How Long Can a Pet Turtle Live Without Food? [Expert Insights]

feeding red eared sliders

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

Did you know that some turtles can go without food for up to 6 months? It’s mind-blowing, right? If you’ve ever forgotten to feed your pet for a day and felt guilty, imagine what these hardy little creatures can endure!

In this piece, we’ll dive into the world of our shelled friends and discover just how long our pet turtles can really go without a snack. So, if you’ve ever been curious or just plain forgetful, stick around and let’s explore together!

read all our guides on Turtle dietary pattern & metabolism!

How Long Can a Pet Turtle Live Without Food?

As a turtle owner, I understand that it’s crucial to know how long our beloved pets can survive without food.

On average, a healthy adult turtle can go without food for about 3 to 6 months due to their slow metabolic rate.

However, several factors such as age, size, environment, and prior diet can influence the duration a turtle can survive without food.

It’s essential to note that young turtles and juveniles, especially those less than a year old, require more frequent feedings and will not be able to endure extended fasting periods. They need more protein and should be fed daily to meet their nutritional demands adequately.

When it comes to pet turtles, their needs can differ from those in the wild. They usually have a constant supply of food, don’t experience seasonal changes, and live in stable environments with steady temperatures and light.

As a result, pet turtles tend to be more active and require food to fuel their movement and maintain a higher metabolism. It’s essential to feed pet turtles regularly to keep them healthy and active.

Even though healthy adult turtles can theoretically survive for several days or even weeks without food, it’s not responsible to leave them alone for extended periods.

We never know what can happen in our absence; hence, providing consistent feedings ensures their well-being.

Owner: Elizabeth Nicole Hartin

How Long Can a Pet Turtle Live Without Food and Water?

While adult turtles can survive without food for up to 3 months, they should always have access to water.

Juvenile turtles require daily feeding to support healthy growth. It’s essential to plan and ensure your pet turtle’s well-being, especially when you’re away for an extended period.

Fasting might be suitable for adult turtles, but water is crucial for their well-being. Dehydration can lead to various health issues, including kidney failure. Turtles need access to fresh, clean water at all times for drinking and soaking.

If you need to leave your turtle for an extended period, don’t forget to provide a water source and make arrangements for someone to care for your pet.

Upon returning, observe your turtle for any health changes. If the turtle went without food for a long time, reintroduce food slowly and monitor its behavior. Turtles might become weak or sluggish due to fasting.

Consulting a reptile veterinarian is always a good idea if you’re concerned about your turtle’s health.

Proper Feeding Schedule for Pet Turtles

Hatchling Turtles:

When the turtle is a hatchling, it requires daily nourishment. A staple in their diet is commercial turtle pellets, which should be given in a small pinch every day. These pellets are specially formulated for turtles and provide essential nutrients.

In addition to pellets, hatchlings benefit from small live prey, such as crickets, 2-3 times a week, with each feeding consisting of 2-3 crickets. This not only offers vital nutrients but also stimulates their natural hunting behavior.

Furthermore, leafy greens like romaine lettuce can be introduced twice a week in small, bite-sized pieces.

Iceberg lettuce should be avoided as it lacks significant nutritional value.

Juvenile Turtles:

As the turtle transitions into its juvenile phase, its feeding frequency changes. Commercial turtle pellets remain a primary food source but are now given every other day in a moderate pinch.

The amount increases slightly as the turtle grows.

Small live prey, which can include crickets and fish, should be provided 2 times a week, with each feeding consisting of 3-5 items.

Leafy greens become a more regular part of their diet, being offered 3 times a week in moderate-sized pieces.

Over time, a variety of greens can be introduced to ensure a balanced diet.

Adult Turtles (3+ years):

Upon reaching adulthood, which is typically at 3 years or older, the turtle’s dietary needs shift again.

Adult turtles eat less frequently than their younger counterparts. Commercial turtle pellets are now provided 2-3 times a week in a large pinch. Live prey, suitable for the turtle’s size, can be given 1-2 times a week, with each feeding consisting of 4-6 items.

Leafy greens become even more crucial in an adult turtle’s diet, being offered 4-5 times a week in large pieces.

Additionally, adult turtles can enjoy occasional treats, such as fruits like strawberries, melon, or apple, once a week in small amounts. It’s essential to remove any uneaten food to prevent spoilage.

General Care:

Regardless of age, it’s imperative to always provide clean, fresh water for the turtle. As the turtle grows and its dietary needs evolve, adjustments to the feeding schedule may be necessary.

For the best care, it’s recommended to consult with a veterinarian or reptile expert for specific dietary recommendations tailored to the individual turtle’s needs.

Pet Turtle Diet Feeding Chart infographic

Variables that Control How Long a Turtle Can Live Without Food

When discussing the survival of pet turtles without food, it is important to note that there are various factors that can influence how long a turtle can go without eating.

Young Turtles Need More Frequent Feeding

A turtle’s age is a significant factor in determining their food requirements and ability to survive without nourishment. Young turtles, especially those under a year old, need regular daily feedings to meet their nutritional needs, as they are still growing and developing.

In contrast, adult turtles have a slower metabolic rate, allowing them to survive without food for longer periods, typically around 2-3 weeks and even up to 3-6 months.

Smaller Turtles Eat More!

Different species and sizes of turtles have varying nutritional requirements and fasting capabilities.

