Turtle Habitat

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Updated on Apr 29, 2013

Because we’re mammals, you and I are warmblooded. Turtles are reptiles, so unlike us, they’re coldblooded. A coldblooded reptile’s body temperature is only as warm as its surroundings are.

Do you think turtles prefer to swim in warm water or cold water? Let’s find out!


Do turtles prefer warm or cold water?


  • Turtle
  • Turtle food
  • Plastic pond
  • Pond heater
  • Water
  • Rocks and/or sand
  • Notebook
  • Tape
  • Pen
  • Timer


  1. Place your rocks and sand in the middle of the pond to form a barrier separating each side. Don’t make the mound too high or too steep! The turtle needs to be able to crawl from one side of the pond to the other whenever it wants.
  2. Slowly fill the pond with water. The water level should be just below the top of the mound.
  3. Place the heater in the water at either the far right or far left side of the pond.
  4. Place the turtle on the mound in the middle of the pond.
  5. Do you think the turtle will prefer the warm side to the cold? Think about some things turtles do in the wild. Use this time to write down your guess, also called a hypothesis, in your notebook.
  6. Every couple of hours, watch the turtle and record how long he spends on eat side.
  7. Repeat step 6 for 3 days. Make sure you feed your turtle!
  8. Record your data.


The turtle will spend a majority of the time in the warm side.


Turtles, like all coldblooded animals, can’t heat their bodies on their own: their internal processes do not burn enough energy to maintain a fixed body temperature. Certain turtles can live in colder waters as long as the climate changes slowly enough for the turtle to acclimate. Turtles in the wild don’t have heaters for their water, so they take some time every day to perch on a rock or high area out of the water and bask in the sun.

What if you fed the turtle on the cold side? Or if you gave the cold side a dry platform for the turtle to bask in the sun on? Feel free to alter the experiment to discover new facts about turtle behavior.

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