How Far Can Turtles See? (Good or Bad Eyesight)

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The topic of eyes will seem boring or exciting depending on who you ask and in what context. Through evolution, species (including humans) have evolved to maximize one of their primary senses in vision. Some creatures like a hawk or eagle have significantly better eyesight than other flighted creatures like bats. 

As a pet owner, you might have noticed that your turtle seems to respond to you entering the room, and as a result, many turtle owners have gone on to wonder if they have good eyesight and just how far they can see.  


Turtles generally have perfect eyesight; they can distinguish between colors on a much broader spectrum than what a human can see, including ultraviolet light. While they can see far in water, they are typically short-sighted on land. 


Turtles’ eyes are interestingly unique. In this article, we’ll look not only into how far a turtle can see but also into the more intricate details that allow turtles to have perfect eyesight (most of the time). 

Do Turtles Have Good Eyesight?


Turtles have good eyesight and unique vision capabilities and can see colors humans cannot even conceptualize. 

We won’t get into a debate over who has the best eyesight in this article, but we will say that turtles, particularly certain species of turtle, have a perfect vision that might surprise you. 

Many turtle species can also see a broader spectrum of colors that humans cannot visualize or imagine, as they can also see ultraviolet (UV) light. However, we are unsure how they have evolved to use this to their advantage. 

A turtle can see very well inside of water, and it can also see outside of water (though they are short-sighted on land) while they can also see in the dark. 

What is potentially most interesting about some species of turtle, particularly a pond turtle, when it comes to eyesight is that they can adapt their vision depending on when their head is inside or outside their shell. 

Essentially they can adapt and switch forward-facing eyesight like what you find in humans and cats when their head is retracted inside the shell and will have sideward-facing eyes when their head is outside of their bodies. 

This relies more on the actual eye muscles, and while we appreciate it has nothing to do with eyesight directly, it’s still an impressive and unique feature of a turtle’s sight.

How Far Can Turtles See?


So, if you’ve just read the above, then it’s pretty evident that turtles have very impressive eyesight, even if we can’t reasonably determine the level of it just yet. It’s rather challenging to decide on how far a turtle can see, the key reason being that there have not been any studies specific to this. 

pet turtle

That’s not the only reason for our lack of a clear answer, though, as turtles are susceptible to vibrations. While an observer might think that a turtle has seen something from a great distance away and gone to hide, it could be just as likely that they have felt the vibrations from a human or object, which has triggered the response to hide.

What we do know from multiple pet owners and limited studies, however, is that turtles, in general, do have excellent eyesight underwater and are far-sighted underwater to hunt for food, navigate their environment and even seek out a mate. 

On land, however, most turtle species are nearsighted and rely on other senses like smell and the feeling of vibrations in the area to compensate for the fact that they are near-sighted.



After reading the above, I’m sure you agree with us when we say that turtles appear to have perfect eyesight. Unfortunately, there has not yet been a test to show how far a turtle can see on land or in water. 

What we do know, however, is that a turtle can easily see its immediate surrounding area when housed in captivity as a pet; the broader spectrum of colors that they can see also suggests that they potentially have better eyesight than humans though this is more related to eye underwater. 

Until further studies are done, we won’t know the exact distance a turtle can see and have to rely on a more vague interpretation of being far-sighted underwater and near-sighted on land.

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