How Long Can A Turtle Go Without Eating: Helpful Diet Guide

Turtles make cool pets because of their quiet nature, and being easy to care for. Besides, their owners find it fun to have them for decades.

But these little creatures pose big concern for their owners with the sudden drop in their diets. Additionally, planning vacation tours seems tense with less understanding of the turtle’s diet requirements. Especially questions like, what food suits them and how long a turtle’s fasting period is considered normal.

After all, it’s a good diet that will help turtles sustain a longer life.

This article discusses – how long can a turtle go without eating, dealing with vacation challenges, why turtles stop eating, what restores their appetite, and more details to help you care better for your turtle.

An adult turtle well-fed throughout the year, can go for months without eating food, provided the right conditions. However, this is not the suggested practice. On the other hand, a baby turtle (less than 6 months) needs to be fed every day, and a juvenile turtle (less than 1 year) will need regular feeding every other day.

How Do I Feed My Turtle On Vacation?

Turtles are cold-blooded animals and do well alone. These traits come to benefit when planning a short vacation.

Editor’s Note: If you’re planning a vacation over the weekend i.e. 2-3 days, and have a healthy adult turtle, leaving them should not be a concern, given the basic needs are being met.

If your adult turtle has been well-fed throughout the year, he can survive without food for a week. However, this is not the suggested practice.

How Long Can A Turtle Go Without Eating

In case your turtle will be home alone during your week-long vacation:

  • It’s best to have a friend visit your turtle twice during that period.
  • Leave your turtle with a fresh and clean water tank.
  • Arrange for a light timer to ensure regulated heating and lighting.
  • Lastly, leave him with ample food.

What to Feed, How Much to Feed & How Often to Feed Your Turtle

Editor’s Note:- Caring for your turtle (or in that case any pet) is not just about feeding them, but about feeding them rightly. This includes the right diet, the right quantity, and the right frequency.

Here are some useful facts to know about your turtle’s diet:

Your turtle’s diet should consist of a combination of pellets, protein sources, and vegetables. 


When it comes to feeding vegetables, the right intake differs based on the turtle species. Feeding them once or twice a week is the suggested frequency. Romaine, Okra, Dandelions, and collard greens are some of the well-known vegetables.

How Long Can A Turtle Go Without Eating

Editor’s Note:- Place some aquatic plants inside your turtle’s tank and see them chomping it time to time, in addition to their regular diet. 

Make sure to clean up the left-out uneaten turtle food which can rot in the water, leaving the water unhygienic. 

It’s also important to ensure that planting them inside the water shouldn’t consume much of their swimming space.

Feeder Fish

Next, feeder fish are a good source of protein for turtles. Unlike the regular aquarium fishes (like golden fish), feeder fish are small in size which the turtles can eat easily. Serve feeder fishes as a weekend treat to your little pet, best if limited to once a week. Killifish, Platies, Guppies, Bluegills, Bass, Crappies, Mosquitofish are some good examples of feeder fish.

Protein intake decreases as turtles grow adult, which can partially be replaced by vegetables.

The next question is how much quantity to feed.

Editor’s Note:- Turtles being cold-blooded animals do not require much energy or food to maintain themselves. 

Interestingly, turtles tend to overeat even when overweight. For this reason, a turtle’s diet is a tricky one to understand. Hence, it takes good research and experimentation based on your turtle type.

A general diet of a baby turtle can consist of daily pellet consumption at frequent intervals, while vegetables can be offered twice a week, or even daily (but in small quantities). Protein can be offered as a weekend treat. For an adult turtle, feeding them every 2-3 days can be considered healthy and safe.

The pellet quantity can be considered as much as it fits inside their heads. Alternatively, how much they can easily consume within 10-15 minutes could be the right diet for your turtle.

You can also take a look at these turtle foods.

Turtle’s survival without food and water

How long can A turtle Go without Eating?

When it comes to eating, turtles can go on for weeks and even months without food. This is based on the fact that they have access to clean water throughout, along with healthy exposure to UVB rays and sufficient lighting.

Editor’s Note:- The number has been found to be around 150 days that a turtle can survive without food (considering the water and heat requirements being met). Nonetheless, offer your pet turtles regular food as you do.

At the same time, the infants won’t survive such a diet at all despite all factors being met.

When turtles (especially wild) go to hibernation during the year fall, it is natural for them to spend a lot of time brumating. Sleep is their only job, with some dutiful interruptions to take water, but no food for months. This is normal for them.

How long can my turtle fast without food and water?

Let’s now consider the case of how long would a turtle survive without food, and water. Any guess? The answer would be – quite less as compared to the above case, ranging from a day to a week, depending on the turtle species.

How Long Can A Turtle Go Without Eating

Just like for humans or any other creatures, water is the most important element for body hydration, metabolism, digestion, and other regulatory processes. For this reason, a turtle cannot survive long without water.