For instance, smaller turtle species generally have a higher metabolism and require more frequent feedings compared to larger species.

Larger turtles can survive longer without food due to their greater body mass and stored energy reserves.

Wild Turtles Can Withstand Longer Fasting

Turtles living in the wild have developed strategies to cope with fluctuations in food availability.

In their natural habitats, some turtles can fast for over a year. However, captive pet turtles may not have the same abilities, particularly if they have not developed sufficient stored body fat.

The environmental conditions of their enclosure, such as temperature and humidity, can also affect a turtle’s metabolism and ability to withstand periods without food.

Previously well-fed or not?

The diet provided to a pet turtle before a fasting period can significantly impact their ability to survive without food.

A well-fed turtle with a proper and balanced diet will have adequate energy reserves, allowing for longer survival periods.

Conversely, a malnourished turtle may not be able to withstand the same length of fasting.

Understanding Pet Turtle Metabolism

As a pet turtle owner, I’ve come to understand that turtle metabolism plays an essential role in determining how long they can go without food.

Turtles are ectothermic, meaning they rely on their environment to regulate their body temperature. This affects their metabolism and energy conservation.

Different turtle species have varying metabolic rates.

Aquatic turtles, for example, often have a faster metabolism than terrestrial ones.

This is because they tend to be more active and require more energy to swim, hunt, and maintain their body functions in their aquatic environment. Therefore, aquatic turtles may need more frequent feedings than their terrestrial counterparts.

In my experience, turtle metabolic rates are also influenced by factors such as temperature, size, age, and overall health.

When the temperature is cooler, their metabolism slows down, making them less active and requiring less food.

On the other hand, warmer temperatures generally increase their metabolism, leading to higher energy needs and more frequent feedings.

Additionally, as turtles grow older, their metabolism tends to slow down, leading to them requiring less food compared to their younger and faster-growing counterparts.

One interesting aspect of turtle metabolism is that their unique physiological characteristics allow them to survive for extended periods without food.

Effects of Food Deprivation on Turtle’s Health

When a pet turtle experiences food deprivation, it can lead to several health issues.

One of the most noticeable effects is weight loss. As the turtle’s body uses up its energy reserves, it starts losing weight, which can be detrimental in the long run.

I’ve observed that turtles can experience significant weight loss when they’re not provided proper nutrition for extended periods. It’s essential to maintain their well-being by supplying them with an appropriate diet and monitoring their weight.

Deprivation of food can also negatively impact a turtle’s immune system. In my experience, a weakened immune system can leave turtles susceptible to infections and diseases. Turtles need a strong immune system to fight off harmful bacteria, parasites, and other pathogens, which might become life-threatening.

Lethargy is another common issue resulting from turtles facing starvation. I noticed that turtles tend to become more sluggish and less active when they haven’t eaten for days or weeks. This can be harmful to their overall quality of life, as they won’t be able to engage in essential activities like basking, swimming, and foraging.

The turtle eggs buried in the sand. Incubator turtles outdoor. Conservation of endangered species of large giant turtles in the Andaman Islands India. little baby turtles in the hand of the night

How long can a baby turtle survive without food?

Baby turtles are in a crucial growth phase and require consistent nourishment.

While they might survive without food for a few days, it’s not recommended to let them go without food for more than 24-48 hours.

Generally speaking, while a baby turtle might be able to survive without food for a few days or even slightly longer, it’s not advisable to let them go without food for extended periods. Prolonged starvation can lead to health issues, stunted growth, and even death.

The exact duration a baby turtle can survive without food depends on several factors:


Different species of turtles have different metabolic rates and dietary needs. For instance, some aquatic turtles might have slightly different tolerances than land-based tortoises.


Very young hatchlings might have a bit of yolk sac left from their egg, which can provide them with some nutrients for a short period after hatching.


Turtles are ectothermic, meaning their body temperature is regulated by the environment. In cooler temperatures, a turtle’s metabolism slows down, and they might not require food as frequently. However, prolonged exposure to cold temperatures can be harmful.


A healthy baby turtle with good fat reserves might survive longer without food than a malnourished one.


While discussing food, it’s also essential to consider water. Turtles, even desert species, need access to water. Dehydration can be a significant concern, especially for aquatic species.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Long Can a Red-Eared Slider Turtle go Without Eating?

Adult Red-Eared Slider turtles can go without eating for up to 2-3 weeks under certain conditions. However, it’s essential to ensure they have access to clean water during this period. Juveniles and hatchlings should not go without food for extended periods.

How Long Can a Box Turtle go Without Eating?

Box turtles, especially adults, can survive without food for several weeks. However, consistent access to water is vital. It’s always best to feed them regularly to ensure their health and well-being.

What is the maximum duration for turtles to fast?

The maximum fasting duration varies by species and age. While some adult turtles can survive without food for several weeks, it’s not ideal for their health. Regular feeding schedules are recommended for all turtles.

What occurs when turtles are not fed for several days?

When turtles go without food for several days, they may become lethargic, lose weight, and their immune system can weaken, making them more susceptible to illnesses. Extended periods without food can lead to severe health complications.

How long can different types of turtles endure without food?

The duration varies by species and age. While some adult turtles, like the Red-Eared Slider and Box Turtle, can go without food for several weeks, others may struggle after just a week. Juveniles and hatchlings generally have a shorter fasting tolerance.

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.


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