wheezing, trouble breathing, floating, and so on.

Why is my turtle extending its neck and opening its mouth

If you notice your turtle leaving its much for longer periods of time and more frequently, like it’s trying to gas for air, and produces some sound while breathing or turtle breathing heavily, then you should visit your vet immediately.

See also  Identifying and Treating Common Health Issues in Turtles

Don’t leave this illness untreated, otherwise, it can get severe and turn into pneumonia which is life-threatening for turtles.

What does it mean when a turtle opens its mouth wide?

Turtles are known to open their mouths wide when they’re preparing to bite. It could therefore be hungry and begging for food or preparing to eat some food it has foraged in its substrate.

Your turtle may also open its mouth wide due to a mouth injury or anger/show of aggressiveness.

It could also be a sign of poor tank water conditions. Check the last time you did a water change and whether you have recently changed anything in the tank. Also, check the water temperature.

What does it mean when a turtle opens its mouth wide

If the turtle keeps its mouth wide open for longer, say more than 2-4 seconds, then this ceases to be a normal yawn and something you should be concerned about.

Check if it shows additional symptoms of respiratory infection as we discussed earlier.


1. Why do turtles open their mouth underwater?

Turtles open their mouth underwater due to many things. The most common reasons include taking in oxygen from water, begging for food, regulating their body temperature, tiredness, and uncomfortable living conditions. But in some cases, this behavior could be a sign of a respiratory infection.

2. Do red-eared sliders yawn underwater

Yes, red-eared sliders also yawn underwater. The reasons for yawning are similar to those of other turtles and include lack of oxygen, tiredness, hunger, or health-related issues.

Final Verdict

Your turtle opening mouth underwater is for the most part perfectly normal and nothing to be concerned about. These little aquatic creatures do this for various reasons such as when tired, eating or drinking water, taking in more oxygen, and begging you for food. But in some cases, they could be doing it due to uncomfortable living conditions or due to underlying health issues such as respiratory tract infection.

After reading the above guide, you should be able to differentiate between normal yawning and serious yawning that signals an underlying health issue. If your pet has a respiratory illness, we advise you to visit your vet immediately for diagnosis and treatment before the condition turns severe and threatens his or her life.

Turtle Opening Mouth Underwater

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