How Often Do You Feed A Turtle?

How Often Do You Feed A Turtle

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

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Turtles are greedy! If you have ever owned a turtle, you know I am telling the truth. They are opportunistic feeders and will beg for food even when they are full. While underfeeding leads to malnutrition, overfeeding can cause unhealthy shedding or pyramiding. So, how often do you feed a turtle?

The feeding schedule depends on the age of the turtle. Such as,

  • Hatchlings and juveniles (up to 1 year): Once a day
  • Youngsters: Every other day
  • Adults: Three times a day/ every third day

If you are still puzzled over the feeding quantity and schedule of a turtle, then get your answers in the following article. Besides, you will get bonus information on the problems you face while feeding your turtle.

read all our guides on Turtle dietary pattern & metabolism!

How Often Do You Feed A Turtle?

I have already mentioned that the feeding schedule will depend on the age of the turtle. For better understanding, I have divided all the turtles into 3 categories. Such as,

  • Hatchlings and juveniles
  • Youngsters
  • Adults

Hatchlings And Juveniles

Like human babies, the hatchlings are also vulnerable at their early age. They have low immunity and undeveloped bodies. They are more likely to fall sick if they do not get nutrition to get strong. This is why experts suggest feeding the hatchlings and juveniles more frequently than the older ones.

Feed your hatchlings or juvenile turtles once a day until they turn 1 year. Add pellets, animal protein, and a small portion of vegetables. Most turtle species are primarily carnivorous and avoid any amount of veggies. If your turtle is one of them, do not force it to eat vegetables or fruits.

Also, this is the perfect time for the turtles to develop strong and hard shells and bones. How can you help? Of course by fulfilling their mineral and nutrition needs. Add vitamin D3 and calcium supplements in their daily meals. Do not forget to set up a UV lamp in the enclosure.


As a young turtle, your pet has already got its way into life. Now, it will not require as much food as a baby turtle. Feeding the young adult once every other day will be healthy enough for it. You need to continue this routine until the pet reaches adulthood. Experts claim a turtle becomes an adult around 5 to 7 years old, but some species may experience it earlier.

A growing turtle also needs the nutrition and minerals to maintain a healthy body. You can increase the portion of herbs or plants in the diet if your pet is a fan of it. Besides, continue feeding the turtle pellets, insects, worms, shrimps, etc. A calcium and vitamin D3 supplement along with a proper UV bulb setup is still needed.


With the growing age, your turtle will lose its appetite and it is totally normal. You will not have to feed it everyday or every other day. Once your turtle turns into an adult, you can switch to thrice a week or every third day feeding schedule. And do not worry, for an adult turtle, this schedule is recommended and found healthy.

You can add pellets, crickets, small fishes, shrimps, green leafy vegetables, water hyacinths, carrots, berries, and other items to the turtle’s meal. Sprinkle vitamin D3 and calcium supplement on each meal. Also, UV bulbs are important as the lack of UV rays can cause soft shell and bone diseases.

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How Much Should You Feed A Turtle

How Much Should You Feed A Turtle?

Turtles are expert food beggars. They want to eat even when they are full. And you might take pity in this act and end up feeding your turtle more than enough. This may lead your turtle to obesity and other complicated diseases, especially if it is an indoor turtle.

As a responsible owner, you should know the limit of feeding your turtle. There are several rules and methods popular to determine how much to feed a turtle. The most two popular and effective methods are:

  1. The head method
  2. The 15 minute rule

The Head Method:

Imagine a bowl exact the same size as your turtle’s head if it were empty. Now fill the bowl with each item and feed your turtle. You may have to think a little bit harder but this method eliminates the risk of overfeeding.

As the size of the head grows with the turtle, you may have to go for bigger bowls with time. Experts suggest this method as there will be no waste and it provides the turtle sufficient food. However, for beginners, determining the quantity might be a little hard.

The 15 Minute Rule:

Place an ideal diet meal inside the turtle’s enclosure for 15 minutes. After that particular period, remove the food. Professionals believe a turtle will eat its necessity in the first 15 minutes. Remember to provide more than enough food.

