How To Make My Turtle Lose Weight?

The Chinese Trionyx turtle Pelodiscus sinensis swimming in the aquarium.

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

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I have seen fat turtles in cartoons and illustrations. However, I never thought fat turtles even existed. They do, and I once adopted a fat turtle when I started to keep turtles. One of the main questions I asked the vet was how to make my turtle lose weight.

The first step to fat turtles lose weight is reforming their diet plan and controlling their feeding portion. Regulating a moderate temperature, giving proper attention, increasing physical activities, and changing food habits can make the turtles lose weight.

Fat turtles have several health concerns. It’s quite necessary for turtles to maintain a healthy lifestyle. If you want your fat turtle to lose weight, this article will help you with my personal experience and a complete weight loss guide for turtles. Let’s dive in!

Key Highlights

  • Turtles’ weight depends on their feeding portion, body movement, age, and environment species.
  • The main reasons for turtles getting fat are overfeeding, lack of discipline, and not maintaining a proper diet.
  • The major symptoms of a fat turtle are shell deformation, swollen eyes, and a fatty neck.
  • You can make your turtle lose weight following some easy steps like portion control, ensuring hydration, and controlling humidity and temperature.
  • Make a week-based or regular diet plan for turtles with the vet’s instructions.
  • Trace their weight journey with regular weighing, behavior, and body assessment.
  • Turtles can suffer from various health problems like organ strain, breathing, and mobility issues.

Can Turtles Get Fat?

Turtles can get fat due to unhealthy lifestyles, overfeeding, and lack of movement.

Besides this, they can be obese if their pellets are high in starch. Obesity in turtles is rare but dangerous to their health as well.

As I’ve said earlier, I adopted a fat turtle a long time ago. The reason I got the turtle is because I found him cute. However, I immediately ran to the vet with the turtle when I noticed some weird activities.

Unfortunately, the turtle was suffering from obesity for a long time. If your turtle is obese, you need to find the reasons first. You need to be more cautious with the turtle’s regular diet plan. You also have to observe them often because their obesity won’t be visible easily.

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What Are The Signs Of Obesity In Turtles?

As turtles aren’t like your other pet, it’s difficult to notice their health problems at a glance. It takes a long time to observe their body parts and activities. But I’ve found some visible signs of obesity in my turtle.

Sign of ObesityDescription and Impact
Shell DeformationWeight gain leads to shell shape loss and softness. This deformation is visible, indicating the turtle’s poor health.
Fatty Deposit in the NeckFat accumulation around the neck restricts neck movement. Inability to retract the head properly can lead to health issues.
Swollen Eye AreaWhile not directly linked to obesity, related health issues like respiratory problems can cause eye swelling.
Difficulty in Moving AroundExcess weight results in reduced activity and slower movements. This can further exacerbate health problems.

Shell Deformation

When turtles gain weight, the shells lose shape due to the extra body fat. Also, it makes their shells softer than usual. It can deform the turtle’s appearance, and you can easily notice your turtles aren’t in good shape.

Fatty Deposit In The Neck

The most visible symptom of turtle obesity is the fat around the neck. It affects the turtle’s whole body, and they can’t move their neck area properly.  However, turtles can’t retract their head into the shell properly, and it causes serious health problems.

Swollen Eye Area

Though turtles’ eyes can be swollen for different reasons, there is no direct connection between obesity and swollen eyes. However, obesity causes respiratory issues, multiple infections, and soft shells, and these diseases can cause bulging eyes.

Difficulty In Moving Around

Similar to humans, turtles also can’t move freely with the fat. They are less active and move slower than at other times. Yet, they can’t swim like usual. Lack of movement makes them more sick and fat.

Turtles, like many pets, can become overweight if overfed or lacking in exercise. Excessively obese turtles may not even be able to bear weight on their legs on land and sit beached, like paperweights, until they are back in water. To lose weight safely, turtles require a balanced diet and opportunities for activity. (source)

What Does A Fat Turtle Look Like?

A fat turtle is rounder and softer than other turtles.  Their shell can be in rounded and plump shape. The limbs of fat turtles are fuller and heavy. Moreover, they aren’t active and playful due to the pressure of their extra weight.

You might find their chubby appearance sweet and funny sometimes. But if you want to keep your turtles safe from potential health risks, they must lose weight. Thus, you might feed them out of immense love, but you must provide them with proper nutrition.

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How Can I Get My Turtle To Lose Weight?

The fat turtle was struggling with the fatty deposits, making me more conscious about his health. I’ve talked to many vets to get the weight loss tips for the turtle. Then, I followed a step-by-step guide that helped my turtle lose weight.

