If you own a pet turtle then it is your responsibility for ensuring they have everything they need. This includes food. But what are their dietary requirements, what is a good feeding schedule to stick to, and how long can they go without food at most? I decided to do some research. I would like to share what I have found here with you today.
So, how long can turtles go without eating? A turtle can go without eating for a few months. Wild turtles routinely do so in the winter season as the temperature falls and access to food is limited. They hibernate during this time – not requiring food. However, pet turtles should be fed more regularly (especially for young turtles) as they do not enter a state of hibernation and require energy in a more active state.
If you are planning on spending some extended time away – a trip or a vacation that you have on the horizon, then naturally, you will want to know if your pet turtle will be okay if you did so.
You might wonder what you would need to organize for your turtle before leaving for a few days or even weeks. Being equipped with this information will help you to plan ahead. It will also ensure you are confident that what you are doing is right and that your pet turtle will not suffer during your absence.
This guide today will provide you with all the information you need – giving you the confidence to take some time away, if and when required.
Be sure to keep reading to the end – you’ll be surprised at how much you will learn about your turtle!
How Long Can Turtles Go Without Food?
Turtles can go without food for a few months!
As cold-blooded creatures, turtles do not use as much energy to control their internal body temperature in the way humans can.
Because of this, turtles do not need as much energy as warm-blooded animals. As a result, turtles don’t need to eat as often as humans.
Wild turtles go without eating all the time when they hibernate, and they do so for extended periods lasting for weeks on end.
Generally, wild turtles will enter hibernation whenever the temperature drops below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. So it mostly occurs during the winter seasons.
During this time, they are very passive – coupled with a lowering of their metabolism they are safely able to conserve energy and do not need to acquire more in the way of food.
However, things are very different for pet turtles. They cannot, nor should not go without food and water for this long.
For one, they do not hibernate. There is no need to.
They have a constant supply of food across the year, they do not experience seasons or drastic temperature swings, and they have a constant supply of light.
Furthermore, pet turtles are a lot more active and need food to fuel such movement and to maintain a higher metabolism.
So, pet turtles need to be fed more regularly. Equally, they need water to aid digestion, metabolism, and to stay hydrated to support other bodily functions.
If your pet turtle has no water, it will likely die within a few months.
A turtle enclosure must always have a water feature inside as turtles require water for their everyday life. This is true even for land or box turtles.
It is also worth mentioning that just because a turtle can go without food for some time, it does not necessarily mean they should.
Sure, your pet turtle should be okay if you were to not feed them for an extended period of time; however, it is not optimal not advisable.
If you own a pet turtle and are looking to go away on vacation – it is best to get a friend, neighbor, or family member to stop by and provide some food.
How Often Do You Feed A Turtle?
While turtles do not need to eat as often as humans; they do require regular feeding. They also have specific feeding requirements and nutrients that they must acquire in order to stay healthy and thrive.
If you have a young turtle, less than six months old, you must feed it protein and vegetables daily, with protein making the bulk of its diet.
Between the ages of six and twelve months, you should feed your turtle vegetables daily and protein every other day.
When your turtle is older than twelve months, you can feed it vegetables every day and protein three times a week.
As you can see from the information above, turtles must eat vegetables every day, and the older they get, the less protein they require.
Turtles in the wild do not have access to a protein source every day; they may only eat protein a few times a week.
For this reason, simulating their natural diet requires you to offer less protein as the turtle grows up.
In addition to fresh vegetables and protein, your turtle’s diet must consist of top-quality commercial turtle food.
The turtle food will provide your pet with the necessary nutrients required for healthy growth and development.
When considering vegetables to feed your turtle, the following are good choices:
- Dandelion leaves
- Mustard greens
- Bok choy
- Collard greens
- Romaine Lettuce
Excellent protein sources include the following:
- Feeder fish
- Cooked meat
Factors That Control How Long A Turtle Can Live Without Food
Certain conditions will determine how long a turtle can live without food, let’s explore these in more detail:
Access To Clean Water
If your pet has access to clean drinking water every day, they can go without food for many weeks quite easily.
More than likely, your turtle will lose some storage of fat, but this occurs all the time in the wild. They are in many ways, adapted to this physiology.
Access To Suitable Basking Area, UVB, And Heat Lamp
Your pet turtle will need a dry basking area, UVB lamp, and heat lamp to thrive.
As long as your pet turtle has access to clean drinking water and has a basking area with the necessary lamps, they may live for several months without any severe health issues.
The tank should be heated appropriately too.
It is worth noting that leaving your turtle for several months without food is not ideal as your pet may lose significant fat stores from his body.
Age is a crucial factor when deciding how long a turtle can go without food.
If your turtle is less than six months old, even with water, a basking area, and lamps, they may not survive more than several weeks without food.
Some turtle breeds can go without food for longer than other breeds; for example, an adult red-eared slider can live for months without food, as long as it has access to freshwater, a basking area, a heat lamp, and UVB.
The slider should not have any preexisting health conditions.
A box turtle can live for several weeks without food as long as it has access to fresh drinking water. The enclosure should be adequately heated.
Otherwise, your boxie could go into hibernation.
There are many considerations to keep in mind when trying to determine how long a pet turtle can live without food. As a rule of thumb, a healthy adult turtle can live for a few months without food.
As a responsible turtle owner, you want to do what is right by your pet, and if you must leave to go on vacation, you should not leave your turtle without food for more than a few weeks.
As you can see, turtles can go without food for a considerable length of time. This is good to learn if you must be away from home for a while.
Turtles in the wild go without eating while they are hibernating, and even though your pet turtle is unlikely to hibernate, they still do not need to use up as much energy as a warm-blooded animal.
With that said, you should not leave your pet turtle without water. Turtles require fresh drinking water every day; otherwise, they will not survive for too long.
Aside from water, turtles need a basking spot, UVB, and heat lamps.
As a responsible turtle owner, you do not want to leave your pet turtle without food for more than a few weeks anyway, and it is always worth asking a trusted neighbor or friend to check up on your little pet while you are away.
If they ever suddenly go off their food or stop eating altogether, it is also advised that you consult a vet.
While it is a good idea to replicate their natural diet, you don’t want to forget that your turtle is domesticated, and you must provide them with the necessaries in his enclosure to keep him healthy, well-hydrated, and warm.
Pet turtles are known to stop eating during times of environmental changes, issues, stress, and/or illness. Therefore, you need to identify the cause of why they are not eating and then proactively attempt to overcome the issue. This could mean adjusting your turtle’s environment, taking them to a vet to help them overcome illness, and/or offering treats/more rewarding foods.
Turtles are known to eat their feces. They do so to acquire nutrients that were not fully absorbed or digested the first time around. As an owner, it is important to know that a turtle eating their feces is normal behavior. It should not cause them harm and they are not the only reptile/animal that is known to do this.
Looking to learn more about turtles? My following guides may be of interest:
- Do Turtles Smell? [Expectations For New Pet Turtle Owners]
- Should I Let My Turtle Walk Around? [What About Outside?]
- Do Turtles Get Attached To Their Owners? [Can You Bond?]
- Do Turtles Have Tongues? [Information You Need To Know ]
- Do Pet Turtles Bite? [What Owners Should Be Aware Of]
- Can Turtles Live With Fish? [Is It Safe For & Okay For Either?]
- Can Turtles Sleep Underwater? [I Couldn’t Believe This Either]
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.