If you have trouble getting the quantity right with the head method, this can help you. As there is a chance of food waste in this method, I personally do not recommend following it. Also, some people may replace the 15 minute rule with the 20 minute rule. Switching is okay as long as your vet approves.

Additional Tips

Are you confused about how much protein or herbs should be in the meals of your turtle? Here is a rule of thumb that you can follow:

  • The pellets should not be more than 25%
  • The diet should contain at least 40 to 45% with 6 to 8% fat. For some species, the requirement for the protein content may go up to 60 or 75%.
  • 25 to 50% of plants, vegetables, fruits, or herbs are enough for the meal. Add 20% fruit and 80% vegetable to make the meal healthier. 

When And Where Should You Feed A Turtle?

Do you know turtles are hungrier in the early morning and the evening? If you feed them at those hours, they will eat like decent children. At other times, your turtle may refuse to eat or will not finish its meal.

The feeding place is important as it affects the turtle’s appetite. Depending on the turtle species, the area can change. For example, aquatic turtles prefer having meals in water. While some other turtles eat in the basking dock or at the corner of the enclosure. Feed your turtle where it feels more comfortable.

If you are busy with your schedule and can not make time to feed your turtles, I have a solution for you. An automatic turtle feeder can be your smart investment. A good quality feeder offers you different programs and features. Get the best automatic turtle feeder by clicking here.

Why Does A Turtle Beg For Food And How To Stop It?

When I said turtles are greedy, I meant it. Have you ever noticed your pet turtle begging for food? It will stare at you with its loving eyes and make you feel important about your presence. The pet will come up to you or at the dock and crawl around making noises. This is the turtle’s classic way of begging for food.

If you give the turtle food, it will be happy and dive back. If not, it can go mad. The funny part is, the turtle can beg for food, even after feeding it half an hour ago. Why is your turtle always hungry? Is there something wrong? 

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The answer is no. Your turtle is probably healthy and nothing is wrong with it. Begging for food even after having a hearty meal is an instinctive behavior of the turtle.

In the wild, turtles are on their own and there is not plenty of delicious food for them. To get a hold of small fish, shrimp, worms, cricket, or pellet, they have to be in the mud and hunt. So, whenever the turtles get a chance to eat, they eat vigorously.

In captivity, you might think this habit will change as there is no scarcity of food. But no. They will start begging for food as soon as you appear. Sometimes when the turtles stuff too much, they may throw up. And then, eat their own vomit.

Well, there is no exact solution to this condition. Your turtle is an opportunistic feeder and will beg for food even if they are not hungry. You can increase the pellet or protein portion in the meal. This will keep the turtle full for a longer time.

How To Know If A Turtle Is Actually Starving

How To Know If A Turtle Is Actually Starving?

How will you know that your turtle is actually starving and begging for food? Well, there is no exact way to find it out. As turtles can go without food for a long time, your pet might do well apparently. After a period, the pet will grow weaker and exhibit the signs of malnutrition.

I suggest you not starve your turtle and make it beg. Rather follow the feeding schedule I have mentioned above. If you can not provide the food as per routine, install an automatic turtle feeder for backup.

Turtle Is Refusing To Eat: Why?

What if you are following the feeding schedule, but your turtle is refusing to eat? This scenario is not uncommon and several reasons cause this problem. Such as,

  • You have missed the morning or evening hour when the turtle has the most appetite.
  • The food is not served at the right spot. For example, aquatic turtles prefer eating in the water. They might lose interest to eat if you place the food elsewhere.
  • The turtle is sick and has lost its appetite.
  • The enclosure temperature is low, which has slowed down the metabolism of the turtle.
  • In winter turtles may refuse to eat as they prepare for hibernation.
  • The turtle has just moved to your place, or there are a lot of noises around your house that make your turtle stressed and anxious. A stressed turtle may refuse to eat.
  • Poor UV light and heating bulbs set up might cause appetite loss in turtles.

Each of these problems can be solved with a little modification. For example,

  • Strictly follow the feeding time schedule and serve the food at the right place.
  • If the turtle is exhibiting any symptom of illness, take it to a vet for proper treatment.
  • Check the enclosure temperature and make sure it is suitable for your turtle species.
  • The UV and heating light should be of good quality.
  • In winter, if the turtle is hibernating, consult a vet and provide the pet a suitable environment for long sleep.

