Box Turtle Not Eating? Do These Now

Box Turtle Not Eating

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Sharing is caring!

I have been raising box turtles for a long time, and I am quite familiar with its weird behaviors. A box turtle is not like other species. It needs extra care, and you have to learn some basic facts about box turtles before getting it.

A box turtle might not eat for different reasons. Wrong temperature or humidity can change their hunger. Sickness, like lung issues or bugs, can stop them from eating. Also, not having different foods or bad-tasting food might be the cause. Also, some turtles eat less when they get ready to sleep for a long time.

If your box turtle stopped eating, and you cannot find why, well, this article might help you. I will explain why box turtles show this behavior and what to do.

key takeaways

  • Reasons for box turtle not Eating: wrong temperature or humidity, health issues like lung problems or bugs, lack of variety in food or unpalatable food, preparing for hibernation or long sleep.
  • Changes in the environment or an unhealthy environment can affect box turtle’s appetite.
  • Each species and subspecies of box turtles have different food habits. Ensure you’re serving the right food.
  • Box turtles need specific temperatures to thrive. The enclosure should be around 75°F in the daytime, with a basking spot between 85°F to 88°F. Night temperatures should be above 70°F.
  • For indoor box turtles, UVA and UVB lights are essential for metabolism and calcium absorption.
box turtle on garden
Owner: April Kelley McGallion

why is my box turtle not eating?

It’s essential to first assess your box turtle’s living conditions if it isn’t eating. Ensure the temperature, humidity, lighting, and overall environment are suitable.

Environmental Factors:

Temperature: Box turtles are ectothermic, meaning their body temperature is influenced by their environment. If their environment is too cold, their metabolism will slow down, reducing their appetite. Ensure the temperature in their enclosure is appropriate.

Lighting: Proper lighting, including UVB lighting, is crucial for turtles. UVB light helps them process calcium and synthesize vitamin D3. Without it, they can develop health issues, which might reduce their appetite.

Health Concerns:

Illness: A sick turtle may lose its appetite. Respiratory infections, parasites, and other illnesses can be culprits.

Impaction: Sometimes, turtles can ingest substrates or foreign objects leading to a blockage in their digestive system. This can decrease their appetite and cause lethargy.

Nutritional deficiencies: A lack of essential nutrients might lead to reduced appetite and other health concerns.


Quality: If the food being offered isn’t fresh or is of low quality, the turtle might not be interested.

Variety: Turtles, like many animals, prefer a varied diet. Offering the same food every day might lead to decreased interest over time.


New Environment: If the turtle has recently been moved to a new environment or had its habitat significantly altered, it might be stressed and may not eat for a few days.

Handling: Overhandling can stress turtles, leading to reduced appetite.

box turtle shell collage
Owner: Mark Gilch

Natural Behavior:

Brumation: In colder months, box turtles in the wild enter a state of dormancy or brumation. During this time, their activity and appetite decrease significantly. Even if kept indoors, some turtles might still show signs of wanting to brumate.

Age and Growth:

Juvenile vs. Adult: Juvenile turtles tend to eat more frequently due to their rapid growth. As they approach adulthood, their growth slows, and their feeding frequency might reduce.

Breeding Season: During breeding seasons, some turtles might show reduced interest in food due to their focus on reproductive behaviors.

If all is well but the turtle won’t eat, see a reptile vet. If it shows signs of being sick, get it checked.

Have You Just Welcomed Your Box Turtle?

Well, we all know box turtles are homesick. If you put them in a place for some days, they get attached to that environment. So when you bring it from a pet shop, or from the wild, it may feel uneasy in the new environment. 

The new box turtle can feel stressed in a new environment. Stressing can make it avoid its food for some days. As it is new, it needs some time to get used to the food you are offering.

Many box turtles are fond of a certain type of food

This can be the reason why your box turtle is not eating. In this case, you do not need to worry. Your box turtle will start eating as soon as it gets used to the food and habitat.

Is Your Box Turtle Picky About Food?

Each species and subspecies of box turtle has a different food habit. So when you are getting a box turtle, do research on its food habit. If your box turtle is not eating food, it may be because it is not getting what it needs.

Ensure that you are serving your pet box turtle the right food it needs. If it still avoids food, try some new items or visit the vet.

How Is The box turtle Habitat?

We know that box turtles cannot eat if they are stressed. Many things can stress a box turtle. Its habitat is one of those things.

Small habitats can stress the large box turtles.

Again, if the habitat is too congested, then the pet does not feel comfortable there. These things cause anxiety to your box turtle and it stops eating. 

You can avoid this by building up a quality habitat for your box turtle. Four feet by four feet habitat is perfect for a box turtle. For some box turtles, outdoor habitat is more preferable.

box turtle eating flower
Owner: April Kelley McGallion

Is The Temperature Right for box turtles?