1. Consult a VetSeek Professional AdviceConsult a vet for a health assessment and advice on the ideal weight and care for your turtle.
2. Assess the Present Diet PlanTrack Current DietUnderstand the current diet and identify foods contributing to obesity, preparing for dietary changes.
3. Make a New Diet PlanDiet RevisionCreate a healthier diet plan with the vet’s guidance, focusing on calcium and vitamin-rich foods, and reducing high-fat, high-calorie items.
4. Portion ControlMonitor Food IntakeGradually control meal portions to help the turtle adjust and lose weight effectively.
5. Limit TreatsReduce High-Fat TreatsCut back on high-fat treats, replacing them with healthier options like leafy greens and vegetables.
6. Increase Physical ActivitiesEncourage MovementMove the turtle to a single tank and provide toys to promote exercise and physical activity.
7. Maintain a Proper Basking TemperatureOptimize EnvironmentEnsure the tank has a comfortable basking area at around 26°C to prevent lethargy and maintain activity levels.
8. Provide Adequate HydrationEnsure Water AvailabilityProvide ample clean water and regular water changes to support hydration and overall health.

Step 1: Consult A Vet

If you plan to change your turtle’s lifestyle and meal plan, consult a vet and get proper guidance.  After an elaborative health assessment, you can understand the perfect weight for your turtle that keeps them healthy.

Step 2: Assess The Present Diet Plan

Before changing their meals, you have to track the present diet plan and find the reasons for turtles getting fat. You need to list down the foods that make turtles obese and alternative replacement foods.

Step 3: Make A New Diet Plan

Now it’s time to create a new diet plan for your turtles. Talk to the vet to form the perfect weight loss diet plan for them. Replace the high-fat, rich-calorie foods with more calcium and vitamin-based foods.

Step 4: Portion Control

I’ve monitored his regular food intake and controlled meal portions gradually. Turtles need time to adjust to a new diet plan. Balancing the food portion helped the fat turtle lose around 5 to 10 pounds within a short time.

snapping turtle screaming
Owner: Josh Kelley

Step 5: Limit Treats

If you provide high-fat treats frequently, you should limit their treats. High-fat or rich protein foods can increase a turtle’s weight. It’s quite harmful to their health. Instead of that, I fed my fat turtle more leafy greens and vegetables in different ways as a treat.

Step 6: Increase Physical Activities

As chubby turtles face difficulties moving around, you need to transfer them into the single tank. Regular exercise and constant movement are necessary for turtles to lose weight. You can give them some attractive toys to play with to increase their physical movement.

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Step 7: Maintain A Proper Basking Temperature

Every turtle’s tank should contain a comfortable basking area with moderate temperatures between 26°C. It’s essential for thermoregulation and restoring their energy. Turtles become lethargic and less active in cold temperatures, which can make them fatter.

Step 8: Provide Adequate Hydration

Turtles require good hydration capacity to function properly.  They can be sluggish if they don’t get enough hydration and moisture. You must provide them with clean water and change the water in their tank twice weekly.

 Limiting calorie-dense treats can help a heavy turtle shed pounds healthily.

What Is The Best Diet For A Turtle?

Turtles’ diet varies with age, weight, and species. You need to adjust the portion according to your turtle’s food habits. After talking to a vet, I’ve made a perfect meal plan for my turtles. Here is the nutrition plan I follow to feed my turtles.

MondayCommercial turtle pelletsLeafy greensLive or frozen insects
TuesdayCommercial turtle pelletsVegetablesCalcium supplement
WednesdayLeafy greensFruitsVegetables
ThursdayCommercial food pelletsLive or frozen insectsFruits
FridayLeafy greensFruitsCalcium supplement
SaturdayCommercial food pelletsVegetablesLive or frozen insects
SundayLive or frozen insectsLeafy greensVitamin supplement

Food Habit Of Different Turtle Species

Not all turtles have similar taste buds, their food habit varies from different species. Here are the food habits of turtle species.

SpeciesPlant-based foodAnimal-based foodBenefits 
Sea/Aquatic turtleAlgae, seagrasses, and seaweedSmall fish, crustaceans, insects, mollusks, jellyfish, shrimpIt helps them to survive in the sea environment, increase stability
Red-eared SliderKale, parsley, mustard greens, clover, seagrassesSilkworms, waxworms, earthworms, aquatic snails, bloodwormsRich fibers, vitamins, and minerals improve shell health and promote growth 
Diamondback terrapinRomaine lettuce, watercress, swiss chard, endive, collard greensSaltmarsh periwinkle (aquatic snail), fish, mollusks, mussels, clamsMaintaining the shell strength, perfect coloration, and a healthy lifestyle
Map turtlesCollard greens, turnip greens, kale, algaeFreeze-dried shrimp, mealworms, fish, cricketsProper shell development, restoring energy
Eastern box turtlesCabbage, broccoli, bell peppers, green beans, parsley, rose petals, carrots, lima beansGrasshoppers, moths, slugs, earthworms, hard-boiled eggs, cricketsPromotes energetic swimming, healthy body growth
Painted turtleAlgae, crustaceans, red leaf lettuce, spinach, carrots, celery,  tomatoes,Guppies, bass, killifish, crappies, platies, dried fish and insectsBalancing regular nutrition develops a stronger body and shell
Musk turtlePondweed, algae, celery, kale, water hyacinthBloodworms, morio, dried shrimp, beef heart, mealworms, and fishBetter for strong jaws and make their shell buffy
Snapping turtleWater lettuce, yellow pond lilies, water fern, bog moss, algae Crayfish, snails, worms, leeches, tadpolesGood for aquatic food chain balance, prevents several diseases

