To examine the possible influence of incubation substrate water potential on rigid‐shelled chelonian eggs and hatchlings, rigid‐shelled eggs from four clutches of Brisbane River turtle (Emydura signata) were incubated buried in vermiculite at water potentials of approximately −100, −350, and −850 kPa, and patterns of egg mass change and hatchling attributes were examined. All eggs hatched successfully, and there was no apparent effect of water potential on incubation period, fresh hatchling mass, hatchling water content, or hatchling size. Clutch of origin also had no apparent effect on these attributes when initial egg mass was used as a covariate. However, clutch of origin affected initial egg mass, and clutch of origin and incubation water potential influenced the amount of water exchanged between the eggs and their environment during incubation and the amount of residual yolk found in hatchlings. Substrate water potential has little effect on hatchling outcomes other than the proportion of yolk converted to hatchling tissue during incubation in the rigid‐shelled eggs of E. signata. It would appear that in general, the substrate water potential during incubation affects the quality of chelonian hatchlings by influencing the amount of yolk converted to hatchling tissue during embryonic development and that this influence is stronger in flexible‐shelled eggs than in rigid‐shelled eggs.