Unlike human beings, box turtle cannot hold the warmth of its body in low temperatures. So if the temperature of the habitat decreases, the box turtle experiences a metabolic change. They stop eating and save energy to preserve the warmth.

Different species and subspecies of box turtle prefer different temperatures for their habitat. But for the common box turtles (Three-toed box turtle, Eastern box turtle, Gulf coast box turtle) we can consider an average temperature. 

The data says the enclosure’s temperature should be around 75 degrees Fahrenheit in the daytime. The temperature of the basking spot is slightly higher than this. It should be between 85 degrees to 88 degrees. At night, the temperature must be above 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

Some box turtles like the temperature slightly higher or lower than this. Moreover, it depends on your box turtle’s comfort zone. You have to make sure it is getting the perfect temperature.

Again, if it is too hot, your box turtle would stop eating too. It cannot endure any extreme temperature, and so it stops eating to store its energy. To avoid this issue, you have to check the temperature regularly.

Is USB Lighting Working in your box turtle habitat?

It is not necessary that your box turtle will lose metabolism only for extreme temperatures. Many other things can be responsible for this. USB lights are a fundamental element each box turtle habitat should have. 

Losing metabolism is a reason your box turtle stops eating. USB lights provide heat that can boost the turtle’s metabolism, activity, and calcium absorption. These can help your box turtle to gain its appetite again. 

Now here is the thing, for an outside box turtle, artificial USB lights are not necessary. Direct sunlight is more beneficial than artificial ones. 

For indoor box turtles, USB lights are a must. You have to get UVA and UVB lights. Or you can move your box turtle outside. But in that case, try to open the shed for some time.

two box turtles side by side
Owner: April Kelley McGallion

is the Weather wet or Dry?

If your box turtle stops eating in the dry season for a few days, it may be okay.

A box turtle’s favorite season is the wet season, and it tends to eat a lot during this season.

Again, box turtles can feel the pressure or change of the weather. And during changes, it might stop eating, which will be alright within a few days.

is your box turtle going through Hibernation or Aestivation?

Most of us are acknowledged about hibernation and aestivation. During these two processes, metabolism of the box turtle drops. To keep up with the internal changes, it stops eating.

Hibernation occurs in the winter season, and aestivation takes place in the warm season. So if your box turtle has stopped eating during the winter or warm season, it is maybe preparing for the process.

There is nothing to worry about. Do not force your box to eat food in this situation. You can consult a vet if you need.

Box Turtle Care Infographic Chart

If you want a printable version of this amazing infographic for free, Click Here!

Are You Maintaining a proper box turtle feeding schedule?

Many box turtles prefer eating at dawn or in the morning and refuse to eat any other time of the day. But it is a temporary problem. You can make it comfortable with your time table, but it will take some time.

Here’s a proposed feeding schedule for box turtles:

Additional Notes:

  • Always provide clean, fresh water.
  • Rotate food items to ensure a varied diet.
  • Avoid feeding high-fat or high-protein foods too often.
  • Calcium and vitamin supplements can be sprinkled on food occasionally, as recommended by a vet.
  • This schedule is a general guideline. Monitor your turtle’s health and adjust as necessary.
  • Some turtles may eat daily, while others might eat every other day. Adjust the schedule based on your turtle’s appetite and activity level.
  • Remove any uneaten food after a few hours to prevent spoilage.
box turtle on hand
Owner: April Kelley McGallion

How To Make The Box Turtle Eat Again?

If your box turtle isn’t eating, here are some steps you can take to encourage it to eat again:

Optimize the Environment:

Temperature: Ensure the enclosure maintains an appropriate temperature. Generally, daytime temperatures should range from 75-85°F (24-29°C) with a basking area of 85-90°F (29-32°C).

Lighting: Make sure your turtle has access to UVB lighting, crucial for vitamin D3 synthesis and calcium absorption. This light can stimulate appetite and overall activity.

Secure Environment: Provide plenty of hiding spots and a quiet environment to reduce stress.

Dietary Changes:

Fresh and Varied Diet: Offering a variety of fresh foods can stimulate interest. Try various vegetables, fruits, worms, insects, or commercial turtle food.

Treat Foods: Sometimes offering a favorite treat (like worms or strawberries) can encourage them to start eating.

Warming the Food: Slightly warming the food can make it more appealing.

Encourage Foraging:

Scatter food items around the enclosure to encourage natural foraging behaviors.

Soak Your Turtle:

A lukewarm soak can help hydrate the turtle and sometimes stimulate its appetite. Ensure the water is shallow, just deep enough to cover the turtle’s shell.