Pet Turtle Diet & Feeding Chart

Pet Turtle Diet Feeding Chart

For a printable version of this amazing diet chart, click here!

Be patient, as safe weight loss is gradual – about 2 pounds per month is considered healthy for most turtle species.

How Do You Know If Your Turtle Is Losing Weight?

When I started to follow a weight loss plan for my fat turtle, I asked the vet about the weight loss plan tracking process. He suggested some tips to understand whether the weight loss plan works or not.

Regular Weighing

First, you have to take notes on the turtle’s weight scale regularly. I used to weigh my fat turtle every day. However, a turtle’s weight loss is a lengthy journey because it’s a slow process. However, tracking the weight helps you to understand the progress.

Observing Their Behavior

After gaining weight,  turtles stop moving and become lethargic. They can’t even swim. It makes them sad, depressed, and anxious. When your turtle loses weight, they start moving and swimming freely. Also, they look more energetic and playful.

Changes In Appetite

Generally, turtles have a consistent food habit. But if their food intake is decreasing and they’re getting into a healthy diet, it’ll be visible in their activities. They eat less food than before, which can be a good sign of losing weight for turtles.

Shell And Body Condition

As their fatty fleshes are visible in the body and shell, you must observe their shell and body condition to understand if they are losing weight. When a turtle can retract its head into the shell without difficulty, it is losing weight.

What Are The Potential Health Problems For A Fat Turtle?

Organ StrainLack of appetite, liver or kidney collapse, limiting movementWeight management, vet-instructed treatments and supportive care
Low MobilityDifficulty in moving and swimming, losing interest in basking and climbing,Playing with them, increase their exercise time, encourage physical activities
Respiratory ProblemsOpen-mouth breathing, frequent grasping, wheezingControlling the temperature and humidity, modify the nutrition plan, vet treatments
Digestion IssuesDiarrhea, vomiting, bloating, lethargy, constipation, shell deformitiesLimiting feeding quantity, ensure balanced diet, monitoring the weight
Difficulty In Moving Limbs  Swollen limbs, abnormal posture, painCalcium and vitamin supplements, physical therapy, vet’s medications

What Food Should Your Turtle Avoid For Not Getting Fat?

While making a turtle’s diet plan, you must keep some foods out of the list due to their harmful effects. It’s not only mandatory for fat turtles, but it’s also applicable for all of them. Here is the list of food types that you should avoid for your turtles.

  • High fat, rich in carbs, and all types of processed food like hot dogs, cat and dog foods.
  • Excessive animal protein like lean meat of beef, pork, sausages, poultry chicken.
  • Fruits with high sugar, such as mangoes, grapes, cherries, bananas, etc.
  • Commercial treats with extra fat, calories, and rich protein.
  • Heavy fish food with unhealthy fillers and additives.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can A Turtle Get Too Fat For Its Shell?

A turtle can get too fat for its shell because its shell has been designed to retract the regular head size. But when turtles gain weight, it’s hard for them to retract their head into their shells. Sometimes, their body fat comes out of the shell, and they appear to be too fat.

Can Turtles Get Fat In The Wild?

Generally, turtles can’t get fat in the wild because they control their meal under the sea. They get fat when humans control their meals and environment. It happens due to overfeeding, lack of discipline, and improper feeding routines.

Where Do Turtles Store Fat?

Turtles store fat in different parts of their body. Mostly, they store fat in specialized adipose that is located near their internal visceral fat organ. Storing the fat in their body helps them to survive during food unavailability.

What Happens If I Overfeed My Red-Eared Slider?

Overfeeding your red-eared sliders can cause obesity, shell deformities, digestive issues, abnormal stool, constipation, lethargy, and shell discoloration. Following a perfect meal plan and feeding limitations for turtles is compulsory.

Before You Go

After maintaining a healthy diet and homely care with patience, my fat turtle was in shape at last. I was happy to see him in good shape, and he became more energetic and lively.  It might take longer than you think, but it feels heavenly when they achieve the perfect weight.

Once Confucius said, “It does not matter how slowly you go, as long as you do not stop”.

If you’re also planning a weight loss journey for your fat turtle, I suggest keeping patience. You can read the article below to learn more about turtles’ weight.

Is Your Turtle Getting Too Fat?

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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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