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Are Pet, Sea, And Box Turtles Nocturnal?

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Turtles are fascinating animals to watch and study. A lot of turtles are normally active during the day, except you may notice some species more active during the night as well.

In this article, we will be discussing whether there are any species of turtle that are nocturnal. We will be including pets, sea, and box turtles.

Are there any species of turtles that are nocturnal

What Is The Difference Between Nocturnal And Diurnal Animals?

The main difference between a nocturnal and diurnal animal is that diurnal animals are more active during the day.

Hence, you could say that humans are diurnal animals, as we are much more active in the day than at night. Hence, nocturnal means that the animal is much more active during the night when everyone else is asleep.

Sometimes a couple of factors can affect whether an animal will be nocturnal or diurnal. These can be the scarcity of food, high temperature, and the risk from predictors.

Alongside this, some animals have much more enhanced senses to help them survive much better during the night than during the day.

What Are The Characteristics Of A Diurnal Animal?

The main characteristics of a diurnal animal are that it is active during the day when the sun is out, but it is asleep during the night. The majority of animals are in fact diurnal.

As a result, they don’t have night vision or superior eyesight to be able to search and hunt for food in the dark.

To begin with, it is believed that all animals were diurnal, which gave predators more of an advantage. Predictors could be active all day and then certain animals then suffered as a result as they had no way to protect themselves.

However, as time passed, particular animals adapted themselves so that they could be nocturnal. This then brought a balance to the animal world. As it gave certain animals a chance to survive.

Certain animals that are known for being diurnal are squirrels, butterflies, dogs, lizards, and elephants to just name a few.

What Are The Characteristics Of A Nocturnal Animal?

Well, it is quite clear, as we have already mentioned above, that a nocturnal animal is an animal that is active at night and asleep during the day.

The reason an animal may become nocturnal is due to the temperature. A lot of nocturnal animals have been discovered in the deserts. This is a place where the temperature can reach incredibly high.

As a result, these animals suffer from the heat and lose a lot of energy from the heat as well. Hence, it is impossible for these animals to look or hunt for food in the heat during the day.

This is why certain animals have adapted and become nocturnal, they find a suitable place where they are sheltered from the sun all day and sleep.

By sleeping during the day, they are strong. Then when they wake up in the evening, once the temperature has dropped and is much more bearable, these animals can use their stored up energy to go and find food.

Apart from that, some species of animals have become nocturnal as their predators are awake during the day. Thus, it makes survival much more difficult if they are both awake at the same time.

This is because the prey cannot search for food without the constant fear that their predator is about to kill them. Therefore, instead, this is why certain animals like to sleep during the day, as they are hiding and come out at night when their predators won’t be hunting for them.

It is known that nocturnal animals have much more enhanced senses than diurnal animals. This includes sharpened senses of smell and hearing. Even their eyesight is better, with some having night vision. All of these senses give them a better advantage for hunting at night.

Some examples of nocturnal animals include owls, scorpions, bats, red foxes, black rats, and lots more.

Are Turtles A Nocturnal Creature?

Asian box turtle near pond

The majority of turtles are diurnal and not nocturnal. As a result, they are more active during the day than they are at night. This is because most of the tasks they need to complete must be completed in daylight, so they cannot sleep during the day and become active at night.

When it comes to turtles, have natural limitations when it comes to the darkness, which means they can’t even adapt to become nocturnal one day if they wanted to.

Main Reasons Why Turtles Aren’t Nocturnal


Turtles need to receive a certain amount of UVB rays per day. They need to bask in the sun every day. Exposure to UVB light helps with the development of the shell and bones of the turtle to help keep them healthy.

Also, this light helps the turtle’s body to process the calcium in their bodies. This also helps with stronger and healthier shells and bones.

Basking is a really important part of any turtle’s day as it helps to strengthen their shell and reduces the chances of any algae growing on their shell as well. A healthy shell on a turtle should be completely free of algae, which then reduces the chances of any bacterial infections.

Also, for some turtles basking helps to warm up their bodies to the correct temperature, this then helps with all the other processes that the light does as well.

As a result, if a turtle were to sleep during the day and be more active during the night, then they wouldn’t have the chance to absorb any UVB light.

This would then affect the overall health and growth of the turtle. They need to sleep at night, so they can wake up during the day and bask in the sunlight.

Eyesight In The Dark

Also, turtles would struggle if they were to become a nocturnal animals, as they cannot see in the dark.

Humans are known to have peripheral eyesight, which means that they can see in the dark once their eyes adjust to the light levels. Turtles can do similar things, but they still can’t see clearly and struggle to see what is in front of them.

To be able to see in the dark, animals need tapetum lucidum in their eyes. This helps with night vision. Unfortunately, turtles don’t have this either.