Minimize Stress:

Limit handling during this period. Ensure the turtle is safe from potential predators or aggressive tank mates.

Also you can try to following:

  • Appetite Stimulants: In some cases, a vet might prescribe appetite stimulants to help your turtle eat.
  • Regular Routine: Try to feed your turtle at the same time every day to establish a routine.
  • Avoid Force Feeding: It can be stressful and harmful to the turtle. If you believe your turtle is at risk due to not eating, consult with a veterinarian before attempting to force-feed.
Owner: April Kelley McGallion

How Long Can A Box Turtle Survive Without Food?

Box turtles are resilient creatures with a relatively slow metabolism, which allows them to survive for extended periods without food.

However, the exact duration a box turtle can survive without food depends on various factors, including its overall health, age, the temperature and humidity of its environment, and its stored fat reserves.

In general:

Optimal Conditions:

When provided with optimal temperatures and hydration, a healthy adult box turtle might be able to survive without food for several weeks to a few months. However, this is not ideal and can lead to health complications over time.


In cooler climates, box turtles will go into a state of dormancy or brumation (similar to hibernation in mammals) during the colder months. During this period, which can last several months, they significantly reduce their activity and might not eat at all. They survive on stored fat reserves. Proper hydration remains essential even in this dormant state.


Younger turtles generally have a faster metabolism and less fat reserves than adults. Therefore, they might not survive as long without food as adult turtles.

Health Impacts:

While they can survive without food for extended periods, prolonged fasting can have negative health impacts, such as a weakened immune system, loss of muscle mass, and other nutritional deficiencies.


While box turtles can go without food for an extended period, access to clean water is vital. Dehydration can lead to severe health complications or death much more quickly than starvation.

box turtle face eye and nail
Owner: April Kelley McGallion

What to do when a baby box turtle is not eating?

If a baby box turtle isn’t eating, it’s particularly concerning because young turtles are growing rapidly and need consistent nutrition. Here are some considerations and steps to take if your baby box turtle isn’t eating:

Make sure the temperature in the enclosure is appropriate. Baby box turtles need warmth to digest food properly. The enclosure should have a gradient with a warmer basking area (around 85-90°F or 29-32°C) and a cooler area (around 75-80°F or 24-27°C).

Ensure the enclosure has a UVB light. UVB lighting is crucial for baby turtles for calcium absorption and overall health.

Baby box turtles are omnivores. Offer a mix of protein (like worms, small insects) and veggies/fruits. Sometimes they might have a preference.

Make sure the food size is appropriate for the baby turtle’s mouth.

Baby turtles need calcium for shell growth. Foods like calcium-dusted insects or small pieces of cuttlebone can help.

Baby box turtles might not recognize standing water as a drinking source. Gently placing them in a shallow dish of lukewarm water for 15-30 minutes a day can help with hydration and might stimulate appetite.

Ensure the water is clean. Dirty water can harbor bacteria that might make your turtle sick.

Check for any signs of illness such as lethargy, swelling, discharge, or irregularities in the shell.

Sometimes, internal parasites can be the cause. A fecal test from a veterinarian can identify this issue.

box turtle outdoor habitat
Owner: April Kelley McGallion

box turtle not eating or moving: what to do?

If your box turtle isn’t eating or moving, check the enclosure’s temperature. The basking area should be 85-90°F, and the cooler area should be 75-85°F. Make sure the turtle gets UVB lighting. Without it, health problems can arise.

Also, check the humidity level, as both too dry and too wet conditions can be problematic. Look for visible signs of illness such as discharge, swollen eyes, or shell abnormalities.

If environmental conditions are optimal and the turtle still shows signs of distress or inactivity, consult a reptile veterinarian immediately.

A lack of movement combined with a lack of appetite is particularly concerning and warrants prompt professional attention.

what is a box turtle’s favorite food?

Box turtles are omnivores, which means they eat both plant and animal matter. The dietary preferences of box turtles can vary depending on the specific species, age, and individual taste. In general, however, the following items are commonly favored by box turtles:

  • Worms, insects (like beetles, caterpillars, and grasshoppers), snails, and slugs are among the favorites for many box turtles.
  • Box turtles often enjoy fruits such as strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, and even apples. Soft, ripe fruits are typically preferred.
  • Some box turtles might eat occasional small vertebrates like pinky mice or fish. However, this isn’t a staple for all box turtles and should be given infrequently.

Sharing is caring!

About Author

Muntaseer Rahman started keeping pet turtles back in 2013. He also owns the largest Turtle & Tortoise Facebook community in Bangladesh. These days he is mostly active on Facebook.


This site is owned and operated by Muntaseer Rahman. TheTurtleHub.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. This site also participates in other affiliate programs and is compensated for referring traffic and business to these companies.