Turtles are loved by many families because they are hardy, low maintenance, and a lot of fun to be around. They eat and obtain nutrients from just about anything and take pleasure from resting. To ensure your pet’s optimal health, you should probably know how much to feed them, what to give them, or how often.
If you are wondering how long your turtle can go without eating and water, because you are traveling or have been pulled into a long business meeting, do not worry. You will find that turtles are hardier than you ever thought!
Turtles can go into hibernation, which in simple terms, is a long low-energy period without food and very low metabolic rates. An adult turtle can go without food for up to 6 months in this state. However, if your pet is younger or still a baby, they still require a steady supply of proteins to develop optimally.
Their abilities to go through hibernation and emerge healthy on the other end are not formed either. Babies and young turtles can only go one or two weeks without food. When it comes to water, however, turtles will barely make it.
The amount of time your pet can go without water depends on its species but is still remarkably low compared to the time he can go without food. Turtles are aquatic and will, therefore, only last 12 hours to 2 days outside water, and this will depend on the temperature and humidity of his environment.
Do Pet Turtles Go Into Hibernation?
Turtles are known to hibernate in the wild during the winter. However, pet turtles do not hibernate, at least, not naturally. The reasons why your pet will not hibernate naturally are:
- You provide him with UVB light at all times of the year. UVB light comes from the sun, and a lack of it means that he cannot prepare Vitamin D. Vitamin D3 is essential for healthy shell and bone formation, and without it, he can quickly develop Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD). If you are not providing your turtle with UVB light, get a UVB lamp from a pet store near you, and ask the vet for the right percentage for your pet.
- The temperature at home does not change as radically as it does in the wild. The temperature in his tank should remain within the 75-80⁰F range.
- You also provide him with a steady supply of food throughout the year.
That said, you should know that your pet turtle (both box and aquatic) can only go for a few weeks without food.
How Can I Provide My Turtle With Food And Water While I Am Not At Home?
The last thing you want is to stuff a disproportionate amount of food into your turtle’s tank. He will eat it all up in a short while and risk weight gain, or the food will go bad and mess up his tank.
Consider purchasing an automatic turtle feeder. The main challenge you will face is keeping his tank and water clean, as the water can become messy fast, especially due to his droppings.
Alternatively, have someone you trust to come and feed your turtle while you are away. Find someone that likes pets and would not mind coming in often to check on him and look for any signs of injury or sickness as well.
Write detailed instructions, including weights and schedules for each feeding, which will be important if he is on a diet. Include advice on how to proceed in case of any trouble on the sheet as well, such as the number of a vet.
Before you leave, clean up his tank and leave the water full. Ask the person to monitor and replenish the water levels if your turtle has an open tank, as eventually, the water will evaporate, and he might have trouble climbing to his basking place. Low water levels will also damage your aquarium filter.
What Options Are Available If There Is No One To Feed My Turtle While I Am Not Home?
If there is no one available to provide water and food for your turtle, get some feeder fish or something living in the tank. These may help him survive a few more days. You can also find a way to bring him with you on vacation. If this is not possible, it would be better to find a temporary new home for him for the period that you will be gone.
Turtles have been known to be rather hardy, as one that was forgotten for months after a pile of laundry was found alive, though severely dehydrated and with reduced mass. Still, it is not advisable to leave your pet unattended for weeks or months at a time.
Water is essential for turtles, as just in humans, it sustains metabolism, excretion, digestion, and other processes that keep them going. Lack of care and access to food and water will kill your turtle.
What Factors Affect My Turtle’s Ability to Go without Food?
- Access to clean water
Your pet turtle may not have access to food, but if clean, filtered water is regularly available for him to swim and sleep in as well as drink, they may live longer without food. They will lose some fat mass, but will not experience any serious health implications. Lack of food among turtles in the wild occurs frequently, but they survive because they have water.
- Access to UVB light and the right temperature
In addition to clean water, a turtle with healthy UVB access plus a habitat at the right temperature is more likely to survive an extended period without food. A basking area where the turtle can dry his shell and bask will also help a great deal.
How Often Should I Feed My Turtle?
A healthy pet turtle should be fed about three times a week. Being cold-blooded, turtles do not regulate their temperature.
Temperature regulation is one of the processes that consume energy in warm-blooded creatures like humans, and since it is absent in turtles, they do not expend as much energy as we would.
They, therefore, do not need to eat as often as we do. However, baby turtles are growing rapidly and require nutrients to build tissues and sustain the energy of growth, so feed them daily with rich energy sources like shrimp, fish, live crickets, and pellets. Once they are over six months old, give the protein source every other day.
Supplement the protein with leafy greens and vegetables. When they are between one and two years old, give the protein source twice or thrice a week and give vegetables regularly.
What Foods Should I Give My Turtle?
Depending on your turtle’s species, you may be having a carnivore, herbivore, or omnivore. To determine the right food to give your pet, consider having a vet determine his species. A pet store is a great place to find wholesome foods for your pet turtle.
You can find chunks, pellets, or sticks that have the right balance of vitamins, minerals, carbs, and proteins to keep your turtle healthy. The best quality pet turtle foods have more protein sources and are not grain-based.
However, with time, you will find these foods to be costly, and there are plenty of other nutritious options you can give your pet. Besides, he may not always like the drabness of the pet store food, and mixing the formulations with fresh options will boost his appetite. Safe and excellent foods to give your turtle include:
- Vegetables: carrots, kale, spinach, corn, peas, squash, yams, and beets
- Fruits: blueberries, melons, apples, grapes, raspberries, strawberries, kiwis, mangoes, bananas, tomatoes, and cantaloupe
- Flowers: Geranium, lilies, dandelions, hibiscus, carnations, and petunias
- Protein sources: Grubs (earthworms, mealworms, silkworms, insect larvae, slugs, snails with shell), crickets, fish, boiled eggs
- Calcium sources: cuttlebone, crushed eggshells, and oyster shells for a strong shell and bones
Turtles will ordinarily favor the fish over the vegetables, so mix them to encourage him to eat all his food. The best option for feeding turtles is to have a separate feeding tank where you can provide him with food and clean up easily later, rather than clog up his main tank. Turtles do not produce saliva and, therefore, cannot swallow food without water.
Turtles are also shy eaters, meaning that they will not eat with you watching them. Leave him to eat then return after a while (30 minutes or more) to put him back to his main tank. If your turtle will not eat, try a different food combination.
Variation is crucial in keeping a turtle’s appetite high, and you can switch food brands, vegetables, or insect types. You should also monitor your turtle’s weight to ensure he does not overeat and become unhealthy.
What Foods to Avoid Giving a Pet Turtle:
Most of the foods above are available in your pantry. However, not all the foods that humans eat are good for a pet turtle. Avoid giving him dairy (yogurt, milk, cheese, and ghee). He cannot digest these, and they will make him sick. Also, avoid processed foods like bread, crackers, and chips, as some of the ingredients may be bad for him.
Raw meat or hamburgers may go bad before he eats them, so avoid them as well. Baby turtles do not have teeth yet, so when feeding them, break down the food into small pieces, so they fit his small jaws. Do not let food get moldy or rotten; replace it with fresh food.