Weak Senses

To be a nocturnal animal, you need to have superb and clear senses. They need to be really sharp, to be able to protect themselves from predators and to hunt for food when there is no light.

Turtles don’t have weak senses, but they aren’t very strong. As a result, they would struggle if they tried hunting at night. We have already established that turtles do not have night vision, so they would struggle to try to find food during the night.

Alongside that, you need to have great hearing skills to be able to hear what is around you in the dark. However, turtles don’t have very good hearing, it’s not as sharp as they would need to be a nocturnal animal.

The reason that turtles have such poor hearing is that they don’t have a tympanum or eardrum, two things that are essential to being able to hear.

Turtles have the same sense as every other animal, it’s just that they aren’t suited for the dark and are not strong enough to be able to deal with hunting in the dark.

Is Your Pet Turtle Nocturnal?

Unfortunately, your pet turtle is not nocturnal. Even in captivity, turtles still portray diurnal characteristics. This is because your pet turtle will follow a similar routine that its owner is following.

As a result, your pet turtle will be active during the day and normally go to sleep just after the sun has set. Anyway, most turtles cannot sleep during the day when they are in captivity as it is too loud.

This is because their owners perform many activities during the day that keep them awake.

Also, we typically feed our pet turtles during the day. Normally, they are fed at a similar time that they are having their own meals.

Hence, a pet turtle that is in captivity adapts to the new home environment that they are brought into. This is why pet turtles cannot be nocturnal as there is too much going on, and they know that they get fed when the sun is out.

Once again, like all turtles, pet turtles need to bask during the day. Some owners will have a separate area for their turtle to bask, either in direct sunlight or under a UVB lamp. This is so that it still gets its important UVB rays for good shell and bone development.

As a result, pet turtles are diurnal creatures. This is because their owners take care of them during the day and if anything is wrong with them, they are treated during the day as well.

Can A Sea Turtle Be Nocturnal?

Green sea turtle on the beach

Sea turtles are mainly diurnal creatures, as they are active during the day and will sleep when it gets dark. However, at night, sea turtles have often seen either sleeping under a rock or floating on the surface of the water.

Young sea turtles are more likely to be seen flooring on the water’s surface at night with their flippers folded over their shells.

However, on some occasions, you may find sea turtles active during the night. However, this is only when it comes to nesting season. This is because at night female turtles will come to shore and lay their eggs, normally on the beaches.

They do it at night to protect their eggs from any predators that may be watching during the day. However, once the female sea turtles have laid their eggs, they will then quickly swim back into the sea.

Overall, sea turtles are not nocturnal.

Can A Box Turtle Be Nocturnal?

The majority of box turtles are diurnal creatures. Although there are a couple of species of box turtles that are nocturnal. The most notable one is the Asian Box Turtle, which is a nocturnal species of turtle.

Compared to the North American Box Turtle, that is not nocturnal, as it is more active during the day than it is at night.

It is known that box turtles have eyelids. This is very unusual for a reptile to have. Thus, the box turtle will close their eyes when they are happy or asleep.

Speaking of their eyes, box turtles also have far superior eyesight than other species of turtle. They are known to be able to see well at night and even see in color at night as well.

Things Active Turtles May Do At Night

As we know, the vast majority of turtles are in fact diurnal. However, that doesn’t mean they cannot be active at night. Some turtles are known to sleep for a couple of hours, and when they are active.

There is no specific activity that turtles will complete at night. Also, a turtle will only be active at night once they have reached the full quota of sleep that they need.

Typically, a turtle in the wild will sleep for around 5 to 6 hours. Then, once they have woken up, they will hide or search for food. In the wild, what a turtle does at night does depend on where they are.

If they live in an environment where predators may be roaming, then they may hide to protect themselves. Also, as we have mentioned above, sea turtles will be active at night when they are laying their eggs.

In particular, the female sea turtles will be much more active at night than the males, and they are the ones laying the eggs. They may go to shore, dig a hole using their flippers and lay their eggs. This process is done at night to keep the eggs as safe as possible from predators.


Turtles are fascinating creatures, however, the majority of them are diurnal. There are a limited number of species that are nocturnal, including the Asian box turtle.

Naturally, turtles don’t do well in the dark as they don’t have to shape enough sense and don’t possess night vision. They may be active during the night when it’s nesting season, but apart from that, these are very diurnal creatures.

Thank you for reading!

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About the author


Kerry White is an avid dog lover and writer, knowing all there is to know about our furry friends. Kerry has been writing for PetDT for three years now, wanting to use her knowledge for good and share everything she can with new dog owners.Kerry has two dogs herself - a German shepherd called Banjo and a chocolate labrador called Buttons. Kerry knows more than anyone how adjusting to new life with a puppy can turn your life upside down, and she wants to ease some of the burdens through her articles.