In fact, some aquatic turtles can hardly stay for 12 hours outside their water habitat. While other healthy adult turtles can survive for a week without water. This depends on species and other factors such as temperature and humidity.

Factors affecting Turtle’s survival without food

Different factors are involved in a turtle’s long survival without food. This differs from turtle to turtle. Let’s discuss some of the common ones:

Access to clean water

  • Turtles can survive without food for many months, but not without water.
  • Clean water is the most crucial factor for a turtle to survive without food.
  • Water is a vital element that aids in food digestion
  • If a turtle gets dehydrated, it’ll die in a short time.
How Long Can A Turtle Go Without Eating

Environmental Conditions

  • Turtles require a warm and optimal body temperature for healthy survival, which depends on the surrounding environment.
  • For this reason, turtles brumerate during the year fall and stretch for months while sleeping and fasting.
  • A regulated tank water temperature also plays an important role.

Access to basking area, UV rays, and heat lamp

  • Turtles love to bask in the sunlight, almost daily 
  • Therefore, the home arrangements require that they get easy access to walk to the sunlight whenever they require.
  • In the absence of this, the aquariums should provide a basking area where they can dry themselves.
  • Additionally, turtles require UVB and heat lamps on a daily basis.


  • Age acts as a crucial deciding factor in how long can a turtle go without eating.
  • An adult turtle has the ability to fast (on food) for several months, given, it has been well-fed throughout the year.
  • On the other hand, if the turtle is less than 6 months old, then even with the basic factors being met, it won’t be able to survive long without food. 

Why isn’t my turtle eating? 

Editor’s Note:- Don’t stress out if you find your turtle fasting. It’s common amongst turtles to not eat for longer periods and doesn’t necessarily indicate an underlying problem. However, it’s best to consider their safety and take necessary action to work on it. 

The most important step to begin with is to consider the multiple factors that can affect your turtle’s appetite. This includes the changes in their environment, diet, feeding schedule, etc. Let’s dive into some of them:


It is possible that your turtle is suffering from sickness, or has just begun to face it. You can diagnose based on the below common symptoms:

  • Wheezing, sneezing, and difficulty in breathing, which are indicative of respiratory issues.
  • Discharge from nose and eyes (possibly swollen) along with lethargy.
  • If you do not see any feces in the tank, or see them eliminating, it possibly indicates that your turtle is constipated due to dietary disturbances. 
  • In the case of an adult female turtle, there may be chances of her suffering from dystocia i.e. they are unable to pass eggs from her body.


  • If your turtle is a new member at home, it is obvious that he/she can feel stressed because of the new environment.
  • Turtles aren’t among those animals who like to be handled a lot. Tortoise could be the right choice in that case, but turtles generally get stressed if handled frequently.
  • Ensure that your water is clean and filtered. Poor water quality also stresses these little creatures.

Time of Year

  • Turtles commonly brumate in the winter to keep their body warm.
  • They minimize their body metabolism during this period and hence don’t require food.
  • Even if they don’t brumate, it’s normal for them to eat less and stay less active during this time.

The above factors, in addition to inappropriate temperature, lighting, lack of calcium, etc. contribute to the loss of appetite for a turtle.

How Long Can A Turtle Go Without Eating

What to do if my turtle isn’t eating?

As we explore various reasons why turtles stop eating, let’s jump on to the various solutions that will help you solve this problem


One of the possible ways to restore your turtle’s appetite is by adding some varieties. This may stimulate their appetite. You may:

  • Add green freshies to their existing diet, as well as bright-colored fruits.
  • Offer live insects that include crickets, earthworms, feeder fishes, etc. 
  • Try dry and frozen fishes or insects. 
  • Sprinkle calcium powder or other calcium sources in your turtle’s diet.
  • Offer food to your turtle inside the water. 
  • Some turtles are too shy to eat food in others’ presence. See if leaving them alone with their food helps.


A few ways to Improve your turtle’s metabolism, which can restore their appetite:

  • Increase the tank water temperature.
  • Increase the lamp heat in the basking area.
  • Provide sufficient UVB rays to your turtle on a regular basis.
  • Ensure 12-14 hours of lighting throughout the year

If the above solutions do not help, then it is best to approach a professional vet with the problem.


Don’t turtles feel lonely? 

Turtles are not social creatures. They actually prefer to spend most of their time alone unless they have to mate. They wouldn’t generally feel the absence of their owner’s company

Why is my turtle not eating?

Environmental changes, illness, issues, stress, etc. can result in your turtle’s lack of appetite. Adjusting their diet, environment, or taking them to a vet for a proper diagnosis could be a possible solution.


While some turtle species are known to live for around 100 years, home-owned turtles can extend anywhere between 15 – 40 years. This depends on how well they are cared for, especially a healthy diet based on the type of species, age, etc. This article provides the foundational details on a turtle’s diet, helping turtle owners to care well for their pet turtles.

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