Consequences Of Underfeeding Your Turtle

If you do not feed your turtle enough, it will suffer from malnutrition and other diseases. Such as,

  • Vitamin A deficiency
  • Metabolic bone disease
  • Swollen or puffy eyes
  • Respiratory infection

Malnutrition can be the root of many more health conditions. Your turtle will grow weak and will appear less interested in the daily tasks. It is better to keep your turtle under regular medical checkups so that you can take necessary actions in case it is suffering from malnutrition.

Consequences Of Overfeeding Your Turtle

Neither underfeeding nor overfeeding is good for your turtle. If you keep feeding your turtle without maintaining any routine or quantity, the pet will be the victim of overfeeding. Trust me, overfeeding is just as bad as underfeeding.

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An overfed turtle will suffer from the following conditions,

  • Obesity
  • Pyramiding
  • Kidney damage
  • Liver damage
  • Excessive unhealthy shedding
  • Premature sexuality

Obesity: Have you ever seen a fat turtle in the wild? No, because those turtles do not get plenty of food. Even if they overeat sometimes, they burn the fat by roaming around in the wild. But in a captive situation, the pets have no other option but to get fat for overeating.  

Here are the signs of obesity in turtles:

  • Whenever the turtle retracts its legs into the shell, there will be noticeable folds. Those folds will be a bit thick and meaty, nothing like skin wrinkles.
  • The turtle will have trouble moving due to being overweight.
  • It will rest most of the time snoozing.

The only way to treat obesity in turtles is by decreasing the amount of food or number of feeding. Consult a vet to make sure the turtle is not suffering from other complexities.

Pyramiding: This condition occurs if you have fed your turtle excess protein or pellets. The shell will deform and the scutes will appear like pyramids. This is also considered a metabolic bone disease. A balanced diet and prescribed medicine can cure this condition in turtles.

Organ Failure: Kidney or liver damage can also occur if your turtle is overfed. All the fats will be stored in those organs that they can not process. After a time, the kidney or liver will stop working. Organ failure is a severe situation and there is nothing you can do. The pet will live much lesser than its average longevity.

Excessive Unhealthy Shedding: What will happen if you overfeed your turtle? Of course, it will start growing faster than it should be. This will lead to shell shedding and more unhealthy conditions. A healthy diet is enough to stop unhealthy shedding. Check this article to get a clear concept on healthy and unhealthy shell shedding.

Here are some signs that indicate your turtle is having more food than its necessity:

  • Lethargy or fatigue
  • Bloated limbs
  • Trouble moving
  • Yellow tinged eyes
  • Frequent puking

How Long Can A Turtle Go Without Food?

Are you planning for a vacation or got stuck on an unexpected tour? Wondering how long your turtle will survive without the regular feeding schedule? Well, you know turtles are survivors and can fight hunger bravely.

If a turtle has been fed regularly, it can survive 2 weeks or more without food. The juveniles and hatchlings can not stay alive that long. Even if there is no food, water must be available. Without both food and water, survival becomes tougher and challenging.

Do not starve your turtle on purpose. They can survive; it does not mean the pets will stay healthy. There is a risk of physical illness and weakness. In the hibernation periods, the turtles can go without food for 6 to 7 months. But as the situation is different, do not expect your turtle to live that long without food in normal condition.

What Is An Ideal Diet For A Turtle?

You have got an idea of how often and how much to feed a turtle. Do you know the items you should add to the meal? Take a look at the following table:

Commercial foodPellets, frozen dried fish, etc.
VegetablesCarrots, spinach, squash, grean leafy vegetables, etc.
ProteinCrickets, small fish, shrimp, worms, frogs, etc.
FruitsBerries, kiwi, melon, etc.
SupplementsCalcium, Vitamin A, and Vitamin D

Never feed your turtle junk items, candies, dog foods, or other fancy items. Each turtle species has its own diet chart. Follow it carefully while preparing the meals.

Check the articles below to get a proper diet routine of the turtle species,


Turtles are greedy eaters. If you keep feeding them whenever they beg, the pets will fall sick. Follow the feeding schedule and tips given above. In case of any confusion, consult a vet.

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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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