Why My Turtle Is Not Eating?

Sometimes your turtle might munch down their food voraciously, but other times it seems as if they want nothing to do with food. There are a few reasons why a turtle might not be hungry and luckily for you and your turtle, they aren’t anything to be majorly concerned with.

A turtle may not be eating due to…

  • Temperature in their enclosure
  • Insufficient Lighting
  • Age
  • Feeding them the wrong food
  • Improperly arranged habitat
  • Hibernation
  • Stress
  • Disease

While some of these reasons may seem dire, most of them can be addressed and fixed rather easily. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at these examples and how you can get your turtle eating well.

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Turtles Need The Perfect Temperature

When most species of aquatic turtles are hatchlings they need the water in their tank set at around 78 -82 degrees Fahrenheit or 26 -28 degrees celsius. Once they have grown larger than their hatchling stage, they will need a cooler 74 to 76 degrees Fahrenheit or 23 – 24 degrees celsius. It is important to find out what temperature range your turtle needs.

This is equally important to non-aquatic or semi-aquatic terrapins as it is to aquatic species. If their environment is too cold, they won’t have an appetite. If it is too hot, it could cause harm or death.

They Also Need Perfect Lighting

Lighting is important in a turtle’s aquarium to ensure optimal health. A steady night and day cycle needs to be in place in order for them to get into a good groove with their circadian rhythm. They also need a steady supply of UVB light in order to maintain proper digestion and nutrition among other bodily functions.

Besides all that, who would want to eat in the dark anyway? The ambient light from the window and the lights in your house are not sufficient enough for a turtle’s well being and if they aren’t getting the right type of light they could suffer more than a decreased appetite.

Age Can Determine Their Feeding Window

When a turtle is young, just like most animals, they need a lot of high quality food in order to grow. As a turtle’s growth slows their bodies demand less and less food. You may find that as your turtle gets older it may need to eat every other day as it no longer has the same nutrient requirements as it did when it was growing.

How long can a turtle go without eating? In the wild, most species can go for up to 6 months without eating. This can help them survive a cold winter where less food is available. Though this is possible, your indoor turtle will be happier and healthier to eat regularly.

Turtles Need A Varied Diet

Some turtles can be picky eaters. Some more so than others. It is possible that if your pet is refusing to eat, you may need to change up what kind of food they’re getting. You might try some of these additions to their diet if you find you have a picky eater.

What Can Turtles Eat?

  • Fresh Fruits: In moderation, apples, grapes, raspberries, bananas, mango, strawberries, blueberries
  • Fresh Vegetables: Carrots, peas, tomato, cucumber, corn, green beans, squash
  • Fresh Greens: Spinach, kale, lettuce, carrot & beet tops, collard greens, arugula
  • Fresh Flowers: That’s right! Turtles love bright colors and some flowers are a delicious treat for them. You might try roses, geraniums, carnations, hibiscus, even dandelions.
  • Live Food: Try crickets or mealworms,  and if that is not right for you, there are packaged options as well.

By adding some variety to your turtle’s diet you may find that it is easier to get them to eat at the same time every day. And it might be the key to getting a picky turtle to eat right and can help them live a longer life by getting better nutrition.

Lack Of Calcium

While not necessarily tied directly to their food, a turtle who suffers from a calcium deficiency may be sluggish and uninterested in food. Continued deficiency could mean more health problems down the road. You can combat this by adding supplemental chews like cuttlebones or calcium blocks into their enclosure for them to snack on.

Make Sure Their Habitat Is Arranged Correctly

While a turtle can certainly be picky about its diet, it can also be picky about the way its enclosure is set up. Even if the temperature is correct in the water and the air, something could still be not quite up to your turtle’s liking. Some turtles like to eat underwater, so they may need a deeper water pool, or be served their food directly in the water.

If something in their habitat is bothering them, whether it be too crowded or there’s not enough structure, it could stress them to the point where they might refuse to eat. You may have to use trial and error to get their living area just right.

They Could Be Trying To Hibernate

Even turtles who’ve lived inside their entire lives can still try to hibernate during the winter months. They may seem sluggish in their day to day activities and seem rather lazy. If you and your veterinarian have ruled out any other stressors, this may be the case.

You may need to adjust temperature and light, making it warmer and brighter in their enclosure to force them out of the hibernation state. Some turtle experts recommend that you keep your turtles indoors and active to avoid hibernation.

A Stressed Turtle Won’t Eat

Despite their protective shell, turtles are sensitive little creatures. If you’ve just brought your turtle home from the pet shop and introduced them to their new home. They might not feel like eating for a day or two. Give them some time to acclimate and relax.

They could also become stressed from being handled too much. If you’re having a hard time getting them to eat, let them have some more peace and quiet time in their habitat. It is also important to make sure their water is cleaned and their environment is well lit during the daylight cycle.

Turtles are sensitive to change so it is not out of the ordinary for them that seemingly small changes in their environment could lower their appetite. And if they miss a meal or two, or even a week they will be fine.

Disease Can Cause Loss Of Appetite

If you’ve ruled out everything else, it may be time to check with the veterinarian. Besides lack of appetite, be on the lookout for other symptoms of distress. Things like: sneezing or wheezing, discharge from the nose or eyes, or discoloration of the skin or shell.

Check their tank to make sure they are passing stool and are not holding their feces, as that can be a sign that they aren’t feeling well. Also, be on the lookout for parasites present in the feces in their tank.

Anything out of the ordinary could be a sign that your turtle needs a professional opinion and maybe some medicine. Even though your turtle could go much longer than a week without food, it is important to catch anything that could be medically significant before it gets worse.

In Conclusion

Remember to take your time and be patient with your pet. Most of the reasons for them refusing a meal are not a big deal and they will be fine to miss a meal or two. By instituting some of these suggestions you might find your turtle skipping meals a lot less.