Why My Turtle Is Not Eating?

It’s stressful for any pet owner when their animal won’t eat. But if you’re not very familiar with the species, you may be doing things that are applicable for other animals and not your Turtle. Read on to get insights into the problem and tips to make it eat.

Why Is My Turtle Not Eating?

Turtles can go for weeks without food, but younger Turtles shouldn’t be fasting for more than a few weeks.

Several factors might affect a Turtle’s appetite but the root cause is stress. Stress in Turtles may be caused by a change in environment, not having the right tank setup, not being able to bask, and being too cold.

Turtles are shy creatures and should not be petted or fussed over too much. Otherwise, they will take too long to settle and relax in a new habitat.

Here are the possible causes of Turtles not eating:

Cause #1: Stress

It’s natural for some Turtles to be cautious of eating when placed in a new environment. They may be new or you gave them a tank upgrade but it’s just the same. They may still be adjusting so give them time to settle in.

Wait a few days to a week. Just keep food around so the option is always available to them.

Cause #2: Wrong temperature

A colder temperature slows down a Turtle’s metabolism and pushes them to hibernate. Your water might be too cold for it so it doesn’t eat as much. Water temperature for a Turtle should generally be at 75°F, and around 78 to 80°F for hatchlings.

Check the temperature of your water and the basking area. It should be warm enough

Check your thermometers if they’re still working correctly. You should have 2 thermometers in your setup: one for the water and another for the basking area.

Cause #3: Wrong tank setup

The rule to the right-sized tank for your Turtle is 5 times its current size. That gives them enough room to grow, roam around, and swim. Too small a tank would lead to poor health and a sad Turtle.

Along with a good-sized tank, you should have clean, cycled water for your Turtle to swim in. Just as fish need their water cycled, Turtles do, too. They cannot survive in tap water with toxic substances like chlorine, chloramine, or ammonia and waste.

A basking area is another essential part of a Turtle tank. This is a raised platform untouched by water and directly under a UVB basking lamp where your Turtle can spend hours each day regulating its body temperature.

Why turtle doesn't eat?
Why My Turtle Is Not Eating?

And when a Turtle gets warmer, it tends to go hungrier. But when it doesn’t get enough light, it will stop eating. Turtles need 12 hours of light each day.

The basking area should be near enough to water that a Turtle can just slide to swim especially if it feels threatened or stressed. It should also have a ramp so the Turtle won’t have a hard time climbing it.

Cause #4: Poor diet and feeding

As with any pet, food variety is a must. Eating the same thing must be unappetizing to your Turtle so try different things.

Unless it’s a hatchling, your Turtle isn’t supposed to eat every day. Turtles can go for days or more in the wild without eating. Overfeeding results in obesity and might cause illnesses.

You can feed adult Turtles 3 times a week and give them a treat every weekend. Juveniles can be fed every other day, while hatchlings can be fed daily.

Cause #5: Illness

Your Turtle might be suffering from health problems. If it’s been a week and it still hasn’t eaten any food, look for disease symptoms such as white patches on its shell, wheezing, sneezing, worms in its waste, cloudy eyes, or constipation.

If you find any of these, it’s time to bring it to a vet or exotic animal doctor for evaluation. If you can’t find symptoms for several weeks but your Turtle still won’t eat, have the vet check it out.

What Do I Do If My Turtle Won’t Eat?

One thing newbies often get wrong is feeding their Turtle on its basking area. Turtles need water to swallow food so you should drop their food in the water. If you don’t want to dirty the tank water, use a separate basin or container just for feeding.

If it’s been a week and your Turtle still doesn’t seem to be interested in food, try these tips:

Why My Turtle is Not Eating Food?
What Do I Do If My Turtle Won’t Eat?

Tip #1: Soak the Turtle pellets in tuna water

Soaking Turtle pellets in tuna water from any regular canned tuna brand is a good way to entice it to eat. Turtles can smell the tuna water which will enhance their appetite. Organic fruit juice may also do the job.

Tip #2: Try live food

A moving prey might awaken the predator in a Turtle and think about catching it. And what does a Turtle do when it catches prey? It eats it.

Try crickets, mealworms, snails, small minnows, and waxworms, If these are unavailable, you may try canned worms or frozen bloodworms (thaw them first) as these look live when put in water.

However, don’t let your Turtle get used to live prey as they may not take to pellets anymore. Feed it a meal of live food and then switch it up to pellets. When it starts eating pellets regularly, you can re-introduce the live food as a treat.

Tip #3: Try other kinds of food

Try using smaller-sized pellets since the ones you have right now might be too big.

Turtles are also attracted to striking colors, so try using food like lettuce, strawberries, bloodworms, tomatoes, carrots, cabbage, bananas, collard greens, and cucumbers. You can also give it the occasional freeze-dried shrimp as a treat.

It may also take to a piece of bland boiled chicken, egg white, or beef.

Tip #4: Try the rain effect

In the wild, Turtles often eat during rainy conditions as they know these are the times when worms come out. Use a spray bottle to mist your Turtle with a little tank water and see if it will look for food.

Tip #5: Change the feeding schedule

You might be trying to feed your Turtle in the evening after you come home from school or work. But Turtles are more active in the morning so it’s better to feed them at that time. They have more energy and generally more enthusiasm when they’re offered food.

Tip #6: Try hand-feeding them

If your Turtle is still a bit small, it would most probably be safer to hand-feed it.

This tip is not for every Turtle, though. Hand-feeding some species can be dangerous as they can bite your finger off. An alternative would be to use chopsticks or tongs to offer them food closer to their mouth.

If you are interested in learning more about your fish behavior, check out the links below:


Patience is the number one key when feeding Turtles. They may still be trying to catch on to their new diet, schedule, or habitat. Most hobbyists wait and eventually find their Turtle eating after a week or two.

Remember that animals rarely starve themselves. Learn to wait for a little and try to understand their behavior. If they’re still active, alert, and not showing any signs of illness, just follow our tips.

We hope your Turtle eats soon!

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